Today is apparently the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, who just happens to be the patron saint of animals and therefore it is some sort of world animal day. The cats are quick to inform me of this fact and to point out and that they were expecting presents this morning. They also advise me that a Feast Day should involve some sort of feast and what could they expect? I think they are going to be a bit disappointed, although we are having roast pork for Sunday dinner and in the unlikely event of any leftovers there might yet be a feast for them.

I have pointed out to the cats that in many countries St. Francis Day involves cats and other pets being taken to church to be blessed and they might not be quite so keen on that idea. In any case every day here is a feast day for the cats. With two meals a day and two lots of snacks provided and in addition fields full of mice for them to catch. The cats don’t seem convinced.

It has been a week of gathering in the harvest at La Godefrere as the period of fine weather comes to an end. Our big hay field has been cut for hay for the second time and this has produced another 140 bales of hay. It has been cut, fannied and then baled, all in the week by Andy and Julie. The field looks entirely different now it has been cut and of course the lack of cover makes it easier for the cats (and kestrels and owls) to hunt for mice in the vast number of mouse holes on the field.

Mrs. Parish and I have spent the week filling up our store room and wine cave ready for the winter. We have had a bumper year and have loads of stuff from the vegetable garden. In addition we have loads of fruit in most cases from our own garden and orchard but also supplemented by bulk buying apricots and from fruit given to us by our neighbours Giselle and Daniel. We have had a whole load of Conference pears and peaches from them which are really nice. From our orchard we have loads of apples which are good for cooking and for eating. This year we have had an abundance of walnuts from our walnut tree and so many that we can’t find people to give them away to.

A lot of the fruit has been converted by Mrs. Parish into jam and we have shelves full of plum, apricot, blackcurrant, apple and peach jam. We have also put a lot of tomato sauce and ratatouille into the freezer which is now bulging.

Fruit, veg and jam in our store

Having just had the festival of wine at the supermarket we also have a “cave” full of wine and our wine racks are full to bursting. There are also a whole load of boxes full of wine ready to take back to Britain for the family.

The wine racks are full

We are likely to get a load of cider in the next couple of months as in the week Emile and Yvette arrived to collect our cider apples. They have been falling off the trees in great numbers for some weeks but there were masses still left. Emile arrived in his ancient tractor with Yvette tucked in the back of the cab. The tractor had a box at the back for the apples. Also in the tractor was Emile’s homemade “crochet”. This is a great long metal pole with a hook on the end. It is at least 12 feet long and was made by Emile. He uses it to hook onto to branches. He then shakes the tree as violently as possible and all the apples drop to the floor. Of course we then have to get down on hands and knees to pick them all up and put them into the tractor box. We have 6 cider apple trees and the picking up took a couple of hours for the four of us, by which time the box was full and we had also piled 4 sackfuls on top. The tractor was fully laden by the time we had finished.

This still left a couple of trees of eating/cooking apples to pick and these we decided should also go for cider. Emile left his crochet with and will come to collect these next week. Mrs. Parish decided to have a go a crocheting the apples and it was all she could do to lift the metal pole and with difficulty manoeuvred it to shake the branches and get the apples out. The good thing from all this is that we will get bottles of cider once Emile has processed the apples through his ancient cider press. We did insist that he calls us in to help as given his heart problems he can’t do it by himself. A second positive from the apple picking is that Emile believes all our hard work deserves a bottle of Calvados, so we are looking forward to his visit this week.

Mrs Parish with Emile's giant crochet

I never thought we would find a suitable use for Hogweed. This is an invasive plant that grows all along the nature path hear the stream at the bottom of the big field. Fortunately it is not Giant Hogweed which is quite dangerous and can burn the skin. While the hogweed we have is a relative and can cause a skin rash it is not dangerous. It is however not much use for anything, or so we thought!

Having constructed a Bug Hotel last week, I was inspired by a visit to a flower show to build another bug house. This time a lot thinner and less complicated than my first effort. I use once again an old pallet for the wood. One of the ideas I got was to include tubes for various insects to use. The hogweed has a very long hollow stem which is quite tough and therefore I went and harvested a number of the stems and cut them up for use in the construction. The final effort has now been sited next to the gite so I have put a sign on it saying “Bug Gite”.

Talking of the gite we had our last paying visitors staying this week. They left this morning and we have taken no further bookings as we need to do some work including replacing the sink. We are also off back to the UK to celebrate our son’s wedding in November. We have had a good year and from April through to September we have had people in the gite most weeks. It is great to have people about the place and it is enjoyable to share the peace and quiet of our little bit of France. So this week I have also been updating the various websites where we advertise, putting on new photographs and updating prices for next year. We have already had one enquiry for 2016, so hopefully we will again have a good year.

It has not been a good time for the England Rugby team and last night they crashed out of the rugby World Cup after being beaten soundly by Australia. So a gloomy time, rubbed in by taunts from Steve my Welsh friend, especially as Wales will now qualify for the next round. All is not lost for me as we still have France to support and they are already in the next round. This area is not a great rugby area but my neighbour Daniel has been watching the games and so we can now chat in the lane about rugby. The excitement will grow as each match for France comes along.

The cats have returned to the window and are all looking in. Their faces are all saying “where is the feast?” and surely it must be time for food. It is another hour I explain, even showing them my watch. The intimidation will continue until I give in. At least from Minou and Archie. Moggie has been getting fed up with all this waiting and has been going off to find his own “hors-d’oeuvres” in the field and that means when it is tea time a delay while we call him in. He usually arrives running but the other two cats are not impressed at having to wait.

As it has been such a miserable day today with a heavy mist hanging over us all day, I have managed to get the blog written up early. The problem is that I usually reward myself with a drink after the blog is finished. It is a trifle early for an aperitif, although it is St. Francis Day so maybe I can drink to the health of the cats.

Bonne fete de saint Francois