The steps have gone! The final demolition of the stairs up to the gite took place last Friday. While there were one or two stubborn bits most of it came down after a sustained assault using hammers and crowbars, by our demolition team of Mark and Gary. At one point, we were worried that Mark may make a basic cartoon error while taking down the platform at the top of the stairs. He was cutting away the planks and we thought he might cut round the bit he was kneeling on and descend rapidly to the ground. I was ready with the camera to record this but he managed to reverse back into the gite!

Within a couple of hours, the stairs were on their way to the tip. This just leaves some making good to be done and Mark will be fitting a new balcony around the old door to the gite to make sure that we don’t lose any of our guests falling out!

The gite with stairs The gite with no stairs

So now we have a completely new look to the gite and we think it looks a lot better without the stairs. It has a look much more of the old barn and stable that it once was. The internal staircase has now been completed and the walls replastered. So now we are on the process of painting the walls and door as well as putting wood stain on the new stairs. I spent Saturday and today on my knees staining the stairs and of course had some music to keep me company. I decided to combine two things by bringing over my Bob Dylan CDs. Firstly, I like Bob Dylan. Secondly, I decided that I needed to sing along as Mark had discovered some mouse activity in the insulation between the floors.

Now I know from my encounters with moles that they hate the sound of me singing, especially Bob Dylan. Mark had also chucked in some mouse poison back into the gap between the floors before closing up the gap. I reasoned that if the poison doesn’t get them my singing is sure to cause them to run away and hopefully never to return. We have never had any mouse incursions into the gite and this current activity may be due to the fact that all has been quiet there over winter.

I made a note to have a stern word with Moggie and Archie who are clearly not doing their job properly. A cut in rations has been threatened. They are more active in the mornings and Moggie is often filthy dirty when he comes in for breakfast. It may be that they have heeded the call and are out hunting. Moggie has the habit of putting his paws down mouse holes and getting dirty. He then runs around over the wet grass before going to the woodshed to go to the toilet. The woodshed has a dirt floor and so by the time he gets indoors he is covered in mud! So, we then have to have a fight with the towel that I am using to try to clean him. This is a great game and a chance to use his sharp claws in retaliation. It often ends up with Moggie hiding under the towel while Archie comes over to see what is happening and he takes over the towel fighting.

Moggie hides under towel, I think Archie has found him!

I noticed when walking round the nature walk that the ants are waking up and there was so ant activity down at the ant experience. This is good news as the ant experience is a great favourite among visitors. The wood ants hibernate over winter. At least the queen ant and a gang of workers do. Most of the ants die off but the queen keeps enough workers so that she can send out a scouting party as soon as it appears warm enough. It is the poor workers who have to poke their noses out to test the weather conditions. I suppose if none come back it is too cold!

Interestingly with wood ants, all the workers are females. The only use for a male wood ant is to mate with the queen and they then die off. So, there was quite a few ants out on Thursday when the weather was very warm. They were very busy starting to tidy up the nest and to collect bits of small stick to rebuild the nest. It was warm enough on Thursday for me to get out the tractor mower and go around the nature walk to cut the grass around the path. 

Now, it is looking good but there is a bit of work to do where we cut back all the brambles in the winter. We need to clear away the cut brambles and have another bonfire. I am also keen to make a new path through this area which now we have cut the brambles as revealed a whole load of oak trees and a small path through there would be good. We may have to plant some more bushes or trees but first we will see what grows now the brambles have gone. 

The path I cut goes right around our big hay field and along by the small stream at the bottom of the field and then up past the field where all our neighbouring cows are. The path goes right next to a barbed wire fence on our side of the field. This is the fence that Mrs. Parish and I have to maintain and we regularly send out our fencing team to hammer in new posts and make sure the wire is properly fixed. On the other side is a thin electrified wire which if you are foolish enough to touch it gives a small shock. It is enough to make you jump and sometimes the cows touch their wet noses against it and this makes them jump.

On Thursday I was cutting the grass right next to the fence and the cows were all grazing in the field about 100 yards from the fence. They spotted the tractor and immediately started running quite fast towards me. These cows are pretty big and I reckoned that if they decided to go straight on the fence would not last very long. The other factor I was considering was whether cows could jump. Sometimes they get a bit silly and run and jump about, admittedly not very high. But with a running start how high could they get? I mean is there any truth in this cow jumps over the moon nursery rhyme.

I was also weighing up whether they were interested in me as they associate tractors with food as Xavier comes in his tractor (much bigger than mine) with a great big load of hay. Would they be disappointed when they find I have none? Do they consider me a threat to their calves? Does the big bull consider that he needs to show off to his heifers? I consider whether a burst of Dylan songs would scare them away. I decide that Dylan might be a bit risky. It is OK frightening moles and mice but a great big bull is a different prospect, 

In the end, I decide that putting my foot down and going as fast as I can would be the best strategy and at the same time pretending that I was ignoring them. They seemed to think that they had made their point and established a clear pecking order. So, they went back to chewing the grass but the bull gave me a real hard stare.

The problem with the weather getting warmer is that this also brings out some flies. Indoors we have a fly that is very annoying as it flies around your head and every now and again lands on your head. Or makes a pass over your food at meal times. At least this fly lands and gives you a chance to swat it. Mrs. Parish is a mean swatter and has this amazing back hand flip that gets the fly most times. The strange thing is that almost as soon as Mrs. Parish has downed the fly and put its dead carcass in the bin than a fly reappears. There only ever seems to be, at this time of year, just the one fly. I firmly believe that we have discovered a rave of Resurrection Flies that once dead come back to life. It is uncanny that within minutes of killing a fly another appears. 

Next weekend we have visitors. My son and daughter in law are coming for a visit with their two dogs (Tommo with three legs and Kiki who is a Romanian rescue dog). Also, coming at the same time are the Vegans (daughter Amy and partner Charlotte). This will lead to a wild and strange weekend which may well have the effect of delaying the blog. I am sure it will arrive and with exciting events but it may not come out on Sunday. Bear with me!

Now it is definitely time for a drink. Mrs. Parish is getting agitated and that does not bode well, as dinner time approaches. I shall have to go to the cave for some wine. We are having some steak tonight and so I shall have to find my finest bottle of Haut-Medoc to drink with it.
Bon apetit