May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On the Farm in Southern France Part 2

Chicken Coop 1/2 Way
Ending September 6, 2011

This is our second week of WWOOFing, and I have grown to love Michael and Jessica, and our newest volunteer, Laura from Calgary.  We work and play together really well.  Michael has handy skills as a carpenter, chef and overall fix-it guy.  Jessica takes initiative and is able to find resourceful solutions to problems.  Laura is curious about processes like how to use herbs, permaculture farming, planting and harvesting techniques and cooking what Namua makes.  Namua’s meals are stunning; we just had a savory pudding tonight that knocked my socks off.  She used chickpea flower, it had a layer of yellow string beans and gravy that was so rich.  Along with this were roots that were perfectly seasoned.  She is quite talented and knowledgeable about food, nutrition and vegan ways.  She used to have a business called the Wesleyan Chapel Café, I think. 

This week my duties have changed from Maintenance
Poo Tamping Crew
(though flinging other peoples’ crap into a bin near the olive garden, cleaning floors and windows and feeding worms won’t be jobs I’ll miss) to general worker.  I painted the new chicken coop with linseed oil, sorted non-fiction books in the storage, organized the small things in the tool shed, dragged lots of cut trees and limbs from the upper land down to another pile to clear the land for possible other farm possibilities, helped to
Contraband Cheese at the Vegan Table
make a nest around and better coverage for the storage of the human poo for compost, cleared a way to move one of the caravans out so we can move chickens in, made some fences in which the chickens will dwell, cleared out and organized the clothing available to the WWOOFers, and minor cleaning and weeding detail.  I love working with the others, who have a super attitude, especially when the expectations of Namua, the head honcho of the farm, don’t match with our guesses of how things should be done.  Often we haven’t done enough or done “it” right.  It’s a tricky thing taking initiative and doing jobs when we’re new to someone else’s way of living.  I’m learning a lot about myself and about how to adjust my communication style, so my expectations for outcomes with the dance company can match more closely with how I imagine them to turn out.  
Les and Freya

Luke/Teddy/Ben and Obie
 I adore the dogs—Obie steals my heart, Benjamin (I call “Luke,” Les calls “Teddy”) is a lug who dangerously lunges during the walks but is a cuddler, Ash (I call Ace) is svelte and wily as is Obie.  They all sneak out off the land and cavort in the land above, where are the wild boar and goats.  Namua fears they will be shot or get diseases from the mosquitos if we don’t control them, but from what it sounds from past WWOOFer's notes, this has been going on for years. 

Buried Les in his sleep
  Les and I did get to the beach on our day off.  The buses changed on that day because the tourist season was over and the kids went to school, so we had to wait in Laroque (got a croissant, used the public squat toilet, walked around the info center, etc.) until the bus came.  It was 8 Kilometers, but it took about 40 minutes because of all the towns it stopped in.  We spent some time in the waves and wind.  I buried Les fully clothed in the sand without him knowing!  We had coffee and ice cream and walked around the tourist town before coming back.   

Dogs Are Welcomed Everywhere.  How Civilized!

Book Storage

Crepe Lunch
Market Dancers
We also went with Namua to Ceret to help her sell her books.  I drove the car (in France anyone coming onto your road from the right, turning right, has the right of way!) and other than giving Namua breaks at her stand, we hiked up the hill above the town, and later sat down to eat crepes.

View of Ceret

These things I hope to remember:

·      When the little light goes out at night, I look out the glassless window of the trailer we sleep in, and gaze at the stars

·      The sound of Les crying out “Mon Fils!”  and having it answered in a New Zealand twang, “OHhh, My Pa-PAAAHHH!”

·      The evening dip in the small pond after sitting in the dog corner petting the hounds.

·      The taste of the lemon garlic vegan mayonnaise that Namua makes.

·      Jessica’s smile and peeling laughter, and Laura’s big blue eyes.

I was thinking about life at work, and how my constantly growing list of "things to do" makes me tense.  Now is the time when Emma Willard School is revving up for the ’11-’12 year and I’m so appreciative to have mostly simple work on my mind, with the next few stops on the edges. I don’t feel like the list of things I ought to do is banging at my door—it’s simply standing and waving.  I’m thinking of my goals as a teacher but without having to plan, create and be accountable in the same way as beginning a new school year.  Thank you, sabbatical!  Thank you.  I’ll never experience this in the same way again, until I retire, I imagine.  It’s great to feel what my own pace feels like.  I am discovering I like the small details, and to stay active with useful organizational tasks when the other work is done.

Claude of Claude's Tavern
Post Script for a new day:  We finished the coop today, put in the art, closed it up and put on the roof.  In New Zealand, Michael says that when a roof goes on a structure, they all go out and celebrate.  You'll see it in the next video.
We walked down to town and had sangria, came up for a splendid dinner, then moved all the
Painting Coop
chickens into their new home!  It was too dark to get photos, but it was pretty cool, being handed a chicken to take, to protect from the dogs who were really excited about this move, and hear them cooing on the inside of their house.  YEAY!
Laroque From our Road

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