It has been an unseasonal warm week here in France. Mrs. Parish and I have been working outside in tee shirts and could even have gone back to wearing shorts! The temperature has remained at a steady 18 degrees throughout the week. Of course, this doesn’t come without some negatives!

The warm weather has encouraged a whole load of flies to breed in the gite roof and we made the mistake of leaving the door open when we were cleaning up. The consequence has been a week-long battle with the flies. Killing them is easy enough with a strategic chemical warfare assault. This, however, leaves a significant number of dead bodies and we managed to fill a vacuum cleaner bag with fly corpses. Having got rid of the initial invasion we found that flies were still getting through small windows which had gaps to the outside. One of the bedrooms was particularly affected and so I had to go around and use a silicon gel to close up the cracks. This seems to have been effective and at the moment we seem to be winning the war.

Also, there seem to be a lot of hornets still flying about. Usually the cold weather will kill off most of the hornets leaving the queens to find somewhere to hibernate for the winter. Mostly, hornets don’t bother you. They just fly overhead sounding like a helicopter but they are quite big and intimidating, particularly if they get indoors. It is best to keep away from their nests as they can be quite aggressive if they think the nest is under attack.

At least the weather was fine for Mrs. Parish’s birthday last Thursday. I bought her a garden appreciation facilitator, otherwise known as a garden chair. This is designed to be placed in the potager so that Mrs. Parish can be encouraged to occasionally stop working in the vegetable garden and sit and enjoy what is there and to enable some future planning to take place. It is a metal chair so it can be left outside in the garden, ready for use at any time.

We also went out for a special lunch with friends, Ian and Sarah. We went to our favourite restaurant, La Marjolaine. The food is excellent but it also has a nice friendly atmosphere and is not at all pretentious. The staff are friendly and efficient and the maître d now greets us like long lost friends. Mind you, we reckon to have taken at least 50 of our friends to experience the restaurant so they should be pleased to see us!

We had a lovely meal which naturally lasted for over 2 hours. I had quail fillet for starter and a filet mignon du porc for the main course. Both were superb as was the dessert a mousseline with blackberries and raspberries.

After lunch Ian and Sarah had arranged for us to go and meet some friends of theirs, Steve and Jean who live just over the border in Normandy. Steve has rescued three Barn Owl chicks who were abandoned in their nest. Steve is qualified to handle wild birds and had built a big cage in his back garden. The three owls were starving and very weak when he found them and he has had to feed them three times per day. They have been with him for a few weeks now and have gained weight and strength.

The eldest barn owl

Steve explained that he tried to catch mice to feed the owls as this would be the major part of their food in the wild. He had set a number of traps but was not successful. Luckily, he had a source to get a supply of dead hen chicks which had been frozen and exported from the UK. The owls were eating three chicks a day each so Steve’s freezer is full of chicks.

In France the barn owl is called un effraie des clochers, which literally means the frightener of the bell tower. So called because of the ghostly appearance of the barn owl as it floats soundlessly across the fields and lets out a screech. It nests in buildings including in bell towers. It is a great name.

The three owl chicks should be ready to release back to the wild in 4 to 6 weeks and Steve says he will open the cage door but continue to put food out for them so they will be well fed while they adjust to being in the wild and hopefully after a short period they will stop coming back and go off to find their own territory and will find a partner to nest with next year.

The youngest with punk hairdo

It was really great to get so close and to be able to touch them. Their feathers are so soft which of course is why they can fly silently. You will notice in the pictures that Steve has on a very tough glove as the owls are quite feisty and peck as well as scratch with their sharp talons.

We are seeing plenty of wild life at the moment and our trail camera has produced some wonderful footage of two young deer playing and feeding along our nature trail(published on the La Godefrere facebook page). We also caught a picture of a buzzard feeding and about to be harassed by two magpies. There also a couple of large hares but these we have caught at night using the infra-red light so the image is not so good and is in black and white.

Young deer next to the trail camera

Buzzard with magpies

We have also seen a cat which looks to be the same age as Petit and may of course be related. It looks a bit like Petit. We have seen it a few times and so it must just visit the bottom of our big field on its nightly tour around. We are not encouraging it to come any where near the house. Three cats are definitely enough!!

The cats and hens are doing OK and may well make a starring role in next week’s blog.

Finally, for this week is a report on our adjustment to driving our new second hand car. It is taking some adjustment to get used to a left-hand drive and the problems of using the right hand to change gear and we still find ourselves putting the left hand into the driver door pocket! Being a new car, it has all sorts of gadgets including beeping noises when you reverse to stop you hitting anything. 

It has a built-in satnav although we can’t yet find out how to get a voice to tell us the directions. It does also have a whole range of beeping noises which sound very strict. If you start driving and someone doesn’t have their seat belt on it beeps very angrily. It is also very miffed if you try to get out of the car without taking the key out or turning off the lights. It is not helped by having a very large book of instructions and all in French. I have left Mrs. Parish to find out how everything works. I will operate on a need to know basis!

Bon courage