The hens continued in their prisoner of war mode from last weekend. At every opportunity they were finding a way out and escaping either down the lane or up the lane. We thought we had covered up the escape holes in all the gates and then discovered that they were slipping over the bank, though rough grass at the top and then sliding down into the lane. Mrs. Parish had the bright idea that we could frighten them back in and so she went out into the lane and when the chickens got to the top of the bank she leapt out waving her hands wildly and shouting at them. It didn’t work but was very funny. It is not for nothing that we have the reputation of English eccentricity among our French neighbours!

We decided that the only option was to create a ring of steel around the rest of the garden and orchard along the top of the bank. This to go with the fence we put up alongside Xavier’s field last week and would supplement the chicken wire fixed to the gates. So Monday morning we went off to the local farm shop to buy yet more fencing. The shop assistant looked at us as if to say “didn’t they come in last week for chicken wire?”

So now we have a mesh fence all along the top of the bank and the garden is enclosed in a ring of steel. I was all for adding some fierce dog, a machine gun post and may be a moat. Mrs. Parish was sure that our brand new fence was all we needed to stop all this escaping nonsense and in addition the chicken toys had now arrived and that would keep them amused. I was always doubtful about the concept of chicken toys. The toys consisted of a plastic container which you are supposed to hang up in the chicken run and put some supplied sticks of some sort of delicious stuff that chickens like. The chickens then have something to peck at.

Well, the chickens were frightened of it and simply ran away into the chicken house! We haven’t yet tried the chicken ball which also has food in it and causes the chickens to chase the ball to peck at the food. I am not optimistic.

Anyway back to the ring of steel which by 4pm in the afternoon had been breached at one of our gates. We discovered that this bit of fence we had managed to in upside down which meant that within hen jumping distance was a hole they could jump through. So through they went led by Sylvia our little red hen who seems to be the ringleader. So we had to find some fine mesh fence to put up over the original fence. Since then success, no more escapes.

This of course may have to with the sky falling in on Tuesday night. In a well known children’s story a rather stupid hen, called henny penny (or Chicken Licken) thinks the sky is falling in and goes off to tell the King and after joining up with all sorts of silly domestics fowls comes across a rather clever fox who tricks them and they end up being eaten and the King never finds out the sky is falling in!

On Tuesday evening we put the hens away in their house as usual and went off to bed. In the night we had a rather violent electric storm with almost continuous lightning and a wind which was so strong I had difficulty in shutting the window in our bedroom. This storm lasted around 30 minutes and we also had a power cut. In the morning we went outside to see if there had been any damage and the first thing we saw was the hen house upside down about 5 metres away from its site. It had clearly been bowled over by the strong wind. The hens were complaining greatly and emerged from a tangle of straw to go off grumbling. So the sky really did fall in on this occasion. They went off complaining but once the house was put the right way they came back to lay their eggs.

The big branch blown off the walnut tree

The storm had blown a great big branch off one of our walnut trees and this lat across the lawn. Several other branches had been blown down from trees in the orchard and veg garden. To my absolute horror loads and loads of apples and pears had been blown down from the orchard trees. Not only would this seriously affect the harvest for making cider but I would have to pick up a hundred times more apples off the floor than would normally have fallen at this time of year.

One of our orchard trees with the apples blown down

Our neighbours down the lane who had gone back to England a couple of weeks ago suffered worse damage. In their front garden was a hug tree under which they had built some sort of seating arrangement. The whole tree had been blown over and now lies right across the garden. Fortunately the tree does not appear to have hit anything else. However in another part of their garden were two caravans (a bit of an eyesore to most of the hamlet. Now there is only one! The other caravan is now on the other side of the boundary fence, upside down in the neighbouring farmer’s field. The wind obviously caught the caravan underneath and blew it right over.

All around there is damage and some of the maize in the fields has been blown flat and lots of trees and branches blown down. The power cut lasted until 5pm on Wednesday. Of course the great storm has been much talked about with our neighbours. So since then we have been clearing up and cutting up the branches and picking up apples. I have made about 8 trips down to the bottom of our big field with the tractor and trailer full of debris to put on our bonfire heap. Mrs. Parish will have great fun burning that lot in due course. We have also retrieved quite a lot of wood that we can eventually burn in our wood burner so there is always something positive.

On the brighter side, the weather has changed and we have had steady rain since the great storm. We very much needed the rain as everywhere was scorched by the very hot weather. You can almost see the green returning to the grass and plants and trees recovering. Of course this will mean that the grass will start to grow, necessitating more mowing of the grass!! 

To end the week on a brighter note we went off to our local supermarket’s “Foire aux vins” (festival of wine) on Friday. We get invited to the store in Mayenne each year to taste the wine before it goes on general sale to the public. So we arrived to what turned out to be a typically crazy French affair. The wine tasting and private sale is by invite only and there is a great range of posh snacks available as well as a whole load of wine, a lot of which is on special offer.

This year the “Foire” was set up in a large tent next to the store and when we entered we realised that the tent was not really big enough. Around the walls and filling up the middle were stacks of boxes of wine and on top of the stacks were placed bottles of the wine. This meant that there was only just enough room to get past and when most people had brought in a trolley to fill there was little room to move and regular traffic jams. Weaving amongst this were several waitresses with trays full of canapés. 

For some bizarre reason just inside the entrance was a man with a stand and several packs of cards. We assumed he was the entertainment and was going to try to interest people in card tricks! Of course this was France and there was wine to taste and to buy so no one took any interest in the card man at all. This was probably just as well as if a small crowd had gathered around him we would have achieved total gridlock!

So we tried to get some wine to taste but this proved difficult as the traffic chaos meant it was difficult to get to the man pouring the wine. I managed to get a couple of tastes before giving up and attempting to select some wine to buy. At this point we realised that there was a fundamental flaw in the stacking process. To get a carton of 6 bottles you had to move the free standing bottles on top of the stack. There was no room to move them to which made it more difficult. Added to this was the problem that there were two stacks and if you wanted the box at the back it was impossible without risk of knocking over bottles.

In the end several staff went to get step ladders to get at the boxes. I did apologies to the nice young man for selecting the most difficult wine to access and we managed in the end to get 10 cartons containing 60 bottles of wine into our trolley. At this point we decided to head for the checkout and get home before we were stuck in an immovable traffic jam. To get to the checkout we had to go out the back of the tent and into the store. In this room was a man on his own playing an electric organ. Presumably more entertainment that everyone was ignoring!

Minou, guarding the wine

Now our wine cave is full and that is a happy end to the week. I think I should go over to the cave and select some fine wine to go with dinner and of course it is now time for a little aperitif.

Bon dimanche