La Villeneuve-sur-Lot - April 4
There’s a full moon hanging above our bedroom, with only the slightest sliver of the bottom edge shining silver while the remainder of the grey disc merely darkens the faintly pale late evening sky.
Our bedroom is a caravan parked in a grassy field between a canola field in bloom and a pasture inhabited by four heavy-set Breton draft horses. We have electricity, but no running water. We commute to our WWOOFing work on bicycle, 2 km through a small village, to our hosts’ current home in-residence at a national horse rearing and exhibition stable, where they are preparing their summer “spectacle”.
We get to watch them practice: riding paired horses bareback, mounted standing, for example; running four in tandem, and leaping from one to another. Kiri gets to help feed, groom, harness, care for the horses and mules, and there are promises she will be able to ride when there is time.
Tasha gets to thin and transplant vegetable seedlings in the greenhouse. We both get to look after the babies while the parents are working (which they blatantly appreciate and are taking full advantage of!)
We are revisiting, in a way. The hosts are Anatoli and Clementine, with whom we stayed in the Bearn, foothills of the Pyrenees, when everybody got sick with the grippe. The place where we were only supposed to stay overnight, but stayed for a week. Where it rained most of the time and everywhere was a morass of mud. This time around is quite a different experience. Everyone is in good health, for one thing! The grounds are spacious, flowery, clean and beautiful. Also, it is unseasonably warm here; full-on summer weather, in fact. We feel hot and sun-burned in mid-afternoon. Tomorrow is forecast to be an unbelievable +30oC !!! We’re trying not to complain about it.
We haven’t really found the time to explore the town yet, except two sorties I’ve made: one with a crying baby in my arms, trying to get her to calm down without her mama the first day we babysat. (She screeched for about 25 minutes before finally falling asleep, exhausted.) I discovered one of the bridges across the river – yes, it’s the Lot again! – and one of the old city “portes”. But otherwise, we are pretty much engaged in the enclosure of the “haras”.
Today (April 7)’s work day ended with great excitement. One of the oxen is oblivious to the electric wire fencing the corral. We learned this when he escaped a few days ago – but he just ambled around the grounds to the stable and took himself home to the stall he shares with his brother. This afternoon, Anatoli and Kirianne were attempting to train him to avoid the electric shock and thus the fencing, so he can be left unattended in the corral. He went over (between) the wire(s) a couple of times, each time returning to the stable as before. The third time, after sticking his head between the wires and experiencing the shock a few times, he dashed across the corral, jumped through the wires and over a hedge and, instead of going home to his stall, he ran straight out the gate of the grounds onto the street outside and headed downtown! After chasing with Anatoli for a few blocks, Kirianne came back to muster help. I was left with the kids and to continue cooking supper, while Kiri and Clementine hopped on the bicycles. You can imagine the stir of a rather long-horned bull/ox weighing some 400 kg trotting down the streets, trailing the stout rope looped around his horns, stopping traffic and startling pedestrians! The story ends with the bull turning in at a clothing shop (knocking over racks of shirts and jackets) and cornering himself head first in a change room! With customers and the shop owner gaping dumb-founded while Anatoli, puffing and sweating, catches up, grabs the rope still attached to the bull’s horns, asks if everybody is alright, and exits quickly with the beast ambling docilely behind him! (Anatoli will go back tomorrow to make apologies and reparations.)
Of course we don’t have internet at our little caravan, and we don’t spend much time there anyway, but for the hour or so between commuting home after dinner just before dark (about 9 pm) and going to bed. So I still haven’t caught up all the missing entries for our travels with the friends from Yk through Spain and southern France. But I thought it was time to add an entry for where we are now, at least. We have some half-finished notes for a few of the missing entries, which we’ll let you know about as soon as they’re posted. Meanwhile, I’m busy soaking up the wonderful life we are living right here and now! (There is some kind of inconnu bird around our little home that makes the strangest calls in the middle of the night. Could it be quail? I think it’s mating season. Reminds me of the time in Australia that we unknowingly parked our campervan in the middle of a fairy penguin rookery in the middle of mating season!)
I hope everyone is well. We are; and hoping to stay well for our last month in La Belle France!