A Very Sad Degupdate

Our sweet Katja didn’t make it. After I was ever so carefully hopeful last night, she died this morning. Apparently her intestine had been too damaged already and she died this morning in the little one’s hands. Yesterday the vet said that there was probably something wrong with her apart from the infection, because she was the runt of the litter and the difference between her and her litter mate Estelle had become ever more apparent.

In the end it was probably double bad luck: Having a birth defect and a very inexperienced Degu owner who didn’t notice her problems soon enough. We did our best. I don’t know if somebody else’s best would have been good enough, ours wasn’t.

Farewell, my sweet girl.

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I also have the sweetest kid in the world. When she cried in my arms this morning she asked me why I wasn’t crying. I told her it was because I was comforting her. She went back to cry, but stopped after a minute or so to tell me “it’s ok, mummy, you can cry now and I’ll comfort you”, at which point all floodgates were opened.

Teacher’s Corner: Talk to Me!

Today’s teacher’s corner is brought to you by the Little One, who apparently has a rough day at school. Some classmates seem to be difficult and today everything escalated, their class teacher cancelled tomorrow’s recess* and she complained bitterly that both the English and the P.E teacher had called them “a bad English/P.E. class”. Now, of course, that gets the mama bear mode activated, but luckily my brain kicked back in and I asked what exactly did the English teacher say? “Well, we were all a bit overenergetic and it was very loud and he said this had been the worst English lesson ever and he didn’t enjoy it at all.”

As you can see, that’s quite something different. The teacher hadn’t called them “bad”, he’d given them feedback about that particular lesson and let them know how he felt about it.

And what did the P.E. teacher say? “He said he had to be stricter with us than with other classes, because he knows that many of us like to do sports, but some kids always misbehave when he is talking and therefore we don’t get to do a lot of sports.”

As you can see, in both cases the teacher said something very different from what the kid reported back to me. That’s not because she was lying, but if you take the “communication model” that says that all messages have an affective component and that whatever message the sender is trying to convey may be absolutely lost by the recipient, it’s clear what happened: a pretty sensitive and ambitious kid who thrives on a teacher’s praise felt unfairly criticised and the emotional response made her unable to actually understand what was being said. We talked about what each teacher said, and that she had admitted herself that they didn’t behave during the English lesson and that the P.E. teacher was actually on her side. It made her feel a lot better. To understand the criticism, but also to understand that if the teacher talks about kids who misbehave and she didn’t misbehave, the reprimand wasn’t directed at her (funny enough, that’s so often the case: the kids who do behave are sad and upset while those who caused the trouble don’t feel like this has anything to do with them).

We also talked about how she can tell a teacher if she thinks their comments were unfair or hurt her, and how she can address that she feels it’s unfair that recess is cancelled. It’s important that she can stand up for herself, and she knows I’ll have her back when it’s justified, but from experience I also know how quickly those situations escalate when parents don’t talk these things through, but just believe their kids verbatim. Next day you have some upset parents on the phone or, even better, in school, demanding to talk to that horrible teacher NOW. The teacher in question doesn’t even know what they’re talking about, because the incident the parents are talking about bears no resemblance to what happened, the parents decide the teacher is accusing their kid of lying and before you know it you’re sitting there for an hour trying to untangle who said what, tracing back communication, doing heavy meta communication and reestablishing some goodwill, if you ever manage to calm down mama and papa bear at all.

So please, parents, if you’re reading this: talk to your kids. Find out exactly what was said, and not just what was felt. They will learn how to solve such problems from you, only while strongarming while being wrong will often work in a school setting (after all, if we give your kid detention and you decide it’s bullshit, we can’t call the cops on you, and I don’t want to, and it’s your kid to fuck up anyway), it will not work in a work setting. You can’t send mummy to your boss because you thought they were mean. No, you also can’t send your union rep, claiming that your boss called you lazy when in fact they said that the department was behind schedule.

But also, do have their back if their teacher did treat them unfairly. Assume the best at first, but I’ve been in schools for long enough and I know that some teachers are mean bullies who will take it out on the kids whose parents will always agree with the teacher.

*That’s, of course, not legal. “Collective punishment” isn’t allowed in our school system, but I guess I’m the only parent who knows that in that class and I won’t tattle. I absolutely encourage the kid to challenge the teacher, but I’m not going to be that parent either who completely undermines the teacher’s authority. They’ll live spending one recess in class. Should this be repeated, we can talk.

 

P.S. That’s also why I think the communication mantra “criticise behaviour, not people” is half bullshit. People will still understand “you are X”. At best you can have some meta communication later.

DegUpdate: Getting to know each other

I have a confession to make: I’m in love. And yes, I shamelessly used the kids to get pets. Pets have always been a great point of difference between Mr and me. I love all creatures great and small, and while he does so, too, he prefers them to be at some distance and not his responsibility. Me? I’d try to snuggle with the grizzly… So now that the degus are here, I’m smitten with them. But they are super cute and Mr also spends time watching them when he’s here, so I think they’re working their magic on him as well…

We’re currently at the “getting to know each other” stage. But we’re getting there. On Friday, when we cleaned Degustan, they hid behind their box and refused to come out for hours. Today they were running around in the side tract while we cleaned the main part and were pretty much ok with us being loud and moving next to them. We’re also using the oldest bribe that there is: food. Special treats are offered in an outstretched hand.  So far, I’m making lots of progress with Candy, who today carefully sniffed my fingers several times, getting my smell, and who even dared to put a paw on mine. Katja and Celeste are still much shyer, though Katja is getting more adventurous by the day. Celeste…, we’ll get there.

Now, enough talk, here’s your fluffballs. You can see they#re getting more comfy with us by the increase in picture quality.

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Katja, taking a peek. The picture is pretty bad, still taken with lots of magnification through the wire of the cage, but sooooo dreamy. That#s her thing: Sneak out on the left side of the wine box, then take flight to Celeste who is waiting on the other side.

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Celeste, waiting for Katja. I’m getting really good at telling them apart. At first I though “fuck it, we’ll just randomly call them a name, how is anybody supposed to tell them apart?”, but when you spend time with them, you notice the small differences. Celeste is a big girl, and her light rings around the eyes and neck are larger than those of the others.

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Find that degu. Katja and Candy sneaking out from behind the box.

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Katja and Celeste. See, I was allowed to hold the phone in their face. You can pretty clearly see the size difference here.

Welcome to Degustan

As I mentioned before, the little one passed all the requirements for owning pets, and after we spent the summer researching and finding a good breeder, as well as me spending a couple of weeks turning an old cupboard into a pet habitat, the degus finally arrived on Wednesday. They are three young females (three being the minimum size of a group) called Candy, Katja and Estelle. Katja and Estelle are siblings, while Candy comes from a different litter, but they are very close in age so they were easy to socialise (the breeder did that for us) and are a good basis for a group.

But let’s start with the habitat, nicknamed “Degustan”:

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I cut an opening into my grandma’s old kitchen cupboard, put some solid fence in front of it and added boards to get a good size habitat. I also used the leftover boards to construct a side tract which increases the habitat size, but can also be used to isolate a degu should the need arise (and currently to keep them from escaping while cleaning the cage).

What sounds pretty straightforward was a hell lot of work, usually because I had to do everything at least twice since I was figuring it out as I went along. All boards have floor tiles on them to prevent urine from soaking into the wood and allow for easy cleaning. At the first try the tile glue soaked the wood too much and my boards bent. The second time I didn’t measure the depth in the cupboard, which was already upstairs, but in the extension, not realising that I’d changed width and depth. Now there’s a gap between the boards and the door, which can be dangerous for the degus, so I have now tied old t-shirts on the door to close the gap. And that’s just one of the many things that went wrong, but now it’s more or less finished and I’m pretty proud of it.I still have to make a running wheel for them, but that’s a project for next week.

Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: the Degus

I still don’t have very good pics, also not of all of them. They are still very shy and mostly try to hide, though there are already differences noticeable. First, meet Candy. Of course I have an earworm ever since the little one announced the name, and now you have, too.

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Candy is the bold one. She was the first to leave the pet carrier and explore the new habitat. Whenever there’s a disturbance that sends them off hiding (which currently is still mostly “us existing in proximity”) she’s the first to re-emerge and get back to whatever she’d been doing. She also already escaped once and it was quite some work to catch her, especially since we didn’t want to scare or hurt her by grabbing her. Finally we managed to shoo her unto a towel where I then lifted the sides. Once they are accustomed to us they’ll be allowed to run in the room for some time each day, but until they are comfortable with us they need to stay in the habitat.

Here’s Estelle

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She’s loud. When we fixed the shirts to the cage door she kept yelling at us. She’s also very shy and mostly snuggles with Katja. Which was our first clue on how to tell them apart. Also Estelle’s light marks around the eyes are a bit larger than Candy’s. Katja (no pics yet) is easier to tell apart (at least at the moment), because she is still smaller than the other two. As you can imagine, I’m quite in love with them. I think Caine would have loved them, too, they’re obviously her kind of people.

Teacher’s Corner: I beg your pardon?

From the life of a teacher. I swear, I couldn’t make this up, because even my imagination is somewhat coherent. Today a colleague asked me to handle a kid who’d claimed to just have removed a louse from her head (I was itching all day, thank you, just the word will do that), could I please call her parents? I had a moment of time (well, not really. Sorry I. that you had to wrangle the whole class yourself) so I took over the kid and called her stepmum if she if she could please come and pick her up?

Well, it was a trite inconvenient for the stepmum (actually, the whole kid is a trite inconvenient for the stepmum…), could she get home by bus, and also she was very annoyed that after two weeks the kid still had lice…

I told her I needed to check with the assistant principal and would call her back. When I called her back she started ranting at me that we would need to finally do something about those damn lice and find out from which kid her kid kept picking them up! This had been going on for two weeks now and enough is enough. I politely informed her that I wasn’t a doctor and was neither qualified nor allowed to check the other kids for lice, but now that we finally knew there was a problem, of course all parents were given the “lice paper*” and that NOW of course parents were obligated to do so. “But my kid keeps getting them, you must find which other kid is giving them to my kid!!!”

Would you believe that she called a third time? Our assistant principal jokingly handed me the phone claiming it was sure Mrs. B. and look and behold, it was Mrs. B., for which I called him a juicebag and claimed he was bullying me**. Again she complained that her kid had been having lice for two weeks and she wanted to know what we had done during those two weeks she was sitting on that information (you are legally required to inform school if your kid has easily transmittable parasites or infectious deceases) to prevent the transmission of lice we didn’t know we had. Rinse and repeat the same conversation a few times. As I said, I couldn’t make that up because my brain can’t twist logic that much. There’s an old saying that teachers don’t get paid a salary, they get compensation for injuries suffered and today sure was one of those. though, do you think that woman could get a job in the Trump administration?

 

*an informative leaflet about lice, what to do about them, complete with a declaration the parents have to fill out that their child has been checked/treated and is free of lice.

**in good fun

Mind your Words: Why mainstream journalism often fails us all

Maybe you heard it, but last weekend there was a demonstration of Nazis and people who march with Nazis (esotherics, anti-vaxxers, naturopaths, …) in Berlin. Beforehand there was lots of discussions and an attempt to ban the whole thing because the last time they ignored all the hygiene rules meant to keep Covid from spreading, but a court overturned the ban, because the organisers had promised, pinky swear, that this time they’d follow them, which just proves that Germany is a totalitarian dictatorship where a court will guarantee your right to free speech.

Of course the whole thing ended as foreseen: Distances and mask regulations were ignored and police ordered them to stop, but miraculously all the water throwers they have whenever some schoolkids protest climate change as well as the riot police that was all too present for the BLM protests seemed to be unavailable (well, they probably needed a day off because in order to participate in the protest). The whole thing culminated in a disgraceful “storm on the Reichstag”, where a whole lot of three police officers were charged with protecting the building. The images of people raising the Reichsflagge (long considered the legal substitute for the illegal swastika flag) in front of the parliament obviously shocked mainstream politicians more  than Nazis murdering people, but that’s a topic for another day.

Personally I’ve been wondering what those people thought would happen if they manage to go inside? Did they think both federal and state governments would just shrug, say “you won” and abdicate? What would they have done once the snack machines were emptied? Anyway, this is just the background to my actual topic: How journalists use words as if they’d never gone to school.

Throughout mainstream journalism they never said “Nazis”, “fascists”, or even “right wing protestors”. They took great care to explain that there were also the people who are not Nazis but who sure have no problem marching with them (or as I refer to them: the people who are running the trains to Auschwitz and the people who are just making sure that those trains are running on time). Instead they used the nonsensical “Corona opponents”, “Corona protestors” and “Corona critics” as if that makes any fucking sense? Like, who isn’t opposed to Corona? Have you ever met somebody who says: “having a deadly pandemic is sure cool shit”? And what does a virus care about your criticism or protest? It’s not a sentient being and much like the people in those protests it can’t be reasoned or argued with. It’s more absurd than Dadaism and waiting for Godot combined with a good measure of Ulysses thrown into the mix as a means for communicating factual information. It makes those people look like having a legitimate cause instead of bloody fascists who want to kill their opponents, who publicly say so, and actually do so.

Swan Swam Over the Lake

The pond we often visit for walks/Pokémon hunting used to have a swan couple. they were kind of the mascots of the village, featuring on signs, they were looked after and taken in during winter, but last year the unthinkable happened: a swan divorce! One of them left and the other one soon vanished (died?), so for the last year there were no swans. Now they got a new swan family, complete with cygnets.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

BTW, shortly before I took these from a safe distance, a lady let her baby(!) up to one metre to the swans. But guess whom she would have blamed if the baby had gotten eaten…

Resin Art: Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall (Pride comes before the Fall)

Well, nothing dramatic, just the fact that sometimes things that started easy may not keep going smoothly. After the easy time I had with the first resin and opal ring I decided to make some more, one for me and one for my sister. Only this time I ran into quite some trouble and had to do both rings twice. The reasons for this are pretty much black and white. Literally. Those were the base colours for my resin. First of all, they are tricky colours to start with as especially white pigments tend to misbehave. And yeah, I got all sorts of different dyes. Then, of course, they turn the resin completely opaque, which means the UV light has a hard time penetrating the resin and curing it.

With my first attempt at the white one everything seemed fine until I started sanding and hit a layer that had not properly cured all the way down and the whole thing flew off. For the next run I tried a different dye and while it’s not the white I’d have preferred, it cured all through (though I also took the time to cure again after sanding down the outer layer).

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

It’s difficult to get a good pic here, because the steel will reflect the sunlight.

The black one had an additional problem. The opal came from a different seller and the pieces are smaller. This meant that in the first try they didn’t stick out like you can see above and I had to sand down inside the score. This ground the resin so thin it broke the first day of wearing. So back to the basement… In the second attempt I made the first layer thicker. While this stood the risk of sanding off the complete opal splinter, it also meant I didn’t have to sand down too much. I’m moderately happy with the result. The black turned greyish in parts and I’ll have to try a different dye again.

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Teacher’s Corner: Back to School: Fuck Corona, Fuck the Government, Fuck People

School started again yesterday. Back in July when the holidays started, we had an average of 10 new cases per week in our cosy little Bundesland (State) with its population of one million. Many days we didn’t have a single new case, there were times without a single person being hospitalised. And then everybody decided they were fed up with Covid, first of all the responsible people in government. Measures kept being reduced, the number of people you could have in a spot got increased, travel warnings got discontinued, so people parties, went to clubs, went on their holiday. And then we all saw the images of German and British tourists from Mallorca, flaunting all distancing and mask rules and smart people knew that this wouldn’t work out.

And of course, numbers kept increasing. Suddenly politicians decided that maybe we should test people who return from their holiday, but the roll out was slow, at the start it was optional, and honestly, a country with seven borders cannot control if the people crossing the border just went shopping or drove through half of Europe.

But still, schools are opened almost like normal with a bunch of rules that make no sense and that are just to cover our asses from liability. For example, we should not mix classes, except for religious education, that’s when the virus takes a break. We have separate entrances and school yards for year 5, 6 and 7, but of course no separate buses. We have to wear masks when walking along a corridor alone, but in class the kids sit next to each other with up to 29 kids a class with no masks. But I do get two free tests, mostly so the ministry can say “look, it wasn’t the teachers who brought it to school”. I do not get free masks…

If you think I’m sounding bitter, that’s because I am. I haven’t hugged my sister since March. I didn’t get to celebrate my wedding anniversary, we won’t get to celebrate Mr’s 50th birthday. I basically locked my kids up for three months and only allowed outdoor visits to their grandparents’ a couple of weeks ago. I sewed some hundred masks. I stayed the fuck at home, despite usually longing for the holiday all year round. I tried my best to keep us and others safe, to stop the spread of Covid, and now I’m considered cannon fodder in the educational system. The people in the ministry won’t put themselves at risk like this. Even the parents who all decided that this was the perfect year for a holiday don’t have to sit with 30 other people who also thought like that. And the first class in a school 10km away is already in quarantine because a kid tested positive after coming back from the holiday…

Should Covid kill me, just dump my body on the steps of parliament.

Ring Ring! Resin and Opal

After lots of frustration and some success, the right blanks finally arrived. That vendor will sure see some more business from me. So, while still not being able to use my lathe, I started to work on my first resin and opal inlay ring. What can I say, after all the building up to this moment, the process was so damn quick and easy that it was almost and anticlimactic letdown. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love, love, love the result and will sure make more of them, but it somehow feels a bit like cheating, like ordering one of those teddy bear kits where you just stuff the already sewed animal and then close the opening.

I was actually pretty anxious about this beforehand as the materials don’t come exactly cheap. While you don’t need much opal for a ring (I suspect I used about 0.3 grams for the ring), a gram is 10-15 bucks plus shipping and it looks like nobody in Germany has yet thought of selling it so I had to order from the UK and the US*. I’m thankfully not anywhere near poor, but the thought of possibly having a starting cost of 100 bucks without any results was not appealing.

Anyway, here’s some pics from the making of and the final result.

When watching videos on youtube, the people making these rings usually use either UV resin or CA glue, so naturally I decided to do both. I was worried that the opal would vanish under the midnight blue resin, so I first put on a thin layer of coloured resin and then tried to glue on the opal splinters. Only that apparently the resin prevents the CA from curing. Don’t ask me. It stayed completely fluid even after about an hour while on the ring, but occasionally it would drip down, taking my carefully set opal splinters with it and then instantly harden on my workbench. In the end I just slathered everything with a generous serving of UV resin. Because the pigment is quite dark, curing it took some time. Another bonus of finally having a workbench in the cellar is that I could just go and fold the laundry while turning the ring and restating the UV lamp every other minute. After that I put the mandrel into the drill and started to sand down the excess.

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Yes, you can see me “how to attach the mandrel to the drill” contraption here, which would make my miner grandfather proud and give my machinist dad hives.

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At 100 grit that is maybe 10 minutes of time, with breaks to let the abrasive paper cool down. At this point I filled in all gaps in the resin, cured it again and then sanded some more until moving to the polishing going 240/400/600/800/1200/1500/2000/2500/3000, which would be pure horror by hand. Here it’s just “hold the wet paper to the ring and make sure you don’t burn your hand. For the final polish I usually use a “scratch ex” kit for cars. Dunno if they are available where you are, here Aldi usually has them twice a year or so. They contain a mildly abrasive paste meant to smooth out small scratches from your car paint and polishing paste and they work a treat**.

Now I hope I built up some tension for the end result. Sadly no sunshine, but with a heat wave and a drought I’m really happy about the rain this morning.

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Yes, that ring goes on my “stinky finger”.

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I photographed a bad position on the ring, but I only saw that afterwards.

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Today I was assisted by a friendly gecko.

 

*Apparently by now international mail from the USA is faster than national mail within the USA.

**Do you also have those expressions that you find yourself using in excess for a while? Seems like “works a treat” is currently my favourite expression…

Success! My First Resin Ring

After Tuesday’s assorted failures I went back to working on a ring yesterday as I had originally cut two pieces out of the resin block. This time I mounted it so firmly on the mandrel that in the end it started to tear, but nothing got lost and I managed to finish a ring. As Marcus mentioned, polishing things on a lathe (or a mandrel fitted to a power drill) works a treat, so the outside shone in no time, but the inside was still all matte.

Now, if I had a chuck I could carefully put the ring into it and polish it on the lathe, but since I don’t I used the cheap and dirty method of just coating it with more resin. This also sealed the tiny crack in the side, and while I will probably look down on this in a couple of months, I don’t think it’s too bad for a first attempt. It’s still quite big and I’ll  definitely aim for smaller, but until that, this’ll do.

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You can see the crack here. But you can also see the amazing swirls from the metallic pigment.

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The blank was originally a three pouring blank: first I poured the blank into my “burl slice mould”, then I put that into a square mould and added some light blue resin, but it wasn’t enough, so I left it until at another time I had some light pink resin left. Worked a treat, don’t you think?

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

Frustration

I mentioned before that I’ve given in and bought myself a small lathe. The first thing I wanted to make, sort of as a warm up, since it doesn’t require spinning tons of wood and resin while attacking it with sharp tools, is an opal inlay ring like this one. So I ordered some crushed opal, and a ring mandrel, and some ring blanks, and yesterday the mandrel and the blanks finally arrived.

First thing: the ring blanks are not what I expected and cannot be used for what I want to do. There isn’t a deeper grove in the middle where I could put the resin and the opal, but it’s just a tiny grove and it’s matte, so in the pictures they look deeper. I have since learned that they are meant to be fitted with additional rings of wood or metal. They were also on the large side, which I could have lived with. So I went looking for new blanks and ordered them.

Not easily dissuaded I thought “well, I have enough resin pieces that would make nice rings”, so I cut two of them into shape and roughly sanded them into shape and then I wanted to put them on the lather just to notice that my cheap little lathe doesn’t come with a chuck, but a bolt where I can screw on either the thorn thingy to hold an object or a plate on which I can mount an object.

Now, I hate stopping work on a failure, because it leaves me grumpy all day long, so I became creative. I put the ring mandrel into my power drill and started to sand a resin piece down. It actually worked rather well, though I should have taken off more material with the belt sander. Only the very wide resin ring didn’t fit the ring mandrel very well, so occasionally it came off. No problem, until the moment it spontaneously disappeared from existence. I saw it enter the vacuum hose, and usually such heavy objects stay somewhere in the hose, but it didn’t, so I took out the vacuum bag and … it’s not there. I cut it open and went through the dust by hand (thankfully it was a rather fresh bag), but it wasn’t in the bag either. I have no idea where it’s gone.

So I still ended my workday being very frustrated, just with a lot more reason.

Luxury, or What We Did on our Holiday

With Covid raging we made the wise decision to stay the fuck at home during our holiday, and with 2.5% of people returning form “risk areas” testing positive (mind you, these were mass tests, not tests of people who themselves suspect anything or show symptoms), this was a smart decision if we ever made one. Instead we invested the money in a steelframe pool with a dome tent to protect it.

What sounds like putting up an oversized kiddy pool was indeed about two weeks of hard work. Not the pool or the tent, but the preparations. First Mr had to clear the area in the overgrown area we rent from the city. Then we had to level the ground. The area has a very small slope. Really, you’d hardly notice. 20 cm on a 6m area. When you need to level it you notice, because you are shovelling several tons of dirt, not to mention the roots and that nice block of blue concrete that we had to remove. But after three weeks of backbreaking sweat soaking work, we needed about an hour and a half to put up the pool and my dad and I needed another 2 hours to put up the tent.

So here it is, and with a heat wave rolling over us, it was one of the best decisions ever. I can tell you, finding this house with its garden at a reasonable price was the best piece of luck we ever had.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

It’s got a diameter of 3.5m and can be filled to 1.3m depth. I suggest applying insect repellent before getting anywhere near because this is nature.