I caught my rogue chickens! Broody’s adopted children have decided to de-coop themselves and run wild. They roost in the trees. During the day we have two factions. Broody’s Bunch I call the Chooks. Kevin and the babes … well I’ve been searching for a name. It’s very much a Westside Story. Every once in awhile we have a rumble. For days I’ve been singing Chookside Story songs. “When you’re a chook you’re a chook all the way. When you first peck that egg to your last dyin’ day.” And “Chikitaaaah. I just met a chook named Chikitaaaah.” I’ve been feeding The Chooks daily closer and closer to CoopaCabana until finally, they waltzed in for their breakfast. So I shut them in. Then I got Kevin and the babes in. And there they were. The two gangs worked it all out quickly and spent the rest of the day scratching for bugs. When it came time to roost, everyone snuggled in except The Chooks. One Chook escaped through a hole and Brent helped me get her back in. I mended the hole. We turned to go settle in for the night when Brent said, “Jean, look.” There in the trees was one of The Chooks. Soon to follow was another Chook spreading her wings over an eight foot fence for an evening roost in the trees. The Chooks flirted with captivity and now they’re back on the prairie. Tonight! Tonight. I’ll catch those chooks tonight!
The kids dug up some potatoes for today. Lucy planted a pile of potatoes in the neglected veggie patch. Neglected by me because Zélie took priority. Despite the drought and neglect, the potatoes did very well. We have a lot of small ones, but if you keep looking you can find a “man potato.” This is what Otto exclaimed when after finding ten teeny potatoes he uncovered a giant, man potato. All up we found six man potatoes and a pile of teeny ones which made for a lovely dinner with some left over.
At last, some rain. Our first year of farming in France has taught us much about drought conditions. It rained a tiny bit in July, but for the most part we’ve been dry, dry, dry. The kittens have no memory of July’s rain and are not impressed. They blame us for this wet stuff dripping out of the sky.
The Salers cows (the red ones) have done a great job with all the heat. They shed their coat and have been troupers eating the abundance of alfalfa, which is a spectacular drought resistant plant. The Mirandaise (the white ones) are our sun worshipers. They LOVE the heat. Often times we catch them sunbathing on their side for a little afternoon siesta. With this rain, the tables have turned. Our glorious white cows are huddle up in the trees trying to work out what the heck is going on while the Salers carry on with their grass munching. Of course as I write this, the skies are blue and the sun is on, so our Mirandaise sunbathers are back in action.
It’s about time to bring up the Nutella Weather Station. It’s beginning to get cold here, at last. The soup is on and the Nutella is showing deviations in spreadability. Today’s forecast is: spreadable. No warmth required to smooth the hazelnut goodness on your Sunday morning crêpes.
I’ve posted on Brent’s farm wear before. We’ve increased his worker pants. He’s a man who likes consistency. He’s after a reliable source of pants. His favs are “bleu de travail.” These are the standard, blue, cotton worker wear pants of the nation. They are well made, but not branded (e.g. carhartt) which keeps predictable quality at low prices. Disco! The shoes, however, are in need of refinement. He has loads of great shoes suitable for farm work. Yet many days, you can see Brent working with the cows in his Ugg boots. These Ugg boots are from Australia and I’ve mended them twice. I would even go so far to say that they put the “ugg” in “ugly.” That tuft of fluff exploding out of the side of the boot should not be so. I hadn’t noticed this Ugg deal until today, when I dropped him by the cows to renew their mineral lick. I drove a few feet down the drive, looked back in my rearview mirror and that’s when I saw it. A strong dude carrying a heavy cube of minerals, walking towards the girls in a rugby jumper, basketball shorts and Ugg boots. I think to myself, “is he really wearing his Ugg boots??” Yes sir, he is. To be fair, this is not the first time I’ve seen a farmer working in slippers. We climbed mountains in the Ariège with a strong lady farmer who led us around her farm in four Euro slippers. In many ways, Brent is falling seamlessly to the farmer ways of Gascony.
I made blanquette de veau this evening. I’ve never cooked veal before nor have I blanked it. I work with a very cool French cookbook that I love called Ripailles that assumes you sort of know what you’re cooking. Which I don’t so it takes a few tries sometimes. I’ve consulted with resident French people who’ve helped me translate what “ajouter” and “eplucher” all mean. Google translate does a fine job with all this as well, but I like talking to people. Google translate lacks the hand gestures so passionately displayed by French people when they describe how you “eplucher” a carrot with exciting peeling hands.
I’m a huge food fluffer. I love taking photos of food. I enjoy positioning food and food paraphernalia to give it that “I’m totally doing this” feel. Yet as I cook more and more, fluffing is not necessary. I see moments where I’m cooking things and if you took a picture you would totally believe it had been fluffed. The wine half empty with flour dust on the glass, the butter so used, the carrot peel so ready for bunnies all add up to a Pottery Barn advertisement I’ve long since recycled. A friend gave us a half of pumpkin, which I processed along side the veau. A HUGE pumpkin that will give us enough pumpkin soup and pie for the winter I’m sure. I’m a firm believer in seasonal eating. You become limited in what you can cook and suddenly the possibilities are endless.
Brent’s tractor was in need of a little love and tenderness. He ordered the part and Monsieur Mechano popped by to get ‘er done. M. Mechano is a man I’ve met a few times in France. He’s an energetic lad who is mistakenly described as an old guy. He’s full of life. He’s fast. He’s funny. He’s happy. These people exist in America, but they’re rare. I’ve met a couple. We had some dead trees removed from our home in Seattle by one of these guys. To this day Brent and I still use “rock-n-roll” to mean “cut a whole lotta overgrown shit down.“ This guy would not occupy wallstreet. This guy is too busy to whine because he has stuff to do and a life to live.
Broody and the chicks are still alive and well. Broody is a fantastic mom except when it comes time to roost. When the sun begins to set, Broody snugs in to her spot. If the chicks join her then great, but if not … meh, no worries. So each night, at “chickie hour” I let whatever I’m cooking simmer for a minute and pop the chickies in with Broody. I find them huddled together under the coop trying to keep warm while Broody settles in for the evening after a long day. She did this with her adopted chicks. Some point soon, the little chicks catch on and hop in the coop with mom.
I’ve always thought that the sizes of hats tell a confusing and misleading story. I believe they should come in sizes “pea,” “normal” and “pumpkin.” A friend of mine gave me this hat a looooong time ago for baby Lucy. The pumpkin gene is strong in this family and is apparently brought in through the Y chromosome. I’m normal, but up until Zélie, I lived a life with pumpkin heads. This cute little cheetah hat didn’t fit Lucy nor did it fit Clémentine. I kept it though; it was too darn cute to pass along. At last it gets the wearing it deserves. In this photo, Z is giving me that look. Once she reverse engineers the fundamentals of Velcro, this hat is merely fodder for her experiments with gravity.
A friend of ours, let’s call him “Josh,” gave us a cookbook all about cooking pork. Many, many pages dedicated to cooking everything but the oink. Sadly he gave us this book at a time when we were experimenting with ways to feed our family. The pork book arrived at our “vegan phase.” I doubt this was a cookbook-of-the-month regift opportunity and we thanked him for a thoughtful gift. After moving through various ways of eating as a family, we settled in on “the way grandma used to eat.” Which is great because right now, if grandma has a lot of pig, a book like the one “Josh” gave us would be VERY HANDY! So I made my first ever pâté from this book. Otto loves pâté de campagne as do I. Over the few years I’ve lived in France, I’ve tried my share of pâté de campagne. Only now am I brave enough to try to make my own because I think I know what I like. Mexican food I’ve got down. I grew up in San Diego and Mexican food is what I know. Pâté is a brave new world to me. Another friend of mine, we’ll call him “Roger,” advised me a long time ago to: never undergo a project without the purchase of a new power tool. When you make pâté, you need to grind meat! Thankfully, we purchased a meat grinder attachment for the giant kitchen-aid. Said grinder was used once by Brent, then packed away in a little plastic box labeled “kitchen aid attachments” and laid to rest for seven years. At last it has surfaced. I see a bright future with my little meat grinder attachment.
The pâté was easy to make and dare I say palatable. I need a few tweaks on texture. More importantly, I made it because I asked myself, what do I have? In the last few weeks, I’ve stopped cooking what I want and started cooking things with what I have. It opens up a whole new way of cooking for me. This approach allows us to support our decision to eat the way granny used to eat. An example, the chickens have been laying eggs in places I cannot find. I think they’ve surfaced a couple of days ago as fluffy little chicks, but that still leaves us short for breakfast. I have a little flour, a slab of bacon and piles of lard … sounds like bacon biscuits! I would like very much to not spend a dime at the store other than sugar, toilet paper, coffee, chocolate and baking soda. I think I can improvise with the rest. Or at least trade for goods.
… speaking of chocolate. Chocolate cookies. A magical meeting of brownie meets cookie. I highly recommend them. I’ve been making cookies almost everyday. Because really, what’s a cookie but fat, sugar, flour and an egg. Slap it in a bowl, stick it int he oven and you’ve got a quick snack for the kids.
Ms. Broody has gone missing. After a pile of white feathers was discovered, the photo for her milk carton announcement was quickly recalled and her unfortunate death concluded. It has been often fabled of chickens going missing while returning weeks later with little peeping mini-me in tow. Hope was kept alive.
Meanwhile, “free range” chickens have gone wild. Broody’s adopted children have decided that they will roost in the trees, so fuhget you and your fancy coop. Eggs are impossible to find. A joke about our bereft Broody sitting on all the eggs waiting for them to hatch circulates with chuckles. Chickens have decided that if the teenie boppers can roost in the trees, then gadamnit, I’ll roost in the barn or where ever the hell I want. Total poultry anarchy. Kevin continues to keep everyone in line while still roosting in the same spot at the same time. He’s a fan of regularity. Pip, Chickie and Zora are alive and well and fat. Broody-Two takes them all around the farmyard digging up bugs. No, the peeps heard on this day were too desperate to be them. They were new peeps. They were Broody’s peeps!! Thirteen little fluffballs looking adoringly at a proud Broody who hid in a very safe place to hatch her chicks. Go Broody! Welcome back!
It’s been a year and it’s been a YEAR. I suppose I could sum up the year, but I’d rather provide a handful of lessons learned should you be foolish enough to try this at home.
1) Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.
2) Sometimes you need to grab the cow by its horns
3) Should your electric fence tester seem broken, no doubt it works just fine.
4) When the ground is wet, push in your fence posts
5) Lucerne is great in a drought
6) All hail the internet!
7) Love thy neighbor
8) Always take time to pet a patou
9) A retriever is mans best friend, as long as there is food
And a few before / after shots … or thus far shots
Vines Last Year:
Old Renter Cows:
Kitten Pile Before … and after really … just picture them a bit bigger:
.. and of COURSE Ms. T-Pot:
same as before and after
But this time it’s Lucy who does the fencing. Lucy started her fencing classes a couple of weeks ago. Her class takes place in a very, very old building that feels very castle-like. The steps are old, old and stone. The courtyard is quaint. They practice all the techniques on the third floor right next to what looks to be a tower.
On day one, Brent said that she got the full gear including a little plug to hook up when they do their matches. She came up with this whole fencing idea. I must admit, I like it.