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07/25/2012

Try again

Our first apple tree didn't live very long. About a year after we had planted it our dog ran across the yard, in pursuit of a rabbit, tripped over the ropes we had attached to the tree to keep it growing straight, and broke the thin stem off right above the point where the tree had been inoculated.

Apfelbaum2.JPGThis year the timing was perfect to try again!

Trees were on sale at Menards. We went and bought two Zestar apple trees and Tom planted them in the backyard, carefully picking the location, considering where our dog would not run.

These trees will be allowed to grow crooked, if they like.

05/08/2012

The first Time

Whenever we do something for the very first time there is this exciting mixture of anticipation and anxiety, no matter how much we tried to educate ourselves about the process and the expected outcome. Casting my first vote in a US primary elections as a citizen was no different in that respect.

Political campaigns in the US are more about personalities of individual candidates and not so much about factual party programs. It also seems that I have less choices available to vote for than in Germany. The biggest difference, in my opinion, is the fact that a person can become the President of the United States without earning a majority of people's votes. 

Organization of the election itself is different too. In the US you will not receive an invitation in the mail, telling you about an upcoming election and reminding you of your polling station's location. You will not receive any information about what to do in case you're not able to show up at your polling station. Elections in the US are always held on a Tuesday, not on a Sunday like in Germany. You don't use a pencil on paper to make your selections either, votes are cast on mobile computer terminals.

Just like most my previous "first times" this one wasn't all that exciting either. The lack of candidates whom I could wholeheartedly vote for forced me to make sure I voted against some that I really don't want to see in office. In the end the result may be the same either way, but at least I participated.

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01/22/2012

Snow Tires

In Germany it's the law. If you're caught driving in winter conditions without snow tires, you'll be fined. But even before it became law, everybody I knew had two sets of wheels for their cars. One with summer tires and one with winter tires mounted. Twice a year everybody would switch wheels on their cars.

Winters in Indiana are just as bad, or maybe even worse, as the ones I saw in Germany, but hardly anybody puts snow tires on in winter.
All-season radials and maybe 4-wheel drive seems to be the way to go.
With our van, which is quite heavy, that idea has been working OK so far, even without the 4-wheel drive. But the Elantra, engineered for fuel efficiency and light-weight, turned out to be almost impossible to handle on just a little bit of snow.

Winterreifen.jpgThe solution to this problem is easy: get some stylish new rims with excellent snow tires mounted, and voilá! - driving is fun again.

 

01/09/2012

Call before you dig

LocateFlags.JPGOne of my earliest 'culture shock' experiences in the US was when I first noticed locate flags alongside a road. I had no idea, what they were for and who put them there. My guess was they were remnants of a child's birthday party involving some kind of treasure hunt.

When I learned that an entire industry of utility locators is busy year round marking the location of underground cables and pipes with these little flags every time somebody wants to dig more than a foot deep, I found it hard to believe.

Locate-D.JPGI admit I never paid much attention to the markers that are permanently installed all over Germany to tell you exactly where cables and pipes run underground, which is probably the reason why I didn't notice their absence in my new home town immediately.  

 

12/18/2011

Burning Wood

Our house came with an open fireplace built in 1969. The unlined, uncovered chimney hadn't been swept in years. You could see a crack in the bricks from inside the garage. To make this at least usable we had the minimum of repairs done and burned logs only occasionally, always worried about setting the house on fire.

This year we decided to give ourselves a Christmas present. We had a wood-burning fireplace insert installed, vented through a stainless steel liner in the chimney. Our new EPA certified fireplace insert is rated over 75% efficiency and provides the added benefit of reducing our emissions to almost zero.

Here's to long, cold winter nights, sitting by the fireplace and drinking Glühwein!

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