But for author Susie Kelly it meant repairing old buildings, handling entertaining guests and as you will read below corralling the chickens into the barn away from a sensitive visitor.
These are just some of the tales featured in Susie's latest book, Swallows & Robins - The Guests In My Garden, and here is an extract for you to enjoy.
The Lamenting Hens, by Susie Kelly
Lavande's first guests this year are a gentle elderly couple staying, fortunately as it will turn out for the hens, for only one week. They have come, they say, just to enjoy the quiet country life. With frogs, crickets, bats, nightingale, owls, and many other varieties of birds in our garden, I'm sure they will.
However, the morning after their arrival the old gentleman is shouting over the fence, "Miss, Miss, please come quickly."
I assume his wife must be ill, so I run round trying to remember whether I should phone the ambulance or the fire brigade first. In France, the fire brigade can often reach somebody faster than an ambulance, especially in the more isolated areas, and the firemen include members trained to deal with medical emergencies.
And I must remember that to signal a heart attack in French, the terminology is "crise cardiaque" – a cardiac crisis, and not "mal au coeur" which, illogical as it might appear does not mean having a heart problem, but feeling sick. Knowing the difference could be a matter of life or death. The emergency services are unlikely to spring into action if they receive a call to say somebody is feeling bilious.
The old lady is up on her feet, next to the fence, both hands clutched against her throat. Wasp or bee sting, I think. Do I treat it with acid or alkaline? I never can remember. Bicarb or vinegar? I'm flooded with relief that she isn't collapsed on the ground.
"Are you in pain?" I ask, trying to lead her to a chair.
"Listen!" she squeals. "Listen to that poor creature."
I can't hear anything except our little group of hens chatting as they hunt in the grass for insects.
"What can you hear?" I ask.
"That terrible sound. A sort of moaning."
I can still only hear the hens.
"Yes, an animal is in distress. Please find it and do something. I can't bear to listen to it."
"It's just the hens," I laugh. "That's how they talk to each other."
Blissfully unaware of the tempest they have raised in this old lady's breast, the hens continue their leisurely hunting, murmuring to each other and clucking triumphantly as they pounce on a new morsel. From the barn comes a loud squawk of satisfaction from somebody who has just laid an egg.
"Oh no! I've never heard such a noise," she continues. "It can't be right. They're in such pain."
Thank heavens we don't have sheep, cattle or even worse a donkey. As for guinea fowl – unthinkable. We rehomed our last one a few years ago because the noise it made was like sheet metal being ripped apart. What would she think if she heard them giving voice?
She really is in a tearful state and I can't convince her that the hens are just talking in their own language, so I herd them away from their favourite hunting ground right next to Lavande's garden, where they can generally be assured of fine dining – back to the far end of the field, out of earshot.
By the next morning I've forgotten all about the incident, and it is only when I take the dogs for their evening walk that the old boy calls out "Miss, Miss," again. He is sorry to complain but his wife has worried herself sick as she can hear the hens lamenting from dawn to dusk.
Because she finds their noise so distressing, she has stayed indoors all day. Neither her husband nor I are able to reassure her that the rather mournful noise hens makes is quite normal, and that our hens have less reason than most to lament, as they will live out their lives in freedom, peace and comfort unlike the majority of their sisters.
For the rest of their stay the girls are confined to the barn, slightly perplexed, but happy enough to scratch around in the straw.