Monday, August 31, 2009

Last day of the month

On this last day of the month we've received a few more pictures from the team enjoying themselves on holiday in Brittany so I'll post them for you below.

The temperatures are still up in the high twenties or, as yesterday, low-thirties (high of 32° yesterday) with cool nights around 10° which makes for very nice mornings. I went to take the mail out this morning and pick up some Bibles from the book store and was impressed again on how much more enjoyable I find the early morning times — the morning sun feels warm against my face compared to the coolness that is still in the air from the night. I think so much more clearly in the morning, the scenery is clearer and brighter, the noise level seems much less as others sleep in an extra hour to pay for their late evening's fun.

I'm an early-morning man. Jesus got up, we're told more than once, "a great while before it was day" — seems like He liked the mornings, too!

"And in the morning, rising up a great while before day,
he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."
(Mark 1:35)

Anyway, here's Raph's pictures from today ...

In the fortified castle waiting for the seige to begin

Claire : faithful to the end

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Weekend news

A very quiet and relaxing weekend for those of us left behind. Sarah has been doing a lot of work on the translation of a verse-by-verse commentary on the Gospel of John by Jeanne Guyon and finding it a very rewarding experience. The copy we have dates from 1790 and has never been published in English but we hope it will be one day as it is well worth it.

Last year, while looking for a certain Christmas carol (The Huron Carol) I ran across a young Canadian singer who had produced a version of it that was exceptional! I went to her web site and bought the whole album and we enjoy listening to it from time to time. The album we bought is called This Endris Night and is very enjoyable.

This weekend I was led there again and purchased a second of her albums, this one called, Call The Names which seems to have spiritual overtones — though that is probably due to my point of view. Nevertheless I'd like to share her music with you: go and see for yourself. Her name is Heather Dale and her web site is simply

Now to keep you up to date with the rest of the community, currently taking a nice break with family and friends in Brittany. Here are today's photos for you, with Raphaël's captions (it would seem they like fish!):

Becky enjoying fresh crab with the rest of us
Pollock we bought at the port

Monkfish straight from the fishing boat
Box of lobsters
Today's bread expedition

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday in Brittany

Five euros and half an hour to spend on the market

Picnic at the beach
Buying some VERY fresh fish at the port

A good spot for rock-pooling

Some kids at the top of the lighthouse

Friday, August 28, 2009

More news from Brittany

Raph is keeping his picture-journal up to date and letting us all share in their doings so I'm passing it on to you as we receive the photos. Here's today's offerings:

Off to the beach

A young salt ready for fishing

A young intrepid rock-pool explorer

With this picture is a message from Davie, "Send this photo to Daddy and Mummy showing them the net what Mam gave to Olly and Olly gave to me"

Some kids not falling off the edge of a cliff

The kids enjoying breton fish soup

Becky enjoying her moules-frites

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A little news

Today I don't have a lot to say but I want to mention a few events that will get reported here later.

1. For those of you who are still waiting for the end of the Campaign the children took at the beginning of the month — it's coming, hopefully, next week.

2. I got a few more photos organized this morning and found a few real nice ones that Nat had taken of the campaign so I went back and included them inside the girls' narrative of day 2. See them here.

3. Raph has taken a week off work so he and Camille left yesterday with all the little ones on their annual trip to Brittany with Camille's parents. They got off late last night making it just past Rennes, apparently. Raph said they'd arrived on the coast at the town of Le Conquet. Proof below shows Becky, David and Claire:

And this one received this morning was captioned, "Three explorers setting out" and included the explanation, "We are in an old house in Le Conquet overlooking the sea. These three are setting off to explore the village and the port."

In the meantime Nathalie, Sarah, and I are seeing that Grandma is taken care of and enjoying a little quiet and the opportunity to organize, clean, and rearrange things.

4. Raph just sent us some more action shots of their holiday. This one is just called Fishing at low tide :

and in this one he says, Someone who knows how to grow rhubarb :

(Good thing he included David in the picture so we could get an idea of scale!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

First Mozzarella made in Marçon!

Well, let's give him a hand: Raph has finally done it! Four years ago when we first started talking about keeping buffaloes and listing all the advantages of their milk over regular cow's milk there was always one phrase that kept cropping up, "And we'll be able to make real mozzarella cheese!"

Here is proof positive. And it tastes great, too!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I'm sorry, but I'm getting behind in sharing our news lately so this post will try to catch up on a few details of what has been happening around here.

Visitors: The visit of Debbie's mother and two sisters took place this week. Her sisters will just be here for over the weekend but her mother is planning to stay a couple of weeks. Jonathan went down to Tours to pick them up at the airport since he's taken the week off work to take care of them and his wife.

I already mentioned that Philip Woolman and Bas drove down from the Netherlands for a few days, arriving Friday evening in time to share a meal with us all. It was very good to see Bas again and to see what a serious, sincere boy he is. We had several good times of sharing with Philip and we tried to encourage him as we listened to his testimony.

This week we read a flyer advertising a festival called Festiv'âne (a play on the words for festival and ass) that was to be held this weekend at the charmingly-named village (population 1,500) of Aube (literally "dawn", in French). Aube is in the departement of Orne, just past Alençon and about two hours north of us. It took place all day Sunday at the ancestral home (more like a castle) of the Comtesse de Ségur who lived and wrote there.

The children were all eager to go so we got things ready to leave Sunday morning. Philipe and Bas had been with us all day Saturday helping with our clean-up of the garage and then coming along as we all went picking blackberries.

So Sarah and Nathalie and I left Sunday morning with Becky, Claire, 'Tine, and Olly at about ten in our "new" C8 for our first expedition in the eight-seater.

They were parking visitors out in the fields surrounding the castle and when we got there there were already hundreds of cars. Everyone was there for a nice day out and the fact that the theme centred around this children's author and her love for donkeys made it a very relaxing day with a good spirit. The day was hot but with a light breeze keeping things from getting unpleasant and as the exposition and activities were spread out over several hectares we got lots of walking. We forgot our camera that day so you'll only have our word-pictures to go on.

One is so used to the flashy, noisy fairs of our day with no limits put on the commercialism used to sell, sell, sell useless items you don't need and don't want — gypsies hawking their baskets, filthy rap music blaring, ice-creams and candy floss, everyone sticky hot and touchy.

What a contrast this day was! With thousands of others, we walked among mature trees along grassy paths admiring the different breeds of donkeys and seeing all the old arts and crafts of bygone days — the blacksmith and his forge, the wheelwright, the saddler. Everything was subdued, relaxed, and pleasant; a testimony to the organisation of the bi-annual event. Next rendez-vous: 2011! Coming?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Download it, print it, post it.

Always wondered how you could keep up with all the birthdays as well as national holidays down here? How you can, easily.

Just for fun I've stuck them all into a spreadsheet and added a bit of colour and it looks quite nice. Print it up and stick it on your fridge to remember us all. Love and God's blessings to you all!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A big day

Today was a big day in so many ways!

First, Becky passed her code de la route (written driving test) which she'd been preparing for so many months. She now goes into the conduit accompagné section of learning with her parents with occasional visits to the driver training school before being able to finally pass her practical test next summer for her 18th birthday. She was extremely happy and thankful that so much effort paid off! In France, driving is taken very seriously and licenses are not given out willy-nilly but need to be earned and can't be obtained before being eighteen years of age.

On a personal level, I achieved a victory of my own that pulled me out of a very long slope of negative occurrences that started in January of this year. It's now all over and I, too, am thankful.

We've been hearing from a lot of people lately and most recently a brother named Kevin, who is in Florida and contacted Raph and says he wants to come live here for a year. After getting our OK, he's looking for last minute flights at the moment so that is something to look forward to. I'll let you know how things progress.

We've had some nice contacts lately with our friends in the Netherlands and the other day Bas emailed us that Philip, who is presently visiting them from the Altona, wanted to come down and meet us, too. They called an hour ago and we're expecting the two of them any moment for a two-day visit. From what we hear from Peter, it seems that everywhere the Lord is getting people of like mind together and overcoming what were perceived as being important differences. This is such a wonderful thing!

The past couple of days have been spent completely cleaning out the small workshop in the garage area and revamping its use to make it more efficient. We got a skip delivered and it's nice to see things go.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Hutterites

God bless them! Their life is an enduring testimony to the truth and simplicity of God's word. Like every true church we run across there is much we can learn from brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is a Canadian documentary made in 1963 but it is just as heart-warming to watch today and it ever was. As the commentator says in closing,

"The secret of their survival? No compromise with the world! And if the pressure of that world should become too great — pull up stakes and move on, as they have always done throughout their history."

Thank you, Peter, for this.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Repotting avacado plants

One of the nice things about holidays is that you can get caught up on all the little things you never seem to find time for during the normal work schedule.

Avocado plants have been decorating the "Upper Room" apartment of Raph & Camille for quite awhile and the decision was finally made to transfer them outside into the garden — so each child has his own plant to take care of.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This year's plum harvest

Camille and Claire with forty-five kilos of organic (no treatment whatsoever during the year) plums from our two trees in the apple orchard. We're quite pleased, and thanks to all the little pickers!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blessed are the meek

Read the words and listen to the song. If you like it what you hear, leave a comment. (By the way, I've tried to make things easier by getting rid of the anti-spam cryptogram — should be easier now.)

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came to him and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Elderberry harvest

La campagne -- Last day!

Here is the final episode of the 2009 "Ziba Army" campaign courtesy of Becky and Claire.

Day 3 — Another Answer to Prayer : the Pond

We set out as soon as we could and took a picturesque little dirt path that goes along the Loir river. A problem, however, soon arose : we came to a "pond" (actually a part of a very small river that had hollowed out). You may not think this a problem, but the donkeys do. They simply hate ponds.

We gathered our courage therefore and tried to cross as if there was nothing unusual. But Sidney was not fooled. He would not go in. We tugged and pushed and coaxed and were finally about to unload and unhitch the carriage to tackle him again, when we thought of praying ; we did so then and there, and the donkey forthwith crossed the river and we all set out again. Thank the Lord ! May we not forget him any more !

The Ruined Castle

There was a wood near there, so, after lunch and a brave swim in the ice-cold river, a few of the soldiers set out to explore it. Céline—one of the greatest explorers in our midst
led the way with a pioneering step. A while later, the little party reappeared on the run and urged me (the General) to come and behold the wonders they had discovered.

I followed them into the brush and, amazingly enough, they showed me among the trees the imposing ruins of a great house
perhaps a castle or at least a manor-house. It was thrilling to walk through them, tall walls rising into the trees, arches, windows, corridors, rooms, a bridge, even a very tall and thin toweror maybe a thick chimneyall surrounded by greenery and little animals. We tried to imagine the past life in that place as we went along. It was all beautiful like a dream or a fairy-land.

The Knighting Ceremony

After a couple hours, however, we had to take the road again and continue our pilgrimage. We walked on for a while, I stealthily in search of a convenient place to perform the crowning ceremony : a dubbing.

As we may have mentioned already, before becoming a soldier
the ultimate rank of honour in the armyone must be an Aspirant. When you are considered to be ready and to have learnt the necessary things, you are allowed to go on a Campaign with the soldiers. At the end of this campaign, if performance is judged to have been satisfactory, you are dubbedthus becoming a soldier. This is the highest ceremony and honour of one's life in the Army!

Our newest member, Queen Mary, was in this situation precisely. She had expended much effort to help and to meet the standards during the whole campaign, and so the Conseil (the General, Le Sage and the Chief Counsellor) decided that she could be dubbed.

For this purpose we stopped in a handy field, and there standing in a circle, a small speech was said, we prayed and she was dubbed. Then we handed around a little snack and all kissed each other
this last being always done at the end of our ceremonies. She is now a soldier. Thank the Lord for a new little friend in our midst !

All the Way Homeon the Railway

From then on, we walked, stubbornly and steadily, all bent on getting home. The end of the way went right along a stretch of a little-used railway, so the soldiers continued on this while the donkeys took the road. We raced, and the donkeys one--a singular event as they're not known for going faster than us !

The Final Feast

Finally back at the hotel, unloading the carriage, we realized, aghast, that there was a certain amount of very good food left. Then and there we settled on the grass and ate up what we could before Raph arrived in the Jumper to bring us home. Now, do not think that we had gone hungry before that ! It was simply a little cherry on the cake of our expedition !

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arrivals and departures

Last Saturday A came to me to say he'd heard that he and M would be staying another two weeks, for which he was very excited. He also said that a couple named F & E, would be coming down for a little visit — just for a couple of days starting Monday and heading back on Thursday morning.

First thing Monday, he and I went to the station to straighten out his tickets and make arrangements for them to go up to Le Mans to meet them at the station around noon then bring them back here.

We put them up in the studio and had some real great fellowship with them both. On Monday evening all the adults got together to share the evening meal and talk. It was really a great time!

Next day we all worked together at cleaning out the new abandoned workshop and getting rid of all the junk that had accumulated over the last year. We called for a skip to be delivered the same afternoon and it was a joy filling it up!

The plan is to now use the newly-built workshop as the common woodworking and general tool area and to use the former, much larger room as a place to store outdoor tools and equipment.

The girls have finally finished their detailed reports of this year's Campaign and it makes great reading. All the posts are listed down the left-hand side of the page — just click on any you haven't read.

In the end F & E's visit had to be cut short by one day and A & M also were asked to return with them on Wednesday morning so Sarah & I took F & E out to the wine bar in La Chartre to be able to spend a little time sharing together.

Their visit has been a tremendous blessing to us all with much inspiration and lots of good counsel. We must remember each other in prayer.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Amos and Ruben

Here's a picture Claire took last night of the two little ones — thought you'd enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Roobies

On their way up to Sweden last year Jonathan and Debbie stopped and purchased a couple of robust bicycles in Amsterdam that have become their trademark method of transportation ever since. Rugged, distinctive, and of exceptionally good quality, they are apparently unusually comfortable since they allow for a more upright posture while being used.

As the picture below shows, the arrival of little Ruben hasn't slowed them down at all as Jonathan easily carries him in a sling affair wrapped over his chest.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grant Jeffrey's Surveillance Society

Our guest today is William Bell who brings us this succinct and well-reasoned critique.

Grant R. Jeffrey has written a book, publication date 2000, entitled Surveillance Society, The Rise of the Antichrist. In it he writes about the eroding of our privacy by government through the fear and alleged threats of terrorism.

Grant sees this as setting the stage for the rise of the Antichrist. This is another example of using current themes to build prophetic theology. It is a great example of playing on the fears and emotional sentiments of people about the invasion of our privacy by the government to bolster the convictions of Grant's prophetic view.

However, Grant has a serious problem in that his context for the rise of the Antichrist is outside of the Biblical domain. He has great things to say about our loss of privacy but he is wholly inaccurate about our lack of prophetic understanding.

Grant makes the mistakes that all futurists make, stumbling over and ignoring God's word on time for the prophetic events to occur.

In his "Acknowledgements," Grant ignores the context on two critical passages he cites. One, the subject of our writing, is the Antichrist.

The Apostle John wrote, "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us." (1 John 2:18, 19).

John says the Antichrist had already come in the first century. He said this was the sign that the last hour had arrived. He stated that the disciples of the first century had experienced the Antichrist among them who later went out from them. This places the Antichrist in a contemporary first century setting — long before the terrorism real or imagined took place in modern society.

Grant seeks to build a case that only has merit through ignorance of the inspired text. Those who read and know the scriptures realize his words are false.

Next he cites Luke 21:28 — a message spoken to the Apostles, Peter, James, John and Andrew, all of whom lived in the first century — and applies it to us today. This is very unfortunate that men would so interpret the Bible.

That it is clear what time Jesus meant is expressed in Luke 21:32, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place." That too was spoken in the first century to a contemporary first century audience.

Yes, we should be serious concerned about the erosion of our freedom and right to privacy through an invasive government. We must equally be on the alert for the invasion of error in our eschatological views which are partly responsible for current crisis.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

Our first glass of buffalo milk!

After three years of raising buffalo here (present population: seven) and a great many trials and errors, Raph and Roo were rewarded today by being able to taste the very first glass of milk!

I'll let Raph give you a summary report later on of all the tribulations and what he's learned over the years but for now I'll let you see that we've finally got to our original goal. (Today's harvest : five and a half litres)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

La campagne -- Day 2

Today's report is the continuation of the 2009 "Ziba Army" campaign courtesy of Becky and Claire.

Day 2 — The Bercé Forest

The next morning, first thing, Nathalie gave Napoleon 1st her baluchon. She had found it at the entrance of the field. We had decided the day before to go to the "Forêt de Bercé". As we arrived we passed by a lovely park with peacocks in it. It was quite charming, and what was even more charming is that there were some peacock feathers on the ground. We picked them up and continued our way. We soon arrived at Bercé.

It is quite a beautiful forest, but the General saw nothing of it for she was reading the fascinating book to us. It was about two orphans that a wicked woman kept playing tricks on. We soon arrived at a signpost written "interdit à tout véhicule" We decided that a buggy was not a vehicle and went straight. But, a few minutes later, we arrived at a tree laying down in the middle of the road.

We all rejoiced at the thought that there was an obstacle to get over, and promptly unhitched the buggy. To our delight, there was a corn
field on our right. (If are wondering why a corn field delighted us so, it must be because you don't know the story of how Napoleon got lost in one on the first campaign. The others had to sing a song so that she could follow the sound and get out of it. Ever since, the soldiers had been looking for another field with corn tall enough to play hide-and-seek in.)

So we ran into the field and played hide-and-seek. When we stopped, the pinnacle of all wisdom told us we should start the battle with the tree-in-the-road. Having premeditated the plan of attack, we got to work at once. The tree was completely confounded as Tortoise and chariot found their way through the ditch and around the enemy. (The method had been to empty the buggy and unhitch it. Le Sage had brought the willing ass first, and then we all pushed the buggy from behind while she pulled it from in front, through the ditch.)

But this was not all. The grande armée formed a chain and the victorious soldiers passed the luggage to each other and into the buggy. Soon they were waving good-bye to corn field, tree and all.

La Vallée du Tic (The Valley of the Ticks)

On leaving the forest, we took the wrong way by going down a steep and frightening hill. We ended up in a valley which we could not get out of. But before we realized that, we had lunch.

Determined to swim, we entered into a field which, according to the map, had a river in it. In reality, it was little more than a ditch. We ate like kings, and then crossed the creek and ran up the hill. Only Wisdom stayed behind. About an hour later, we left, and the reason we called it The Valley of the Ticks is because Napoleon and le Pouce de César found about a dozen ticks each on themselves.

Dead Ends

After we left the field, we decided to try to get out of the valley to go back to Bercé. There was, however, no way to go up that hill again. We had to find another way. After much consultation with each other, people we crossed, and the map, we decided on taking a certain road ; this certain road led us up a twisty path, into the woods. We went higher and higher.

Soon we arrived at a puddle. Donkeys hate water. After a bit of pushing and pulling and because the puddle was not a pond, we got through. We were now on a path of maximum one meter wide and there were brambles and thistles growing on either side. But we stayed optimistic. Soon we arrived into the "wild wood" where the path split into two.

Here we had l'embarras du choix (a big choice) between going to the right, which little path disappeared under some branches before our eyes, and going to the left, straight into a thicket.

We decided to turn around. Down the little path, through the puddle, we finally arrived to a cross in the road. "This is the way!" thought we. So we took it, in a hurry to make up for lost time. We again entered the forest. This time the path split into three. The one on the right went up a steep and stony hill. Actually it was more than a hill, it was a steep hill and the fact that it was stony did not help. We could not go up it.

The middle road did not last more than a few meters, and the left one turned around and joined the original path, going the other way. We took it, and got back to where we were before. Then we took another path and had to turn around again. We finally decided not to go back to Bercé, but to go to La Chartre instead to spend the night near a campsite.

The Road to L'Homme

To go to La Chartre, we had to pass through L'Homme on the departemental road. La Queue was tired and we let him ride in the buggy on top of everything. We were all tired too, but decided to persevere to La Chartre. Progressing along the main road, The Major du Ciel got the idea of waving wildly at everybody who passed by. We were all in a hilarious mood. Céline was uproarious to watch ; she waved at every car with gusto as to an old long lost acquaintance, smiling and laughing all the while. Most waved back, some even hooted, others flashed their lights at us, all with broad smiles and looks of interest or even envy ! (Only the motor bikes never answered (why?).) For many of us, this was the highlight of the campaign ; not because of any particular event, but because of the lovely mood generally that we were all in.

The Second Night (Fireworks and an unlucky swim)

After several more hours of walking bravely into the evening, we came into the village of La Chartre. The Aspirante crossed a school friend walking down the road ; they greeted each other and her friend passed on with many curious questions surely whirling in her head. The campsite, unfortunately, was besieged by a "do" of some sort so we couldn't camp by the river as we had hoped. Never mind ! we sped on until we reached a harvested wheat field next to the Loir river and promptly set up camp there.

First things first : by the time the donkey was unhitched—and even beforehalf of us were in our swimsuits. The General and Le Sage were still setting up the tent when the first splash was heard. But the next moment, instead of shouts of joy, we heard a cry : Le Lièvre (cdn) had dived into the shallow river and bumped and scratched his head up. His head was bleeding which gave us all a scare. Le Sage cleaned it and after calling an emergency-worker friend (Gérard) who came out to take a look it and thankfully declared it not-serious.

Finally, we all settled down to sleep ; but as we were drifting off, a boom suddenly rent the air. We all woke up with a start and started conferring with each other in whispers as to what it could be. We hesitated at first between a volcano and an earthquake!

But then Le Sage called out to us and we crept cautiously out of the tent, one by one. There, in the night sky, wild colors blazed. Something soared high in the night air and then, with a crash, spread blood-red against the sky. Fireworks !

To be continued ... (one more day to go!)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

La campagne -- Day 1

Today's report is from Becky & Claire who want to update you on the details of the just-finished 2009 "Ziba Army" campaign.

Day 1 — The Beginning

We set out with every intention of leaving bright and early; "we" being : le Sage (Nat), the Générale (Rebecca), the Second in command (cdn), the Chief Counsellor (Claire), the Major du ciel (Céline), the Soldat La Queue (Romain), the Aspirante de Haut Niveau (Marie) and the two donkeys : Sidney (Kiwi) and Herbert (Loustic).

So finally we got off at eleven o'clock, three hours later than planned, due to the packing. We walked for a few minutes and then wisely stopped to have lunch. We had brought a book with us for the general amusement (La soeur de Gribouille) , and we read some together after lunch.

Mummy (the Empress) drove us to the hotel, where Nathalie (Le Sage) was hitching one of the donkeys to our little buggy. We loaded it, and then remembered that we had forgotten to remember to take the flag ! Fortunately, Mommy agreed to drive the General back to get it!

As the Campaign progressed, we gave ourselves and each other an increasing number of nick-names. They are so funny that we feel we must give them to you here :

• Rebecca : Le Général de Gaulle.

cdn : Le Lièvre Pompidou => Le Lièvre pompeux => Le Lièvre Magnifique.

Claire : Napoleon 1st (because of her hat and mainly the way she folded it !).

Céline : Napoleon III (the nephew of Nap. I) and especially "le Pouce de César"(which means "Caesar's Thumb"). This is because of a postal stamp of hers that represents a sculpture of a thumb (!) done by a sculptor called "César". She has taken the whim of calling herself this, just for fun, but we use it often... :-)

Romain : Romanov (the Prince of Russia) or Julius Caesar.

Marie : Queen Mary, the Queen Mother of England.

Sidney and Herbert : Tortue (which means tortoise, because of his slow pace) and Tortanne (because it sounds the same).

The Difficult Hill

After lunch we discovered that one of the donkeys, Herbert, was limping and Nathalie had to bring him home. Meanwhile, the rest of us gathered our courage to continue on our own for a while until she returned.

Unfortunately, the first thing we had to do was to climb a steep hill in the woods, and—mainly
convince the donkey to do so ! Nathalie left us promptly and we set out full of heart. At first all went rather smoothly, but very soon Sidney started to think that he would rather not and from then on we had to tug and pull and coax.

After a bit of practice, we devised an ingenious system : Céline and the General coaxed and pulled the donkey from the front, cdn and Marie got behind the cart and pushed, while Claire hurried ahead as a look
out and Romain ran around trying to convince the donkey to move. It was very hot and we were soon all panting and sweaty.

At one more marked effort of Sidney to stop, we thought of offering him some water but he wouldn't drink because the bucket was bright yellow
and maybe he wasn't very thirsty either. ;-)

After that we were preparing to lug on laboriously, when le Pouce de César suddenly had a wonderful idea
the idea of the century, we all agreed afterwards. The bright idea was simply to hold up a nice handful of grass right in front of the donkey and to advance with it. Sidney is so greedy that it worked beautifully.

He always seemed to think that if he advanced just a few more centimeters, he would enter into the joy of that feast. He advanced for a long time before getting any grass, however, but never seemed to think badly of the lure.

When we were about half-way up the hill, a tractor arrived going the other way. Warned by the Counsellor (on look-out ahead), he waited kindly for us at a fork in the road. By the time we arrived, we had had enough of the continuing fears and efforts involved in leading the donkey, so we turned aside onto a little dirt path in the woods, unhitched him and tied him to a tree.

It was about time, too, because a car had arrived as well and was waiting patiently behind the tractor... All our troubles being ended, we settled in the grass and read another chapter together of the book we had brought.

An Answer to Prayer

When Nathalie arrived, we set out again. All went well for a few meters, until we came to a long stretch of road with no shade where the donkey refused to advance. This was nothing new, of course, and we pedestrians just kept going knowing that he would catch up with us if and when he got going.

This time was serious, however, and Le Sage sent a messenger to call us back. Only then did we think of praying. We stood in a circle and did so all together. The donkey started walking and didn't stop until we told him to a few hours later ! Thank the Lord !

A Kindly Farmer (Whoso Giveth a Cup of Water)

As we walked along on our merry way, we came by a cow farm. The Major, the Chief Counsellor and the General hurried on in hopes of being sprayed by an automatic sprinkler we had seen in the distance.

As it turned out, it stopped just out of our reach, to our bitter disappointment. But
be that as it maywhen they returned, they found Le Sage talking with the cow farmer over a map. They were discussing where to go and mostly how to get there when somebody suggested we buy some fresh milk from the farmer for supper.

He declared he would give it to us and wouldn't hear of our buying it, and, sure enough, he poured us out five liters of milk as fresh as could be
it had been in the cow a few minutes before !

This farmer made us think of what Jesus said : "Whosoever shall give you a drink of water in my name, because ye belong to me, he shall in no wise loose his reward." We did not expressly tell this man that we belonged to Christ, but he was very kind, and I do not think he will lose his reward.

He also told us we could sleep in a field of his a few miles off, so we hastened on after this to reach it before dark.

Settlement (Claire's baluchon, cdn's knife and Marie's pen)

We settled that evening in a used-to-be wheat field (it was already harvested). Cdn (Christopher Derrick Neve) had not seen his pen knife since lunch, and was starting to get worried about it. Queen Mary had lost her pen specially made for her by her charming brother, and Napoleon 1st had lost her "baluchon" (a baluchon is a French word we don't know the translation of ; it is a kind of package balanced on the end of a stick that you carry on your shoulder). We took one each to carry practical things in. That evening we prayed about all three things.

The ground was hard and on a slope and as a consequence nobody slept very well. We had been hot all day and felt as though we would suffocate once the tent was closed. This is why we were all thankful when it began to rain, light cool rain

To be continued ...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The campagne 2009

The highlight of every year for the Ziba Army is the summer Campagne with all the soldats, internes, and aspirants being motivated and kept firmly in line by La Générale (Rebecca), seconded by her trusty "Chief Counsellor" (Claire), and helped on with the common sense and everyday wisdom of Le Sage (Nathalie).

If this story is unfamiliar to you, you must be new around here! Besides Nat and Becky, we have Claire, Christopher, Marie, Romain, and Céline — with Olly, 'Tine, and Ludivine waiting in the wings till they are old enough to be able to go.

L'Armée Tsiba is Becky's invention and, with careful oversight by Nat, it represents a year-round club of fun activities, Bible reading, moral lessons, crafts, and reading assignments. If your French is up to it, you ought to download the latest issue of the official magazine of the Ziba Army, Le Politique and have a look.

They have their own flag and their own "national" anthem, their own rules, and ways of doing things. It's all the world like Boy Scouts invented all over again by girls ... for all!

Anyway, the "campagne" is a three-day, back-to-nature, raw, camping trip without any of the amenities of the twenty-first century but with only a donkey to help carry their meager supplies down county lanes and from field to field.

Here's a shot from yesterday about fifteen kilometers from here. Once they're back I plan to get the girls to submit their log of activities so you can appreciate the atmosphere with us.

(By the way, their bilingual newspaper "Le Politique" can be downloaded here.)