Archives for the month of: May, 2009

We were surprised to see this stylish V-necked summer outfit on a recent trip to Oslo.  We had to get one!  

bar b cue

Everyone’s wearing them — at least until Labor Day!

is called Dummkatz, but he looks intelligent enough to me.  I like the collar.


Isn’t Dummkatz the name of a cartoon character?

SDC10161I tried googling ‘Dummkatz’.  All I got was Sili, nothing about a cartoon.  He did make a link to THIS, though.  Thanks, Sili.

I see I haven’t written anything about the goats since their seventeenth of May celebration.  I don’t want to lose my goat audience; they could so easily sign up eløsewhere, like the NSG site (Norwegian Sheep and Goat).  Talking of celebrations: like everyone else, goats have birthdays.  Holly’s and Misty’s are only two days apart in April.  Alma, my daughter, makes them all a birthday meal.



Which they might eat inside the house:

holly in the kitchen

Or outside:


Or both.


And then in the goathouse:


These two pictures are very sharp and the first one is very good of his whiskers.  If you click on them you should be able to get them enormous (for some reason you have to click twice).  Warning: enlargement may frighten dogs, although I tested it 2 feet wide on our Yorkshire terrier and he was okay with it.


Paws of real leather:





Up until now I have written nothing about our hens.  Nowadays we only have three; at one time we had about seven, I think.  The last survivor of out first batch died last year (they live for  roughly six years).  These two are our most recent hens: Cloudy and Jockey.  They are from a breed called Salmon Faverolles, which is now my favourite breed (very friendly, good eggs and feathered feet).P5140064

P5140061They soon turned into this:

P7060141Below, the one in the foreground is a Welsummer. called Regnbuestråle or Rainbow-beam.  I’m including the link so that you can see what our finest cockerel, Leopold looked like.  Leopold was a Welsummer who died defending the others from a dog that got into the garden, a chow.  It made p.3 of the local newspaper, and not just because nothing much happens around here.


Chickens the world over perform the same action.  They scrape the ground with the claws of one foot, then they take two steps back and look to see if they’ve unearthed an insect or a worm. Then, if they have, they eat it.

cloudy, jockey, reinbowstrålle

Here is Regnbuestråle with Blackie and I think Gulegg (a Buff Orpington), Blackie is a very nice, timid hen, I think an Australorps (i.e. Australian Orpington), who is still with us.


What else?  This is Cloudy again.  Hens are the nicest pets and they give us fresh eggs and excellent manure for the garden.  


Previously unseen because they hadn’t been taken yet.  Our Seventeenth of May parade went past the field where he was grazing with a couple of other horses.  When he saw the crowd and the marching schoolchildren he cantered down to show off a little bit.








Then he galloped back.


Apparently the gait he’s doing below might be construed in an Icelandic horse as a “pig pass” (both right legs then both left = bad), but others see it as a perfectly acceptable canter.  I’m not worried, myself.



He’s in much better shape than he was before my daughter got hold of him.  Nobody believes he’s actually fifteen (well over three hundred, in dog years).






Victoria plum blossom.

A Norwegian won the Eurovision Song Contest held last night in Moscow, and the seventeenth of May is a good day to celebrate it, it’s the Norwegian national day.  The seventeenth commemorates the signing of the Norwegian Constitution at Eidsvoll, in 1814.  Although independence was not proclaimed it’s a similar event to the fourth of July in the United States.  It’s not (as I had thought) like the Cinco de Mayo, which is famous in Mexico for something completely different, I now see.

I must admit that before I moved here I knew nothing of Norwegian history and my knowledge is still vague so, here — gleaned from Wiki — is a very short summary of what happened.  The 1814 Constitution is like the one the United States drafted forty-odd years earlier, with the significant difference that Norway has a monarch chosen by the people (represented by parliament).  Having no divine right to rule the monarch is not an absolute ruler; although it’s hereditary, not an elected position, she or he rules at the sufferance of the people.  There was a catch to this in 1814; the first monarch they were obliged to “choose” was Swedish and that’s because of when it happened.  I remember 1814 for Napoleon’s banishment to the island of Elba after his Russian campaign had failed, but it turns out to have also been the year in which Norway was ceded by Denmark, Napoleon’s half-hearted ally, to Sweden.  In keeping with the Zeitgeist, the French and American revolutions, most Norwegians wanted independence; and after winning a small war with the Swedes, they got it.  Well, sort of: the Norwegian parliament voted to form a union with Sweden in which Swedish troops were barred from Norwegian territory, but Norway was a junior partner represented abroad by Swedes.  This state of affairs continued until 1905, when Norway became fully independent and a Danish prince and his British wife, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, were invited to become proper constitutional Norwegian monarchs: Kong Haakon and Dronning Maud.

The seventeenth of May is celebrated by families grilling sausages outdoors, but that begins later; the big event starting in the early morning is the parade of schoolchildren.  In Oslo they march past the royal family.  Their majesties — Queen Sonia dressed in national costume and King Harald in top hat and tails — wave from the palace balcony.  Then they’re flown to other parts of the country to continue waving.  I think they may wave for the rest of the day, and it doesn’t get dark until around eleven at night.  The Queen, along with many women and a few men wear a form of national dress called the bunad.  It’s a 19th Century idea, a product of the national romanticism that still embodies national identity for most Norwegians.  The outfits have regional differences, so, although to me they all look stylistically similar, they do vary in colour and design from county to county.  This one is from around Kongsberg and was sewn for herself by my daughter’s grandmother:

Alma bunad back

alm @ gate

Here’s something slightly linguistic.  Siganus Sutor has a post about a plant in Mauritius, called Liane batatran.

Ipomoea_pes-caprae, (from Wiki Creative Commons)

Ipomoea_pes-caprae, (from Wiki Creative Commons)

It’s a vine that most of us would recognise as a kind of convolvulus, or bindweed; something some people try unsuccessfully to eradicate from their gardens.  The flower I’m used to is white (or  blue-and-white when it’s called Morning Glory).  It’s hard to get rid of.  On the other hand it is really beautiful; in England it brightens up the embankments of railway lines.  I think those people who acquire it free ought to resign themselves to their good fortune.

Anyway, Siganus says in part:

Liane grows on sandy shores with leaves typically shaped in the form of a goat’s foot, from which it derives its scientific name, Ipomoea pes-caprae, or Ipomoea goat’s foot.  It is found sometimes on sandy islands or sandbars, where it’s the only vegetation. It is part of the same family as the sweet potato. (The flowers are very similar.)

He goes on to talk about its potato connection (and, below, he points us to this very interesting linguistic thread about potatoes), but it occurred to me that in English we have colt’s foot, which you can apparently also call Ass’s foot, Bull’s foot,  Foal’s foot and Horse Foot.  Whatever — they’re all feet.  In Scandinavia it’s also called colt’s or horse’s foot — Norwegians say horse, so it’s hestehov here.  Coltsfoot looks like a small bunch of largish dandelions; it flowers in early spring, but then after the flowers are long gone it develops ENORMOUS LEAVES that look like they’re going to eat you up, so many people consider it a weed.  I, of course, quite like it.

Tang -- 13.5.2009

From our correspondent in the Indian Ocean, Siganus Sutor.

10 minutes ago the dog was barking outside. (She still is.) So I went outside to bark at the dog in return. She was busy giving the fright of his life to a small “tangue”, who was running around like a headless chicken, showing his round little bum to the dog — and to me who started to chase him too with the camera. Well, I had to report the wildlife safari that was going on, and report it to nobody else than you. Here’s a picture taken in the dark and in “le feu de l’action”. 

A tangue is an animal native to Madagascar and Mauritius, and this one’s known — to comparatively few people, I’m guessing — in English, as a Tail-less Tenrec. Sig says it was a small tangue, but I’m assuming he means in relation to himself.  According to Wiki, it’s the largest land-dwelling species of tenrec*. It is up to 39 cm (15½ in) long and weighs up to 2½ kg (5½ lb).  In other words, it could be more than FIVE TIMES THE SIZE of Jim’s kitten, Muntz, who weighs one pound.

*Land-dwelling tenrecs? So, what, there are flying tenrecs too?  The sea-dwelling tenrec — the seatangue?  Really?  Seetang is German for seaweed.  Then there’s the Highland Streaked Tenrec (Hemicentetes nigriceps) — that’s the tenrec that abandons his kilt at night and runs naked through suburban Mauritian neighbourhoods.

Here is the view from the window as I write.  You can see it’s about to rain:

cherry blossom2

When I was a student, Columbia University’s graduation was always about May 10.  All the cherry blossom would be out on the main walk east-west across the campus, at 116th Street.  It was a beautiful sight.  When I moved here the blossom would come out a couple of weeks later, but we’re catching up — thanks to global warming, I suppose.  Now it’s cleared up, I’ll go outside.


cherry blossom

Last Autumn I bought ten pots of unexciting-looking, half-dead cowslips very cheaply at a garden centre.  That’s the time to buy things in bulk.  Now they look wonderful again:


Misty seems fond of the blossom:


She loves the morello cherries, I bet she’s thinking of those:

misty2This is what she’s looking at:

misty's blossom


Click on this picture... go on, click...

Readers of Language Hat will know Jamessal, the writer James Salant.  On Friday, Jim found this three- to four-week-old kitten sitting in the middle of the road.

muntz4‘He hijacked my whole day,’ Jim wrote, ‘ first searching unsuccessfully for his home, then consulting vets, then buying kitty food, but he’s cuter than hell — we’re considering keeping him’. So, he, and food blogger Robin Damstra of Caviar and Codfish, considered it:

muntz3And then: ‘We are exhausted; Robin actually has a fever and I was up most of the night worrying about the animals’,  (there’s also Champ the dog to consider). It seems what they were mostly considering was a name, which is now Muntz (probably after the Simpsons’ character). The last I heard was ‘Forgot to say: he weighs one pound’ …


until Jim filled in the details as a comment, below.  I’m moving it here:

The story in full: I was driving home from buying fish when a few cars swerved ahead of me; a cat had darted across the road, dropping a kitten from her mouth right on the double lines. Without thinking really, I stopped the car and grabbed the soiled creature, holding it up by way of apologetic explanation for the two cars stopped abruptly behind me, and then drove off. A hectic minute or two down the road (my dog was in the backseat, eager for a sniff), I started thinking I’d made a mistake — maybe I should have just gotten the kitten out the road for his mother to find — so I pulled into the next driveway to think it over and, amazingly, the next driveway was a vet’s! The vet himself was busy, but a kind lady at the desk gave me a box and blanket, and suggested I ring a few doorbells to see if the kitten and his mother belonged to anybody. I did; one woman offered to take the kitten, saying her sister worked at a good shelter, but by then I’d already grown somewhat attached — I could give him to a shelter myself, thank you. The next person whose door I knocked on said that a cat with exactly the kitten’s markings lived wild in the neighborhood, eating out of trashcans. Not seeing much point on knocking on doors after that, I went back to the vet, who, now available, said the kitten would be better with me (or whomever I chose to give him to) than on the side of the road, or even with his mother (if I could find her) — so we’ve had him since Friday. He seems healthy as can be (eating, sleeping, playing), although I’m supposed to keep him away from our cat, in case of disease. (That’s actually what kept me up: both Champ, our dog, and Lily, our cat, like sleeping in, or at least having access to, our bedroom, and of course that’s where the kitten was.)

Update 20 May ’09:  Muntz is now one pound, five ounces (0.6 kg).


*Ralf’s joke.


 Not many people notice this, but goats’ eyes have rectangular pupils, long horizontal ones with proper 90-degree corners, almost like a horse’s eye:


This is Askur's eye. There's very little contrast between the rectangular pupil and its dark-brown surround; however, if you know it's there I think you can see it.

… only more pronounced.

It makes you wonder what things look like to a goat. Different, that’s for sure. They get very lost and confused about which direction to go when they come to a fence. It’s not a sign to them as it is to us. We think: if you can’t climb over it, follow the fence until you come to a gate. To them it seems to be a hidden surface they can’t penetrate — almost like a sheet of glass. Despite their difficulty, if you hang around with goats they’ll draw your attention to a lot of things which you’d normally miss: other animals moving about, mostly. It comes from their having to watch out for predators creeping up on them, and Stu in the last post pointed out that goats have very good peripheral vision.  Have I mentioned this before: goats don’t seem to have terribly good night vision?  They are said to be afraid of the dark — quite reasonably, they are often surrounded by mortal  enemies — so at dusk they sit down and don’t move until it gets light again.

Two of our goats have brown eyes, but Holly has eyes like a cat’s: they’re both yellow and blue at the same time without blending into green.

Holly's eye

Holly's eye


Holly working.

Holly working. (Click to enlarge.)

An interesting anatomical feature of some vegetarian animals is that they don’t have upper front teeth. Goats still have 32 teeth just like we do — some of usteeth3 — but they’re placed differently. We use our front teeth for biting and the back ones for chewing; whereas cattle and goats have 24 molars and premolars top and bottom to chew with, but their 8 incisors are all attached to the front of the lower jaw. On the top a goat has what’s called a ‘dental pad’

Misty eating windflowers

Misty eating windflowers

it’s a patch of tough skin covering the gums.

Goats eat leaves and tree bark and grass. misty31While a cow uses her terrifically long tongue to wrap around a clump of grass and her lower incisors cut it off, goats don’t have long tongues and they seem to simply bite the leaves against the dental pad. (Inci-dental-ly, in the picture below you can see that goats’ eyes have rectangular pupils.)misty2They swallow their food mostly unchewed. misty4This behaviour goes back to their wild ancestors’ habit of dashing out from under cover to eat and run back before getting mugged by the neighbourhood meat-eaters.  A goat’s stomach has four compartments. The food enters the first, called the rumen, for a short time and then it is pushed back up through the esophagus and into the mouth, where it is chewed and re-chewed. This is cud chewing, and it goes on for  hours. misty5If you see a goat or cow apparently chewing gum, it is more likely that it actually has cud in its mouth.  Cud chewing decreases the particle size of the stalks and leaves, making the chopping function of front teeth unnecessary.

Goats aren’t the only animals with a dental pad instead of upper incisor teeth; most ruminants — sheep, cows, deer and camels — are the same. Horses, like us, are ‘monogastrics’, they have one stomach. Horses don’t ruminate, and like many of us they have upper front teeth.  It’s possible to tell what kind of stomach an animal has by looking at its teeth. No upper incisors means ruminant.  Cows and goats can lose their teeth after 10 years, a condition known as peg teeth. Since their teeth wear down at a known rate (cows chew at a rate of about fifty-thousand jaw movements a day), tooth wear can be used to deduce age.misty6


Misty. It's not really blood, she's just been licking the red salt-lick.

Siganus Sutor, our correspondent in the Indian Ocean, has started a blog — you can look at it here and it’s in the blogroll — it’s about the French language as it is used in Mauritius.  It lists all sorts of words and expressions that are used there; some come via English or from India, but they’re French.  It is really interesting and fun to read.

There was one thing about goats, that Sig put in a comment here yesterday.  I find it so extraordinary that I think it requires a post of its own.  This is what Sig wrote:

In Mauritius “la bouche cabri” (the goat’s mouth) refers to someone who mentions something bad that might happen and who makes it happen. I thought this caprine Cassandra had an English-speaking equivalent in the Caribean, and here it is, amazingly:

51. ‘Im ‘av’ goat mout’
He has a goat’s mouth

A person is said to have a goat’s mouth when he/she wishes another evil, and the wishes are fulfilled. It also applies to one who has the foresight to discern impending danger and forewarn those concerned. In either case, one is likely to say “‘im ‘av’ goat mout’,” or “‘im put’im goat mout ‘pon” whoever suffers.

P. 119, Jamaican sayings, By G. Llewellyn Watson

One can only hope that Norwegian goats never learn the tricks from their faraway cousins.

Sig mentions a blog from Trinidad, Small Island Girl,who says in her own piece entitled ‘Goat Mouth’:

In Trinidad they say you have goat mouth when if you say like don’t do that you’ll cut yourself and two minutes after you cut yourself then they say you have goat mouth …

But she’s really talking about a visit she made in 2005 to the Tobago Jazz festival, on the island where she grew up,  She goes on,

… don’t know where that came from but that was my experience that night every time I say something it happened so there was like a Jazz village set up with people selling art and craft and food it was nice the place was not bad I was impressed and I said I wonder if my favourite artist will be here lets go look low and behold he is there in person I go up to him and started rambling on about how I love him and his art and I have one of his paintings in my living room and I can’t afford his originals yet but I am saving for it one day I was talkng rubbish and he said real serious you can’t afford my art but you can afford this show? and he made me laugh I said you have a point 

Actually it’s a really interesting blog that makes you want to head immediately for the Caribbean, but that’s another story.  I want to know why this expression, ‘goat mouth’ — la bouch cabri — appears in two different languages off the coast of two different continents.  Did it originate in Africa?  If anyone can explain it, please post a comment.