Many of my reports in this blog concern my ongoing battle with nature and the struggles to survive here in the wilds of rural France. Whether it be forests of viciously thorned brambles, hornets’ nests, apples that need picking off the floor or rampantly invasive moles, marauding wild boars. Nature manages to make life really difficult. It is not as if I have ever done anything to upset nature at least as far as I know. But it seems to have it in for me.

One area where I have managed to stay ahead of the game is with regard to insect bites. It is very rare that I get bitten. I put this down to a combination of factors. Firstly, I suspect I don’t taste too good and am not worth biting. My second and most effective method is to stay close to Mrs. Parish. She is an absolute midge magnet and flying bitey things seem to spot her a mile away and to make a bee line towards the feast that is on offer. So, the bitey insects are so interested in Mrs. Parish that they don’t bother me.

At least that is how it has been until this year. It may be that with the long hot and dry summer that there are just too many insects and that they are desperate for something to bite even if it is tough and tasteless. It has not been helped by the fact that Mrs. Parish has discovered an effective insect repellent which deters the insects from biting. My guaranteed protection of sticking close to Mrs. Parish is no longer effective. The insects moved on from Mrs. Parish seek a close by alternative.

The end result is that I have been bitten more times this year than probably the past 50 years put together. With a lot of the insects you don’t even know you are being bitten until you discover the red spot and swelling which then becomes incredibly itchy. I have even resorted to using Mrs. Parish’s insect repellent but the bitey things now seem to have acquired a taste for my blood as they manage to find the bit of skin that I missed when putting on the repellent or in a really unfair way they manage to get inside my shirt or even worse and decidedly sneaky, inside my shorts and make a nice long line of bites.

Now I have to smear antihistamine cream on all the spots and hope for a bit of cold weather to cut down the numbers. We have lots of bats around us and you would think they might eat enough to reduce numbers in a kind of nature balancing sort of way.  But nature is not very helpful!

There is a definite feel of autumn at the moment and it is getting noticeably colder in the mornings and evenings. The cats are not quite so keen to go wandering off and all three are outside waiting at meal times. During the day it remains quite hot and no sign of rain. Our garden is now a brown colour and at least I don’t need to cut the grass but we could really do with some rain. In the fields around us the farmers are getting in the maize crop early as it has stopped growing and is going brown. Going for a walk is a risky business as tractors and trailers are everywhere either fully laden with maize or empty and on their way back to collect more.

The swallows are in the process of leaving for their long migration to Africa. We have seen lots of flocks gathering and feeding up around us. Most are now gone and there only small groups left.

As my brother is staying with us at the moment we were invited to have a look around Giselle’s house and garden. She is rightly proud of her garden and the animals she keeps either for the eggs or for eating. Giselle and Daniel are a dying breed of rural French people who maintain a small holding containing a vegetable garden, together with a range of animals. Hens for eggs, chickens and geese to eat (they used to also keep ducks and pigeons). Rabbits to breed and to keep them supplied with a range of food. When we went around Giselle had a huge pot on the cooked and was going to make rabbit pate.

Chez Giselle

We went around the garden which is segmented so that all the animals have room to graze, apart from the rabbits who were in cages. All the animals were clean and healthy as you would expect as they are kept for food. This is a common way of life for a large number of older French people living in rural areas. It is hard work but they are pretty much self sufficient for a large part of their food needs. Many still sell off their surplus food either at the farmhouse or at local markets.

The hens


However, young French people are not keen to follow such a rural life style and so they tend to die out with their owners. Our tour also included meeting the guard dog Pepito who lives outside in his pen where he is perfectly happy. His job is to bark if anyone arrives at the property. My brother Mike took some photos which I have included to show Giselle and Daniel’s life style. They certainly seem healthy and happy with their lot!

Pepito and his little den

Over the past week in between eating and drinking my brother and I have continued with the international games. We have now moved on from petanque to a more sedate game of backgammon which can be played indoors. An intense round of games has been played and at the time of writing the blog France are leading 11 games to 8. My brother has videoed the games but in the interests of my blog readers I decided that this was a bit too boring to warrant a film.

Today we took Mike and Shuriu once again to our café and conversation morning at the bar in Ambrieres. The aim is to have both French and English speakers so that we can have a nice chat and at the same time practice our language skills. This morning there were around 14 of us with 4 French people and amazingly in a small bar in Ambrieres there were couples from Canada and Australia who live in France. A lady who was born in St. Lucia as well as the two visiting Americans. It was a very international gathering which led to some interesting discussions. As usual we stayed on to have lunch at the bar. 

We now await an exciting end to the week as we have the “Foire aux vins” evening at our local supermarket on Friday with lots of great wines to taste and to purchase. The catalogue arrived today and I have been pouring through it looking for great deals on a whole range of wines. On Saturday we plan a great meal with some excellent wines as it if the last day before our visitors return to Paris before flying back to the USA. On Sunday we have tickets to the football match between local side Rennes and Paris St. Germain in the French Ligue 1. A chance to see such players as Neymar; Cavani and Mbappe. It should be a great weekend and plenty to report back on next week.

The cats and hens are all fine but there was no room for them this week. They will be back next week!

Bon weekend