He was born in a barn and abandoned by his mother. Brought to a neighboring farm, a little boy named him GrayCute. He was gray. He was cute. He is gray and he is cute. He had a dance with death to the tune of – 4×4 tire meets kitten, kitten escapes in time but for his rear paw. He’s a little crooked now. He had another close call with some raw meat heading down the wrong pipe. Alive again, he spends his remaining seven lives in the safety of children’s role-play. There he is king. He is a troubled artist. His is a monster out to kill Barbie and her little ponies. He has his own theme song that is whistled or sung daily.
I am a GrayCute. A simple GrayCute. Strolling down the country with my big belly. Might stop at a restaurant and eat some pizza or maybe twenty and then that’s plenty. I am a GrayCute. You are one toooooo. ( L. Curtis, 2012 ).
It was show time at our new corral. Thankfully and gratefully, we were able to have a helping hand from friends. Today was our annual cow blood test. The kids are on vacation so we needed some help keeping them happy while we gave our new cow pens a whirl (thanks G!). Our absolutely awesomely accented Scottish farmer friend helped us work the cattle. Once the vet arrived, we were ready to see how the concrete, the screws, the barriers, the terre held up.
When Brent and I first talked about this design, we had a tall order of putting the pens under cover in case it rained. Thus far, we’ve experienced drought conditions, I think we got sun brained. Of course, our first run of the pens was presented with one of the hardest downpours I’ve seen here in the Gers. But only for twenty minutes at a time and no wind. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait out lightening. Nothing more daring than working livestock around large steely things in a lightening storm. Working in the rain didn’t stop us. It just made the tea and cake afterward taste that much better.
The girls did great. With so many unknowns like “gee, will their horns fit through the alley?” and “will the calves escape?” and “will they go in the pens at all?” – we now have a pile of bug fixes to work through for our next run. I’m sure Mr. GrassPunk will share the details. Most strongly I left our run through with the feeling that I’ve never felt more panicked about concrete. When I made concrete, I was all like, “whew, concrete. Just like makin’ bread in my kitchenaid.” Then, when you see your concrete in action with giant masses of steak on legs testing your work, you think, “shit, I suppose I could have used a bit less sand and maybe not so wet. Is that going to hold?!” Everything is still standing. There is some settling ( we only finished the work yesterday!) as well as a few bumps to strengthen.
Aside from the blood test, we also tagged a few more calves and did a few inspections on our mamas ( Heather, we named a calf after you, just so you know ). For me, tagging in the alley was much better for everyone involved. Brent had an easier time catching the calf, the calf was safe and calm in the alley and I had a bit more confidence piercing baby bovines. We might get the hang of this.
After a hard few hours, lots and lots of rain, a well napped baby, we wrapped up and got set to do the rest of our daily chores. Brent did his final rounds with the bovines and I got the kids up-to-date with their food and childish needs. Lucy and I made pizza. Because if I could order pizza and they would deliver, I would do that on this day only. But as there is no take-out nor is there delivery and since I make everything I possibly can except for sugar, wine and coffee, we made our pizza and it was the best pizza I ever ate.
Project Cattle Pen is in full effect. Concrete has been poured. Posts have been placed. Barriers have been mounted. Brent spent a lot of time designing this beauty and running it passed me for feedback. As he does have a software developer background, the final design exists on a whiteboard. This same whiteboard was carried out to the cattle pen site as a specification when he worked with one of our neighbors. While we were in the design phase, I tried my best to stick to my roots and play the role of “tester.” Only instead of thinking: USER, I thought: COW. As a former software test engineer, I’ve spent many hours staring at a whiteboard while some geek hand waves an important feature. Asking all the important questions – “can I eat it in a box?”; “can I eat it with a fox?” – I can’t help myself and go write something up with more detail. There exists a paper version of Project Cattle pen, but it’s hardly to scale. My three meter and six meter barriers appear to be of equal size. The paper version, however, is more resistant to spasmodic one-year-olds carrying paper towels.
Brent’s work also has to cope with holes that can or cannot be dug, barriers that arrived as the wrong size as well as important design “gotchas” that became apparent after the work (read: concrete) has been placed. All these things so far have been recoverable and Project Cattle pen keeps on truckin’.
This neighbor of ours knows a lot about leveling and concrete and such things, which was hugely helpful. I know nothing about leveling and concrete and such things, so I learned a lot. He taught me how to mix concrete. I got to know our new concrete mixer by mixing Lucerne seed a week ago. And just like my “pig fucker” kitchenaid, it goes ‘round and mixes shit. He gave me the recipe for concrete, which is written on the back of my recipe for chili. One of the boys helped shovel in the dry ingredients and suddenly we had concrete. I felt empowered.
more to come on Project: Cattle Pen …
So if you are looking at dying eggs for Easter like an American, you should secure some chickens that lay white eggs. Which we have. Which I’ve carefully collected this past week while beating the rat that was eating them. But it wasn’t a rat, it was a cat. A cat that isn’t ours. And we got five. Five eggs, though we also have five cats.
Minty turned five. Her friends showed up for the party despite the big two week vacation.
Three hours of princess nation elation. Zélie played the part of “doll.”
Otto played basketball and won.
After, they all ate croissants with chocolate bars to stuff inside washed downed with Coke.
Brent moved the cows and fed “the boys” (our three bulls) in his jammies.
It is an unavoidable obligation to photograph your husband if he does ManWork™ in his jammies.
(Gratuitus Zélie pic. … can’t help myself. She’s our poupette.)
It can’t be April Fools Day without sharing how many giggles are had slapping paper fish on the backs of your friends. I experienced April Fools Day pranks in America with mediocre hilarity. I don’t find it exhilarating. Then I moved to France and learned about the fish. Poisson d’Avril is more accessible to everybody and everybody gets to participate. This year, April the first falls on a non-school day. Our peanut gallery of Curtis kids snickered and giggled all morning while preparing a tsunami of festive paper fish. No cat, cake or Daddy’s bum was spared. Even little Zélie walked (yes she’s walking!) around with a festive fish on her back for hours. I think it’s still there.