So Mrs. Parish is back at the helm. There was a moment when all could have gone wrong. As I was going to the village repas last Sunday I was asked if I could give Emile and Yvette a lift home afterwards. Normally this would be no problem but taking them home is not a straight forward task. Inevitably it would result in being invited in for coffee and this something that cannot be refused. That would have taken up valuable time for tidying up at home before going to collect Mrs. Parish. More problematic would be the insistence on having some Calvados with the coffee. This is 60% proof Calvados and not recommended before a two hour drive to Ouistreham. Fortunately when I arrived for aperitifs there were some French friends who were also coming and they were able to give Emile and Yvette a lift home. It also meant I was able to get away early and be home ready to feed the cats and catch the hens before my journey.

This means that all is back to normal here at La Godefrere and for me this usually means a never ending battle with the forces of nature which seem to conspire to make my life difficult. Now we have three cats to ensure that mice are kept under control. I went to the woodshed last week to collect some bird seed to fill up the bird feeders in the garden. The bird seed and peanuts are kept in an old dustbin with a lid to keep the seed dry and away from mice. I lifted the lid and put my hand into the seed bag when something in the dustbin moved. I immediately jumped backwards and once I had regained my composure I looked in and moved the bag and found underneath a small mouse.

In order to get at the mouse I lifted out the bag of seed only to find that the mouse had nibbled the bag and of course a whole load of seed fell out over the floor of the wood shed. So first I had to get the mouse out of the dustbin by laying it down so it could run away. I’m too squeamish to have killed the mouse or kept it for the cats. So I swept up the seed and secured the lid of the dustbin by putting a very large log on top. No mouse is going to be able to lift that I thought.

The next day I go to get seed and to my surprise and shock the mouse was back inside and this time chewing its way through another bag. I managed to enable the mouse to escape and then discover that it had nibbled its way around a small hole to enlarge it just enough to get in. Bloody mice. I immediately went and had a go at the cats. I reminded them of the contract and that in return for three meals a day their job is to catch mice. Perhaps, I suggested, they were being fed too well and that a reduction in rations might be in order. Perhaps life was too soft for hard farm cats! In the mean time I have to go and get a metal dustbin with a very secure metal lid! They just said “Of mice and men!”

I think it may be that catching mice in the fields around the house is now too easy. It is harvest time for the grain that has been growing in many of the fields near us. The farmers grow cereals for winter feed for the cattle and it is now time for the grain to be collected by huge great combine harvesters and for the remaining straw to be put in giant stacks. Last week our neighbouring farmer Xavier came by with a harvester to cut the grain in the next field to us. This of course results in all the cover disappearing and the field mice have no cover. This is a trigger for the kestrels to arrive and hunt over the fields and buzzards to come and sit on the straw bales. It is also an invite to our cats to prowl over the fields and catch the unprotected mice. 

Xavier's combine harvester in the next field

Moggie is the “catcher in the rye” and goes off into the field for hours on end and then to come back filthy dirty with a mouse in his mouth. He then eats the mouse and then collapses in a heap for a long sleep. The owls arrive during the night to have their go at the mice. It seems that they can’t do this quietly and last night at about 3am there was a cacophony of owl noise with tawny owls and little owls all calling to each other. I thought the whole point of owls is that they were silent fliers and caught mice by making no noise. Clearly the mice must have a low frequency range and can’t hear the screeching and hooting. Very much not “Tender is the night”!

Alien landscape and hunting ground for all!

I mentioned that we had a family staying in the gite with two young children, Joe and Bella. They went home on Tuesday and so as normal Mrs. Parish and I went to clear up the gite and to make it ready for the next set of guests who were coming in the evening. To my surprise I found a teddy bear under the bed clothes in one room and then Mrs. Parish found Peter Rabbit and another stuffed toy. I tried to get a message to the parents just in case these were critical friends for the children who may not be able to sleep without them. Unfortunately they were back in the UK before realising the problem. So we took some pictures of the toys with the cats and with then hens to send to Joe and Bella assuring them that their toys were having a good time on their extended holiday. They are now safely in the post on their way back home.

Joe and Bella's toys with the cats

Harvesting also means that it is jam making time and Mrs. Parish has been hard at work in the jam making department of our kitchen. We have fruit from our own garden and there is already a batch of blackcurrant jam and one made with gooseberries. The blackcurrant is excellent although it is tough to pick and then top the blackcurrants before making the jam. The gooseberry is actually better that you might think and is just sharp enough to serve for breakfast without being too sharp. It is like having “Jam on the vine”.

We have also acquired from the supermarket boxes of apricots and so far we have a couple of batches of my favourite jam. Apricot jam is just right with toast or on fresh French bread. The storage cave is now filling up with jam jars full of jam. This allied with the continuing production of hens’ eggs is compelling Mrs. Parish to make quiches and cakes. On the one hand this is good as there is always something homemade to eat. On the down side I need to increase the amount of exercise I am getting to keep things in equilibrium. So most afternoons I go out for a ride on my bike. It is clearly working as I have lost a couple of pounds already.

Of course the harvest and the sunny weather mean the year is moving on and the apples and pears in our orchard are beginning to come to full fruit. Already some of the fruit is beginning to fall from the trees and this of course means that I have to start the back breaking process of picking up the fall downs. It is not quite a daily task yet, that will wait until September. The trees look full of fruit and this may be good for making cider it does mean that I will spend a lot of time picking up stuff. I look back on the last few years and think that I must have picked up several kilos of apples and pears. A sort of “Legends of the fall!”

Mrs. Parish is wondering what has happened to her aperitif as it is 5-45pm on a Sunday afternoon. The standards of service are dropping she murmurs. So I must go and sort that out as a clear priority. A glass of wine now or I may experience the “Grapes of wrath”.

Another week over here at la Godefrere and all is well.

Bon appétit