Adventures of Bimbi


It’s hay time at the moment. Brent has been trying to work out what the weather is doing and what the grass is doing to work out when to cut. I can see how trading began with harvest. It’s a fine art juggling the variables to get a good quality product. It’s a gamble. So many farmers cut before the “rain” came … which never really came. We waited for the next window. They thought we were crazy. The next rain keeps pushing out to the next day and the next day. Brent cut the lot. There were some gray looking clouds on the horizon, but nothing came of them. It’s been cut and fluffed and should be ready to ball soon. The rain will just have to wait until we’re ready. A conversation with our neighbor will quickly show that this lack of rain could be a huge problem for the crops. As we are grass farmers and our grass is growing well, we’re not as panicked.
Brent went out in the morning to start the tractor and noticed a little deer snuggled in one of our structures. Tosca was right next to it not really taking notice. The deer sort of hung out and then walked away, casually. It didn’t do the deer sprint that we’ve seen so much of on the farm. Later, Michael said he saw a deer hanging around. Even later that day, I came home, saw a deer drove right next to it and it stood there. And so Bimbi (Bambi’s not so bright cousin), as we call it, became the talk of the farm. The next day, Bimbi was spotted in with the cows. Cute at first, but then alarming as I realized a little deer could have burst through our double wire fence. As I did a perimeter check with Zélie in her backpack, I noticed the cows were excited. They saw action in the paddock and swiftly went to check it out (oh how I dislike swift cow action). Little Bimbi felt the bovine pressure and froze still in an extremely awkward position. The cows stood there for many, many minutes doing their laser jedi stare while Bimbi didn’t budge. Not even an inch (or centimeter for the commonwealth). After an hour, Bimbi made a move.


We didn’t have a Bimbi spotting today. She’s welcome to chill on the farm as long as she stays clear of the fences.
Along with hay season, it’s also giant chocolate egg with toy surprise season. The kids did their Easter treasure hunt and found their large egg. In America, it’s all about the baskets with the jellybeans. The peeps. The malty balls. In France ( and as I’ve witnessed in Australia) it’s chocolate. And a Bell the flies around spreading chocolate joy … yes, no bunny. Which is probably best as several bunnies were harmed in the making of the hay. But a flying bell. To the kids, as long as there is chocolate provided, they really don’t care how it got there.


Why Did The Chickens Cross The Road?

To get back to Coopa Cabana. Chicken Tiki was well and good, but when the girls started getting broody, it came up short. So the peep of chickens had to return to their bigger digs while I get the ouef-mobile up and running. We also have some new comers joining Kevin’s harem. Three red hens that Michael added as well as four black ones. Birds of a different feather are flocking together. Side by side on their pee-yahno. We are the world, we are the chickens. It was great fun “herding” them from one place to the other. It’s a slow process, but if you take your time they go right where you want them. Kevin had his concerns about crossing the road, but with Lucy’s help we convinced him that it was his destiny. The girls quickly followed. The new chickens are VERY DUMB. They’re young and new, but WHOA. D-U-M, dumb. Kevin and his bitches (as we often say … but not in front of the children) all snuggle in like clockwork at night. But where are the new chickens? Roosting in a small tree. It looks very comfy, I’ll give them that. It also looks like my tree suddenly grew chickens. I had to pick up each one and get them over with Kev. They’re tame little things. If they get a little clucky, I do this little spiral move that Brent taught me to get them to be calm. Tonight, my chicken tree had two chickens, so I think there is hope.
The zappy chicken wire was also a disappointment. It didn’t quite zap enough to keep them in. Kevin took the girls out a few times for a little promenade around Colorado (the big paddock). Thankfully the dogs were elsewhere so no casualties were incurred. I’m going to do a zappy-wire moveable coop dealio for version two.


We’ve had threats of rain for the past week and all I seem to grab for is my sunglasses. Brent has hay fever, quite literally. He’s working out when to do our first cut of hay. There are lots of people around haying their fields before the rain, but our hay isn’t ready yet. It’s looking like there will be a gap in the next week that will time well with the growth. The wind is going nuts tonight. Another cow is looking very ready to let loose her calf. Fences are holding up nicely. I haven’t done any cow herding in quite awhile. Good cows!


The calla lilies are in bloom again. I’ve always loved calla lilies. Right by Lake Tosca is a cluster of the perfect white flowers.



The kids are now home for a two week Easter (Pâques) holiday. We love it when the kids are home. They keep Zélie and Tosca entertained. And the cows. The cows LOVE Lucy. When she goes over to them, the entire herd comes running at her (gently) it’s a bit scary, but they slow down when they’re close. Then , they stand and stare at her. Otto rides his bike around looking for things to break, throw or smash. Minty climbs on rocks, dances, rolls in the sand and bakes cakes.



Beaucoup de Travail

In Spanish it’s “mucho trabajo.”  In American it’s “shitload of work.”  People come around all the time and that’s what they say.  It’s true, there are a lot of projects to work on.  Somedays I don’t even know where to begin.  That’s when I grab a glass of cheap red wine and watch the cows eat.  It has the satisfaction of Space Invaders or bubble wrap.  Today I cleaned up around the front of the house.  The weather lately has been stunning.  75F and breezy.  San Diego good.  The sun shines all day long on our stone house.  Things are getting hot.  After a conversation with a local friend and our résident Australian snake expert, it turns out the things snakes love most are right outside our front door.  Rocks, steel, mess all tumbled about on a warm concrete apron backed by a hot stone house.  I don’t think I could have purposely designed a better reptile park for our local cold blooded friends.
I stuck Zélie in the playpen in the shade and got to work.  After a few weeds were pulled I could feel unrest in the creatures that lay low.  I was suddenly in the midst of The World of Insects narrated by David Attenborough.  This week, Beetles.  Many beetles died and found new homes today.  There is a red beetle with black spots that Lucy calls a ManBug.  It’s like a flat Ladybug.  I uncovered the ManBug hood.  They were all there.  Big ones, small ones, teeny ones, teenyteeny ones all running around because the cops just busted up their party.  Lizards were fleeing.  Grubby wormy things were wiggling.  It was fascinating how much life was in a tiny strip of weeds barely growing by the house.  Thankfully, no snakes were found, but I only got through the front of the house.  I did scream loudly when Mr. Fatty Green Beetle popped out of solid slate looking for trouble.  I let him go and a line of little Mr. Fatty Green Beetles followed.DSC_0858.JPGThrough all of this Zélie happlily giggled and played and fell asleep.  Homegirl spends a lot of time outside.  I’d say many of her naps are taken snuggled someplace in the open air.  It’s like the nature tape they would play for Lucy and the other babies at daycare, but fer reals.

It’s feeling very summer at the moment, but rain is coming.  The kids had a huge roll in the grass.



Farming Is Hard


These are the words I heard over and over again by people when we talked about starting this whole farm thing.  Most of those people have never farmed themselves so couldn’t elaborate on what exactly was hard about farming.  I’m trying to figure out why people say this.  The farmers we’ve talked to say one thing, “what kind of cows are you getting?!”  But, this phrase “farming is hard” runs through my head everyday as we tackle projects to start up this grass-fed cow business.  Being the ignorant newbie, the work is challenging, but hard?  Then you ask yourself, “what is hard anyway?”  With my last line of work, hard to me was telling a great guy with a family that he isn’t cutting it here on the team and he needs to find employment elsewhere (welcome to cansville, population: you).  That was hard.   Right now, hard is timing the work to a baby nap schedule.  Hard was merging the herds.  Hard is working through the many paper trails of France.  Hard is hearing that our neighbor died while out in the field farming.  Hard will be many things.  Hard to me is interesting.  We’ve just barely begun.  I’ve already collected a few tidbits of advice based on things we could have done better.

but enough of that.  Much more importantly, Brent got a new socket set.  The kind of socket wrench that immediately makes you say in your worst crocodile Australian accent, “that’s not a socket wrench, THIS is a socket wrench.”

Michael dug out an old costume.  Speechless.  I think Munson liked it.

The cherries are showing signs of tasty goodness.

And tonight’s giggle was from a friend of ours.  Brent was explaining to him how “hay season” is approaching quickly so we need to get our equipment sorted out.  “Wait, are you going to do that?”  he says (K.G., 2011).  Yes, we’re doing it.  We don’t get the man over to do it.  We’ll find out soon enough if it’s hard.



Working At Home. This was a status used by many at the place I used to work (computer geek stuff. They’re crazy like that). There was a positive correlation between degrees in Fahrenheit and number of employees “wah-ing” that day. As degrees in Fahrenheit increased so did the peeps who would W.A.H. Today and yesterday have been exceptional Spring days. Temperatures measuring close to 30 C (86 F!). It’s when the weather is fantastic, the kids are at school, the cows are in their rectangle and I’m working with Brent on some physically difficult task as we get our farm started that I think “fuck yeah! This is fantastic!” I’m Working At Home. I want to set my status, but the only person who cares is also WAH. Last night I sat out with the kids in the dark while they took candles around and solved mysteries. The frogs were croaking a symphony audible by us and any neighboring farm within a kilometer or two. One of our cows had a baby. Our little newborn has decided to sleep through the night. The grass is growing like … grass. Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah.


(photo by Mr. Curtis)


(photo by Mr. Curtis)

DSC_0607.JPGThis is Tosca’s spot while dinner is being prepared.  Always after a crumb, she’s right there for any morsel that falls her way.


I’m not sure if it was Michael or Brent who found this little gem on the internet, but let me tell you right here, right now, everytime I walk by this poster, I start singing this classic Lionel Richie song.  It’s so bad it’s good, but now bad.  An ear worm I would prefer to avoid.

Today, I Shoveled Shit


We bought an old Armagnac Farm.  Most of the stuff on the farm has been sold at auction or pilfered by various people.  There are, however, some very cool barrels.  A friend of ours recommended pushing the end down and planting veggies near the kitchen.  Brent grabbed one of the barrels and stuck it outside our kitchen.  It seems to be a perfect place for herbs.  The sun hits it hard in the morning and backs off in the afternoon and evening.  I ran a little experiment with a few potted herbs to see how they did in that location.  They were all very happy except the basil.  The basil plant was a bit fragile to begin with, so I think the seeds I will plant will do fine.  I grew basil at our old place in a planter that could double as a bread oven.  The basil was fried all day long.  With enough water it worked out.

We happen to have a GREAT source of really good “soil.”  Really good soil is actually aged cow poop mixed with straw.  We also have some fresh “pats” left over when the Mirandaise where chillin’ in the stable.  So today, I grabbed the fresh stuff to fill the bottom for aging and I will grab the black gold for the top layer for the herbs.  Well I supposed it’s brown gold really.  Now to do this you must know that there is a special “poo fork.”  In french it’s called fourche à fumier.  See, even “shit fork” sounds great in French.


I didn’t quite finish because Brent needed my help to mess with the zappy fence.  The girls have been so great doing their cow thing.  Brent has been giving them fresh grass to eat every day or so.  They have an entire lake for their water supply.  The lake fence gave them plenty of room to hang out.  On most days, we see the mob “hanging by the pool” (B. Curtis, 2011)  after their morning munch.  They really enjoy it there.

It does make us laugh to watch them figure out their way to get into the lake as though it’s a new discovery each time. It has that similar “oh a castle!” goldfish feel to it. It’s short-term memory in action.  It’s like:

I’m Thirsty.

Look a lake!

Ooooooo, a fence.

Hey! An opening!


What’s That Smell?


Spring has sprung. I think I actually hate that phrase so put another way, the smell of lilac is abound. I had one lilac bush in Seattle. It was scrawny and totally overwhelmed by the big bad walnut tree very near it (my garden master sister calls the walnut a “litter tree.” All year round you get crap falling off that tree ). Here on the farm we have a hedge of lilac. The fragrant purple flowers all came out at the same time. The bees that were earlier swarming the willow blossoms, are now all over the lilac hedge. They smell amazing and look beautiful.

But more importantly, Minty is now four years old. This snuck up on us as she’s been the baby for so long. In the last two months she’s developed rapidly. What once was a sweet princess following her siblings around is now a sassy Mint-Meister with a vulgar sense of humor. Typical conversation with Minty:
You: Hey Minty!
[prototypical fart executed on command by said four-year-old]
Minty: haha! I burped with my bum!
You: What are you playing?
Minty: I’m a pretty princess. … you’re a Bum Smack!

[laughter ensues]


I’ve had to apologize at least twice when she endearingly replied to a guest, “yes, Poopy Pants.” I tried to explain that this was a name of approval and warm wishes. I’m not sure they approved or were wished warmly. She’s the type of princess who loves pink, ponies and Hello Kitty while wearing a pair of combat boots, sneaking chocolate and kicking her brother. At last she’s four and we’ll see how this year plays out. She was our very first “terrible three.” Lucy was “terrible x” At eight, I think we may be past that stage. Otto is Otto. Totally amazing and we’re fairly convinced he’ll still be here when he’s thirty planting seeds, catching crickets and playing with Lego (online or the real deal).

I bought the best baby tool ever which has freed me up to do a few extra farming things. Zélie is no longer a candidate for “the peanut.” This is a handy baby sling that I’ve been using to carry her while I do things (not work with the cows of course). She’s been porking up a bit and it’s too much to carry her like that. I put a “wanted” ad in the local Craig’s list type thing for a “pram.” I’m not even sure why I used this term, I never vocalize it and I hardly know what it means. A “pram” is a stroller. Anyway, someone replied with an off-road dealy that has so many useful bells and whistle I can hardly contain myself. She totally loves it. We set off on day one cutting all the brambles (that’s blackberries to you and me.) under the fence line. I’m sure this stroller has seen more off-road in one day than its entire existence.

Brent and I fenced Colorado, a HUGE paddock where the girls are headed to next. We’re using the vine posts that Michael and Brent have ripped out of the vineyard. Each post is a unique and special snowflake. Some are big. Some are round. Some have nails on the top that I rip out. Some are split. Some are pointy. And when they are set up the night before, they are slippery. But best of all, they are free. We made huge progress the last two days. With three posts to go we had to stop. The ground was too unforgiving so we might give it a Spartan try tomorrow with the back-hoe. We can do one, two or three wires for cows. Right now, there’s a whole lot of short, one wire, fences. They seem to work, but after our moment with frenzied heifers, I’ve seen first hand how they fail. I’m really liking the idea of three shiny, zappy wires. I think we’re going to do three wires for the perimeter and one or two for internal fencing depending on the internal-ness.

The weather is amazing. The kids play outside for hours. They use found objects to supply the needs of their game. This little spool has been more things than I can name. Yesterday it was a table used by Brent and me for our cup of tea. Today, it’s been a stage for Minty’s songs and a slide. I’ve resisted the temptation to by large, plastic outdoor toys. So far we have spool, gutter, old tire, rope, wood door with sand on top, long long wood beam and old metal door. It’s true, all objects are not smooth and contain sharp sides and splinters, but that just adds to the fun of it all.

Cows, They Eat Grass

DSC_0503.JPG(photo by M. Curtis)


My Mom asked me what we intend to feed the cows. I told her, “grass!” We are grass farmers. Brent has done a lot of reading and experimenting with the pasture, so I won’t go into it. He can give you tons of detail on grass. In fact, don’t get him started on grass. I enjoy listening and understanding the intricacies of grass and grass species, but it’s not for everyone. You can always get him back on track by talking about the rugby … a little tip for you. But really, cows eat grass. They LOVE it. They get all giddy with a new field. Brent has been moving the girls every day or so and watching what happens when they get there as well as what happens after they’ve moved. Along the way they’ve been testing our fence design. After the herd merging action, things have been a lot easier. Okay, well less-hard let’s say. Brent is cool and has been here before. Me? I’m still in shock with all the new things confronting me. Along with never googling “fencing,” I’ve never googled “cows.” I could benefit from taking some time away from setting up house and baby to get a bit more educated on cows. We’ve learned two things about fences. First, clear the blackberries and brush that touch the wire. Up until yesterday, I was the fence tester. I had no issue touching the fence and feeling that it was on. Yesterday, however, in the new paddock, I tested the fence and got the SHOCK OF MY LIFE! HOLY CRAP!!! That shit was on. I’ve since been using my little pocket fence tester that I thought was broken. It turns out, it works perfectly. Our fences were not charged very much. This explains why one of the Salers heifers could play with the temporary fence. Second thing we learned. Was the fine art of hungry-hungry-heifers (that’s Brent’s term). When the cows are hungry, they push the boundaries in search of better tasting grass. Brent saw this first hand when he was setting up their next paddock. When the cows see Brent futzing with fences, they get interested. This day, they watched him as they do, but they were extra hungry having been through their paddock twice. So in a very golden retriever way, they clustered up staring at him and pushed through the not-very-zappy temporary fence. At that point, Brent calmly open the gate to the new paddock and they all walked over the road to greener pasture. I wasn’t there when this happened. I was getting Zélie ready to go join him with a few finishing touches on the new paddock. I looked out, saw the cows in their new paddock and figured out what happened. They’re very well behaved doing their cow thing. They munched away and then did their ruminating routine. Since we’ve got the zap right, They’ve stayed put.
DSC_0548.JPG(photo by M. Curtis)


Little Gordito gets out occasionally, but he always finds his way back. Today’s move was uneventful. Brent decided to move them in the afternoon when they’re lazy and not as hungry. Each time we get better and better. This work gives me the same feeling as “hotfixes” with websites. Each time the cows are moved, they (the Mirandaise especially) walk the perimeter getting to know their new digs. We watch and wait at the ready to fix any bugs they find. Because I’m new at this, I check on the cows all the time like a mother with her first baby. Only instead of “is she breathing?!?” I make sure they’re all in their allotted rectangle. It’s like my own personal screensaver where you watch the cows munch their way around a known space. When they go off the edge of the screen, you have a problem. It has the speed of a baseball game and if we keep it all calm, things go smoothly. Any animation, and they move to “go mode.”

Also to note, today is April Fool’s Day … for Americans.  For the French, it’s Fish of April ( Poisson d’Avril ).  This is where you slap a paper fish on your friend’s  back and laugh hysterically.  I highly reccomend it.  It’ll bring you back to the old “kick-me” signs of yester-year.