Alezane's Diary Archive November 2007
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water supply coverThursday 1st November 2007 (Toussaint)
Now we only have half a field. There is something wrong here somehow. We just bought (well, THEY did) a brand new field and now, as well as not being able to use that, HE has fenced off half of our old field. Apparently it is until the rain washes the lime in but, when HE looked this morning, there was no rain forecast for at least the next two weeks. Still, at least we no have our new haylage to compensate for any lack of grass so that is something I expect.

We’ve not seen HER for several days now although we can hear HER coughing even from our stable. I think it must be a really good thing that we horses don’t get colds. I would hate to be coughing and sneezing like that all day and night. Still, what we have got now is nearly as bad. HE thinks that HE is doing a wonderful job, looking after us all on HIS own. HE has a particular brand of condescension and fake cheerfulness that makes you want to give him a good hard nip. When HE comes into the stable, HE treats us all like children, and naughty children at that. HE believes that saying things like ‘oh don’t do that Alli’ in a sort of schoolmistress like voice will get us to behave nicely to each other when, actually, that is exactly what we are doing. The Big Man wouldn’t know what was wrong if we started being nice to him. Wicky is the worst. He has perfected the art of getting himself seen as the victim while all the while getting all his own way. But then, he is a pony after all. Do you know, HE has become so French now that every time HE types pony HE wants to spell it the French way with an ‘e’ – poney.

The weather was real gloomy today. The forecast HE looked at said wall to wall sunshine and all we got was floor to ceiling cloud. It even got dark night time earlier today. It really doesn’t make one want to do anything and that was exactly what HE did. Apart from cleaning out the chicken shed and checking over the field liming, HE go no work done today. But then, why not take a rest? When HE went out shopping, HE remembered it was Toussaint, a national holiday. The bakers and grocers was open but that was about all. The sign that HE saw yesterday said the big supermarkets were open but maybe it is for people to buy food and presents for friends and relatives.

Not being French, HE doesn’t know exactly how folk here spend the day but HE has read that Toussaint is the day when people visit the graves of their relatives, often causing busy roads from the towns, as people come back to the villages that hey were born in. It would seem logical that they then buy some flowers or patisserie to visit friends and family in the village. But then, I’m a horse. What do I know?

buzzardFriday 2nd November 2007
We had a passing pony to talk to today. We didn’t see him going past, down the hill, but HE did. HE told us that the man was riding him and had a coat and back pack which SHE said meant that the man was on a ‘randonee’ (I think that’s the spelling) which means he was touring around on horseback. What he was doing, HE says, was talking to the pony, a grey, and so HE knew that the man was French.

Anyway, later, when HE was working in the poplar field, the man came back but this time he was leading the pony up the hill. We four were out round the back of the stable and when we spotted him, we all rushed over to the fence to watch them go by. The pony (or, as he was French – the poney) didn’t talk to us but he did say hello in body language. The man also looked at us all and I am sure he just nodded his head in hello. The way we all crowded up to fence you would think that we were prisoners who had never seen a soul for months. And, in a way, it’s true. We have seen plenty of humans coming and going here but the only other horses that we have seen are Solide and his mum. Anyway, it made a nice break and gave us all something to talk about.

We are getting used to the haylage now. HE gave us all some this morning and had to top our hayracks up again tonight. It is probably to do with the fact that we don’t have much grazing now in our half field. It is about four to five acres and it is reckoned that one needs at least an acre per horse so it should just suffice but this field didn’t start out as a good pasture field, it had too many weeds and rough grass and not enough proper food. Still, all of that will change when the liming does its job. We will just have to be patient.

As I said above, HE was working in the poplar field this morning. First HE cleared a strip along the stream which was a mix of brambles and fallen down fence netting. HE had to cut it free and then got a tow rope and attached it to the netting one end and the quad bike the other end and drove off. The first time the quad was just pulled to a halt and HE had to go back and cut through some more undergrowth. The next time, the wire snapped but the third time, HE fixed it to several strands of wire and was pleased to turn round and see the fence being pulled along behind him. After repeating this again for a second bit of fence, HE moved on to cutting tree branched which had fallen down on the fence along the perimeter. HE did this with HIS chain saw and all went well until HE tried to cut a very large branch and the chain got caught in the cut. HE had to leave the saw dangling and drive back to the house to get another hand saw and an axe to free it.

It was a lot of hard work and HE says that there is a lot more to do including taking all the wire down to the dump and having a bonfire of all the bits of bramble and tree branch. I think HE intends to keep the thicker branches to burn on THEIR fire indoors. Humans are such cold blooded creatures, aren’t they?

view from new fieldSaturday 3rd November 2007
For the last few days, I have been taking time to relax over my meals by swapping boxes with Mims. I go into the end one and she is in the middle next to the Big Man. Well, I don’t know if it is her hormones or what but she really flipped this morning. Probably it wasn’t helped by the Big Man answering back. She put her ears back and flew at him as usual and, I think, they must have bumped heads. Whatever, he wasn’t taking it and he kicked out at the sides of his box and bared his teeth at her which, of course, made her kick our several times at the side of her box. HE came along when HE heard the commotion and, for a while, HE thought the Big Man might have really hurt himself because he kept moving his jaw from side to side and making the ugliest of faces. Now, whatever you might think of Extreme, he is not ugly. Big, clumsy, slow he may be but not at all bad looking, particularly now he has filled out. Anyway, after a few jaw waggles he did stop and returned to normal so he must have just bumped his face on Mims. She does seem to have developed another scratch on her face. Still, it didn’t stop him eating up all of his breakfast so no harm done.

We are getting a bit like strippers these days. Coats on, coats off and then coats back on again. It wouldn’t be so bad if THEY didn’t do it at meal times. There is nothing worse than having to pull ones head out of a real tasty bucket just to have ones coat done up. This weather is funny. Some nights when THEY have put on it has turned out to be as warm as the day. I suppose THEY cant be blamed though as THEY go on the information on the weather forecast web sites and we all know how reliable they can be.

HE was off down the poplars again this morning. First HE tacked the corner where a tree had collapsed over our fence. After getting the chain saw stuck yesterday, HE had oiled it and tightened the chain so HE was able to cut through the branches quite well. It still made HIM out of puff to pull the branches out of the overgrowth of brambles though. After stacking all the branches for cutting up another time, HE moved over to the section of the stream that HE had cleared the fence from yesterday. Here HE ended up cutting down a few branches of a tree that had grown over the stream and was stopping the free flow of leaves and stuff and then HE ended up walking along the stream bed, forking out all the debris to make it a clean running flow once more.

Having knocked HIMSELF out on that, HE did no more and dozed all afternoon until it was time for our supper. This time THEY made me go in the middle so SHE could quietly put on my coat!

tree trunk in new fieldSunday 4th November 2007
HE went along to he neighbour’s, Andre and Eliane, today to ask about someone to do the fencing in our new field. The first time that HE went, there was no one in so HE came back but left the box of eggs that HE was taking them in the car. This ensured that HE made another attempt mid afternoon. Unfortunately there was still no one in but HE did meet Solide, the Percheron, who was standing at the gate of his field. Now, like most French horses that HE has met, Solide had no idea of eating sweets. HE didn’t have any mints with HIM but HE did have a caramel in HIS pocket so HE offered Solide that. It just stuck for a second on his lip and then fell on the floor.

I don’t know if you remember but Solide was the one, along with his mother Nougatine, that we all went and talked to on our first day here when Mims showed us the way out of our field. Then later, Solide and Nougatine came and visited us by crossing over the field which is now ours but at the time was covered in wheat. At that time, HE took photos and Solide was a very handsome young man with a sleek glossy black coat. HE told me that today, when HE saw him, Solide had broadened, appeared heavier and his black coat was flecked overall with white. Now, his mother Nougatine is a grey and SHE had already predicted that Solide will change colour as well. It would appear that the change has started. However, knowing my daughter, I don’t expect that will put her off.

Talking of which, the way things are going, Mims could very well be suited to being the wife of a Percheron. SHE came along with the weigh tape this morning and we all underwent our regular size/weight check. Now, we call Extreme the Big man because he is 17 hands high (a hand is four inches or nearly 10 centimetres). Now Mims is shorter than me at 15 hands 2 inches (I am 16 hands) and yet, the weigh tape revealed that she is as broad round the girth at Big X. In theory this means that she weighs as much as him. However she likes to put it, this means that she is FAT! But, to look at, it is much kinder to say that she is curvaceous and in very good condition. Well, she is my daughter, after all!

view in new fieldMonday 5th November 2007
THEY very nearly left our rugs off, last night. It was a good job THEY didn’t as it was minus one degree Celsius when HE came to give us our breakfast. In fact, HE left them on until the middle of the morning when the sun rose high in the sky. And then, it was a beautiful day with a really spectacular sunset. For some reason, HE hasn’t been using HIS big SLR camera lately and so HE only got a pretty distant shot of the sunset but maybe it will be enough to give you some idea of what it was like. I expect the very cold night was because of the lack of clouds in the sky. You have no idea of what wonderful views of the starts and the galaxy we have here because there is no light pollution. The nearest town with bright lights is about fifteen kilometres away and only shows sometimes as a faint glow on the horizon. HE complains about the clarity of the starts sometimes as there are so many that the traditional constellations that HE knows are hard to pick out from the millions of stars n view.

Are we horses really interested in the stars? Of course we are. We are much more familiar with them than you humans. They are our companions and our friends. We don’t know them by the human names that you give them. We don’t really need names at all, we know them for what they are. Have you never wondered how we find our way about in the fields at night? Well, it’s not always or only the starts but often they help us.

To more mundane matters. HE was seen pruning the fruit trees this morning. Most of them were easy enough to cut with his long handled cutters but a few branches were too thick and HE had to get the chain saw to work. And that proved a bit of a problem. It worked at first and then, after HE had stopped it to gather up some branches, when HE tried to start it again, it just wouldn’t go. At first HE tried cleaning the spark plug but this made no difference and then HE decided to mix up a new lot of two stroke petrol/oil mix. And that did the trick and the saw started again. HE had been going to take the strimmer in for repairs when the shop opens tomorrow (most of the small shops in France close Mondays) but then HE thought that the two stroke mixture might be the problem here as well so HE emptied out the old lot and re-filled it. No luck though. It starts for a while and then dies out. So off to the repairers tomorrow.

HE finished the morning, spraying the trees in the house garden that HE had just pruned with a copper mixture against fungus. This needs to be repeated in three weeks and then a winter treatment sprayed in December. HE now is left with pruning and spraying the fruit trees in the top of our field next to the stable. The weather forecast is good for the next few days so this will get done soon. And HE came to France to retire!

holly berriesTuesday 6th November 2007
Well, Mims is in disgrace today. Or she ought to be. I don’t know how she gets away with it. Do you know what she did? She bit HIM! Not exactly to get HIS flesh between her teeth but more to bang HIS arm with her teeth. To be honest, it is not exactly certain that she was aiming for him as Wicky was in between them when it happened. She could well have been aiming to get a nip of the coat on Wick’s neck as she often does. Whatever. It was HIS arm that got banged with her teeth. You could see that she knew she had made a mistake the moment it happened. HE kept calling Mims, Mims but she wouldn’t/couldn’t look at him. Instead she hung her head over my box, hoping I would rescue her. And then, do you know what HE did? HE have her a cuddle, that’s what. As I said, I don’t know how she gets away with it. Well, OK maybe I do. You know what. I think HE likes horses more than HE let’s on.

Possibly some good news today. When HE was at the feed store getting our short feed (floconné, it’s called), HE asked it they knew anyone who does fencing round fields. The man (Didier) made a phone call and then said that they would call around at lunch time. Well, actually, he said they would call between 11.30 and 12 noon so it as no surprise when they turned up at 12.30. They discussed the type of fence that THEY want and the man (I believe his name is Olivier Olivier) said he would do the work if HE bought the materials. So HE went out to measure up this afternoon and has produced a list of wooden posts and wire to give to Didier and then Olivier says he can do it next week. Even allowing for the delays in French time, we should be getting our new field fenced in fairly soon now. The biggest problem on us using the field seems to be the lack of rain. Since we had the lime put down there has been no rain and none forecast to wash it in before we can go out on it. I suppose the only good thing is that the grass might be growing (although slowly his time of the year) in the bits we can’t get on so when we do we will have a good feed anyway.

The other good thing that happened today was that Wally turned up his evening. He was, admittedly, a week late but it was good to see him and this puts another part of the plan together. His prime purpose was to deliver and fit two riser rings on the cover of the fosse septique (remember all that problem of a few weeks ago). However, HE had produced a plan of the post and rail fencing and gates that we need by the stable which will allow us to use either the old or the new field (as required) and also to enable tractor access to the new field. HE have this to Wally who said he would get round to it in a few days which probably means a few weeks but, so be it. As long as it gets done. HE also asked Wally about using his digger machine to make us a drinking place in the poplars field. Like most things here, it will get done. It will just take a little longer than expected.

liming the fieldWednesday 7th November 2007
It’s getting dark earlier and earlier these days. I don’t know if it is just the time of the year or the weather being cloudy or what. It just seems that by the time we have finished our supper the light has virtually gone. Wick has a cunning plan about this however. He is tending to go in to the stable earlier to make them think that it is supper time. And, quite often it works. If THEY look out and see us all nicely lined up in our boxes, THEY do seem to think that THEY might as well come out and feed us.

SHE had an email the other day from the people who run the Devon Horse and Pony Sanctuary (the one SHE built the website for). The lady who originally started the charity has now moved over here to France. Not in our part of France but a lot further south near Bordeaux. The aim is to move some of the horses out here as well making more room for other horses in Devon. The younger members of the family will commute between here and England to still run the charity there. Apparently it is only an hour’s flight to Exeter from where they are. THEY have the offer to go and visit the French place but it is a good five hour’s car journey so it is unlikely that THEY will go. However, it was nice to here from them again.

Not much happening with HIM today as it was a shopping day. HE did drop the details of how many posts etc. that are needed for the fencing in the field into the shop man. He will price them up and let HIM know by he end of the week.

in the poplarsThursday 8th November 2007
“Ere, Wick?”
“My goodness. Treg! Not seen you around here for ages.”
“No, you’ve not, ‘ave you? That’s because you aint been looking mate. I been here all the time but I don’t like to disturb you, if you aint looking for me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Treg. It’s true, we have sort of forgotten you. It’s probably because the Big Man is so like you, it’s like having you here anyway.”
“E’s a bit bigger than me, aint ‘e?”
“Aye, but then, everyone is more than a bit bigger than me so I don’t sort of notice it, if ye hen what I mean?”
“An’ ‘e’s red. I weren’t never red. From a distance, if you don’t look at ‘is feet, you might think ‘e was Mims.”
“At a distance, maybe. But close up you can tell he’s not because he doesn’t have his teeth embedded in my neck like she does.”
“Yeah, I noticed that. She’s getting’ worse, aint she? I even saw her having a go at ‘er mum, the other day. Buggers them ‘ormones aint they?”
“I’m no sure anymore that it is hormones, Treg. Sometimes I think she is just plain nasty.”
“Oh no, she aint nasty, Wick. Confused maybe. Wilful certainly. I think she’s just a mixed up sort of girl who hasn’t found her proper place in the world yet.”
“It’s alright for you, laddie. You’re not in the same world as her now anyway. We all have to put up with it. Anyway, lets change the subject. What have you been doing with yourself when you are not following us round the field?”
“Oh, we ‘ad a bit of fun the other night. ‘alloween they calls it. We all went round spooking horses in their fields or out on their rides. They’d be going on all nice and steady like and they we’d pop our noses out from be’ind an ‘edge and make faces at them. You know, like your gurning face Wick. They’d jump right up in the air. ‘Ad several riders off. They didn’t ‘alf get into trouble then. Or, we’d go round behind a group of ponies in a field and then stick our heads into their world and whinny. Off like a shot they’d go. Oh, we had some right good laughs that night.”
“Aye, I remember Halloween from when we were in Devon. They don’t go for it much around here. Oh, and Guy Fawkes night. They’ve never heard of it. Do you remember we used to watch all those fireworks from the Sticklepath Fireshow? THEY woukld worry that we’d be scared o’ them but we all just went right up the hill and had a great view, didn’t we?”
“Those were the days, old mate, weren’t they?”
“Aye, good days Treg, good days. Not that there is anything wrong with here. We’ve got a nice stable and we’re all together. None of that taking Alli or Mims home at night and bringing them back in the morning. Now we can all drift in and out just as we please. Be even better when we get all of our field back again. We had a bit of rain today so maybe it wont be so long now.”
“I miss Alli now and I think she misses me. OK, I can come back like this but we can’t have a mutual groom like we used to, she’s only got Mims for that now. I wonder if she’ll ever get round to doing it with the Big Man?”
“Not while her daughter is around, I think Treg. He is very much like you though. I asked him how many legs he had and, you know what? He’s just like you. Couldn’t count up to four. Just started saying something about cats. Aye, he’s a barmy one. But he’s OK.”
“Well, I must be off Wick. We’re starting up a Xmas carol choir and I want be sure I get included. Then we can come round ‘ere and give you a bit of a song, ‘ow about that?”
“I’ll let you know when you tell me which bit, Treg!”

watching a passing ponyFriday 9th November 2007
Well, HE’s back in action, HE got the strimmer back this morning. Mind, we didn’t see anything of it until late this afternoon. From what we saw, it was a double shopping day today. We can usually tell when we see HIM getting into the little green car. If SHE is going out with HIM then the new blue car is rolled out from the sous sol. I’m not at all sure why THEY keep it there except maybe to preserve the dirt that is covering it. If THEY left it out, the rain might was some of it off, I suspect.

Which reminds me. We had rain both yesterday and last night. Quite heavy it was as well with some high winds during the night. But, sadly, when HE went out to look at our lime covered fields, they were still coated in white powder. I guess the guy who did the spreading must have put the lime on pretty thick. Still, we were expecting to have to wait about three weeks and rain is forecast for about three days starting next Wednesday (or should I say mercredi now? No, I didn’t get it wrong. The French have a funny approach to capitalisation and, as far as I can remember, days of the week don’t warrant it). So, with any luck we will be able to at least get back on to the other half of our old field sometime by the end of next week. What we are having now is the new haylage to compensate for the lack of grazing. I have to say, it is pretty tasty stuff and, at the rate that we are eating it, it looks as if HER predictions of how much we might need are not that far out, if at all.

Back to what I was saying. What was I saying? Oh yes. HE went off shopping once, first thing this morning and we saw HIM return with the bread in one hand and HIS strimmer in the other. Let me tell you about the bread. What THEY actually buy are the long sticks of bread, not baguettes but thicker. When THEY first came here and started buying them, SHE told HIM that they were called ‘pain de’, or so HE thought. Now, as you probably know, ‘pain’ is bread and ‘de’ means ‘of’, so HE thought it was a sort of shorthand for bread of some kind of flour or something. It was not until HE had been buying bread for a month or two that HE discovered that there are bigger loaves called ‘pain trios (three)’ and that what HE was buying was ‘pain deux (two), in other words a double size loaf. You wouldn’t think just a little thing like buying bread could be so complicated, would you?

After delivering the stuff, HE went out a second time to the supermarket in the town of  Alencon to get our supply of mint sweets and probably something for THEM as well, so that, by the time HE returned it was too late to do any work before lunch. After lunch, rather like us, comes a nap so that is why HE was late coming out to do some strimming. What HE did do was to clear most of the brambles away from the fence, which separates our old and new field, in readiness for the new fence to be erected. I say most because just as HE was nearing the end, the brambles turned to small spiky trees and wore away the plastic cutters on the machine. Just as well though as it was time for our supper anyway.

lime on half the fieldSaturday 10th November 2007
Today was a day for fun and games. Not this morning. This morning was interesting. After HE had got the bread, HE went and got into HIS working clothes (or Andy Pandy suit, as SHE calls it). Then HE can out, first with the chain saw and later with the newly repaired strimmer and HE started to remove the remainder of all the brambles and spiky sloe trees that grew along the fence dividing our old and new fields. Then HE had to move all the old posts, pallets and pieces of wood that HE had ‘stored’ (if that is the right word) along the edge of the fence. HIS final act was to remove the strand of barbed wire from along the fence. I don’t know if it is farmers or French people who love barbed wire. The only thing that was in our old field before we moved here was apple trees and the new field was used for growing wheat. Now, was the barbed wire to keep the apple trees in or the wheat out, I really don’t know?

We had all watched HIS progress with great interest and, after HE had finished, there was a fine view of the new field. WE all rushed up to the fence and looked out and then some of us (I leave you to guess who) leaned our necks over the wire and had a nibble at the grass on the other side. HE had vanished by this time so, after we had thoroughly inspected the changes, we left to go down our hill to graze.

While we were gone, HE must have been working hard again as, we later found out, on building an electric fence to section off a part of the new field of about an acre. Then HE had got his wire cutters and cut a wide entrance into this section. The first we knew was when HE called us from the top of the hill. Usually, this call is either to have our food or to get our fly masks off. As we haven’t worn those for some time and it was not feed time yet, we were a bit puzzled but came up anyway.

Then we saw HIM. HE was walking backwards in the new field and there was an open entrance. We trotted and then cantered right through the gap and then he fun started. Wicky, of course, put his head down and started eating the lush grass. But BIG X just started race trotting round and round the perimeter followed by a cantering, bucking and generally playing around Mims. I will admit to doing a few bucks myself but, at my age, I have to consider my dignity. Oh, alright, my joints aren’t as supple as they were. But it was Mims and the Big Man that were a sight to see. Round and round, chasing each other. After a while, the Big Man abandoned the race trot and changed to a canter.

When they were both exhausted, they stopped and we all stood and stared over the electric fence at the rest of the field. Then there was one last thing we had to do before we started grazing in earnest. We rolled. And we rolled and we rolled. Well, maybe not Wick. But then, he had serious work to do.

sunsetSunday 11th November 2007
Remembrance Day. Armistice Day. What has that to do with us horses? Well, if you look at you will get some idea. It was not just humans who suffered and died as a result of the insanity of mankind. They decided that animals should enjoy the benefits of their madness as well.

Having said that, I want to allow HIM to express HIS personal feelings in my diary on this day of remembrance.

This morning, HE looked at the three main French newspaper websites – Le Monde, Lefigaro and Liberation for details of their coverage of the day’s events. To HIS surprise HE found nothing. In the evening, HE looked on the BBC website and found the top story was of the Queen attending the annual ceremony t the cenotaph. Checking again on the three French newspaper websites, HE found just one mention on Lefigaro of the French president attending an annual ceremony to commemorate the 1914 war dead and using it to promote the European Union.

None of which matters very much. What really angered HIM the other day was looking at some photos of President Bush of the US visiting and (apparently) humouring some US war veterans. The sight of some poor humans, who had lost arms and legs and had their face burned beyond recognition, being ‘honoured’ by the smiling president, shaking their hand or putting his arm around them just made HIM want to cry. It was nothing political. Presidents do what presidents have to do. It was the silly idiotic waste of human lives which is then presented as ‘sacrifice for their country’.

What if there were no more wars? Does that mean that the ‘baddies’ would always win? The argument is always that of ‘What do we do if we are attacked? Do we not defend ourselves?’ In his memory, after the World War 2, there has been the Korean War, Suez, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Falklands and Iraq as well as many others that the UK did not get involved in. How many humans on all sides got killed, wounded and disfigured? What was the result of this carnage? Is the world a better place for fighting these wars? And does the answer depend on who you are – the wounded or the uninvolved.

The idea behind Remembrance Day would appear good. But, who is it for. Not the dead, certainly. It would appear to be really about those who did not suffer (except perhaps by losing a loved one) trying to soothe their conscience by pretending that the dead, who probably didn’t have much say in the matter, were heroes, giving their all for their country. The dead are probably not all that worried by this but those who have lost limbs, sight or who have suffered other disfigurement maybe gain some comfort from this. How much more comfortable would they feel if they had not been hurt in the first place? And, for what? Some politician’s need to ‘win’ whatever that may mean?

OK, disjointed ideas and feelings brought about by the day. Back to normal tomorrow, whatever that is.

looking back at the stableMonday 12th November 2007
Our ‘highlight’, if you can call it that, as having our feet done by the farrier. For THEM, this was a real event due to the speed of it. I don’t mean that he did our feet quickly. No, it as that she only phoned him this morning. In the past, a phone call to the farrier has resulted in a answering call a week later and a visit a week after that. At each visit, SHE has tried to get an arrangement like e had in Devon, where the farrier came on a regular six to eight week cycle, but Pierre here has always said ‘no, just phone me’. This time the visit was already overdue. You could tell that without a calendar, you only needed to look at our feet. So, SHE phoned this morning, fully expecting a one to two week delay. What a surprise then when the phone rang and HE answered it. HE was in the middle of an after lunch snooze and could not be truly sure that HE had heard correctly. HE told her that HE thought HE had heard the words ‘aujourd’hui’ and ‘cinq heures’. As we get fed at five o’clock these dark autumn days, THEY decided to carry on with feeding us as normal and just see if Pierre turned up.

We were just starting on our supper when a white van drew up outside the stable. As the Big Man had not yet got his bucket, he was chosen to be first. However, he had seen us all get our supper so he had to have his feet seen to while HE held his bucket up for him to eat from. Actually, it was a quite good way to have our farriery done as we got our mint treats while standing on three legs (different ones in turn), which passed the time nicely. THEY remembered the first time Pierre did Mims’ feet and couldn’t help noticing the difference now. THEY have worked out that Mims will be as good as gold if I am standing with her and so this is what now happens. I have to admit that I don’t mind in the slightest because HE can’t give Mims a mint without giving me one as well, even though I have already had mine when I had my feet trimmed.

And that is it for today. Wally phoned this morning ith a quote for doing the fencing around the stable into the new field. He will be starting the first week in December. We had had rain last night so HE did no work on the wet and muddy ground and all we did was graze and doze. A pretty perfect day all round except that HE always feels unsatisfied if HE has not achieved something in a day. Oh well, there are plenty more days for HIM to look forward to.

rainbowTuesday 13th November 2007
A very hard frost this morning. You would think that we’d be queuing up for our breakfasts but, s SHE said, our brains must have been frozen over because, apart from Wicky, who always knows the exact time of our feeds, the rest of us just stood about at the tape in the new field until HE finally had to come and get us. And, after breakfast, instead of hanging about in our boxes to keep warm, we all went out into the old field and tried to graze. When HE came out to the car to go down to the shops, we all lined up at the fence for extra treats and HE remarked how all our mouths and noses were freezing cold where we had been trying to nibble the grass.

When HE came back from buying our apples and carrots, HE felt sorry for us as the section of the new field is already looking worn where we have grazed and also played about in the rain. As it was again raining, THEY decided to let us into the part of our old field that had been limed. We all got together and marched determinedly round the perimeter but found that no more grass had grown since we had been shut out of it so we decided to go back into the new section. That is all except Wick who, once he gets his head down, it doesn’t matter where, he just stays eating until something better (in his opinion) comes along.

The only other bit of news today is that HE now has a price for the fencing in the new field and has been told that it should be in the shop by tomorrow week. He has asked that the guy doing the fencing is asked to start as soon as it arrives so probably, in French time, we will be in the whole of the new field by Xmas.

sunnyWednesday 14th November 2007
You have no doubt heard the saying ‘My naughty little pony’? Never ‘My naughty little horse’ or even ‘My naughty big horse’. Have you ever thought here must be a reason for this? Let me set the scene.

This morning was not only dark. It was raining and it was very, very cold. We had our breakfast as usual. The Big Man was waiting in his box, Wicky came along pretty soon after and Mims and I were hovering by the electric fence in the new field. HE just ignored us and carried on getting our buckets ready and then, first Mims and then myself came round the corner and went quietly into our boxes. We had been out most of the night so there was no mess in the boxes for him to clear up and so, breakfast passed, for HIM, quite pleasantly, in spite of the weather.

HE went out shopping, to the village market, this being Wednesday and then came home and decided that HE would not do any physical work in the fields as it was too wet and cold. SHE said that THEY would go out to lunch to a nice little Turkish kebab place THEY had found in the next town and so there was nothing much to do until it was time to go out.

THEY sat, looking out of the French windows, recollecting on how nearly all the tasks on THEIR original ‘to do’ list were now either complete or at least ‘in hand’. It made THEM feel quite warm and cosy inside to see what THEY had achieved in the eleven months that THEY have been in France. Then, all of a sudden, SHE said ‘Look at that. Wicked has just gone through the electric fence.’ And so he had. He had worked out that he could just get under the lower wire and that, with his very thick coat, the electric charge wouldn’t touch him.

HE rushed out of the house and ran to get Wicky’s head collar. Then HE hurried along to where Wick was happily munching the grass outside of the fence. To be honest, that is all Wick was after as we had all near enough finished the grass inside the enclosure either by eating it or trampling on it. Left to his own devices, Wick would probably not have gone very far and would just have popped back under the wire when it was bucket time. But, the fact that he had gone through might well have given some of us horses the idea that we also could just brush the wire aside and, if Mims particularly did that, there is no saying where she would have ended up. So, HE put Wick on his head collar and marched him back to the entrance, turned the electrics off and popped him back in the enclosure. Then making sure HE switched the fence back on, HE walked back indoors.

HE had only just got back indoors when SHE pointed out that Wick had just gone through the fence again. And this time he was no so easily caught. Every ime HE got near him, Wick just marched off further down the field. SHE got the quad bike out to help catch him but by that time HE did manage to trick Wicky with a handful of grass and go him back on the head collar. This time he was locked in one of the boxes in the stable. By this time HE was freezing cold and soaking wet and HE went into the sous sol to change and get some tools and wire. HE then proceeded to close of the entrance into our new field completely. We now have Wicky to thank that no one can go in there now.

HE did say that if the weather is kind enough tomorrow, HE will fence off another portion of the field for us with more new grass in it. HE will also re-arrange the wires in the electric fence so that they are too low for any ‘naughty little pony’ to get under. We will have to wait and see!

winter shadowsThursday 15th November 2007
Never mind about ‘naughty little pony’, it is much more like ‘unsufferable little pony’ now. You see, this morning, HE came out and dismantled the electric fence in the new field. We all stood in the stable, watching HIM. But, instead of taking all the posts and tape away, HE started re-arranging them on the other side of the field. The only difference (apart from the location, of course) was that the taps were placed a lot lower this time.. Then, when HE had finished rebuilding the fence, HE took the electric machine thing indoors. Surely HE is not going to use the fence un-electrified, I thought, not knowing how Wicky is. But no, HE re-emerged with his more powerful machine and big battery and rigged this up to the fence. Then, HE came along and while we all were breathing down HIS neck, HE removed the section of the wire fence that HE had built up again yesterday. And we were in. A nice new section of field full of lush green grass.

And Wicky? He just kept saying over and over how we owed it all to him. How his bravery yesterday, breaking through he electric fence had forced HIM into giving us another nice new piece of pasture. And, you know what? I hate to admit it but I am afraid Wick is right! Oh, one thing more. SHE was watching us all grazing away from the house window and she told HIM that now that the electrified tapes are low enough to stop Wick walking over or under them, they are just the right height for us horses to step over. SHE was worried particularly for Mims who does tend to get the wanderlust (and other kinds as well) when that big black Percheron starts calling out. So, off HE went to the shop to buy some more tape and then come back and put another strand along the top of the posts. I think HE now has HIS fingers crossed that nothing can get in or out now.

Just an update on the rest of the field work. Wally came along this evening to pick up a cheque for the materials for the work and confirmed that he will be starting on 10th December. What with that and the kitchen man phoning today to confirm he is coming next Monday to finally fix the kitchen units. Things appear to be finally coming together.

The weather forecast for tonight is for minus three degrees Celsius. It is just as well we have had such a good day eating. I reckon that the grass will take some finding under all that ice tomorrow. Still, HE has filled our hay racks with haylage and we have our rugs on so we wont be worrying.

tree coloursFriday 16th November 2007
Well, last night’s weather forecast was wrong after all. It wasn’t minus three it was minus four! But, you know, THEY are really puzzled about us. We have a nice snug stable now each with a box  containing a hay rack full of succulent haylage. So what do we do? We stay out all night in temperatures of minus four. The grass all turns to icicles so we cant graze that and yet we are more than content just to stand under the skies in the cold. However, SHE remarked that in the summer, we all rush in and hide either if there is a little shower or if we are fed up with the flies. It’s about time THEY learned that horses are quite different from humans.

The other funny thing that HE noticed was that we did not rush in for our buckets when HE came along to make breakfast. HE had no stable clearing out to do because we hadn’t been in. Similarly, there was no need to replenish the haylage in the racks for the same reason. In fact, HE was halfway getting our buckets ready before Wicky and the Big Man came round the corner. For Mims and I it was another story. HE had to come out and get us. HIS theory is that it as not that we didn’t want breakfast it was that our brains had frozen in the night (although that may be a bit of an exaggeration with regard to Mims).

Anyway, as soon as breakfast was over we all trooped out again, even though the ground was still frozen over hard. It took probably another hour or hour and a half before the sun rose strongly enough to melt the ice away. Still, we just stood and looked at the trees or the hedge and waited. HE had to go out for the bread and all the humans were most unhappy about the cold. In fact, HE didn’t come out again until it was time to get our supper. And then it was the same story. No one was in a hurry to come in. Buckets were left half eaten and we all rushed back out again for a night in the frost again.

THEY will have to go out tomorrow, whatever the weather as THEY are running out of food and things. Most importantly, THEY have to go and buy some more mint treats for us. That is one thing we are never to cold to eat!

Mims in pink sunshineSaturday 17th November 2007
Last night was minus five degrees. Even for us, that was a bit much so we were all in the stable when HE came to give us our breakfast. When HE gets down in the sous sol to cut up our daily ration of carrots and apple, the first thing HE does these days is to switch on the stable outside lights (the switch is in the sous sol). However, when HE comes over to the stable, the lights do not illuminate the inside so I suppose we have to forgive HIM when HE started to say what a good girl Mims was for being in her box until he got closer and discovered it was Extreme. The Big Man was particularly irritating this morning when he decided it would be funny to get into Mims’ box and then to keep putting his big head over into my box and annoying me.

Still, everything stops when the food arrives. All heads are down and the sound of contented munching is something HE really enjoys. HE though HE would be smart this morning. Part of our feed buckets consist of sugar beet pellets which have to be soaked for twelve hours or more before we can eat it. This means that HE makes up the sugar beet in water, the day before we eat it and, in this cold weather, it gets very cold sitting on a shelf in the feed room for twenty four hours. Yesterday, HE could not feel HIS fingers after handing out five handfuls each to all four of us so today HE brought over a pair of rubber gloves. They also came in handy for holding the broom and shovel when HE cleans out the boxes as these have been standing outside all night and are covered in frost. Today HIS hands were just cold but not frozen so HE was quite pleased with himself.

We are already getting through the grass on the new strip of land that has been sectioned off for us in the new field. I gather that tomorrow THEY are going to shut up the gate so that we have to go back to the old field again until our fencing is done. It has been promised for next week but on past experience this could be a sort of fluid estimate so I can only hope a little bit of grass has grown back in the old field since we have not been in it.

This evening, none of us came in for supper at first. Wick was, of course, the first to break ranks. Then the Big Man wanted to go in but Mims was set on blocking his way. In the end it was a sort of free for all with all of us running to get our supper. I am afraid it was Wick who lost out as, after Mims and I had run into our boxes, the Big Man just run into Wick who was tied up eating his supper and knocked Wick’s bucket flying. I’m sure Wick sucked it all up again but for once he didn’t deserve to be so treated.

low sunlightSunday 18th November 2007
What can I say. These last few days, these pages are more like a weather forecast than a diary. But then, it is what is making the news around here, I’m afraid.

The morning started at minus four again. We had got so used to it that we didn’t even go into our stable and, when HE came to make our breakfast, HE was, at first, on HIS own. However, Wick soon decided to go in and so the Big Man followed him. Mims and I watched them but made no attempt to come in. This suited HIM fine at first as HE counted on us coming as soon as we heard the buckets. So, HE just carried on, first putting a handful of dry lucerne into each box (or, in Wick’s case, on the floor outside) and then HE started to make up our food buckets. By the time HE had these prepared, Wick and the Big Man had finished their lucerne but there was still no sign of Mims and I. This gave HIM a problem as HE couldn’t give the other two their buckets or they would be finished before we arrived and would then start making a nuisance of themselves. HE hastily gave them another handful of lucerne and then came in search of us. Strangely Mims volunteered to go in first but I still hung about outside and HE had to come and get me.

At last we were all in the correct places and breakfast could begin. And then, as soon as we were all munching, HE has to go and let the chickens out and they come running to the stable for their breakfast. HE was glad when it was all over so that HE could go back indoors and get warm. We were all as warm as horses and went back out after breakfast, searching for some unfrozen grass to eat. Wick went off on his own because he has a great technique. Somehow he tramples on the grass and clears off the frost and then he can manage to graze almost as normal. The rest of us had to make do with some tyall weeds and then wait for a couple of hours until the frost thawed away.

However, it wasn’t like the other days we have been having. For the past few very frosty days, we have then had brilliant sunshine. Today it stated with fog and then turned to drizzle. And then, as the afternoon wore on, the drizzle turned to heavy rain. And not nice rain. When HE ran in after giving us our supper, HE told her it was like raining ice. For the second time in the day, HE lost all feeling in HIS fingers. I am pretty sure now that autumn is over and winter has come to us early this year.

the joiner's vanMonday 19th November 2007
THEY had a strike on THEIR hands today. THEY brought it on THEMSELVES, we were just reacting to a very unfair action on THEIR part.

We have only been in our new field a few days, well nine to be exact. And then, this morning, while we were having our breakfast buckets, HE went and sealed the entrance up so we can no longer go in there. Now, I know HE says HE has HIS reasons but even so, it came as quite a shock to us. We were just getting really fond of that field and being able to look over the electric fence to the other end of the field.

What has happened is that the cold has gone away and it has been poring with rain since yesterday. Because HE has only been able to section off a quite small part of the field as half od his electric fence sticks are being used in our old field, with the rain and the fact that it was never a proper pasture having been planted with wheat last year, the ground is getting quite poached up. Also, you can see the difference in the two pieces of the field we have been in and the rest. We have eaten all the available grass. The used bits are looking sort of grey brown while the bits we have not been in yet are green.

I know we will be allowed in all the field as soon as the fencing is done. Hopefully this should start this week if the posts are delivered but the chap never did give any indication of how long it would take him. So, until then, we are back in our old field again. Only not today. Admittedly the weather was really wet but anyway, we wanted to show our disapproval so we didn’t go out at all today, we just stood in the shelter of the stable and glared at THEM through THEIR windows. The other pleasing thing about this tactic is that it gives HIM much more clearing up to do in the stable and outside on the concrete yard. I’m quite sure HE would prefer us to go out to save HIM the work.

The other bit of news is that the men came and installed the kitchen cupboards at last. It is not quite fully finished yet as the electrician has to come back and connect up the electric cooker. He came first thing this morning and had to install a new power supply for it from the mains down in the sous sol. However, he couldn’t complete the job until the joiners had finished assembling the cupboards. It’s taken a long time since April to get this job done but it should help a lot for HER to get the kitchen organised now.

eating on the lawnTuesday 20th November 2007
Just to continue the paragraph above, M Foret and his electrician came along early, whil THEY were having breakfast and the cooker is now working fine. Or, at least, SHE thinks it is. What SHE has to do now is to grt to grips with the instruction book in French and then get some practice in using it. After M Foret had gone, THEY spent the morning putting all the kitchen items that had been stored in plastic boxes on the floor, into their proper places in the new cupboards. After placing the boxes conveniently for HER, HE left HER to get on with it while HE went out o get some bread and, much more importantly, some more horse food for us.

We need the food as the weather has been appalling. Rain, rain, rain. I can remember only a week or so ago when THEY were complaining that there had been no rain for ages and it was needed to wash the lime into the soil. Well, I think we now have had enough for the lime to wash up in Australia (or wherever is directly opposite France on the other side of the globe.) We horses have been staying in all the time, eating haylage and making messes all over the place. The stable became so bad that HE had to put on all HIS working clothes and come out in the rain to clear us all up. The rain doesn’t help as it fills up half the wheelbarrow that HE uses to transport our dung to the dung heap or pooh pile as THEY call it. This has meant HIM making two journeys for every one that HE would have had otherwise.

The only good thing I can say about the weather is that it got drk so quickly tonight hat we got our suppers half an hour earlier than normal. Of course that does mean that we will have a longer wait until the next feed. Maybe the rain will stop overnight and the moon come out so that we can go out for a bit of a graze. If not, HE will have quite a lot more cleaning to do in the morning!

our day in the gardenWednesday 21st November 2007
A bit of a reprieve in the weather today. Yes, HE did have lots and lots of clearing out to do this morning but that was because overnight the weather turned from bad to appalling. In fact, HE had to clear our my box before HE could even begin to make our breakfast. I have to add that it was not all my fault. My box is the middle one which is the best one for having very good views all round of what is going on outside. And that is what us horses like best as, being a predated species, we always need to be able to see what’s coming and where we can flee to. So, when I am not in my box, everyone else uses it as well and, of course, four horses can make more mess than one.

Anyway, as I was saying, by the morning, the weather had calmed down and the rain had stopped. It remained a bit misty until late morning but then the sun came out and we horses went out as well. We are now using the top back part of the old field since HE has shut us out of the new one. This time of the year, the grass isn’t growing so there is not really much there for us and we kept coming back for some haylage. However, it was nice to get out again for the other thing we horses are is inquisitive. Some people say nosy but apart from that not really being kind it does rather place an emphasis on the shape of our heads. What we were able to see today was first the postman driving right up to the door to deliver a parcel. It turned out that the content was a rose that SHE had ordered to be planted against the fence that goes up to the front door. We found this out because, after lunch, HE came out to plant it. After HE had finished, HE saw us all lined up at the fence watching and so HE came over to give us a mint treat. HE couldn’t understand that when HE offered one to Mims, she snatched it and then jumped and whirled away a few yards. Then HE realised. HE was still holding the box that the rose had come in and Mims was just being true to our kind. After all, she had not seen it before and it could have been a snake or a wolf or anything.

Lastly, we were able to watch a white van draw up and a man come out and talk to him. He noticed the Big Man and recognised him as a trotter (trotteur) and came over and spoke to him. He was a travelling salesman of vegetables and THEY spoke to him for a while to see if it would be of advantage to buy our carrots and apples from him. However, he only comes round once a month and THEY couldn’t store them for that long so there was no advantage. Two other things happened today although we did not see them. The man who organises looking after our fields came along to be paid and SHE was able to organise a regular maintenance plan with him. The other thing was that while HE was in a supermarket, HE met a friend, the husband of the agent that found THEM this place. While talking about the weather, these past few days, HE learned that, like us, the sheep hate the heavy rain but love the cold frozen hard ground. But then, I could have told HIM that!

chicken - which one?Thursday 22nd November 2007
The bad news is, we all had wormers tonight. Everything was going fine. We all were in our boxes with no fuss, kicking or face pulling. HE have us some lucerne to keep us quiet while HE got the supper ready and then came along with our supper buckets. And then, for the first time in ages, SHE came along as well. SHE went round our boxes in turn putting our rugs straight and the Big Man got the tear in his rug mended with elephant tape (that wide, silver sticky stuff). Then things turned nasty. I should have know that if SHE came along, something was afoot. SHE asked HIM to put our head collars on and then we all got the syringe between the lips and a big mouthful of something vile tasting. I simply refused to take any sugar or mints after that, trying to make THEM very sorry for what YHEY had done. However, Wicky let the side down, as usual, by just gulping his down as if it was a treat and then cleaning up all the mints that Mims and I had spat out.

The good news is that HE mended the Big Man’s drinker today. I don’t think I told you but yesterday HE decided that HE had to do something to the drinker in the Big Man’s box because it was overflowing and making all the floor wet. In the past HE has had some limited success by bending the wire arms on the mechanism but yesterday the thing broke off in HIS hand. This meant that all the water had to be turned off at the mains and could only briefly be put back on to add water to our sugar beet and rinse our buckets out. Well, today HE went and got another mechanism and came and replaced the broken one. And, not only does it work but it keeps the water level down far better than the old one ever did. The mains is now back on and our buckets are getting washed out properly.

HE went along to buy some more sugar beet pellets today and while HE was there, HE asked about the fencing for our new field. Apparently the posts are now with the stockist and the man who is going to do the work (Olivier Olivier apparently) says he might be able to start next week not this week. Note the ‘might’. HE said that it must be done before Xmas and the man said ‘oh yes, of course’. I am not sure if he noted the touch of irony in HIS remark!

Ps How strange not to mention the weather today.

Wicky and the Big ManFriday 23rd November 2007
Well, I suppose it’s the weather, in a way, but really it’s just the result of the weather, I suppose. Last night, the moon was shining as bright as day. We had no need or reason to go into our stable until it was breakfast time, and then we were a sorry sight. Being up and active all night had left us all feeling a little sleepy.

I don’t know if you have seen an equine when they are dozing. As THEY say, not a pretty sight. The problem is that not only does our neck droop but, even when it doesn’t, our lower lips do. The sight, this morning, of four lower lips drooping below closed eyes made HIM feel a bit better in HIMSELF. HE is having trouble being really bright and cheerful, getting up at six thirty on a cold, wet and dark day and having to cut up our day’s vegetables and then come and give us our breakfast. Whereas in the spring and summer, the sun had risen and it was warm and good to be alive, the darkness, in particular, makes the world a less friendly place. However, it has it’s good points as well. That is, for us. At least HE doesn’t try to sing to us like HE does in the summer. You have no idea how hard it is to eat while that is going on. I suppose that is one of the reasons why us horses are unable to throw up. It helps us to bear humans better.

HE went out to town this morning to pay a bill. At least, HE went out to the Public Tresor’s office to ask what was this piece of paper that had come through the post. HE didn’t know if it was a bill to pay or if it was notification of an automatic payment of taxes that HE had organised last time HE went there. Of course, it was a demand for payment of a different tax, not a lot but it was nice to sort it out. Anyway, on the way there, HE saw, on the opposite side of the road, a little brown and white (or, at least, what passes for white on them) Shetland Pony standing at a field gate. Now, HE just happened to have a tube of mints in HIS pocket for when we mug HIM when HE gets out of the car at home. HE made up HIS mind to stop on the way back and introduce another French poney into the art of mint eating. HE memorised the field so that HE would not miss it on the way back. But, when HE came back, the poney (French selling) had gone all the way to the other side of the field.

What a pity, we thought, as we lined up at the fence to greet HIM on HIS return home!

Mims looks next doorSaturday 24th November 2007
I was going to split this days diary into a HIS day and our day but, on second thoughts, it’s probably best just to run through the day in sequence.

We had our breakfast as usual and HE was pleased with us because after moving the Big Man out of my box into his own, HE decided to sweep out the boxes before moving Mims and I into ours. HE had finished and was just putting the broom and shovel away when HE turned and saw Mims and I just walk into our correct boxes without any persuasion. I am sure HE under estimates our intelligence most of the time.

After breakfast (THEIRS), it was time to go down the bakers for the bread. HE scraped the ice off the windows and drove down to the village and parked outside the bakers. When HE came out with the bread, the car wouldn’t start. HE tried several things with no success and surmised that it must be the battery. As it was a fine sunny day, although cold, HE walked home carrying the loaf in his hand. HE took the bread in and stopped briefly to warm his hand and then collected tools and returned to the bakers in the blue car. HE took the battery out with some difficulty, as it was differently fixed to other cars HE has known with a sort of connection box strapped over the terminals.

When HE got home, the battery was put on charge and then HE looked around for what to do next until it was charged enough to take back. HE saw Wicky standing all alone outside the stables and concluded that while we three were in our boxes eating haylage, poor old Wick, who cant manage haylage because of his lack of teeth, had nothing to eat. Then it came to HIM. HE went out, closed the garden gates and came round and opened the field gate so that Wick could get into the garden and all the nice grass there.

Of course, we all followed, didn’t we? We had the most marvellous rest of the morning and all the afternoon just eating all the lush green grass in the garden. HE went back with the charged battery just before lunch and found that it was not the answer. The car would still not start. HE went round the corner to the local garage and a mechanic got it going but HE left it there for a service until next Wednesday.

Just to make HIS day, before HE could get our supper ready, HE had to go round the garden with fork and wheelbarrow to pick up all our droppings. Strangely, we were not very hungry this evening!

village xmas lightsSunday 25th November 2007
HE went to get the quad bike out of the sous sol this morning, after HE came back from the bakers. HE drove it out and then went back to close the sous sol doors so that the chickens couldn’t wander in. Then HE thought HE might as well open the field gate before getting on the bike so HE didn’t have to get off again to do it. After that, HE returned to the bike and it died on him. After the problems HE had with the green car yesterday, HE began to think it must be HIM making things break. Then HE checked the petrol and found that it needed filling up. HE keeps spare cans in the sous sol so HE got one and filled the tank, took the can back and got on the bike. It started first time. Then HE turned round and saw that, while HE had been filling the tank, we had come out of the stable and were just in the process of walking out of the gate. It was only our natural caution and suspicion of open gates that stopped Mims and I going down the road to visit Solide and Nougatine or, at least, going back into the front garden to carry on grazing where we left off yesterday. Anyway, HE just managed to catch us in time and close the gate on us. This meant HE couldn’t drive through as we were standing on the other side. In the end, HE had to drive up the ramp and onto the concrete in front of the stable and then drive around to get into the field that way.

We watched where HE was going and saw HIM drive sown to the poplars field. We looked on for a while as HE freed all the fence posts that were laying uselessly in the bramble hedge that separates the poplar field from ours. HE just seemed to be cutting the brambles and pulling the posts out and throwing them on the ground alongside the hedge. HE was so busy that HE didn’t see or hear us wander down the field to stand right behind HIM. Of course, that won us a few more mint sweets and then suddenly Mims started chasing the Big Man back to the stable so I took myself off as well. I didn’t see what else HE did but HE told me later that HE is mending the fences along both sides of the poplar field so HE can take the old bramble hedge away and just put the electric fence along the line where the poplars start, so making the unplanted part of the poplar field an integral part of our normal field. That way, HE thinks, any maintenance work on the field can include that bit as well and just make our field bigger.

Apart from that, it was a normal day until just before supper time when a van drew up and Veronica and Terry came visiting THEM. The interesting thing for us was the fact that every so often the car rattled from side to side and was filled with a barking sound of more than one dog. It was so interesting that when HE came to give us our supper, HE had to come and get Mims and I from where we stood, watching the van. We knew what it was really but it was fun to think we had been visited by a barking van.

village churchMonday 26th November 2007
This is not really horsey stuff but I expect it has some effect on what THEY do for us. In our village of St Pierre des Nids (St Peter of the Nests) we have two bakers shops. They organise things between them so that one is always open every day. The one nearest to us, that HE normally goes to, is open every day except Monday whereas the one in the village square closes on Thursdays. However, the lady in the village square is having a baby and so the shop has closed for two full weeks. The official line is that they are ‘en vacances’. This has meant that the other bakers cannot be expected to open every day and so THEY have had to buy bread for two days on Sunday.

And how does that effect us? Well, it meant that today HE didn’t have to go out to the shops to get bread. There were a few items on the shopping list but they can wait until tomorrow. Instead, HE was up in HIS working clothes and on the quad bike first thing this morning. HE decided that HE might as well get it done as HE had been dreaming about doing it all last night.

Today’s job was to first cut away all the bramble stubbs around the line where the fence between the poplar field and the road goes. Then HE had to firm up the posts that were standing, get rid of those that were no use any more and fix new posts in their place. The quad really came in handy here as HE had to transport the strimmer to the site first and then bring it back and take the replacement posts and the post hammer thing back down to the poplars. While HE was doing that, HE heard HER shouting from the hose that the electricity had gone off. This is a function of the unique French method of selling electricity where one has to opt for a maximum supply amount. If the usage exceeds that, it trips the supply.

HE made HIS way back, fixed the trip switch and then got ready to take some fence netting back down to the poplars. However, this proved more of a job than HE had planned as HE had forgotten that, when the hens were doing their escaping act, HE had fixed two layers of fence netting together in case they were escaping through the holes. What should have been a five minute job of just collecting he netting turned into more than half an hour. However, HE finally finished and took the wire down to the posts.

HE has now fixed the fence on the road side of the poplar field and made it horse proof. The other side already has a fence, erected by the owner of the neighbouring field but it is barbed wire so HE now is going to put in a few more posts a little way from the barbed wire and cover that with the same wire netting as HE used on the other side. Then all that is needed is the electric fence to stop us going right into the poplar plantation (until the fencing there is secured as well) and the removal of the bramble hedge between the polar field and our normal field. I wonder what HE will dram tonight?

the poplar hedge part downTuesday 27th November 2007
THEY went out to the shops today. The only important things THEY bought were two bags of lucerne, a large rolling salt lick and more sugar lumps and mint sweets. After unpacking THEIR stuff, HE came over to the stable to unload the lucerne and put it away in the food store. As HE passed our boxes, HE noticed that they needed sweeping so after HE had put the lucerne away he got the broom and shovel. It was then that HE realised that the job was quite a bit bigger than HE had thought. Three barrow loads bigger to be exact. You see, the trouble is that some of the haylage somehow falls on the floor, particularly in the Big Man’s box but also in the others. Whether this is because the Big Man does tend to wander into all the boxes when he is left on his own, I leave you to decide. Anyway, once on the floor, the haylage does tend to get trodden on and worse so that it becomes quite unfit for eating.

After sweeping out all the boxes and carting the contents to the dung pile, HE could see that the floors of the boxes were not too clean even after sweeping and as HE had done no real physical work today on account of going o the shops in town, HE thought that HE might as well hose all the boxes down. This is a very satisfying thing to do and is not really at all arduous. There is however, one problem. Well one problem with several causes. What should happen when a box is hosed down is that the dirty water flushes down the drain. This however, doesn’t happen fast enough to stop the whole area flooding. In the boxes themselves there is a drainhole in each corner. However, to stop the hay or haylage blocking the drain, each hole has a cover with a filter in it. The problem is that the filter is too fine to allow a good flow of water to pass and so it floats on top. A second problem is that the drain hole is under the drinker in each box. A sensible placing you might think. Unfortunately, this is the top end of the slope built into each box specifically for drainage. And water is not known to flow uphill.

HE gets over these problems by using the hose to force the water out of the door of the boxes. Across the mouth of the barn sliding doors is a gutter for draining away excess water which leads into the main drainage system. This gutter has a grill over it to allow passageway over it but, unfortunately the drainage slots in the grill are wide enough to allow hay and dung to fall through. The result is that the gutter is pretty blocked up and only allows a slow dissemination of water. The concrete apron outside the barn was deliberately sloped to fall into this gutter with the result that hosing our boxes out results in a full size Noah’s ark flood outside the entrance.

At this point, Mims and I walked in to see what HE was doing. I must admit that, providing one stood far enough back so as not to drown, it was quite interesting watching HIM struggle with sweeping the water and sludge away onto the grass with a broom. However, there is only so much fun one can allow oneself before the need for a little something overtakes you. HIS last act before escaping indoors was to fill all our hayracks with new haylage. Now, if we can find a way to keep the Big Man away from it, HE may not have to make another flood for a week or more!

trees in the sunWednesday 28th November 2007
I was about to say that we have got HIM eating out of our hands now. But, of course, it is exactly the opposite, we are eating out of HIS. But the result is the same. We have got him doing exactly what we want HIM to do – feed us out of HIS hands.

Today it was easy. The BIG Man started the action when he caught HIM coming back from the bakers. HE knows and we know that THEY hardly ever eat the end of the loaf. For those of you who are used to bread coming as rectangular blocks of soft floppy stuff in even slices, I have to remind you that French bread is not like that. OK, it is possible to buy it like that in the supermarkets if you are a French suicide or something but the normal French loaf is long and thin, like a baguette but fatter, of succulent content within a crisp, light crust. It is meant to be eaten within a few hours of purchase and definitely on the same day or it turns to stone on the outside. This is no problem as it means one goes to the local baker’s shop every day and meet all your friends for a chat. It would appear that it is usually a job for a man, at least, a French man.

So, when HE came back from the bakers, the Big Man was standing by the fence with a look that was meant to remind HIM that SHE had found that he had lost half a millimetre on the weigh-tape the other day. Of course, Big X got the end of the loaf.

After taking the loaf indoors and having something bracing to fortify HIM against the cold, HE came out with a handful of tools to clear out the drain in front of the stable door. We were just about to go out for a bite of grass but when HE turned up we decided to hang around a bit. HE got out a long screwdriver and was bending down, levering off the grid over the drain when I gently put my soft brown muzzle down next to his face. It never fails to work. I think it is the warmth and the softness. It just makes HIM smile and feel good. HE stood up and, surprise, surprise, HE just happened to have a tube of mints sweets in the pocket of HIS overalls. Now Wicky’s trick is to stand behind me looking very forlorn and hungry. He would look thin as well if he could but this is just not possible. However, his ruse works too and he gets some mints.

HE starts to carry on with the work of cleaning out all the mud from the drain when Mims, who has got curious why we have not come out into the field, comes round the corner. She has a sort of direct approach, walking right up to HIM and looking HIM in the eyes with her big soft brown ones. For someone who can be such a bully she can be so soft and appealing so, of course, HE melts. And then the Big Man comes round the corner thinking that he must have got it all wrong and we weren’t going out at all. Right away he can see what is going on but, being bottom of the pack, so to speak, there is nothing he can do about it, just stand there behind everyone and hope. It doesn’t take long for HIS sense of fairness to kick in and HE walks along to the Big Man and gives him mints too. By which time, we have finished ours and are ready for our next.

And so, a simple ten minute job has taken HIM half an hour and cost HIM a packet of mints. But then, it could have been worse. If HE hadn’t got the hose out to wash down the drain, causing our swift retreat, HE might have been there until lunch time!

st pierre des nids villageThursday 29th November 2007
I didn’t tell you yesterday about the work that HE did in the poplar field as I didn’t want to bore you with all that ‘HE did this, HE did that’ stuff. However! Today has been a wet and miserable day and all we did was to stuff our faces with haylage. HE had to refill our racks three times today and now I am sure that the racks will empty long before morning. So, as I have absolutely nothing to tell you about us (I am leaving out the bit about me being in a bad mood all day and biting the Big Mans bottom when he came in for tea), I will tell you about HIS polar field endeavours both yesterday’s and today’s.

Having fixed the wire netting fence on the side of the field next to the road, HE then concentrated on the erection of the electric fence to keep us from wandering in among the poplars and getting to the parts of the field that are still open to the road. I must add that we all know that the fence is not electrified really. HE thinks we don’t know when HE attaches the battery and electric unit thing and when HE doesn’t.

With that all fixed up, HE turned HIS attention to the hedge between our old field and the poplar one. You would think it a simple job to get rid of a hedge, However, two things made this turn out to be a three day job. Firstly, the hedge is mainly comprised of brambles. Big thorny brambles which are in a way, worse than barbed wire. Secondly, however, these brambles have grown up and through a wire netting fence with six inch thick posts made of tree trunks and have pulled the wire down so that it has got overgrown by weeds and grass and lurks in the centre of the hedge to get snarled up in HIS strimmer blades, even the metal ons.

So that was what HE concentrated on today, as well. The plan was to cut away as many of the brambles at ground level with the hedge cutter attachment on the strimmer. Then to lift, cut away and carry the fence posts to a pile at the bottom of the field (for later sawing into firewood logs) and to try and lift/tug/pull the wire netting out of the grass that is covering it at the base. Finally, HE attaches the wire to the quad by a tow rope and drives away to try and pull the wire out.

By the end of the morning, which is always HIS stopping point due to exhaustion, lunch and wine, HE had managed to clear one third of the hedge. The final act is going to be having a great big bonfire to burn off the brambles from the netting before taking the wire down to the tip.

the Renault garage puppyFriday 30th November 2007
Goodness how the month has raced by. In fact, how the year has raced by too. Tomorrow is the first of December, the month, last year when we sailed for France. It is hard to imagine that we have been here nearly a year. So much has happened and is still happening. I wonder when we will stop feeling that we must settle in and can then just start living?

Weatherwise it was a much better day today, with quite a few sunny spots. We haven’t had any frost for quite a few days now. It is only the lack of grass that stops it being pretty near perfect as there are no flies around in the winter. HE does HIS best to keep us in haylage but I think HE doesn’t realise how much four horses can get through. When we were in Devon, I was the only one on haylage and that was in my stable overnight. Then I would go out and join the others at Ninefields. There were haynets there but somehow we didn’t bother with them much as we were out most of the day. I can’t imagine that we had more grass there as the field was smaller and also it was on the side of the more in what was known as a disadvantaged area. Probably the real truth is that THEY could not stare at us all day from the house as Ninefields was half a mile away so THEY had no idea how we spent our time.

HE finally cleared the poplars hedge today. All that remains now is a little corner of the old hedge on the side furthest from the road which was on the other side of HIS temporary entrance and then HE must have the big bonfire. HE would have done that today but HE ran out of time and anyway, it started to rain a little. HE was tempted to pour some petrol over the brambles from the spare can strapped to the quad but he didn’t have any paper or anything to start the fire with and was afraid that the petrol would just have gone boom and then die out.

HE asked me to cut this short tonight as HE has to choose and edit the photos for this months diary which gets published tonight. It wont be hard to do as nothing else happened.

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