Monday, 9 May 2011

France - La Forge

16th-25th April, La Cellette

We time our stay very well indeed – arriving at the weekend when (officially) no work is done. Richard and I are keen to make a good impression (and earn the great food we are receiving) and so ask for a project to keep our hands busy. We spend the weekend building decking and steps for the home made, wood fired, hot-tub. We use our spare time to get to know our hosts Peter and Julie.

No dig beds for tatties
 Several years ago the had there own “fuck it” moment. They upped sticks and started a tour of Europe in their camper van (which now sits in the barn and is used as the guests accommodation). They then settled in Le Cruise and got stuck in to the self sufficient farming lifestyle. It's just the kind of place Richard and I had been looking for. Their one hectare plot now provides them with all the food they can eat year round. The daily yield from the resident chickens is sufficient to supply the entire region with organic eggs.

Our accommodation - hopefully it will see the road again!
The major project during our stay is to complete the “no-dig” beds and to get the potatoes, onions and parsnips planted. We weave Hazel whithies around chestnut stakes to form the circular beds. Then layers of cardboard, shit and straw. And potatoes!

The evening meals are a highlight each day. Julies cooking is fantastic – I think if my tastebuds had the choice they would remain here forever – rather than be subject to the bread and jam that my typical road diet dictates. The homemade cider goes down very well. And each dinner is an opportunity to have a giggle and learn more about eachother.

Trimming up some whithies
As the days pass I familiarise myself with the farm animals. That is, apart from the goose – who tries to pick a fight at every opportunity. After hearing about it's infamous “bite and twist” fighting style and give it a wide birth – not sure my Kung Fu is upto “goose standard” just yet. I find the goats to be quite personable. Richard and I take turns to milk them in the evening. The two dogs (wolf hound/great dane cross) Hamish and Willow are great. With their help I continue to solidify my wounded relationship with the canine species.

Propper Spoon!
On the weekend we take a trip to the woods. The two hectare plot (also owned by Peter and Julie) is a short ride from the farm. We collect more fire wood and whithes while there. Our visit to the woods is well synchronised with the bluebells. I take the time to traipse through the trees and enjoy the carpet of blue. Richard and I opt to stay the night. Strike up a fire and roll out the sleeping bags under the canopy of oak overhead. In the flickering light we whittle away at hazel branches crafting our first “bush spoons” 
Night in the woods - wouldn't be complete without a fire
Eventually the time comes when we have to leave – there is still half of France waiting to be crossed after all. Had I known how much I would enjoy my time here (and indeed Helpx/wwoofing in general) I would have dedicated a larger proportion of my trip to doing it. Particularly with the farming its of far more benefit to you, and your host, if you can stay longer. The benefit being you can learn more and become more of an asset to them. And in return establish a stronger connection with the farm and your hosts.
The gang

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