Apr 242012
 
Ancient-looking wood beams, happy cows,
kids getting swarmed and gnawed on by calves…
This is definitely a German farm!

Anniversary 
Yep!  Hard to believe, but we have been here a whole year… Or maybe it is hard to believe we have only been here a year!  I am honestly not sure which.  We arrived in Germany on DD’s birthday, April 23rd, 2011.  Well, DD, DS and I did.  David had been here several weeks already at that point. I have recently discussed our observations, so I won’t dwell on that right now.  Though, I will say that there is something truly gratifying about living the adventure and rising to the challenge!  Yeah, my German still sucks and my French isn’t all that much better.  But, every day I learn *something* that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else in the world.  And, each day we (must!) use our brains, our creativity, and sometimes just our gumption to get through situations that we couldn’t even envision only a year and a half ago.  So, I am still richly appreciative of the opportunities that we have here! 

Now, on to the present.  This week was actually a pretty full one.  And, thankfully after last week, pretty good!

The Farm Fieldtrip
DS’s school class took a field trip to a local farm.  It was a walking trip- uphill all the way.  So, DD was quite proud to show off his Cub Scout skill of walking-stick manufacture.  He made sticks for himself and his best school friend and showed the rest of his class how to make their own.

Now, I must admit, from what I can tell German teachers are both smart and practical.  About 1/2 up, they stopped in an open field for a “rest”.  This consisted of letting the kids loose to work off energy and engage in a hearty game of tag!

DS took a photo of all the backpacks on a bench as the played.

When they approached the farm, this is what they found.  Like most things in our area, the place was a hearty healthy mix of Old and New.  You can see this new structure being built to augment the rather ancient looking one next to it.

DS tells me there are two geese here, but they lined up just right for
the picture that you can’t really tell.  And, yes, my Southern California
Friends and Family- most of Germany is this green.

After their arrival, the kids were brought into a large room where they were introduced to the farm animals.  There were 5 cats and a farm collie, that made DS homesick.  But, the rest of the creatures were larger and, well, more farmy.  Lots of cows, of course- it is a dairy farm- but also horses and mules and rabbits.  I am not sure if the geese are wild or residents, as well.

Unlike similar trips we have taken in the states, the kids were free to mingle with the animals and interact.  This was mostly wonderful!  Everyone loved petting the young calves (one had been born the night before!) and letting them gnaw/suck on their hands.  DS reports something interesting about calf tongues.  The front is very soft and smooth, but in back, they are rough and almost bristly.  Adult cow tongues are apparently all bristly.  He put forth the idea that as infants they are on a diet of milk, so it is most important for them to not injure their mother’s teats.  While when they get older, the rougher surface helps them digest the roughage that makes up a cow’s main diet.  It sounds like a great hypothesis to me, but I told him we should do a bit of research to see what we could learn.

This calf was 1 day old, but DS was both letting it suck on his hand
and trying to take the photo, so, er… a little off center!
One of the machines they use to process the milk.

The one drawback to letting the kids romp, of course, is that there is more risk of an occasional problem.  Since Germans value self-sufficiency and don’t tend to be so lawsuit-happy as folks in the states, though, German kids tend to get lots of opportunities to stretch themselves- and sometimes opportunities to get hurt.  For instance, the farm dog bit one of the children on the trip!  The adults took care of her and tried to figure out what had happened.  But, as she wasn’t badly hurt and the dog is not typically vicious, it was not treated as any huge deal. 

The kids were also allowed to take a short ride on a tall horse.  Mind you, nothing in the paperwork that came home mentioned anything about horseback riding.  Nor did we have to sign any paperwork releasing liability or anything.  They just said “hey kids, here is a horse, want a ride?  DS says this particular horse had a very uneven gait, but all the kids had fun. Then they had another play session, ate some yogurt made from the milk at the farm, packed up and went home.  All in all it really sounded a lot more like the homeschooling field trips we had been on than the ones I had supervised for public school classes.  And, of course, DS learned a ton!

Dead Fire
The one rotten thing that happened this week: when walking out to my car, I discovered that my new Kindle Fire and the cobblestone driveway should not mix.  DOH!

Biskuit und Wiener
Remember how last week I said I was too shy to take a photo of the biskuit in the supermarket?  Well, a couple days later I got brave.  I would have left it at that, except I made an amusing discovery.  They are not all biskuit!  These are all called “boden” or “bottoms”.  But there are two main varieties.  We have the biskuit bottoms, and we have the Wiener bottoms!  In this case, from what I can tell “Wiener” means “from Vienna”, so it is Viennese pastry.  But, still rather fun from an American point of view :-)

Happy Birthday DD!
Spring is also Birthday Season for the kids.  DD turned 15 on Monday.  She was pleased with her geeky gifts of a DSI that can both play US and German games, one such game, and a motion plus controller from her brother to let her play Zelda on the Wii.  As is our tradition, the Birthday celebrant gets to pick the menu for the day.  So, we had a trip to a German Bakery for brunch, a trip to a different German bakery for lunch (to get her favorite sandwich) and meatloaf, bread and apples for dinner.  I couldn’t resist getting at least a little creative, though, and formed the loaf into a 15!

Happy Birthday!

Fünfzehn!

One of the many unexpected hazards in Germany is the possibility that you will purchase something that you THINK is one thing, only to discover that your German wasn’t quite good enough to realize that it was, in fact, something else…. Case in point, DD’s candles.

Now, first, I should mention DD did not like the idea of candles on her lemon poppyseed cake.  So, her brother gallantly offered to have them on his instead.  And he offered to blow them out, too (after she made her wish).  Only…..

Hmmmm….

Look at all that smoke!

That is right, David had accidentally bought “Magic Sparklers”!  Actually, this photo set is a little staged because I caught the mistake in time.  Otherwise, when the candles started to spark, poor DH might have had a panicked heart attack!  As it was, he wanted to use tongs to rescue them from the cake 😉  I just grabbed them and dunked them in a little pyrex cup of water.  Voila!

Other good things this week:  Rain! DD got a very good report card from Hogwarts. I got a very nice unsolicited recommendation from one of my editors.  One of the book series I worked on is up for another award.  And one of the favorite series I have worked on this year is getting close to going to press and I can’t wait to be able to share it with people!

Next week: DS’s 12th birthday and Spargelzeit! 

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