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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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.


Welcome home, Patou!

December 17th, 2017

Saturday, we drove to Kittrel, NC, to pick up Patou. Here she is, this morning on her first day of training. She was born October 26 to a pure-bred Great Pyrenees dad and a mom who is half Great Pyr and half Akbash.  She was one of five pups for sale and with her slightly shorter coat and slender build she definitely takes after mom. She also inherited her dad’s friendly, people-focused character and gentle, mellow nature. On the drive home, she fell asleep in Laura’s lap, and so far she has only barked once, when she got so excited about meeting the neighbor’s little girl Anne (photo below).

Samstag fuhren auf’s Land, eine Stunde nördlich von Durham um unsere Patou abzuholen. Auf dem Bild hier beginnt sie heute Morgen ihr erste Ausbildungsstunde. Sie wurde am 26. Oktober geboren. Ihr Vater ist ein reinrassiger Pyrenäenberghund und ihre Mutter ist eine Mischung aus Pyrenäenberghund und dem Türkischen Akbash Hirtenhund. Sie hat has kürzere Fell ihrer Mutter und den gutmütigen, Menschen-bezogenen Charakter ihres Vaters geerbt. Auf der Fahrt nach Hause ist sie in Laura’s Schoß eingeschlafen und bis jetzt hat sie nur einmal gebellt, und nur aus Freude als sie dem kleinen Mädchen der Nachbarn begegnet ist (siehe Foto unten).

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November 19th, 2017

Gestern habe ich wieder Quark gemacht! Hier in den Staaten is es fast unmöglich im Supermarkt quark zu finden. Zum Glück ist es aber super-einfach Quark selber zu kultivieren. Einfach Milch warm machen (30 Grad Celsius), Starterkultur hineinmischen und dann nach 24 Stunden mit einem Käsetuch die Molke abtropfen lassen. Fertig. Man kann ein paar Löffel quark einfach beim nächsten Mal als Starterkultur in die warme Milch einrühren.

Yesterday, I made quark! Around here we cannot buy this delicious cultured milk product at the store, but it’s super-easy to make. Just warm the milk to 86 Deg F. add the starter culture and after 24 hours separate the whey out using a cheesecloth. Done. You can re-use a couple of scoops of the quark as the starter for the next batch.

Aus vier Liter Milch (1 gallone) bekam ich 1650 Gramm Quark.

Mmmm … Bananenquark mit Honig

Germany Trip

October 31st, 2017

Schorndorf market and city hall

In September, I went on a 10-day Trip back to Germany to visit family and friends. It had been a couple of years and it was time to go back an re-connect. I flew into Frankfurt via JFK and arrived on a crisp Friday morning. I picked up my rental car and drove to Bensheim to visit my great uncle on his 94th birthday. We had a nice visit, some coffee and cake and then later that evening I drove to Schorndorf, near Stuttgart and stayed with my mom for a weekend. Boy, driving on the Autobahn 8 on a Friday evening is a hell of a “welcome to effing Deutschland!” You’re constantly going back and forth between either going 95mph/150kmh or 5mph. Crazy! And then I had to cross Stuttgart during rush hour. Good thing my rental had a GPS and proximity alarms, because roads in that city are clogged an narrow! Eventually, I arrived safely in Schorndorf, just east of Stuttgart.

Schorndorf is a pretty, historic town on river Rems in the heart of Württemberg’s wine country. The town has the distinction of being the birthplace of Gottlieb Daimler, who built the first vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine in 1885. The company he founded became what is today Mercedes Benz.

Stuttgart old and new Chateau

Stuttgart old and new Chateau

On Sunday I visited friends near Aalen, and on Monday I took the train into Stuttgart to visit old stomping grounds and to have a beer and a Döner with a high school classmate. Stuttgart has a pretty rich history and one that has a bit of a “transportation theme” as it was founded as a breeding stable for the Württemberg family and is now known as the home of two major automobile manufacturers: Mercedes Benz and Porsche. Porsche even uses the crest of Stuttgart in its logo.

One curious thing I had just recently found out about Stuttgart is that the town hall is one of the few places in the world where you can ride the peculiar “Pater Noster” elevator – an elevator that has cabins that continuously run vertically up on one side and down on the other.


Tuesday, I headed out to visit family in Tübingen, but on the way I stopped in Untertürkheim at the Mercedes Benz Museum. For anyone even slightly interested in the history of the automobile this place is on the bucket list. The architecture is interesting and they roll out the entire history of the automobile (from the company’s perspective, of course). They have some of the very first motorized vehicles on display, including – of course – the first car, the first IC-powered boat, the first bus, truck, rail vehicle, engines for various flying machines etcetera. The museum also chronicles the Mercedes racing tradition, which started right at the beginning of the automotive history. Pretty cool.

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Summer mushroom hunting

July 31st, 2017

Here is a nice photo album of some of the mushrooms we have found over the last few weeks.
Click on the picture to open the album or click through it below.

Dies ist ein Photoalbum einiger der Pilze die wir über die letzten Wochen gesammelt haben.
Bitte auf das Bild klicken um das Album zu öffnen oder hier durchsehen.

Summer mushroom hunting

Foraged mushroom lunch

April 23rd, 2017

Last week we discovered mushrooms growing on a pile of horse manure out back. Laura identified the mushrooms as Coprinus comatus, or Shaggy Inky Caps, which are actually quite delicious, but have to be eaten immediately after harvested. So this morning I went out there and picked a bunch of mushrooms and fried them up in some butter with a little salt. Then I fried a couple of eggs from our neighbor’s Bantam chickens to go with the mushrooms and had me a nice, locavore Sunday brunch :) … more below.

D Letzte Woche entdeckten wir Pilze auf einem Misthaufen neben der Pferdeweide. Laura identifizierte die Pilze als Schopf Tintlinge (Coprinus comatus) und die sind ziemlich lecker, müssen aber sofort gegessen werden wenn sie geerntet sind. Also ging ich heute morgen raus und erntete einige der Pilze und bereitete sie in etwas Butter und Salz zu. Dazu kam noch ein paar Spiegeleier von den Hühnern des Nachbarn, und damit hatte ich ein wunderbares Sonntagsbrunch.

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A weekend in Uwharrie

March 30th, 2017

Last weekend, Laura and I rented a cabin in Uwharrie National Forest. A weekend away from the farm (and  the kids) was just the ticket for us. The cabin was a couple of miles from a trailhead for the Uwharrie trail and a 5-minute drive from the Badin Lake Recreation Area.

We drove the truck out there, so I could take it on the off-road trails at Badin Lake, but the trails were closed for maintenance that weekend. We also checked out the horse camping at Badin Lake and we definitely want to take the horses there sometime.

Saturday, we spent all day hiking on the northern section of the Uwharrie Trail (Morris Mtn section) and when we got back we had some beers and made a fire in the firepit outside. The weather was great and this was the most relaxing day we’d had in a long time. Sunday we drove to Albermarle on the other side of the lake and had lunch there, then we headed home.

March snowfall

March 12th, 2017

After temperatures in the 70s last week, a cold front moved in yesterday and we got some snow this morning!

Letzte Woche waren die Temperaturen schon deutlich über 20 Grad, aber Gestern kam eine Kaltfront und heute Morgen schneite es!

Dain’s Place 10-year anniversary

March 5th, 2017

A few weeks ago, my favorite bar in Durham – Dain’s Place – celebrated their 10th anniversary. They had a big party on Jan. 29 and Dain presented me and two other regulars with our own, personal mugs.

Vor ein paar Wochen feierten wir das 10. Jubiläum meiner Stammkneipe, Dains Place. Als Teil der Feier überreichte der Besitzer, Dain Phelan, mir und zwei anderen Stammkunden unsere persönlichen Biergläser. Meins hatte er von der Freiburger Brauerei Ganter bestellt. Natürlich hat das Glas damit auch ein zivilisieres Fassungsvermögen von 0.5 Liter (statt dem hier üblichen 14 Unzen/ 0.4 Liter) was mir jetzt einen gewissen Vorteil bringt :)

(üblicherweise wird das glas Ganz gefüllt)

Mehr Bilder hier …

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Historic protests against Trump

January 22nd, 2017

A day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. President, women (and men) around the country took to the streets in historic numbers. Yesterday, Julia and I joined more than 4 Million protesters nationwide, and almost 20,000 here in Raleigh to help counter the divisiveness and misogyny that propelled this administration into power. This administration looks like a government by the billionaires for the billionaires. Let work on making it a government by the people for the people.


Am Tag nach dem Amtseid Donald Trump’s als 45. Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten, demonstierten 4 Millionen Frauen (und Männer) in den Straßen Amerikanischer Städte. Gestern waren auch Julia und ich mit fast 20.000 hier in Raleigh unterwegs um gegen den Hass und die Frauenfeindlichkeit zu protestieren die diese Regierung an die Macht brachte. Diese Regierung sieht inzwischen aus wie eine Regierung der Milliardäre für Milliardäre. Wir wollen das das wieder eine Regierung aller Menschen für alle Menschen wird.


January 14th, 2017

Azi, the cat

Meet Azi, the cat. She is a tortie and an energetic trouble-maker. Laura found her behind a dumpster at work and she was probably born there sometime in the spring of 2016, and she had one litter of kittens there, as well. We had her spayed and vaccinated and she has been settling in quite nicely. “Azi” is Ewe and means peanut. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Das ist Azi, die Katze. Sie ist eine Schildpatt Katze, und ein Draufgänger mit viel Energie. sie wurde im Frühjahr 2016 hinter einer Mülltonne in Durham geboren. Sie saß oft im Eingang zu dem Gebäude wo Laura arbeitet und hat um Futter gebettelt. Laura brachte sie dann nach Hause und wir haben sie kastrieren und impfen lassen, und sie hat sich inzwischen gut eingelebt. (Auf die Bilder klicken zum vergrößern)

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January 12th, 2017

Today’s high temperature was 68°F (20°C). Julia’s glorious snowman is melting …

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Our horses in the snow

January 11th, 2017

Wally, Cleo and Madison are messing around during the Jan. 7 snowstorm.


January 9th, 2017

Celsius hier …

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Winter morning

January 8th, 2017

Today at Sunrise it was 13 °F (-10 °C) after we got about 4 inches (12cm) of snow and sleet yesterday. And tomorrow morning is predicted to be even colder.


January 1st, 2017

(Auf Deutsch hier)  Most of 2016 unfolded more or less quietly for us with some new beginnings, changed expectations and gradual growth and adjustments. Laura settled into a new job, Julia’s journey took some unforeseen twists and turns, Jacob is just growth all around :-) and I experimented a bit with changing my diet and life habits and bought a “new” car. At the end of the year, we were also touched by the resilience and courage of some good friends who were dealt some really intense challenges by life.

Over the last few months, the daughter of a good friend has been going through cancer treatment and so Barbara has been traveling a lot to be with her daughter’s family. So while she is away, we have been taking care of her dog. It’s not much, but it’s one thing they don’t have to worry about.

Everett Copeland

Last week, we saw an entire community of colleagues, friends and neighbors rally around the family of our good friends Bill and Ashley when their 5-year-old son died in a freak-accident the Monday after Christmas. Friends and family organized a meal train and a go-fund-me campaign to make sure to take care of their food and financial needs in this difficult time. At the memorial service on Friday, the community came together to honor Everett’s memory and to embrace and support his parents, his sisters and the entire family. As we go through our daily lives, it is so easy to ignore just how quickly lives can be turned inside out by tragedy, and this was a painful wake-up call to not take anything for granted.

In April, Laura started working for the Life Skills Foundation, a local non-profit that provides services to youth aging out of t he foster care system. She is in charge of development and fundraising, and she loves it. It’s a tough mission and a challenging job, but the team is very tight-knit and a good fit for her. Otherwise, the horses have kept her really busy, especially our old gelding Wally, who had serious hoof trouble and required daily treatments for weeks and weeks.

Christmas Eve

In the spring, Julia did am internship at Step Up – another local non-profit. Step Up provides employment readiness workshops for folks who have trouble finding jobs because they have a criminal record or they have been unemployed for a long time. At the end of the summer, she headed back to D.C. to start over at American University. But once she arrived on campus, her health problems resurfaced and it became clear that this was not going to be a good route for her to take right now. So we decided to bring her back home and re-focus on helping her improve her health and general outlook So she spent the fall helping Laura take care of the horses and working on small projects.

Jacob is now a Junior at DSA High School (11th grade) and he is really into computer gaming and he takes an advanced game design class at school. He also took his driver’s ed class this fall and got his learner’s permit. So now we have to practice driving with him for a year, so he can get his license. Over the summer, he spent several weeks with John and Vikki in New Hampshire at their new home. Julia joined him for a week and then the two flew home together, since he is still too young to fly unaccompanied. He is now 6 feet tall and he got a razor for Christmas :-)

As for myself, I ended 2015 recovering from pericarditis and acid reflux problems. While recovering from my illness I started experimenting with my diet and ended up changing my diet to a low-carb high-fat diet. I cut out all potatoes, pasta and most rice and I eat lots of eggs (free-range from the neighbor), nuts and avocados. I am not real dogmatic about it, either, so small amounts of sugar, some bread and liquid carbs :-) are still on the menu. Yet, I managed to really improve my acid reflux problems and lose 25 pounds since 2015. At my last physical in December, my blood panel looked really good and I feel healthier than in a long time. In addition, I have been meditating regularly in order improve my stress management and mental health.

In April, I was rear-ended in my 1991 Mercedes on Guess Rd. I was not hurt and the damage to the car was not bad, so I took the insurance payout and bought another, very similar Mercedes: a white 1992 300D. The car is in great shape and Julia now drives the black Mercedes.

Sienna, the dog, Sidney, the emu and Snoopy the goat

Our menagerie has increased yet a bit and continues to be a major part of our life. In June, Mel, the emu joined the gang. It has been an interesting challenge to 1) keep her in the enclosure and 2) to get her acquainted with the male emus. We were really counting on finally getting some emu eggs with a female in the mix, but so far no luck, even though we’re halfway through mating season and she has been hanging out with Darwin in her enclosure. Apropos “mating” … in the spring we tried to have Cleo covered by this nice fella, Apache, but that also did not work out so well. At least Cleo seems to have enjoyed her time with Apache :-)

Sienna has been staying with us on and off since August, whenever Barbara and Gail have to travel. She is a good dog and she loves to chase a laser pointer or a flash light beam at night.

Azi, the catOur newest addition is Azi the kitten. Laura brought her home after she found her basically living behind a dumpster at work – where she was probably born last spring. We had her spayed, vaccinated and checked out by the vet and now she has become a very energetic part of the family.


All the best to all of you for a great 2017!

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Farm Projects

December 28th, 2016

Last week, I finished the expansion and remodel of the hay storage shed. I rebuilt the floor and doubled the storage area, so we can now store two 900-pound hay bales. I can use a come-along to ratchet up the floor on the right side, so the second bale flips into place when the front bale is gone. I then purchase a new bale, drop it onto the gravel pad  and simply roll it into the back of the shed until it’s time to flip it into place. These 2 bales are 4 weeks worth in forage for our 3 horses. (Deutsch)


This week, I am working on renovating our horse shelter in the pasture. Today, I replaced the weathered OSB particle board on the outside with plywood, which I hope I can get around to painting on Friday.

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Ich bin ein Berliner

December 20th, 2016

Stay strong, Berlin. Stay crazy.



November 29th, 2016

Oh, America.

Seriously?! trump Mr. Cheetoface Tinyhands gets to move into the White House? OK, so maybe the other option was not all that appealing, either … the Wall-Street-pandering, email-deleting Mrs. Pinchface. So this is it, now – right? It’s all over. The Endoftheworldasweknowit.

If you are considering packing your bags and moving to Canada – wait! I have a better idea: move to a swing state. If you want to help prevent a two-term Trump administration, move to sunny Florida or North Carolina, heck, even Ohio or Michigan would be better options, if you insist on going ice-fishing. While it’s still pretty unclear what the Trump administration actually means for the American people, besides an endless, weird Twitter storm from the commander-in-chief, I think it’s important to keep this in mind:

  1. most voters did NOT vote for Trump
  2. most Trump voters are NOT racist, misogynist bigots
  3. Trump is not (yet) Emperor of America … he will just be the President

The scariest thing about the Trump administration is the unpredictability of Cheetoface himself. Yet, quite predictably, he has been backpedalling on some of his more outrageous campaign promises, and instead of “draining the swamp” that is the federal government, he started assigning many “swamp creatures” to key posts in his cabinet. Eventually, I think this is going to look like any other Republican administration: easy on the rich, big on screwing the middle class and devastating for our poor planet. And perhaps with a more intense side order of incompetence and scandal. It will suck, but I think we’ll survive.

Personally, my biggest fear is that Americans will start seeing themselves as “pro-Trump” vs. “anti-Trump” without recognizing that there are actually many commonalities across both camps. Donald J. Trump is nothing if not a divisive figure. Any disagreement is a personal affront to him. And the media are not helping by painting him practically as the “antichrist” when his is really just a scam artist with very small hands.

But I think America can overcome these divisions and find a common basis for moving forward. There is a widespread desire for renewal and change among American voters. Both the Sanders campaign and the Trump campaign tapped into that desire. Yet, both the Clinton campaign and the Trump campaign ended up running very negative campaigns that made fear a main motivation for their supporters. But in the end, that divisiveness and fear-mongering is not very inspiring, especially not to the young voters.

My hope is that once we see the common desire for a political renewal in this country, we can set aside some of the political differences and maybe tackle the big challenge that is electoral reform. Even though there is so much attention focused on the election of the President, the much bigger problem is actually the Congress, where decades of gerrymandering has created mostly safe seats with little or no competition. It is there, more than at the presidential election, where democracy is slipping away in this country. Redistricting based on current population numbers and by an independent body is a critical and monumental task if this country’s democracy is to stay vibrant and relevant. It is absurd that in most states, the state legislature draws the election districts, which means basically that the party that has the majority in the legislature get to protect that majority by essentially selecting the voters. No wonder that of all 435 congressional districts only 49 were competitive in the last election.

Maybe the Trump presidency will be the motivator to finally get more Americans to re-engage and take their political destiny away from the entrenched special interests and into their own hands. The Sanders campaign was a glimpse of that possibility. Let’s hope they can keep their momentum going.