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.