Mars

March 31st, 2021

This is the Perseverance Mars rover’s Mastcam-Z First High-Resolution Panorama
Use your mouse to move the image and zoom in.

“Stitched together from 79 individual images, this Mastcam-Z right-eye 110-mm zoom mosaic is from the camera’s first high-resolution panorama imaging sequence. These images were taken on the afternoon of Sol 4 (Feb. 22, 2021) of the mission; a sol is a Martian day.” Source: NASA

2020

January 24th, 2021

Uncertainty was a worldwide theme for 2020 and last year, we too felt the hot breath of that unpleasant reality much more strongly than usual. We were lucky, and we did not experience the full brunt of that aspect of reality, unlike so many people who lost their livelihood and/or health and are facing uncertainty of how to afford food and shelter. I am grateful that we continue to enjoy good health and a no significant financial worries.

In fact, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I experienced one of the busiest years of my career at Duke. Until the pandemic hit, all my work at Duke had been in IT for psychiatric research. By the end of March, however, most research at Duke had been shut down, and so I was asked to help with supporting our department’s clinical work. All clinical work had been moved to a new and untested telehealth platform, and the providers needed training and tech support for the visits. Our department decided to recruit staff from shuttered research labs to set up a team for this effort. So in April, I was learning how to troubleshoot the telehealth platform, training providers on how to use the platform, and on-boarding and training staff for our support team. It was a busy time. We put together a team of 14 staff who were trained to train providers, call patients to make sure they have the right apps set up for the visits and provide live tech support for the telehealth visits. While that work was at times stressful and intense, I found it really rewarding to contribute in a meaningful way to the care of our patients. It was also interesting to work on a clinical project and work more closely with department leadership and clinical providers.

Now that research has re-started, I am mostly focused on my old job again, managing IT resources at the Autism Center and a couple of other labs, but I still work a few hours every week on the telehealth support effort for the time being.

Laura started a new chapter in her career by laying the foundation for her business. During the spring, while transitioning out of her job at Lifeskills, she also started sewing face masks for the Lifeskills staff and clients, and for the family. All year she worked on developing her amazing emu-egg shell jewelry, fine-tuning her lamp designs, experimenting with paper designs and custom fabric designs. She also joined a local artists coop where she is selling her jewelry and lamps and several paper designs. She started designing cool fabric prints with Spoonflower, and she is using these custom fabrics for jewelry and for her lamps. But the most awesome pieces she made last year – I think – are the fabulous zippered emu eggs she designed and sells on her website:

Emu egg with zipper … by Laura

Jacob and Julia continued their studies in 2020 remotely, as both institutions tried to adapt their operations to the pandemic conditions. Julia had a dorm room at UNC, but came home and finished her spring semester from at home. For her fall semester she already had a shared apartment rented in Chapel Hill for the 2020/2021 school year, so she decided to move into the apartment at the end of the summer. Luckily her room mate behaved responsibly with respect to the pandemic restrictions and so it was a good experience for her. Jacob did all his classes from at home, and since his social life pretty much revolves around gaming and roll-playing games, he rarely leaves his domicile. Well, at least we don’t have to worry about him going out and bringing the virus back home. So they both adapted and made the best of the situation (and continue to do so).

However, I do have a major complaint in that context about UNC (my alma mater!) The administrators really botched the fall semester startup when they forced the students to move back to campus, only to send them right back home two weeks later after many students tested positive for the virus (and after the housing fees had been paid). That outcome was totally predictable and I found it very disappointing that they went ahead with this asinine strategy anyway. Luckily, Julia had already decided to rent an apartment off campus, so this stupidity did not impact her too much.

Speaking of stupidity and disappointment … that was another major theme in 2020. And considering our low expectations, it was truly remarkable that this country still managed to disappoint. The thing about crisis situations is that they tend to reveal the character of a person, a group, and sometimes an entire society. Does the leadership manage to set aside differences and focus their resources on addressing the problem, or do they use the crisis to deepen the divisions, and leverage the sense of uncertainty to push their political agenda? in the U. S., the pandemic laid bare deep divisions and profound distrust across society. Distrust in police and government institutions, distrust between “races”, distrust in science and medicine, distrust between people with different political ideals and ideologies. I myself can’t escape this sense of distrust when I am confronted with the crazy rhetoric of some Trump supporters who have clearly not accepted the results of the election and are willing to foment chaos in order to have things their way.

If this country’s leadership cannot muster the courage to address these deep divisions and this pervasive distrust, the democratic experiment in this country will fail. The last 4 years have been a lesson in what NOT to do. Suppressing dissent, gaslighting the people, ignoring real problems and blaming others is exactly the path that leads to the end of democracy. In 2020 we saw how this plays out. It leads to a direct attack in democracy by a sitting president, weaponizing discontent in order to overturn a general election. But that same strategy is not only applied by the Trump regime. The Democratic party used it effectively in 2016 and again in 2020 to ensure that the presidential nominee for the Democrats was the one the DNC wanted it to be.

So I have very little hope that the new administration will do much to address these divisions and the real grievances of the people on both ends of the spectrum – the Black Lives Matter supporters and the Trump supporters. I think that the people who demand “Defund the Police” and the people who shout “Make America Great Again” have a lot more in common than they realize.

As a family, we tried to adapt as best as we could to life during a pandemic. Living in a fairly rural area on some acreage, the main impact for us was not commuting to an office and working at home instead. We also don’t really have much of a habit of going out on the town to enjoy restaurants or nightlife. So we just switched to occasional takeout food and more home cooked food, which was not hard. Also, Laura got back into baking bread pretty regularly, which the entire family appreciates.

The main leisure restrictions we experience due to COVID is seeing friends, although we have had friends over and we just wear masks and stay outside. That works pretty well and we feel it’s safe. We have even met quite a few of our neighbors for the first time this way. In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, families were just walking in the neighborhood to get out of the house. Some of those folks made it all the way up to our place and walked up to the gate to see the animals. We have no problem with that, and Laura attached a note to the gate letting folks know they are welcome to come to the gate. She also included some information about the animals (names and appropriate treats) and some ground rules (“Don’t open the gate”).

This was nice for the humans and for the animals. The humans seemed to enjoy the experience (especially children) and the animals got some attention and sometimes even treats. Patou is also usually out there during the day, and so she got to know some of the neighborhood dogs, like her buddy Riddick in the photo below.

Neighbors visiting our pasture

One big change on the farm was re-homing Darwin. In 2019, Darwin had escaped and was on the lam for several weeks. So we had kept him in the goat pen to make sure he can’t get out again. That was not a great long-term solution, though, because the enclosure is just too small. The goats actually had gotten used to the bird in their pen, but Darwin was not really happy there. So when we heard that a local farm-animal rescue was looking to adopt a male emu as a companion for their lonely female emu, we were pretty happy to offer Darwin. We loaded the bird on our horse trailer and took him to his new home – Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary, where he moved in with his new companion, Aphrodite.

Darwin’s new home and Aphrodite, his new companion

2020 was an unusual year. It brought much suffering and unrest to much of the world. We are fortunate to be healthy and to live in a community that is not doing too badly with regards to the pandemic. We have been able to make the best of the situation, and even grown professionally a bit. Let’s hope the best for 2021 … let’s get the pandemic under control and let’s help alleviate the unnecessary suffering in our community and around the world – be it due to the pandemic or due to injustice and racism. I think the resources are there to help those in need, there just needs to be the will to allocate and distribute them wisely and compassionately, so no one has to suffer more than what is unavoidable. So here is to hope … and to a good 2021.

Jürgen

Spring?

January 31st, 2020
Blooming tree

A couple of weeks ago we had several days of warm weather, with high temps around 70F (21C) and the pear trees started budding! So when the inevitable cold-snap came I fully expected them to loose all those buds, but several night of lows in the 20s did bot keep them from flowering. Nice splash of spring in the dead of winter! We’ll see how long they last …

2019

January 1st, 2020
Aerial photo of the farm
Spring on the Farm

For me, 2019 was a good year. No major complaints. I am healthy enough, I am happily married and no major crises happened to our family (except for one of our horses getting very sick). I got to do some interesting things and work was busy, but not overwhelming.

Laura was hard at work keeping things chugging along at the LifeSkills Foundation, keeping their finances in order, organizing fundraisers etc. She also hired and trained a young woman named Madison to help her with her work. In June she went with 2 other staff and three of the youth to the Point Source Youth Conference in New York.

Julia completed her third semester at UNC Chapel Hill and she has definitely settled into her student life. She is doing very well, studying French and Swahili and taking classes in African history, statistics and global economic inequality.

Jacob is on track to graduate from Durham Technical Community College this spring. He also started a part-time job at a trampoline park called Skyzone, and so he was really busy last fall. But he is earning a bit of money and he is tarting to get the hang of the “adulting” thing a bit.

Emu egg

2019 was for us the year of the emu. On January 23, Laura found our very first emu egg. After 6 years of keeping these huge, flightless birds our patience (and stubbornness) was finally rewarded with eggs! Mel kept laying eggs every 3 days until the end of March. During her first laying season she laid about 30 eggs. Last fall, she already started laying on-and-off in November and then pretty regularly in December. The eggs weigh around 1lb 5-6 ounces (around 600 grams) and they have a blue-green shell. They are great for baking and making omelets, and Laura started carving the egg shells into jewelry.

In October, on of our male emus escaped from the pasture and went on a walkabout in northern Durham County. Occasionally we got reports of sightings, but he was staying in a heavily wooded area where we had very little chance of finding him. On November 4, we started hearing about sightings near our neighborhood, and on Nov. 5 Facebook and Nextdoor “lit up” with reports of the bird wandering around in on of the more sub-urban neighborhoods nearby. He was spotted on Umstead Road and someone called the Durham Police. When we got there, six police cruisers were on the scene and about a dozen bystanders and a news crew. We were able to catch the bird and bring him back safely in the back of the car.

at the beach on Emerald Isle

A real highlight of 2019 for Laura and me was celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to the beach with the horses in late March. We took the mares, Cleo and Madison, to a farm near Emerald Isle while Laura and I stayed at a hotel on Emerald Isle. The weather was really nice, so almost every day we loaded the horses on the trailer and took them out riding. We went riding on the beach on Emerald Isle several times, and that was fun and exciting … and very stimulating for the horses!

Laura portrait with horses
Laura with Maddie and Cleo

We also took a trip to Croatan National Forest for a long ride at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area, where part of the trail runs along the Pamlico sound. As pretty as the trail is, horses and riders do have to accept a fair amount of noise from low-flying aircraft from the nearby military base. While most of the trails there were pretty eary, one mud hole was deeper than we anticipated. Laura and Maddie were struggling a bit there and Laura ended up injuring her ring finger. That injury bothered Laura for several months.

The one rainy day we had was my birthday, and so we went to the aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores that day. On our anniversary, we went out for a nice dinner at the Caribsea restaurant on Emerald Isle. All-in-all a great trip and we might do this again this spring.

Sunset on Emerald Isle
Sunrise on Emerald Isle
Sick Cleo

A few days after we got back home from the beach, Cleo got very sick. Friday evening she did not finish her food and Saturday morning she would not eat at all. By the time the vet arrived, her heart rate was almost 3 times her normal resting pulse and she had a severe fever. The vet was able to stabilize her condition by forcing fluids into her stomach, and he was able to rule out colic. However, her condition worsened again later that day, and he decided to give her IV fluids. We had her on IV fluids all weekend and ended up giving her 40 liters of fluids! By the end of the weekend she started to improve, but it took weeks for her to recover from this crisis. The vet said that most likely she had a case of endotoxemia caused by colitis. No idea what caused this. But we’re glad she recovered.

Betty the goat
Betty the goat

In May, we welcomed Betty the goat to the farm. She is a Nigerian Dwarf-goat and we purchased her from a farm a few miles up the road as a companion for our older Kiko goat Sassy, who was really lonely after her sister died in 2018 after an illness. Betty has settled in really nicely and the neighbor’s kids love playing with her. Sassy was a little confused at first, but now I think she really likes her little sidekick

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Morning on the Farm

December 31st, 2019

This is some drone footage from this morning and a previous December morning of our house, me feeding the horses and emus, and a fly-over of our property. Enjoy!

Dieses Video habe ich heute Morgen und an einem früheren Dezembermorgen mit einer Drohne gefilmt. Es zeigt unser Haus, das Füttern der Pferde und Emus und einen kurzen Rundflug um unser Grundstück.

Deutschlandreise 2019 – Tour of Germany

September 29th, 2019

(Deutsch hier klicken) Once in a while, I like to take a trip back to the “old country” to visit friends and family. This year I traveled from Sept. 12 to Sept. 23. I flew into Frankfurt airport and picked up my rental car there – a brand-new BMW 220d. The car was really comfortable and I loved the fuel economy of the zippy little diesel engine (5.8L/100KM – 40.5 MpG over the entire 1400 mile road trip).

map of the road trip in Germany
Map of the road trip in Germany

The morning of my arrival, I visited my great uncle, who lives near Frankfurt, and who had just turned 95. Then I visited friends and family near Stuttgart, my mom in Schorndorf and friends in Lauchheim. Then I drove through the Black Forest to the very South-Western corner of Germany where my dad’s family lives. After that, I drove all the way across Germany, from the Swiss border to the North Sea coast to visit my aunt near Bremen and the North Sea shore in Cuxhaven. For the last weekend, I drove south, to visit friends in Düsseldorf. Sunday night I drove back to Frankfurt and Monday morning I flew back home.

Below are some impressions from the trip. More photos and trip details (and the German version) are below the fold.

The North Sea shore in Dünen, near Cuxhaven
The North Sea shore in Dünen, near Cuxhaven
The main square in Schorndorf, near Stuttgart
The main square in Schorndorf, near Stuttgart
The Gehry buildings at the Zollhof in Düsseldorf
The Gehry buildings at the Zollhof in Düsseldorf
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Welcome Betty

May 31st, 2019

On Easter Weekend, our newest family member, Betty the Goat, came to live with us. She is a Nigerian Dwarf Goat and she is only a few months old. We bought her from a guy down the road who felt sorry for Sassy when we told him that her sister Snoopy died last year and she seemed a bit unhappy. So he agreed to sell us a single goat as a companion for Sassy.

Am Ostersamstag zog Betty die Ziege bei uns ein um unserer einsamen Sassy Ziege Gesellachft zu leisten. Ein Bekannter fand es so traurig dass die arme Sassy ganz alleine ist nachdem ihre Schwester letztes Jahr an einer Krankheit starb, dass er uns eine einzelne Jungziege verkaufte (normalerweise verkauft er Ziegen nur zu zweit).

This video was shot shortly after we introduced the two goats. The video below is from a month later and it shows a funny interaction between Betty and Adjo the cat.

Emu eggs!

January 24th, 2019
Our emu Mel’s first egg
Young femaile emu

Yesterday Laura found our very first emu egg out in the pasture. So finally, after 5 years of taking care of emus, we finally have a breeding pair! It was quite the journey to get there, but here we are. We had observed Mel mating with both of the male birds, Sidney in particular lately, so we were hopeful. We were just not sure when they had started, but we were keeping an eye out in the pasture. And this evening Laura found another one, so that’s already 2 eggs in a week. Very exciting!

DEUTSCH: Gestern fand Laura unser erstes Emu Ei! Seit 5 Jahren haben wir Emus, und jetzt haben wir endlich ein Legepaar. Na ja, eigentlich ein Legetrio, da Mel, das Weibchen, sich mit beiden Männchen paart.

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2018

January 1st, 2019

For us, most of 2018 was about staying on track, being patient and putting in the effort required to reach our goals. The year also seemed to pass rather quickly, probably due to the persistent effort we had to invest into our activities. The weather was one of the noteworthy features for North Carolina, with 2018 being recorded as the wettest year (at RDU airport) since 1944, featuring two tropical systems impacting the state and an early snowstorm in December.

As a parent, it’s always rewarding to see your children do well, unfolding their wings and overcoming obstacles. So it was a wonderful occasion for us to celebrate Jacob’s High School graduation last June

Durham School of the Arts celebrated the class of 2018 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Duke University campus. After a nice relaxing summer break, Jacob started taking classes at Durham Technical Community College with the goal to earn an Associates Degree in Science by 2020.

Julia went back to school last fall and completed her first semester at UNC Chapel Hill. Her major is Global Studies and so she took classes in Global Studies, African studies, French and World History. Since she has to live on UNC campus, getting settled into her dorm and adjusting to campus life was a big focus for her, besides succeeding academically. Her goal is to earn a Bachelor of Arts by 2021.

Laura’s organization, the LifeSkills Foundation, had a good year and continues to grow. They had several successful fundraising events, and the biggest – the Race Across Durham – kept Laura very busy for a good portion of last fall. Laura works with Bull City Running on coordinating the trail race for LifeSkills. Despite the wet weather, muddy trails and some last-minute changes due to flooded trails, the race went well and all runners made it safely to the finish. I helped out during the race, too, running miscellaneous errands, like getting coffee in the morning, transporting runner’s bags to the finish and picking up trash.

The wet weather last year had the great benefit of being very fungus-friendly and so 2018 was great for collecting mushrooms! Laura went for many a long walk foraging for mushrooms in the woods on and around our property. She found dozens of edible mushrooms, and some very tasty ones, like oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, chicken of the woods, chanterelles, black trumpets, shaggy mane inky heads, puffballs, and many more. She now even has a nice microscope to look at spores, which helps identifying some of the more tricky mushrooms.

Laura on Madison and Julia on Cleo
Laura on Madison and Julia on Cleo

In 2018 we took it “up a notch” with riding our horses. In March, Laura and Julia rode in the Sandhills “Spring Fling” 25 mile race in Cheraw, SC (results). In June we went on a long weekend camping trip with the horses (and Patou) to Leatherwood Mountain in NC. In August, Laura and I rode the “Iron Mountain Jubilee” 30 mile race in Ivanhoe, Virginia (results).

Team Dain's Place 11foot8
Team Dain’s Place 11foot8

The 10th (and probably last) Doughman was great fun again. This year our team was, again, Team Dain’s Place 11foot8 with Gordon Keeler, Bruce Pitner, Joe McClernon and you’s truly. Our team did really well, again. We raised over $1000 for the Durham Bike Coop and finished in 4th place (results).

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Winter fun

December 31st, 2018

We had a relatively early snow day this year on Dec. 09 with 8 inches of snow (20 cm) over 12 hours. With my 11foot8 camera footage I created a nice time-lapse of the snow “storm.”.

For Christmas, the weather was nice and so Julia got to try out the inflatable “Ginormous Rainbow Unicorn Sprinkler” she got from Santa :)

The horses were a bit puzzled by their odd new pasture buddy, but seemed to be into the waterplay.

My new ride

November 30th, 2018

1991 300D and 1993 300D After the Jetta’s demise, we were looking far and wide for a suitable replacement. We almost decided on a 2011 BMW X5 diesel, but then we learned that in order to run that engine on biodiesel, we really have to delete the diesel particulate filter and the EGR, an the delete kit costs $2000! Just to get rid of those components! So I ended up buying yet another Mercedes 300D from one of the mechanics at ABW.

Here she is – on the right – a 1993 300D with 260 000 miles (the one on the left is my old ’91 with over 330 000 miles).

RIP Jetta

November 18th, 2018

On September 12,  Laura got rear-ended in the Jetta on her way home. She did not get injured, but she did have a sore neck for a while from the whiplash. Jacob was riding in the passenger seat, and he was not injured, either. The car was in pretty bad shape. In the collision, the car was pushed into another car in front and so both front end and back end were badly damaged. The car was eventually totaled by the insurance company.

 

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Happy Birthday, Patou!

October 31st, 2018

Last Friday was Patou’s first birthday! For this occasion I made her a ground-meat cake with sardine decoration and a candle.

Freitag war Patou’s erster Geburtstag. Zu diesem Anlaß habe ich ihr eine schöne Hackfleischtorte gemach, und mit Sardinen und einer Kerze dekoriert.

Patou is doing really well on her raw-meat-based diet. Most evenings she gets 3-4 chicken drumsticks, a handful of fatty beef scraps a bone and a cup of puppy kibble. Often I also feed her a sardine or an apple or frozen berries or some leftover avocado. I gave her some baked sweet potato the other day and she ate it right up. Sometimes she buries some of her food (esp. the chicken drumsticks) and digs it up the next day for a snack.

The funny thing is that handling all this meat for Patou has really killed my appetite for meat. At this point I have pretty much cut out all meat from my diet, yet I find myself buying 10-pound packages of chicken and asking local butchers for meat scraps once or twice a week. Go figure!

Mehr Bilder hier …

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Julia’s latte art competition

July 29th, 2018

Last Thursday, Julia participated in her first barista competition – the Thursday Night Latte Art Throwdown at Durham’s Cocoa Cinnamon, where she works as a barista. Great event – lots of creative energy in the room! Also very interesting to see some the Triangle’s masters of latte art in action. Painting with milk in coffee for the enjoyment of your customers strikes me as an odd and very beautiful artform :)

DEUTSCH: Donnerstag abend hat Julia zum ersten Mal an einem Latte Art Wettbewerb teilgenommen.

Latte Art (von ital. latte, Milch und engl. art, Kunst) nennt man die kreative Gestaltung der Milchschaumoberfläche von Espresso-Getränken mit graphischen Motiven wie Blättern, Blumen, Herzen, abstrakten geometrischen Motiven u.v.m. Meist gestaltet die Latte Art ein Barista.
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latte_Art

Der Wettbewerb fand in dem Cafe wo sie als Barista arbeitet statt. Es was sehr interessant Baristas aus der ganzen Region bei ihrer Arbeit zuzuschauen und die kreative Energie im Raum zu spüren.

RIP Snoopy the goat

July 15th, 2018

Snoopy the goat in the snow

Yesterday, July 14 at 11AM, Snoopy the goat passed away after a week of severe illness, despite our best efforts to cure her. She was born March 18, 2014 and she had lived with us since August 2014.

Gestern, am 14. Juli um 11:00 Uhr starb unsere Ziege Snoopy. Vor einer Woche war sie plötzlich schwer krank geworden und trotz aller unserer Bemühungen und der Hilfe des Tierarztes, starb sie gestern im Alter von 4 Jahren.

 

 

Jacob’s High School Graduation

June 30th, 2018

On June 13th, Jacob graduated from Durham School of the Arts High School. Here he is … the fresh-baked graduate and the proud family!

Am 13. Juni feierte Jacob seinen High School Abschluß von  der Durham School of the Arts. Hier ist der frischgebackenel Schulabgänger mit der stolzen Familie!

The Durham School of the Arts graduation ceremony was at Duke University’s (in)famous Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Jacob’s Schule feiert den Schulabschluss in Duke University’s berühmt-berüchtigter Cameron Basketball Arena.

255555 miles on Benz II

February 21st, 2018

Today, on the way to work, the odometer in my 1992 Mercedes Benz 300D rolled over 255555 miles. Pretty cool!

 

Patou in January

January 28th, 2018

We got about a foot of snow on Jan 18 and Patou loved it!

She romped through the white fluffy stuff for hours with true puppy exuberance.

 

 

The snow was deep for her, yet she plowed through it tirelessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patou had her first visit at the veterinarian, getting examined and receiving her first round of vaccinations. She was totally relaxed, trusting the humans  even if some of it was a bit weird and uncomfortable.

 

 

Patou on January 26, at 3 months of age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brrrrr – crazy arctic cold

January 7th, 2018

Auf DEUTSCH hier … Last week was crazy cold here … this morning RDU recorded 3 deg F and it was 6 Deg F at the house at 7 AM. Almost the entire week, temperatures stayed well below freezing, and the on the only slightly warmer day we got snow! Taking care of all the critters who have to stay outside was not trivial, when temperatures dropped into the low teens every morning. The horses ate an entire 800 pound bale of hay last week, and Patou ate a couple of pounds of meat and fat most days last week. We also had to get the horses warm water every few hours the first couple of days, but then Laura went on an epic quest to get a water trough heater – probably the last one in the county and that made things a lot easier.

It was a bit scary to leave our 10-week-old puppy outside in these frigid temperatures, but she did fine. I insulated her dog house as best as I could with hay and cardboard. She seems pretty cozy in there, and I did get up every night at 2 AM to check on her and give her a bunch of chicken and some beef fat. Then we went to give the horses more hay and check on the emus and give the bunny warm water. Same thing for breakfast at 7 AM. She is really incredibly cold tolerant as long as she gets enough calories to keep that little furnace going.

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2017

January 1st, 2018

2017 has been a year of transitions for us. Julia and I have started working as volunteers with a group of local political activists – the People’s Alliance of Durham. We started going to the meetings as a reaction to the current political reality in this country and we are working in community organizing around economic equality issues, workforce development and racial equity.

Julia also started working as a barista at Cocoa Cinnamon, a locally owned coffee shop with 3 locations in Durham, while she is also figuring out her next move regarding college. It’s her first real job with real responsibilities, performance evaluations and a real paycheck. That experience has been a huge transition for her toward adulthood.

Laura is in her second year at her new job at the Life Skills Foundation and organized a trail marathon across Durham County together with one of her organization’s board members and Bull City Running. The “Race Across Durham” was a fundraiser  for Life Skills and ended up raising over $40,000 for the non-profit.

Jacob is now a senior in High School and gearing up for a major transition towards adulthood in 2018. Last summer he did some work in technical documentation for a friend who is a programmer-entrepreneur. He did have some transitions in his romantic life this year, which was bit difficult for him. Jacob and I also started going to the YMCA downtown once a week to get more exercise. He likes the weight machines and I like swimming laps in the pool and the relaxing in the sauna a bit.

Myself, I started exploring tea more seriously – especially Pu’erh and Oolong teas. I had to cut back on the beers, due to stomach problems and teas are a whole new world of fun and interesting flavors. I have also started exploring the spiritual realm of existence more systematically after some interesting experiences dabbling with meditation. I am studying the teachings of the Buddha from a Theravada Thai Forest perspective, and mostly interpreted by disciples of the venerable Ajahn Chah. I am finding these teachings bring significant value to daily life. Meditating on the present moment and developing mindfulness and compassion on a daily basis has allowed peace and contentment to grow in every aspect of my life. This practice has already significantly improved my mental and physical well-being. So I will continue on that path.

Last September, I traveled to Germany to visit family and friends. I had a wonderful time, even though the visit was quite fast-paced and not restful. But it was really good to see my parents and my sister, and to catch up with some friends from my school days.

Toward the end of the year, 2017 had a bit of a surprise for me, as we decided to get a 7-week-old Great Pyrenees puppy. Her name is Patou, and she has been with us now for 2 weeks. She is really settling in here as the farm dog. The other critters are getting used to her and she is getting used to them. She and I have really bonded and we spent a LOT of time together during the holiday break. I am certain that seeing her grow up will be a fun and amazing experience – really looking forward to the journey.