Well, here I am on a Sunday afternoon and I find myself in charge at La Godefere as Mrs. Parish has gone to Britain to visit her mother and other members of the family. Mrs. Parish left on Thursday evening with a car laden down with 60 bottles of French wine and an array of Christmas gifts for the family. She will be away for a week and returns on Thursday morning.

When I say that I am in charge that depends upon whose view you take. The cats clearly believe that they are in charge and constantly remind me of the jobs I need to get done. Mostly this seems to involve feeding them or letting them in for extra sofa time. They appear to spend a lot of time sat on the window sill looking in at me with their cold, hungry and neglected look. They also seem to be able to anticipate when I am likely to open the front door and site themselves strategically close to the door, so they can overpower me and get in.

The hens are just as bad and they know that I am a stand in so try to take advantage. I have to let them out of the hen house as soon as it gets light in the morning. When I arrive, I can hear them grumbling in the hen house. It is only just light, but they seem to be saying “what time do you call this?” Even though I take them down some chicken feed they rush out as soon as their pop hole is open and run up the garden to get at the wild bird seed under the bird feeder. This is clearly designed to make me feel guilty and they sneak back during the day to eat the hen food.

In the past few days I have seen a young fox hunting during the daytime in the field next to the gite. The field with the cattle. It appears to be hunting for mice and every now and again it jumps on an imagined prey. It is a bit unusual to see foxes during the day. We see plenty on our trail camera at nights.

Fox in the field next the gite

I watched the fox and it got closer to our orchard where the hens are, so I decided to chase it off and shouted at it. It turned and looked at me for a while and figured that I was the eccentric Englishman he had heard about so decided to saunter away at his own pace. Today, I was invited out for Sunday lunch by good friends Sarah and Ian. I think they felt sorry for me being all alone and that I probably wouldn’t cope very well! Anyway, I decided that it might be a risk to leave the hens out all afternoon in case the fox came calling.

So, I had the problem of rounding up the hens and persuading them to go back into their run. They don’t like being shut in and as it was only mid-day they were not even impressed by the bribes of special chicken food. I even got out their special dish and waved it at them. They began to follow me towards the run but then got wise and ran off in three different directions. After chasing them round the garden and swearing lots I managed to get two of them into the run. The art of this exercise is to round up the third without the first two escaping in the meantime. Of course, this is what happened, so I was reduced to threatening them and shouting “if you don’t get into the run I will leave you to the fox” and “don’t come running to me when the fox gets you” and more swearing.

This seemed to do the trick and eventually I managed to get them all in and to close the entrance to the run. At night time when it starts to get dark they have a totally different attitude and go quite calmly into the run and then up into their nest box.

One worrying thing is that they have stopped laying eggs. I wondered whether this was my fault and perhaps I had said something to upset them. Maybe they are missing Mrs. Parish who normally looks after them. But, since she went back to England last Thursday I have had no eggs. I was beginning to think that I would have to go and test my French by asking Giselle for advice when I mentioned this to Sarah. She reported that her farmer friend Olivier’s hens had also stopped laying. Maybe there is some greater mystery or some evil plot. 

Come on girls, this is the way in!

Maybe they are feeling the cold as today they were all up trying to get in the window to the house. Nothing to worry about. I don’t remember there being any chickens the Hitchcock film “The birds.” Or do I?

As well as seeing the fox I have also seen the return of our Little Owl. Yesterday and today the owl came and sat on the TV aerial next to the gite where it had nested. It is the first time we have seen them for a couple of months. Little owls don’t tend to move about much and generally stay in their nesting and feeding areas. Maybe the owl wants the advantage of roosting in the gite roof where it may be a bit warmer. The kestrel who was also eying up the gite now seems to have moved down to our big field and sits waiting for food on top of our big oak tree.

Kestrel in our big oak tree

We have some new friends who have arrived and in the cattle field, we now have another 8 heifers joining the bull and his mate. The bull seems to be very pleased at this increase in his harem. I have been out to talk to them and they are a bit frisky at the moment and come running over to see me. At which point I start to worry about whether aa thin electric fence backed up by some barbed wire will be enough to keep the cattle on their side of the fence. I also hope that cows don’t jump!

Is that fence secure and can cows jump!!

We also have some new friends in the sheep paddocks. Our friend Patrique has brought round four sheep to graze for the next month or two. The grass had grown quite a lot and so there is plenty for them to eat and it should keep them for quite a while. As I have said before the sheep are not so friendly and are quite ugly so the scope for conversation is quite limited. The good news is that it won’t be long before Patrique comes around with the rent – a nice leg of lamb!!

Four new sheep and lots of grass

Well, I had better go out and shut up the hens as it is getting dark and hopefully they will be a bit more cooperative. Damn, it is not quite dark enough and they are still out in the run. I have had to walk all the way down to find this out and will have to repeat this when it gets a bit darker. It is a question of timing as if I wait too long it will be too dark to see what I am doing!

I may need a drink.

Bon Dimanche