Archives for the month of: November, 2009

My daughter knows that it doesn’t pay to leave things to the last minute; any stress, and the parents start with sarcastic comments and yelling.  So, hoping to get an early start on Christmas, yesterday she organised a wreath- and gingerbread-making evening.  We made four wreaths of about 40 cm diameter and listened to carols.  I figured that if we continued for a week we could sell them for enough money that we wouldn’t have to work next year at all, practically; but nobody cared.  The rose hips come from the garden and the sprigs of Christmas tree come from the pile down the road.

When we woke up, this had happened during the night:

Myself, I’m not a big fan of snø.  I like it when it hangs in the branches, though that lasts for about five minutes.  My daughter and the dogs were delighted.

I’m going to make a prediction about the next big thing.  It’s going to be rocks.  Well maybe not the next big thing, but sometime in the next few years rocks are going to be big in every home; they’ll be used for chairs and table legs and beds and bathtubs and stuff like that or couples will scatter huge boulders in the living room to make a statement.

Why rocks?  Maybe it’s just that I see a lot of rocks, living in Norway, but think about it: people are getting really sick of electronic appliances as Christmas presents.  It’s hard to get thrilled by a laptop or a camera that makes phone calls or a flat-screen telly.  What gets us excited nowadays isn’t owning stuff, it’s owning lots of emptyness: Space, the final frontier and ultimate luxury.    Yesterday I saw an advertisement for a double-height “suite” (= big cabin) on a new cruise ship.  It had a grand piano in it, and I’m guessing it’s not because a lot of rich people are also pianists; it’s because a grand piano signals that you’ve got sooo much space that you’re obliged to try and find things to fill it up.

Rocks are incredibly heavy and serve no purpose.  They are very labour-intensive to clean.  They can really eat up space.  Buy some rocks now.

Unless you’re a Cornish structural engineer I bet you don’t know what mundic means.   It is a Cornish adjective that describes a kind of crumbling concrete.  I came across it here, a weekly column in the Guardian that shows interesting property for sale.  According to Wikipedia,

Mundic was used from the 1690s to describe a copper ore, which began to be smelted at Bristol and elsewhere in southwestern Britain. Smelting was carried out in cupolas, that is, reverberatory furnaces, using mineral coal …

The thing is, as every architect and engineer kno, concrete and copper cannot come in contact, because galvanic action occurs (a bad thing like rusting).  Nowadays “mundic” refers to what happens to Cornish stones that have been used as aggregate in concrete:

The mundic problem
The Cornish word mundic is now used to describe a cause of deterioration in concrete due to the decomposition of mineral constituents within the aggregate. A typical source of such aggregates is metalliferous [in this case, copper-] mine waste. Current professional guidance notes describe all of Cornwall and an area within 15km of Tavistock as being areas where routine testing for mundic is required. The notes go on to state that testing should be confined to buildings which contain concrete elements (blocks or insitu) and that were built in or prior to 1950. However, the notes contain advice that testing may be required where there are visual or other signs of mundic decay. Testing leads to a classification of A, A/B, B and C. A is sound and C is unsound. Classifications A/B, B & C may make properties un-mortgagable.

The next time you’re on a seven-hour flight, tell your neighbour all about the mundic problem; it may have consequences if they apply for a mortgage in Cornwall.

Our neighbour’s cows spend the winter in the cowshed — fjøs, in Norwegian.  The cows are obliged to share the space with our horse and some small ponies.  They have their own stalls, of course.  The horses go outside to graze during the day, but not the cows.  I’m not sure why not, though.  According to my other neighbour, cows will tolerate subzero temperatures quite happily as long as they have hay and silage to eat while the grass is covered with snow.

I love visiting the cows.  I do it quite often, because of the horse.  They greet me with an enormous MOO, the loudest greeting I get.  Occasionally one of them licks my face — hesitantly, at first — with her sandpaper tongue.

Up to a few weeks ago the spruces blocked this view across the lake to the horse farm on the other side.

Given the chance to stand on top of something,

a goat will do so.

I don’t think this is true of sheep.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking the goats here every  lunchtime.  It’s our view towards Oslo twenty kilometres away, and the Oslofjord.  The goats are eager to accompany the dogs and me; they want a last opportunity to forage for the remaining leaves and accessible berries before everything gets covered in frost, or even snow.  This cloud cover gives you some idea of the recent weather, it’s been raining solidly for days.

(And here is an enlargement of the part of the fjord opposite the city centre that Trond is talking about in the comments, below.)

Here are the ripe rowan berries that the goats love.

Rowan grows up through the rocks at the outlook.

There’s the remains of a campfire below on the lower left.  People come up here on summer nights when it’s light, like in an old Bergman film.

We clipped the wool on Vesla’s face, last weekend.  Now she looks more like the others and less like a hedge.

If you read the London Review of Books you may be interested in their blog; it’s been going since March of this year, apparently, but I only just saw it.  I say ‘may’ because it’s not quite the LRB: it’s not a book review, but it’s sort of in the leftish book-reading spirit of the LRB if you like that.  It’s edited — is a blog ‘edited’? — by Thomas Jones, who often writes delightful articles in the magazine itself.  You don’t need to be an LRB subscriber to read the blog, nor to comment.

The piece that convinced me to link to the blog was this short one by Jim Holt on people who’ve been told to pose for photographs with a hand under their chin.  I’m always amazed the victims cooperate.  Their agents ought to have told them it’s a signal: they’re saying ‘I’ve been made to believe my face is uninteresting, it needs all the help the photographer can get’.  I don’t think the T.C. Boyle one he shows fits my category, but the others do, particularly Cynthia Ozick and Don DeLillo.  What John Updike was trying for is anybody’s guess.  None of them is the really worst case: that’s when a finger or two is simply brushing the cheek, with the arm in a next to impossible position, as in the one below.  Try it: she’s got her little finger close to her face, not her thumb; it’s quite painful.

Update, 19 November. Studiolum linked in the comments below to this picture of József Antall, the first post-Communist Hungarian Premier:

It reminds me of this.

Twenty kilometres on the other side of the newly-revealed hillside behind our house, is Oslo.  Last night I took some pictures, with the city lights reflected off some low cloud.  They weren’t especially ‘composed’ — it was almost too dark to see through the viewfinder — but that’s a nice change.  The light came out much oranger than what I saw (I thought it was lavender).  I’m not sure what would cause the colour to change.  They were long exposures, ten seconds at least.

Oslo sky

simian thing(From the last post)

Empty:                I like the mechanical animal face on the black part near the top of
the picture. A baboon, perhaps?

Siganus Sutor:  Darth Vader unmasked, I’d say.

Marie-Lucie:     The eyes do look simian. You can’t really see Darth Vader’s eyes.

Empty:                To me there is a snout. I first thought dog, or stylized image of
dog-faced deity. Then I thought dog-faced baboon.

Here you can see the before and after:

bef-aft forest

It looks bleak, but that’s partly because of the season.  Next year, with the help of some seed, I’m hoping to get some more things to grow at ground level.  That will partly depend on my cunning at protecting any plants and bushes from the cows and goats.  The goats love their new pasture, they were afraid of the forest.


Recently they have been out there on their own every day:

ves åsen
That long greenish strip by the roadside (above Vesla in the picture above) is the pile of branches that were stripped off the trunks, turning them into proper “logs”.  They’ll leave it for a year and then sell it to make paper pulp.

The lumberjack said they’re required by law to leave a few of the tree type they’ve chopped down, as well as some dead and overturned trees.  It’s for birds and animals so they still have material to make nests; nature’s IKEA.


It still seems pretty odd to be able to see this from our house:

dark sky small

It reminds me of the six pine trees in Winnie The Pooh.

house @ pooh corner

It reminds Holly it’s time for lunch.


In the last post Siganus Sutor said that you can’t see the saw, so here it is, its teeth just visible at the very bottom.  It’s small compared to the rest of the machine, but big enough …

Reagans & chopping instrument

… and here, for Marie-Lucie, is the last of this year’s hazel leaves.  As of yesterday these few hadn’t yet turned brown:

hazel leaves

Can you spot the difference in these two pictures, taken a few days apart?

before after trees

Yes, when I took the one on the right it was a sunnier day.  The spruce trees  have gone too.  We’re pleased; they sucked light like a black hole, those trees did.  It wasn’t only those six that were chopped down; the road that runs along the side of our garden is the boundary to a small forest several hundred metres deep, planted fifty years ago.  In the past few weeks the farmer has taken the lot; these spruce were ready, their time was up.  All that remains are some scattered birch and a few hazel bushes.


We had heard about a year ago that it was going to happen.  Then, suddenly, this snorting beast was on our doorstep.

bigchopperWhat a machine!


Look at this:

chopper 2It clamps itself to the trunk with its steel pincers and saws it through, sometimes as close as six inches from the ground.


Then it upends the tree and the two black wheels rotate, which pulls the trunk through the yellow fist while stripping off all the branches.  It all takes two or three seconds.


This one, below, it grasped high up in order to avoid a telephone cable (the one you received this picture though, as a matter of fact).  A lumberjack had to do the cutting with a chain saw.


The driver and operator of the machine was very funny.  He said that people love to watch him, so he always has to be aware of where they’re standing.  The ones he has to worry about are the old men; they act like they aren’t interested at all.  He’ll be about to fell an enormous hundred-year-old spruce and he’ll suddenly spot two old men hiding behind it, who then pretend they’re just walking away.

(What do the goats think?  To be continued…)


Update: Muntz and his colleague Champ can now be seen in 2 videos, here.

“He’s becoming a real cat now.”

Browsing through this summer’s posts, I came across a blurry picture of Holly’s lower teeth:


So yes, they do indeed have lower teeth.  Even Misty must have teeth in there somewhere:

misty 8

Where are they, though?  I think Holly’s teeth look a bit stained.  According to my daughter, our dog Topsy ought to get her teeth straightened.  Dogs can have braces, she says.

It’s not going to happen.