After last week’s lazy Sunday we have been hard at it today. We have been attending a lunchtime meal and dance at the nearby village of Brece. This is one of the regular events organised by local village fete committees to raise funds for the local community. This time it was a poule au pot occasion. Basically chicken casserole based upon a meal established by Henri IV who was king of France at the end of the 16th Century. Known as good king Henri he was originally a protestant who conveniently converted to Catholicism in order to gain the throne.  It was he who said “Paris is worth a mass”. He was a hugely popular king although in the end he was assassinated by some loony priest. Anyway he introduced the idea of the poule au pot which he argued all French families should be able to have a chicken in their pot every Sunday.

Our poule au pot was very nice but in the fashion of these events was a long time coming. The tickets said from 12pm. We got there at one and it was around 2pm that we actually got our poule au pot. This was accompanied by an “après-midi recreatif”. An afternoon of entertainment, which consisted of a French accordion/organ player who produced a whole load of music to dance to throughout the afternoon for the 200 plus people who attended. We went with Emile and Yvette and about 15 friends including Olivier and his family including his smashing kids Remy and Marie (12 and 9) who kept us amused during the dancing by flicking bits of paper on spoons and making paper aeroplanes and giggling a lot. Kids are the same the world over! 

The dancing seemed to involve quite a lot of the dancing of the dead. A sort of zombie line dancing that the French seem to specialise in where the dancing is very slow as all the participants concentrate on the steps and no-one smiles. At one point the dance floor was full of people all with stony faces and in lines all moving very slowly and looking at their feet. It was just like a scene out of day of the dead.

Dance of the dead

Olivier is a beef farmer and it was his beef that we had delivered last week all 10 kilos! Last Sunday we had a lovely roast of beef which was fantastic and in the week we had a really nice casserole with beef sausages. We were able to tell Olivier how good his beef was and we are looking forward to trying his tournedos steaks. It was a rare day off for Olivier although he still had to get up and milk his cows at 5am and had work to do when he got back to the farm. He also farms chickens and ducks so we may have to try them at some point. A distinct benefit of living in rural France is getting to know the local farmers and being able to get food straight from the farm, from people we know and have become friends with.

It was a great way to spend an afternoon and we left just after 5pm and of course had to go back to Emile’s house for a coffee and the obligatory calva. We arrived home at 6pm to be met by some very upset cats that were now two hours late for their tea. We tried to get away with an explanation that this was typically French and that we had had to wait for our lunch. To no avail and the cats have demanded extra tea and a longer in the house time as compensation. 

The weather has been rubbish for the past few days with it turning cold and being accompanied by wintery showers. Mrs. Parish tells me that this is a phenomenon called “les giboulees de mars” literally showers of March. It is of course still February but the term refers to weather at this time of year.  It refers to sleet as a short heavy downpour which occurs during the transition from winter to spring, mainly in the months of March and April (hence the term), which is due to the meteorological phenomenon of convection.

Convection is a vertical movement of air caused by the thermal contrast that occurs in the spring. The lower layers of the atmosphere are warm but cold air persists at altitude and the soil remains cold. Under the effect of thermals, warm, moist air rises and, by condensing creates clouds formed of water or ice particles droplets, giving rain, snow, sleet or hail.

Apparently this is not to be confused with winter rain or snow shower. You have to recognise that this blog is educational and informative. The “giboulees de mars” should now be a firm part of your weather dialogue for this time of year and you will be able to impress your friends and neighbours with this information and with your new understanding of convection! 

Earlier in the week we were able to continue our policy of slash and burn at the bottom of the big field. We managed to get a couple of days work done in clearing brambles and weeds and revealing more of the edge of the winter stream. We even found some gorse bushes that were covered in brambles and we have created a space where we want to plant some trees. We even found a piece of sloping ground which must have been an access for cattle to the stream at some point in the past. Of course then Mrs. Parish had to have a bonfire to burn all the stuff we had cut out. It is a sort of slash and burn policy to clear not forest but bramble patches and to use the land reclaimed for a nature area and pathway around the grounds. We have managed to free up a number of willow and oak trees, to create areas of cleared ground next to the stream which we want to plant with flowers which will attract butterflies and birds.

There is also the chance to put up some nest boxes for the birds. Already we have a robin that follows us around while we are working. We have a space where we want to put in a bench in a quiet area so that people can sit and hopefully watch the birds and butterflies and other wildlife.

Talking of wildlife of course this week heralded the start of the Chinese New Year on 19th February. This year is the year of the sheep which is quite appropriate for us at La Godefrere as we currently await the arrival of sheep in our paddocks. Our friend Patrique has his pregnant ewes at his house at the moment and they are just in the process of giving birth so within the next 6 weeks we should get some ewes with their new born lambs. It is always an exciting time of year and the prospect of getting a number of lambs is causing some excitement here. We may get to look after the ram for a few weeks. While he will be a bit tired after all his exertions we are getting the paddocks ready by ensuring the fence e is properly secure. We would not like a ram running riot in the lane. Patrique has said that he would bring a ewe with the ram to keep him occupied. A woman’s influence is apparently essential for the control of young rams! Anyway the local supermarkets have exploited the Chinese New Year by selling lots of Chinese food which is not usually widely available.

Year of the sheep

The giboulees of mars have also highlighted the time of year and the move towards spring. This has also affected the moles that have launched a pre spring invasion breeching the exclusion zone and there are loads of mole hills in the orchard. So we have had a counsel of war and have had to prepare for retaliatory action. Mrs Parish who is our rapid response unit has been gathering mole traps and other weapons of mole destruction. Mrs. Parish is readying herself for an early morning strike back, to hit the moles hard and quickly. On the other hand I am preparing for the long haul and developing a heavy bombing raid based upon getting the tractor out and preparing my song book ready to create shock and awe amongst the moles by a combined effect of tractor noise and my singing!

So now we are back from our poule au pot, afternoon entertainment and coffee and calva. After a brief snooze on the sofa the blog is now complete. So a successful and busy Sunday after last week’s lazy Sunday. The weather does not look good for the next week so we may have to find some indoor jobs. Probably time for a little night cap now, perhaps a nice coffee and a whisky.

Bon weekend