Back in Bon Abri the work continues with more door fitting, picture hanging and general garden ‘doing’. We are still without a proper grass cutter so are having to wade about through the prairie-like expanses when we need to go anywhere. This is OK when the grass is dry but a bit of a drag after rain. After thinking about the interesting comments from Nelly (see Green Woodpecker post) I thought that I would have another go with the scythe. I thought long and hard about the movement required and technique involved and, after some really robust blade sharpening, I set about mowing my way through the long grass outside the front of our house. With some time and practice I was able to create a rhythmical motion that enabled me to sliced through the grass using very few muscle groups and, provided that I concentrated, could be carried out for quite extended periods. The final result is not a pristine lawn but is good enough.
I have also spent a bit of time doing some furniture restoration which included the, for me, dangerous task of using sharp, bladed tools. There are two morals from this little story; firstly do not, ever, no matter how much your mind wanders, put your guide-hand in front of the blade and secondly do not be distracted by the wonderful, ethereal sound of a family of buzzards keeping in contact above your head. The buzzards must be feeding really well at the moment as the adults are able to spend extended periods coaching the three young ones. They soar and drift on the thermals along the edge of the woodland constantly calling to each other. A wonderful sight and sounds. The cut was superficial and made with a very sharp blade, very annoying and silly but not bad; lesson learned.
I came across a female Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) that was cuddled up to a window in Orchard House. Interestingly the females of this moth are active at night and the males are active during the day. This strikes me as a recipe for long-term disaster but it seems to work for these moths. I have done some reading on the subject and it seems that quite a few moths have this seemingly counter-intuitive activity cycle. The moth has very striking patterns on its wings that when looked at closely reminded me of a viper in profile with dripping fangs.
Snakes and possible snakes have been on my mind recently and I discussed briefly the prospect of snakes in the gardens with Ronald (‘Bon Abri Vacances’). He has a solution that he intends to implement in the very near future. This involves the rearing of chickens. Apparently chickens enjoy young snakes and have a fondness for the small venomous one. This chicken plan is a ‘win/win’ project as it gets rid of snakes and also provides a supply of fresh eggs. It is a very interesting idea.
By the old well we have a mass of beautiful flag-irises coming through. The flower is a crisp white with delicate yellow trim to the petal tips. I wandered over to look at them a few days ago and heard something rustle through the stems and then spotted what I thought was a lizard as it rushed to the well wall. It leaped head-first into the void and the body followed. The tail was still in the irises as the head splashed into the dark water. I had disturbed a 4ft grass snake (Natrix natrix) that now rested its head on a rock in the bottom of the well.
It watched me intently and ducked into the water if I moved too quickly. It is a beautiful thing. The swimming motion is slow and sinuous and almost hypnotic. It would be really exciting to see it swim across a larger expanse of water.
Changing the subject to small things I came across a Devils coach-horse, Staphylinus olens, while I was digging. It had grabbed a worm by the snout and a ferocious battle was apparently under-way. The insect was trying to drag the worm away and the worm thrashed about suggesting that it did not want to go. After a few minutes I rushed off for my camera (and to clean the mud from my fingers). When I got back the epic struggle seemed to be over.
The worm looked confused and the insect disorientated as it climbed up my trench and then fell back down where it lay on its back for a few seconds. After that the Devils coach-horse scurried back to its hole. My only explanation for the contact was that the insect wanted the worm away from its hole and was intent on dragging it bodily.
The dreaded Asian wasp is causing a great deal of concern in this part of France, with every reason too. The insects are a devastating menace. We found this wasp, dead, in our spare bedroom. It is 4cm long and appears to have the tell-tale yellow legs. However since it had been dead for some time the colours have faded. I am not sure whether this is the Asian chap or not but nevertheless he is a fearsome animal.
To end on a bright note this is a picture of my most recent brew. It is a rather pleasant glass of nettle beer. We sat on the patio of the Old Apple Store as the sun went down. A fine end to another great day. Only one bottle left now.