Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad; Bat Babies

It’s been a strange summer here in the Vendée.  We, apparently, had a late frost.  I say ‘apparently’ because it was nothing we noticed: no frost on the car; no white grass; nothing.

It’s strange because we rarely have frost anytime, let alone in late spring.

I first noticed there was a problem when my wisteria stopped, mid-bloom, and all the potential flowers turned brown and died.

I now can see the full result of that one-off night: We have no fruit.

Not just us, but no one in the area has any fruit.

Normally, this time of year, I’m up to my elbows in plums: eating; making jams, preserves, clafoutis.

No plums.

No peaches or pears either.

We had no cherries and we will have no walnuts or hazelnuts.

We have a few table grapes and about 1 out 3 of our wine vines have berries.

We’ll have about 5 apples… out of 6 trees.

It’s as if the land is just kicking us off, telling us to leave.

We’re no longer wanted; we will no longer be fed.

Time to move on….

On the other hand…. We have Bat Babies!

Mon mari was telling me that there were babies living above a beam in his workshop.  He could hear them rustling around during the evening, when batmom and batdad were out for their constitutional.

Naturally, I had to see for myself.

I thought I was going to be seeing little, tiny baby bats all cutely tucked up under the beam.

Instead I saw about 8 bat babies madly flying around the shop.

They must have been practicing for their first foray into the countryside.

I was tempted to open the door and let them out… But, who am I to interfere with BatParent Instructions?

If ‘les parents’ had wanted them to leave, I assume they would have showed them how.

We left the Bat Babies merrily swooping and diving around the table saw and drill press.

They ARE fast!

We’ve had a lot of animal sightings recently. In the las few weeks I’ve spotted lots and lots of baby bunnies (as has Sedi, the Bunny Slayer, but I’ve managed to keep her under control), as well as a mother fox and her kits.

And mon mari saw a red squirrel!  The only squirrel either of us has seen anywhere in Europe, ever!

So, we have animals… Good thing they don’t eat fruit

Presto pasta nights

And I’m not sharing my pasta!

One has to draw the line someplace, after all!

I recently discovered that couscous does not have to have the taste and texture of sawdust.

Combine that with the fact that it takes just minutes to prepare and it’s the perfect summer food.

Presto Pasta Nights is back with the founder, Ruth, of Once Upon A Feast this week.  But next week, it’s going to be right here…Chez Moi, (with the bat babies).

Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad

   for two

1/2 cup couscous
3/4 cup chicken broth Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad

4oz (120gr) green beans
1 stalk (rib) celery
2 tbs snipped chives
1 tomato
2oz (60gr) shredded fresh spinach
2 tbs white Balsamic vinegar
3 tbs olive oil – good stuff
1 1/2 tsp Dijon-style mustard

Top and tail beans and cut into bite-size pieces.  Put a medium saucepan 2/3rd’s full of water on high heat.  When boiling add beans and blanch for 3 minutes.  Drain and immediately rinse with cold water.  Heat chicken broth to a boil.  Put couscous in a medium bowl.  When broth is boiling pour over couscous, cover and let stand for 10 minutes…Do not stir it.  Meanwhile, slice celery, snip chives, roughly chop tomato and shred spinach: put the spinach leaves together in one hand and snip with a scissors.  Add vegetables and herbs to couscous and fluff with a fork.   Put the vinegar, mustard and oil in a small bowl.  Whisk well and stir into couscous.  Serve.

Visit Once Upon A Feast on Friday for this week’s round-up and next week sent your entries to me: thyme2.kate at  gmail dot  com

13 thoughts on “Couscous, Spinach and Green Bean Salad; Bat Babies”

  1. We have bats in the country, too — but not inside the house! They live under the eaves, and on a summer evening one of our favorite sights is that of the bats coming out to eat the mosquitoes, flying huge figure-eights in the sky at dusk. I think they’re the only wildlife we have that doesn’t eat the herb garden!

  2. We had a frost in Spring as well which meant very few cherries or apricots for us either…on my journey South yesterday though they obviously didn’t have that problem because the fruit stands were overflowing:D

  3. We enjoyed watching the evening bats last weekend as they took over for the daytime swallows in catching bugs up in the Sequoia National Park – such able flyers! I’m glad you are happy to have them instead of frightened as so many are!

  4. Gosh I’d really be missing that fruit as I know everybody is. Great bat story. We think we have possum in the back yard. We know we have rats.
    Katie couscous is something I love and forget to make. I guess I like the whole wheat couscous that I found sometime ago the best of any I’ve tried but it’s really about what you put with it. Yours I know I’d enjoy with the spinach and green beans. Love your new photo!

  5. Lydia, there not in the house… just the shop. They do make a bit of a mess – but are such fun to watch!
    Val, fruitstands…. sigh….. I don’t think we even have kiwifruit – must go out anc check!
    Zoomie, just as well as they are protected here and we couldn’t do anything about them anyway!
    Thanks, Tanna! I’ve never seen whole wheat couscous – but, then the French aren’t really in to the ‘healthy’ thing yet… Or maybe it’s just that they eat enough fruit and veg they don’t worry….

  6. That looks so good and don’t talk about bats!
    My gosh we are overrun with them and trying to figure a way to run them off from our garage.
    I hate your fruit is messed up this year. The only fruit trees I can manage are some apple, everything else dies on me.

  7. Bat babies!? OMG! I bet they were sooooo cute! I love bats…I wonder if they have bats on Hawaii? Hmm…I will have to check that out. This looks like a delicious, simple summer salad too!

  8. PS. And there you are in your photo!! It’s so interesting to finally put faces to names on blogs! It’s so nice to finally *see* you!!

  9. Hi Katie,
    Tripped over your charming blog while I was googling something else, and I thought you’d enjoy my own “bat news” (written last fall before we moved permanently to France):
    all best,
    Bat News
    In New Jersey we’re surrounded by woods, novel to me, after years in New York. Wildlife abounds. Flocks of migratory birds feast on our newly sown grass seed. At night we hear the hoot of an owl, then the horrible screams of whatever it just caught. Squirrels (we think) bowl with walnuts in our attic. Last week we found one drowned in the toilet. Clever detective work revealed a trail of tiny footprints leading from the fireplace through the kitchen to the bathroom. It must have fallen down the chimney, followed a breeze to an open window, tried to jump to it using the sloping toilet seat as an intermediary platform. We buried it out back, in the pet graveyard.
    One day last September, I found a small bat, asleep upside down in my study window, between the storm window and the screen. There it hung, with mouse-like ears and pale, furry belly, its grey-black wings folded, finger and toenails hooked into the screening. Very cute. I figured it had gotten lost at daybreak and needed a safe place to sleep. It had made a pretty smart choice. Although it was perfectly visible through the glass, taunting passing raptors, nothing could get at it. My husband took its picture.
    When my brother and I were children, visiting Mammoth Cave on a school trip, he plucked a sleeping bat from a ledge. Later in the bus, we gently inspected the terrified creature, unfolding its arms to see the translucent membranes of its wings, and decided to make a pet of it. Before supper that night, we displayed it proudly to our father. It’s one of the few times I remember Daddy, an M.D., freaking out. He instantly chloroformed it and sent its head off to be tested for rabies. Which it didn’t have.
    The bat sleeping in my NJ window looked exactly like that one. At dusk it roused itself, stretched several times, and did a graceful back flip over the bottom edge of the storm window to fly away. To my astonishment, a few days later, it was back, hanging in the same spot. Using a bat identification web site, I determined its description and habits exactly matched those of Myotis Leibii, the Eastern Small-Footed Bat, which is rare in New Jersey, though common in Mammoth Cave. So I was right! I had recognized it. Small-Footed Bats are mostly solitary, non-migratory, “homing” bats, who return to the same roost time after time. They sometimes inhabit houses. They hibernate late, usually in mid-November. My husband suggested I give it a name.
    Next morning no bat. Ten days later, it came back – same routine, hang out a day or so, disappear. Like a circuit preacher. My husband said it probably had a girl in every port. In early October it disappeared and didn’t return. I missed it. It had been great company — the perfect pet: requiring no care or feeding, staying close enough to be sociable, but remaining outside the house. In addition, bats eat mosquitoes, which I hate. I looked mournfully at my empty window. I was glad I hadn’t named it.
    Suddenly, at the beginning of November, it was there again! That night it went off as usual, returning at dawn. But the second day, I realized it was sick– its fur was dull and it was huddled into the furthest corner of the window. I thought I could see some blood spots and a tear in its wing. It couldn’t have caught it on anything. I remembered Daddy explaining how bats emit a call as they fly which bounces off objects like sonar, using echo-location to avoid collisions. Something must have attacked it. That damned owl. The bat hung there, day and night, for six days, not moving except into the shade when the sun was too hot. I got more and more worried about it. It seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. Was it de-hydrated? I filled a jar lid with water and put it on the windowsill. It didn’t seem to notice. I would have caught it some mosquitoes, but I didn’t know how. I knew it was dying, and I wondered if I’d know when it was dead, or if it would just hang there even after it died. Late the seventh night, it disappeared. Outside, I searched the leaves under the window for a bat cadaver, but it was too dark.
    Every morning I’d look at my empty window. Then, miraculously, about a week later, presto! It looked a lot better. I danced downstairs singing my own version of a Burl Ives song: “The bat came back the very next day, the bat came back, we thought it was a goner, but the bat came back, it just wouldn’t stay away …” It went out occasionally, but mostly slept, even at night. It was mid-November, time to hibernate. This wasn’t good. The web site had said that hibernating Small Footed Bats wake up occasionally but they don’t eat, and may die if disturbed, because they burn too much of their body fat and starve. In my window it was going to get too hot and wake up too often. What to do? I decided to ask for help, using bat jargon from the website:
    re: Myotis Leibii? November 20
    To whom it may concern:
    A bat has been roosting intermittently in my second floor, south-facing study window, hanging in the narrow space between a storm window and an interior screen (for dates, see summer bat count chart, attached). It’s small (around 3 inches TL) with tiny, hairless feet. Its ears are rounded with a pointed tragus. I can’t see its facial mask (it hangs belly in, and is lit from behind. ) I think it has a keeled calcar, though it’s a little hard to tell when its wings are folded. Fur is glossy and reddish brown on its back, sort of yellowish on belly. Its forehead is flat (no bump). Its forearms are black (see photo, not very informative, attached). I think it’s an Eastern Small-Footed Bat.
    It leaves at dusk, and returns before dawn. Sometimes it disappears for ten days or so. On November 1, it reappeared after nearly a month’s absence. Now it sometimes sleeps through the night, but not always. Yesterday it left in the early evening and returned about 10 p.m. Could it be hibernating?
    I don’t want to drive the bat away, but its environment is neither cold, nor quiet, nor dark. The window actually gets very hot on sunny days. I’m afraid it will waste valuable energy moving around. Is there anything I can do to help it survive, short of disturbing it?
    Yours sincerely.
    No answer. But in the meantime we told our neighbors we have a bat. They said, “We have one too! It sleeps behind one of the second-floor shutters. It’s been hanging around for two years.” I bet it’s the same bat — it just likes an occasional change of scene. A Small-Footed Bat can live 12 years. Maybe I’ll give it a name after all.

  10. Too bad about the missing fruit. What a pity. On the other hand, not sure how I feel about bat babies.
    Thanks for a great couscous salad for Presto Pasta Nights, though. It looks wonderful and it’s so hot here than couscous would be the only pasta I could manage.
    I’m also looking forward to you’re being host of Presto Pasta Night next week. Can’t wait

  11. Sue, they’re protected here… Might as well love’em!
    Michelle, I’m pretty sure you have fruit bats…
    Julia, thanks for the charming story…. I wonder if he’s still living there. I had no idea they lived so long… Now I wonder if they mate for life and how many offspring!
    Ruth, I’m very sad about the fruit… I hate having to buy what used to be so prolific it ended up in compost!

  12. I just had to share… I printed off and tried the couscous recipe a few nights ago, and my husband loved it. And I usually have trouble getting him to eat green veggies, but this one he enjoyed! Thanks!

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