Welcome to my Blog. This is my attempt to make sense of Kate and I living in France, the lifestyle,the french, my home and animals and anything else that seems amusing to me. Sorry I have a strange sense of humour!! Please feel free to comment on any of my posts. See below or go to my new facebook page La Godefrere

I plan to update this with weekly news of my adventures and those of my animals at La Godefrere.  You can now look us up on our new facebook page - La Godefrere.

Calva; Processional caterpillars, Ragondins and other pests, the Mayor tells it all: the hunt arrives next door and we establish Ice Station Zebra

January 14, 2018
The weather has improved and it has stopped raining, for the moment! It has grown considerably colder but at least we can get out of the house. More on the weather later but we have just got back from our first repas of 2018. This time at the repas for Gorrron Football Club which had the age-old choice of tripe or a pork chop, with frites of course. It was a very nice meal and I made the mistake (?) at the end of the meal of asking for the homemade calva to be poured into an empty plastic cup as opposed to the normal addition to the coffee. So, instead of a drop of calva topping up my cup I had a whole cup full of local homemade calva. It was very good and very strong calva.

Gorron FC repas

Of course, I had not factored in the after dinner invite back to Emile and Yvette’s for coffee, with naturally more calva, although this time I added it too my coffee. Now I am at home and feeling very mellow. I have decided it is a good time to read the annual report from the mayor of Couesmes-Vauce, Madame Baglin, which arrived yesterday.

The annual report covers a multitude of local issues and what the local commune council had been up to in the past 12 months. There have been three births, one marriage and sadly 8 deaths, so the population has decreased to 380. However, in a bid to excite us all the village hall (sale des fetes) has been completely refurbished at a coat of around 300,000 Euros. It took 9 months to complete and there is to be an open day next Saturday so we can all go and see. More importantly it has been finished in time for the annual dinner for the “Cheveux Blancs” (the white hairs) or those in the commune over the age of 65. That is on Sunday 28th January and Mrs. Parish and I have had our invite and are hoping for a clear day as we need to walk up to the hall as there is a high alcohol tariff with this meal!

The annual report is also full of warning about pests. In France we have a major problem with Ragondins (Coypu). The Coypu is a large rodent and is the only member of the family Myocastoridae.

It is not a native species in France and was introduced from South America in the 19th century for its fur, (as were American Mink and Musk rats from North America). Following escapes and deliberate releases in the 1930’s when demand fell in the global depression they have spread to most regions of France.

Resembling a large rat or perhaps a Beaver with a rat like tail they grow to 40–60 cm in body length and have a 30–45 cm tail. They have a coarse, darkish brown outer fur with a soft dense grey under-fur, also called the nutria. They have webbed rear feet, large bright orange-yellow incisors and a whitish patch on the muzzle. Adults weigh 5–9 kg. 

Ragondin (not popular in France)

There is no doubt that they cause serious damage to the quality of the environment they inhabit with serious consequences for native species and the wider environment. Water quality can be seriously degraded as the natural filters provided by reeds, sedges and other bank side plants are removed and bank sides undermined. The destruction of these plants will also remove valuable sites for the birds and insects that depend upon them either for nesting, important forage or cover, and of course there is the considerable loss of some plant species. There is also a certain amount of economic damage caused to crops, particularly maize, carrots and other roots.

They also spread diseases to humans such as leptospirosis and other similar diseases. There is a policy of trying to eradicate this invasive species which moves along French water course at an alarming rate. In the Pays de La Loire region there have been nearly 2 million coypu and muskrats caught in the past 10 years. They are trapped and then humanely killed. Some friends of ours who have a small lake have captured nearly 50 coypus in the past 2 years as well as a duck and a small cat who were released!

Also, we have been warned about processional caterpillars which infect pine trees in particular and have pointed spinal needles which can cause severe reaction on the skin of humans. So, there are now recommended pest controllers who will come in and destroy them for you. The other species to watch out for is the Asiatic hornet which is creeping north as a result of climate change. These are more aggressive than native hornets and must be reported to the mayor and their nests destroyed.

On a more cheerful and positive note the annual report also covers services to support young people and also to care for the elderly who live in the commune.

One thing lacking is an update on the activities of the local hunt. Yesterday they arrived mob handed in the field that is next to our gite. They were all togged up with fluorescent orange jackets and shot guns. They surrounded the next field across with winter crops growing, and sent in some beaters with dogs. Out of the field at great pace came two deer. The hunt is not allowed to shoot deer at the moment so they ran off and the hunt waited to see if any foxes were chased out. With a lot of livestock locally and many chickens around (including our own!) there is a need to manage the fox population. I was up in the gite painting one of the bedrooms, so I was able to watch the ensuing chaos which seems to typify French hunting. No fat bastards on horses, these are local farmers and working people trying to keep down the number of foxes.

However, the dogs emerged from the field after about 20 minutes with the beaters doing an awful lot of shouting and blowing horns. The dogs burst out of the field and just kept running despite shouts from the handlers. They got a scent of the deer and went off to chase shadows as the deer were long gone. After more than an hour the dogs were still missing and there was no sign of any fox at risk of being shot.

After a couple of hours it started to get darker and the hunters departed, no doubt to a local bar for a few calvas. It was very cold so they would need warming up. There were still a few left trying to locate the dogs!

Mrs. Parish at Ice Station Zebra

I started off talking about the weather, which has an important place here at La Godefrere and in particular with Mrs. Parish because of the gardening. So, for Christmas I bought her a weather station and in the week, we put it up in the garden. It has a rain gauge, temperature measure and a wind monitor. It sends the results back to the house by WIFI and we have a monitor and screen which receives the information and displays it. At the moment there is no rain and the wind is coming from the North-East at a speed of 1.1 km/hr.  The temperature is 3.9 degrees Celsius. Mrs. Parish is very happy with her new weather station. There is a family obsession with the weather and her father was a great one for monitoring and her brother John also ahs his own weather station!

So, after a day of feasting and drinking red wine and very strong calva, I am sat in front of the fire and trying to stay awake long enough to complete the blog. I reflect to Mrs. Parish that life is never dull here in rural France!

Bonne journee


The new year is blown in, the hens get confused; we play chicken hide and seek; the cats get some treats and so do we

January 7, 2018
Well, I left you on New Year’s Eve just as I was about to brave the violent storm and go across the courtyard to select some wine. I managed to successfully make the cave and get the wine. We had a lovely meal and full of steak and wine Mrs. Parish and I settled in front of the fire ready to watch “Le Plus Grande Cabaret du Monde” our crazy French cabaret show. However, the wind was so violent that it disrupted the signal to our satellite dish and so all we could see was a mass of wavy ...

Continue reading...

A Christmas “onctueuses et voluptueuses” animal crackers and for New Year – “A hard rain’s a-gonna fall”

December 31, 2017
It is New Year’s Eve and Mrs. Parish and I are stuck indoors with pouring rain and a howling gale blowing outside. It has been like this since Christmas and seems likely to continue into the New Year. According to the English weather it is the result of storm Dylan although the French have named it Carmen.

So, we have been caught up with the Dylan reference and have concluded that the answer is “Blowin in the Wind”, which is an “Idiot Wind” caused by a “Hurricane” leading to “A...

Continue reading...

Four Christmas treats; three French hens; two outside cats and little owl in a dead tree; Christmas greetings from all at La Godefrere

December 17, 2017
Today it is not raining and Mrs. Parish and I are awaiting the arrival of our son, Ian and daughter in law, Emma so we can officially start Christmas. Of course, arriving with them will be two dogs. The famous three-legged Keeshond called Tommo and the Romanian orphan dog that is Kiki. I sometimes wonder why nothing seems ever ordinary about the animals in my life. The arrival of two dogs will not be welcomed by our cats who will see this as an intrusion and a restriction on their contractual...

Continue reading...

Le jour quand la musique est morte, en France; Madame Meteo does the weather in style; Ambrieres has its Christmas market

December 10, 2017

The whole of France has been in mourning this week after the death on Tuesday night of its most famous rock star, Johnny Hallyday. For the past three nights the news has been devoted to stories about him and his life.

Johnny Hallyday

He was born to a Belgian father in Paris as Jean-Philippe Léo Smet (15 June 1943 – 6 December 2017). He was better known by his stage name Johnny Hallyday which he took from a cousin-in-law from Oklahoma who performed as Lee Halliday. The latter called Smet "Joh...

Continue reading...

Snow and the hens go crazy; the cats turn the screw; the tale of the sheep whisperer and I meet the subjunctive and turn to whisky

December 3, 2017
This week the weather has turned distinctly colder and on Friday we had a light fall of snow. Enough to cover the grass in the orchard. The wind chill factor meant it felt a good deal colder and we immediately lit the wood burner after breakfast. Up until then we had been able to wait until the afternoon.

The arrival of snow caused the hens to go a bit crazy. Usually Mrs. Parish is expected to open up the hens’ house at first light and the hens burst out and start their quest for food. They ...

Continue reading...

I survive a week alone; can I survive conjugation of French verbs? We have rubbish cats; Archie has a “rhume” and it is “Soiree dansante” time

November 27, 2017

Well, all is now well with the world as Mrs. Parish has returned from her visit to the UK. I managed to survive the week and keep the cats and the hens in order. The hens have now started laying again and I think the prospect of the change back to proper management has encouraged them. I have to thank my good friends Ian and Sarah who fed me for a week. Well actually it was Sarah who did the cooking but Ian kindly offered the late-night taxi service to get me home after dinner.

The cats were ...

Continue reading...

Home alone and I meet up with old friends and new friends here at La Godefrere and encounter the mystery of the hens that won’t lay

November 19, 2017
Well, here I am on a Sunday afternoon and I find myself in charge at La Godefere as Mrs. Parish has gone to Britain to visit her mother and other members of the family. Mrs. Parish left on Thursday evening with a car laden down with 60 bottles of French wine and an array of Christmas gifts for the family. She will be away for a week and returns on Thursday morning.

When I say that I am in charge that depends upon whose view you take. The cats clearly believe that they are in charge and consta...

Continue reading...

All quiet on the western front, we join the French on Remembrance Day; the cats take the moral high ground and we are loyal eaters at the Lion d’or

November 12, 2017
Yesterday was Armistice Day in France. Unlike Britain, France marks the remembrance of its war dead by a public holiday. So, the remembrance ceremony always takes place on 11th November.

But this is France and they have their own way of doing things as I have often pointed out. In each of the 36,681 Communes in France there is a ceremony conducted by the local Mayor and representatives of veterans’ organisations. In each commune there is the same message from the President which is read out ...

Continue reading...

Where the wild things are. Autumn Watch comes to La Godefrere and we are amazed at the results!

November 5, 2017
The weather has changed again and this week the fine weather turned colder and wetter as the wind came from north. The north wind brought new arrivals and we had our first flock of fieldfares arrive in the garden to feast on the fallen poire pears at the bottom of the orchard. In fact, after a quiet few months there is now great activity on all our bird feeders.

There seem to be greenfinches everywhere in the garden and particularly at our bird feeder tree where the black sunflower seeds are v...

Continue reading...

About Me

Graham Parish Graham Parish is a former UNISON Trade Union official who retired to France with Kate (a previous self employed gardener and now resident gardener here) to start a new life of wine, cheese, french bread and a vegetable garden on a large rural french farm with holiday gite, and associated animals.


blog comments powered by Disqus