This week the weather has turned distinctly colder and on Friday we had a light fall of snow. Enough to cover the grass in the orchard. The wind chill factor meant it felt a good deal colder and we immediately lit the wood burner after breakfast. Up until then we had been able to wait until the afternoon.

The arrival of snow caused the hens to go a bit crazy. Usually Mrs. Parish is expected to open up the hens’ house at first light and the hens burst out and start their quest for food. They usually have a few pecks at their food tray and then head for the wild bird feeders to see what is available. Not on Friday. They took one look at the snow on the grass and refused to come out and made lots of complaining noises.

Mrs. Parish then had to chase them out of the hen house before she could come in for her breakfast. About half an hour later and I went out to fill up the wild bird feeders. The hens were nowhere to be seen and I realised that they had gone back into the hen house again. We chased them out again and this time closed up the door so they could not get back in.

However, these are suffragette hens and don’t give up easily. They immediately ran up the garden and installed themselves into the wood shed, where they stayed for most of the morning or at least until the snow had all melted away. Sylvia decided that the wood shed might be a good place to make a nest and so she burrowed her way into a pile of kindling sticks and made herself a nice warm nest. So good was this nest that she decided it would be an ideal place to lay her egg.

Sylvia in her kindling nest

Luckily, we spotted what she was up to and managed to retrieve the egg. The last thing we want is for the hens to literally become free range layers and to add an egg hunt to our daily list of tasks.

Archie has recovered from his cold and is back in his role as an outside cat. He manages the occasional sneeze to try to get more in time but as he has fully recovered his appetite we are not fooled. That of course does not stop the war of attrition. Last week I reported that the cats had taken to sleeping on two dustbins to emphasise how poorly treated they are. This had no effect so this week they both went to sleep on the same dustbin as a way of upping the pathos.

Archie and Moggie "have to share" a single dustbin

One of the attractions of living in France is that land and house prices are considerably cheaper than in the UK. As a consequence, a lot of people we know have large gardens, orchards and extra fields. As we do here at La Godefrere. One of the problems is then managing the land. We have people who come and cut our big field for hay and so this is managed for us. Similarly, our two paddocks are used by our French friend, Patrique who grazes his sheep and so manages that land. Quite a few of our friends have some animals from time to time to help keep the grass down. This does not always go smoothly!

Our friends, Ian and Sarah, have had three sheep on a part of their land. A ram and two ewes. The ram is a bit of a problem as he is very aggressive. So much so that he has been named, Gordon (after Gordon Ramsay, the very loud and sweary chef). Gordon does not like people coming into his field and will head butt all comers to make his point. He particularly dislikes men and will charge any men coming into the field. More of a problem is that he is very aggressive towards the two ewes.

Gordon Ramsay and the ewes

The owners of the sheep have decided that Gordon has to go to the abattoir and the two ewes moved somewhere else. All well and good but how to separate the ram from the ewes to enable them to be moved. Several attempts were made to split them up by enticing the ewes into a small pen in the field. Gordon was having none of this and either chased the farmer out or chased the ewes away. After a while they came up with a cunning plan. They decided that Gordon had not met Ian and so if he went into the field the ram would not attack him! After checking his life assurance, they sent him in. This seemed to work and the two ewes were persuaded into the pen. Ian was proclaiming himself as the sheep whisperer.

Now, I have found that it is best not to underestimate French farm animals and best not to start crowing too soon. So it was and the two ewes decided that they did not want to be in the pen after all and decided to rush Ian, knocking him over in the process as they jumped over him to escape! Since then Gordon has been captured and “sent away”. The two ewes have also gone to new pastures.

The other thing that a large number of Brits have is a tractor mower to cut the grass. I have a very nice John Deere tractor mower and like many of my friends I like to pretend I know how it works! In fact, I just keep it clean and look at the engine from time to time and nod knowingly. Occasionally, I poke bits and waggle wires just to let it know who is boss. We have come to the end of the cutting season and so I am in the process of arranging an annual service. So, I thought I had better give it a proper clean so the mechanic doesn’t think I am neglecting it.

An Englishman and his tractor

Things are getting very complicated at my French lessons. I was just getting to grips with the verbs when our tutor, Alain announced last week that we would now be doing the subjunctive and the indicative. Well, I have managed for 50 years to speak English with no need to remember what either of these things is. Why do I need to be tortured with them in French? He spent half an hour trying to explain it and now we have a whole exercise for homework. I mentioned last week the importance of having wine with homework. I felt the subjunctive called for stronger measures.

Luckily our supermarket (HyperU) had invited us to attend a whisky tasting evening at their store in Mayenne on Thursday evening. This seemed just what I needed to deal with the subjunctive and so off we went. It was a bit like the “foires aux vins” and there were loads of bottles for sale and lots to taste. Fortunately, Mrs. Parish had volunteered to act as the driver so I could get on with the tasting. As this is France we also had an extensive buffet to eat as well. We were quite surprised at how many French people turned up and the place was full. It seems that malt whisky is very popular in France. I managed to make a couple of purchases of some of my favourite whiskies. Very nice and not only a good way to finish a meal but an additional resource for attacking the French homework.

It has been a slightly warmer day today but very misty and damp. A day to stay indoors and write up the blog. Mrs. Parish is making cakes and it will shortly be time to do a tasting. It is a good time of year as we get into the colder weather and approach Christmas. We have had mince pies during the week and there is also a chance of some sausage rolls as well. The Christmas cake has been made but that is now well hidden both from me and from the cats who are quite partial to a bit of cake.

The cats are now at the window as we approach tea time. So, I will have to go and feed them or else they will be lodging a grievance. Dinner today is pork in a plum sauce from our local Charcuterie. I need to brave the elements to get in some wine for an aperitif and for dinner. I may need to get out the new whisky to have with coffee after.

It is a hard life
Bon Dimanche