Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Log at a Time

Horse Logging

 "Elroy is a character, a gentleman of 60 or so. His appearance doesn't inspire confidence at first. He wears a battered cowboy hat over his grey hair, his belly hangs over his belt a little, and he hasn't shaved in a few days. He looks more like a stereotypical truck driver than what I imagined a horse-logger might look like. Alex, his nephew, is a different matter. He's tall, muscular and lean at the same time. He wears a black wool railroader's hat, wool pants, wool plaid shirt and insulated rubber boots. In short, Alex looks like what Hollywood central casting would send over for a North Woods logger. But I quickly learn both Alex and Elroy are the real deal."

From Chapter 8, Two Horse Horsepower

"We make steady progress and each day as we walk up the hill to our camp, we still look back and assess our progress. The rafters begin to define the roofline, and the roof framing begins to establish a very handsome shape to the cabin. Accustomed to looking at the walls only, the roof has been just something we've had to imagine. Viewing the log walls without the roof structure makes them appear squat and heavy, but as soon as we have enough rafters in place, the whole cabin begins to look lighter and, very curiously, more substantial at the same time."

From Chapter 14, Working Against the Clock

Here is a link to our website: http://onelogatatimebook.com/Home_Page.html

And here is the link to Amazon to purchase the book:  http://www.amazon.com/One-Log-Time-Douglas-Procter/dp/1475180772/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338134766&sr=1-11

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some Photos from the Fall

 Some photos from our time in France this Fall hereby offered without commentary.  Discuss.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guest Post by Peggy

Around Leran with a Sketchbook and Watercolors

This is Leran's everpresent Chateau which began as a 12th century feudal castle.  By the 19th century, it was the hunting manor of the Count of Foix (according to the Chateau's booking agency).  Today it has apartments and houses lucky guests while visiting Leran.  I spent the afternoon outside the gate looking across the grounds, past the tennis courts and pool.   

Le clocher de l'eglise Leran.  The bells chime every hour announcing the time day and night.

The most visible of the Chateau's spires, easy to spot from anywhere around the area.

Nancy brought some hominy in her suitcase from the States and her friend Angela had grown tomatillos in her garden.  So, what does any self respecting relation of Darrell Oldham's do with these ingredients?  Make posole from Uncle Darrell's recipe for family and friends. 

French village houses have the most wonderful shutters and here are just a few around Leran. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Times They Were A'Changin'

"We are all Undesirables"

Across the doorway of the old village house in Le Sautel a crudely hung clothesline was strung. Suspended from it by tiny plastic clothespins were several boldly-colored graphic posters on flimsy paper. They each displayed an image and slogan in French. The first in line stated "Mai '68".  It was crayola red.  In the center of the clothesline a handwritten sign advertised the posters were 50 centimes each. 
 "I participate, you participate, he participates, we participate, you participate, they profit"

"To work now is to work with a pistol in your back"

In mid-May 1968, I was only weeks away from graduating high school.  I was 17.  Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated just the month earlier outside his motel room in Memphis Tennessee.  It was the day after his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address.  In a few weeks, Robert F. "Bobby" Kennedy, Jr. would be assassinated.  Every day, American troops were being killed in Vietnam.  In late August in Chicago, I would witness National Guard soldiers bearing weapons with fixed bayonets in Grant Park during the Democratic National Convention.  The times they were a'changin'.

 "When the parents vote, the children suffer"

"PRESS--Do Not Swallow"

I stared at the "Mai '68" poster and knew there must be a story behind it.  I made my way behind the table of other items for sale at the vide grenier to have a closer look.  Laying on the stone wall, I discovered a cardboard folder containing additional posters with a rock sitting on top to keep the wind from blowing them away.  As I sifted through the folder, I began to realize that these posters were not for entertainment.  Their message was not subtle, nor polite.  But my rudimentary translations do not include street slang or colloquial expressions.  I knew I was missing the point because I did not know the context.

 "Free Information"

"Be Young and Shut Up"

A gentleman about my age was sitting under the posters in front of the doorway.  I asked him what was "Mai '68".  In a very accented reply, he was obviously shocked when he replied "You do not remember Mai '68?"  I scrambled for an answer, offering something about the Vietnam War.  He pointed to his partner, a woman about my age, who attempted to enlighten me about the May1968 Paris protest riots. 

 "Order Reigns"

"Fascist Vermin---Civic Action"

I do not in any way attempt to encapsulate the scope and breadth of the 1968 Paris riots in this blog.  There are numerous internet links you can source out if you are so interested.  But the 10 posters that I purchased at the vide grenier that day are reproductions from that time.  It is important to realize, however, that during the course of these protests, more than 10 million (10,000,000) French workers were on strike.  That was approximately 22% of the entire work force. They brought the French government to a standstill.  Charles de Gaulle feared for his safety and fled to Germany. The protest initially began at a Paris university.  A group of artists, the Atelier Populaire, then occupied the Ecole des Beaux Arts and took over the printing studios. The result of their movement between workers and artists were a series of street art posters which were credited anonymously and not individually.

"Return to Normal"

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Une Bonne Bonne Nuit

For my 9th birthday, my parents bought me a Singer sewing machine and sewing lessons at the neighborhood Singer store.  Even though it was a portable, it weighed about 12,000 pounds, or so it seemed to a 9 year old.  At least I didn't have to carry it back and forth to my sewing lessons.  I remember that my mother could barely attach a button, but always boasted about the "A" grade she received in her high school sewing class.  Puzzling, yes?  So the burden fell on me to pick up where she left off. 

I loved sewing probably because it was a creative way of expressing myself.  I could choose the fabric, the pattern, and I could tweak the combination endlessly.  Not to toot my own horn, but I got pretty good at it, even venturing into some tailored coats and jackets.  By the time I was in college I discovered the pure magic of second-hand stores and I have hardly sewed another garment for myself again.

Even though I rarely sew anymore, I can't help but appreciate exquisite handiwork of an expert seamstress, especially hand stitching.  So when I was rummaging through a box of linens at a recent vide grenier and came across this nightshirt for five Euros, I knew I had to rescue it. 

The first thing to know about this nightshirt is that it is not soft, so the original owner had to be one tough cookie, or was constantly doing penance, or just never slept well.  I'm sure it has been washed many times in the past, but the fabric is very coarse.  As far as I know, it could even be a locally woven fabric.  The bottom edge is the selvedge, so it has been cut across the grain.  I found this unusual and counter to common sewing practice, which usually dictates cutting length on the straight of the grain.  But this method does utilize the full width of the fabric with zero waste.  There is only one side seam since the pattern is laid out sideways.  Quite ingenious when you think about it.

The hand stitching is so uniform and exact, almost as if measured with a ruler.  But I doubt it. They were that good. The detail work on this garment is remarkable.  There are gussets under the arms allowing for freedom of movement without fear of ripping and tiny gussets on the side seams at the hem for the same reason.  The collar and front placket fit like a glove.  The photo above illustrates the precision with which the seamstress gathered the back panel into the collar.  It is literally a series of the tiniest most even pleats I have ever seen.   

The yoke over the shoulder is unique, with an additional pleated insert.  I have never seen the likes of this, but I am assuming it is also intended to provide some freedom of movement.  The cuffs are a repetition of the tiny even pleats on the back of the garment. 

This is perhaps one of the most beautifully crafted pieces of clothing I have ever seen.  And only to be worn to bed! 

Three Guesses???

On recent explorations through brocantes, vide greniers and marche de puces, we have come across a few items that have stumped us.  But not for long, that is.  What would we do without Google?

When I learned the broad range of uses of Dr. Macaura's "Le Pulsoconn", I was surprised to also learn that it is no longer a commonly-used medical device.  Such a shame!  Once heralded as a universal healing machine as far back as the 1880s, it was an electrical therapeutic device that sent an electrical current through the patient's body to stimulate muscles or increase blood flow.  It reportedly treated rheumatism, gout, lumbago, sciatica, maladies of the nervous system, paralysis, and ataxia.  See what I mean about universal healing?   If you'd like to read the full brochure or learn more about Dr. Macaura, here's the link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/49984254/Pulsoconn-Brochure-1#fullscreen

The Mignon AEG, on the other hand, certainly looks like some sort of medical torture device.  But in reality it was an office work-related torture device.  It is an index typewriter, dating back to 1905 in Berlin Germany.  It featured a carriage or typesleeve, an index card with letters/numbers, and two keys in front.  You positioned a pointer over a letter on the index, struck a key which depressed the pointer, which printed a letter on the paper and advanced the carriage.  Different fonts and character sets could be used for different languages, making this machine extremely versatile.

The most amazing tidbit I uncovered about the Mignon AEG is that operators could attain typing speeds of 100 keystrokes per minute on this little beauty!!  Now how about that for lightning fast texting?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Study in Advertising: L'Illustration

There is a huge stack of L'Illustration Magazine---a Journal Universel Hebdomaire, a weekly publication, at the Depot Vente in Mirepoix.  I don't know if L'Illustration is currently being published, but I was only interested in the issues dating back as far as 1926.  There are lengthy stories on politics, technology, automobiles, travel, any and every topic one might imagine an educated society would devour.  Doug pores over the pre-WWII era issues, deciphering the photo captions.  I, on the other hand, am charmed by the black and white advertising.  The following ads are from L'Illustration issues 1926 - 1931. 

The Edacoto, a an endless lead pencil

Le Kou-to-Kle---was the first 'Leatherman Tool" invented by the French?

Attila will destroy your rodents, bugs and cockroaches...and prevent them from circle dancing.

Somehow, I don't think SHELL is using a plume of nasty black smoke in their ads anymore.

A styptic pencil?  Advertised for "here today, there tomorrow, comfort but sometimes uncertain, but always in a good mood"???

Slaves of your eyes?  This is one I can relate to.

Original Price: 4 Francs

Upcycled into a Two-Bottle Wine Carrier

Le Grand-Pere et le Petit Garcon

I call them le grand-pere et le petit garcon, but in reality, I have no idea whether the man and the boy in the photos are related.  Somehow, I can't imagine that they are not.  I found that I couldn't take my eyes off them, their interactions were so fluid, genuine, tender.  They sat at the next table parallel to us at the Transhumance food orgy in Le Sautel last Sunday. 

The young boy was so captivated by every gesture and word from the older man, and his facial expressions were obviously delight.  The scene all around us was general mayhem, but these two were oblivious to all but their own world.

It wasn't until I went to post the last photo that I noticed the army tank sitting on top of the water carafe.  So the two of them might be talking strategic maneuvers?

Now You See It....Now You Don't

At the Mirepoix market one Monday morning, we watched a woman buying a couple of chickens.  I'd like to think she was buying them for pets, but I doubt that was in their future.  Nevertheless, it's tricky business getting them home in one's car.  The vendor wasn't worried in the least, grabbed a cardboard box with the flaps already folded.  Within a few seconds, he deftly slipped the feathery creature into the darkened chamber and off the woman trotted.     

Portrait of an Artist

We sat at Fontestorbes on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for the gushing water to resurge.  While the rest of us gawkers sat around twidling our thumbs, my sister-in-law Peggy made use of her time sketching the cavern.  Her intensity is captivating, but unfortunately not catching---at least not in my direction.  

While it does not appear that we can lure Peggy into writing a guest post on North of Andorra, I am hoping a few of her watercolors might just appear......

Friday, September 28, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy

We can barely find the time to post anything these days.  We've been here, there and everywhere and that included a Transhumance in a neighboring village.  Also a part of that event was a repas and a vide grenier.  A transhumance is the rounding up of sheep or cattle in their summer pastures and moving them down to lower elevation, winter pastures.  It is a celebrated event here in the Ariege.   We attended, along with my sister Peggy and friends Peter and Angela.  Above, Peter is preparing to dig into his first lamb chop and some white beans after the fantastic salad.  We were supposed to have brought our own plates and silverware but we spaced it out.  Angela, thinking on her feet, quickly went out to the vide grenier and bought up five plates and sets of hardware to eat with.  Below, Nancy is giving me her radiant and most sincere smile.

The sheperds had a table of their own, and each table had a pitcher or two of red and a couple of rose.  They also brought along a bottle of homemade peach brandy, or something akin to jet fuel, to share with some of us.  The waitstaff kept refilling the wine pitchers since the lunch took  three and a half hours from start to finish.

The sheep were successfully moved from their old pastures to their new quarters.  A water trailer stood at the ready to provide water and also shade for the hard working border collies.
I marvelled at the two-man chain saw.  It seemed rather out of place and I thought I wouldn't have been surprised to see it in Alaska or British Columbia, but not France.  But there it was at the vide grenier with a bunch of other antique chain saws.  It would have been quite exciting to see it in operation on some towering and large-girthed tree. 

We had a picnic in Camon one bright and sunny day near the old railroad bridge.  Fergus went wading.

Peggy bought a extra large container of cous-cous from this vendor at the Monday Mirepoix market for our dinner that evening. There was some confusion whether we were getting paella or cous-cous, and whatever it was, it was delicious.

We went to Limoux and had coffee and croissants in the warm morning sunshine after a cool rainy evening.  And this is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  We've been to an open-air concert and film presentation in Leran with Fraser Anderson and Arlene Bishop singing for us.  We've been invited to dinner, gone out to dinner, out to lunch, hosted a dinner and hosted a lunch.  Whew.