Back to Gue aux Biches... and it's really WINTER
Dec 1, 2010
|Nov. 30 to December ??
We are back at Le Gué aux Biches!
Did I mention that this translates to « the ford of the female deer » = Doe crossing. There is a small lake just across the road (with fishermen stationed along the shoreline in no matter what inclement weather! Only for the week that the surface was frozen did they stop coming.) From this lake is a creek that runs through the property. I assume the name is associated with this creek.
We are happy to be “home” again! We feel really comfortable in this place. I hope we can take Flo and family at face value when they say we are welcome back! (I sometimes feel that the exchange isn't really well balanced; that we get out of it more than they do. But, after several weeks here, I realize that we really do provide valuable help to pay for our stay.)
For the few days we were travelling to Mont St Michel, Kirianne just couldn’t wait to get back here. She much prefers the WWOOFing to being in travel mode. She does not like eating in restaurants and sleeping in a different bed every night. The time we spend exploring new towns and seeing the sights is, for Kirianne, just filling in time between WWOOFing stays. She much prefers to have a “home” and a routine.
One of the reasons Kiri likes this place is that there are more animals here and more for her to do. (And therefore less time for me to insist on doing her math!) Of course, we both like the family, too. We feel comfortable and “chez nous” here.
But it is truly winter now in France and it is cold! I said the lake froze over. So does the water in the animals’ drinking containers. It was -8C a couple of mornings ago. That feels pretty cold when you are wearing rubber boots (no felt liners) and there is no central heating! I am happy that I’ve finished knitting the warm socks for myself to go in my rubber boots. But I feel sorry for some of the animals – especially the pig, who has no fur and has an open cabin that the wind and rain and cold can enter, and no bedding either, since apparently she eats it…
This weekend (Dec. 10-12) most of the family took off for a visit with relatives in the north of France. There was a lot of snow elsewhere, but not much here. We – the four WWOOFers, which includes Bron from South Africa who was here when we were here before, and Thibault from near Paris who is here for two weeks – carried on with the care of the animals here and the feeding of the Veau at Ker Madeleine twice a day. Kiri explained that Veau is the extra calf that was purchased with the intention of raising it for meat, using the milk cow for a surrogate mother. But Annette, the mother cow, is not the least bit willing to let an adopted calf drink her milk, so twice a day we have to catch her and tie her up to give Veau a chance to drink some milk. Annette does not appreciate this behaviour and is getting increasingly difficult to catch. Can’t say I blame her! Veau, needless to say, is not beefing up the way it was theoretically predicted, so they will not try to sell him, but will put him into their own freezer after Christmas.
Along with the rabbits that were killed on Saturday. That was difficult. The rabbits are so cute and we have been feeding and looking after them all this time… Of course, we KNOW that is what they are raised for, but still… Life on a farm is tough!
I have to get cracking on arranging new WWOOFing locations for the new year in the south of France. And I’d better get cracking on arrangements to get to Germany for Christmas too!
Kirianne is just going to put in a little story that she has been working on…
I am writing a short chapter book about farm life, from the animals' point of view. This is a short story from that book; the story that is most dramatic and interesting. It really happened, although a lot of it is my imagination getting too far away from my brain.
Sometimes you don’t realize you’ll miss someone until they're gone. Sadly I am the one telling this story although it is not mine to tell.
Influenza hit lightly at first. It was one of the smaller worries for the chickens. I was one of the first to catch Influenza. I was already weak from the shock of my parents getting killed, weakened in the body and the heart and I didn’t hold it off for very long. I was sick for a long time, suffering in a nest house without anyone I knew well. The Keepers had put me in a yard with tiny, fluffy feathered chickens who always bumped into everything because they couldn’t see for all the feathers in their eyes. The suffering was hard at first but I slowly just gave my body up to it and it became a dull pain throughout me that was an acquaintance. I foamed at the beak, and worried the Keepers with horrible noises almost as if I was choking on grain.
Soon the sickness got stronger, others became sick with it as it ran from yard to yard and back again trying to catch as many victims as it could. It didn’t look before choosing victims; just grabbed blindly, for it could catch any animal, no matter pig or duck. Influenza was a sickness that could catch its victims because it didn’t want to miss any. Finally animals started dying, and the Keepers started getting almost frantic. Chicken by chicken was taken away, sometimes stiff, sometimes limp, but all obviously dead. I was starting to go myself, sitting outside, I decided, even though I never enjoyed spending time with the little chickens, that it would be polite to not die in their nest house, so with my last energy I had dragged myself outside, and sat down in the sun. I never did like the cold anyway, especially the snow, it’s the same colour as me, what were they thinking. Just as I got settled, three Keepers came and one grabbed me. I had no energy to fight and just hoped that they were taking me to get killed, but instead they took me into a small room that smelled of grain and hay and straw and was dark and warm, like when I was in my egg. Then, how dare they, they stuck a horrible plastic stick in my beak and out of it came yellow liquid that had a bitter sweet taste much too strong. I was carefully placed in a very small nest house imitation although there was less wood and more wire to hold me in.
I slept, hoping that I would never have to wake up again, but I did, surprisingly feeling a lot better. Less foam at the corners of my beak, less of a dull pain, more of me. I called to anyone that could hear me, I heard the sounds of chickens nearby and was answered by an old friend, I grew up next to. It was none other than...Sarah the daughter of Samuel.
“Noël, is that you?” asks Sarah in small squawk.
“Yes, it is me. Is there sickness is your yard? Is everything alright? How are you and your parents?” I question weakly. I suddenly hear a few small squawks and a comforting coo. “Is everything alright?” I ask again.
After a short moment I hear Sarah’s voice again although this time obviously bewildered, “I am fine and my mother also, but two days ago, father died.” There is a sobbing sound. “He had been sick for a very long time and finally he left us on the half-moon night…”
“I am so sorry!” I reply as loud but gently as I can for I am still weak. Suddenly I have a huge pain in my chest that stabs its way deeper and deeper, I remember this pain I have had it before. I search my mind for it, but don’t find it. I collapse on to the floor of my nest house and lay there until the same three Keepers come to give me that horrible liquid again. I don’t know what time it is of the day or if it is the next day, how long I have slept or just lay there. I am confused but healthier.
Dec. 21. As Kiri described (from the perspective of the one turkey who wasn't killed by the wild beast two months ago), several of the chickens died during the last couple of weeks. But the biggest concern now is Pumba the pig. She deteriorated from "not quite right" to no longer even "on her last legs" because she couldn't stand up on her legs at all. The vet who came today diagnosed that she had hypothermia which had progressed to pneumonia. Oddly, this exactly matched my own diagnosis. Poor pig. I had worried about her in the cold without a nest or blankets to snuggle into! They've remedied that now, but unfortunately, I fear it may be too late for her.
We stayed at Le Gue aux Biches a little longer than we'd planned, because Flo and Chris received word the week we were going to leave that the tree saplings for the 800m of hedge they are planting would arrive on the 17. So they really needed as many hands as possible to do the planting. We decided to stay to help, since they have been so good to us. I didn't want to take off when they really needed us. Then, since the vet was scheduled to come today anyway, to register the young filly, Aska, Kiri asked could we please stay to watch this process (since she is very interested in horses and a potential future career in vet. medicine) - so we did. (I missed the whole process, since the crises of the day required me to be elsewhere.)
Now we are packed and ready to head to Nantes on the evening train. We overnight there, then on to Strasbourg, on our way to spend Christmas with my old German exchange family in Konstanz.
Other stories about life Chez Gue aux Biches will unfold in the future. We are invited back here in the spring, to see the new lambs and possibly a baby goat or two... We both would like that. We were so lucky to fall in with a "sympa" family and a good situation on our first try at WWOOFing. But maybe they all will be like this! So far so good.