I have ceased to need to wiggle! My new connecting wire for the computer arrived this week so I don’t need to either hold and wiggle or hold it in place using a large dictionary!

Well, we are approaching the end of summer here at La Godefrere and the nights are beginning to pull in. Most nights I go out to look for wildlife (I should quickly explain that in this context wildlife refers to foxes, deer, hares, bats and owls etc). I usually go for a wander around at dusk and we are having a bit of an Indian summer at the moment as the sunsets are pretty spectacular. Of course it is a little earlier each day and now the sun is setting at around 9pm (French time). 

Most nights I see a fox crossing the fields next to our gite. So the hunt still hasn’t caught him. In fact just yesterday when we were driving to Ambrieres a fox jumped out from a maze filed and stood about 10 yards in front of the car, before jumping back into the field. I commented to Mrs. Parish that we were closer to getting the fox than the hunt has been!! There are plenty of Little Owls and I have seen them on most evenings. I always hear Tawny Owls and occasionally get a sight of one.

Of course the other wildlife I get to see are three marauding cats who have to follow me round the orchard. It can be a bit disconcerting once it gets dark to hear the thunder of a cat racing over the grass behind you or appearing out of from the leaves of a tree or just suddenly there next to you. At the beginning of the day we now get a heavy dew and often a morning mist. Once the cats have had their breakfast Archie and Minou usually settle down for a bit of sleeping on the bed or sofa. Not Moggie. Having a full stomach just seems to fortify him for a bit of hunting session in the fields. After about half an hour he usually returns soaking wet with his legs and paws covered in muck. But being Moggie he bursts into the room and jumps up on the table and then proceeds to walk upstairs and back down leaving a trail of footprints across the floor and up the stairs. We then throw a towel over him as a sort of damage limitation exercise. Sometimes Moggie is more like a dog than a cat and always expects us to be pleased to see him!!

Another sign of the end of summer is the gathering flocks of swallows. We seem to be a gathering point for big flocks of swallows that join with those that nest here and form ever bigger flocks until they are ready to migrate to Africa. In a couple of weeks they will be all gone and we will be in the autumn and starting to get ready for the winter. We have already ordered a new wood burner to replace the aging and disintegrating one we currently have. We have already had the wood delivered and that is all stacked nicely in the wood shed. So we will be nice and warm. Hopefully the weather will remain warm for a while so we won’t actually need to light up until the end of October.

It has been a significant week for signs of the passing summer. In the week Mr. Letissier and his mother who own the cattle came to collect them all and take them away to market. There were around 50 cows, calves and of course the big bull all roaming around the field. Our neighbour Daniel christened the bull, Felix and so he has been known between us. The picture shows the size of the beast and of course the cows come right up to our fence for a chat. This week Felix was right next to the fence and rather nervously I got real close to take a photograph. At this point you begin to wonder if the barbed wire fence and the wire with an electric charge would be enough to stop a great big bull if he decided he didn’t like me. Unlike the cows he was not at all talkative and a bit surly I thought. He kind of gave you a “I could have you, easy” look. My confidence was not high as for the past few days Felix had been a lot more active and starting to get a bit frisky with the cows, checking to see if any had come into heat. I soon decided that discretion was the better part of valour and retreated.

Felix, the rather large bull, too close for comfort!

That fence looks a bit weak!

We watched the big round up and this was a typical French farce! Madame Letissier is a very small woman but gets stuck into the cows despite the fact that they tower over her. There was just her and her son Xavier and their plan was to cordon off part of the field and to force the cows into a sort of channel into a small corral. At first all the cows moved down the channel with the Letissiers following behind making encouraging noises. Just at the point of getting to the corral, the cows decided enough was enough and made a break for it and all ran back down to the bottom of the field. The was a lot of French cursing. So they try again and this time they park their large lorry with trailer to make the channel a bit more secure. Again they drive the cattle towards the corral and they use a long piece of rope to try and keep the cattle on track. Well some of them went into the corral. Many of the calves disappeared under the rope and then their mums made a great effort to follow them. 

The result was around 20 in the corral and then several groups of cows and calves around the field. So they then decide to herd the cows in the corral into the truck. So into the corral jumps Madame and sets about the cows (and great big bull) and proceeds to push and cajole the cows up the ramp, occasionally whacking them with a stick. Eventually this lot are safely in and then they round up the others. This time a bit more successfully although one cow and her three calves still manage an escape and they run over to the next field. So the two farmers have to walk right around them to again herd them back to the corral. The cow made one last dash for freedom but as her calves were caught she returned and gave herself up!  Mrs Parish and I had been watching this for about an hour and richly entertaining it was. We kept making jokes about Clint Eastwood and Rawhide and singing “rolling, rolling, rolling, keep them doggies rolling”. We gave a round of applause once all the cattle were captured. You will note that neither Mrs. Parish nor I volunteered to help, they are sodding great big cows and several have really sharp horns.

Note sharp horns!!

So now the field is empty and quiet. I’m already missing them. Cows are strangely good company as long as you have a fence between you and them! We now wait to see if there will be any new cows coming to overwinter.

There was controversy at the Euro Mayenne camera club this month! The secretary had decided that each month’s competition winner should pick the subject of next month’s competition. This wild and radical idea was to replace the endless debate to find subjects that everyone agrees with! However one of the members at the meeting objected and said that this could lead to “match fixing” as the choice could be weighted to benefit the chooser and make it more likely that they would win again. Several of us looked at each other in shock and I voiced the opinion of most that I couldn’t believe that anyone would be so keen to win (there is no prize and we are only a very small club, so little kudos for the winner) that they would cheat. Anyway the marker was put down that this new idea would “lead to trouble”. I can just see far eastern gambling syndicates rubbing their hands at making a killing over betting on the outcome of the monthly photo competition!!

This week I have also been tractor repair man with the assistance of Peter next door. I decided that the tractor mower needed new cutting blades. The cutter was more tearing the grass out than cutting it and it was also uneven. So I managed to find the French for cutting blade (lame) and ordered new blades via the good old internet. While researching I came across pictures of some of the small wheels which are apparently “anti-scalping” wheels. So I decided that they were also necessary as the ones on the tractor are falling apart. So the parts all arrived and with Peter’s assistance we managed to remove the cutter deck and fit the blades and the anti-scalping wheels, remarkably easily I thought, although I did manage to strain a muscle in my back lifting the cutting deck so have been hobbling about for the past few days. Anyway the tractor mower is like new and cutting the grass again and what is even better is that there is no scalping. Apart from the pain in my back I am feeling quite smug and have added tractor repair man to my skill set and CV.

So, as I am confined to quarters with my back I have managed to get the blog written up this morning. Probably too early for a drink. Well maybe for medicinal purposes!

Bon weekend