My Not-So-Daily Diary

June '05

Thursday, June 30, 2005


     My last entry was a short one and that was in May. It's now the end of June. I could tell you that we've been so busy that I haven't had time to write. But instead, I'll tell you and show you what's been going on in our lives in this busy time of year.

     The local swimming pool opened around the end of May and Mädi and I have done our best to swim every morning. In the beginning, it wasn't so easy to motivate ourselves. The water was 16°C (61°F) and the air temp was only 12°C (54°F). There were days that we had to swim with the rain falling down on our faces. But we did it. Now, at the end of June, it's payback time. The water is up to 25°C (78°F) and the weather has been sunny and extremely hot, so we appreciate the cool water. We're up to swimming 2km (1.25miles) per day and we're seeing the same changes in our body shapes that we saw last summer. We're also both pretty tan. Here's a photo Herbert took of me last weekend...



     Everywhere I go, somebody asks me if I've been on a vacation because I'm so brown. I've thought about making a sign to wear around my neck saying, "It's not intentional. I swim every day. (And I'm never awake enough to think about sunscreen.)" But, I do need to think about it because I worry about the effects on my skin. I'm not getting any younger and my skin is looking older. And then there's skin cancer... yeah, I know.

     So, what's going on with the Trachtengruppe, or folk dancing group? We've also been very busy. On the 8th of June, we had our annual day trip. We always rent a bus and go on a field trip. A few of the women make all of the arrangements and the rest of us have no idea of what's planned. I don't normally like surprises, but I have to say that it was a very nice day and evening. We visited two very special places and I'd like to share them on a photo page. So, I won't tell anymore about this until the page is up.

     Most of the organized groups in Oberwil have a group photo hanging in the Bären restaurant. The photo of our dancing group was about twenty years old. At the end of May, our group had a new photo taken. We all met in our Trachts, traditional costumes,  up on a hill that overlooks the village. Here's a photo I took as we were waiting for everyone to show up...



     This Sunday is the day of our annual Gratiszmorge, or free breakfast. We invite all the neighboring villages to join us in one of the village forest houses. After the breakfast is finished, we start serving wine, beer, and food that includes pork chops from the grill. We charge for this part, and that makes it a fund raiser for us. I'm usually in the States in the summer and have only made it to one of these. The one I did go to continued from breakfast to grilling to cleaning up to an impromptu dinner at our home that went late into the night. I'll let you know how this one turns out.

     I joined the mixed choir group around the end of May. For the past three years, the director, who's been directing the choir for over thirty years, has been asking me to try to join. I told him that I didn't have time. I finally told him the truth, that I couldn't sing. He told me that everyone can sing. I understood his point of view because it seems to me that everyone in Switzerland can sing. But, I'm not Swiss. I only sing when I'm alone in the car and only in the winter when the windows are rolled up.

     He persisted. He's the school teacher in the next village and had me come in during one of his breaks. I had to sing for him while standing next to the piano in his classroom. He told me I was an alto. (My guess is that I can thank years of smoking for that.) I agreed to try the choir for a few weeks. I'm still there and starting to enjoy it. Herbert's been a member of both the mixed and the men's choirs for the past eight years of so. It's nice to be a member of a group that he's also a part of.

     At first I was afraid of having to sing in German. This hasn't proven to be a problem at all. The first song I learned with the choir was an African spiritual song that we sing in Zulu. It's called 'Siyahamba'. The next song was an 'African American Spiritual' called 'Oh Mary'. It's in English. We sang both of those songs in a singing contest in a town here in Switzerland. I surprised myself by participating even though Herbert was in Asia at the time and was further surprised by the fact that I really enjoyed it.

     This past Monday, we started to learn three new songs. One was a mass in Latin, one a French song, and one an American folk song sung half in English and half in German. It's Glory, Glory Hallelujah. Of course I know this one. The difficult thing for me is that I want to sing it as I sang it when I was a young girl. Now I have to sing it as part of a large group, as an alto and with some very complicated timing. But, I'm learning it new with the rest of the choir and somehow that's comforting.

     Most of Switzerland has their vacation sometime during July or August. It's much more organized here than in the States. Because the kids go to school year round and have about five weeks off in the summer, many of the organizations also take a break at the same time. Personally, I think it's because air-conditioning doesn't seem to exist in Switzerland and it just too damn hot to do anything. But, we do all need a break sometimes.

     Both the choir and the dancing group will take a vacation for five weeks. The two kids I teach will be going to Germany, where they're originally from, and we won't have class for those four weeks.

     Herbert and I aren't planning on taking any big trips this summer. He'll take two or three weeks off of work and I'll take a break from teaching my two 'adult' classes. I already have a list for him (us) of the things that I want to have accomplished during that time. Most of them revolve around our house and more specifically, our gardens. We've made a lot of changes this year and there's still a lot to do.

     This is a good place to explain to you what we're doing in our yard...

     The first and most important to me is the sweet corn part of our vegetable garden. I'm from Iowa. In case you didn't know, Iowa is the corn capital of the world. I grew up with it. After I met Herbert, he came to visit in Minnesota and I took him to the state fair. While we stood in line for grilled corn on the cob, he had a look of concern on his face. I told him that surely he liked corn on the cob. He explained that in Switzerland that's what they feed the cattle. I told him that sweet corn is different and he should try it first. He ended up loving it.

     When I first moved here in 2001, I found out that you could buy sweet corn at the grocery store, but instead of costing one or two dollars per dozen, it was only sold in a pack of two and it cost between one to two dollars per ear. I quickly decided that I wanted to plant corn. Not having ever been the farmer type, I was happy to find that we could purchase corn plants at the garden shop. We bought four of them and I watched them as they grew in the garden. If you've ever grown corn, you're probably laughing by now. We didn't get any edible corn that year. Four stalks of corn is nothing and doesn't pollinate well.

     I did some reading on the internet and in 2002, bought a package of seeds and convinced Hans, Herbert's father (who takes care of our garden) that I needed a little space. Every few years, he changes where he plants things. He told me that I could have the space where he had the potatoes the year before. Here's a photo from 2002 of my precious corn plants growing...



     We ended up with fairly edible corn and in 2003, we did the same thing.

     In the Spring of 2004, I was in the States and bought three different types of sweet corn to plant as an experiment. I brought seeds back to Switzerland for yellow corn, white corn and a mix. Because the potatoes were being rotated back to the other spot, I got more space for my corn. Here's a photo from early last summer...



     If you've read my journal all along, then you know that I spent the second half of June and most of July in the US with Mädi and Margrit. When I came home from the States, Herbert was in Asia. I talked to him on the phone as I walked around the house and yard. When I got to the vegetable garden, I asked him, "What the hell did you plant in my corn?" There were pumpkins and squash growing all over the place.

     In German, everything from the squash and pumpkin family has one name. It's called kurbis. Herbert and Hans had seen this kurbis sprouting up and assumed that I had planted it. Apparently, the kurbis that we had thrown in the compost the year before hadn't composted completely. I don't think that we could have grown such nice kurbis if we had tried. But, they didn't belong in with the corn.

     It reminded me of a time when I was managing a group of people in a PCB shop. I had been gone for a few days on a trip and when I came back, one of the supervisors told me that the children of the corn were active. He was talking about some of our problem employees and referred to a 1984 movie by Stephen King. Every time I stood in front of my corn garden with kurbis invading it's space, I told myself that this was the kurbis of the corn.

     But, kurbis and all, it was the best corn we ever had. Everyone who's eaten it here says that it's very different than Swiss corn. I don't know if it was the influence of the kurbis or the 'superior' seeds from America, but we had a good crop and it was delicious.

    This year, I ordered my seeds online from Burpee and had my son Nick ship them to me. I told Herbert and Hans that I thought it would be nice to have more corn this year. I pointed out that we had a fairly useless grass section growing above the vegetable garden. Hans told me that I had enough space for corn and that I had enough corn last year. He asked me what I had done with all of it. I told him that I had frozen it. He asked if I still had any in the freezer. I told him that I still had corn. He said, "Then you had enough." I felt like a young girl trying to convince my father of something and I said, "We only eat it on special occasions because we don't have enough."

     He still wasn't convinced. Herbert pitched in and helped convince him by asking him if he had also enjoyed the corn last year and if he would be able to use a little more this year. So, here is a photo of Herbert and his dad getting rid of the grass and expanding my corn garden. Or, as Herbert's mom likes to call it, 'the corn acre'. (That's her in the middle of the photo, sitting on the chair.) It may not look like much in the photo, but it's 320 square feet of space for American sweet corn.



     As you look at the photo, think about the fact that Hans is 83 years old and dug that garden for our corn. It sure made me work harder. And, made me appreciate his indulgence even more.

     Well, I have much more to write about, but it's late and in one hour Herbert will be 57 years old. I want to go spend a little time with him and help him celebrate into the next year.

     I'll write more in the next few days and fill you in on the rest of June. (So that I can catch up enough to start talking about July.)



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