Hints of Autumn and further hen chronicles!

I can feel the change of season in the air and this week has seen the most rainfall we have had in months, bringing down the leaves and sending me running for waterproof clothing.  Sadly we have a lovely English family staying in the gite and they would have benefitted greatly from some of the recent glorious sunshine given the appalling weather back home in England.  Yesterday was fairly decent so they managed to visit the coast and enjoy the scenery before the rain set in.  Today it is pouring down with no sign of let up, however, there are still many attractions available so hopefully their stay will not be too dampened.

Passing by the chicks on the way to the compost bins I caught sight of one of them, Dupiaza (otherwise known as Aunty Cath, because she has beautiful feathers on her head and they remind us of a hat my Aunt wore at a family wedding years ago) looking very bedraggled.  When we were buying the hens a universal cry went up, obviously a collective memory and so she had to be in the selection.  Today the feathers are somewhat array as she is decidedly wet and not too happy.


Perhaps the rain has sent them broody though as I have been presented with two little warm eggs today.  Our total haul since they arrived is about nine delightfully tiny little offerings.  I now need to identify which other little treasure is contributing.  So far the two ornamental hens, which are not meant to lay very many eggs have been the sole providers but I have feeling that we are now moving forward to full production.  I feel some cake baking coming on!


Enter the Chickens

Having prevaricated for quite sometime about having additions to the family albeit of the animal variety I seem to have been overruled with the arrival of my family for the summer.  The boys have set to work on a number of projects the largest of them being the preparation of a chicken run and house.

Work started with the clearance of the designated area, which involved moving three logs piles and a compost heap.  It seems to be a fact that once a decision has been made regarding a task or project it cannot be straightforward.  I have discovered that there is always at least three or four preparation jobs in advance of the intended job.

The ground is now ready and the building of the hen house has commenced.  Much discussion has taken place about its size, design and creature comforts.  So far it seems that it may well be equipped with a sofa, pouffe and flat screen tv!  In my mind space to roost, a couple of perches and the all important nesting boxes for those delicious eggs would suffice.

Chicken run

Chicken house - work in progress!

Further debate has taken place on the naming of the said chickens - a firm favourite seems to be Balti, Bhuna, Kashmiri and Korma although one of my grandsons rather liked James.  I think the final decision will be when we go to buy them and see if the names fit - watch this space!

Forward thinking!

I am not sure that Christmas is loitering at the back of your mind just now; especially as the summer holidays are just upon us.  However, for those who are planning a Christmas break, what could be nicer than settling in front of a cosy log burner and enjoying the very different experience of French cuisine and traditions.

Quite often the main meal called "Reveillon' will be eaten Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning if people have attended a midnight church service.  It can include dishes like foie gras, oysters, lobster, roast goose and venison,  There will be a selection of cheeses and dessert will probably be a chocolate sponge log called a 'Buche de Noel.'  

Leading up to Christmas there are a number of 'Marche de Noel' in several of the towns and villages nearby.  Gifts and traditional local produce can be bought and you can buy hot roasted chestnuts cooked in the old fashioned way.

A highly recommended place to visit is the Puy de Fou, which runs from end of November until 23 December. The Christmas Mystery lasts 1 hour 20 minutes and includes magic, dance and music. There are many other attractions including a Shepherds' Choir and a 1900 Market Town.

For those of you feeling energetic a walk by the coast through the pine trees and around the golf course at nearby St Jean de Monts should shake off any excesses of delicious food, chocolates and wines.




Summer Sensations

During the last few weeks I feel that I have been in tune with nature at it's very best.  During my daily walks with Mimi I have spotted dragonflies shimmering in the heat and a pair of stunning kingfishers, hopefully nesting at the water's edge. Mimi has been puzzled by the sound of the gorse pods popping, they actually stopped her in her tracks and she stood with her head on one side trying to understand what was causing the sound.  I have seen fish basking in the shallows at the edge of the lake at Lege and numerous buzzards soaring over the fields following the harvesters and using the stacked hay bales (balles de foin) as a vantage point to spy on potential prey.  A friend has reported sightings of a mummy red legged partridge with 7/8 babies out for a stroll and at the bottom of our village two geese and one gosling perambulating the street.  Lazy, hazy heat filled summer days.

Lac de Jaunay

We have discovered a beautiful place to walk and enjoy the countryside in the Lac de Jaunay.  We were visiting a garden centre near Coex and I asked the owner if there was anywhere nearby to walk my dog Mimi.  She directed us to the lake and we were pleasantly surprised at how big it was.  There are three different parking places apparently. The one we used has a very friendly restaurant with a view over the lake.  There were a couple of small houses, one with a particularly beautiful garden.  

Mimi was in her element running in between the woods and the water and there are a number of trails to follow depending upon whether you want a pleasant stroll or a good ramble.  We noticed plenty of places to picnic.  In the woods some of the fallen trees provided spectacular artwork.

We felt that this was lesser known lake than the one at Apremont, which again is well worth a visit, but can get very busy during the summer months. Needless to say we will be back for further visits, as I am sure there are plenty more things to discover here!

Exploring the area - The Marais

Having finally finished all our projects (except for the garden, which is an ongoing marathon) we are beginning to get out and about discovering new things to do and places to visit.  Although we are familiar with this beautiful area we are still finding new, picturesque spots to enjoy.

Recently we were invited by our french friends to visit the salt marshes on the Marais.  We were given a talk on the history of salt; the taxes paid  'Gabelle' - the amount of which differed depending upon which part of the country you were in.  It was fascinating to hear how much these taxes, the changes in the land formation and trade between different countries affected the lives of the local people.  We also learned about the two types of salt collected 'Fleur de Sel,' which is for flavouring the food and NOT for cooking and 'Gros Sel,' which of course you can use! A visit to the Marais and one of these outlets is highly recommended and free.

Spoilt for choice

It's all happening here this weekend.  We have new guests and having had a conversation with the little boy (I think he is five) I suspect they may well be here to visit the Heavy Metal Festival at Clisson. Actually, this is a festival not to be missed, if this is your musical genre, as people gather from far and wide to attend this annual event. I will verify later,  when I catch an adult, but the Hellfest bracelet is a bit of a give away! Our conversations are hilarious with me attempting French and he responding in English.   So far I have established that he knows yes and no and can count to five or sometimes seven! 

Elsewhere, at Lege, we can get involved with canoeing, VTT (Mountains Bikes to you and me) and Rando - country rambling.    St Etienne is hosting the guided tour of the Church, old houses and gardens and on Sunday nearby Apremont are offering a free tour of the Chateau.  This is just the beginning of a host of events taking place over the summer to tempt locals and visitors!


Getting in the swing!

Well we have had our first two sets of guests and have received excellent reviews.  It is so nice to have visitors leave feeling that they have had a relaxing and comfortable visit and that they found everything to be beyond their expectations.

I feel that Chez Mimi is going to bring us new friends, who will keep in contact and return again in the future.  In fact, I received excellent guidelines from our second visitors and after a delay I have followed them up.  I had to send a quick email to let them know that I had acted upon their advice and got a lovely "I told you so" email response.  

Our local tourist office is excellent and I have received the following information about an interesting, free, historical tour of St Etienne du Bois - the English speaking guide is going to talk about the Church and some of the old houses, gardens and legends. The tour starts at 3pm, this Saturday, outside the church.  Sadly I am unable to go as I am double booked with a family event in Nantes. I often wonder about the history of the grand houses dotted around St Etienne. 

I am looking forward to meeting a new set of visitors, who are coming from the Finistere region this weekend. The weather is set to be glorious so here's to a 'bon week-end tout le monde.'