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Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

We have had such a resurgence of beautiful, summer-like weather in Germany.

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The sun has been shining brightly for almost two weeks now, and I have been busy trying to enjoy the amazing weather while it lasts.

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On Sunday, Sebastian and I joined several friends on a train journey to the tiny village of Mayschoss to celebrate the wine which is produced in the region.

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The town was bustling with music and the wine was flowing.

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We shared several bottles of local wine while relaxing under a walnut tree beside a football field.

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Thanks to Krasi, we had freshly foraged walnuts to accompany our wine.

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Relaxing and laughing with good friends… PA021494

I could not have asked for a better way to spend the lovely autumn day.

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*I found this prepared post deep in my drafts. It may not be spring and there is certainly no white asparagus available at the moment, but I still wanted to share a simple, elegant, delicious recipe. I hope you all have had a wonderful start to your work week.

I love Italian and Indian food, both of which are very vegetarian friendly.

In the land of sausages and salami however, being a vegetarian doesn’t make traditional food very accessible.

I sometimes feel a bit guilty for refusing to eat the food that is so important to the German culture.

Luckily, there are a few traditional German dishes that I adore, in all their meat-free ways.

This simple, spring soup is one of my favorite traditional dishes, spargelcremesuppe or cream of asparagus soup.

Using the white asparagus from my CSA box, this recipe was not only traditional, but local, too.

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White Asparagus Soup

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 c. chopped onion

2 Tablespoons butter

1- 1 1/2 pounds white asparagus, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces, heads reserved

2 small potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Dry white wine, to taste

Parsley for garnish

Method

  1. Peel the asparagus from the head down. Remove the heads and reserve for later. Cut off and dispose the woody ends of the asparagus then cut the remaining asparagus into small pieces.
  2. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in the butter until soft. Add the pieces of asparagus (minus the heads) and the potatoes, steam for 5 minutes. Add the broth and boil gently for about 30 minutes, or until the asparagus is very soft.
  3. Purée the soup using a hand blender.
  4. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the reserved asparagus heads. Cook at least 5 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. Remove from heat and add the cream.
  5. Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. Stir in a splash or two of white wine or vermouth. Garnish with parsley.

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This week has been full of delicious food, exciting adventures, and memorable events.

I’m not going to let my lack of modern-day journaling prevent this week from being known. Much of what I mention now will hopefully be put into a more detailed post of its own, but in the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy my week in review.

Last Saturday

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I had such a good day last Saturday. Sebastian and I drove to my new favorite German museum, Kommern Open-Air Museum. I was going to bring my class to the museum on Thursday for a trip and wanted to be a bit more knowledgeable before leading a tour.

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The museum has collected and repaired traditional buildings from the Rheinland and placed then into four communities. Visiting the museum is like traveling back in time.

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We enjoyed walking through the buildings and imagining what it must have been like to live in the Rheinland region 500 years ago.

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Old-fashioned rhubarb custard crumble cake

After visiting the museum, Sebastian and I did a bit of shopping then went to see two short plays.

The Bonn Players, the theatre group I’ve acted with in the past, was showing their spring productions. Both plays were very well done and really enjoyable to watch. After the play, Sebastian and I ate an extremely late Italian dinner at a local restaurant then called it a night.

Sunday

Lazy day at home. Probably the most interesting thing I did was ate a great soup and salad lunch.

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Chickpea vegetable soup, mixed salad and bruschetta.

Monday

I’ve told you about.

Tuesday

At school the kids performed their musical for Year 2 and a few parents who weren’t able to come on Wednesday. Other than that, it was a normal school day.

Once home, Sebastian and I made a very traditional German spring dinner.

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Boiled new potatoes, fish, white asparagus and hollandaise sauce.

Wednesday

My students performed their Pied Piper musical for their parents. There were several teary eyes in the audience and many appreciative greetings at the end. I am so proud of the kids as well. They really put everything they had into this show.

Thursday

The class trip to Kommern was a huge success.

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The kids were fascinated by “the olden days.” As opposed to Saturday when Sebastian and I went, on Thursday, the town was ‘working.’

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The bakery was baking bread, the blacksmith was making horseshoes, the housewives were cooking and gardening.

Probably the most memorable part of the day was meeting a woman who described what life would have been like 200 years ago. She had everyone captivated by her tales of childhood and hard manual labor.

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I was absolutely exhausted after the trip and was so happy when I got home to find that Sebastian had prepared pizza dough for dinner.

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We ran to the grocery store and strawberry stand before beginning to bake our pizzas. I made a fennel and red onion pizza with black olives and a balsamic glaze.

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Absolutely divine.

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Sebastian went down the spicy road and made a salami and jalapeño pizza.

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I also whipped together a very quick rhubarb tiramisu using a recipe from my vegetable box.

Needless to say, Thursday night I slept like a baby.

Friday

Last day of the week before a week off of work (sort of.)

School went well, one of the mums came in for Mystery Reader and finished reading The School Mouse. I have loved listening to this particular mum read this book. She reads with the most soothing and beautiful British accent your could imagine. I’m just sad that the story is over. I always feel a bit down the few lonely days after finishing a good book.

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After school, I came home and made birthday cupcakes for my friend and classroom assistant, Prachi. I had planned on bringing the tiramisu but realized that I’d be carrying around a heavy glass dish all night and decided to go the dish-free direction.

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 Vegan Chocolate Amaretto Cupcakes, I promise a recipe soon!

Because of my baking, we were running so late that we decided to take the car after all. I guess carrying a glass dish wouldn’t have been a problem. We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Bonn called Tacos. I had delicious vegetarian fajitas and a margarita. We ended up staying at the restaurant all night, laughing, talking and simply having a relaxing night out.

Saturday

I didn’t sleep well Friday night because I was too nervous about Saturday morning. My friends Jan and Matt are in a band and invited me to sing a couple of songs at an upcoming gig.

Saturday was my first rehearsal with the band and to say that I was nervous really is an understatement. Only Matt has ever heard me sing so I was really afraid that the rest of the band would be unimpressed and question his judgment. Luckily, all went well and I had a really good time with the band. Our next rehearsal is on Thursday then the gig is on Friday.

Once rehearsal was finished, Sebastian and I went to IKEA then over to Jan and Zoe’s to help them move into their new apartment. They are only moving next door, but the new flat is about 3x larger than the old one. Doctored up frozen pizzas and beers were shared on the new balcony then we relaxed and chatted while listening to music late into the night.

Sunday

Beside cooking a really fun breakfast and dinner, today has been a total write-off.

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I slept in, made breakfast, fell asleep while reading, woke up again, watched three documentaries, talked on the phone with my friend, made dinner, then started blogging. A very unproductive day.

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I have this coming week off of school but will be going in to work most of the days to work on writing reports. Although I hate that I’m spending a “vacation week” writing reports, I’m glad that I have the time to focus on the reports while the classroom is all mine.

Alright, thanks for sticking with me through this long post, I promise to provide a few of the recipes on their own as well as a dedicated post to Kommern Open-air Museum.

I hope all of you have had a great week and a relaxing weekend.

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Last Sunday, I went on a short hike with my friends Jan and Zoe.

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We started at the car park just above Rolandseck, a neighboring village.

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It was overcast and a bit chilly, perfect weather for an uphill hike.

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On the way up, we stopped to spy through the gates of a private property. Imagine living in a turret.

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The hike was quite easy with a few hilly areas. Everything is finally green again. I love spring.

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There are several longer hikes and bike trails which lead to the remains of the Rolandsbogen Castle. These paths are marked with different numbers and paint symbols which can be seen to the right of the arch above.

P5156730 Cool root systems were enjoyed by all.

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Before we knew it, we’d reached signage of the Rolandsbogen Restaurant.

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Here’s a little history about the Rolandsbogen Castle, copied from this source.

Above Remagen and Rolandseck, near the island of Nonnenworth, is the former castle of Rolandsbogen. It is now in ruins, although offers magnificent views to those who climb up to see it. The castle was built by Charlemagne’s nephew, Roland. He supposedly returned from serious injury in Spain to find his wife had taken her vows as a nun on the island. So he built this fortress to be able to catch glimpses of her. The castle was built around 1040, and fell after an earthquake in 1673. Roland’s window still stands romantically in place.

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Romantic even with the story rolling in.

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Up a few more steps, we found the arch, cafe and restaurant. The building above is actually a Standesamt, one of the registered locations for the legal, civil union side of marriages in Germany.

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The view over the Rhine was fantastic.

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With the Seven Hills across the Rhine, and the convent turned school on the island, this castle once stood proud with an amazing view.

We had a coffee and shared a slice of cheesecake and apple cake while waiting out the storm before making the descent.

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The walk back down was a bit more sunny and humid but still really lovely.

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I’m so lucky to live in such a geographically interesting place. Just minutes from my home I have hills, dormant volcanoes, prairies, forests and one of the most important rivers in Europe.

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I just need to get out and hike more often.

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Chickens, juice and vegetables- Saturday was a fascinating day as I toured the farms and local businesses where my local CSA grows and acquires their produce and products.

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The tour started at 9:00 at the farm where the vegetable boxes are packed, Biolandgärtnerei Hüsgen. When I first chose to receive a weekly vegetable box delivery, I picked this company for a few main reasons:

  • Their dedication to growing organic produce
  • Their support of other local organic farmers
  • Their commitment to be as environmentally friendly as possible
  • The ease of participating due to their online shop
  • That this business is allowing a young family to do what they love while being available to their children

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In addition to their vegetable box delivery scheme, they also own and operate a small organic grocery store for the community.

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The store had a wonderful local feel to it. It was at this shop that I saw my first bulk bins in Germany. They had a little bit of all things necessary without being crowded.

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Outside the shop, they had so many vegetable plants and flowers for sale. I would love to go back to buy some plants for the balcony.

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The shop was really busy with locals from the village picking up their plants and weekly shopping.

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Throughout the first half hour, we were free to walk around the shop and farm before setting off in a tour bus at 9:30.

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Our first stop was Hof Alpermühle, the farm where my eggs come from.

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The eggs from Hof Alpermühle are free range and certified organic. We were taken on a tour of the chicken coops as well as the room where the eggs are sorted, stamped and packaged.

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To be certified as an organic, free range chicken farm, the family farm must meet certain regulations (I hope I get everything right, my German is alright but not fluent.)

  • Chickens are all-natural, unmodified by breed or body
  • Access to organic food and water at all times
  • Access to the outside (the barn is closed up over night to protect the chickens from foxes)
  • Access to shelter at all times
  • Free choice in nesting
  • A dry, naturally ventilated, sanitary shelter
  • No more than 4 hens per square meter (at this farm, they only have 2 hens per square meter)

One thing I found a bit ironic was the chicken feed. The ingredient list on the hens’ feed is healthier and more natural than probably 85% of food items that we’d find on grocery store shelves.

All feed ingredients were certified organic and recognizable as grains that we’d even eat.

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The farm has 2,500 chickens, split into 4 family groups, which each lay one egg per day in the morning hours, usually between 6-10 am.

Although the barn is kept closed over night, the doors are opened bright and early to allow the chickens access to open pastures once they’re awake and active.

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We were shown one of the hens up-close. Here, the owner, Mr.Klose, is describing how the beaks of chickens are cut off in caged farms. Every hen on his farm looked like the image of a healthy and happy hen.

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This is the nesting room. The hens have free choice to lay eggs wherever they want but they like the dark of this part of the barn. Once the hens lay their eggs, they head outside.

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The nests slightly slope back, allowing the eggs to roll and be collected. The size of the eggs depends on the age of the hens. Older hens lay larger eggs than young hens.

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I was really impressed with how clean the barn was. The hay on the ground was dry and fresh, keeping the hens’ feet healthy. Since the barn was so sanitary and the hens were so healthy, the eggs came out immaculate.

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Once the pallets of eggs are collected, they are taken to be sorted.

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The sorting is done by a conveyor belt system which is carefully observed by the employees of the farm.

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Some stages are more carefully observed than others, such as the candling stop where the eggs are checked for shell damage and deformities.

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I remember candling eggs in kindergarten throughout the process of hatching chickens in a classroom incubator.

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Here Mrs. Klose was explaining the difference between egg sizes and colors. She also told us that her dogs, although not trained to do so, protect the hens from hawks and foxes.

Every member of the Klose family, human and hound clearly love the hens they care for.

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After the tour, we were treated to coffee, brownies and fresh fruit.

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The brownies came from a local bakery that only uses eggs from Hof Alpermühle.

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One thing that was really funny was when Mr. Klose opened the barn door. As soon as the hens heard his voice, they came running from all directions to greet him like a pack of loving dogs.

I am so glad to know where my eggs come from. To see the way the hens are cared for makes me completely comfortable consuming a product from this farm.

It was also wonderful to meet the family and get to know their passion for organic farming.

After the chicken farm, the next stop was the local juice press.

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I once received a mystery-free bottle of Weber apple juice in my vegetable box. It was the best apple juice I have ever drank, 100% pure fruit juice, pressed in a family press not far from my home.

The tour of Weber Fruchtsaftkelterei started in the apple orchards.

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Mr. Weber took us around his apple orchard while explaining the varieties, pollination of the trees and recent weather conditions.

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The orchards host bees, local grazing animals like cows and sheep, birds and even small children.

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The blossoms have just fallen off of the apple trees.

Weber buys apples, pears, rhubarb, cherries and an assortment of other fruit from local farmers, but 10% of the apples used in their products were grown in the Weber family’s own orchards.

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They also import some exotic fruit such as mangoes and bananas for a few of their juice varieties.

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Although some fruit which can not be grown in this area is imported, they are committed to using local fruit for all else.

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Seeing that it’s spring, the presses were not running but we were invited to return in the fall when the apples are harvested and to see the press in action.

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I have no idea what Mr. Weber was talking about in the large room full of huge metal vats. The technical language mixed with the loud echoing kids’ voices= I didn’t catch a single thing.

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The room was pretty impressive none the less.

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After the big jugs room, we saw the assembly line where the bottles are cleaned, filled, sealed and labeled.

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Weber reuses its bottles like most other beverage companies in Germany. I love the pfand system here. When you buy most drinks, you pay a pfand for the bottles. Pfands are usually between 8-20 cents, depending on the size and material of the bottle. When you’re done with the contents, you bring the bottle back to the store and get your money back. This economic incentive results in bottles being reused rather than going to garbage dumps or incinerators.

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The whole process, from apple branch to bottling takes place on the family-owned property.

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After the tour, we were invited to a juice tasting.

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Apple mango, pear, apple, apple cherry, apple black currant, and apple elderberry juice were served.

Mr. and Mrs. Weber even brought out their apple sparkling wine for us to taste.

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My favorite juices were the plain apple and apple mango. I bought a bottle of both from their little shop.

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I also bought a bottle of rhubarb nectar which I brought to a going-away BBQ Saturday evening. We mixed the rhubarb nectar with champagne– so so so delicious!

After our visit at Weber, we went back to Biolandgärtnerei Hüsgen for a yummy fresh lunch before continuing the tour of the gardens and box-packing facilities.

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Lunch was white asparagus soup and a salad. Both asparagus and the red lettuce were in my box this week.

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The local organic bakery where the delivery scheme buys its bread was also at the farm for us to taste and buy some of their new products. Although almost all of their products are vegan, when eggs are used, DLS whole-grain mill bakery only uses eggs from Hof Alpermühle.

Here is the DLS Bakery promise, copied and translated from their website.

Our products contain
NO preservatives
NO dyes
NO emulsifiers
NO cling materials
NO acidity regulators
NO anti-mold agent
No industrial bakery
NO pre-mixes

NO Animal products (with the exception of two bread recipes.)

All grains are grown under the highest organic standards in and around Hennef. The grains are slowly ground daily on natural stone.

I bought two wild garlic baguettes to bring to the Saturday night BBQ and a wild garlic and tomato quiche which I ate for breakfast on Sunday.

After lunch, we were shown the box-packing facilities.

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All 1,100 weekly organic produce boxes are packed by hand.

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We were shown how the produce is weighed, wrapped and organized for each and every individual box. One thing is for sure, every employee really seems to love and believe in the value of their job.

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Next up, the tractor wagon was uncovered and those of us who were interested in touring the Hüsgen family farm hopped on to the hay bale seats and went on a ride to the greenhouses.

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Several of the organic farms in the area operate through a partnership. Each farm grows the vegetables that they grow best, then they share the harvest.

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Although the Hüsgen farm grows more than what we saw in these greenhouses, what we saw here was the main part of their partnership crop.

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Tomatoes

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Peppers

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More tomatoes

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Cucumbers

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Rhubarb

While looking at the rhubarb patch, one little girl cried out, “Mommy, we had that in our box this week!”

To which the mother replied, “Yes, and here is where it came from.”

How cool is that?

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Salads, dark leafy greens and herbs.

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Mr. Hüsgen honestly discussed farming methods, costs, and difficulties in operating an organic farm. He expressed his dislike for the plastic-covered greenhouses but explained that they work well, are durable and more affordable than glass greenhouses. I respect him for his honesty and willingness to share his triumphs and struggles with us.

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I am so happy that I am able to support this farm and all the other local businesses associated through them.

I truly trust in the health and wholesomeness of the products I consume from all farmers I saw on Saturday and all those who I didn’t see but know are trusted by the Hüsgen family.

P5146664 If you live in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, the photo above outlines the organic produce box suppliers in this area of the state.

If you live anywhere else in Germany and are interested in finding a Community Supported Agriculture scheme near you, please visit oekokiste.de.

For only 13 Euros per week, I am spending less money on food than ever before while eating healthy, local, organic produce and supporting businesses that I believe in.

Choosing to receive a weekly fruit and vegetable box is one of the best changes I’ve made in my life here. Seeing exactly where that food comes from has made my choice even more satisfying.

A big, warmhearted thank you goes out to everyone who participated in the Spring Tour this past Saturday (not that any of the farmers even know about this blog.)

I especially thank Biolandgärtnerei Hüsgen for allowing me to see, for free I might add, exactly who I’m supporting with my measly 13 Euros.

Thank YOU for reading along about this awesome day in my life!

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This week I received another exciting box of fresh, local, organic vegetables from my local CSA. P5066109

The originally planned box also included kohlrabi but I requested to go without this week. I had a hard time finding recipes for the 3 kohlrabi that came in an earlier box.

This week, the delivery contained:

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1 bunch flat-leaf parsley

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1 head of cauliflower

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6 organic, free range farm eggs

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1 pointed cabbage

In German, this cabbage is called spitzkohl, I’m not sure of the English translation since I only came to know this vegetable in Europe.

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3 large carrots

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3 lemons

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Crimini mushrooms

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1 gorgeous head of lettuce

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2 zucchini

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An enormous bag of baby spinach

I am most excited for the spinach since it is a difficult vegetable to come by. I can find full-grown spinach and frozen spinach, but the tender baby spinach is a rarity.

Although I really miss my mom this Mother’s day, talking to her this evening made my heart happy.

I love you so much mom and am incredibly thankful to have you for a mother, teacher, friend and example.

Enjoy the rest of your Mother’s Day!

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I’ve been busy all night working on a project for the blog and trying to get ready for the new school term which starts on Monday.

Before going to bed, I wanted to share a few photos from the time we spent in Berlin.

Sebastian and I carpooled from Bonn to Berlin on Friday morning. The traffic was so bad that the driver decided to get off the autobahn and take country roads instead for part of the way.

It was wonderful to drive with the windows down as we passed farms and fields of canola.

P4225872 P4225873 We arrived in Berlin around 6. We sat around talking with Sebastian’s dad and brother for a few hours then went to a party at the house of one of Sebastian’s friends.

Saturday, we spent the day with Pierre. He is one of the most genuinely nice people I know.

P4235878 We walked around all day, had an ice cream and stopped for a beer a the beer garden.

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Later Saturday night, we went to a BBQ with a group of friends. P4235879

This was the first trip that I was able to speak with everyone in German the whole time. I understood almost everything and was able to confidently say what I wanted to say. Although my speaking is certainly not correct, I am finally able to be understood in German. Hip, hip, hooray!

Easter Sunday was a little strange for me this year.

I knew that we were going to the baptism of Sebastian’s baby cousin, but assumed that the service would be a part of the Easter Sunday service.

Sadly, it was only the baptism.

So, although I went to church on Easter Sunday, I didn’t go to an Easter service. First time in 25 years.

Although this made me feel sad, there was plenty of happiness surrounding the baptism that I tried to focus on that.

P4245882 The gorgeous church is right next door to Sebastian’s grandparents’ house.

P4245881 Here’s the proud Papa and his adorable son, Nico.

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Nico was really well tempered throughout the service and didn’t even cry when the holy water was poured on his head.

P4245916 One difference between baptisms that I’ve been to in the US and in Germany is that in Germany the baptismal gown isn’t put on the baby until after the baptism is complete.

After the baptism, the whole day was spent celebrating family.

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Naturally, coffee and cake were included.

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Sunday was a gorgeous, warm day. Perfect for spending time outside.

I spent most of the day with my favorite little girl, Nathalie, Sebastian’s cousin’s daughter.

P4245922 Even though I only see her 1-2 times a year, she remembers me and is always super excited to play with me.

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I feel the same way about her.

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The 6 cousins.

I find it funny that two of Sebastian’s cousins have children older than the youngest cousin.

All guests were expected to be photographed with Nico.

P4245967 Although it didn’t start so well…

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we eventually got a decent photo with the baptismal boy.

For the next few days, my camera barely saw sunlight.

We spent a lot of time just relaxing with friends.

On Wednesday, we took the train back to Bonn and arrived safely at home.

Although I was really missing my family and was constantly thinking about my trip back home last Easter, I still had a wonderful time in Berlin.

Alright, time for bed. Tomorrow is a pre-work work day so wish me concentration, focus, creativity and luck!

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