The social whirl continues and last night we were at a repas in nearby Brece. Last night’s menu was Pot-au-Feu (pot on the fire).This is a French beef stew. According to the chef Raymond Blanc, pot-au-feu is "the quintessence of French family cuisine, it is the most celebrated dish in France. It honours the tables of the rich and poor alike. The essence of a pot-au-feu is to slow cook the beef usually with carrots, leeks and cabbage. The broth from the cooking is served as a soup to start the meal normally with bread soaked in the broth. The beef is then served with the vegetables and a boiled potato.

The meat is very tender after being cooked for a long time, which enables a cheaper cut of beef to be used. Hence it is a meal for both rich and poor. We were definitely at the poorer end of the option! Even so we managed to buy some very nice red wine to go with the meal. As is usual at the repas the red wine was from Bordeaux. While we also had the statutory wedge of camembert and an apple tart on this occasion there was no homemade calvados. Also “comme d’habitude” (as usual) the food did not arrive until 9-30 and it was almost midnight when we got our coffee. But eating, drinking and chatting is a lovely way to spend an evening.

Being an evening affair we had entertainment from a man who played the accordion and could play the trumpet at the same time, together with a woman drummer. They were good and eventually the dancing began with the old French farmers keen to strut their stuff. This seemed to be a matter of whirling a lot or the dreaded zombie line dancing where all are so intent on watching their steps that no facial expression can be seen and it is like a scene from Day of the Dead.

The dancing did get a bit more adventurous but this had its consequences when one of our party, a lady called Trish got a bit over excited and slipped and fell on her wrist. She came back to the table and her wrist did not look too good so it was decided that she should go to the hospital accident and emergency to get it checked out. It was gone midnight when they left for the 10 mile trip into Mayenne. Saturday night in A&E in most English towns would be a nightmare with long waits and drunks galore. In Mayenne Trish was seen quickly and sent for an x-ray. This revealed it was broken and she had to have her arm in plaster. She was out and home again by 3-30am. Great treatment by the French health service.

After a couple of months of good behaviour the hens have gone crazy this week and seem to have discovered lots of places where the ring of steel, that is our garden fence, has gaps. The weather has got quite cold during the day and the hens have taken to sorting through piles of leaves to find food. The leaves have been blown against the banks at the edge of the garden. These were the banks that we thought the hens would not climb up. It seems we were wrong and the hens have followed the leaves and literally gone over the top. On Wednesday we were working down at the bottom of the big field, clearing more brambles away and revealing the trees hidden underneath. Mrs. Parish had a large bonfire on the go, when I looked up to see three hens coming across the big field towards us.

Hens on the bank about to go over the top

Mrs. Parish set out to intercept them and tried to round them up. I helped by yelling “come by” at Mrs. Parish to try to direct Mrs. Parish like a sheep dog. It was as well we were in the middle of a large field given the response I received. We managed to get them back in only to find that later in the afternoon they had found another way out. We were then running around behind then trying to stop up the weak pints in the fence. At one point I noticed Emmeline climbing a tree as a means of escape!

Emmeline, the tree climbing chicken

We reached a point where we thought we had closed all the holes only to find they had slipped out to one side of the garden and were escaping down to the big field via the cattle field. Of course once in the big field it is very difficult to herd the hens towards the gate as they tend to wander off in all directions. We were left with little choice this morning than to get out the roll of fencing wire and complete the ring of steel around the whole garden thus closing all the gaps. I must admit that at one point I did suggest that we ate our three hens and got some more docile ones in their place.

Unlikely when Mrs. Parish thinks it is too cold for them and that they should be given some nice warm mashed potato! Not just any mashed potato, but my mashed potato. Mind you once she tried to put it down for them all of a sudden three cats arrived and thought the idea of mashed potato a great idea and tried to steal it. Mrs. Parish then picked it up and tried to get it into the chicken run. I looked out to see her running down the garden with a bowl of mashed potato and being chased by three chickens and three cats.

This week we also had a change round with the other animals here. Patrique came and took the sheep away for the last time this year. The paddocks will remain empty now until the spring when hopefully we will get the ewes with their lambs returning. It is not so bad seeing the sheep go as they are rather aloof animals and are reluctant to come to the fence for a chat. Of course not all of the sheep will be leaving us. As a bonus is that we will be getting a nice big leg of lamb in the next couple of weeks. That will go in the freezer until we have sufficient guests to do justice to a great lamb feast!

However in the field behind our gite the cows have returned. One bull and around 17 heifers. They arrived last week and have been quite lively. The bull is an old “friend”. He is the one who was here earlier in the year and tended to snort and below at you when looking over the fence. At the moment he seems a bit preoccupied with all his females and has looked a bit knackered so has not been quite so unfriendly. As long as he is the other side of the electric fence and our barbed wire fence, that is OK with me. The nice thing about the cattle is that they are always up for a chat and will come over to the fence and have a look at what you are doing and be willing to pass the time of day

The bull and his harem back at La Godefrere

And finally in a week dominated by animals, Archie has to win the prize for the stand out moment of the week as he does Gary once again. Gary works for Mark, our favourite and very excellent builder who has done a lot of jobs for us. He has been working taking down the old chimney on our barn where the cats sleep (aka the cat’s palace). Once before Gary was here doing some work and left his car window open. Archie got in and removed the cling wrap and ate his cheese and tomato baguette. Gary was back this week helping Mark and despite his previous experience he once again left his window open. Archie is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and was in and away with Gary’s sandwich! So, now the score is Archie 2 Gary 0!!

So all in all it has been another action packed and exciting week here at La Godefrere. It is cold but he sun is shining and I am sat in front of our lovely log fire and contemplating a lovely roast pork dinner in a few hours time followed with a super apple crumble made with apples from our orchard. One of our friends, Ian is home alone while his wife Sarah visits the UK. So Ian is joining us for dinner. So I must go out into the cold air to visit the wine cellar and choose something nice to have with the meal. I will also have to check what the hens are up to and whether they are still with us. The cows will probably come over to wish me a bon dimanche. I know exactly where the cats will be and that is now on the window sill. By the time I get back they will be inches from the front door so there will be no chance of me getting in without them as well. 

Bonne semaine