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How kind of you

Did you automatically read that subject line with a sarcastic tone?  You should have.

Last year, I was on the look out for a kitten or cat or adopt to help deal with the rodent invasion we were having, an invasion that had been brought into our house. I could not sleep because of the scrabbling in the walls and ceiling of our bedroom, and traps were just not cutting it. I finally got a handle on things though and stopped asking around.

Well, just after Christmas, some kind soul decided to dump three cats out in our little hamlet of three houses. Aside from our three-legged rescue cat from Mayotte, there are no cats here. No one at the other two farms wants cats around, and because a) I had wanted a cat to help with rodents, b) I don't like to think of abandoned animals trying to fend for themselves, we set out food.

Yes, I would have been happy to have a cat or two; on a farm they can be really useful.  It would have been nice had they not been feral and if we would have been ASKED first.

So, one of the three is completely wild, a big black tom, and we hardly catch a glimpse of him, thinking he has disappeared only to see him again. The second is a young male, who with lots of coaxing has finally become friendly enough that will be able to take him and get him fixed (gotta call the vet!). The third was a pregnant female! And of course she is still wild and fearful and will not let us near her. We were planning on catching her and fixing her, too, but now she is pregnant AGAIN.

So now we have Bengali, the nice male, and three little kittens who have been abandoned so the mom (Grisou) can eat for her next litter. Oy oy oy. Naturally, since Grisou is afraid of us, her kittens are little wild things, too. :(

We cannot financially see to castrating and spaying all of them, even if we can catch them. I have no idea what we are going to do. :-/

Here is a crappy phone photo of them that I was able to get before they realized I was there and fled to the four corners of the hamlet:


The mom is the gray and white blob on the left, with a black kitten hiding her face, then two black and white kittens, far right, with Bengali almost front and center.

Thibault Prugne, Illustrator

Two weeks ago, I blogged about a festival we attended near our home where I encountered the work of Thibault Prugne.

Not knowing what was inside, I entered a reception tent and saw this first piece hanging just to my right.

I was charmed by the scene, the perspective, the chiaroscuro. A quick glance around showed that the rest of the works exhibited were by the same artist. J, more perspicacious than I, had spotted the artist's bio posted outside, and I went back out to read up on the expo.

This photo in itself is neither good nor, perhaps, entirely important if you can't read French, but I show it to refer to something therein that might have contributed to the reaction I had to Mr. Prugne's work.

At the bottom of the bio, you see a photo of the artist in the middle of painting. Holding this image in mind of a creator at work, back I went to look at the creations themselves. And after enjoying a few pictures, notably the one below, my eyes welled up with tears.

With the light reflecting off the plastic framing, creating distracting overlays of people and tent framework, it is hard to get the impact, I know, which is why I encourage you to go check Thibault's website, linked above. (I don't feel comfy posting a bunch of photos that are not mine, even if I cite the source and link back.)

It is hard, too, for me to describe the conjunction of elements that brought about the tears. It was something about the combination of saturated and muted colors, ofttimes used simultaneously, which gave an impression of both immediacy and a patina of time. It was something about how the artist's portrayal of whimsical wistfulness bordered on--but didn't quite cross over into--melancholy. It was something about the feeling of movement, the recurrent lines that seemed to pull the characters forward into something new, something beyond the horizon. It was the thought of the artist's hand at work, bringing to life his imagination.

And that last bit gave me my own whimsical--and definitely melancholic--gut-punch of failure to get any art done. Here was someone succeeding beautifully at living his artistic dream. Here was someone doing. Someone putting paint on paper. Even as I felt sadness at my own lack of creating, I rejoiced at seeing the fruit of someone else's labor.

I know I would never create the same way--my style and execution do not lean in the same directions, so this is not about wanting to copy another artist--but I know that if I don't practice I will never create MY best way. I will never learn and grow and improve and someday be able to illustrate my story ideas. I will never put paint on paper and get it out in the world.

So, yeah, I know I have not done Thibault Prugne's work justice but I wanted to blog about it because it was the first time in a long while that I have had an opportunity to be so moved.

Fête du Pain*

*That would be "bread" in French, nothing to do with suffering.

Thanks to a fried who lives an hour away, we found out about a local-to-us festival happening this weekend. I really should pay more attention to goings-on, shouldn't I?

Anyhow, yesterday I helped BB and his family harvest the last of their honey** for this season, so that left only today for the fête. It took place at a lovely pond located just 15-20 minutes from us. We'll have to go back once the place finds its habitual look and function because it looks to be one of the most charming public water spots we've found near us.

There were lots of activities like a tent set up with more modern toys and boardgames and older wooden games. There was a zip-line, a rock climbing wall, pony rides, kayaking, even archery. And I hit the target with all three arrows accorded me for my turn. Let's us all observe a moment of silent amazement in tribute to this astounding feat. :P I think both Sprout and Farmer Boy could get good at the archery, for Sprout improved with each of her arrows, and FB, who was technically too young, shot a well-placed arrow, too, and earned the stand-keeper's admiration enough to be offered a second try. Sadly the bowstring snapped him a bit on the cheek and he didn't want to have another go.

The kids enjoyed a fishing game, though, where they got prizes.

There was also folk dancing and music, as well as bands doing covers, who were quite nice to listen to. The dance group also works with a "living museum" where they show how to use tools from the past (frex, how to card and spin fiber, how to carve wooden clogs, and make rope from hemp...)

And there was much more to see and do, including the old bread oven, which is like a stone cabin built by the pond, where they bake bread to sell at their titular festival. Alas, I could not get more or better pictures because my phone battery died, and we forgot the DSL at the house.

But! But! My absolute favorite part was an art expo by an artist/illustrator who lives in the next department over, whose work actually moved me to tears. I shall write another post about that.

In the meantime, my new icon is from a photo I took of one of his illustrations, which explains the poor quality and reflections from the frame that should not have been in the original.

** I am becoming quite a hand at uncapping honey!


Am I the Wayfaring Wordhack or not

I have been thinking lately of how my handle here doesn't really reflect my life at the moment. I still have stories in me, I am sure. I just don't spend a lot of time with that part of myself these days.

Yesterday, the neighbor who told me about the local beekeeping training called to ask if I wanted to come over and watch him harvest his honey. Naturally I gathered my bee suit and went to see what I had not been able to witness during classes because of the weird and inclement weather this year has thus far shown us.

I don't have gloves yet, though, and despite smoking my hands, I got stung twice. Then BB asked if I wanted to be the one to lift out the honey-full frames and otherwise handle to the hive to get acquainted with the work. I was excited to so and felt a lot more comfortable than I thought I would given that our classes are very full and no one can monopolize a position close to the hive or do enough to master the necessary manipulations.

(one of BB's hives open, with an interested neighbor and BB's brother looking on)

However, for me to work in safety, BB gave me his gloves, and then he promptly got stung 6-7 times. :(

Back at his place, he taught me how to cut the wax caps off the comb and use an extractor.  His son was the first to use the extractor, turning it way too hard and breaking the comb, thereby painfully reinforcing a lesson I had been taught in my classes: Always start slow and don't try to go too fast! We harvested about 50-60 kg of honey, and I got to bring home a kilo (delicious!)

BB's brother called J and had him and the kids come over to have an aperitif with us. Sadly, we had just sat down together when O, BB's son (he turns 25 next month), got stung by a bee. And he is allergic. Given his symptoms and what I had learned from a beekeeper who has allergic family members, I told BB and his wife that they should call the paramedics.

Firefighters showed up 15 minutes later and the medical rescue helicopter 5 minutes later.  They gave O a shot and ended up taking him to Clermont for observation, but he seemed to be doing better overall.

Not fun for O, but it is reassuring to know how quickly help can arrive for us out here in the boondocks.

So, beekeeping: idyllic and peaceful?

Sometimes. ;)


I have no bee icons, so have a black, white and yellow banaquit instead.

For the past couple of months, I have been taking a beekeeping class.  Today we had our next-to-last class at a village about a 45 minute drive from here. The morning was taken up by a walk with a botanist, who taught us not only about plants that are nectar and pollen sources for bees, but about various folk remedies, etc. It was very fascinating. Someday I think I need to have a guide all to myself so I can ask all sorts of questions without fear of boring others or monopolizing the guide's time.

After a picnic in the meager shade to escape the 36°C/97°F temperatures, we spent the second half of the afternoon speaking with a professional organic beekeeper to learn a bit about the business on a large scale, a scale that does not interest me, I might add. I came away with some beeswax candles and soaps made from honey, pollen, and wax, and a bar of shampoo.

The classes have been very interesting but depressing as well when confronted with all the help that bees require of humans. Our instructors mainly talk about "commercial" beekeeping and don't really address natural beekeeping at all, considering it, I think, a bit of a frivolous point of view.

I am glad to have taken the course and have learned much, but whenever I decide to get bees, I think I will be doing things my way. Which, if you don't know already, seems to be the beekeeping way. :P


Parental Advice: Something worth the money

I am one of the first to grumble about insurance policies, about the idea that you always pay but it isn't so easy to get the insurance company to come through on their end; however, let me tell you, when it comes to the insurance policy on Farmer Boy's glasses, Ho Boy!, has it ever paid off.

We have had to have them (seeing glasses and prescription sunglasses) repaired at least 10 times in the last two years with no cost to us. I kind of think the optician might regret having sold us that particular policy. :P (Seriously though, the staff there have always been gracious and understanding whenever we take the glasses in.)

So, yeah, if you are considering insuring your kid's glasses, go for it. :P

That is Farmer Boy, aka Junebug, in the icon, also. My how they grow.

After the fact

I am a little weary of starting all my posts feeling like I only come around after things have passed, after I have moved past or through something; but in the thick of it, I don't have the time or the energy. Still, I feel a need to record things for myself, for those who come after.

I have gone through a rough patch physically and emotionally of late. It began with me sleeping poorly. I injured my knee, and that led to many nights of poor sleep. Then of course, I caught a nasty chest thing, meaning more lost sleep. Then at the end of May, my family was finally ready to do a memorial for my mom, who died last March, and asked me to take care of the video, which, while it didn't really cut into my sleep, it did put me in a raw place, feelings-wise.

Two days after the memorial, my aunt (only 14 years older than I) was found dead in her bed. She hadn't gone to the service, and because my family is often at odds with one another, no one really worried about it. I still don't know why or how she died. If anyone knows more, they have yet to tell me. Death is never nice, but the bitterness, ugliness, and accusations that spewed forth at my aunt's passing were shocking and not at all what I expected when I called to comfort my family.

So my over-tired self was hit with a lot of emotional turmoil, and while on the road, coming home from church (an hour's drive) I ended up having a migraine with scary neurological side-effects that had J calling for help and me getting driven off in an ambulance. Doctor's orders have been take magnesium and rest, so that is what I have been trying to do between the gardening, parenting, and general homesteading. Thankfully J was around during the worst of it. Today, he has taken the kids to spend a week with his mom, giving me a much-needed break. Now if only I didn't have to contend with the allergies that the season has brought me. Have I said that I am one tired chica? Let it be said then: I am one tired chica.

My plan this week is to get lots of downtime, do some reading, do some cleaning (now, don't chide: I really need to take care of some stuff to feel well in head and body), watch a movie or two, potter in the garden, maybe draw (I don't know that I have writing in me right now), and not do any more than I have to.

In other news, one of our May-born pullets disappeared without a trace, but on the same day, we had six new chicks hatch. I have given a momma duck some chick eggs to hatch (last chance for her to be a surrogate mom if it doesn't go well this time) because I felt so rotten at having made her abandon her own clutch last month.  Also, the momma hen that hatched out our first chicks of the season has gone broody again.  Maybe we will have more luck than last year.

Kids and first chicks:

Ti'Loup doesn't quite have the hang of holding chicks yet:

Doesn't Farmer Boy have the perfect farm hands? :P

Gardening photos and other news to follow. I hope.

Homestead Heartbreak

ETA: Just after posting this, while cleaning the kitchen, I watched this video.  Yes, yes, yes. It spoke to a lot of what I feel and have experienced.

In a comment to asakiyume  in one of my posts, I had said I might expand on what has been going on with my flock, but up until now, I haven't really had the heart to do it.

This winter, one of my hens, Winona, started acting a bit scared/depressed. She stayed inside the coop, barely venturing out, and as a result, lost quite a bit of weight. I thought most of it was caused by the fact that we had two roosters who were constantly fighting over the hens, often dismounting them roughly when chased off by the other male. I figured Winona didn't want to have any part of it and didn't worry too much at that point.

I finally separated the flock into two when we got the infrastructure into place, but one of the roosters got really agressive with the hens. They were so scared they wouldn't come out to eat or drink (moveable coop without the necessary room to put in victuals). So, we harvested the rooster and replaced him with Lucky Fluffypants.  Then one day, one of my hens died in my arms (from the other flock). I thought she was egg-bound, but we didn't find anything to suggest that when we cut her open. She was FAT, though. She was a meat bird that I had decided to breed (as was the mean rooster). However, we also found (post-boiling for the cats) a tumor between her breast and her thigh.

Exactly one week later, I had another hen acting like the first (purplish comb, sleeping in the nesting box, a general air of straining), so I called the vet and made an appointment for the afternoon. When we went to catch her to take her to the vet, she died in my arms, too. Ruptured vessel. I decided to go through with the autopsy, and we found her intestines completely covered in lesions and her cavity bursting with fluid. The vet had never seen the like, and the lab said the tissue was too old when they got it to be sure of a diagnosis. They suspected Marek's disease, however. I wasn't sure because my animals hadn't exhibited any of the more classic symptoms.

Then we had another hen (one of those meat birds) start eating our eggs, despite having calcium available. Considering her a ticking time bomb, we harvested her, too, and despite being really fat like the other and having a yellowish liver, she seemed OK.  Having three less hens meant the others were being sorely used by the roosters, so we bought in three cou-nu hens who were ready to lay  (naked necks; yes, they are very ugly).

However, Winona kept getting weaker and weaker, so I took her to the vet. He suggested a fecal analysis to look for parasites. Found out we had a very serious infestation of roundworms, invisible to the naked eye. I started treating the flocks, moved them to new pens, scoured out the old coops (with help from a friend), but two days before the treatment ended, Winona died. This time, I did notice her irises had begun to change color, and she was paralyzed when I found her early in the morning.  I thought she was dead and prepared to bury her, not wanting to go through the labs, etc. again since I was sure of myself, but then I moved her leg and saw that she was still alive.

I was all alone and knew that I could sit with her until she died or put her out of her misery myself. I opted to kill her humanely, but by time I had sharpened the knife, she had died.

So now we have a disease on our farm that is basically impossible to get rid of. It can be vaccinated against, with no guarantee that our birds will not get one of the three strains of it--and the strains are mutating in response to the vaccinations, of course. We can stop raising chickens. Or we can try to breed resistant stock. I just had a hen hatch five chicks. The problem? The dad is the son of the one who died from a confirmed Marek's disease victim.  Logic and protocol say not to breed animals that have shown a susceptibility to the disease. And Lucky's dad was Lila, the one who was so sickly last year. Lila survived, however, when no one thought he would. And this time around, with Lucky, we had the best hatch rate ever. We would have had 7 out of 9 if not for my own carelessness, which really hurts.

The conundrum, the conundrum.  

And to complete my heartbreak, I effectively killed 15 ducklings in the egg by moving the mother duck off her nest to relocate her and her clutch to the new pen we built for our ducks. It was stupid and ill-planned on my part. I didn't want to leave her confined as she was in the dark, with no access to fresh air, greenery, etc., but I should have tried moving her under different conditions. "Live and learn," is all well and good, but when it becomes, "Kill and learn," it is devastating. As our neighbor says, When you work with life, you work with death. But the pointlessness of this loss guts me. I won't allow the duck to sit another clutch this year because we don't want to feed birds through the winter or have to harvest them then, either. :( So there goes a lot of the meat production we were counting on.

Anyhow, this is a large part of why I have been absent of late. That and the garden, of course.

What have you been up to?
Oh. My. Goodness. I am so glad I have a couple of bags of green tomatoes in the freezer, and at the end of this coming growing season, I will be thrilled to have all those green fruits that never ripen.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats to use with green tomatoes and made it for lunch. The pot was licked clean afterwards (partly because I didn't pay attention to the servings but mostly because it was so delicious). I had to threaten Farmer Boy with never eating another thing for the rest of his life to make him taste it, but once he did, he declared he loved it and begged for more. We really enjoy Indian food and miss both our Indian friends in Egypt and having Indian restaurants who would deliver to our home in Maadi. I love to cook Indian food myself, but often I feel like the recipes turn out "Indian-inspired" more than the taste I associate with "the real thing." This recipe, however, tasted totally authentic to this wayfaringwordhack, who, thanks to getting pregnant at just the right moment, had to cancel the leg of her round-the-world trip that would have taken her to India and has, therefore, never set foot in that enticingly beautiful and incredibly diverse country.

I followed the recipe from Serious Eats very closely, but I will put it here with the changes I made.

Green Tomato Curry with Potatoes and Garlic from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries

Ingredients for 2 people :
2 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 small potatoes, unpeeled because that's how we roll in this house, and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
320 grams (8 oz ) green tomatoes sliced into 1-inch segments
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (I accidentally put in closer to 2 tsp)
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped (I forgot this, but it would have been even more divine with it, I'm sure)


1. Pour oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until it is reddish brown, about a minute or so. Stir often. Make sure it doesn't burn. If it does, start over.
2. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Turn heat down to medium. Stir occasionally, and cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Pour in a cup of water (I used homemade soup stock). Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. When the mixture comes to a boil, cover the skillet, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and tomatoes are tender. Stir every few minutes or so.
4. You want the final sauce to be kind of thick, so mash up a few of the potatoes and tomatoes with the wooden spoon. Turn off the heat, stir in the cilantro, and serve.

Bon appétit (or "bhojan kaa aanand lijiye" as Google tells me is the translation to Hindi)


wayfaring wordhack
The Wayfarer

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