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.
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
|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:
-- The "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
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
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!
Saturday, I left Marianne at home before I attacked the
"Oldie Schlepper Treffen" (translation: "Old Tractor Meet") in
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
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.)
That's our tractor lesson. There will be a test in the morning.
|Oberweiler on a gray Saturday and Mülhausen on a similar Sunday.
Deutz-Fahr: Deutz 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.
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.
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.
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.
This Austrian company started with stationary engines in 1858, even
earlier than Deutz.
Tractors came along in the early 1900's, but Warchalowski moved
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.)