La Biochère is located in the heart of the countryside in rural Mayenne.  Access is via a single-track lane, which crosses a small brook, before continuing around a right-angled bend up to the house.  On the bend, the metalled lane turns into a grass track, which leads further up the hill to a maize field, a hay meadow and a wheat field beyond, but is, essentially, a dead end.  The house and garden sit just below the crest of the hill and are almost completely surrounded by a large cow field.

The nearest neighbours

So, our nearest neighbours are the cows, farmed by Hervé Pichard.  Last year, a small number of calves were born before he took them away in December, with the rest of the herd, to their winter quarters.  This year, they returned in the spring, along with a huge bull – we call him Billy!  It seems that he has been very busy because all through the summer and early autumn, new calves have been appearing in the field.  They are very endearing and so cute to look at.

By August, the weather became extremely hot – on the terrace, afternoon temperatures were reaching over 50 degrees Celsius.  One day, we noticed one of the new-born calves was lying at the edge of the field, close to the lane leading up to the house.  It seemed to be suffering in the heat and its mother was nowhere to be seen.  We called Hervé, who moved the calf to be with his mother so everything seemed fine.  Perhaps the hot weather was too much for the calf to be bothered to move.  A few days later, as we were preparing to go out again, to our surprise, the same calf was lying in the corner of the courtyard…. On calling Hervé again, he seemed less keen to come out this time and said it was normal for calves to be away from their mothers for some hours – never mind he was in our garden!  After a game of push and shove, we managed to get him back into the field ourselves….

Calf number 3013 started appearing more often in the garden.  It was upsetting to see the borders being broken down by a not-so-little animal but it was difficult to know how to stop him coming in.  We have no gate yet at the entrance but this alone would not stop them, as Hervé’s fencing around the property leaves a lot to be desired…

As summer turned to autumn, the calf was coming into the garden almost daily and bringing a friend with him.  As more of the garden was being churned up, flattened and eaten, we would chase them out yelling and waving rope to frighten them off, only to see them dashing through any part of the barbed wire fence they fancied – high tailing it, as they say!

We’d speak to Hervé when we could see him but it seemed he was getting wise to this and scarpered as soon as he saw Edward heading towards him!  Finally, I cornered him as he was making his way into his field…  He understood completely that the cows were coming into the garden but wasn’t offering to fix the fencing anytime soon.  Eventually, Edward caught up with him and took him around the garden to show him the state of the fencing – he was quite brutal, saying it wasn’t a barrier, just a gateway into our garden…..  Hervé kept saying you couldn’t do anything to stop cows going where they wanted but Edward insisted he could do something about the fencing.  He left us inferring he’d do something….

Several days later, and daily chasings of cows, three of them pitched up on the front lawn – it was the last straw.  Edward sent a text to Hervé to tell him again and to ask when he was going to do something about his calves.   That evening, Hervé’s mother arrived.  She seemed a decent sort and was very concerned about the calves – we agreed it was bizarre as it hadn’t happened the year before.  Anyway, the upshot was that Hervé was going to either take the calves away or fix the fencing…  It was interesting to talk to her – apparently she had lived at La Biochère from when she was 2 years old and regretted that the house had been sold.  We invited her to come back with Hervé soon, for a coffee and so we could show her around.

The next evening, Hervé arrived in the lower part of his field, with a trailer – in the rain and what looked like, alone, he took all the calves and their mothers away.  What a relief!  So, no more uninvited visitors in the garden and we still have good relations with our neighbouring farmer – all’s well that ends well!

A neighbourly visit

Sometimes, the strangest things happen…. During the same week that Hervé came to take away the calves, I was having a cup of tea and reading a book in the kitchen, when I happened to look up to find an old woman in the courtyard, looking at the front of the house!!  Bearing in mind our location – we are literally in the middle of nowhere – this was bizarre in itself, but then suddenly a younger man appeared, possibly her son, from the direction of the meadow, with a bucket in hand!  It turns out they thought the house was for sale and that no-one lived here.   Apparently they live over the other side of the hill from us and are related to Hervé, who told them they might find some mushrooms in the cow field that surrounds our house… seems they thought they’d have a look around while they were here!!!  So, once we’d established we’d been here a year and the house wasn’t for sale, they left, on foot… I have no idea how they got here other than perhaps they walked up the fields from their house but the woman looked like she was in her Sunday Best…. You couldn’t make it up!

Neighbourly help

Last week, we finally heard that our ride-on mower was ready for collection from the garage, after a service and repair job.  Unfortunately, our trailer is too narrow to take the mower, so Claude, our lovely neighbour offered for us to use his.  So, at 10 am we were hitching up the trailer at his house and went to fetch the mower from Vilaines la Juhel.  Nothing much to report, other than a full service, new battery, repaired tyre and a starter-motor fix took a mere 145 Euros – labour included!  We’ll be taking it back next year for a service at the end of the season.

We took the mower home and briefly popped into the house before leaving to return the trailer to Claude.  It was then we noticed we had no electricity – darn it.  We decided to deal with that after we’d been to Claude’s.  On the way, we passed Hervé  – he had his big tractor and cattle trailer with him, evidently bringing some more cows to the field – we waved hello.  At Claude’s, however, things weren’t so good – we found him in his garage trying to syphon fuel out of his run-around car.  It transpired he’d put around 7 litres of petrol into it instead of diesel – oops!  After all the help Claude has given us, I know Edward was keen to try to help him for a change and got stuck in trying to think of ways to drain the fuel tank.  After several abortive attempts and lots of splashed fuel about the place, we drove home so Edward could pick up some tools that might help.  Back in the house, there was still no electricity…..

So, while Edward was with Claude, I rang the electricity company help line.  Apparently there was no power cut in the area but there was an emergency number to call – the downside was that I needed to speak French!  Sadly, my French isn’t up to technical standard just yet, so I waited for Edward to come home.  It was lunch time before he did and was able to call the emergency number but even his French wasn’t quite good enough to catch the automated message instructions…..  Another visit to Claude, to see if he could assist!  Within minutes, Edward returned, with Claude, who proceeded to speak to someone at the emergency centre.  We were told someone would be with us within 2 hours.  As it happened, they arrived in under 45 minutes and established very quickly that no electricity was reaching the house….. It wasn’t long before he discovered that the pole carrying the electricity cable supplying our property, had been damaged – it looked like it had been hit by a very large truck or trailer…. mmmm!  Wonder who could have done that?!  Thankfully for us, we were soon back on the grid and just before it got dark – hoorah!  An efficient and free service 🙂

Later that evening, we were in the living room watching television in front of a nice fire, when we heard a car turn up.  It was Claude, in his recently drained-of-wrong-fuel-run-around!  He’d come to check we were OK and weren’t sitting in the dark waiting for the electricity to be fixed – what a lovely man.  We’re so lucky to have found La Biochère and to have such nice neighbours, especially Claude, he’s an absolute gentleman. ♥