Routine continued this morning with the exception that the marmalade I brought over with me appeared on the table and seemed to get the Sturm seal of approval too which was nice. Tim took charge of the testing this morning as I got on with producing a graph of the hourly-averaged electricity usage around the farm using the data from our testing. With luck it should be able to tell Thorsten and Georg whether they’ll be able to install batteries with solar to cover their pump and other auxiliary usage. As well as the normal morning testing Tim and I also peeled the cover on the silage back another 6 feet and managed to avoid falling over the edge while rolling the covering back and replacing the sandbags. With half an hour to kill before lunch we also cleaned up the silage a bit, shovelling a good pile into the path of the loader for tomorrow.

A view inside the giant final storage tank - it's huge!

A view inside the giant final storage tank – it’s huge!

Lunch was soup to start with breaded mushrooms, potatoes, peas, carrots and sweetcorn which was great. Dessert was the other wine cake that was made – this one is cherry, nuts and red wine and is also superb. Honestly, I’ve put rum, stout, ale, baileys and a whole host of other spirits into cakes into the past but never thought of adding wine to the fruit. Just delicious.

Me looking very chipper while brandishing a spanner - I'm obviously enjoying myself!

Me looking very chipper while brandishing a spanner – I’m obviously enjoying myself!

After lunch Thorsten asked us whether we could remove the oxidiser on the exhaust of the oil/gas motor so he could clean it. This involved removing the cladding and unbolting a sizeable panel before we could get access to the exhaust (fortunately the engine was off at the time!). Coordinating the spanners while on a platform with ear defenders was a bit of challenge but we managed it okay, removed the filter with no problems and replaced the panel and cladding as asked. While Tim got stuck into the titrations for the afternoon I wrote the visual basic code for the pig-logging spreadsheet Thorsten asked for last night and got generally frustrated by the errors, but we got there I think, eventually.

Finishing up around 17:45 we headed back to the room and caught up with family, emails and diary. Still unsure whether we’re off running tonight yet. I would happily go alone but it’s already dusk, I’d definitely get lost and Thorsten has the head torch, so I’m pretty much dependent on whether he fancies it or not. On the one hand I really feel like I need it, having eaten quite a lot of fried food the last few days, but on the other I don’t know whether I’d be up to running another 13km at sub 5-minute pace having not really done much (except 6km on Sunday) for over a week. I suppose we’ll see!

…Well we did go for a run and managed about 11.5km in just under an hour, which considering we were talking most of the way and I hadn’t even broken 10km before coming out here I was pretty happy with. Leaving just before dusk I was glad Tim was riding with us as the gyro on the bike gave us a much better amount of light than the headtorches though I still managed to very nearly fall into a ditch. That’s what I get for trying to multitask (talking and running).

Back in the evening we sat around the dinner table for a few hours discussing a wide range of topics from politics and energy to what you call the end of a loaf of bread (the answer is ‘nobby’ in case you’re wondering/ think it’s something else – like crust for example – and need correcting). Feeling completely shattered from the run I managed to check a few emails, write a few replies, post a blog and then collapse into bed. Last day tomorrow and don’t want to be tired for tractor training (EGGS-SIGH-TED).


 I got a lie in today! I was up AFTER dawn. Imagine that, 8:10 my alarm went off. To tell the truth the body clock was well awake by then anyway but it felt like a slow start. After gulping down a small bowl of porridge and a coffee we got ready for some exercise and Tim and I rode, while Thorsten ran, to the lake in Obernzenn. We met Christian here and ran a few laps of the lake with him before getting back on the bikes for a further 15km on the bikes around the local area. The tracks and trails were really pleasant, heading up into the forest (and joyfully on a mountain bike back down again) before sweeping around the Zenn valley passed the US training base and back to Obernzenn and eventually back to Esbach. 23km before 11 on a Sunday was a very pleasant start to a day off.

Me Christian and Thorsten just before we headed out again for biking/ running with Tim (the photographer)

Me Christian and Thorsten just before we headed out again for biking/ running with Tim (the photographer)

After a thoroughly restorative hot shower we sat down for lunch of veggie burgers and sauerkraut leftover from yesterday’s lunch which was just as tasty as it had been previously. Today is apparently fish day (which occurs in each month containing an ‘R’) so the family had battered carp caught from a local lake.

Another, fixed roof this time, biogas plant (this one is owned by a collection of farmers)

Another, fixed roof this time, biogas plant (this one is owned by a collection of farmers)

After lunch we got to be tourists for a bit and drove out to Rothenberg, an old walled city that survived the bombing of WWII almost entirely intact. En route we detoured to take in a range of biogas plants that are dotted around the Franconian countryside, the vast majority of which also supply district heating, which is awesome. On the drive a few wind turbines also came into view and with the PV and solar-heating panels provided a panoply (sorry, I just love that word) of renewable technologies that were well integrated with the local population. Talking Tim and me through the different sites, Thorsten mentioned something I hadn’t really thought of about biogas, which is that it doesn’t just breed a closed cycle in environmental terms, but as silage, corn and manure are supplied by local farmers, heat distributed to local residents and digestate then spread on local fields, it promotes a circular economy too. Far less dependence on oil and gas from far away, these sites source from, give back to and benefit the local economy, which for rural populations is incredibly important.

DSC_1506_lrRothenberg was very impressive and really like stepping back in time with brightly painted plaster and wood-fronted houses, cobbled streets and imposing church spires and towers interposing the jaunty vertices of the rooftops. We sat for a coffee, pretzel and schneeball (snowball, sadly probably made with butter) for a quick pick me up after walking around the town and the ramparts discussing everything from energy prices to planning permission – in English before you think my German has improved that much.

Back on the farm we headed for dinner with Suzie’s sister (Steffi) and her boyfriend (Patrick) by Obernzenn lake at a restaurant that apparently does very good salads. As we walked in it was as if the restaurant had been planned as between them the group of four locals knew almost everyone already present. We sat down with one of Suzie’s colleagues, her boyfriend and their dog and tucked in to a good dinner. For me it was salad and chips (before you think that’s a dire choice of food to classify as a good dinner it was awesome, with seeds and nuts galore in the salad), while the food around the table ranged from pizza to prawn pasta and schnitzel with potatoes. And there was good local beer too. In addition to the good food, the conversation at dinner was great with lots of joking around. I also realised that here at least, we and the Germans hold our forks differently. Sounds benign, is benign I suppose, but one of those things that you can’t help but be captivated by once you’ve noticed it. Similarly, the locals thought the way we Brits use our gabels is odd so everyone quickly agreed to disagree and we got on with dinner.

The pretty city of Rothenberg from the tower about the main entrance (so many stairs wasn't great for the legs after this mornings exercise)

The pretty city of Rothenberg from the tower about the main entrance (so many stairs wasn’t great for the legs after this mornings exercise)

Back in the room at 8:45 and I’m shattered. So, while I was going to get on with some work I think it’s going to be an episode of something on the laptop and then early to bed. Oooh and I also got the go ahead to put this online as a blog, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll start posting these notes.

A bit of a restless night but hopefully still managed to grab seven hours sleep which doesn’t seem too bad compared to the slightly frantic nights back in the UK before heading to Germany. First job of the day was to check all of the tanks again and once we’d done that it was time for breakfast, which seemed very early compared to the day before – bonus!

Not sure whether I’ve mentioned my breakfast plans yet…No? Well I’ll fill you in: on the way out I was a little alarmed by reading through a report from a previous trainee that mentioned that anyone with special dietary requirements should contact the hosts prior to travelling since the food on offer (the placement is catered for by the host family) is very meat-heavy. Now, being a lactose-intolerant vegetarian this could pose a problem. So, with a little help from mum I managed to pack my breakfast of champions – porridge with almond milk, peanut butter, ginger, dates, seeds, mixed dried fruit and spices.  As it turns out, the worry was overblown, the Sturms are incredibly accommodating and even on a farm in Bavaria there is plenty to eat. That said, I am very glad to have my porridge – it’s like a little slice of home every morning!

Tim getting a digestate sample from the fermenter - stand back!

Tim getting a digestate sample from the fermenter – stand back!

After breakfast, we started on the testing again. Aside from a few wobbles on scaffold planks, testing went by largely without incident and consumed the vast majority of the day. We’ve drawn up a few spreadsheets to calculate the dry matter, total anorganic content (looking at the literature I think this actually translates as the amount of calcium carbonate in the digestate) and the FOS…no idea what that stands for at the moment but I did know…

Lunch was roasted potatoes with cumin seeds (a great idea) and salad. As Tim and I started getting into the groove with the testing, things started to move a bit more slickly and we finished sometime around 5pm. Thorsten mentioned he was training for a marathon in April and tended to go running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and invited me along for the shorter, 10 km, midweek runs. Despite being a little apprehensive of being able to keep up with him (I hope I didn’t slow him down too much), we managed 13km around the Obenzenn area as dusk fell. Getting cramp at dinner meant I may have to think twice about whether to go with him on Thursday but we’ll see when the time comes.

We had hard boiled eggs painted an array of bright colours as well as the normal cheese/ bread/ ham options. And would you believe these special Easter eggs didn’t taste any different. I mean the cheek of painting the shells of eggs and then just being left with normal eggs inside. Disgraceful. On the other hand, especially after the run, I was desperately craving protein and they were oh so welcome!

Was hoping to get a bit of work done this evening but I fear that a combination of the early starts, physical work, running and glass of local wine with dinner (which was really quite tasty) may mean I fall into bed relatively soon (it’s 21:15 at the moment).

Still, dear diary, for once I’ve managed to write you on the right day. So that’s a big bonus. Maybe I should go to bed as a reward.