11 August 2011

Pears, prey, and presents

You might remember that I went out to our little pear tree a few days ago and thought I'd pick a few pears. We've never gotten very many pears from it in the past. By the time I finished, I had picked at least six dozen pears that I thought were worth saving and trying to ripen.

Well, they have ripened. I opened the boxes yesterday and saw that most of them have turned yellow, some with a reddish tinge. Even the greener ones feel soft enough to be cooked now. At the same time, I had to throw out eight or ten of them that had obviously gone rotten.

I've got my work cut out for me this morning —
peeling, coring, and cooking these pears and many others.

When I use the word prey in the title of a post, you have to remember that we now have a cat. Bertie the black cat is spending his second summer here, and he is an accomplished hunter. Over the past few months, he has brought us lizards, birds, mice, a mole, and lord knows what else. Sometimes he eats what he catches, sometimes he eats part of the animal, and sometimes he doesn't seem to be hungry for what he's caught.

Bertie's latest present

He also has brought in live animals. The mole for example, and at least one little mouse one evening, went scurrying around the garage with me, Walt, and Bertie all trying to catch them. The mole we caught, and Walt had to kill it. The mouse was too fast for us, but the next morning we found evidence that Bertie had succeeded in finding and eating it. We know, because when he eats a mouse he always leaves the gall bladder or some such organ on the floor. That little part must taste bad.

Whatever it is, Bertie just brought it in as a present.
Or maybe he was showing off.

Life in the country, eh? Anyway, my question is this: what kind of animal is this that Bertie brought us a couple of days ago? It was pretty big and the cat showed no sign of wanting to try to eat it. He just offered it to us, kind cat that he is. We didn't try to eat it either. I hope Bertie wasn't disappointed in us.

Meanwhile, the good news is that the weather has turned warm and sunny again. We're expecting temperatures near 80ºF over the next four or five days. Pourvu que ça dure ! It would be nice to have this kind of weather when we go to stay in the Perche gîte in two weeks.

Sunset over the vineyard a couple of nights ago,
seen from a window up in the loft

Okay, the pears are waiting. They have to be peeled and cored, kept in acidulated water so they won't turn brown, and then cooked in a light syrup. Packed in jars, sealed, and then sterilized. I don't know about you, but pears are about my favorite fruit, especially in pies and tarts.


  1. Berties offering would go well with the cotoneaster/pyracantha fruit.
    Or not.

  2. I'm thinking it's a stoat or some other member of the weasel family.

  3. Isn't Bertie kind?
    I'm with you... I love pears. Happy preserving!

  4. My thoughts are that it's a stoat, although I don't think I've ever actually seen one before, except in books.

  5. I'd go with weasel/stoat/marten. But not a full grown one - a juvenile. My cats used to leave my mice gifts just inside the front door so I'd see how productive they were as soon as I got home.

  6. Oh my. Gotta love that Bertie :)

    Great looking pears! I join you in loving pears in a tarte.


  7. Cat presents are so much fun! At least this one wasn't still alive or a song bird.

    Congratulations on your pear crop. I like pears a lot also, but find they are fragile and rot in spots quickly.
    Happy preserving!

  8. With your help and Wikipedia's, I now think the animal was a "least weasel" — in French une belette pygmée. Stoats seem to have a black-tipped tail as their special characteristic. This one had a very short tail with no black tip.

  9. Bertie's presents are just one the reasons I would not have a pet in my residence. I understand it's the way of nature, but I don't want to see it on my porch.

  10. Interesting catch, Bertie,

    We get "gifts" too, from our neighbor's cat. I don't know if she catches so many rats and birds that there's overflow, or if we're just special.

  11. Oh how kind of Bertie! Shadow eats most of his voles/mice and also leaves the same remnant--it's the gallbladder with or without stomach. Never had a weasel; Katinka manage to catch a swallow which we were able to liberate.
    The pears look lovely. Beautiful in a tarte tatin.

  12. I was thinking your 'prize' from Bertie was an animal I've never seen before. Thank goodness my Matisse is a housecat or else I would have to be dealing with all kinds of things, too!

    Oregon is pear country. We won't be getting ripe pears in the markets for at least another 2 or 3 weeks is my guess. You are ahead of us this season. Looking forward to seeing what you "pear" up.

    Although, we, too, are getting 80 degree F. days now. Perfect summer weather.

    Mary in Oregon

  13. If you scroll down on this page you will see a beautiful drawing of a cat gift to this artist. Also a stoat. But very similar pose to the one Bertie brought you.

  14. Interesting behaviour of cats that they leave a present. I noticed our cat never ate the gall bladder either. One morning as I was leaving the house, I noticed a baby rabbit's head lying in the garden next to the path. The body was gone and the head was resting on it's neck as thought the body was buried beneath it. I think the cat did that as a trophy.

  15. This is proof that Bertie is yours. He's giving you gifts. Our cats used to bring in live birds. Sometimes it was food, and we found feathers and other parts scattered around. Other times the birds and mice were just live toys that they swatted around until the thing escaped or died. Our daughter's cat leaves her offerings just at the bedroom door -- not exactly what you want to step onto when you get up groggy in the morning.

  16. It's a Weasel Mustela nivalis. Weasels are sometimes called Least Weasels. They come in a variety of sizes and have many sub-species. Males are considerably larger than females. According to the Collins fieldguide Pygmy Weasels are one of the sub-species and I'm not convinced that we would get them here. I think the Wiki articles in both French and English are not necessarily helpful / clear / accurate, but it seems to be a complex subject. Pygmy Weasels can apparently be distinguished by their white feet, straight demarcation line between the belly and upper colours and no brown patch behind the corner of the mouth. A male Pygmy Weasel is much the same size as a female regular Weasel.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?