I reported last week on the problems of passing some of our surplus produce to our neighbour Giselle. The problem being that she then retaliates by bringing us some of her surplus. So last week some chestnuts and walnuts resulted in a large bag of pears. There are only so many pears you can eat before they go off. Mrs. Parish decides that we need to overwhelm our neighbours this week. So under cover of night we assemble our supplies and make ready to deliver at dawn. We have a box of chestnuts; a bag of walnuts and three large bags of apples for Giselle’s son in law but to this Mrs. Parish cunningly adds a whole batch of French gardening magazines. There is no way that Giselle will be able to match this. So it is and Giselle can only reply with a small bag of grapes almost in capitulation. However I am sure that knowing Giselle she will be plotting and when we least expect it there will be a packet on our doorstep.

I also mentioned that we were engaging in autumnal activities of repair and maintenance around the garden. To this end I was dispatched by Mrs. Parish to reopen the North West Passage. Those of you who have been long term readers of the blog will recall the massive efforts last year to clear a route through an area of brambles, weeds etc down at the bottom corner of the orchard, right by the fence to the cow’s field. Since then brambles have grown again and the passage required clearance again. So as this was a major expedition I went armed with as many garden tools that I could get into the wheelbarrow. I also decided that I should take some support and so called upon Archie and Moggie to come with me. Minou, of course declined to come with me as this would mean getting wet feet. The boys however were up for an adventure.

So we set off and while I am cutting and pulling and disappearing into the undergrowth the cats are prowling around hoping that I will disturb some mice or other creature that will provide a snack for them. After a while Moggie got a bit bored as no mice came his way. So he decided to climb up the trees. First he decided that height was the way forward and ran straight up a tree above where I was working. Of course the problem with this is that Moggie just runs up the tree and has no idea of how to get down.

Moggie on the lower branches

So I have to stop work to try and talk Moggie down as his efforts seem to involve walking out on the narrowest branch possible. I am at the bottom of the tree waving my hands wildly and shouting at Moggie to come back down the trunk of the tree. Once he had got there he tries to come down head first which is not a good idea and then eventually he realises that coming down backwards would be a better plan. So after slipping and sliding he is eventually down to the lower branches. At this point Moggie decides that playing a game would be more fun than coming right down. So now he stays on the lower branches and then tries to grab hold of me with his claws. Unfortunately the nearest thing to the branches is my head!

After a while he gets bored again and having heard some birds in the hedge further down the garden he goes off to see if he can catch one. I sigh with relief and get back to work. I am working right next to the fence where the cows are. It is quite a big field and the cows are right at the bottom. I forget these are stealth cows and without making a noise they creep up the field and all of a sudden there is a huge great cow looking through the barbed wire at me. Then all the cows have arrived and are all peering over the wire. At this point I have to remind myself that there is an electric fence as well as barbed wire but do the cows realise this and does Felix the big bull who now also wants to see what is going on.

All this fuss causes me to forget that the lower branches are at head height and while keeping a keen eye on the cows manage to bash my head on one. I have to give up the struggle and return to the house to mop up the blood, calling in the door man down on the North West Passage expedition. It is only a minor graze, Mrs. Parish tells me and to stop making a fuss. I make a fuss particularly as I now resemble Mikail Gorbachov with a red scar across my forehead.

Anyway I am declared fit for work by Mrs. Parish and return to get the NW passage finally cleared, although there are now some very large heaps of brambles and branches ready to be taken down to our bonfire site. I consider putting up a sign indicating the North West passage and the human cost of clearing it. Moggie and Archie have now returned to do some hunting in the cleared path and they remind me that any sign should pay tribute the crucial involvement of the La Godefrere cats!

The cats have now found something far more interesting to keep them occupied. We have some new guests in the gite and they arrived on two great big BMW motorbikes. The cats appeared as they always do when we have new arrivals, to look them over and assess them and their vehicles for the likely availability of food. Our guests usually have a car and this is good as they can often get inside or at least sit on top of. Motor bikes were a new experience and they all had a good look around them. A bit later I came out of the house to find Archie and Moggie both sat on one of the motor bike seats. Today Archie and Minou were sharing the seats. The cats are now pretending to be Marlon Brando in “The wild ones” and portraying a gang of biker cats. I have been careful to not ask them what they are rebelling against!

Biker cats

Of course this week has been sad and exciting for me. Finally the cutting deck, on the Kubota mower we inherited with the house, finally packed up. It has been repaired many times and now we were advised that getting it repaired again would be throwing good money after bad and wouldn’t we like to buy a brand new tractor mower. Jerome at the Agricultural shop in Gorron is a master salesman and had already sold Mrs. Parish a new strimmer. So the prospect of a shiny new all singing, all dancing new mower was too much and even Mrs. Parish agreed that it was for the best. So on Thursday they came to take away the Kubota tractor and to deliver the new John Deere X300 tractor mower. I will miss the Kubota. The cloud of black smoke that came forth when started up, the uneven cutting. But it was a good work horse and served us well. Anyway that was soon forgotten as I climbed into the seat of the new and shiny tractor and set out to cut the lawn. I have to say that it does a good cut and has about 12 levels of cutting (the Kubota had three of which one did not work).

Tractor Man

The other great thing about it is that our good friends John and Sandra who live about a mile away have also just bought a new John Deere tractor mower. So no longer will I have tractor envy but the good news is that John and I can establish an owners club and compare tales of mowing and tractor driving. 

I am now working on ideas of how to keep the cats off once the motor bikes have gone.

It is now the end of a long weekend of World Cup rugby and the French are in mourning as the Bleus got hammered in last night’s game against New Zealand. Sadly Wales also lost and today the Irish have been beaten by Argentina and the Scots are in a fight with the Australians.

In such circumstances I think that a large drink is required.

Bon Dimanche