Archives for category: Partly About Goats

The lake is half frozen across and today we had the first snow to settle properly.

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Both Topsy and Jack were absolutely thrilled.







The goats only came out for five minutes.  They don’t really play in the snow.


You can see from the tabletop that we only got about 8 cm (3-4″) and for all I know it’ll have melted by tomorrow.



Still, it’s deep enough snow if all you’re trying to do is shake a frisby to death.






On my birthday, we took the goats for a walk.


Then, in the evening, we had dinner at Aker Brygge, a nineteenth-century former shipyard by the fjord, in the centre of Oslo. There’s a ferry terminal, new apartments and offices, some shopping and lots of restaurants.  At the city-end of the quayside is the Oslo town hall, and across the water is the medieval fortress where after the Second World War Vidkun Quisling was imprisoned and subsequently shot.


I knew vaguely that bewhiskered Italian architect Renzo Piano had designed the relocated Astrup Fearnley Museum of contemporary art at Aker Brygge, but I hardly ever go to Oslo nowadays and I hadn’t seen it until that evening.  (This symmetrical black & white boat goes to and from the little islands in the fjord where city dwellers have weekend cabins.  From Monday to Friday these boats ferry commuters from the far shore.)


I was quite impressed by the outside of the museum.  You reach it by walking down a pier that’s an extension of the wharf. The institution is divided into three buildings: temporary exhibitions are on the left, offices are on the right, and the permanent collection – there’s a tawdry Michael Jackson by Jeff Koons, old cows and butterflies by Damien Hirst, but also decent work by Anselm Kiefer, Bruce NeumanGerhard Richter and others – is at the far end, on the right. They are tied together by an enormous glass curved roof.


The roof has sections cut out of it over the canal.  The cut outs make it look a bit fussy from a distance but it’s spectacular while you’re walking underneath it along the quayside,


or crossing one of the bridges that link the buildings.


There are a few pieces of art outside.  The one I liked best was this huge Antony Gormley figure that’s stuck to the side of the permanent collection building.  I’m not usually a fan of his rusty steel and bronze men but I suppose they’re all about location, location, and in this context the man was an agreeable relief to all the grey steel structure.


What I like best about this museum is the way it has been sited. The quay terminates in this little beach (and a big garden to its left, by the water). There was no sun on the beach when we were there because it was about ten at night, but in good weather during the day I imagine it’s crowded. On the water it was still sunny at ten.


And then you turn around and see Oslo harbour. Back down the canal and framed by the museum buildings are the two redbrick towers of Oslo town hall, this is the place where the king presents the Nobel peace prize every November.


A week later, we came back during opening hours.  We were curious to see the inside.


The museum was showing a big Cindy Sherman retrospective. That’s a big retrospective and, in places, a big Cindy.  The piece below had been stuck to the wall like wallpaper. I noticed the cut around the doorway was beautifully made, very precise; God knows how it was done.


There is one very big wall, lit from the glass roof:


Alma said the circulation – how you move through the sequence of spaces – was awkward.


And she’s right: big galleries, small galleries, over bridges,


up and down steep flights of stairs.  It’s all too chopped up. Figuring out your next move takes your mind away from the exhibition.


One huge open space divided by moveable low partitions would have been more suitable, she said and I agreed.

By that time we were at the Caffe Renzo, overlooking the beach.  It has an excellent view down the fjord towards home.


What makes the Astrup Fearnley notable to me is the large amount of exterior public space and the way the museum has been planned by Renzo Piano to make use of it. The idea that a city can never have too much public space has been a theme of Piano’s and Richard Rogers’s work ever since the 1970s, when they designed the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, together. The city of Oslo planners deserve praise too. I suppose almost every capital has lots of  museums and other cultural buildings, these days. Oslo is no exception: as well as the Astrup Fearnley it has the opera house designed by Snøhetta. That opened in 2009, and next door to it a new museum is being built to house the works of Edvard Munch. Both of these buildings are also by the harbour but over on the east side of town, and they too have lots going on outdoors: outdoor cafes that overlook the fjord and broad terraces that lead down to the water.  They embrace the city.

Here is a peculiar looking brown ram I saw today out in my neighbour’s little pasture.  They sort of rent the sheep, although I’m not sure who pays who, and then they’re returned for the winter to their other quarters a few miles away. If you click on the picture, they’re bigger.


In the blurry background you can see the black sheep of the family and I think there’s a lamb there too.  Today they were silent, but last year they had very deep assertive voices.  None of your hesitant bleating, it was more like Paul Robeson singing Ol’ Man River.


This is a tree stump nearby. I do wish they wouldn’t paint little blobs on the trees; they’re to stop you getting lost, two hundred yards from the car park, but if you’re that anxious you probably ought not to be outside at all.  The fence is to keep the sheep in.  I’m thinking of bringing the goats around tomorrow for a look at the sheep.


There is more snow today, though still not enough to ski on.  Our roses are undeterred by it.


We went down to the dog run and met this so-called puppy:


It is allegedly four months old.  God knows what it will look like by next winter.  Topsy was unimpressed, she must have realised it was only a puppy.


But she loved playing with it.  I quite like Alsatians.  It was a good sport,


…as was Jack.


who is also four months old, but closer to the snow.


The lake has frozen over during the past few days.


Except there’s this strip of water down the middle, I don’t know what could have caused it:


For those of you from further south, this is a common sight in snowy regions:  can you see the row of tiny orange lights in the centre-left of the picture below?  It’s a downhill skiing run.  It’s probably got a special name, a kunstigsnøpist or something, but I’m not a downhill skier so I wouldn’t know.  The lights are to help you find your way down the hill in the dark.  Can you imagine trying to ski fast down a hill in the dark?  I’d rather drink poison.

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Here are the maple trees on the slope behind our house, with the goathouse to the left.


It’s December once again, time to bring out the straw goats.  Here are some very discreet decorations we passed:


It’s snowed again, a tiny bit, and this time it hasn’t melted.

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Some places avoided any accumulation, including this new private venue for viewing the lake, or maybe for fishing.  There was nobody about when we passed by. I think it needs a Trespassers-will-be-prosecuted sign but this is Norway so it won’t happen.


Someone has run over the pedestrian sign.


We were taking a late walk.  Not so late, really, about half-three-ish, but it gets dark so early now.


I got a reasonable shot of the waterfall as we passed.  You’d think it would be easy but the surroundings are quite dark and my pictures nearly always come out blurred.  I’m missing a human figure to give some idea of how big it is – bigger than you’d think from the photograph.


This is the shaky bridge I mentioned the other day. Topsy appreciates the waterfall, I think.


And I like the swirling water.


We met two dogs.  This one liked Topsy.


And then this setter passed us on its way round the lake.  It was alone, it looks as though it might have a gps thing around its neck.  Topsy really liked it but it was preoccupied, just like the joggers.





I have nothing to say about the goats, gangnam style.  Unlike Madonna, Eton and the US navy academy the goats don’t need this kind of media promotion.

Yesterday it was very gloomy; it rained the whole day. This picture taken outside the front door is nothing like what seemed to be happening.  It was a continuous flow, I thought; but apparently not if you take a quick-enough snap: rectangular drops of water, reflecting the hillside upside-down.  In the first drop, at its top right, I think I can see Topsy who was standing next to me while I was snapping away.

This is the top of the pear tree in the garden, in the middle of the afternoon:

Everything conspires to make foggy sunless days like this even darker,

 especially the damp earth

and the leafless branches.

Topsy still wants to go for a brief walk on days like this.  We usually just go down to the post box, which is about three hundred yards (or metres) in each direction.

Autumn is the busy season at the waterfall on the other side of the lake. I’m worried the footbridge is going to be washed away.  I daren’t go over there.

And yet there are small compensations.  The view through this rose bush was one for me yesterday. I’m not really sure why.

My daughter found this video:

Look out!…Here comes Spider Pig.

Some Pig.

Perfect weather; it’s about 25-ish.

Some of our trees are still in blossom, the one above is a so-called ‘summer’ apple. Not all the blossom is alike in colour and size.  This below is from a Bramley cooking-apple tree, the one the goats split in half last year:

whereas this is from a pear tree:

It’s not unlike the blossom on the crabapple bush near the house:

I’ve cut some of the grass, but I can’t bear to get rid of the forget-me-nots and dandylions, so I stopped. Anyway, I like the contrast between the short and long grass.

Elsewhere, butting was taking place for no particular reason I could think of.  Even with shorn coats the goats are staying in the shade most of the time.

I have received a letter from my very good friend Siganus Sutor, in Mauritius:

A colleague of mine has recently sent me a number of photos said to have been taken in India. Among them was one showing a goat on which a very large blue underwear has been pulled — for a reason that is not evident at first glance, though I doubt it would have been done just for the fun of it.

I must say I can’t think why a goat would need such an outfit.  Here are more of the pictures.

What a wonderful country it is.  They even drive on the left.

I had started sending email cards but it seems the picture isn’t going through for some reason, probably my fault, so I’ve had to abandon it.  Anyway, have a good time!

From Holly, Vesla & Misty and the Crown family.

While my camera’s being fixed (I pressed a few mystery buttons and now it won’t take pictures) I thought you might enjoy this series that Julia sent me.  Julia got them from her tía segunda, her mother’s cousin.  In English, that would be her first-cousin-once-removed – I have lots of them, both my mother’s cousins and my cousins’ children –  but I prefer tía segunda: it’s less unwieldy and it’s a nice name in itself.  The pictures are in Powerpoint.  To progress to the next image I press the right-hand arrow button on my keyboard or you could just click with your mouse; as I say, I’m a lousy button-presser, but both worked for me.  It’s below:

Amistades improbables

Two years ago, when the farmer chopped down all the evergreen trees on the slope above our garden, he inadvertently removed nearly all the suitable locations for birds to nest.  I never thought of it until this week, when I saw that at a height of about ten feet (3m.) above the ground someone’s been nailing bijou avian mud huts to the remaining birch trunks.

I started to notice them one afternoon while I was going for a walk with the dogs and goats.  At first I thought they must be someone’s art project (there’s a lot of that sort of thing around here), but bird houses make more sense.  I must have seen at least fifty of them, maybe there are lots more.

Mounted on almost every remaining tree there are four different shapes that comprise what I assume to be four different housing types to accommodate the habits of different species.  This one below is kind of interesting because, unless they are expecting the birds to unscrew the hooks on either side with their beaks, there’s no visible entry.  To scare away small children (or perhaps to attract their interest, it’s all guesswork) the front panel has a Hallowe’en-type imprint, the owl as predator, and there are some slats from a bamboo blind hanging underneath, probably to sharpen claws and beaks.  None of the owls I’ve seen around here would fit in this box; it’s not much bigger than a jumbo box of cornflakes.

This one below has a tiny slit, like a letterbox, that my wife says is the entry.  She says they make it that small so that squirrels can’t get in – I don’t know how she knows this kind of thing – so maybe someone ought to be making houses for the squirrels too.  Empty says that red squirrels can’t remember where they’ve left their hoards of nuts, so maybe they also forget where they live, lose their keys etc., “forget” to pay the rent.

I think the houses are made out of potters’ clay that has been rolled out flat like pastry and then shaped and fired.  That means they won’t rot, but they might get a bit cold without some straw inside; I suppose it’s up to the birds to provide that sort of thing.  The houses all have a yellow number on the side as if someone’s expecting the post office to deliver the mail.

Good luck with that, the postman won’t come up to our house.

Update:  These are homes for bats not birds.  See rr’s comment & link, below.

Gertrude. Photo by Damon Winter/NY Times

Language Hat told me about a story in the New York Times, by Elizabeth Giddens.  It is about a Rhode Island Red hen in Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Take a look.  One thing she says, about passers by who always ask the same questions of her, is:

We’ve considered posting an F.A.Q. sheet — yes, they’re hens; no, they don’t need a rooster to make eggs — but that would spoil the fun. People like working it out among themselves.

It’s true of our goats’ audience too, I’ve thought of painting a big sign: THEY’RE GOATS.  I’d never before reflected that people might actually enjoy asking the questions, but they probably do.

Boxing Day, and every branch and twig is outlined in white.  The goathouse has goaty decorations processing along the top of its fence.

(You can see Vesla looking out of her window.)

(For some reason, this ghost in the snow on the driveway reminded me of Julia’s non-functioning stepladder.)

The living-room heating is switched off because of the Christmas tree.  Until I light the stove in the morning, it’s chilly in there.

There are crystals on the dichroic glass samples:

But last night it was warm,

with candles all round the room.

I remember the name Candlemas from my childhood; it must have been in my school calendar, which was full of mysterious dates that were routinely ignored by everyone.  I don’t know where the candles come in; it’s a celebration also known as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  There are only two candles in this depiction, made by Hans Holbein’s father:

Hans Holbein’s father was also called Hans Holbein; they had very few names in those days.

Candlemas isn’t at Christmas, but in early spring.  It’s somehow  linked to Groundhog Day — though the shadow of the groundhog is projected by the Sun, not by candles, otherwise the result would be the same every year.

It’s been hovering around -13 C  (8.6 F) for some days now.  We have electric radiators, but below you see the main source of our heating during the day; it’s a cast-iron wood stove located in the centre of the house. Jolly effective it is too.  That’s a brass parrot on top.  (The candleholders on either side are pewter copies of an 18th century original, that I bought at the Met in New York; the plates give a flickering reflection of the candle flame.)

All the south-facing windows in the living room currently have frozen condensation on them.  We should probably put in insulated glass, but we like it the way it is: warped old panes of glass that very slightly distort the image of the outside.  You can’t buy them any longer; nobody wants distorted images of the outside world except us, apparently.

I’m  going to cut back the roses in the spring.  In the meantime, they’re one of the few green things left outside.

This is how it is outside;  quite pleasant to look at, but bitterly cold when there’s a wind.

I came down this morning, and, in a daze from Dearieme‘s and Bruessel‘s exposure of the shocking seasonal chocolate scam,  I  found that during the night the previous post (on the autumn leaves) had elicited some delightful seasonal poems.

Thanks to Jamessal we have Richard Wilbur‘s wonderfully (for me) evocative “In the Elegy Season”:

Haze, char, and the weather of All Souls’:
A giant absence mopes upon the trees:
Leaves cast in casual potpourris
Whisper their scents from pits and cellar-holes.

Or brewed in gulleys, steeped in wells, they spend
In chilly steam their last aromas, yield
From shallow hells a revenance of field
And orchard air.  And now the envious mind

Which could not hold the summer in my head
While bounded by that blazing circumstance
Parades these barrens in a golden trance,
Remembering the wealthy season dead,

And by an autumn inspiration makes
A summer all its own.  Green boughs arise
Through all the boundless backward of the eyes,
And the soul bathes in warm conceptual lakes.

Less proud than this, my body leans an ear
Past cold and colder weather after wings’
Soft commotion, the sudden race of springs,
The goddess’ tread heard on the dayward stair,

Longs for the brush of the freighted air, for smells
Of grass and cordial lilac, for the sight
Of green leaves building into the light
And azure water hoisting out of wells.

Principal gave us this, Rilke’s “Herbsttag”:

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Some translations are here, but since Stu didn’t like them and I’m pressed for time, I won’t include any.

So this post is dedicated to finding more great poems of autumn/fall and –because half our readers are located in either the southern hemisphere or the tropics — poems about spring, torrential rainfall or whatever season you consider to be seasonal.

Poems in Hungarian, Creole or Spanish, or indeed anything other than English, get extra points…

As always, there will be no retribution if nothing shows up.

Yesterday evening down by the parking lot a mist was coming in on little cat feet. Baguettes were flying overhead as well as a couple of geese and an enormous pain de campagne.  I don’t know if it was an omen.

Fast forward fifteen hours: two people get out of their car in the same parking lot and head for the little café.  The car begins to roll slowly forward and bumps down the embankment, chased by the two former occupants.  It comes to a stop in the field below. Someone hadn’t used the handbrake; perhaps for a moment they’d forgotten they were driving a stick-shift.

Poor things.  Later, a man and a woman come from a garage and drive it away. It’s pretty obvious the springs and some of the front bodywork will need replacing.

I’m wondering if it will be on the national news tonight.  They often have car accidents.  Always set your handbrake.  You know it makes sense.

Early this morning, my wife drew our attention to a dead body lying in the meadow.  We needed binoculars to see it well, goodness knows how she spotted it.  It’s the black dot behind the ash tree twig, slap in the centre of this picture:

Here is an enlargement:

As I approached, there was no sign of a struggle:

I think it might have been…

a discarded hallowe’en costume.  It was made of felt and there was a piece of satin ribbon sewn around its perimeter that I thought gave it a witchy look.

I hung it on a nearby sapling, where it was immediately inspected by an elderly man who was passing by.  He walked on, but I doubt it will still be hanging there by lunchtime.

Today’s Guardian has a story that, thanks to Dearieme, we revealed nearly three weeks ago.  A Bad Guide: All the news*, All the time, As it happens!

*(about goats)

A friend of mine has sent me a postcard of a shawl goat from Bhutan, wearing  what looks like a baggy old mohair sweater.  It’s of a watercolour by an Indian artist, Shaikh Zayn al-Din, made in 1779.  The original now sits in the V&A in London as part of the Impey collection.

Here’s my version of a long, repetitive article I found at Abe Books on the Impey collection.  First of all, it should not be confused with a later Impey collection, one of Japanese porcelain made in the 1970s by Dr Oliver Impey — his doctoral thesis had been on the working of lizards’ jaws.  These Impeys, Dr Impey’s forebears, were the first European patrons of Indian natural history painting.  Sir Elijah Impey, a schoolfriend of Warren Hastings, was Chief Justice of Bengal. His wife Mary established a menagerie in the grounds of their house in Calcutta and employed at least three artists to paint the birds and animals.  One of them was Shaikh Zayn al-Din.  He trained in the Mughal tradition of Persian court painters; he was from Patna, and likely migrated to Calcutta in search of work when earlier Mughal patronage dried up.

Here is a lineated barbet, Megalaima lineate, on a juniper tree.  The leaves  look like little wings:

Zayn al-Din liked to show his subjects in profile, painted from life, used vibrant colour and paid great attention to detail. A new style emerged with the work in the Impey collection. Mughal artists previously wouldn’t have had the bird on a white background detached from the landscape.  Thanks to the menagerie Zayn al-Din wasn’t obliged to use stuffed specimens for study; he gave a good deal of vitality to the work, which is considered to be important to the development of European natural history painting, both artistically and scientifically.

And here is a red-whiskered bulbul, Pycnontus Jocosus:

Maybe I’ve got it wrong, but from what it says at Abe Books, the bird pictures seem to be colour plates ripped out of old books.  Each is available for $165,000.00, with an additional $3.00 payable for shipping within the United States.

Sir Elijah Impey’s impeachment was unsuccessfully attempted in the House of Commons, in 1787.  His memoirs are available here.


My wife says she just stumbled upon this.  She won’t tell me where (“I’ve forgotten.”).  I’ll be very glad when someone figures out a way to google images that isn’t word-based.

At this beautiful spot overlooking the Delaware River, Robin Damstra and Jim Salant –known to many of us as Caviar & Codfish and as proprietors of The Half Pint Kitchen (purveyors of salted caramel, cinnamon peach pie and fresh mint stracciatella ice cream as well as chocolate sorbet) — are getting married today.  Asked what he would be reading on his three-week honeymoon Jim replied “Well, I’m not sure what will actually be read, but I decided to take Frederick Seidel’s Collected PoemsHumboldt’s Gift, Auden’s Selected Poems, and a biography of Auden”.

We and the goats wish them (and Language Hat, who will be at the ceremony) all the best — and a very happy day.

“Hey, look what’s coming.”

“Holy crap!”

“It’s not very big, really.”

“It’s big enough.  I’m not going anywhere near it.”

And they keep a safe distance, all afternoon.  She’s only  six-weeks old:

and her mother,

who is a Welsh mountain pony, only comes up to my waist.

But at times the foal seems very big

considering she’s so young.

She still hasn’t figured out the best grazing position:

Although that’s not too important yet.

She’s already changing colour to the grey around her eyes.  Eventually she’ll be white.

She still stays very close to her mother.

But they wander about a bit together.

And eventually they go home.

“Very interesting.


A new star has been discovered, the biggest one ever found.  It is 265 times the mass of the sun and ten-million times brighter.  The scientists have decided that it should be called R136a1.

Update (from the Guardian “comments”): It is nowhere near the biggest star ever found, yet the front page story says so. Could someone please correct this?  The biggest star known is VY Canis Majoris, which is at least 1,800 solar radii.

I like Goofy as a name for this one, although strictly speaking “the planet Goofy” would sound the best.  What would the goats think of this, I wonder?

We are from Norway.  We aren’t going anywhere, we have too many animals to look after.  Who are we?