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Settled Back at Home

May 30 - June 2
Updated June 4

Dear Friends and Families,

We have been home for two weeks now and have made good progress on recovering from our five-week Iberian adventure.  There were several challenges facing us, starting with changing the jungle to normal lawn and garden.  The grass in back really had been unbelievable and I managed to break two heavy-duty lawn mowers trying to cut it down.  At one point, I was cutting grass with hedge shears, because our neighborhood farm implement repair shop could not repair my big mower immediately.  I was very grateful when Mr. Beck returned the vintage machine in good shape and ready to tackle the meter-high lawn and field.  We also managed to fill most of the garden with veggies and flowers, at least enough to make the gardens look productive for potential buyers.
d130530_20_clean.jpgSpeaking of selling the house, that is still our major worry.  That worry increased a bit when our real estate agent decided he didn't want to work with us, more trouble than it was worth or something like that.  Now we are looking for a replacement.  Meanwhile, we have spent a few thousand euros repairing plaster and paint, the bane of old houses, but the place is looking pretty good for 250-years.  It will be hard to give up.

Beyond the house, activities have returned to our normal pace.  We attend local events, including the Boogie Woogie gig up at The Kellerhaus, our local cultural venue.  We watch the farm fields grow.  We watch the wildlife, birds and bugs mostly.  We watch the rain, lots of rain,  raising the water table and creating lakes just past our back yard.  We futilely hope for summer sun.
Rainwater, good for fields and cranes.
Willie Hoffman introducing the Jens Wimmers Boogie Trio.
Hope in our neighbor's shop window.

On a more positive note, we are coming up on summer activities, rain or not.  This weekend, we have no less than five events facing us:
-- d130601_05_garten.jpgThe "Fascinating Garden" show next door at the Weissenstein chateau this weekend.  This is an annual event where vendors set up in the chateau garden and folks for miles around pour in to buy plants and stuff for yards.  Such events are a big deal here locally and we look forward to this one because we can simply carry plants from show to garden.  No expensive delivery charges.
This year's show was characterized by rain and mud, but all the regular attractions were there, including the March Brothers strolling band.  These guys are at all the local fests and we remarked that we have been here long enough to notice that they are getting older! Not us, just them.  We bought a few unremarkable plants for the garden and kept our strength up with Bavarian cakes and coffee and Turkish tea and sweets.  Not so bad, even with rain.

-- Bamberg, Arts and Crafts Show.  Bamberg is our nearest big town and one of our favorite places in Germany.  There was another arts and crafts show being held at the Geyersworth "schloss" (cross between a chateau and a castle) and we used that as an excuse to visit the old town - and "Jacques", our local wine dealer. We could tell the rain was getting to us, because we really didn't do much other than zip through the show and then decide to go back home for lunch and a sample of the wine.  One way to warm up.
-- The Pommersfelden "Dorffest" takes over downtown this weekend.  "Dorf" means "little village", emphasis on "little".  This year it will be a three-day extravaganza, featuring local bands with non-local names.  "Sheila's Little Sister" plays Friday and "All Stars" plays Saturday.  Sunday will feature the Wachenroth "Blaskapelle", a horn "choir" from a few miles away.  Mostly it will be the assortment of kids' activities that we have come to expect.  And food.  And beer.
I am sorry (I think) to report that we just could not fit in the dorffest this year.  We were too busy going to tractor meets (see below) and art and garden shows -- and staying in out of the rain. Scott, a friend from California, also visited Sunday afternoon, so we opted for quiet conversation versus a struggle with German and Frankish.

Speaking of rain, we have had our fill.  Our house is still high and dry, unlike a few other places in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, but the valley behind us has changed from fields to lakes.  At least the garden is thriving, but it would do better with SUN!
So that's it, an end to our recover-from-traveling and a start of summer festivals.  Now, if we can just get the sun to go along with the calendar.

John and Marianne

Post-script:  Illustrated German Tractor History Lesson.
This story grew all out of proportion to the rest of today's diary, so I am giving it its own section!

On Saturday, I left Marianne at home before I attacked the "Oldie Schlepper Treffen" (translation: "Old Tractor Meet")  in Oberweiler, an even dorfier-dorf than little Pommersfelden.  It was still raining, windy, and cool, but the weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of these local farmers and, despite myself, I  caught a bit of their enthusiasm.  This was clearly a German event, as all the machines had German names such as Fendt, Eicher, Unimog, and Porsche.  Yes, THAT Porsche. 

Sunday morning, I left Marianne at home again and went to the second game of my tractor-meet double header.  This one was in Mülhausen, just across the valley behind our house and the atmosphere was much the same as Saturday's Oberweiler event: farmers having fun.  Here there were even more Porsche's, but also some different brands: Deutz, Hela, Lanz, Hanomag, and Kaeble.

In preparing my picture gallery, I decided I needed to know a little bit about the stories of these companies and their products.  Maybe it is an engineer-thing, but I figured I could become a relative expert concerning German tractors, at least among my non-farmer friends.

The Readers' Digest history: German companies started as early as the 1830's with steam locomotives and stationary engines for farms and factories.  Toward the end of the 1800's, engines became small enough to power plows and mowers, machines that morphed into more-flexible tractors, particularly once compact internal-combustion engines came along.  The 1900's started with a range of German suppliers, suppliers who formed the basis of the eventual German car industry as well.  Over the 20th Century, companies rose and fell, merged and split, and eventually most survivors became parts of international farm-implement companies. (This seems a story not unlike American manufacturers and even similar to other industries: airplanes and computers, for example.)
Oberweiler on a gray Saturday and Mülhausen on a similar Sunday.
Deutz-FahrDeutz was founded in 1864 by Nickolas Otto, the inventor of the four-stroke internal combustion engine.  The Cologne company initially focussed on stationary engines, including for farm work, as did the contemporary competitor Fahr.  Otto's employees included a who's-who of the burgeoning German car industry: Daimler, Maybach, Diesel, Bosch and Bugatti.
Lanz and Hela-Diesel:  Hela-Diesel was a 19th Century Schwabian farm-equipment manufacturer that was taken over by Mannheim-based Lanz in 1915.  Lanz introduced the "Bulldog" model tractor in 1921 and went on to produce over 220,000 of the single-cylinder engine machines.  The model name, Bulldog, became synonymous for tractors here in Bavaria.  They were valued for their simplicity and were licensed throughout the world, from Poland to Australia to Argentina.
Porsche.  Like the VW Beetle, this small tractor was designed by Ferdinand Porsche as a "people's machine" in the mid-30's, but only saw significant production after WWII. Over 125,000 Porsche tractors were produced in Germany and Austria up through 1963.  Now, they are sought after by collectors who, I imagine, like to say they plow with a Porsche.
Hanomag.  The company started in 1835 with design and production of some of the first steam locomotives in the world, as well as stationary steam engines.  Tractor production started in 1912 and cars were added in the years following.  In the 1930's, Hanomag cars were the second-most popular in Germany.  Tractor production continues under the Massey-Ferguson brand.
Schulter. The company started in 1899 in Friesing, near Munich, in the heart of what is now a car-production area. Tractor production continued up through the 1990's.

Kaeble.  The company started in 1864 with stationary steam engines.  In the early 1900's, they developed a line of road-production machines ("steam rollers" etc.) along with tractors.  The road-building equipment business continues today.

Warchalowski-Diesel.  This Austrian company started with stationary engines in 1858, even earlier than Deutz.  Tractors came along in the early 1900's, but Warchalowski moved primarily to aircraft engines from WW I up through the end of WW II.   Warchowski tractors featured air-cooled engines, a featured from their airplane designs, and remained a company product throughout the non-war periods.
Unimog four-wheel tractor, developed after WWII to handle both fields and roads.  Built by Mercedes, for farmers who want to drop names, it features four-wheel drive and 34 horsepower.  Not for the autobahn, although we do see these trucks/tractors in daily use around here.

Eicher tractors were another Bavarian production, started in the 1930's.  Their major development included air-cooled diesel engines.  The brand eventually was sold to a manufacturer in India, where Eicher tractors are still made and sold.  I also ran across a French farmer's website extolling the wonders of Eicher.  Interesting cross-border enthusiasm.
Fendt mowers were developed in the 1920's and tractors came along a decade later.  They are still being made, albeit in a much more modern form.  Their specialty is an automatic variable-speed transmission, reportedly developed because Mr. Eichler did not think farmers knew how to shift gears.  Nowadays, continuous-variable-speed transmissions in cars are all the rage, maybe because NO ONE knows how to shift anymore.

Holder:   C.F. Holder and Son started in 1888 with small machines, locks and magnets in fact.  In 1898, they developed the back-pack sprayer and in 1930 made the first single-axle tractor, like those see here in Oberweiler.  The Stuttgart-area company still makes farm and garden vehicles, including mowers and tractors.
McCormick:  In amongst all these German and Austrian farm machines, there were a few McCormick tractors as well.  McCormick was famous for developing a practical, horse-drawn reaper in the American mid-west, starting in the 1830's.  The American company went on to join four others to become International Harvester in 1902 and marketing and production quickly became world-wide.  International entered the German market in 1908 and started tractor production here in 1937, so the red McCormick tractors shown in Oberweiler were probably as German as their red, green, and gray neighbors.  McCormick introduced the "Farmall" in 1949, with production starting in post-war England.  Nowadays, parts of the company are still in business, as a division of an Italian conglomerate.  Another world story.  (The rough tractor on the right is available for sale just down the street, in case you are interested.)
That's our tractor lesson.  There will be a test in the morning.



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