For us, this is the end of the gite season as we close up the gite for the winter. Our last booking left on Friday and with the advent of colder weather we won’t take any more bookings. While the gite is very cosy it has no central heating and it can get quite nippy at this time of year. We only have electric convector heaters and these are OK, but to a point and of course it adds to the cost. 

We are happy to let the gite from February to the beginning of November and this year we have had lots of bookings including many from around Europe. We have had visitors from France, Germany, Belgium and Holland. So, very cosmopolitan. Ironically the weather is still very mild and we have been able to resist lighting our wood burner. Which should at least make sure our log store lasts over the winter.

If you fancy a stay in our gite, you would be very welcome and we start to take bookings for next year from now. Look on the website for details. We already have a booking for September 2018. Admittedly, from my brother who is coming over from the USA.

This weekend the clocks went back and so we gained an hour in bed, in theory. However, our animals work according to the position of the sun (and their stomach) and when it gets light the chickens expect us to be there to let them out. This now means that we have to get up at the same time, effectively, an hour earlier. Mrs. Parish has the job of venturing out to release the hens and they expect promptness and so she was there at 7-30am this morning instead of 8-30!

Before you jump to the question of whether I was laying idly in bed, the answer is of course no. The cats also demand to be fed at the appropriate time and this now means breakfast at 7-30am. So, I have to get up as well. This also means that the cats want to be fed at 3pm in the afternoon, but I persuaded them to wait until 3-30 as we get them to adjust back to their normal time of 4pm. This is achieved, normally, over several weeks and not without considerable complaint and pretence of a starvation regime.

Archie keeps an eye on the time

Archie took up a position on top of the grandfather clock to make the point that it was very definitely time for food and that he wanted to draw our attention to the time. Moggie at the same time was out in the shed trying to break into my carton of fat balls for the wild bird feeder. Such was his desperation for food he needed to steal from the birds!

Moggie desperate for food!!

There was at least some excitement this week with arrival of new neighbours. Xavier arrived with a great big bull and a cow to go into the field right behind the gite. At the moment they have the whole field to themselves and have been getting used to their new home. We expect some more cattle to arrive in due course but we have been out to introduce ourselves to the happy couple. Naturally, with the benefit of an electric fence, backed up with a barbed wire fence. It is a very big bull and doesn’t look as if he is good natured. He has to have that ring through the nose for a purpose and I don’t think it is there for cosmetic reasons!!

Our new neighbour

The hens have been going through their moult and were beginning to look quite ragged but now the new feathers are growing back and they look quite handsome. They also assert their rights and this week they have decided to take into chicken ownership our rustic bench. They have taken to sitting on top and making a lot of noise. The bench is about the same size as our gates and they may be practicing a new escape plan. I will need to keep a close eye on them over the next week.

We are approaching the end of October and a public holiday on the 1st November which in France is called Toussaint (literally all the saints). This is followed by All Souls’ Day which traditionally in catholic France is the day to remember the dead and put flowers on graves at the cemetery. In effect the flowers are placed on the 1st as it is a public holiday. The 31st is Halloween which is creeping (in a creepy way) into France fuelled, of course, by commercial interests. Fortunately, the concept of trick or treat has not spread to rural France. We tend to disorientate our neighbours by putting a pumpkin (with a candle) out in the lane. More evidence of those eccentric English people.

It is traditional in France to put Chrysanthemums to commemorate the dead. It seems that this originates from the end of the first world war and a call to the French to mark the Armistice on 11th November, with some flowers. Chrysanthemums were chosen as they flower late in the year.

The shops are full of Chrysanthemums and many an English person who has not known the significance has made the mistake of draping them around their house, to the bemusement of the French. There are those that have made the even greater social gaffe of taking a bunch of Chrysanthemums round to a French friend who has invited them round for an aperitif.

Apparently, France is expecting its poorest wine grape harvest since 1945 after an unusually mild March and a frosty April, experts have said, although the hot summer promises to deliver excellent quality.

The French agriculture ministry said output was expected to total 37.2m hectolitres – 18% less than 2016 and 17% below the average over the past five years. The 2016 harvest was one of the poorest in 30 years.

The ministry figures were based on assessments made in early August, before the start of the harvests, which have now begun in the south-east about two weeks earlier than usual.

The secretary general of France’s biggest farmers’ union, the FNSEA, said last week he expected a 40% drop in output in the prime wine-growing region of Bordeaux, the country’s largest. Vineyards in north-eastern Alsace, which produces mainly white wines, were also hit hard.

This year’s drop in production is “mainly attributable to the severe spring frost that affected all the wine-growing regions to varying degrees at a sensitive time for the vine”, the agriculture ministry said.

The bitter cold struck twice within a week in April, ravaging the fragile shoots and buds that had emerged prematurely after mild temperatures in March. To combat the frost, winemakers in Bordeaux set fires in oil drums, then positioned them carefully between the rows of grapevines. Giant fans were also deployed to battle the cold, damp air settling on the plants.

This is shocking news and I am pleased at the moment to have a full wine cave. I think I will have to start panic buying wine to ensure future supplies. In fact, I am so shocked by the news that I will have to have a glass of wine to steady the nerves!

Bon courage