Sunday, 31 October 2010

Apple Pressing

Here you can see the heroic efforts of Jason, one of our American WWOOFers, who is squeezing every last darn drop out of the apples that my friend Sheena brought round. The minute she said it was for making cider, he squeezed even harder.

To that end, we took him to the Cider Festival at L'Hermitiere today. It was good fun, not only seeing how they make the cider on a much grander scale than us but also because there were lots of local producers there at a farmers' market type thing. I bought some cold pressed rapeseed oil as they had the hand-cranked machine there converting the seeds right in front of our eyes - very sustainable. Jason of course bought some cider but only after he'd had a few tastings!

There were two lovely Percheron cart horses there with little carts that tripped round the fields mainly for the childrens' benefit. We waited for 20 mins in the queue that had formed in an orderly fashion and got to front. The horses and carts approached, slowed down, we got ready with our excited children and, horror of horrors, all these french families barged past and scrambled onto the carts before we could even catch our breath!! Jason was gobsmacked, I was annoyed but Ben was nonchalant as he said that they always do that - form a queue and then ignore it. He's the one that normally queues with the boys so he should know. He said that you had fight to keep your place so the next time we got our elbows out and barged with the best of them! We enjoyed the ride!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Ivy League

Here we have one of our projects. The boys have planted up two young ivy plants that we found growing in the garden and they are going to train them around frames formed in their initials, R and B. Let's hope they remember to water them!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Another Loss

Last night my favourite little Mummy ewe, Mince, died in my arms. She wasn't very well when I went to feed them in the morning - she was just standing in one spot swaying. I quickly went to visit Francois (my farming friend) and explained the situation. He accompanied me back home and administered an antibiotic and said that we needed to get her under cover quickly. We made a pen for her in the feed barn and put down lots of lovely fresh straw and carried her in. Her feet and legs were very cold so we borrowed a heat lamp from Francois and blocked off all drafts around her pen. She seemed to be making a little recovery and ate some fresh hay but Ben came in at tea-time and said that she wasn't looking so great and was lying down on her side. And sadly she never stood up again but passed away at 11.30pm with pneumonia. I cried all night.

Today, odd though it might sound, I decided that we would shear her wool as I wanted that memory of her. Bless him, Korey one of our WWOOFers volunteered to do that for me whilst Rowan and I went to buy an apple tree to plant in memory of her. We found a lovely apple tree called Arianne as that too reminded us of another lovely WWOOFer, Ariana who was one of our first volunteers. This afternoon, Korey and Jason dug a big hole in the orchard and we buried little Mince. Au revoir my little one.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Here in France it is not unusual to be stared at. It's a pastime, just part of life. The French can stare for hours and don't feel guilty when caught in the act of staring at you (unlike the Brits who flush profusely and look way past you into the middle distance hoping that you didn't notice them looking at you). At first we thought that they stared at us because we 'looked foreign' though we didn't know why that might be so. Now we know that they just stare at everyone and everything - it's just part of the culture. And hey, maybe they've got it right. Whenever I think of it I'm reminded of this poem and it makes me slow right down....


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

By Wm. Henry Davies.(Wm. Henry Davies (1871-1940) is to be considered as the poet of the tramps. Born at Newport, Wales in the UK, Davies went to America from Great Britain and lived the life of a vagabond. One day, as the result of jumping a train, he lost one of his legs. Davies returned to England where he continued to live the life of a tramp and a pedlar. He wrote poetry (presumably he did right along) and, eventually, he determined to print his own book and did so with the little money he earned panhandling. A copy of this first work, A Soul's Destroyer, came into the hands of George Bernard Shaw; which, in turn, led to the popularization of the poet.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Ecological Hedge Trimmers

On the 13th September we took delivery of four female French Alpine goats with their main remit being to eat some of our out-of-control bramble 'hedges'.

Here is the new goat house that Ben had part constructed, due for completion 'in the field'. Ben reckoned that Little Red Tractor would be the best way to move it out there, I thought not.

In the end it was a combination of both people power and tractor power that got it out to the allocated slot. Our thanks go to Mim, Kiera, Andy and Sarah for loaning their muscles. The goats have been named after them (except we had to do a slight alteration on 'Andy' and the name became Mandy).

The goats arrived in a camper van 'les chevres en vacances' and seemed to quite like their new home - for a week! Then we discovered that they quite liked being next to the pigs for company and that was sort of OK, but then they abandoned their own house and took over the pig house and wouldn't let the pigs in, even when it was pouring with rain. This clearly was not acceptable so they have had to be moved into the big sloping field next to the boys' woodhouse.

A secondary contribution is that maybe next year they will go into kid and we will get a little milk from them. We would of course keep the babies with their mums but realise that this may reduce the amount of milk we get (if any). It is one of the sad, sad sides of dairying that milking mammals (except humans) have to have offspring annually in order to produce milk (almost - some goats have been known to 'milk through' for two years). Those offspring are normally removed at birth in order to get the most milk from the mother. That is an awful sad distressing noise to hear the pair calling for each other all day and all night. Frequently the babies are 'disposed' of. This is one of the reasons that I can't quite come to terms with vegetarianism on the grounds of not wanting animals to die in order for the food to be on the plate - animals are still being killed in order to produce the milk, cheese, eggs etc that form part of a vegetarian diet. I can understand the vegan stance here. Our family however are choosing to be responsibly sustainable omnivores.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Birthday Boy

Yet another WWOOFer is with us and celebrating a birthday. This time it's Jack from the UK and the boys just loved his chocolate cake! It made B's eyes cross with anticipation.