Surprise

I needed some thyme for the salad this lunchtime and thought I’d snip some from the bush in the ground rather than from the  pots. I found an entire black and green whipsnake skin wound around the thyme, behind the pots and disappearing into a crack in the wall. I pulled it all out—exactly four feet of sloughed snake skin.

I suspected a whipsnake lives under the house, having seen one zipping under the walls several times, and while I was measuring the skin, one of its children popped out to have a look, so I guess I was right.

The old editor posts tiny pics…

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Herb garden

My garden is essentially herbs. There are always geraniums and roses, but until we find a way of breaking up the soil, the ‘garden’ will remain essentially herbs, mainly in pots, a few tentative attempts in the soil.

We had a similar problem with soil in Bordeaux in that the house had belonged to a painter (and decorator) and the soil was saturated with chemicals and broken glass as well as a pets’ graveyard. Very little (and no herbs) would grow in it. At least here, once we manage to get stuff into the ground, it thrives.

In front of the sorrel is a pot of something I can’t name, like chives but with flat leaves.

chives oseille

 

Rhubarb, basil, bay and a feeble specimen of parsley (and Trixie doing her claws on something).

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Hyssop and sage.

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Parsley, thyme and origano.

parsely thyme origano.jpg

 

Rosemary and honeysuckle and more sage.

rosemary and honeysuckle.jpg

 

Different types of sarriette and rosemary.

sariette rosemary.jpg

 

Sarriette and a sage cutting planted in the ground.

sarriette sage in the ground.jpg

 

More thyme and honeysuckle.

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One of the two intensive care units.

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We eat nasturtium leaves in salads.

nasturtiulums

 

and the chives that are everywhere and I forgot to photograph….

 

 

Crayfish

Finbar has found several of these brightly coloured critters since the (too brief) storm on Friday. I was thrilled because crayfish are en endangered species in most of Europe because of competition from imported Louisiana crayfish. Identifying the introduced species is easy. The giveaway is their colour—bright red.

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Crayfish in the ditch

I thought you were a happy find

turns out you are an intruder

an introduced invader

with a price on your head.

 

Hare brains

Yesterday evening, just after supper, we watched a hare loping around the house just under the windows, not doing anything in particular, nibbling a bit here and there. For once, we thought to try and take a few photos, through rainy windows though so as not to frighten it away by opening them.

Later, walking Finbar before bedtime, the fox was there again by the boundary fence. All three of us were startled when a pair of barn owls swooped between us, screeching like banshees. Magic (again) !

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The neighbour says they know,

they taste the air around the house

and sense a peaceful calm,

like birds that know the lazy cat, replete,

will not even stir a paw.

They come up close she says

when the house is still, the light is silent,

timid things that race away when danger strikes.

There’s something in the scent of meadow grass,

the scent of man-not-killer

around houses such as hers, as mine.

I watch the way she bends and parts the weeds,

not uprooting—they need their space too—

finger-skin cracked and black with ingrained earth,

how she listens to the song of every bird,

and in the slow, measured sweep of her hands

the bow of her back

through the crook of finger and the tilt of her head

she builds a place of safety

deer-dark

hare-tight.

hare2

Sprung spring

First Sunday lunch outside this year. Hastily cleared away one lawnmower, one bicycle, a lot of plant pots waiting to have something done with the contents, and there we are, watching the pheasants of what turns out to be an established breeding colony (yay!) and their crazy aerial acts. I hesitate to call it flying…

sunday lunch 2

One hot dog getting a dose of sunshine.

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Leaving the nest

The Daily Inkling prompt about the hardest nest-leaving prompted me to write about the last time I ever set foot in my parent’s home. I’ve never written about it before. It must be time.

 

There was a stillness about the house as if she had just gone upstairs, or out to buy the bread, an expectancy, a trail of her perfume in the air. I could almost hear her departing steps, the click of the door. My eyes went to the chair by the window that my dad hadn’t sat in for ten years. Exactly ten years. The symmetry was unbearable, as hard as the tidiness.

She had known before anyone even knew she was sick, terminally sick, that it was over, life, living, walking the hills with her friends, nattering with us all on the phone, always a visit planned. She had spent those last weeks folding the linen away neatly, cleaning out the fridge, throwing away everything that was worn or torn or would be of no use to anyone else. Afterwards.

She permeated the air particles with that faint scent of a perfume that nobody else wore. Nothing was out of place. Everything was clean, shelves dusted, the rental paid on the TV up to the end of the month. She had even renewed the subscription at the DVD place, up to the end of the month. By then, the funeral would be over and we would have all gone home.

I wept over every still, faintly perfumed corner of that house where I had never lived. It had been my parents’ house, where they lived. Their nest. But I realised then, in that moment of sitting in a front room that had never been mine, with siblings around me, together as we had so rarely been in that house, that the house didn’t matter. It could have been a pile of dust on the dark side of the moon, but that tidiness, that delicate thoughtfulness, the faint perfume that permeated it, made it home.

After the funeral, the house died too, and we put it to rest. We emptied it of the carefully folded linen, the mementos, photos, her paintings, the furniture, all that she had thought would be useful or would please us to have, and we laid the stones to rest. My parents’ nest was empty. We have it all now, the twigs and pebbles lovingly gathered, in our hearts.

 

Rainy Sunday bliss

The organised pheasant shoot seemed to finish at lunchtime on Thursday and since then, there has been minimal activity from the men with guns. The animals have come out of hiding, though the caravan of refugee pheasants never really got into the spirit of keeping their heads down. The hare was lolloping around yesterday evening, the pheasants set up a din after lights out, and again around midnight meaning, yes, they were still there, and there was a prowler. I hope it was a fox.

There are a lot of fox turds around, and martens’ so they haven’t all been exterminated, and we see the squirrels about too. Our red squirrels seem to have black tails. Apparently this happens often in these parts. The deer are around at night, having been daily visitors until the pheasant massacre began. We know they come round at night because they are gradually eating our apple trees.

Trixie has been on a private massacre of her own. She has caught and eaten a flock of voles, but these last few days, she has been off her vole. Or rather field mouse, her latest discovery. The last ones she has just dumped in front of the house and gone for a lie down. Yesterday she caught something, brought it into the veranda and let it go. It ran and hid under the wellies and she couldn’t be bothered pursuing the matter and asked to go outside again. I caught the little critter, which was completely undamaged, and put it outside in the woodpile where the killer won’t find it. It was the loveliest little thing, a baby shrew, silky grey fur like a mole, and it blinked its eyes as though it wasn’t used to daylight.

This lunchtime, we witnessed a most touching display from a couple of pheasants. As if they know the hunters aren’t around at the moment they have been wandering around in the meadow and along the hedge. We saw a hen pheasant running in a distracted sort of way along the hedge, stopping every few yards to peer about, looking for something/someone. Then the object of her desire came running across the meadow (pheasants only seem to fly as a last resort) and they were reunited. The hen leapt into the air and bounced about in delight (literally) like a flighty fifteen year-old. He rubbed himself against her when she stayed still long enough. And we think only human beings have those kind of reactions.

rain falls from low cloud

the air is green, winter waits

the earth is busy.