I might not have managed much silence yesterday, but I’m sure I can manage a little Monday Morning love. It’s Monday. It’s December. Here, it’s bleak, wet and miserable – it rained all yesterday and the house looks like a Chinese laundry as I try to dry all the clothes off. It’s yucky. Steve won’t let me start my Christmas playlist and got all Grinchy when it accidentally started itself (I swear I had nothing to do with it!) so Much ♥ Monday is Much Needed…
So what are my raves today?
♥ my sister who has put together a mystery package and I’m so excited I can barely contain myself
♥ Tilly who got very wet yesterday and I had to wash her in Timotei because I’d run out of dog shampoo. It’s not so bad. I once used Dog Shampoo to wash my hair, so fair’s fair.
♥ the fact I’m up to Medusa in the poetry anthology and I ♥ Carol Anne Duffy in a non-lesbionic way – she rocks the poetry world.
♥ Aurelio Zen – just working my way through the second book.
♥ Fires and cute dogs.
♥ Marge’s new tail feathers, even though she still looks very pale and her legs are very yellow – moulting must be horrible
♥ that it’s only 10 days to my birthday
♥ planning a new Alphabet lesson for Lilia – teaching primary literacy is SO much fun!
♥ Christmas tinsel
♥ Mr Fox who is scabby but purring. I ♥ Mr Fox our beautiful cannelle cat
♥ having great ideas about what to do with that big square of “grass” that is really just dandelions and mud – oh just you wait and see!
The chickens have gone from timid to cocky in a four week period. First, they were very shy and scared. Now they’re verging on aggressive, demanding, inquisitive and over-confident!
Since we’ve let them be free-range, they have the run of the place. The first thing I’d noticed were the missing grapes, which I’d initially blamed on Molly, even though she’s not a grape-eater, until realising they were all perfect ‘chicken height’ grapes that were missing. Now, they go absolutely mental for grapes. Weird.
They spend a lot of time shadowing you, and then in some bizarre ‘Trigger Happy TV’ style, when you turn around, they pretend they’re not shadowing you at all and all stand looking in different directions, before you move on. A bit like Grandmother’s Footsteps. Each time, they get closer and closer. You turn around, they pretend they’ve not moved at all. You keep walking. They hurry after you.
I’m getting to the last fruits on the trees, before walnut season starts. Then we’ll have the remaining carrots and spring onions before winter. It might be the end of September, but it’s definitely winding-down season. I’d tried to procure some logs, going into the Mairie to enquire about a local seller. No, she says. You pick your logs up… you know… around… waving her hand vaguely in the direction of the forest behind the village. Sure enough, when we went down the riverbed, lots of the old dead wood had already been chopped into and sawn up. I’ve seen three or four cars, now, parked at the riverbed looking for wood. It’s still warm, though. I’ve had a real sweat on clearing weeds for the arrival of Papa.
La Grand-mama has managed to spend the night safely on her own, although she had locked her milk in one house and wasn’t able to get back in. She’s upset she can’t get Sky Sports, but glad to be in the sun.
Well, the Simpsons’ ladies are well established. Only one, however, is laying eggs, although I suspect another laid an egg last week. But none since then. Apologies to all those who subscribe to the ‘man’s dominion over nature’ theory rather than the ‘man as caretaker’ theory, but they are all definitely developing their own personalities and as different as can be. What’s ironic is that they are living up to their name somewhat.
At first, Marge, with her golden neck feathers and dark tail feathers, seemed to be in charge. She was first out of the box, first to explore and she’s definitely the noisy one who warns all the others, in true Mother Hen style. Patty and Selma, the two ‘true brown’ hens were difficult to tell apart, unless you knew them well. Selma has whiter neck feathers. They were boxed up together and very subdued when out of the box. Patty hid in a corner, with Selma very close by. Lisa, who is smaller and whiter than the others, was the curious one, going into all the nooks and crevices and looking at the nesting boxes. We named them according to these first signs, and we did a good job! For any of you doubters who didn’t realise hens have personalities just as much as Basil (the Steve equivalent, and sometimes the fussy Jake equivalent) and daft Molly, who is much like myself (except she farts more) the hens really do!
Marge is now probably fairly secure in the pecking order. Nobody bothers her. If she wants a drink, she has a drink. She still warns all the others and clucks more. Patty and Selma are the meanies. They hog the water and the feed, only moving over for Marge. They hang about together. Ironically, Patty is the egg layer. Poor Lisa, however, often struggles to find her place. She can only get to water if the others let her, though Marge always makes sure she can, but Patty and Selma can really flap about and scare her off. If Patty and Selma are eating, she’s stuck at the back. Poor Lisa! She’s the one who is most likely to be off on her own. Having said that, this morning, Patty and Selma were nested tight up against each other, and Lisa was underneath them, with Marge all the way over the other side. I was quite convinced hens like to snuggle up, but not so. Most nights they take up one space on each corner.
Anyway, I shall keep you posted on the psychological welfare of the ladies!
We are now proud (if nervous) owners of four Warren hens, which apparently were bred for battery farming as they are ‘egg laying machines’ – Marge, Lisa, Patty and Selma. I asked Jake what we should call them, and even though, as you know, I was pressing for Maria Callas, Lady Di, Jackie O and Margot Fonteyn, Jake had already thought of some names. Bart was the first one. I explained, dutifully, that only girls lay eggs. Not quite time to go into my ‘all roosters are rapists’ speech, I feel.
Jake and Steve had cleaned out the hen house in preparation – whilst it might be a little aged, it’s very functional. It has lovely nesting boxes and a couple of ladders to help them get to their perches. Then we’d bought some bedding – flax seemed to be our choice, since it’s more absorbent than straw and I couldn’t find any ‘copeaux de bois’ (wood shavings) at such short notice, which apparently are the best bedding. We’d chosen food for layers and sorted out the fly situation with the hens’ own ‘catch’. Then it was off to Rouillac market. Yes, the market of golden cheese.
I walked past the cheese lady today with an air of severity and seriousness. I’m not the tourist who would be buying cheese for 20 euros (although I had to hide a dried saucisse in the fridge at L’Eclerc today. I need not to sample wares!) and headed for the chickens. I was beginning to wonder where the chickens were. We’d gone past stalls of knives (which, each time, I have to peel Jake and Steve away from…) and stalls of cheese, vegetables, garlic (there must be four garlic stalls, at the very least) and old french-lady-nighties (think winceyette and neck-high) as well as pinafores and slacks. Contrary to popular belief, fashion is not really a French or Italian thing, since a good 80% of the female population expand without reason after 30 (my uncle Paul calls them popcorn women – they are small and skinny until the heat warms them up and then they pop!) and the French ladies have a penchant for pop socks, slippers, winceyette nighties, overall aprons and nylon.
Anyway, past the final stalls of vegetables, there was a general squawking and squealing. There were a few rows of pretty caged birds (how sad!) to get you excited and make you think a little that there are no chickens to be bought, and then there are about 10 stalls of birds. They include all manner of sad-looking poultry – geese, ducks, goslings, ducklings and chickens. There are plenty of chickens for ‘chair’ (flesh) – and a lot of hen-pecked creatures missing feathers and looking a bit worse for wear.
We went to a quieter stall where the chickens looked a lot less sad, although very cramped, and I liberated our four ladies, if only for a short while, since they were then put into very small boxes which we carried back to the car.
Once back, we unpacked our presents. I should add at this point that I’d woken up at 5:30 and Jake at 6:30, which is as rare as hen’s teeth. Jake is lucky if he sees the morning-side of noon. Two of the girls went into the chicken house; the other two wandered about a bit. Molly had come in with us, and we’d managed to contain her a little – although she was excited enough to piddle, I could just tell – although when one flapped near her, she went bananas. After that, we left them to settle in.