A major event in the annals of La Godefrere. Hens have returned. When I say this, I don’t mean the three suffragette hens have returned from the grave. I mean we have new hens and this time we have four of them.

Our new hens

Near to us is a chicken business which keeps around 4,000 hens for egg laying purposes. They live in sheds but have a huge grassy area where they can roam free and feed up. They return to the shed in the evening and an automatic door comes down to keep them safe. Their grassy area has an electric fence which keeps predators out which is just as well as often we spot chickens who have arrived too late to the shed and have to stay out all night!

Every two years the chicken farmers sell off their entire flock of hens and then clean out the sheds and start again. This is for health and hygiene reasons. The hens are sold off at very cheap prices – 2 Euros 50 per hen. They are still good egg layers and value for money. If you buy 10 hens your get an eleventh free. They were recommended to us by our neighbours Giselle and Daniel who have bought hens from them before.

So, last weekend we went off to buy our new hens and with Giselle and Daniel agreed to buy them together so we needed 10 chickens, four for us and six for them. We gave them the free one. We took a huge hen cage with us and the 11 hens were quickly put into the cage by the farmer. We came straight home and managed to extract our 4 hens without the others escaping. The remaining 7 we delivered to Giselle and we were rewarded with a beer.

Our hens find a food source

The collection of the hens was recorded on video as we turned up at the hen shed with our very own film crew. My brother who is staying with us likes to video and make films. He lives in California, quite near to Hollywood so it is kind of inevitable! The video shows the collection of the hens and their safe delivery to our hen house. They seem to have settled in nicely and we have been able to let them out into the garden and orchard where they seem quite happy. They have even started to lay eggs and we had 4 today.

It has been a bit of a shock for the cats, in particular for Petit who has not met hens before. Knowing our luck, the hens we have bought will be the same ones who managed to miss the closing doors and who stayed out partying all night! Based upon our previous experience it will be hens with attitude again. One problem we have this time is that all four hens look very much alike and it is very difficult to tell them apart. This makes the job of giving them names a bit trickier. It’s a problem we are working on. If we can tell them apart I favour some appropriate revolutionary women’s names.

Anyway, look out for the video and see the full story.

For the past 5 days we have been without telephone or internet connection as our phone and computer is supplied by Orange France via the telephone wire. Last Thursday we lost the connection and eventually found out that a lorry loaded with straw bales had caught the overhead wire just outside Couesmes and pulled it down cutting the line. Orange could not get out to fix it until today. Travelling into Couesmes you could see the wire lying across the road. We were tempted to try to mend it ourselves with a bit of gaffer tape.

All is now back to normal and once again we can connect with the rest of the world. It has arrived in time to get the blog published and put on line. This despite the distractions of my brother’s visit and having to defend the honour of France in a trans-Atlantic petanque competition. The petanque arena at La Godefrere is a bit challenging as we have to play on grass rather than proper French grit. The surface is also a little uneven causing some very strange bounces when the boule landed and some difficulty in judging the amount of roll and swing as the boule ran across the grass. One also had to adjust to avoid the occasional wandering hen or a cat intrigued by the large boules crossing the garden.

Adjusting for these factors cost France the first leg 12-10. However, with typical French verve I managed to read the green and won the second set 12-1. After that France won four more legs to lead 5-1 in the series. We decided that a major problem was having to bend down to pick up the boules. It seems that the older you get the more thing have to be picked up from the floor. My brother came up with an answer and picked up from Intersport special petanque magnets on strings. The magnets are curved so that they match the curve of the ball. You just dangle the magnet over the boule and then pull it up and take off the boule ready to throw. If only I could use it to pick up apples!

Californian apple pickers

Although at the moment I have two American labourers to do the picking up. They have been working hard to keep the orchard apple free. I have cunningly arranged to take advantage of this by getting delivered our winter supply of wood logs for the wood burner. I have had our labourers picking up logs all day!

Californian wood shifters

To offset all this activity, we have been keen to take advantage of French cuisine and have had lunch out on a number of occasions. We went to sample the Michelin 1-star restaurant in Mayenne, L’eveil des sens. We had as usual a superb meal, accompanied by lovely bottle of wine. We have also had lunch at our local café in Ambrieres and then another excellent meal at La Marjolaine. It is one of the joys of living in France that there are so many really good restaurants covering a wide range of prices.

Tonight, we were invited round to our neighbours Lis and John for a traditional night of tidying up their wine and cheese before their return to the UK tomorrow. Our visitors were also invited and worked hard to do their share of tidying. We managed to consume a fairly large quantity of wine and whisky as well as much bread and cheese. They will be back with us at the end of October and no doubt we will maintain the traditions of visits to the Michelin restaurant and eating and drinking wine and eating cheese.

There are those that think my life in France is only about eating and drinking! That is not far from the truth.

Bon appetit