Saturday, March 26, 2011

La Lombarde Ouest

Whew. So, I made it through my first 24 hours as a real WWOOFer. It's been emotional.

Got in last night, train was relatively on time. Recognized Wolfgang from a couple of pics I had seen of the farm and the people; I'm sure he had no trouble picking out me from the 4 other French people (only one of whom was male, and did not have a large camping backpack or hoodie). He's Austrian, and thus speaks English and German in addition to French; however, we've mostly been conversing in French. In the fading light as we drove from the train station to his house/ the farm, it was clear that this was a pretty middle-of-nowhere area; not much more than vineyards around. We drove through the tiny village of St Vivien (where La Lombarde is technically located); I may have to go explore that on a day off. The house/ farm itself is a house, a barn, several acres (18 hectares= how many acres?) 12 chickens, 2 donkeys, 3 cats, a greenhouse, and various fruit and nut trees. He took me on a bit of a tour around the property before it got dark (including an artifically-dug pond with lots of frogs and frog eggs around the edge; I'm listening to a lovely chorus of frogs (unidentified as of yet) as I sit in my room right now).
I then got to meet his wife Ingrid, who left this morning for a 6-day meditation retreat in Switzerland (they are both very into meditation; Wolfgang has apparently been doing so for 30 years). She's nice (they're both nice) but much more talkative than he is. Dinner consisted of a thick slice of home-made bread with some local, organic goat's cheese (not a problem; as I was kind of anxious, I didn't have much of an appetite). Small talk, practicalities, then bed. I discovered that I am addicted to screen-based entertainment; no WiFi available, so I watched part of a movie I had on my flash drive, and felt much better/ less anxious. Hooray for escapism.

Today was the really interesting part. Got up to see the sun just coming over the nearby ridge and illuminating the prayer flags they have strung up in front of the house; beautiful. Breakfast = toast (still the home-made bread) with the same cheese; however, other options appear to be available. Then- to work! This consisted mostly of filling a wheelbarrow with cut pine branches and bringing them to the woodchipper, then shoveling the newly-created mulch into either aforementioned wheelbarrow or into the back of the tractor's small trailer. During the morning, I went through a variety of emotions; in descending order of magnitude: anxiety about my shoulder and whether I would be able to actually do farm work; general anxiety at being in a new place, doing new things; excitement at actually being on a farm, doing field work; sudden, intense pleasure at a random moment while feeding a branch into the chopper; anxiety at having to cook lunch for us tomorrow. Lunch is the main meal here, so we stopped and I prepared the salad (following Wolfgang's instructions) as he cooked the meal. My anxiety about my cooking abilities dissipated somewhat when the meal was a simple affair of rice, fried tofu slices, and the salad, plus some steamed brussel sprouts. Tofu was so-so, the salad was quite fresh (I saw him go cut it from the greenhouse while I was working) but kind of bitter, and the brussel sprouts were delicious. But the best part was just eating outside in the beautiful day, watching the birds, the cats, and the chickens. Yes, this is why I'm in France working on farms.

Felt much less anxious in the PM (work started back up at 3 PM after a nice siesta). Shoulder seemed to be holding up acceptably, and I was feeling more comfortable here. At about 5:30, he told me I could stop working, saying I had worked enough today (I am supposed to work about 5 hours per day; at that point I was probably at around 5.5-6 hours. But I decided to finish the pile of branches next to the chipper. I realized that had he not told me I could stop working, I would have ended up doing the same amount of work, but would have felt much less good about it; it seemed to be the fact that I was choosing to continue working that made the difference.

By the evening, after a shower, I was feeling great. As long as my shoulder feels OK tomorrow, I think I'm good to go. Dinner is "self-serve" (like breakfast); we each made some fried eggs, had the rest of the salad, and some bread. I feel as though I am eating less food than I normally do; however, I don't feel like I'm going hungry. Maybe I usually eat more food than I need.

Tomorrow is market day (they don't sell things, but we will go buy things). Coming on a Thursday evening was probably a smart move. Also, one of the cats is sitting on the windowsill outside my window and staring at me/ the bugs around the window.

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