Archives for the month of: July, 2009

2fernBy the fence that runs along the east side of our property is a wood.  Actually it’s more of a forest; more like the dark evergreen forest in a fairytale, a place where witches live and there’s an occasional gingerbread house with smoke curling from the chimney.  We sometimes take the goats through the forest to a rocky point about a twenty-minute walk from our house.  There on a clear day is a view all the way to Oslo, twenty kilometres away.  If you squint, you can even make out Oslo City Hall.

The goats trot in a line, as they do when we take them to the reservoir.


I’ve never to my knowledge actually seen a witch in the forest.  What I have seen is a lot of anthills.  They are all connected.  Apparently there’s an enormous network of anthills that stretches all the way to Chile in the west and Mongolia in the east.  I doubt that they have a proper telephone-like connection.


After ten minutes we come to a clearing.

12pathIt’s bigger than a clearing; it’s where the local authority dug a 40 km-long emergency water pipeline, just in case something goes wrong with the normal one (“Be prepared”, the Norwegian motto).


Removing the trees created a scenic overlook, as well as a strange long line of dead wood.


But what is the point of this walk?


Bugger the view, the point is berries.  So, after some scrambling…


down the side of the rock…


we get to…


some Mountain Ash.  Somehow I lost my trousers on the way down.

8eating mtn ash

This deer is wondering what happened to my trousers.  We hardly ever see deer.


Misty couldn’t care less about my trousers, she loves birch leaves.


Here’s a wild-looking corner of the  house, before I cut the grass the other day:

suspended rose

On the left is clematis, climbing a trellis on the wall.  In the middle is a pink rose.  At bottom right right is the base of a vigorous vine, hops, that really needs a support of its own (there used to be a tree trunk, but it rotted away).  Currently, the hops scrambles up the stem of the rose until it reaches the top, where it grabs on to the clematis’s trellis and keeps going until it cannot go any higher.

The funny thing is the rose; it’s suspended in thin air.  Without the vine tying it to the trellis, it would collapse to the ground.  With such big groups of blooms on their ends, its stems are too long and flimsy to support themselves; they would overturn.


So who is supporting whom?  It’s a symbiotic arrangement, with both sides benefitting, but if the great gardener in the sky were an architecture student, she’d be told that this is a classic example of confused structural thinking.  Actually, I’m not sure she’d even get in to architecture school, poor old thing.

This one, on the side of the house, was rather small.  There are tell-tale signs that it has made a U-turn and is dashing towards the rose before the sun comes out properly.


And, in response to Conrad Roth’s comment, here just for the hell of it is the snail upside down, in striptease format:


To show that I’ve recovered from my rib injury, this morning I stood on a stepladder in the garden and picked the Morello cherries in the photograph below.


Next to the peonies, the tall magenta flower is Geitrams — Goat-rams — aka Rosebay Willowherb or Fireweed, in English.  In Russian it’s Иван-чай узколистный, or Narrow-Leafed Ivan’s Tea.  According to Wikipedia it was used as a tea substitute (when, I don’t know) and by googling I’ve found that some people absolutely love it.  Now I’m going to have to try it.  I would like to include the Mongolian for Geitrams, but I can’t find it and it may not be indigenous.  Oh, all right, in German it’s Das Schmalblättrige Weidenröschen and in French it’s L’Épilobe en épi.

Addendum: In the comments, MMcM draws our attention to this, at

Synonyms—Flowering Willow. French Willow. Persian Willow. Rose Bay Willow. Blood Vine. Blooming Sally. Purple Rocket. Wickup. Wicopy. Tame Withy.
Part used—Herb.
Epilobium angustifolium (Linn.), the Rose Bay Willow-herb, is one of our handsomest wild flowers, and like the Foxglove, is for its beauty often cultivated as a garden plant.

Its tall, erect stems, 4 to 8 feet high, densely clothed with long, narrow, minutely-toothed leaves, terminate in long, showy spikes of flowers of a light rose-purple, hence the name Rose Bay, the leaves having likewise been compared to those of the Bay Laurel. The plant has also been named Blood Vine, because it has a red appearance. In Ireland, we find it called ‘Blooming Sally,’ Sally being a corruption of the Latin Salix, the Willow, really a reference to the willow-like leaves.

Gerard calls it:
‘A goodly and stately plant having leaves like the greatest willow or osier, garnished with brave flowers of great beautie, consisting of four leaves apiece of an orient purple colour.’
It is a native of most countries of Europe. In this country, it has apparently become more common than it was in Gerard’s day. He tells us he had received some plants of this species from a place in Yorkshire, apparently as a rarity, ‘which doe grow in my garden very goodly to behold, for the decking up of houses and gardens.’
It is to be found by moist riversides and in copses, but will sometimes spring up in a town, self-sown, on waste ground recently cleared of buildings: the site of Kingsway and Aldwych in London, adjoining the Strand, where many buildings, centuries old, had been pulled down, was the following summer covered by the Rose Bay Willow-herb, as by a crimson mantle, though no one could explain where the seeds had come from. The same phenomenon was repeated, in Westminster, when other old buildings were demolished for improvements and the ground remained waste for a considerable time. In America, it springs up on ground recently cleared by firing, being one of the plants called ‘Fireweed’ in the United States where it is known as the Great or Spiked Willow-herb, Bay Willow, Flowering Willow, Purple Rocket, Wickup and Wicopy.

The plant is in bloom for about a month.

The individual flowers are about an inch in diameter, calyx and corolla each four-parted; the stamens, eight in number, standing up, form an arch or dome over the ovary, on the green, fleshy, upper surface of which nectar is secreted. Sprengel, in 1790, showed that the flowers, which open soon after sunrise, are protenandrous, i.e. the anthers ripen first, and self-pollination would occur if insects did not visit them. Bees, who much visit the flowers in search of nectar, get smeared by the pollen, which is sticky. It is not left by them on the stigma of the same flower, however, which at this stage is a mere knob, immature and unable to receive the pollen grains. On reaching another flower, further advanced, the stigma, ripe for reception of pollen, has opened out to become a white, four-rayed cross of great distinctness and perforce receives any pollen the insect visitor may have collected as he pushes by to get to the nectar below, and the ovules thus become fertilized.

The dead flowers, when fertilization has been effected, fall off cleanly from the long, projecting, quadrangular pods, which later split into four long strands, which stretch wide apart, disclosing a mass of silky white hairs, in which are embedded the very tiny seeds, a few hairs being attached to the top of each seed. The slightest wind scatters them broadcast over the neighbourhood. All the Willow-herbs distribute their seeds in the same manner, and as the plant spreads extensively by creeping stems it is very difficult to keep it within bounds.

Uses—The leaves of the Rose Bay Willow herb have been used as a substitute and adulterant of Tea. Though no longer so employed in England, the leaves of both this species and of the Great Hairy Willow-herb (E. hirsutum, Linn.) are largely used in Russia, under the name of Kaporie Tea.

Green (Universal Herbal, 1832) reports:
‘The young shoots are said to be eatable, although an infusion of the plant produces a stupifying effect.
‘The pith when dried is boiled, and becoming sweet, is by a proper process made into ale, and this into vinegar, by the Kamtschatdales; it is also added to the Cow Parsnip, to enrich the spirit that is prepared from that plant.
‘As fodder, goats are said to be extremely fond of it and cows and sheep to eat it.
‘The down of the seeds, mixed with cotton or fur, has been manufactured into stockings, etc.’
The young shoots are boiled and eaten like asparagus.
The ale made from the plant in Kamchatka is rendered still more intoxicating with a toadstool, the Fly Agaric, Agaricus muscarius.

Medicinal Action and Uses—The roots and leaves have demulcent, tonic and astringent properties and are used in domestic medicine in decoction, infusion and cataplasm, as astringents.

Used much in America as an intestinal astringent.

The plant contains mucilage and tannin.

The dose of the herb is 30 to 60 grains. It has been recommended for its antispasmodic properties in the treatment of whoopingcough, hiccough and asthma.

In ointment, it has been used locally as a remedy for infantile cutaneous affections.

By some modern botanists, this species is now assigned to a separate genus and designated: Chamcenerion angustifolium (Scop.).


Topsy’s favourite way to sit is with her back legs one step higher than her front.  She seems to find it more comfortable that way.


alm askEvery day, after Alma’s been riding, she takes Askur’s saddle off at the house and one of us rides him bareback to his field by the lake.  She usually lets me do it; it’s an enjoyable little trip of about half a kilometre.  When you round the bend at the place in the photograph above, the road starts to rise and he begins to trot.  Yesterday when this happened, the centrifugal force made me lose my balance.  I’d like to say I’d been thrown, it’s more dramatic, but it was more that I slithered down his left side, as if I was a dripping pocketwatch in a Salvador Dali painting.  I hit the ground heavily with my shoulder and I watched as Askur trotted on without me.  I was winded and it really hurt.  It was in my ribs.  I got up and walked in a circle going Ow! for about half a minute.  Then I followed Askur.  He was waiting at the gate to his field and he looked slightly unsettled.  I patted his withers as if to say that I didn’t blame him for my stupidity.  Without a saddle there’s not much to hold on to, but there is the mane.  The thing is, I forgot.  Askur responded by putting his chin on my shoulder and clasping me to him with his head and neck.  I think he was relieved; I imagine some of the small girls at the riding school where we bought him used to get angry when they fell off, even though he’s the kindest horse.  I led him into his field, took the bridle off him and gave him another pat.  This morning my ribs still hurt.  askur @ lake

Note: Because I’ve messed about with the comments settings so much on this post, they’ve slipped out of their previous order.  If you look around, you should still be able to find the one you’re looking for (none of them has disappeared).  Let’s hope it won’t happen again.

I’m not qualified to write a food blog, but I wanted to show this loaf of bread that my wife made today.  She has claimed that she gets out her aggression by pummeling lumps of dough.  That was before she bought a very fine looking stainless steel machine (it’s not a bread-maker, it’s a dough-kneader), so now she’s a walking time bomb again.  She makes bread every few days and freezes it and it’s sooo much better than the bread in the shops.  She uses very little yeast, a little sourdough starter and she lets it rise for two hours.  The only problem is that Alma & I get bored if it’s always the same, so she uses different recipes and different kinds of flour and seeds.


This loaf is made from gram flour that we bought at a Turkish grocery in our local town.  What is gram flour?  It’s a flour made from ground chana dal, a legume otherwise known as chickpeas*.  Who would have thought you could make ordinary loaves of bread with chick peas.  It looks lovely; it tastes lovely, but not much like chickpeas.

*in the words of Wikipedia





Alma has given Tops a radical haircut for the summer; she even used electric clippers.  We haven’t seen Topsy’s eyes since she was a puppy.

You aren’t supposed to do this, according to the racial purity laws of the Irish Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Owners League, or whatever they’re called.  Alma says the fur will have to grow out again before Topsy can take part in a dog show.  Why is that important?  Because unless she’s won a prize at a dog show, we the owners can’t sell or give away any puppies she has; if we were to try to do so the breeder we got her from could demand her return.  Why didn’t we get a mongrel?  Well, I’m allergic to most dog fur; I can only live with Wheatens and Labradoodles and that lot (and Alex, apparently).  The funny thing is they have such strong, rigorous opinions about dog aesthetics, but you should see the judges themselves; the men all look like Terry-Thomas and the women like Margaret Rutherford.

It’s been a while since I showed any goat & hen pictures, so here’s one even though I don’t have much to say about it.

cloudy & vesla

All right, here’s another one:

cloudy & ves 2

Cloudy loves hanging out with the goats.

1. Raspberries.  They’re just getting ripe now.


2. Lavender.  The paler of the two is French.


Beat that, Santa Claus.

Here’s one of the French ones on our car.


When we went tilting yesterday it was only a ten-minute drive from our house, but it was all uphill.  In the foreground below is an Icelandic horse.


We went in fact to an Icelandic-horse farm:


where there’s an oldish Norwegian guy who teaches tilting.  Here he is, check his foot-long knife for getting stones out of horses’ hooves:


Actually it’s just Alma who is learning to tilt properly, not me.  So, when they rode off …


I was supposed to sit and eat waffles on the steps outside the stabbur:


but I didn’t do that.  I followed them on foot, taking pictures of things I passed.  All over Norway are massive volcanic boulders striated with different stone and moss, and I love them:


In the winter a lot of skiing goes on here.  This cabin by the side of the path belongs to the skiers; ‘fiskbein’ — I suppose we’d call it ‘herringbone’ — is how you go uphill without slipping backwards.  I think ‘slalam’ is originally a Norwegian word, but no doubt somebody can put me right about that.


Never mind skiing, WHAT IS TILTING???  I can hear your frustration at this shaggy-dog story.

Icelandic horses have five gaits;  they can walk, trot, canter and gallop like other horses, but in addition they can do this extraordinary additional movement that is best seen in a moving picture. In Norwegian it’s called tølt, in Icelandic it’s tölt and in English it’s ‘tolt’ or ’tilt’.  There’s a Wikipedia article here, on gaited horses, that includes a discussion of it from Chambers’ 1728 Cyclopedia.

Here is Alma practising:


It really is quite difficult, a knack.  You have to relax your legs, but still indicate to the horse that she should be going forwards, ‘full tilt’, so to speak:


I guess the old Norwegian guy — we’ll call him Einar, because that’s his name — was doing it correctly here:


Einar was very friendly despite the enormous knife.  He can tilt like a pro.  It is one of those walking and chewing gum things that I know I’m never going to be able to master.

Dearie says this photograph comes from a blog called Naked Capitalism.  It’s a great picture of a goat climbing a cliff — and you can’t quite tell if the goat is going to make it — but I’ve had to remove it from here because I don’t want to get in trouble for breeching a copyright.  Of course once other animals have rights it’s going to be the goat who owns the copyright rather than some huge German- or US-owned publishing blob.

The photograph hasn’t been rotated, you can see that from the upright stance of the animal in the background.

Update: Not rotated, but on the other hand as Nij points out below it’s been bloody photoshopped.  They just cut out the goat picture and stuck it on top of a rock picture.  Swines.

Here’s a picture I took, on the way home from tilting yesterday, of our house seen from the other side of the valley.  We live in the white house in the middle, and behind the house is that enormous escarpment, pretty much exactly as our geography teacher drew one when I was about fourteen.


Having spent the morning watching people tilting, I’m going to try and come up with something to go with this title, but it’ll be later today…

Today’s big news: I found a very small snail on the road when I was taking the goats up to the reservoir.  I brought it home so it doesn’t get run over.

snail 13mm

I don’t think it’s one of the French eating snails, though it may be, it could just be a baby.  I hope so, so that it will have some friends. It’s shell’s about 13mm. diameter, whereas they’re about an inch and a quarter.  Here, for scale:

snail 2

Too much clutter?  Take a tip from an architect: if you want more space in your living room, simply…

roomdividerremove the horse.

These very impressive cats live with mab in Moscow and at her dacha.  I asked her in the last post to show us pictures, if possible.

Do I have pictures of my cats….what a question.  My cats are not as unbelievably adorable as The Muntz (and no creature on earth is more adorable than Vesla, charging down the hill, ears flapping wildly), but…

Both of them come from my Moscow pet food store. At night people drop off kittens, puppies, sick animals and strays, and the store takes them in, fixes them up, and lets them roam about and sleep on the merchandise until a customer adopts them.


I don’t know what Rosie is. For awhile I thought she was a Norwegian Forest Cat — please confirm or deny — (Heavens, I don’t know… Well, there’s one that lives around about here, but I don’t know what their distinguishing characteristics are when they aren’t living in a Norwegian forest.  She looks very elegant in her tupperware, and I’ll hazard a guess that she is –AJP) but she’s probably just a mix. She is tiny, afraid of strangers, but a phenomenal hunter. She spends her summer at the dacha killing things — mostly mice, moles and voles (brought to me in bed, of course). She has a penchant for small spaces.

R in tuperware2

Here we have the same dive-bombing, 100-decibel buzzing musky toes as you have, so I’ve got screens up everywhere. Alas, the cats like to punch through them so they can climb in the windows. This picture is Trixie half-in and half-out of my study window. And before you say it — she’s not fat, she’s fluffy. Well, that’s not true. She’s both. But one has one’s pride.


Mab has sent me three photographs taken at her dacha — ! her dacha ! — outside Moscow.  It’s SO interesting to see where the Hatters live.

These are older pictures taken with a not-very-good camera.  The road in the dacha community where my little house is:

small dacha road

the light one morning, taken  after I came out of the outhouse and saw what I call “Hester Prynne” light:

early light at dacha copy

and one of my cats with a spectacular mushroom (I stuck her there to show the size of the mushroom):

trixie and mushroom copy

An update, July 5, from mab (I ought to mention that if you click two times on the pictures you will get them much enlarged and in more detail):  These pictures I took Friday late afternoon with my better camera.

This mushroom definitely looks poisonous….


The Queen Anne’s Lace had a nice bug on it:)  (Click twice to see the bug at a reasonable size –AJP)


I rent two rooms built on to the garage, with a kind of terrace between them. The yard shot is the view from my terrace looking back into the yard. My landlord’s house is a kind of double house (for two families), designed by my landlady’s brother-in-law, who is a relatively famous architect here. The “other side of the house” is the view of his side of the house from the back of the yard.


You can see that we don’t do much landscaping — we just live in the woods.


My dacha community was once just little wooden houses owned by scientists and mathematicians. But after they were privatized, they began to be sold off to rich jerks. The rich jerks generally cut down all the trees, plant grass (all the better to pretend that they are English lords), and built awful brick houses with turrets and windows in odd places (ditto on fake English lords). We hate them, and they hate us. BUT, they are rich and nervous (some walk their dogs with bodyguards…) and the result is that we now have excellent security out here. I don’t lock my car or door at night. A guard drives around three times a day, looking for burglars and assassins. There is something to be said for a good security force, especially if you aren’t paying for it.

As you know by now, the goats spend the day up at the reservoir eating their way round it.  They enjoy their summer job, but in the evenings when I collect them they always seem very pleased to be going home.


Especially Vesla:


Look at those ears go.




When they come to the road …


they walk a little way, and …


they come to a stop .  They want me to go first.  Holly’s Errol Flynn moustache comes from eating sticky evergreen bark.


They’re quite happy walking behind me.


They see all sorts of potential trouble lurking in the shadows.  It’s odd, they weren’t so worried last year.  I wonder if it’s a phase, or if they can remember a bad experience that occurred along here?  I can’t think what that might have been.


The doors of the out-house where I work are open all the time now (the goat-house is the building on the right),


and a small bird just flew in.

boid3hung around for a while,

liddle boidand flew away again.


I think she was looking for food.

A Robin Redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
But a blue-tit or a snake
Wouldn’t bother William Blake.

Sili:  Speaking of notgoats, how’s Muntz?


“I ain’t scared of no dog…