Monday, March 25, 2019

No going in the Chicken House

The La Chaise chicken house is worthy of a picture postcard.    It is not very high, roof tree about two metres from the ground level, wide roofs slope down to thick walls way less than a metre high.   There is a skylight in the flat mechanical terra cotta roof tiles and a small wired window in the 40 cm thick walls..  The cock crows with daylight - some times before.   The roof is partly covered with a profusion of dog roses.  All that is missing to make the picture perfect is a short person in old-fashioned clothes,  straw hat, and a basket of eggs.

A chicken house is seldom a salubrious place  Not just because chickens shit# without moderation.   Experienced chicken keepers manage to put a replaceable plank or thick cardboard under the perches to collect most of the muck and change it regularly.  There are also spider webs with accumulated dust and debris in them.    There will probably be rat or mice droppings if careless chicken keepers have thrown in chunks of hard bread. These are often disease bearing for humans as well as fowl. Scraps of dank feathers will be scattered as a result of chicken squabbles, along with the rotten rejects of unconsumed vegetables.  The lid of the laying box can drop on clumsy fingers.

All in all not a desirable place to be explored by small children.   Hence Oma's frequent greeting to the small grandsons:   NO GOING IN THE CHICKEN HOUSE!!

This,of course, is regularly ignored especially once all the other forbidden or nearly forbidden places have been visited.

But to see the glow of joy and triumph on their faces, almost reverent, as they come out of the chicken house, each carrying most carefully one egg in their cupped palms, proffering it to the adult in triumph - all is forgiven.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

February leaves with flowers, fire and fun

February has been an unexpectedly wonderful month, the spring flowers came early, the wild boar stayed sagely in the woods, the grass has started growing and lambs continue to be born in the barn. Everything flourished, even the camellias came out in flower - and they are not supposed to like our chalky soil.
Lurking rosettes of leaves promise future orchids, especially the billy goat orchid with its pervasive odour, near our front gate of course.

white violets in the roots of the lime tree - we have more different colour violets than ever before

But talking of shoots, the funniest event of all in  February was my brief on/off affair with the local St Aquilin chasse. It is a small association of men - and at least one woman - (legally approved of course) who  pursue the occasional wild boar or small chevreuil during winter months.   The official season ended in February but will restart this August.

(In case anyone is worried tourists are not counted as game, however annoying,
there is no price for any edible part of their bodies).

When we returned to La Chaise end January,  Audrey told us proudly of the 'huge' leg of wild boar that had been given them by a young chasse member whilst we were away. Gifts of game to land owners who lend their land to the 'chasse' are given such trophies as a sort of tithe. 

Then a charming young man, with adorable baby in arms, came to see me to talk about problems in the local chasse association.  He was very familiar with me, kissed me on both cheeks, assumed I knew who he was - which I did not but blamed it on my long absence. However, old ladies are very susceptible to young men with babies (official as my psy daughter told me) and so I listened to his tale of woe and dissension in the hunting fraternity - all 12 or so of them. 

Then I duly did my homework, talked with some local people, talked with some official chasse experts and decided to withdraw our land from the permitted territory of the St Aquilin hunting fraternity.  Naturally the opposing party came to see us - not least because Audrey and Alex' dog (NuKa) had chased an intruding chevreuil to the extent it got its legs entangled in the fencing. So Audrey called her friend in the chasse (who supplies dog food) to come and deal with the dying animal.

The result was that we all got the whole deer carcasse and I got a long explanation of the other side of the dispute.  After a few days of reflection, a formal letter from the remaining members of the chasse we restored our land to its hunting rights.

And so now I have a leg and a shoulder of deer in the freezer and a large amount of ragout which is hopefully turning into next winter's stew in the warm belly of the Rayburn.