… a chicken is watching. I know, I know, it’s my own damn fault.
In one of those crazy gender typified ways, I’ve found myself cooking more. Back in our yuppie years, our cooking and child rearing was split as we were both working for TheMan™. Brent is the real cook in the family. Though I do enjoy a good grill. You put us on a farm, a young family of six and suddenly we slot into a scene from yester-year. The man does tractor work and cow moves. Two things you can’t do with a baby. I did drive the tractor once and it was fantastic. Though it was a lot slower than my Porsche and doesn’t handle as well on corners.
I’ve been cooking and trying to move into this old house we live in, tidy up the farm and prepare for a very cold winter. I also tend the chickens and small animals. The animals like their crunchy bagged “croquettes” ( as they call them in France ), but they REALLY like the bits and pieces of offcuts that come from the kitchen. As I work through the recipes of my new favorite cookbook, Nigel Slater Appetite, I’ve started to collect a furry and feathery fan club. Around dinnertime, I begin to see chickens pacing, kittens mewing and a puppy trying to play with the crowd. So, yes, I toss out little scraps and the crowd goes wild. The kittens pounce making the most amazing growling sound that has been dubbed “feeding the piranha.” The chickens grab what they can get and run off in their comical chickeny way. The puppy does the best he can not to get growled at by Tosca. She is the queen of all things edible. It was all going well until I underestimated the cognition of the chicken. It turns out, they are slightly brighter than goldfish. And so, my amiable gesture has fueled their stalking tendencies. They take naps by the kitchen. Today, they ate my much cared for lettuce. I just about started chopping onions for Nigel’s chicken curry recipe, but they do lay eggs well which saved them.
Who the heck is that white puppy?
This is Legend. Our newest edition to our domestic animal clan. He’s a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. He’s also a real sweet pup.
Once again Brent and I have been out partied by an uncustomary age bracket. The first time was at the local fête in our last village. Live music, plenty of booze, the night was young. The kids were occupied. We’re surrounded by the seventy and eighty year old crowd. All were cutting a rug to the tunes of peppy-french-social-dance music. Brent and I danced and danced until Brent hit the wall and had to go. I stayed for a bit after with Lucy. Then, at one in the morning, I glanced over at my right and told Madame eighty-year-old that I was tuckered out and headed for home. She gave me a smile, pat me on my shoulder and then popped out to the dance floor for another round of French polka.
Last Friday, was another one of those moments. Lucy’s school merged with Otto and Minty’s school to do a dance / sing / raffle event. In France, it’s called a Tombola. We arrived at 6:30. Otto and Minty did their dance outside which ended with the class walking hand and hand into the event hall. Lucy took the stage with her class and performed (wait for it) a Modern dance! Modern dance for those “not in the know” is a form of dance about movement and expression escaping the rigorous structure of ballet and the like. It’s not something you’d expect your eight year old to perform at an end of the year shin dig. There were no introductions. There was no speech about all the hard work the staff had put in this past year. There was no plea for money. It was all about the kids, their dancing and their singing. I’m still aghast that my daughter and her class got all modern dancey. It was wonderful.
The evening went along and the kids finished their performance. It was Tombola time followed by an Apero (that’s shorthand French for l’apéritif which means sweet drinks, whisky and little nibbles). Brent realized too late that the kool-aid substance in the white container was actually a Kir (cassis and white wine). On and empty stomach and a full day of farming, well, he got a little giddy. Let me remind you that this is a kid event and it’s now 9pm or so, dinner is still not served. We at last sit around 10pm for our first course (I really love this place!). the dinner wasn’t fancy, but it tasted fantastic. After a few courses the Disco began and the kids danced like nuts. The adults sipped wine and watched the fun. We still awaited cheese, dessert and coffee. It’s not quite midnight, but very close. Brent didn’t make coffee. He took Lucy home while I chatted with some parents and waited for Minty and Otto to tell me they’re ready to go … and waited … and waited … okay! Can we go now ?????? Minty, thankfully said that I could go. Whew. My head hit the pillow at 2pm. I was out partied by my 4 and 6 year old. The kids had a total blast. France really knows how to throw a good family fun evening.
Minty: “Mom, the clouds are hungry!”
Minty: “Yeah, mom. The clouds are hungry because they’re eating the blue sky.”
(Minty holding GrayCute. photo by Otto Curtis)
The vines at last are going bye-bye. It was a long and complicated set of papers, but their time here is up. They were going to be removed a month or so ago, but the drought made it damn near impossible to rip anything out. June has been wet, thankfully, which makes vine ripping and fencing actionable. Vine ripper outer man has a caterpillar machine with a mean looking tool on the end. He runs down each row pushing them to the end into a little ball of vine, post and wire.
The dude said we could pull the posts out if we want to, which we will try to take advantage of. Those piles look like free warm to me or kick-ass fence posts. Brent was excited to see that the soil that is surfacing looks healthy. Though one thing noticed was lack of worms. The vines departure is great progress for us. Now we can move forward with our infrastructure. We have water lines to lay, wiring to hook up, and lanes to build. The vines are totally beautiful, but also totally in our way. I’m glad that there are vines all around us to keep reminding us of wine and Armagnac land.
Brent had a quick chat to the vine ripping outer guy who was really nice. The dude had to do a full cab turn to get to the right window for him to open to have a chat. The big metal fingers of death swiveled past Brent. A bit unexpected, but good photo op.
With hay, you watch the weather oh so closely. You have to run through the field a few times with your tractor processing it in several ways with big ass tools. This occurs over a few days without rain to allow the hay to dry properly. You (Brent actually) cut it, “fluff” it, rake it and then rake it again. All the while sitting in your tractor munching on tractor cookies. When all is processed in neat little rows, you bale it with your fancy baler if you had forty-thousand Euros that you spent on such fancy machinery. OR you get your neighbor to bale it for some price per bale. I didn’t make the hay, so I can’t really say much beyond that. But here’s where we’re at. You see, after the hay is baled in cute little round balls, you let it sit there for a few days to dry out and then you move it. You move it so that the next cut of hay can grow. But see, if you’re just starting out and getting your equipment in order, sometimes things don’t always work out. To move hay of this size and shape, you need a pique balle which in English is some word that means prongy pointy bits on the front of your tractor. The pique balle that Brent ordered came to us in time to move the hay, but the pique balle dude got the wrong size and so we waited and waited for the proper one to arrive. In the mean time, despite this crazy drought we’re having, our next cut of hay grew and grew. And here we are with bales of hay in a green field. It’s a bit embarrassing. Our brown-hay-on-green-field has also been recorded officially by a street-view car which adds insult to injury. Fields are like a giant canvas. Each one critiqued by your neighbor as they figure out what the hell you’re doing over there. We’ve managed to leak out the deal with the bales so we not perceived as dorks. News travels fast which should keep everyone in the loop. When we first moved here, in a crazy game of rumor telephone, a few people in the commune seem to think we’re from SOUTH America. This is how we handle hay bales in South America.
(photo by b. curtis)
The second cut of hay is just about ready. There are hay bales in the way. And quickly we get to a puzzle I know I’ve played before when I subscribed to Games magazine. Move the lumpy, brown objects off the green field and line them up in a row. Do this with the fewest lines possible as to not ruin your hay. Brent has a plan, so we’ll see how it goes. I won’t spoil it by giving you his answer. Put your geek hat on and think what you would do. Oh yes and the pique balle has arrived and it fits like a glove!
(photo by b. curtis and I think it’s great!)