I finished last week’s blog to go and try Jean-Pierre’s Pommeau. Wow, it is really very good. In fact so good I had to have a second glass just to make sure. Of course it could be the quality of our apples which were used to make it. Or maybe the calvados but it is very smooth and suitably alcoholic. Anyway we have three bottles which should last a while although maybe not.

What has happened to the spring? Last week we were outside in the garden in glorious sunshine and Mrs. Parish was even down to her tee shirt working in the potager. We eagerly awaited the chance to see the eclipse on Friday but by then the sun had gone, the wind had turned to come from the north and it was suddenly bitterly cold and overcast. So not a glimpse of the eclipse, apart from watching it on TV. A week ago we were smugly looking into the wood shed and thinking we are going to have quite a lot of wood left. We were leaving off starting the fire until the mid evening. Today we went out this morning to Gorron where they have a flower festival. It was so cold Mrs. Parish reverted to 4 layers of clothes a scarf, hat and gloves. So when we got back home at about 11am we lit the fire and are now huddled around it keeping warm.

The poor cats (I’m not sure that using the term poor cats is appropriate) are outside in the lean to shed all huddled together. Mind you they do have the benefit of a duvet to sleep on in their bijoux apartment built at the back of the shed out of the wind. They had also thought that spring was here and have been out and about round the garden helping with digging the garden and of course climbing trees. The cold has been a bit of a shock to them and they have been doing their pathetic looking in at the window ploy. Looking as sad and as cold as they can, trying to get in. If we weaken they are in and of course as soon as they are in, it’s time for food and we don’t get a minutes peace until they are fed. Once fed they take over the sofas in front of the fire leaving no room for us. Poor cats, indeed!!

So, great excitement this week as the new lambs arrived on Thursday. Patrique and Katherine turned up with two ewes that each had two lambs. They have dye on their backs to show which ewe they belong to. So we have a red team and a blue team. The lambs are three weeks old so they still want their mum’s milk but are also starting to eat grass and to try other things they encounter. Poor things, they look so small and it has got so cold. They have a shelter in the paddock where they can get shelter from the wind and Patrique has put straw inside so they will be all right. Of course this means I have to take on my shepherding responsibilities and I go down each morning to count them and make sure they are OK. This can create problems. I went down yesterday morning and there in the middle of the paddock were the two ewes and two of the lambs (the blue team). So where were the other two? I could not see them. The ewe was not making a fuss so I concluded that they must be in the shelter. I still had to check to make sure. It’s tough this shepherding lark!

Little lambs, 3 weeks old

Thursday was also an important day as we had to go to Ernee to visit the Notaire. The Notaire in France is like a solicitor but they only deal with property and their job is to oversee the sale and purchase of property. We were there to finalise the purchase of a ruin! A one corner of our property is an old ruined building. One of its walls backs onto our garden just next to the gite. It belongs to an Englishman and is in a very bad state of repair, to the extent that various bits are propped up with acrow props to stop it falling down. It is just one old building which originally had been part of the house on the other side of the lane. When that was sold the estate agent had advised keeping the ruin out of the sale. This meant that the ruin remained in the ownership of someone back in England.

Because of its state we wanted to make it safe and incorporate it into our property. In the end we agreed with the owner that we would buy it off him for the price of 1 Euro and that he would pay the legal fees. So a good deal for us but also for him as he could finally get rid of a potential long term liability. Buying any property in France is a challenge and requires the adoption of the Gallic shrug and plenty of patience. We had agreed to buy the ruin back in August. Because it is a rural building the notaire has to establish that it is not required for agricultural purposes. An agency called SAFER has to decide and has two months to do so. In practice it does not respond in most cases but you have to wait the two months just in case it does! Even in our ruin’s case where there is no land apart from the building and it has no water, electric or drain. Then there is a lot of paper work to check and translate. In all it took 6 months to complete the transfer and we signed up on Thursday. The transfer then has to be registered with the Government and this can take another 6 months.

We are the proud owners of this ruin!

Still Mrs. Parish and I are now the proud owners of a ruin, which we can look out on from our lounge. We now have to decide what to do with it. We had an idea to demolish the building and to open up the area to our garden. We want to build an outer wall and make it into a terraced garden and sitting area, using the chimney in one wall as a barbecue. Of course if you are planning any kind of work that will alter a building you have to go and see the mayor to get permission. So on Friday we went over the local Mairie to get advice. So it would seem that we need to get a permit to demolish the building and then another permit to construct something to replace it. Inevitably in France, there are two long and complicated forms to fill in and the mayor’s clerk advised us to draw up some rough plans to show what we propose to do. Apparently it can take up to three months to get the necessary permissions. Fortunately we have plenty of other projects to be going on with so are not concerned at the time. Anyway in France you get used to the time periods and learn to live with it.

While we were at the Mairie, the mayor Madame Baglin, arrived. Now it seems that mayors of rural communes pride themselves on knowing everyone. We had met her a couple of times but immediately she said “ah, les anglais de La Godefrere”. The English of La Godefrere which was quite impressive. We did actually vote for her in the mayoral elections last year, although she was the only candidate!

We seem to be keeping the moles out of the La Godefrere exclusion zone. Mrs. Parish has so far caught two field mice in collateral damage incidents but so far no moles. My tractor/singing patrols are obviously working as a deterrent and the moles are keeping out of the garden for the moment. Down in our big field there are lots of rather large molehills. We tend to be tolerant of molehills as the field is only used for growing hay. In the week I was doing some work down at the bottom to the field on our nature trail. Of course fully utilising my tractor and trailer. I was clearing brambles, digging over a stretch of ground next to the stream so I can plant some wild flower seeds. I decided to get some soil to fill in a hole. I thought to myself, the soil left on the molehills would be perfect for this job. There were loads of molehills right near where I was working and nice mounds of loose soil all ready for me to use. I put my hands out either side of the hill and went to put them together. On doing this I discovered that what looks like loose soil is in fact compacted soil and did not give when my fingers arrived resulting in shooting pain in my right hand middle finger.

I thought I had broken my finger which started to go blue and then black as the bruise came out. So for the past week I have been in some pain and have limited movement in my finger. It is just badly bruised but it is amazing all the things that you do which involve the middle finger! So the moles are now booby trapping their molehills. Mrs. Parish shows little sympathy and maintains that it was my fault as I should have taken more care or used a spade. I on the other hand have spent the week inventing abusive terms to shout at the moles when I am next out on my tractor!

Life is never dull here in rural France and on Friday morning the gendarmes of the office of the hunt and wild animals turned up again. They wanted to take a statement from me after I had seen some hunters in the field behind our gite who had killed some sort of large animal. Apparently they were not official authorised hunters and the gendarmes were after them. As you might expect there are loads of rules and regulations about hunting. So we had two rather large gendarmes with holsters with rather large guns sat at our dining room table while I explained what I had seen and we prepared and signed a witness statement. I was quite impressed with my use of French and was able to explain using the French language. I am now wondering if I will have to turn up in court as a witness, that would be an interesting experience.

My bad finger is now hurting after all the typing so I think I will need to have a drink for medicinal purposes. I was explaining this to Emile yesterday and that I needed a calva for my finger and that of course I did have 10 fingers!!

Bon journee