September has gone by, where did it go? One minute we were enjoying the summer sun of August. You turn your back for a moment and here we are in Autumnal October. Shorts have been consigned to the back of the cupboard and we start on the job of tidying up the garden. Although the weather is still quite warm and we are still having sunny days. One of the joys of autumn is that robins come back into the garden. There is something enchanting about sitting in the autumn sun and listening to robins singing from a distinctive branch on a tree.

The swallows have come back too, on the basis that they are now gathering around us waiting for a favourable wind to start their migration to Africa. As I walked around our nature trail this morning the swallows were flying low across the field and feeding. This afternoon they are all gathering on the telephone wires. It has been a lovely sunny autumn day and the ants were as busy as ever at the Ant Experience. The fields are also returning to view as the farmers start to cut down the maize and once again we can see the countryside that has been hidden all summer.

Of course the downside is that autumn also brings with it the falling of fruit from the orchard. So I have spent a great deal of time raking the fruit into a pile and then picking it up, bagging it and going to the local tip to get rid of it. While fruit trees have lovely blossom in the spring, they are a nightmare in the autumn. I would chop them all down and have trees that are a bit more cooperative.

So far this week there have been no chicken escapes. There are two main theories for this change. You may recall that last week I reported on my friend Jacqui’s view that the chicken antics reminded her of Mission Impossible. She then promised to contact actor Tom Cruise to get him to visit. The hens have stayed close to their house as they have been waiting all week for Tom Cruise to arrive. No luck so far. The hens are very disappointed.

The other factor may have been that I mentioned that the tiger we saw last week had been employed at La Godefrere to patrol around the outside of the fence. This would be a good deterrent for the hens. It may be of course that the weather has changed and we have had some rain. This means that the grass has started to grow again and that there is plenty of food in the garden.

The problem with having feminist chickens is that they have minds of their own and seem to have developed a clear political agenda. They keep muttering about owning the means of production as I lift their eggs from the chicken house. They are often seen in a huddle obviously discussing some finer point of Marxist theory.  I suspect that they want to be “Corbynista chickens” (followers of Jeremy Corbyn, the British labour Party leader). He is quite a serious left wing chap and this is apparently his version of the chicken joke:

"Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"That is a very serious issue at the heart of agricultural and transport policy.” 

The onset of autumn has seen the days getting shorter. It is now not light when we get up in the mornings at around 7-30am. The time is set according to the existing cat contracts and they are always at the kitchen window, waiting for breakfast and if we are late there is a lot of cat tutting and hard stares. The chickens join in with this demand and expect to be let out at the same time. They have a discernible grumble if they are not happy and let you know by leaping out of the chicken house the moment the door is open.

In the evening the cats are appearing at the window earlier and earlier for their supper. As part of the contract when the weather gets cold they have some inside time before supper. The cats are trying to argue that as it is getting cold it must also be colder and therefore time to come in. Our cats have a real ability to look famished and freezing as they tap at the window to plead their case. I remind them of the other parts of the contract and the mouse who is still stealing my bird food. Just yesterday the mouse was in the food bin while Minou was sat on some logs watching. The mouse ran right past her into the log pile without her reacting at all. I threaten less cat food.

Cats considering the contract strategy

The hens on the other hand are more compliant and as soon as it starts to darken they are off to bed and the safety of the hen house.

We are also getting to the end of the wasp and hornet season. We had to get rid of one wasp’s nest which was right on the path of the nature trail. Hornets are not usually a problem as they don’t buzz round your head or try to invade your picnic. They sound like a helicopter right over head but usually mind their own business. However (there always seems to be a but in France) from time to time they fly in through a window and become a sinister menace as of course inside their buzz is even louder and you have to deal with them as their sting is quite painful.

Last week I was here on my own and when I went to bed and turned the light off I heard this helicopter noise in the bedroom. So I had to put the light on and find the hornet. It is impossible to swish the hornet to the window as this seems to annoy the hell out of them and the buzzing gets louder. I can’t leave it as there is no way you could sleep with a hornet in the room so I had no choice but to kill it. A fight with a large book turned out to not be a good plan as an angry hornet is a bad thing so I went to get the fly/wasp spray and directed a blast at the hornet. This will disable the hornet pretty quickly but I failed to keep the hornet in view and it dropped somewhere in the bedroom. 

This was a big mistake as I now had a wounded hornet somewhere in my bedroom. I had to find it as I risked either a hornet as a bed companion or putting a bare foot on top of it. Neither is to be recommended so I had to do a finger tip search of the bedroom. All of this is at about 1am in the morning. After an extensive search I found it under a sock. Now the next problem is to make sure it is dead before picking it to throw out of the window. A whack with a slipper saw it off and then I used a piece of card to transport it to the window. Safe at last I get back into bed and sleep until about 5am when I hear the zzzzzing of a mosquito dive bombing my head. Once again I reflect upon the peace and quiet of rural France!

The once constant wonder of France is of course the lovely wine that is available. This week saw the final week of the local supermarket Foire aux vins. So I had to make the most of it and went down to Hyper U in Mayenne to buy some more wine. I went with a list and had the place to myself with the help of a member of staff. We had quite a chat about the range of wine and the difference in price in Britain. Mind you a lot of my purchases seem destined for the export market to family in the UK. Mrs. Parish was in the UK this week and has lengthy orders from the family and we will have to organise a trip before Christmas to deliver. Most of it appears to be set to find its way to Teignmouth for my sister in law Liz. To be fair there is not a lot to do in Teignmouth!

The wine choice and price are pretty amazing and there are some special offers of buying 5 bottles and getting one free. There also some 305 off offers and so I had to buy some expensive Chablis. The wine cave is now full once again which is no bad thing as if there is any bad weather we will have plenty of supplies in. As is normal for the foire aux vins there is a section for foreign wines. This year there were three choices from Portugal which nobody seemed to be buying. The French love their red wine so there is a massive choice of reds from all over France. There is also a good choice of rose wine at very good prices. Much better than in the UK where the rose all seems to come from California and be very expensive.

Everyone should have a healthy wine cave

Talking of wine suggests that it is about time for a stroll over to the cave to select some wine for dinner tonight. Something to have with roast pork, possibly a nice Fleurie and of course something for the essential aperitif. A nice drop of wine and my struggles with French animals and insects will be forgotten.

Bon appétit