Wednesday, May 4, 2011

More about the farm

Still super happy here. So much so, that I am indeed coming back for about 10 days after I see my parents for a week. As I explained earlier, I only had about that much time between seeing my parents and heading over to the UK; it didn't really seem like enough time to go to a new farm (as soon as I would start feeling really settled in, it would be time to leave) so I am very pleased it has worked out so well here.

So, some more about the farm. Their main product is actually sheep- they raise lambs and sell them for meat at the end of the summer. But I haven't really done anything with the sheep; apparently I got here a few days after Elly helped clip all their hooves (which involved picking up each of them), move them to the hillside, and clean out their barn. But I get to help move them to a new grazing area tomorrow, which should be fun, and is apparently in an even more beautiful area. I also helped with the shearing yesterday- didn't too too much, just picked up the sheared wool and put it into sacks. But the wool was a lot softer and less scratchy than I had imagined it would be based on my experience with wool sweaters; it was also pretty cool to be holding wool that was so "fresh" it was still warm from the sheep that it had previously been attached to.
Véronique and Viencent also produce some fruit (apples and apple juice, raspberries, strawberries), and their own honey. Of these, I have had jams made from the fruits, the apple juice, and lots and lots of honey. Véronique also makes bread every few days, which is the main constituent of the breakfasts- that, and honey.

I spend most of my time with Vincent; it seems like he does more of the farm work, while Véronique does more of the house work (as well as some farm work, of course; she also has her own garden that she is in charge of). He loves to talk about his life. Which is OK, because a) he's pretty funny and b) his life has been kind of crazy. He grew up in Belgium, but was always, as he describes it, kind of a "rock and roll rebel"; he has spent most of his life traveling around France being a shepherd (he spent many years, and met Véronique, while herding sheep up and down the mountains in the Alps). (He's also got a tattoo on his arm of "Native American style" feathers dangling from a small circle- with an Anarchist A in it). He talks a lot about solitude, and how he misses that life sometimes. Apparently he also has a bit of a reputation in this area, since he is apparently pretty blunt with people when they do things that displease him. I guess people are actually kind of afraid of him, which I find pretty amusing; he seems really nice and friendly to me, but I can see that he's the kind of guy you don't want to mess with.

I spent the day on Thursday in the city of Puy-en-Velay, as Vincent had some stuff to do so that he could get subsidy money for the farm. It's got a lot of religious monuments that are up on these giant fingers of basalt (one is a huge statue of the Virgin Mary with baby/ toddler Jesus, another is a small chapel dedicated to Saint Michael). I actually spent about an hour in the chapel; there was nice monk-chanting music on, and it was almost empty most of the time I was there (usually just one or 2 others) so it was really nice to sit quietly, and also to take a bunch of pictures as the lighting and the columns were pretty cool.

Last night the three of us shared the bottle of Verveine liqueur that I had bought in Puy-en-Velay (it's a city/ region specialty). It was fun drinking and chatting with them; as usual, Vincent dominated the conversation (which is fine, because as I said, he's quite a character).

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