It has been a strange week as we move on into autumn. At the beginning of the week the weather was what you might expect and the days got a little colder and shorter after the clocks went back. Things were happening as one might expect in rural France. The farmers were out finishing off the maize harvest. The roads were getting muddier and muddier. In our garden and filed the fieldfare started to arrive along with redwings. The attraction of several trees and bushes full of berries is very attractive to these birds which migrate down from the cold in autumn.

The Ant experience is starting to close down for the winter. At the beginning of the week there was very little activity and very few ants to be seen. In the fields around us flocks of lapwings have replaced the swallows whish disappeared at the beginning of October. Mrs. Parish and I have started our autumn/winter tidying which involves cutting back the hedges, getting rid of brambles and generally clearing up the garden. Yesterday morning I spent most of my morning up a tree cutting out holly branches which had grown up into a chestnut tree. So I was sent up the tree to clear the holly. This of course created a large pile of branches and brambles ready for burning and Mrs. Parish was delighted to have her first bonfire yesterday down at the bottom of the big field. She spent the afternoon tending the bonfire and making sure we did not have a conflagration and burn down all the trees and shrubs along our nature trail.

Today the sun has been shining all day and the temperature is up to 18.It is almost like we have gone back to summer. Even the ants seem to have woken up and there was much more activity at the ant experience today. The fieldfares looked a bit guilty as they devoured our berries. Almost as if they should not be here if it is this warm.

Anyway, there has been an exciting new development in the village. The bar has changed hands and with this comes a new name and new services. The current bar called the “Chat Noir (black cat) was a bar/tabac that that was English run and apart from Saturday English breakfast and Sunday English roast did not offer a great deal. The bar has been taken over by a nice English woman called Karen who will be living in the flat over the bar. She has already started to serve daily lunches and has plans to open up the gardens at the back of the bar to sit out in the summer. The bar/restaurant has a new name “Le Jardin de Froulay” (the garden of Froulay). The village was once known as Couesmes en Froulay after the Count of Froulay who once had a residence near the village. Le Jardin de Froulay now has its own facebook page, so have a look.

Sign for the new village bar

This is good news for the village and good news for Mrs. Parish and me as we can now walk to the bar for lunch if we feel the need. Thursday was a miserable dull day so we went for lunch. There was an added attraction as they were serving sausages and mash with onion gravy. They even had a vegetarian option of risotto which Mrs. Parish tried. It was a very nice lunch and there were 7 others there. Hopefully this will continue to be successful and it will of course give yet another good reason for people to come and stay with us. It is only a 15 minute walk to the village and in the summer with a beer garden it will be great for families. One good sign was that when we went there was a Frenchman having lunch. The owner hopes to make the bar attractive to both English and French.

The week has also been highlighted by regular sightings of our neighbour Daniel and his magic wheelbarrow. We have seen him several times in the week going off up the lane with the wheelbarrow and his dog Pepito. A couple of hours later Daniel returns with a wheelbarrow full of maize stalks. I decide to find out more and intercept him asking if he is having maize for lunch. He explains that he has been round the fields where the maize has been cut and picks up what the harvesting machine has missed. The resulting stalks are to be used to feed our neighbours chickens and rabbits. The maize grown locally is for cattle feed and is not the same kind of maize that you have cooked and then smothered in butter. But it clearly is a useful supplement for their animals.

Our farmer neighbour Xavier has been down this week to harvest the betterave which had been planted in the field at the bottom of our lane. Betterave is a fodder beet again grown as winter feed for cattle. In Britain this is known as the manglewurzel. The mangelwurzel has a history in England of being used for sport, for celebration, for animal fodder and for the brewing of a potent alcoholic beverage. In South Somerset, on the last Thursday of October every year, Punkie Night is celebrated. Children carry around lanterns called "Punkies", which are hollowed-out mangelwurzels. Everyone else seems to use pumpkins for this purpose. Maybe in South Somerset they like being different. .Alan Martin, please note.

The harvesting was a sight to behold as down our very narrow lane came a huge harvesting machines and four large tractors and trailers. They barely managed to squeeze between our barn and our neighbours house. The harvester was specially designed for this job. At the front were huge cutting blades which cut the stalks from the top of the plant. Then rotating blades dug up the beet and then processed them and via a conveyor belt sent the beet into the trailers which were moving alongside the machine. As one trailer was filled the next took its place. They then trundled back up the lane to take the beet to the farm for storage. We sat watching this for at least an hour as they went up and down the field and took away many tons of beet. Of course Daniel has been out today with his magic wheelbarrow picking up any mangle wurzels that have been missed.

Apparently Thursday 29th October was National Cats Day. I would never have known but of course the cats arrived first thing to inform me that this was their special day and of course this meant extra treats and a specially increased allowance of sofa time.  Some urgent research via google reveals it is indeed National Cats day but I also discover that  there is also an International Cat Day on August 8th, was created by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and apparently a World Cat Day is celebrated on 17 February. So I explain to the cats that in fact they have already had two special days this year. In the end they get extra sofa time as the weather is pretty rubbish. Mind you they have had lots of special days this week as the family staying in the gite have made lots of fuss of them.

Just when we thought that the sun had returned and all would be quiet and normal our hopes were blown away by the discovery of strange signs of digging in the bottom corner of our big field. We had noticed from time to time places where animals dig to find food. We have seen signs from time to time of badgers but not recently. Often there are signs of deer and hares which we often see around the fields. This week we found fairly large areas where an animal had clearly been digging to find roots to eat. The resulting damage to the grass was clearly not made by rabbits or deer. So we went to look up on the internet and found pictures that clearly matched what we had found. The matching marks had been made by wild boars. While wild boar is quite common in France we have never seen them on our property or nearby. On further examination we believe that they must be coming into our field across the stream from a plantation of trees on the other side, in fact just the other side from the ant experience.

Sign of a boar or boring sign !!

The problem for us is that of course boars mainly feed at night so seeing them might prove difficult. I suggest to Mrs. Parish that maybe she could repeat her success as a hunter in trapping moles to catch a “sanglier” as at least we could then eat it. Mrs. Parish suggests that if I want boar sausages then I can catch them myself. Anyway watch this space and we will see if we can catch sight or find some way of spotting the boars. 

All this talk of sausages has made me think of dinner and that means it is time for an aperitif.

Bon dimanche, Graham