|Finally, the first smidge of “real” winter this morning: actual snow on the ground! Not enough to bury the green grass, and it was gone by mid-afternoon. One of the aspects of France that has made a strong impression on me is the length of the autumn season. Deciduous trees still hold their leaves; the lettuce and carrots and leeks still grow in the gardens; the animals still graze the green grass… (and the goats graze the stinging nettles!!! Amazing animals, goats!)
Being here at our second WWOOFing family, chez Amans & Natalie and their children, Anatole and Lucie, has been another very pleasant sojourn. Very relaxing, really. It reminds me a lot of being “home” at my parents’ “farm” in Ontario: the wood stove; the relaxed pace of life; simply living simply. It’s really quite wonderful!
We planted some fruit trees, helped plaster some holes in the stone&mudplaster (local clay mixed with chopped straw and bit of water makes quite a good plaster for this purpose) exterior walls, weeded the garden, cleaned the rabbits cages, fed the animals (2 sheep, 1 goat, 4 rabbits, 1 cat), weeded the garden… The kids are homeschooled, and one day there was a gathering of other homeschoolers and we made paper and experimented with ink made from mushrooms. We spent an afternoon gathering apples and another helping with the pressing (I forgot to take my camera – drat! It was quite a contrast to the apple juice pressing we did with Flo and Chris. This time it was using the “old” methods: a manual (dual-cranked) masher and a big hand press using straw between the layers of pulp in the press!)
Otherwise, our main task here was to provide child care this week, while Amans has rehearsals for a childrens’ show he’s working on and Natalie continues with her regular work as a school teacher.
Wednesdays there is no school for younger children. That’s the day we go to the library and Lucie has dance class and Anatole tennis lessons… where he cracked his wrist last week, falling on it the wrong way!
Enough from me… here’s Kirianne’s contribution:
At “La Petite Famille”, I think that their farm is called Hunelais, there are a few animals but it’s much less a farm and more a family household with a few pets. Nathalie is a teacher so we don’t spend a lot of time with her, but Amans is an actor and the stay at home parent for Anatole (8) and Lucie(6), and is almost always at home. They are home-schooled and spend more time playing and doing crafts and other things that are not math or learning how to spell because, as Amans says, “I have a hard time motivating them to sit down and do schoolwork.” So Lucie is learning her alphabet and has quite a bit of trouble with it. She has a letter notebook that she is making and it has all of the letters and then she has a picture for each sound that that letter makes. One of her problems is that she has trouble pronouncing quite a few sounds and so sometimes it is difficult to understand her and when she is working on her letter notebook she says the name of the thing in the picture and it doesn’t sound the way it should so she thinks it goes in the wrong place. Anatole has less difficulty with school I believe and just have trouble getting around to doing things. He is a bookworm like me and will read whenever he has the time. And now that he has broken his wrist, in tennis he fell on it the wrong way, he is reading for half of the day.
They have a goat that is named Blanchette, a female’s name even though he is a male. He is very shy and he only lets me pet him when he is eating grain because he loves grain so much that he doesn’t want to leave it to get away from you because the ram might steal the grain. They also keep two sheep, a ram and a yew, and the ram spends half of his day ramming things including the goat’s back end! I also got rammed in the thigh one day. Luckily my mom was outside and was able to come and help me. And another day when we were giving the goat and the sheep grain and there were five of us in the enclosure the ram came up and slammed into Anatole, hitting him off balance and then came back and hit him and he fell over, of course the whole time Anatole was running away from the ram which was his one mistake, and after Anatole was cornered against the fence and he had fallen down the ram took a third go at him. By this time Amans had grabbed the ram and was sitting on him and yelling and shaking him. Anatole sure got out of the enclosure quick, screaming and crying although I don’t blame him, he said he was crying more from shock than from pain. We had to get Lucie out of the enclosure and she was frozen like she was made of ice. But everything was fine half an hour later, except that Anatole had a big bruise on his thigh and the ram is a little shaken up from all of that sitting on and getting shaken and carried around by his horns.
There are also four rabbits with very long and confusing names that are kept (the rabbits are kept not the names, actually the names are thrown away and never used) in pipsqueak cages, two rabbits per cage even though there is fifteen cages in all. My mom says that they are probably kept together for warmth because the first day we were here when we got up the ground was covered in frost and the water was covered in a layer of ice. [Mom also says the cages aren't all THAT small.] I still think that if the rabbits have to be together or should be together then they should at least have bigger cages, maybe drill a hole through the wall so that they can go from one cage to the other and still have each other for warmth at night, or in the daytime they each have their own cage but at night we put them in pairs, or something of that sort. I asked about the rabbits and Amans said when we are building the chicken coop and house we can make a big movable cage for the rabbits so that they can eat grass fresh from the ground and they have more space. We also switch them to clean cages until we get their big cage made.
The family also has a cat, Zapada, which means “snow” in Roma because they got him from a Roma friend and he is mostly white with a yellowy orange head and an orange and white striped tail. He’s quite a big cat and has the same personality as my cat, Zeus; he will purr and cuddle up with you and then suddenly attack you playfully with his teeth and claws and bat at you, and get all riled up. And when he’s riled up he is quite dumb. When he is laying on his back batting at you, you can take his tail and place it across his stomach so that is just tickles his nose and the tip is just in his mouth and he’ll bite down on it and then get all confused and run off.
When he is outside he tracks down mice and then will play with them for about twenty minutes, not hurting them just batting them around with his paws and chasing them. Then when they are too weak to do anything but wiggle around on their backs he will kill them and then… eat them!
There are not many domestic cats, and Zapada is not even a barn cat, he’s a house cat and has lots of food inside but he kills one after another and eats them all. I’m very impressed. Zeus will kill birds and just leave them on the porch to be buried by my mom and me, but Zapada doesn’t waste.
Lucie is so cute. She is a complainer, an arguer and she gets very, very angry at just about anything, but she does have an amazing imagination! She says that she visits “La Pays des Fées”, Land of the Fairies, and that she sees amazing things there. One day she asked me, (in French of course, but this is the approximate translation) “Do you miss you friends when you are not with them?” I replied to her, “Well, of course I miss my friends when I am here and they are there.” She went on to tell me, “That’s like how I feel when I go to the Land of the Fairies, I have to go alone, but when I get there I can see my friends.”
Another time she was telling us at lunch that when she has a stomach ache it means that it the Land of the Fairies a tree has died and that the other day when she had a stomach ache for a very long time it was because lots of trees of the sun and earth were dying and that she felt their pain. It’s amazing that a young girl can come up with those kinds of things and how realistic they sound. Maybe they are really though, how do we know.
Tasha back again :
The kids are spending 3 days with Natalie’s parents now, and our time here is just about over. We will travel to Mont St Michel (via Dinan and Dol-de-Bretagne) while we are "in the neighbourhood". And then we are going back to Le Gue aux Biches for another stint with Flo et al, since we liked it very much there and they said we are welcome back. Kirianne really has little appetite for more travelling around; she’s much happier to be parked at some kind of a “home”. So we’ll make our home there again for a while, before heading towards Basel and Konstanz for Christmas.
Oh, I forgot to mention that Natalie took us to St. Malo for an afternoon – impressive ramparts along the sea wall and great stretches of tide flats at low tide. Launching place of Jacques Cartier!