Summer has well and truly arrived at La Godefrere and all last week has been solid sunshine and really hot days. At this time of year you can almost see the grass growing as we have warm weather following wet weather. This has positive and negative effects. Within the garden and orchard this means cutting the grass at least once a week. This means of course plenty of work for the tractor driver as I also have to cut the pathway round the big field as well as one side of the lane from La Godefrere up to the road. The verges of the lane are cut from time to time by the local council but not often enough. We now have a divided responsibility with my neighbour Peter cutting one side of the lane and me cutting the other. A friendly rivalry has now arisen as to who can cut the neatest side of the lane. Peter has stolen a march as he has already done part of his side while I have been busy with visitors. I also have to cut the side which goes in front of our French neighbour Giselle and this needs to be cut to her specification! Once the grass is cut Giselle sends a complaining Daniel out to rake up the grass to use as hay for her animals!

However watching the grass grow in our big field is like watching money growing! Our big field is growing grass for hay. Once cut the hay will be sold and we will be paid. This seems to me a great idea. We do very little and get paid for doing it. We used to have an arrangement with Emile who looked after and cut the hay. He then sold it and we got half the cash return. Unfortunately Emile can no longer cut the hay as he has had heart problems (he is 82!). We now have the same arrangement with and English couple Andy and Julie who have a small farm the other side of the village. They look after the field and rake it and then cut it. Once cut the hay has to be turned a few times to ensure it dries out. This is done using a serious tractor with proper attachments. They then come round with a baler attachment and put the hay into small tied up bales. This has just been done a couple of days ago and we have 818 bales of hay. At this point the bales need to be stacked in groups of four bales so that they minimise any rain and are ready to be more easily collected. 

At this point we had to do some work. Julie asked us if we could stack as many bales as we could. In France at harvest times everyone mucks in and we happened to mention to Giselle that we were stacking and she, Daniel and her daughter, son in law and their two kids offered to come and help us. We also had help from my daughter Amy and her friend Joyce who are here for a week’s holiday. Stacking hay bales is more technical than you might think. You need to make sure that the knotted string is at the bottom of the bale and facing inwards when stacked. This apparently stops rain catching in the knot and retaining moisture. We became quite expert at stacking and engaged in some Anglo French rivalry to see whose little hay houses could stay up and not fall down. After harvesting of course we all sat round our patio and drank some of Emile’s cider. A proper rustic experience!! Today we have been loading the bales onto a trailer to be taken away for storage and then for sale. At which point our grass will be turned into money. Not bad!

While we were all stacking hay Daniel’s dog Pepito came to help and had a great time running around and catching filed mice. Although he was not sure what to do with them once caught. When we came back for cider he ran into (literally) Archie who was asleep under the hedge. Archie woke up and was face to face with a small Jack Russell terrier. They faced each other and a lot of growling was heard from both. Eventually the spell was broken and Archie, obviously affronted at this invasion of his territory launched a head long attack on poor Pepito. After a couple of swipes with rather large and sharp claws Pepito conceded defeat and ran away to great cheers from all assembled. Archie is now looked at in a whole new light and has acquired the title “Chat Sauvage” and is now strutting about even more than usual.

Summer has also brought the sound of swallows who have been flying and diving about all round the courtyard and our grounds feeding their young either on the wing or by landing in our trees. At this time of year they are calling to the young and there is brilliant flying display and a lot of screeching. Quite often they are joined by swifts who have come out from the towns to feed. These are definite sounds of summer. Occasionally the sparrowhawk arrives and it is amazing to watch the swallows as they mob the hawk and like jet fighters escort her off the premises.

With Amy and Joyce staying we had to go and visit Alex and her Alpacas, particularly as they have three babies born within the past month. As well of course as baby goats and sheep who need bottle feeding. So this is now a must experience for family and friends. We also had to go and collect our leg of lamb. The leg of lamb is the fee we get for letting more grass grow and allowing sheep to graze our grass. Last year we had Mutt and Geoff, two lambs from Alex in our paddock and we have just collected the leg. The two sheep had only recently been to the abattoir. Alex was waiting for a skilled local French man to be available as apparently he is very good at dispatching sheep in as humane a method as possible. I commented that this was good as the meat is better if the sheep is not stressed. Alex explained that this was for the benefit of the sheep not the meat! The two lambs will be coming to us for grazing soon.

Alpacas with bay

Our other sheep belonging to Patrick have been away for a couple of weeks to allow the ewes to be sheared. They have just arrived back and look a bit naked. There are now 9 sheep in the paddocks. Three ewes and six lambs. Although the lambs have grown so much they are almost as big as the ewes. It is making it difficult to choose which of their legs we should have. I suggest that we should get some blue dye and mark the one we want. Mrs. Parish gives me a disapproving look at this suggestion.

Well great excitement here as the World Cup gets underway. I have my wall chart firmly up on the wall and the television schedules all sorted so I can optimise the experience. The first England game did not start until midnight which was a bit of a trial. I managed to stay up to watch it. Mrs. Parish stayed up but slept through most of the game. Unfortunately England lost 2-1 to Italy. I decided to watch the France game on French TV to better appreciate the atmosphere. I am beginning to acquire a good French football vocabulary. The other benefit of watching on French TV is that they don’t have quite so many “experts” talking about the game and those that they do have seem to know what they are talking about. English TV could learn a lot!! Anyway it was a great game and the French won 3-0.

We have had a nice visit this week from Amy and Joyce. It was nice to meet Joyce who is house mates with Amy. She is half French and speaks good French so she was able to charm Emile when we went for a visit. Mind you she impressed me as she likes whisky (as does Amy) but Joyce actually really likes Laphroaig malt whisky which has unkindly been described as tasting like alcoholic dettol due to its peaty flavour. It is one of my favourites. Sadly our visitors go home to Norwich tomorrow which will require me to get up at 5am to get them to the ferry port for the early morning ferry. Amy and Joyce were also very impressed with the La Godefrere Ant Experience.

So this evening a few more bales of hay to shift and then an early night and for a change no alcohol.