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May, 2005:

Birds V

I went to check on the laurel trees in the paddock and discovered inbetween them a dead white duck. I can only assume that this duck was the parent of the little duckling the Muscovy had adopted earlier. I checked the body and there were no obvious causes of death. I buried it inbetween the trees where I had found it.

Birds IV

Eggs

Adrian discovered the Muscovy duck on our pond/sheep dip with a baby white duckling. We were a little confused as we had removed all the eggs from its nest in the grange. We assumed that it had fostered another duck’s baby. After a few days they both disappeared and then we discovered another nest in the grange with 12 eggs.

We removed all but 3, which we marked, and left in the nest. The others, again, were sterile so we decided to remove them all.

The duck disappeared and has since been seen around the hamlet and near our barns, but no eggs – we shall keep you posted.

Beetles

coloradoWhilst planning out our potager we came across a number of potato plants which had obviously been planted by the previous owner. We decided to keep and nurture them and enjoy a free harvest. One day, while walking the land, Adrian spotted a stripy beetle on the leaves of one of these plants and after a quick check on the internet, verified that they were Colorado beetles.

In the UK, if you find these beetles in your garden, you have to report them to MAFF or the police! In France they are common, the French just give a gallic shrug and then spray them with nasty chemicals. We decided to be more organic and just pick them off every day and give them a bubble bath. This seemed to work, even with the bright red eggs and babies from the ones we had missed.

Although, after a while, our good intentions went array, as we were busy doing other things. The crop wasn’t a complete loss but maybe next year a little chemical power may be used.

Snakes

AdderA scary moment for me – I was weeding the flower borders, in my marigolds, on the front of the house when I saw a long tail. I didn’t think anything of it – we have loads of geckos and lizards around, until I looked a little closer. It was an European Adder – the only poisonous snake in France!

After waving frantically at Adrian, he came out with a bucket. With a trowel and a swift flick of the wrist, we caught it in the bucket and after taking some photos let it go down the bottom of the garden.

It was only a young adder – about 30cm long. We think it had just eaten a gecko or lizard as its stomach seemed bloated and it thankfully moved fairly slowly.

Well, you can imagine, I wore leather gardening gloves from then on!

Centre Barn Back Door

Centre Barn Back Door Before

The huge centre barn was half full of hay stacked up against the back of the building. From the courtyard you could see there was a back door to the barn, but this was covered up in black plastic. The doorway was inaccessible due to the hay blocking it.

As the only way into the barns was through the front doors, by the lane, a shorter route would make life a little easier.

If this doorway was cleared it would make a quick pathway to the right hand barn and the woodstore in the winter. It would also provide cover for any work supplies or gear.

Centre Barn Back Door After

With pitchfork in hand, I started to move the bales to the sides of the centre barn. After more than thirty odd bales I slowly revealed the doorway. Removing the black plastic and clearing a route through allowed light to stream into the centre barn. The only drawback is that there is now no door so the centre barn is open to the elements and local wildlife.

Eventually, when we come to renovate the barns, we will install french windows in the doorway.

Birds III

While doing the pigeonierre roof, we discovered the Muscovy duck in our grange. On further investigation we realised that it had a nest, in the hay, and was sitting on top of 11 eggs. We waited eagerly for the little ducklings to hatch, planning ways of keeping them and rearing our own ducklings and eggs for eating.

A few times during the day the duck would fly off for a while then return back to the nest. On one of these occasions, we checked the eggs and unfortunately found them to be sterile. We removed them from the nest before the duck returned. When it discovered the eggs had gone it flew off and didn’t return.

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