It seemed a good plan at the time! Last week I reported on our decision to move the chickens up from the orchard to a place in the courtyard next to the cat palace. We did this as the weather had turned so cold that we were a bit concerned for the hens. After a couple of days the hens have settled in to their new location and come back when it starts to get near to dusk. So we have had no repeat of our manic hen herding of last week.

However a new problem has arisen. What we did not factor in was that the hens are now close to the house and when food comes out for them they notice and remember which door is involved. So now whenever we go outside the hens come running over expecting some food. The cats always keep an eye on the door in case food is coming out.

So what we have now is the situation where if any food comes out of the house we have 6 animals wanting their share. At 4pm we feed the cats and put out three bowls of cat food. Now the cats start tucking in when three chickens arrive and try to peck in underneath the cats. The chickens soon suss out that Minou is the most nervous of the cats and she moves away if the chickens start pecking at her bowl. Moggie also cedes ground to the hens. Only Archie is so focussed that he doesn’t allow the hens into his bowl.

Cats and chickens wars

The reverse happens if we put out some warm potato for the hens (Mrs. Parish thinks they are cold and need some warm food). Immediately three cats arrive and try to pinch the potato. The cats have also identified that the chicken run may be a source of food and they are keen to get in and try the hens pellet food.

It seemed that the obvious answer was to feed both the cats and hens at the same time. So this afternoon we try that tactic and it proves to be an interesting experience. Firstly all six go for the bowl that is first out down which is the potato for the hens. So all 6 are trying to grab the potato. Then we get the cat bowls down trying to match up each cat to their bowl. At this point there are animals going in all directions.

Then the cats attempt to eat their food even more quickly than ever and it becomes a race to see who can finish their food first and thus have chance to prey on the others. Of course the hens have the edge as they have one bowl of warm potato between them and thus finish first and then start to intimidate the cats with a three pronged pincer attack. I decide that this needs to be recorded and go to get my camera. This leaves Mrs. Parish to run around trying to keep the hens off and to try to allow the cats’ time to eat their food.

Mrs Parish fighting off the hens

Eventually the food is gone and calm is restored and Mrs. Parish and I withdraw indoors exhausted! Now of course there are 6 faces at the window at feeding times all willing us to stop messing around and to bring out the food.

I move from marauding cats and hens to the more tranquil world of the flying stag and its relevance to cormorants! A friend of ours has a small lake on his grounds in which he is growing a number of carp for the purpose of fishing which is very popular in France. Fishing is also popular amongst cormorants that frequent the area and at times around 20 cormorants have descended onto the lake. I suggest that he gets a goshawk to hunt the cormorants but this appears difficult so the alternative is a kite shaped like a goshawk.

When we look in the French English dictionary we discover that the French for kite is “cerf Volant” which literally means flying stag!! This is quite confusing as you don’t see many flying stag in France. Further research reveals that cerf volant also means a stag beetle which is slightly closer to resembling a kite but not that much. It is bad enough learning to speak French but when they use such bizarre translations it is even more difficult.

I have mentioned before that Mrs.Parish likes a bonfire and she has many burn holes on her gardening clothes to prove it. This week we have been clearing bramble from around the big tree at the bottom of our hay field. There was a huge area full of fierce and big brambles which over a couple of days we hacked down and moved to a stop where it could be burned. I was dragging large tangles of brambles over to the fire and then throwing them on. Well I managed to get a bit too close and burned a great hole in my fleece. Mrs.Parish has now enrolled me into the official bonfire brigade now I have the appropriate badges! We have now cleared all this area and released several oak trees from bondage. Once the weather improves we can incorporate it into our developing nature trail

This area was full of brambles now we can the the trees

It seems that after 4 years in France we have the signs that we are now an accepted part of the community. We had a letter from the UK pension agency saying that we had to prove we were still alive so that they would go on paying the pension. To do this we had to get someone official to sign to say we were alive. We opted to go and see our local Mayor and dropped into the Mairie to get the forms signed. We have met the mayor, Madame Baglin on several occasions and she was in the office when we called in. She welcomed us by name and came over and gave us both a kiss. On both cheeks naturally!

She confirmed we were still alive and signed the form with of course the official mayor’s stamp. Nothing in France is proper without an official stamp. We also went to the Prefecture in Laval to exchange our driving licence for a French driving licence. Our previous experience told us to be well prepared and make sure we had all the right documents and a few that were not listed. It proved just as well as in France women retain their maiden name as their legal name. Mrs. Parish’s UK driving licence is in her married name as is her passport and so the clerk asked Mrs. Parish for her birth certificate to show her legal name. Fortunately we were well prepared and had our birth certificates ready!

After 4 years we are beginning to get the hang of this living in France business. Of course some things come quicker than others and we probably need to practice a bit more in the wine tasting and appreciation department. Which reminds me that I need to go across to the cave and seek out something to go with the lamb tagine that Mrs. Parish is creating. Possibly a nice bottle of Fleurie. And it does seem to be time for a little aperitif while I watch the FA cup on the TV. It is tough living in France, honestly!

Bon weekend