The mornings are getting darker and there is a definite chill in the air. I usually get up to the sound of some awful French music on the bedside radio at 7-30am. Mrs. Parish argues that this is good for me as there is little chance I will lay in as the music is so annoying that I will have to get up. The cats agree as this is their specified breakfast time. They are always outside ready and waiting for breakfast and if they can, looking in the window. Of course we have started to close the curtains now so a bit more difficult for them. But they are ready and waiting and quick to moan if I am a bit late.

In the evenings it is getting darker earlier and the cats are now suggesting that supper should be fixed on light quality. A bit like a cricket match when light meters are used to see if bad light stops play. The cats view is that bad light means supper. I insist we stick to the 9pm watershed otherwise tea and supper will coincide at 4pm.

The arrival of autumn has meant that we have turned our mind to jobs for this time of year. So we have spent the past week hedging and fencing. The hedging has been done to the banks and hedges around the orchard and garden close to the house. This has meant cutting back branches and the long grass on the banks. It also means pulling great big bramble shoots from amongst the trees. They have grown to incredible lengths and in the process have used the trees and branches as something to climb and wrap around. This can be lethal as the brambles have huge and vicious thorns. I have some huge gauntlets to grab the shoots and this gives some protection but of course the shoots once cut have a habit of whipping around your legs and cutting through the trousers to the legs. The collected debris has then been transported in the trailer down to the bottom of the big field to be burnt. Mrs. Parish is looking forward to making some bonfires.

We have also had the fencing team out and about. (The fencing team is Mrs. Parish and I and a wheelbarrow). We have become most efficient at removing old posts which have become rotten, detaching the nails and then banging in the posts (my job) with a sodding great sledge hammer that I can barely lift. For optimum knocking in I find it best to stand on some steps so that I can get above the fence post to hammer it into the ground. Mrs. Parish then reattaches the fence. We have successfully repaired about half a dozen posts around the potager and more importantly to keep the sheep in the paddock. For good measure we also pick up the remaining apples and also walnuts and chestnuts. We are currently engaged in a sort of fruit and nut war with our neighbour Giselle. She doesn’t have many nuts so we keep taking round bucket loads for her and leave them outside her backdoor and immediately she retaliates with a bag of pears left on our window sill.

To make sure we are keeping ahead in the good neighbour stakes we met Giselle on her bike in the lane yesterday. She has just started to ride a bike (in her 70’s) as a way of getting exercise without having to put weight on her bad knee. She was telling us that the chain was making a clicking noise every other time the wheel went round. I was able to tell her that I had a device for fixing chains (using the useful French word “truc” which means a thing).  So in the middle of the lane Mrs. Parish and I engage in cycle repairs. Daniel arrives on the scene with another DIY problem. (DIY is not Daniel’s strong point, in fact Giselle sums it up with another useful French phrase “il est nul”. He is useless!

I am dragged away by Daniel to help him fix a door lock mechanism onto the door to his storeroom and I am able to impress Daniel with the contents of my workshop and thus to resolve his door problems. It didn’t help that Daniel was trying to fix it on upside down! Well of course we are now ahead in the good neighbour points and are invited in for coffee and biscuits and this ends up with Daniel insisting we have some of his 7 year old home made kirsch. It is hard work being a good neighbour!!

After the drinks we got back t the hard work hedging and fencing and collecting up wood. We were grateful when Emile & Yvette arrived so we could stop working as we had to offer them coffee. We were delighted to see Emile emerge from the car with a bottle wrapped in old newspaper. This could only mean the arrival of the calva. And just in time to save the day.

Anyway the week has also brought other interesting events. Not least of which has been the discovery of a stairway to heaven. At least we assume that is where the steps will lead. In France there are a large number of crosses erected along the road and country lanes. Some of them are old crosses erected to show where roads joined or where there were crossroads. There is a La Godefrere cross at the top of our lane, just round the corner which shows where the road used to be leading to our hamlet. There are also a huge number of religious crosses most of which have the figure of Jesus on the cross. They are also painted a varying range of colours, including red, silver and black. On the road leading to our local village, Couesmes-Vauce there is a silver cross and figure of Jesus. For a long while recently there was a ladder against it right to the top. This of course led to speculation that it was in fact the stairway to heaven (possibly the one mentioned by the rock group Led Zeppelin). Mrs. Parish and I felt we should climb and see if indeed it gave access to heaven but unfortunately the ladder has now been removed. Maybe the access is only at certain times of the year. We will keep an eye on the cross.

Stairway to heaven near Couesmes-Vauce

Today was Mrs. Parish’s birthday so I took her to a “fete des plantes”. Literally a plant sale but this one was held at a manoir near to Domfront. It is a huge plant sale and also one which sells a lot of garden ornaments. Mrs. Parish took the opportunity to buy some special grasses for the garden border. It was an amazingly beautiful turreted mansion with its own lake. There were hundreds of people there and we found out that last year there were over 10,000 visitors as it is an annual event on a Sunday in October. All around and in the courtyard were stalls selling plants and other garden stuff.  I decided to treat myself to a “maitre corbeau” (or Master Crow). This is a crow made from bits of metal and fixed on a swinging bar so that it moves with the wind. These are hand crafted and so we had to bring him home to adorn our courtyard garden area.

Maitre Corbeau in our garden

Finally this week there is definite evidence that tupping has been going on in our sheep paddock. The old name for a ram is a “tup” and the act of tupping is when a ram mates with a ewe. We have had Rambo in our paddock with 5 ewes for the past few weeks waiting for him to do his job. Patrique had smeared red dye onto the front of the ram so that he would know when the deed had been done on each ewe. For the first few weeks nothing seemed to happen leading to worries about a gay ram. However it seems that he was just being a gentleman and waiting until the ewes came into season. I did see Rambo doing a lot of sniffing. This week there were the first signs that Rambo had started work as one of the ewes had red dye on her back. Apparently it is all quite complicated and the rams have to be prepared and properly fit. According to one sheep breeders website “You should start preparing your tup about two months before he’s due to start work, because that how long it takes for sperm production to get going. So you want him healthy and in good condition, with his feet in good nick too – your tup will cover a lot of ground during the mating period and will spend a good bit of it on his back legs too“. Just as well the same conditions don’t apply to humans.

Evidence of tupping

If Rambo has done his job the ewes should be pregnant and due to lamb in March which would see the ewes and their lambs return to La Godefrere in April next year. Patrique has now come to move the ram and ewes to another field with more grass allowing our paddocks to recover ready for the spring.

Talking of spring reminds me that we have taken our first booking for the gite for 2016 in June. So if you want to come and stay in our gite you had better hurry!!

Enough of all this blogging, Mrs. Parish reminds me it is her birthday and why hasn’t she got a drink! Duty calls.

Bonne anniversaire Mrs. Parish