It’s a simple concept, but easy to forget. The weather forecast for the Aachen region in January is typically rainy and 5? (40 ?). However, the sun usually peaks out for awhile most days. I have learned that when I notice the sun shining, that means that it is time to take a walk or a bike ride. I am lucky enough to have a very flexible work schedule which allows me to do this just about any day.
Lately it has been quite rainy in the afternoons and evenings, and even some pretty hefty storms overnight, but the mornings have often been clear. Today after we finished breakfast, Clare, Meg, and I took a walk to one of our favorite spots – the Milchtankstelle (milk vending machine), where we got some fresh raw milk and eggs, and also some fresh veggies from the adjacent farmer’s stand, which are currently simmering on the stove as lentil soup. We get to walk by the happy cows and chickens on our way, and spotted some pretty flowers and bushes on the way back.
Life has certainly been different the last several months with the restrictions in place to try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Germany we have been fortunate to not be confined totally to the indoors. Going outside for walks, while keeping a minimum distance from people outside of your household has been encouraged. And we were lucky to have some really great weather too – during most of April we enjoyed highs in the 60s to 70s. We have tried to take the opportunity to get outside almost every day. Just a few minute walk from our house and we are walking through fields – all kinds of different fields – strawberries, lettuce, sugar beet, barley, and lots of rapeseed, which is used to make Canola oil. Canola is a new-fangled marketing term for rapeseed oil, because for some reason, people didn’t want to buy rapeseed oil (well, besides the name, they also did some selective breeding in the 1970s to make the oil look and taste better). They grow lots of rapeseed in Canada, and thus they re-branded it as Canola oil. In fact, the town of Tinsdale, Saskatchewan was known as “the land of rape and honey” until just a few years ago. The industrial band Ministry learned of this fact and thought it was funny, thus they used it for the title of their third studio album (I had a dubbed version of this album on cassette tape when I was in middle school). One final note, in Germany, rapeseed oil is currently primarily used for the production of biodiesel.
The weather in our neck of the woods has been really nice lately – sunny with highs around 70 most of the last 2 weeks. While the playgrounds and beer gardens are closed, at least we are still allowed to get exercise outside in groups of 2, or with the immediate family. We have been taking advantage of that to try to get out and enjoy the fresh air as much as we can.
Shortly after we moved to Germany we bought bikes for all of us. The one that we got for Clare turned out not to be a good fit, so she hadn’t been biking at all. Last summer I bought some extra bikes for visitors, and upgrades for the growing children. Clare agreed to try one of these extra bikes, and it has worked out quite well. With the extra time on our hands she was able to test it out without any particular destination or time pressure, and after a few test runs, was willing to try a longer ride. I had done this ride a couple times before – once with Meg, and once with the Soule-Reeves when they visited last summer. It is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) each way, mostly on bike paths.
When we got there, we had a little snack we had brought with us and Meg gave us a bit of a tour around the outside (the inside was closed because of Corona restrictions, but contains a fancy restaurant, and open-air amphitheater, and a mini-golf course). Meg had been there recently for a treasure-hunt birthday party, and showed us where the treasure was. Hopefully we will find more time soon for family bike rides.
Clare mentioned recently that she has been trying in vain to capture the beauty of Colorado skies. Sunday she took a couple pictures from the berm behind her parents’ house, and I think she captured some really great shots. It is indeed a very beautiful place.
No, not the Akropolis in Greece, the one in Aachen! it is on the Lousberg, a big hill in the middle of the city. Apparently the columns known as the Akropolis used to be part of a restaurant which was destroyed in WWII, and they decided to leave the columns as ruins. It was really beautiful and peaceful there. You can not tell that you are in the middle of a city at all.
Meg’s scout troop celebrated its 5 year anniversary recently, and I was fortunate enough to be able to join in on the festivities, and even stay the night, which was a treat, since usually the parents are not invited on campouts with the scouts in Germany. The last time I was camping with the scouts in Germany was about 20 years ago, with my guest brother Emmi. Not much has changed it seems. They still have great big tents called Kohte (from native american “Dakota”), and Jurte ( English Yurt). The tents are canvas and built in modular sections which you button together. This design means you can button several together to form a really big tent. They had Jurte together for the main gathering tent, which included a stage for the kids to perform skits and songs, and a firepit, around which we sang songs until 3 in the morning (well, Meg and I went to bed around 11, but many stayed up later).
I am really proud of Meg for being such a great scout, and thankful I got to share the experience with her.
It has become an annual tradition to make a big leaf pile to jump in. This year may be the biggest pile yet. This year Meg’s friend Natalie just happened to come over while we were making it. The kids also did a much bigger portion of the raking this year. Yay!
Meg, Spencer, and I went sledding today. It was a great day for sledding, with pretty good packing snow, and temperatures right around freezing. Spencer learned how to “snowboard” on a sled down the hill. He convinced me to try it as well, and I made it all the way down once, but mostly just fell. Falling as an adult hurts more than a kid, so I only did it a couple times, and stuck to sitting down mostly. Here’s a video of some of our runs
A couple days ago I was putting a new latch on one of our gates. As I was finishing up, I heard a buzzing, which seemed to be coming from the basement window well. I walked over to find a wasp (or maybe fly) caught in a spider web, buzzing as it unsuccessfully struggled to get free. A few seconds later, I saw the spider come out, and immediately recognized it as a black widow. It’s the first time I ever saw one in real life. I watched it for several minutes, coming out to spin up the bug, then go back into the corner. I went down to the basement to catch a glimpse from there, and saw two large egg sacs. I continued to watch the spider do its work for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, tried in vain to take a picture with my iPhone, and then grabbed the big camera. I caught a pretty good shot as the spider was carrying its prey back to the corner. As fascinating as all of this was, I bought some spray the next day and killed it. I just can’t take a chance on my family being bitten by a black widow.
This past weekend we went camping. At first it was just going to be our family and the Ichneumons. Then 2 other families joined as well. We ended up with 8 adults and 5 kids, ranging in age from one to seven. The original plan was to camp in a campground at St. Louis Creek. Mekayla and Eva went up early, but it was already full. They ended up finding a spot in the national forest near Lake Granby for dispersed camping, which turned out to be even better. There was a few tense moments, when our car got stuck on a rock right by the campground, but luckily Greg, Mike, and Nick helped me dig out the rock, and jack up the car to get it free.
The kids had a great time playing with each other, especially the first night with the glow sticks that Eva brought.
On the way home, Meg and Spencer were talking about writing about all the things we did, and I suggested that they help me write a blog post, so they are.
We saw columbines at the end of the road at the campsite we were camping at. We had a fun time partying in our tent. On the way back home, we walked up the tundra.
I had a fun time playing with the kids, and there was a beautiful view hiking there.
Good times with good friends are hard to beat.
I love getting out in nature. It allows me to clear my mind from everyday worries and concerns. We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful place, and have great friends with whom we can enjoy it.