Animals’ Farm

Little Smeggs

Without livestock of our own as of yet, there are still many animals thriving on the farm. Tosca, “the garbage disposal,” permanently in search of food has at last found a place with a surplus of rabbits for her to hunt. Suddenly table scraps lack the challenge she seeks. When she’s not rolling on her back drying off after a dip in Lake Tosca, she’s after the bunnies. I haven’t seen her catch one yet, but the chase is half the fun. With all the extra exercise, you can see echoes of her girlish figure. She’s shedding that coffee table look.

Rabbit Hunting

Eating Smarties On An Armagnac Barrel

Little Smeggs is a great farm dog. When she was at the other house in the village, she barked way too much and had a tendency to get over excited. Now that she’s in her element, her barking nature is exactly what is needed. She sounds off for any visitor. Keeps the unwelcomed dogs away and chases the deer. She’s also much happier now that she has a job. Her only weakness is her soft spot for couches. She lives outside only. If she ever makes it into the house, she hops on the couch. She likes a cushy place to sleep. Who can blame her. We have a soft, fuzzy sleeping bag monogrammed “Lucita” by Pottery Barn back in the yuppie days for her to snuggle into at night. Smeggs likes her new digs

munson and the cow

Munson is a guest at the farm. When he’s not traveling Europe with Michael, he’ll be relaxing at his new home base in the villa across from the old farmhouse. Munson is a beautiful, large Malamute of two years old. Originally a big city dog, he’s learning and adjusting to his new environment. Smeggs LOVES Munson. He’s as cuddly as a big couch only better.

The Face Of a Killer
Most surprisingly useful is Bug the cat. When we brought him out here, it was for sentimental reasons rather than practical. In Seattle, Bug laid around the house getting up only for a slash or a bite to eat. Since he’s been out here in France, we’ve learned that he catches mice and even snakes. Right now, Bug is an indoor only cat. Thankfully there’s a lot of room in the house and as we’re finding out, plenty of mice for him to hunt. During the day, he is snuggy little Bug the cat we know and love. At night, he’s a cold hearted mouse killer. He’s proving to us more and more that he was not just bred for beauty. Right now the score is Bug 2 : Brent 2. Yes, mice were harmed during the writing of this post. I’m hoping that’s the end of the mouse population, but I have a feeling we’ll see a few more before the winter arrives.

… and as a side note, something that hasn’t occurred since we started this whole farm deal, Brent captured a moment in his happy place.

Brent's Happy Place

 

and the girls quickly followed his lead.

Little Princess
 

So Long To The Grapes

brent and neighbor

The wine peeps have come and gone, the grape leaves are falling as the winds blow through the night.  It was great to watch the harvest.  The chief of the vendange brought us out to where some of the better grapes were for us to pick.  All of the grapes will be used along with other grapes from other farms for a large, local wine maker.  And sadly, this will be it for this set of vines.  As part of our buying the farm, the vines will be cut.  The vines are not in the greatest shape and are ready to move on to open pasture.

wine men

grape dump

three colors grape

zee girls

It’s stunning to have an established vineyard at the farm especially while waiting for the kids to arrive in the school bus.  We asked the chief if it was worth keeping some around.  He quickly responded with, “non. Non.”  If we want some grapes, he recommended starting from scratch.  So, we just might do that.  These grapes aren’t the greatest for eating.  The taste is AMAZING, but the texture is not there.  It’s like a little round ball of juice, no need to chew.

The school bus

That’s No Rabbit

happy pot

The kids ran around with Tinky and Berty today.  Brent showed them the cowshed.  They screamed and climbed and ran all through it.  It’s not a modern cowshed.  It is the type that has the cows chained to a wall for feeding and poop comes out their end landing into a little trough.  In the trough are little paddles that, when on, paddle the poop to the end of the line where it runs up a conveyer belt and then drops, thus creating a large pile of poop.  I’ll let Brent tell you the why and what happens with the large pile of poop in his blog.  But for now, let’s just say this farm has one of these systems which was used probably a year or so ago.  The kids quickly discovered that there are two ways out the poo-trough, up the conveyer belt (were you cow poop) or through the perfectly sized hole for a child which when crossed has a nice concrete platform with a view of the farm just perfect … for a picnic.  I didn’t really piece together Minty’s phrase “picnic near the poo-pile” until much later and the picnic was finished.  But, that was lunch for the kids, a ploughman’s meal with a view near a large pile of aged cow dung.

Another aged item found today was a very old bunny-sized skeleton retrieved by Tosca.  Just before the very proud dog munched the head, Julie made a positive identification – that is not a rabbit, that’s a cat.  It’s not all bookshelves and chainsaws around here.

Behold, The Lambert

reunited after almost two years

We rid ourselves of much stuff when we moved to France.  Having no idea where we’d be living and what we’d be doing, we brought as little as possible.  This included bookshelves.  Of course the books, we brought.  Once we settled into a place, a decision would be made on where to put them.  There are two main rooms in the farmhouse, The Mess and The Library.  After a well planned, preshopped, preprinted list-in-hand Ikea trip, I returned home with “The Lambert.”  The Lambert got its name from an unfortunate run-in with a “hot,” “new” Adam Lambert single that I happened upon.  A very annoying song.  The video however grabbed me because within a few seconds I saw the bookshelf system I was about to buy.  Adam kept pouting in the way and I kept trying to see around him so I could make sure this was the color and size I wanted.  It was the one, fer sure.  And a name was born.  The Lambert snuggled in a lot of the books and we have a few other bookshelves on the other walls for the rest.  The kids books, however, haven’t found their place yet.  When the last turn of the allen key was complete and The Lambert was erected, The Library got its soul.  Brent and I spend any extra time we have sitting in the Library reading, talking or thinking.  It’s now one of our favorite rooms.

 

You Pregnant Chicken

these boots were made for jumping

Lucy’s school is a little bit bigger than her last one. She’s the only girl in CE2, but they share the class with the next level CM1 which has many girls. All the girls in the school are older than her. They really like her. When they found out she lived in Washington, they immediately began grilling her about the details of Twilight. Lucy has never seen or heard of Twilight so I had to explain it to her. She’s quickly learning the ropes of the school which includes boys that are liked and boys that are disliked as well as so-and-so’s boyfriend. All of this comes as a shock to me as I’m TOTALLY UNPREPARED for this subject matter! My little girl turns eight and we’re suddenly taking about her friend’s boyfriend. I suppose that’s what happens as she moves from a school dominated by seven to eight year old girls to hanging with the big girls. More importantly, however, is the poor little boy who the girls refer to as “le poulet enceintes” which means “the pregnant chicken.” Why this boy is called this, I’m still trying to understand. Girls can be so mean sometimes. But for reasons unknown to me, I find this phrase chock-full of hilarity. Hopefully it’s nothing too slanderous.

Early Morning Farm Photos

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Brent was up early the other morning and snapped a few shots of the sunrise against our crazy outbuildings. We had no idea that we could see the Pyrenees from our place.  There are few more here.

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I sat outside the other night to witness the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in years. So stunning that I couldn’t get off my bum to grab my camera. It lasted for a long time. The kids were playing in one of the fields setting up their picinic spot.  Black and white cows in the distance and the Pyrenees outlined beyond them.

Lucy established the picnic spot by running out to the middle of the field with a little plastic yellow picnic table.  Otto followed with wood and other necessities.  When the sun starts to set, the kids run out there to play.  Lately the sun has been a deep red color which, of course, is the sun that lights Luke on the day before his uncle’s home is destroyed.  “Luke and Leia” is an ongoing game Lucy and Otto play.  Little Minty doesn’t have a part yet.  Let’s hope they don’t demote her to JarJar.

.The Picnic Spot

Honey, I’m Home!

new toy

Brent walked in the door yesterday after a long day of farming related paperwork and things holding a new chainsaw. In the last few weeks of living here, we’ve experienced a few “moments of clarity” or as the song goes, how did I get here? One such moment was a giggle Brent and I shared while waiting in our Armagnac vineyard for the children to arrive home from school. The sun was getting prepared to set and a gentle breeze was blowing over the rolling hills as a cow mooed in the distance. Another such moment was this day that Brent bought his first chainsaw, plopped it down on the worktable with his bag not mentioning a thing other than a lovely, “hello and how did the Ikea trip go?” Yes, I see you’re excited to see me and that really IS a chainsaw in your pocket.

our worktable or the macro inbox

IKEA, A Place Where Pregnant Ladies Lift Heavy Things

bunch a billy

 

Kevin left today.  It was sad to see him go.  The kids had a great time riding bikes around the farm and getting twirled around and around and around and around.  “Again!Again!”  Minty and Lucy fighting for his attention.  Otto explaining in detail his accomplishments with Lego Star Wars.  Next time we see him we’ll have one more Curtis and some warm weather.

relaxed kevin

The airport drop-off is about an hour and thirty minutes away from our place, but more importantly, it’s right next to Ikea.  I have a love-hate relationship with Ikea.  The first and last time I stepped foot in one was almost twelve years ago when Brent and I bought our first house.  We moved all of our valuable possessions (read shit left over from university) to quickly discover that we had a big house with nowhere to sit.  One long trip through the Ikea maze of consumerism and we were out with a fairly good set up of Snörks and Björks for only a couple thousand dollars.  It took me twelve years to recover from my Ikea trip which presents similar symptoms to that of a Disney induced concussion.

proof

In that twelve years as our incomes grew, we could afford furniture in the same genre that was better built and classically designed.  I’m a big fan of solidly built furniture with wood and / or steel.  Each Ikea piece was slowly replaced.  Then we downsized.  Then we moved to France thinking we’d be all small-European-like, but low and behold we — for reasons we’re still surprising ourselves with – buy a big-arse farmhouse with a lot of land.  As Brent describes it, “the house eats furniture.”  We put all of our furniture, the same furniture that people gave us shit about bringing (oh look at aaaaall that stuff, you have soooo much stuff … ug hello!!?!?! Five and a demi people, people!! Geeeeeez) … it is all here in this house, still so much space and  we have nowhere to put the things.  Thankfully, we have plenty of places to sit.  Houses such as these don’t do built-ins.  No closets.  No shelving.  No Kitchen.  And so, where does one go with a small budget to get the house in order?  A big one, right next to the airport.  Off to Ikea I go with a nest of other pregnant ladies.  I didn’t notice this before, but Ikea is a pregnant lady’s crack habit.  We’re all there satisfying that urge to get things organized quick quick quick!  We help each other lift extremely awkward and heavy objects we’re not supposed to budge onto our cart.  We kindly dodge each other as we manage our large bellies pushing and pulling two chariots one for boxes and the other for little bits and pieces.  After much thinking on this Ikea dealio as well as pounding the floor trying to do and re-do a few f$&cking drawers (do not assemble Ikea with three small children in the house), I’ve found a place for Ikea.  They give good storage.  Shelves.  Benches.  Bathroom and Kitchen furnishings.  Quick to assemble.  No mistakes.  But stay clear of drawers.  It’s not worth it.  Today was bookshelves, which should unpack at least thirty or so book boxes getting us closer to that moved-in feel.  We  have that squatter look at the moment.

Hot and Heavy

Mr. Green

Brent and Kevin went to collect a pile of furniture and things from a guy who is selling the contents of his gîte business (that’s a small house or room to rent for vacationers).  There were some amazingly gorgeous things, but mainly we were after the well-made wood burning stove he had for sale.  This baby is heavy.  Watching Kevin and Brent move it into the house was video worthy, but I resisted in case things got sad should they drop and break our new, expensive stove.  The thing weighs 200 kg (that’s 440 pounds for the American audience!).  This was no trivial task.  Thankfully, we had Michael’s little wheelie-do-dad that he uses to move his piano.  This little device, however, was no help getting the green beast up to two little steps into the house.  But, they did it.  Mr. Green now lives on its wheels until we install it which it will sit for years and years keeping us warm.

It looks easy, but

On the wheelie-do-dad

break again

An unexpected perk of pick-up was when the nice seller handed Kevin the keys to his big worker van to let us use to move the stuff providing a huge shout-out to Kevin’s inner boy.  This type of grin only surfaces in times of large power tools, monster machines digging deep holes and big vehicles.

big worker van

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Project Warm

farmer brent

We’ve been in our house for a couple of weeks.  Our warm days are diminishing along with the warm rock walls of the house.  Kevin is visiting from Seattle with “mousse expansive” blocking every drafty leak he can find.  A small lizard came peaking through underneath a door yesterday, so there are still a few to do.  It’s amazing what blocking a little air gap will do.  You can feel the difference almost instantly.  The aesthetic is interesting to say the least, but gosh darn it, we’ll be warm which is important.

smeggs herding kevin

Brent has done enough research on wood burning stoves that I feel a blog post coming soon.  Tomorrow, I think we’re laying down some cash for one (maybe two) wood burners that will push “project warm” one step further.  We’re racing against cold nights and new baby being born very, VERY soon.  Newborns have a tough time regulating temperature; we don’t want it to be drafty and cold for the wee one.  The plan is to get the house livable for the winter so we can get started setting up the farm.  As it is, we are waiting for the farmer who is renting the land to wrap up his work, move some cattle, hay and silage so we can start the fencing and water plan.

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Lucy’s birthday is in a few days.  She’ll be a sassy eight year old.  As I try very hard not to have a baby early, we’ll pull something together to celebrate her special day.  She has had so many big parties in the past, I think it might be nice to keep it small this year.  I suspect she’ll disagree.