On Train Tables


I’ve tried through a few Curtis children to get this train table up-and-running. I’ve had more success with this table as a laundry inbox, a special toy collection service or a little-crawly-crawly-bub-away sanctuary. After four kids, I’ve finally acquiesced. This train table ain’t big enough for the both of us. The child’s imagination and the track available to them. Why have I constrained them to a 32 X 48 inch rectangle? Maybe Pottery Barn was at fault. Maybe I thought that kids could construct train tracks in little rectangles. The truth is, kids construct train tracks ad hoc. When you pull track after track out of the bin, it could be round or it could be straight. Who knows? But you stick it in because all Brio train tracks fit together in perfect harmony. The track unfolds as you creatively put it together. When you hit the edge of the train table, you give up. It’s no longer fun laying out track for your amazing train adventure. You’ve hit the edge of the train table.  Lay out your track on the floor and the only limitation is yourself.  With tons of space and tons of track, you feel the need, even as an eight-year-old, to make a plan.  And that plan has a chance of success with the space that you’ve provided for it.  The best place to build a train track is on the ground.  Maybe even outside.  You need a lot of space to lay it out.  Then evaluate.  Then adjust.  You need space to live.  You need space to build train tracks.




Impatient Cow, Moo

impatient cow, moo

The calves are popping out like calves. Yesterday, the last of the heifers had a successful birth. We started this farm with these baby heifers ( and some cows ). Now, our girls are officially cows. They have all successfully been knocked up as well as successfully given birth to a calf ( is this the little heifer I carried …. sunrise sunset ).

We are expecting more calves to come from the rest of the herd. Even though the older cows have had many births, we still keep a close eye to make sure everything comes out all right. We continue to build our ‘i’ list. Brent came up with my favorite so far. It was inspired by our family’s favorite knock-knock joke. It goes a little something like this:

me: Knock-Knock.

you: Who’s there?

me: Impatient cow.

you: Impatient co… -me: MOO!!!!!!!

Each three-year-old Curtis has mastered the timing of this joke, but it takes a few goes. They always seem to wait for you to finish “impatient cow” before charging in with the “MOO!” It’s almost funnier that way.

“Impatient” is a little black female born to “Leftie.” Leftie has an  L.L. Cool J going on with her horns. One horn goes out and the other follows in the same direction.


The colza is in bloom again.  That’s our neighbor’s colza.  The fields of yellow are lovely and prime you for the sunflowers to come.   The Pyrénées are out. The grass is green.




Condom Fencing


Lucy does fencing in Condom. We’ve been to Condom and back so many times, I forget its origins in prophylactic humor. A “condom” in French is a “préservatif” which is so close to prophylactic it warrants a similar snicker. It’s quite possible Lucy may attend Condom High School. And Zélie was nearly born in Condom which would have provided her with many entertaining border crossings ( so I’ve heard from a friend who was born in Condom and therefore has “Born In Condom” printed and laminated in government squidge ). I think it’s important to desensitize you to the village of Condom by using the village of Condom by name as much as possible. Lucy did a fencing match in Condom and the Condom fencing team did very well. This is the Condom fencing equipment that does the beepy-beepy who score.


There aren’t many fencing tournaments. This is our first of the year. It was held in the cité of Condom ( it’s actually a city not a village ). I love to watch fencing, but you must appreciate the difference with typical sporting matches. In soccer or rugby, the audience is on ( or drunk or both ). The fans cheer for the team, the team plays ball and the whole game unfolds with live ups and downs. With fencing, simultaneous duels ( still learning here, is it a duel? or a bout? ) occur and it’s tricky to follow what the heck is going on. Especially if you’re tending to the fencing lady’s toddler sister.


She kicked arse on her first two duels. After, it was a ten-year-old dramatic roller coaster of “I’m going to lose and I’m going to bed” followed by “yeah, uh, whatever, I won.” She’s a little fireball with competitive drive ( I have no idea where she gets that from ).

This is what she looks like when she hooks up to the Condom fencing reel.


Lucy is a fighter. She has also received the “short gene.” This short business does not hold her back. She fights kids ( mostly older boys ) that are taller than her. It’s not until you do some quicky snappage that you see exactly what she’s up against. This dude she’s fighting here has a height advantage. His arms are long.


They were a good match. This dude has no idea what Lucy does the moment after they say “allez!”


Because when they say, “allez!” Lucy charges, épée in left hand, all quick and fast like. The poor dude had no idea. It’s not long before he starts to wonder where the wall is. The man who scores the match gives a frown nod to Lucy and I step to the left to photograph, anticipating her next charge.

See his épée is about to strike with hardly a lunge. Our Lulu has to extend, lunge and balance to get her point. Go Lucy!


But the day is half over. First we must have an apéro. A little Floc for the adults and some Coke for the kiddies served with munchies.


Followed by lunch with rosé or rouge. Cheese, dessert, sweet bubbles, coffee, Armagnac.


Then back to the tournament. I love the pace of France.


As it was a long day for a toddler, we took a little walk for some fresh air.


A gorgeous day for a walk in a gorgeous cité called Condom.

After the results were in, Lucy tied for second in her age group. She was absolutely beaming to get a trophy.


Then we closed the day with la liqueur de Pousse-rapière, a local orange-Armagnac invention added to Champagne ( or cheaper bubbly Champagne friends ). “The liquor of the Musketeers” served with more sweets and treats for the hard working athletes.


Eel Fay Bow


Sun. Bright. Bathing suits. Car wash.

I didn’t realize how gray and rainy it has been. The sun came out and it changed our day. After two drought years, I welcome and encourage the rain. This sun stuff is marvelous, but I wasn’t moping ( or mopping for that matter ).

The kids did the Sunday car wash on Saturday. Tosca’s Sunday bath was on Thursday. We’ll get back in line now that the sun has joined us in the Gers.

Minty finally got the hose, poor middle child.


She sprayed Zelie to see what would happen.


Tosca is drooling over baby bunny season. She also does a drama queen pant as though it’s really hot. Silly retriever.


Busy Day At The Office



Brent worked the cows and calves today.  I sit and worry from the sidelines.


and get distracted by puffy clouds.  Oh and screaming toddler.  I would very much love to get out there and get muddy with him, but the whole where’s-the-toddler-where’s-the-cow-where’s-the-husband multi-task is beyond me.  I used to grab a few hours during her nap in the crib, but now that she’s a bed sleeper, it’s on.  She has no need to check in with the parents.  Z is her own woman.  She’ll quite happily farm this land all on her ownsome.  She’s got chutzpah this one, but she’s a bit wee.  I worry the cows with their horns may be too much for her at this age and size.  She would tell you, in toddler-ese, otherwise.

The cows were worked through, with Brent taking his time and patience to make sure everything went smoothly.  It did.  Our seven ball-less boys were introduced uneventfully.  The rest of the work also went along calmly.  I love a calm cow working.  Brent did this before the herd got their daily fresh grass with the goal to get them on the new paddock before lunch. It’s Friday, you see, so this means visitors ( read salesmen ) arrive unannounced.  They did, two of them from competing companies, just as Brent was to let the herd out.  So that delayed the herd to fresh grass a bit, but they were well behaved.


OH there was mooing. They were excited to get out there and get munching. I expected a bit of a trot, but when they got to the lush paddock that is “California T” ( California because it was once a Napa Valley vineyard of sorts. “T” because this strip is the long leg of the ‘t.” ) they munched. They munched in a way that after a big mouthful of grass, one would look over their shoulder and give you a frown nod that said, “that’s all you had to say.” Spring has sprung, so the grass is in good form. It’s like giving the herd cupcakes everyday. They LOVE all the rich, green yum.
The sun came out today.  With all the waiting while Brent talked with the salesmen, the cow babies took a nap.  After the herd was out munching green goodness, one was still having a snooze in the pens.

He carried her to the herd.  He said that after he put her down next to the herd, she followed him instead of trotting off to her buddies.  She got with the program soon enough.

When you work the cows, oh there will be mud.  Mud on the glasses.  Mud on the nose.


Does my butt look muddy in this?  Why yes, dear, it does.  But I love you so.  How ’bout a shower?


They’ve Lost Their Manhood


At last, our boys can grow and fatten without their wedding tackle. They are steers now and now we wait. There are not many boys around these parts. The boys are shipped off to feedlots in neighboring countries where they will live in tight pens fed on corn. Cows will eat corn, they actually obsess over it, but they are not built for corn eating. Cows eat grass.

Brent talks with local farmers about castration and at times, the farmers find it difficult to talk about. We laugh. It may be that castration is no longer part of cow farming in this part of France. It may be that castration is a difficult topic for men. I’m fine with it all. I can’t wait to try the steer to see how it compares to our heifers.

After a huge nap and a little more nap, they make their way to the hay and grass, getting used to their new normal.

Cheaper Than EuroDisney


Little homegirl likes to “wash the dishes.” I never squish her spirit. She squirts as much washing-up soap as she can to clean a not so dirty plate. It’s all part of helping with the family chores. If she squirts her way through an entire bottle of dish soap ( retail .80 centimes ), I can only encourage and appreciate this daily fun because in reality, she is totally engaged. And, by golly, her absolute joy of washing-up bubbles is cheaper than Euro Disney. A lovely toddler activity without the screaming. Happy giggles had by all. The only limitation is yourself freaking that the dish soap is gone and happy bubbles may make their way to the floor. No worries, that was s floor in need of a little wash … With soap. All good.

Friday Night, Cake’s In The Oven, and We’re Trying To Call Grandma

Photo on 2013-04-05 at 19.26 #3

It’s a girl party tomorrow.  I’m trying to pre-do what I can so we can clean up a bit and set the stage for giggly girldom.  The three tier cake is in the oven and I hope I’m not burning it as I write this.  I’ll get the pizza dough baked ( you can stick darn near anything on a pre-baked crust, see Boboli circa 1986.  Boboli is owned by “group bimbo” which warrants a post all by itself ).  Wait, checking cake … k. done. all good.  Zélie, our resident taster, has confirmed that the chocolate layer cake batter made, as describe by  Fannie Farmer, has met her standards.  She likes to keep a little spot of chocolate on her cheek to age and taste later for further testing and analysis.

We have fourteen calves so far, and they’re running around like idiots at the moment.  The herd is unmoved.  I’m working on comma usage while trying to call Grandma to thank her for the lovely present she and sister sent to Minty.  Each calf with their own unique ‘i’ name, we wait on fourteen more.

A Six Mint


I can’t believe my little baby girl is six. To me, she is two and on my hip. We spent many, many hours searching for a farm with little Mint Mint. She’s as sweet as sweet can be. Though, she does have a sweetly secret side where she smiles and cuddles and stands on your foot with every bit of her strength all at the same time.


She wanted a Smarties cake. I did a two-tier trial for her actual birthday. The girly party begins on Saturday and we will attempt a three-tier Smarties cake. As we’re not fond of fondant, we’re going to frost this baby with melted chocolate and cream followed by a heavy whipping. Sprinkled in Smarties three stories high, our little middle child should feel celebrated.


Nana and Grandma and family have spoiled her well. Poor Lucy fumes on the sidelines.