Random* cat post V


Isla watching a bird from the comfort of my belly


Not sure what the husband did to deserve this grumpy look …

* as in “random pictures of my cats”, not “pictures of random cats”. Although I might do that, too.:)

Posted in Cats, Isla | 1 Comment

You say potato, I say Kartoffel

I rescued a broken rain barrel (with a crack at the bottom) from my mother’s compulsive need to discard everything — a compulsion, btw, that is the exact opposite of that of my paternal step-grandfather, who needed to save everything because it surely would come in handy one of these days (and it usually did, he was very popular around our neighbourhood — keep in mind that in East Germany, you usually couldn’t just go to a store to buy what you needed). In this family, we don’t do things by halves. But I digress.

I rescued the rain barrel because I thought it would be perfect for a particular someday-maybe project of mine. I have lots of those, including keeping chickens (as my grandmother once did on this very property), which, for the time being, is being met with resistance from the husband. I don’t want to eat the chickens, of course, and not even necessarily the eggs (I haven’t eaten eggs in the past 13 months), I just really like chickens. But I digress again. (Note to self: Albet i Noya’s yummy tempranillo may be vegan but it does contain alcohol.)

Where were we? Right, the rain barrel. The idea was to try and grow potatoes as described here. To make it more fun, I wanted to use a heritage variety but since I was late getting started, the selection was very limited. I eventually settled on a kind called Reichskanzler (with a name like that, you know it wasn’t cooked up in a Monsanto lab recently).

In addition to the crack that was already at the bottom, I had the husband drill a few more holes into the bottom of the barrel and also put the barrel on a couple of bricks we had lying around for better drainage. The bottom of the barrel was filled with dried leaves from our birch and a bit of soil from the compost. I put the potatoes into the rain barrel on May 17th:photo1First signs of life on May 28th:


May 31st:


June 4th:


photoI’ve now covered about half of this growth with additional soil from the compost and will keep doing so over the summer. The idea is that the plants will grow a new layer of potatoes in each layer of soil. We’ll see if that works — I’ll report back.

Posted in Secret garden, Summer in the city, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The colour burgundy

When my grandmother was a teenager, her only brother went to war. It was World War I and he never returned.

When my grandmother was a new mother with two toddlers, men came to her house (the very house I live in now) and threw her husband down the basement stairs. Over and over and over again. He was an airplane constructor and had said he would not build any planes that would be used to throw bombs over England. Not the smartest thing to say in Nazi Germany. Eventually, the men left and my grandfather was taken to a hospital where he died of his injuries. (I call it death by anglophilia.)

When I was a young woman, I fell head over heels for a young Englishman I met on a trip to Belgium. Things did not work out but decades down the road, we are still friends, teasing each other about football and how old we have become. Never did I have to fear that he and my brother would meet in a trench somewhere.

If my husband were ever to fall down our basement stairs, it would probably be because he stumbled over a cat. And my love of most things English is unlikely to cost me my life.

Today, when I walk through the streets of Berlin, I hear English and Polish and Spanish and Portuguese. Young Europeans come here and live here and work here without even needing any kind of permit. They don’t fight wars, they have lovers’ quarrels and tease each other about football.

Germany has borders with no fewer than nine other countries, most of whom it has made war against one time or another (or repeatedly). Yet today, not a single one of these borders is guarded. There are no checkpoints or guards or any kind of obstacle — just a sign by the road telling you that you have just entered another country, easy to miss. It’s a world my grandmother probably could not have imagined.

For all the complaints one can have about the European Union’s bureaucracy and overreach and expense — in my book, they are a small price to pay for the fact that, while my grandmother had experienced two devastating wars by the time she was my age, I have always lived in peace.

If you have one of these burgundy passports shared by more than 500 million people inĀ  28 countries (amazing, isn’t it?), please go and vote this week. And please, please don’t vote for any of these Front Nationals or True Finns or Alternativen or UKiPs or whatever that tell you we would be better of without Europe.

Because we wouldn’t be. Just ask my grandmother. Or yours.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sunday dugong

Dugong in Marsa Nakari (1 of 1)

100% vegetarian and classified as vulnerable

Sorry about the long silence — caused by a variety of factors, first and foremost by the demise of my old computer and, consequently, my having to get used to a new one, which included a new operating system that still throws me for a loop whenever I use a long-familiar keyboard shortcut that now causes something completely different to happen. (I admit I had a couple of pretty bad “are we having fun yet” days at the beginning but things are getting better.)

Anyway, I thought I’d start right where I left off, with another photo taken in Egypt earlier this year. This lovely dugong — much more shy than his manatee relatives whom we encountered in Florida three years ago — made our day on several dives.

Posted in Critters, Everything that lives in the sea, Twenty thousand leagues under the sea | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tuesday night turtle — and a plea

Turtle eating jelly fishA while back I promised more turtle pictures, so here is another photo taken in the Red Sea earlier this year. As you can see, turtles rather like to snack on the occasional jelly fish swimming by. This is as it should be but the problem is that jelly fish look not unlike something else increasingly found in the seas:

Turtle with plastic bags

One turtle, three plastic bags = recipe for disaster

Evolution unfortunately has not yet equipped turtles (and other animals, especially birds) to deal with the garbage humans produce. As a consequence, countless animals die very slow and painful deaths from ingesting plastic.

The European Parliament and the European Council are currently debating proposed legislation to reduce (or even ban) the use of disposable plastic bags, which would be a start. You can find a petition to support this legislation (and more information) here.

For an inspired take on the issue by some very talented young people in the Shetland Islands, see here. And please, try to do without disposable bags whenever possible — are twenty minutes use (on average) really worth the centuries it will take for these things to degrade?

Posted in Everything that lives in the sea, On the road, turtles | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal — a celebration of loss and remembrance

Not strictly speaking a threshold perhaps, but definitely “a point of entering”. This photo was taken on my first trip to India in 2005 (which seems a long time ago now). I sometimes think back on this trip as a time of innocence in a way because at the time, we were as yet unaware (but would soon find out) that cancer had started its quiet but devastating work in my father’s lungs. Another threshold so to speak. There were to be no more trips to foreign countries for a long time, and I would not return to India until 2010.

Fort Agra-1895

A view from Agra Fort


Posted in Down memory lane, Family, On the road, Weekly photo challenge | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Spot the cat


Image | Posted on by | 5 Comments