I Went To A Christmas Market In France

A friend of ours rang me up to say hello and see if we’d be interested in going to one of these Christmas markets that are oat-and-aboat at this time of year.  There were things for the kiddies, so how could I resisit?!  It was in the village of Fourcès.  Were someone to blindfold me and place me in the village of Fourcès, then asked me, “where are you right now?”  My response to that question would be, “Disneyland?  Hee hee?”  Then I would be buzzed out of the village, hugely wrong.  For I would not be in Disneyland, you stupid Californian, I would be in the beautiful village of Fourcès that hosts a small, but BEAUTIFUL Christmas market.  So much joy was had by my four chit’lins, I could hardly contain my shutter speed.

After getting our free balloon animal, we walked around the scene skillfully calculating our retort to
“Oh Look!!! A Merry GO ROUND!!” and “THE DUCK GAME!!! MOMMY LOOK!!! THE DUCK GAME!!!!”  It was all going so well.  The Merry Go Round Scam, as I’ve splained before, is where they get your money for a fun kiddy ride, but leech Euro after Euro with the mop scheme.  Two kids get on the Merry-Go-Round, fun and roundie-ness is had, one of your kids catches “the mop.”  The Mop means FREE RIDE for the mop catcher!! WEEEE!  The poor sap who didn’t catch the mop, who is friends with the one who catches the mop, sadly, does not get a ride.  BOO!  Mom, steps in to save the day with another Euro or three so mop-catcher and non-mop catcher can both enjoy the fun exactly equally perfectly squared.  And the cycle continues as lazy, non-mop catcher  finally gets their shit together to catch the mop … oh but they have friends and oooooh you can’t let their friends sit by and watch the winner enjoy another ride … so you need to fork out another Euro or three … okay so we skipped the wee-have-fun-spending-mommyandDaddysmoney-rides.

The Duck Game is easy to skip.  I can spend twelve Euros allowing my kiddies to fish ducks and get a shitty prize OR I can give them each a Euro or two for not playing the Duck Game and come out ahead!  And then, after we hit the candy bar of heaven, they forget the whole deal.  Win!

santa mint

Aside from those silly games, the fair was fantastic.  Our friend quickly found a map of the very small town and located a little playground.  The kids played for many, many minutes dare I say hours on a great open area.  We went back in to the Christmas fun to meet Santa and dodge another round of horses carrying merriment in a sleigh.  Santa gave the kids some great attention giving bon bons to Otto and Minty leaving Lucy with Taffy.  Even though I understood this horrible atrocity,  Lucy reiterated in volume approaching eleven that, “Taffy sucks” and “Chocolate covered caramel is divine.”

The chestnuts were roasting on an open fire and my husband is writing a blogpost while listening to Britney Spears. Holy crap we have four kids! They’re all snuggled up to Santa.  Life is good.  Life is quick.

What A Great Friday

Nothing perks up the soul like a warm, sunny day in December (well except maybe hot chocolate by the fire after a long day working in the cold).  Today was dry so Brent and the gentleman helping us with the barn roofing could move swiftly fixing the crazy holes and damage incurred during the mean, bad wind storm (tempête) of 2009.  It’s always a toss up with the roof.  If you don’t fix it, the roof will eventually fall in.  There are countless examples of ruins of this kind around the countryside.  If you fix that little hole, the house or barn will stay put for ages even generations.  But, do we need a roof for the cattle pens?  In the case where it’s one small beam and five roof tiles, well yes, why not?  But what about a lot of rotten beams and a whole lotta roof tiles?  Brent’s original design was in the open air.  There wasn’t a roof to be built.  We’re here in the old pens and barns that all have a roof of some description and in some sort of condition needing some sort of repair.  Do we fix it or tear it down.  The answer so far has been fix some, tear down the crap.  But more importantly, how can we use the digger?  It turns out, the digger is great for lifting things and/or people to get to roofy bits.  It’s also great for ripping out old, cement pole stuff that’s no longer needed.  Not only a beautiful sunny day today, but a day the tractopelle got to eat gazole, lift crap and rip stuff down


old barn, big hole

a can on a cold ciment roof

Tosca looking small

Tosca and Legend made sure the house was safe by laying by the warm stone walls.  Tosca with her grand belly is looking a bit miniature as Legend grows to his full size.  She’s a ripe age of eight years and he is eight months today.


I’m not even sure how it happened, but I launched a Chess game on my computer.  It must have been one of those gaps like during those two days before and after the All Star Game where not a single professional sport is being played.  I had ten minutes where I could sit down and do anything I wanted.  The dishwasher was running, dinner was in the oven, the laundry was either drying or spinning, the baby napping and it’s pissing down rain.  I poured a little cup of wine and sat down at the computer.  I launched my very first game of Chess.  I haven’t played Chess in a very, very, very long time.  Everyone has their story where they played Chess with “person X” and won and “person X” got pissed so they never played again.  Let’s just say, I’ve forgotten all the rules to Chess and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve played.  Not two minutes into my quiet nirvana did Otto walk by and magnet himself to my side.  It was my turn and I went to move the little horsey (or Cavalier as they say in French).  The computer kept putting me back to my original spot because I made an illegal move.  I tried it again, but was interrupted by Otto who exclaimed, “NO! you can’t move like that.  It’s Cah-Vah-Yeah.”  He did this and gestured two squares vertically and one square horizontally for each syllable.  In a very Bourne moment, I thought. “Holy Crap!  My son knows how to play Chess.”  Little did I know that Otto is learning how to play Chess at school.  He absolutely loves it.  We don’t pay much attention to it and let him have fun with the game of Chess in what ever form he chooses.

In an earlier post I noticed that our nearest big Cité, Condom, hosts  an international Chess tournament as well as an international Chess marathon.  I’m not sure if he’ll ever get to that stage, but Condom is close enough and they have a great boulongerie.  Not two minutes after my ten minutes, Otto whipped together a Lego chess board.  He’s been kicking bottom playing against anyone who is up for the challenge.  The most important advice I can share with you is :  If you’re playing Chess (or any game) with Otto, his rules are somewhat slippery.  Just when you think you’ve got the upper hand, he’ll whip out some fine print and knock you down.  You don’t stand a chance.  This is always great T.V. for those viewing at home, but for the opponent, it’s but a Chessboard toss away from Otto never playing Chess again.

Once again, I marvel at his artistic abilities.  I know it’s viewed through parental glasses, but, damn! that kid can sang!

Project Cattle Pen


Brent has been working and designing cattle pens.   We are designing a pen for low-stress animal handling.  Brent took pieces from low-stress animal handling experts that work with our size herd as well as our animal handling skills.  The result is simple and something the cows will happily trot through.   We’ve used the existing pens (held together with baling wire) in the past as a rough draft.  Some aspects were dreamy while others were tough.  He’s eliminated the tough parts.

One of the big finds this week is that his design will fit into our old barn buildings.  He originally set the pens up on a clean slate just outside our existing barns.  This allowed him the freedom to come up with exactly what he wanted without existing silliness getting in the way.  Then he ran his design past a farmer friend and they shifted it into our existing structures as a thought experiment.  The result could save thousands of dollars as well as uncover a beautiful, old building.

Brent kicked off the demo by opening up an extremely not-so-stable “wall.”  When the final panel came down, Brent, Zélie-in-the-backpack and me stood and oogled at the most astounding view.  Pasture, trees, vineyard, classic Gascon farmhouse were perfectly posed  in the distance.  Before it was tired, stringy plastic, rotting wood posts and heavy steel panels.   Now it is Oz.  This view of the distance and pasture will help the cows happily move through the pens.


Legend demonstrates how a calf would hop through the hacked together veal pen.  This will be removed.


CandyShop “guards” the crappy wooden fence used as a barrier.  This will be replaced with a metal barrier with five or six horizontal bars.

Let’s Talk About “your” Big But


wild palombe.  four of these babies given to us from a friend.


PeeWee : But what? Everyone I know has a big “But…? C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about *your* big “But”.

Who knew that PeeWee’s Big Adventure would be so deep.  Somehow this gem hit our screen a few weeks ago and carrying an arm load of laundry, I walked into that scene.  So you think, “yeah?! How about MY but??”

What’s my big but?  I can tell you that it was not this:  I always wanted to start a grassfed beef farm strung together with bailing wire in a country where I don’t speak the language and have a fourth baby in a house missing windows and doors yet has flush toilets, BUT …

I always wanted to do more musical theater, BUT I got paid more doing modern dance.  (I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE THAT’S TRUE!)

I always wanted to be on Colbert, BUT I need to write a book first.

BUT what.  But, I’m glad I’m here.  Each day is filled with unknowns and problems to solve.  We have HUGE projects that will take years to perfect.  It’s the ultimate slow food.  I shed my microwave long ago.  I’ve given up processed foods.  I’m growing my produce.  Slowly.   Hopefully.  Expectantly.  BUT please don’t make me leave.


When I was a dancer I started dating this high-tech dude.  We’d go to parties.  I’d meet his peeps.  Pretty much on cue, they’d launch the “so, what do you do?” line of conversation.  I’m not sure if it’s an American thing, but people who “do” tend to ask “what do you do.”  As a dancer, from their perspective, technically I “don’t.”  So my answer to “what do you do” was somewhat disappointing.  Occasionally what I don’t would be entertaining when the “do”s equated “dancer” with “stripper/feely girl.”   Now that I’m older and wiser, the better question at those parties would be “what do you don’t?”  What you don’t is your big but.  You see, I’m a loner.  A rebel.  You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me, Dottie.

This Week, On Jean Acres

Mr. Vine Man came to finish the vines.  It turns out he brought a truck to haul out the hot wire.  I tried to rush and get my camera to capture the smoking wire as it smoked a trail down our driveway, but one can only run so fast carrying a baby in the backpack.  They carried other wire that was not so hot, but to wrap it all up today, they had to grab some of the hot stuff.

Michael came out while I was doing my chicken run and mentioned that the water was out.  Occasionally, we’ll get a little water blip when the village does some maintenance on the water line.  They don’t always tell us and the water comes back so quickly, it’s never a problem.  Michael and I joked how “gee water cuts off right as vine men show up” ha ha ha.  And then Mr. Vine Man came knocking on our door saying, “coupé l’eau.”  To you and me that means, “whoops, I fucked up and cut your water line.”  He quickly popped over to the water man.  The water man came out with some help and we had our water up and running within the hour.  Now that is service!  This is the part where I love our small village and our strong community.  Getting the water cut off is always a great reminder for us to have our back-up water plan.  With the drought, the lakes are slowly filling up, but not as quickly as we’d like.  We have a pretty awesome well outside our front door that we hope get running in the near future.  For some odd reason, I always have a liter or two of drinking water in a pitcher somewhere and Brent keeps the cows water full before we tuck them in at night.  If the water gets cut off, we have some room to troubleshoot.


After we checked out the water situation, Brent, me and Z went for a Detroit pasture walk.  Kevin gave Brent an awesome hat that he no longer wears.  I think it may be a pumpkin that bought a normal size issue.  Surprisingly, it fit Brent’s pumpkin quite perfectly.  After he’s been happily wearing it for a while he looked closer at the label and noticed that this cool Aussie hat (akubra) is called a “cattleman.”  He wears it all the time.  I love the look and I thank Kevin for allowing me to wear it home for Brent.

On our walk we saw Bambi and friends that live in our forest.  Legend ran a tiny bit to check out what was what, but kept close.  He’s a guarder not a chaser.  He watched the deer intently and made sure they didn’t harm us.  He’s a good pup that Legend.
GrayCute and CandyShop held their position by the barn should any more water-line-cutting trouble come our way.  Thankfully our barns are safe due to their nap … I mean guard.

I did a little Christmas shopping today.  We’re on a tight budget, which makes for some inventive and fun Christmas finds.  In the past, Brent and I give each other a limit, say ten or twenty bucks.  Then, on Christmas Eve we pop into Coles or Safeway and come home with a brilliant Christmas present.  He has sipped coffee from his High School Musical mug for months!  Brent usually wins on cool, crazy gifts for ten bucks at Coles, but this year I hope to top him.

While I was out I picked up some food.  After all that talk on generics, I totally left out the evil Carrefour Kid generic that lifts at least twenty centimes from you for each food item directed at moms and dads.  And tonight, I TOTALLY FELL FOR IT.  There it was, Carrefour Discount fish sticks VS Carrefour Kids fish sticks.  Fish sticks are pretty much the only junk food we feed the kids.  It’s fish.  It’s fast. It’s delicious.  I knew I’d be late so I thought I fry up some of these beauties in lard.  But did I buy the Carrefour Discount sticks?? No, no.  I spent at least twenty extra centimes to recycle a box with a picture of Donald Duck and his minions.  The kids washed theirs hands, sat down for dinner, ate and went off without ever knowing that Donald was there representing the food.  In fact, Donald’s expression on the package is EXACTLY what I did when I realized at the cash register what the heck just happened.  Oblivious little duck children carrying their fish with grumpy parent pissed off that he was a victim of marketing.  I know the fish sticks in the white packet are the same as in the blue packet and yet still I acquiesced.