Saturday, September 28, 2013

My new best friends

As I was lingering in my bath, wine glass on the side, real (paper) book in hand, there was a hammering on the bathroom window. The largest moth I have ever seen recently was frantically battering at the window. Its huge wing span was creamy white, the under-wing with arcs of black and slightly hairy. I knew it really wanted to get at the light, so I was not too flattered.

here's me, top left, drawing attention to self

I got out of the bath, wrapped myself in a towel and called for support, husband John. He is taller than me so could open the window and let the moth in. But first we closed the bathroom door so that it would have to stay with us. It did not seem remotely confused, came in and settled on the wall nearest the light, folding itself into a neat triangle and refusing any further display. We went to bed disappointed.

By breakfast time it had disappeared. How it could have got under a closed door I do not know. However, by way of compensation, there was a mini cricket, transparent green, next to my plate which obstinately refused to move. Eventually s/he had to be taken to the geranium in the conservatory. Later that morning there was a much larger one on the car bonnet who was still sitting on the bonnet by the time I got to the baker, three kilometres further down the road. The car and I were glad to be of use.

By the time I got back the Unknown Moth had settled itself on the dining room fireplace chimney, an excellent background for photographs. But still it refused to unfold itself and display its under-wings. It still sulked, even though Audrey brought out her best cameras with super lenses. And she climbed on a stool so as to get closer.
and here I am again, refusing to show all self

So, if it was going to ignore us, we decided to ignore it – despite spending ages on looking up possible identities on the internet. But zebra like black and white near horizontal stripes only lead one to a genus, not to an individual in that tribe.

Meanwhile, last week's praying mantis was up to all sorts of antics on the tin elephant by the front door. Obviously nose out of joint because we were ignoring it, so we took some more photos. Then it left – or got eaten. After which there was a caterpiller in my best geranium – and so it goes on. Never mind the totally deranged wasps and hornets, the rain has totally confused their brains.

Look at ME

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Respect the fears of others

There was a time when I was afraid of dogs, even now I am not a fan of Alsatians. Once I was dubious about sheep but soon noticed that I was taller than they were. I am still far from enthusiastic about cows and decidedly afraid of horses that are not safely the other side of a fence.

The Alsatian owner mocked me when I shrieked as her (wretched) dog licked the back of my knees. I expostulated that it is (more) normal to be afraid of something large, hairy, unpredictable and with teeth than of something small, skittery with whiskers – like a mouse. Touché, she is dead afraid of mice.

In my thirty plus years of country life I have observed that fear needs time. If it is my turn in the bath, the spider has to get out. If I have time to let it get out graciously, I run a trail of loo-paper over the side. If I have not, it gets swept out unceremoniously with a towel.

My fear of (most) dogs was overcome when our first Labrador, the blonde Victor, was caught biting the buttons off the Chesterfield sofa.
Exasperated, I took him by the scruff of the neck and spanked him.
Then, in reaction, I sat on same sofa and cried. He climbed back up, put his head on my knees, and we cried together.

Of course there are evil insects, like hornets and wasps, and tiresome ones like flies. But one learns to deal with them, live with them as far as possible, destroy them if not – if you can, which is not always possible.


It is so easy to mock other people for fears that you do not share. I shall never forget the shriek issuing from a holiday maker who discovered that a technically ready-to-roast farm chicken still has head, neck, legs and feet attached, never mind the loose abats inside.

I was reminded of all this a few nights ago when the last of this season's holiday makers arrived, late, on an Edgar Allen Poe kind of evening. A wasp buzzed round a lamp. It was damp and dark outside, an owl was busy mourning something somewhere. The sheep moved up the field, pale shadows in the gloaming. 'Les moutons, sont-ils mechants?' asked the girl. A salamander slid down the wall and shot out the door. The wind moved leaves unseen in the trees. I should not have been surprised that our urban cousins fled. However, I was very saddened, they had so much to learn, to enjoy.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Wanted: humane fly killer

People are so ungrateful: the weather got so hot we could barely breathe and spent a lot of time moving fans from A to B or floating in the pool. Then (of course) the weather broke with attendant thunder, lightning and a brief but hard downpour.

The gods laughed and blessed us with house flies. One day there were none, after the rain the kitchen was infested. Every flat surface had its fly and the fly's friends.

Caught unawares, all we had to deal with them were tapettes, long handled, flexible plastic bats in horrid colours, a woven 'face' with huge eyes and evil grin. But flies is wise, they almost never sit on a surface where they can be hit without something else being damaged, like a tea-cup or jam-jar.

Presumably - well, hopefully - these flies had hatched outside and had come in through open windows and doors. Fly maggots in the outside rubbish bins is understandable, but inside...ugh.

A hurried trip to the hardware store produced a new version fly killer, a transparent one that is put on the windows. This is a great aesthetic improvement on the old suspended swirls of glue strips though the principle is the same: fly is attracted, fly touches, fly dies. There is no humane killer for flies.

To comfort myself I went for a walk down to the farthest field, to that area of land known as Greece. It was warm and sunny. One butterfly was so doped by the sun that I was able to get close enough to photograph it with my phone. Do butterflies snore?
Oh. the bliss of sun on one's wings!

On the rapidly drying tall grasses, were numerous very, very small blue butterflies. Perhaps they were the classic ones that live only on the kidney vetch plant, which do grow in the former horse fields and also in Greece. I could not get close enough to identify them as my shadow disturbed. If it was the classic Very Small Blue, its latin name is cupido minimus. Enough to make anyone sentimental.

However, I could recognise the meadow browns which were also drifting around the few scabious left, settling on a grass stem and closing their wings so that the one menacing black 'eye' showed clearly.

All this quite made up for the flies – and the maggots in the waste bins.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The chickens return!

Chickens are back at La Chaise! There are four hens and a cock, two young black hens, a slightly larger cockerel and two red 'granny' hens to keep everyone in order. Also to lay eggs.

I don't know how long it is since we have had hens, perhaps not since the Millenium. The turn of the century threw down many trees making wonderful shelters for foxes. Whilst some eighty per cent of a fox's diet maybe earthworms (officially) no fox will refuse a chicken.

Anyway, let us be optimistic. These chickens have a small run, neatly fenced with tasteful green electric netting linked to a 12 volt battery that delivers one hell of a shock to anything coming in, over, or under.
And that includes (H)Aska who thought these might be new dog toys but was soon, forcefully, dissuaded.

Yes, the cockerel crows in the morning before he is let out and then intermittently for an hour or so. It is a very gentle but classic crow, nothing to disturb a hardened urban dweller. The hens burble to themselves, especially when returning to the roost at night. Such well brought up birds, from my friend Pattie who lives down the road and knows all about hens.

There are a lot of bushes in the hen run and as soon as a human, or (H)aska shows up, the hens disappear. This makes it very difficult to take pictures. The cockerel is certainly not into posing, not even when he crows. His ego is still a little bruised because one wing had to be clipped – as it did for the hens – so that he would not fly out over his tasteful green fencing.

A very fine cockerel indeed.

The entrance into the henhouse – for hens – is a sliding, drop down door which Alexandre has cunningly attached to a long rope and a pulley so that it can be let down without climbing over the fence. As Audrey so presciently pointed out: Doina ne va jamais enjamber cette cloture..' and she is so right.

No way am I going to put a leg over that there fence, even with the battery technically off, even though I am taller than Audrey. I have never become confident of the farmer technique of treading down the fence then putting a leg over. It is the thought of the amperage those 12 volts will produce.....