Archives for the month of: June, 2009

Here is another post not about goats:

roses & jasmineIt’s just that in this picture alone I’ve now got four or five roses and the philadelphus (or is it stephanotis? left, smells great) out.  The red rose doesn’t smell, but it has the advantage that it blooms well into the autumn. Soon the honeysuckle (top right) will be out too.  Tomorrow I’ll do a proper goat post.

Today I dug up Ginger again by accident on the compost heap.  He didn’t seem that bothered by the camera — or the spade — I expect he’s getting used to it.  As you can see, his skin is matte; that’s because he’s very dusty.  If you look at the pictures you should start at the bottom and work your way up, because he was climbing a hill and re-submerging himself in sawdust-covered hen droppings when he reached the top.  Almost as entertaining as goats, but cheaper, I give you… GINGER! …  … Oh, you have to click once on the image below to get it up to a reasonable size…


Late yesterday afternoon we moved Askur the horse to his new pasture by the lake.  We’re not sure he’s ever seen a large body of water before.  My wife took some pictures — much better ones than I could take, some of them backlit, like these two. I’ll put up some more later.



Here’s a toad I found underneath my computer.  I call him Ginger, for the only drum solo I could ever stand to listen to.


One day I’ll clean up down there.


Oh, all right;  he was down by the compost heap.  I think he was asleep, but he soon woke up.

Here are my puny rhubarb stalks:


But I will not be cruel to the rhubarb, it leads a heathy, outdoor life.  The evil ways of the Rhubarb Triangle stop at the Newcastle ferry.  We don’t “force” our rhubarb to do anything it doesn’t want to do.  And, frankly, it doesn’t want to do very much.

On the other side of the fence stands Holly, on her way to work:



Update. Here is a closeup of Holly’s front, left leg, so you can see where she kneels on it:

holly's front left leg

Today I was planning to do a post about rhubarb, but the camera’s battery is flat.  Here instead are some pictures  I took a couple of days ago of the horses that have been brought into the field below our house.


They’re always shuffling the animals around so there’s enough for them to eat.


These horses come every year for their summer holidays.


They work in a riding school, which is tremendous drudgery


— being kicked in the sides all day long by ten-year-old girls who can’t ride properly — so they deserve the rest.  They’re getting about six weeks, this year.


Afterwards, Alma took me down to the lake to see an enormous horse (she’d checked them all out already).


It’s about 175 cm high, which is smaller than a cold-blooded cart horse, but still very large compared to Alma — who’s 5′-8″ — and the horse behind.


In  the last post, dearie mentioned “niff”; it’s defined by the free dictionary as “a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant”.  It reminds me that when we have a heatwave, northern peoples are prone to all sorts of unusual ailments.  My wife woke me at four this morning, yelling “Musky toes!”.  This was new to me.  So, after repeating it several times, it was a relief when I realised she had only been woken by something like an aircraft noise.

This is my favourite rose in our garden; it’s called Aicha (Petersen, 1962).  There’s a lovely English single one that’s similar, called Mermaid, but it’s not hardy enough for Norway.  Here’s Aicha:


It has just started to bloom and it lasts about three weeks.

This is why I like it.  Firstly, its situation; it draws you round the corner of the house where you’re able to see the meadow and the hillside,


Secondly, I love the way it fades from dark yellow to pale creamy white.  Thirdly, I like bees and it attracts dozens at a time,


Fourth, I like the way it’s big flowers are only slightly ‘double’, rose-gardener parlance for multi-layered petals, and flat.  Fifth, it has a gorgeous scent*.


I’ve never had much success with foxgloves before; so I didn’t know that just when you think they’re over, the blooms begin again:


*My daughter said yesterday she doesn’t like the word ‘scent’ and prefers to say ‘smell’.  My mother won’t say a bottle of ‘perfume’ and will only call it ‘scent’.  I say all three words, but I wonder if this is a hereditary thing that’s skipped a generation?

People who devote their weekends to fixing the car seem to spend less time driving than everyone else.  It’s the same with horses, there’s more greasing and polishing than actual riding.  The other day we had to walk my daughter’s Icelandic horse from the stable he lives in during winter to one of the pastures where he grazes in summer.  I still don’t understand why he couldn’t be ridden there, but never mind.

This is the stable on our neighbour’s farm, it’s mostly for cows — a cowshed, in fact. I think it’s pretty.  All Norwegian farm buildings are painted this red except for farmhouses, which are supposed to be white.  The Norwegian cowshed works on a sort of gravity-feed system and they’re the same everywhere in the country.  After it’s harvested, the hay is kept on the top floor in the wooden bit (the hay loft), accessed from a ramp.

stable ramp

Hay is tossed down every day through a hole in the floor to the animals, who live on the masonry ground floor (I suppose it’s warmer in winter).  The manure drops through slats in the floor down to the basement, from which the farmer removes it once a year to spread on the fields.


It’s about a half-mile walk to where the horses are.


And on the way we saw an enormous hare sitting on a ridge.  Alma saw it too:


Having just been washed, the first thing the horse did was roll on his back; it’s what they always do, apparently.


Then he got up and went about his business —  eating, mostly.

Askur 2

This morning we were in the garden with Alex:


when my wife saw a poppy was out.  Is this a big deal?


Yes, it’s exciting.  They are quite unusual, big and very frilly.


Also it was almost free; I got it and some others on sale at a garden centre last autumn (I may have mentioned this before).

I planted them on this bank, which I also seeded with wild flowers (daisies, buttercups, forget-me-nots, cow-parsley & grasses):


We inherited Alex, he’s fourteen.  Alma’s started calling him Arthur, it suits him better.

If there was any doubt in your mind that my family’s regard for animals is anthropomorphic, here is something to reassure you:  Tango the parrot standing on his breakfast.  He started this daily ritual by flying down and eating someone’s bread; now if we don’t lay him a place he tweets and flies round my head.

tango 1

tango 2

Update. Later on today, I found these carrot-and-honey cookies in the kitchen:


Alma made them for her horse (he’s got a bad leg). I took one, it was good.


It’s a beastly day; cool and wet.  Apart from two short, unavoidable trips I’m staying indoors; so will the goats, hens, parrot and dogs.  Of the domestic and farm animals only the horse and the neighbour’s cows are out, poor things; it’s hard to tell if they mind.   Very good for the garden, rain.


Here’s one of the elegant looking slugs that come out when it rains:


They look as if they were designed in Milan by a handbag company, I love the black and brown combination.  Here’s another:


We’re told they’re eating up the garden, but they’re doing a terrible job.  They must be on a ‘go slow’.


At this time of the year, sunset is taking place almost due north (Magnetic North is on the right hand side of the Blogroll).  I forgot to look at my watch last night when I took this, I think it was close to midnight.  The Arctic Circle begins at the point where the sun never sets at midsummer and never rises in midwinter.  We’re a bit south of that point, it’s always set at least between about 12:30 and 01:30 here (the clocks are forward an hour, for summertime).  In midwinter, it is always light at least between 09:00 and 3:o0 pm — it ought to be the exact opposite of summer, but it isn’t.

I’m not having much luck with the cow’s eye.  If you haven’t been following this, on Sili’s suggestion* I’m trying to find out what shape its pupil is.  It seems to be very like the horse’s eye, but I can’t seem to get good enough natural light to make the pupil distinct.  This cow got fed up with being chased by photographers, at least you can see that in her eye:

cow eye

* Danes have dairy genes.

This morning, Alma wanted me to take a picture of Topsy.

alm tops gate

All of a sudden, we were not alone:


The cows have been around for several weeks.  Bellowing in the field below us, they sound like special effects in an old dinosaur film.  The farmer said, last winter, when they were confined to the cow shed, that these are the loudest cows they’ve ever had. This is the first time this year that they’ve been in our driveway.  It can be a bit of a challenge driving out: not only can they tip cars over if they don’t like them (they like ours, though), but I have to make sure they don’t come charging into the garden — you wouldn’t believe how fast they can eat.

Not all of us are crazy about cows.  Some went to hide in the goat house.


While others didn’t really care:


I went out to take pictures.  When cows see you, they are as curious as any animal:


They want to know what’s going on:



There’s one way to find out if you can eat a camera…


I sat down with them.




I can’t say the goats weren’t curious about the cows.  After I went out, Holly and Misty followed me…

goats 1

but they kept their distance.


camp coffee bottle

Until the late 1960s there was nothing camp about Camp Coffee.  I’m sure the name has something to do with the tent shown pitched in the background and I think the manufacturer was advertising an instant light refreshment for the colonial military, the ones who were tired of tea.  The thing is, though, I have never heard of anyone actually drinking Camp Coffee as coffee.  It is a very good coffee flavouring: if you add it to milk and ice and vanilla ice cream it makes wonderful iced coffee, we always had it for that purpose when I was growing up.  It’s also good for making coffee ice cream if you only have vanilla available — in fact, my mother likes it better than store-bought coffee ice cream.  She may have learnt about it in Australia, where each town has (or had) a milk bar.

First  produced by A. Patterson & Sons, Ltd, of Glasgow — not known to me as  a hub of the coffee trade, then neither was Seattle before Starbucks — when I try to look up the current manufacturer of Camp, I can’t find any reference.  There are clues at Wikipedia:

Camp Coffee … began (sic) production in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd. in a plant on Charlotte St, Glasgow. Almost one-hundred years later in 1974 businessman Daniel Jenks merged with Paterson to form Paterson Jenks plc.In 1984, Twelve years later, Paterson Jenks plc was bought by McCormick & Company Inc. Thereafter, McCormick UK Ltd assimilated Paterson Jenks plc into Schwartz. Interestingly, McCormick claims not to be the manufacturer on their main site, and the product can’t be found on the Schwartz site either.

It could be that the manufacturer is hiding because the label symbolises colonies and racism (apparently there was some trouble in England about its unpc-ness, some years ago).  The Wikipedia entry continues by describing what Camp Coffee is:

Camp Coffee is a glutinous brown substance which consists of water, sugar, 4% coffee essence, and 26% chicory essence. This is generally used as a substitute for coffee, by mixing with warm milk in much the same way as cocoa, but it is commonly found on baking aisles in supermarkets as it is also used as an ingredient in coffee cake and other confections.

On the label it’s called “Camp Coffee and Chicory”, and I think it was always so.   One of the best things about Camp Coffee is its label:

The label is …  a drawing of a Scottish soldier (allegedly Major General Sir Hector Macdonald) and a Sikh soldier sitting down together outside a tent, from which flies a flag carrying the drink’s slogan, “Ready Aye Ready”. Originally the picture depicted the Sikh as carrying a tray of coffee; it is widely believed that this was changed to avoid the imperialist connotations of the Sikh as a servant, although the company does not confirm or deny this. The original drawing was by William Victor Wrigglesworth.

Yes, that’s interesting, here’s the tray on the old label (with its tiny Camp bottle, he, he):

Sikh with tray

The newer version has removed General Macdonald’s bearskin too, though that may be as much because of lousy draghtsmanship as to appease the animal rights lobby. In today’s version, below, the Sikh has normal-sized legs, General Macdonald has his bearskin back and the two soldiers sit together as colleagues:

Camp now

Makes you wonder why they wanted us out, really.   It’s not a very interesting drawing, though; unlike in the earlier versions there’s nothing you could discuss at the breakfast table while you’re eating your cornflakes except that they’re now sitting on astroturf with their backs to the pyramids.  There is no depiction of the Camp bottle any longer; nowadays, they’re probably having a nice cup of tea.

I haven’t been able to find anything about the Sikh or his outfit.  Major General Sir Hector Macdonald is shown below dressed, not as a magician, but as a commander of an Egyptian army brigade:

HectorAMacdonaldThe son of a poor Scottish crofter, he had been apprenticed at fifteen to a draper and subsequently to the Royal Clan Tartan and Tweed Warehouse, in Inverness.  In the photograph he’s wearing what looks like a linen suit.  Ideal for a hot climate would have been a kilt made from linen; the thought must have crossed his mind, though such a garment would have got very creased.

There’s an interesting Wiki article about General Macdonald.  The military commander in Ceylon in 1903, he was being investigated for alleged homosexual relationships when he shot himself dead, poor man.


He had just had his fiftieth birthday.  He left a wife he had secretly married nineteen years earlier (Kitchener disapproved of his officers marrying) and a young son.

This is a vase my wife picked at the reservoir before the goats ate them.  She says she would have liked to have been a professional flower picker.VASE

The goats recently started their summer job with the local council, which is to eat their way around the fenced-in, grass-bermed concrete emergency water reservoir up the road from our house. Here they are on their first morning, on the way to work:
hi ho
They have taken to walking in single file like this. You can almost hear them going “Hi-ho, hi-ho…”

with tops

(That’s Topsy, the dog, at the back thinking I can’t count higher than three.)
Of the goats, Vesla’s obliged by the others to be last in the crocodile (and even then she still gets butted).
more pipes
The council are storing bits of pipe up there; the goats occasionally jump on them. The weather has been very changeable lately.
Then the work begins. They start with weeds:


(It’s worse than spaghetti, everyone looks …


… a bit silly …


… chewing dandelions.)


and work their way up to the leaves. This is a tree they love, I don’t know what it is.



Note the good shot of Holly’s lower teeth:


By this time, they have reached the top of the grass berm and are on the asphalted roof of the reservoir.


It has a good view, and goats seem to instinctively like to go to the tops of things.


And if your job is eating greenery, you might go to an asphalted place to take a break.


This was what happened next:









Vesla doesn’t usually start butting contests.  I think she may have been asserting her right to the leaves I pick her when she can’t reach.








My tulips are still flourishing, in case you were wondering. How long can this last?

“He bites our feet.”

There are many good things about the US’s written constitution: there’s the right of everyone to walk about with bare arms no matter what the weather, but even more important there’s no state religion.  This past weekend was Pentecost: Whitsun if you’re British, Pfingsten if you’re German and Pinsen if you are Norwegian.  In England Whitsun is a bank holiday as well as a Church of England thing and though tradition dictates that it will rain the entire weekend, everybody takes off.  If it weren’t C. of E. — weren’t an event in the calendar of the state religion — but were Roman or Orthodox, Muslim or Jewish, it would be known as a ‘religious’ holiday, though that term works on the opposite principle of ‘bank holiday’.  Whereas bank holidays are holidays for banks and the banks therefore close,  religious holidays (holy days) are intended to be holidays from everything but religion, so everything else closes and the mosques, or whatever, stay open.

(Update: Picky has pointed out that Britain nowadays separates Pentecost and the first holiday of the summer. See his comment below the photographs and, below that, Des von Bladet tells you  the Dutch word for Whitsun.)

Norway has a state religion; it’s a Lutheran country and although not many people go to church, people respect weekends like this past one and things go a bit quiet.  Our neighbour, normally a  slow-moving man, was racing to be finished mowing his grass before 5 p.m. when the church bells start ringing, even though I know for a fact he’s an atheist.  

Here are some pictures of what we were doing.  Some of us were indoors working on an art project of my wife’s:


Others walked around in the woods …


looking at the trees and …

Vesla2smelling the air …

Vesla3Some slept and occasionally barked:



While others de-barked




Due to the above mentioned circumstances (I’m going to be busy helping my wife cut things out and stick them on), there will be no post today, but I’m hoping that some intermittent service will be available tomorrow.