Location: Sieuras, France
Well my lovely friends,
Let me open this new year with a story that is for all of you who might be mildly unimpressed that it is I on this adventure and not you (yes, Zoë, this one is for you).
Now, as most of you may already know, I happen to have a poor track record when it comes to airports, with specific regard to security. This is partially due to the fact that I often forget things that should be removed from carry on baggage, like scissors and wine openers (the latter, however, I have learned that you are now allowed to have, a little tip for you boozers who can't go anywhere without one closeby...). Though the other half of my troubles are not due to my neglect, I am sure. Maybe it's the last name, maybe it's something in my eyes....I don't know. So, bearing all this in mind, I thought that when I breezed through security for my first flight, it was a good omen for the journey. I should have sensed at that point that something was amiss.
However, there were some fairly entertaining moments to share. There was one women, while waiting at the gate, who forced herself into a conversation with a couple who had a small dog with them. She was flabbergasted that you could now bring small pets with you, and demanded every detail of the process. This then launched her into a long winded monologue (definitely not a conversation) about her cat, and how much she would have liked to bring it along, and how much hassle and heartbreak she had to go through in leaving it behind. This poor couple clearly had no interest in being an audience, but they really had no choice.
At this point in the trip, I thought she was just an avid cat lover, but shortly after boarding the plane she almost lost her shit when she realized the storage compartment above her seat was already full. Despite the fact that the aisle was jam-packed with people trying to get to their seats, she gently screamed for the steward that she needed help immediately, and that there was no room for her things, and couldn't understand how it could possibly be full when it was her seat, and her stuff should fit in there too. Let's add to this equation that all she had to put up there was a coat. She was so close to breaking point that the steward was compelled to start singing 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'; I liked him. The rest of the flight was uneventful, though I was hoping for more outbursts.
On to the Ottawa airport...on my not so direct flight from Halifax to Toulouse.
After spending a few hours there; I realized that I had picked the one day that every flight was delayed. Or at least more than 50%.
So naturally, I arrived in Frankfurt just as my connecting flight was leaving the runway, which was awesome. And, just for a little slapstick comedy, as I was heading to the passport control, the large paper bag that I was carrying with all the presents that I had bought in the airport (yay duty free!) decided that would be a good time to split open and spill its contents on the ground. So as I got up to the desk, I was clutching my ripped paper bag and jacket to my chest to hold things together, I had two other bags that I am carrying, and I am trying to find my passport.I obviously looked in control of myself....I am surprised they let me into the country.
So, after I had found a new bag, I made it to the ticket desk, where the woman informed me that the next flight was not leaving at 10:30am (a mere 3 hour delay) as the agent who met people coming off the plane had told me, but at 4:30pm. Good stuff.
So clearly the next priority was finding a phone card and pay phone so that I could contact the farmer who would be at the airport at 10am in Toulouse, and tell him that I definitely would not be.
Now here's the thing, you think that something like a phone card and pay phone would be similar in different countries, and that if you capable of using one in one country, you could probably figure it out despite the language barrier in another with relative ease. Not always the case....
So I had the phone card, and the pay phone, and what should have been a fairly simple process of making a call turned out to be a terribly frustrating ordeal. First off, I had 3 different options for a country code, and wasn't sure which zeroes to add or omit. Then we'll include the fact that the instructions on the phone and on the card contradicted each other, and when the phone told me something was wrong, I didn't know how to correct the problem, because apparently my linguistic skills in German are severely lacking. I probably tried 85 times, with different combinations and no success.
I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, for the most part, so it was a rather humbling experience to be bested by a pay phone. I will also mention that it was around 4 in the morning our time, so I will attribute the fact that I was almost frustrated to tears on lack of sleep as well as incompetency. I decided, with the part of my brain that was still functioning, that I should probably find a coffee and something to eat and things may get better.
In terms of phone connections, they didn't. After 15 attempts resulting only in a busy signal, I decided to just go through security, find a place to sit, and try again later. This time through security was better than the first. After putting my things into the plastic containers, I asked if I should take off (and pointed to) my watch, belt, and shoes, all of which I am certain contain metal. She shook her head and said 'No, it's fine, go through please'. What she meant by this, I discovered, was 'Yes, take all of those things off before you go through'. Perhaps she was having a slow morning...
And, lo and behold, the detector beeped like crazy when I went through (as one would expect) and I was directed to a pseudo-cubicle. It was there that I was given thorough and intimate body search by an attractive but not entirely friendly looking young woman. It could have been worse.
Finally, after about 2 hours of these f--king payphones, I managed to get through to the farm, and simultaneously discovered that the beeping tone I had heard all morning was not so much a busy signal but a sign to tell me I needed to take out another zero from the beginning of the number.
And now, the shining star in my journey from Frankfurt to Toulouse was the food that was served on the plane. I am sorely disappointed that I didn't have access to my camera for what was served. Well....I could have, but to make the girl next to me pick up her food and put her tray back up so that I could get out and then back in again just to take a picture of my food seemed beyond the boundary of appropriate, so I had to refrain. I will do my best to describe it though. Picture the snacks you can buy with breadsticks in one little compartment and peanut butter or cheese whiz in another, except a bit bigger with breadsticks the size of cigars. In with the breadsticks was also a teeny tiny collapsible plastic fork. In the other side was a scoop of mashed potatoes, and as a garnish on top there was a little dill pickle and a wee little sausage placed delicately side by side. I don't really know if I enjoyed it the taste or not, but I was so amused by both the presentation and the combination, as well as the fact that it was served on a plane, that I consider it a successful flight.
I did finally make it to the farm, and was lucky enough to have a ride from the airport. However, it really shouldn't take 28 hours to get to France.
That's it for now...
Location: Sieuras, France
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!
Well here we are again. I had planned on being better at updating this website, but it is now the end of December and I've yet to write anything.
Where to begin. It has been quite a different experience this time round on the farm. For the better part of these past two months, I have been one of two volunteers here. However, the other volunteer that has decided to grace Soulere with his presence is a f--king donkey, for those of you who understand what that means. He does as little as humanly possible, which is really nice for me because it means I get to do everything else. Not that I mind working hard, or working a lot, but it bothers me when I do everything and someone else sits on their ass all day long a reads a book. And it just so happens that along with extreme laziness, this guy is also quite incompetent, so that the things that he does do I am required to double-check to make sure it is done properly. And last but not least, he's an ass who thinks he is always right and whatever anyone else tells him is wrong. What fun!
I think that I have had to tell him how to do everything et least 6 different times, and each time I am given the reaction that a teenage boy would give when his mother asks him to clean his room. Yet two months in he still can't do simple things like making sure the electric fence is on at the same time everyday. And if I am not there to help something like putting fresh straw in the stable, it takes him about 45 minutes longer than if I do it myself. There have been a fair number of nights here where the temperature drops below zero, and I think for most people common sense might kick in when they realize that if the temperature is below zero, water freezes. Accordingly, it seems like a bad decision to spray a lot of water outside at night in an area where the cows must walk, because it will be slippery. Yet we had at least three mornings where all in front of the milking stable was surrounded by ice. We had one morning where there was quite a bit of snow falling and covering the ground and I mentioned that it not be a good idea to spray water outside. His response ' I'm not stupid'. You can imagine that it was extremely hard for me to hold my tongue.
So besides the fact that I'm working with an incompetent child, things are going well on the farm. I am now capable of milking all the cows on my own. I have been to a few Sunday markets as well, which is really wonderful. So many people do their weekly shopping at the markets, and all the vendors that have been going there for the last 20 years are always yelling and joking with each other. There is fresh bread, and cheese, and dozens of other delicious smelling foods. There is often a lot of music and dancing as well. I love the market.
Aside from the market, the milking, and the cheese making (and eating, clearly...there is a lot of cheese eating), there is regular farm life. I really think cows have much more personality than we give them credit for. Each cow is a little different. Some of them are very friendly, and follow you around. One cow is a huge bitch and I think she hates me. She doesn't like anyone. At night, after letting all the cows free, I have to turn off the lights and then walk through the stable, and every time I expect that she will slam into me with her horns. She hasn't yet though, I give her a handful of special hay everyday in the hopes that she will become my friend. Also last month she had what I think was a dislocated shoulder for a few days and couldn't walk very well, so she was separate from all the other cows. I brought her food and water all day so I think she might have a soft spot for me. However, sometimes when I look into her eyes I think she really hates everyone.
We also had a cow who gave birth to stillborn twins. The cow was already laying down when I found her in the morning, but only one of the calves was completely out, the other was still halfway in. No one else was on the farm, (well...aside from Mr. Incompetent) so I pulled the rest of the dead calf out of the cow. I can't imagine many people could put that on their resumé! Not the most pleasant experience ever, I much prefer feeding the newborns babies, but what can you do?
Finally, we have 5 pigs here on the farm. I also quite like the pigs. They are pretty hilarious. If you scratch a pig like a dog, they will twist and turn their entire body. However, one of the pigs has had a cough since we got it, which has been over a month. Unfortunately, it has coughed so hard that it gave itself a prolapsed rectum. And even more unfortunate is that pigs are extremely fond of bloody masses, and the remaining four pigs decided to eat the protrusion. Nice, eh?
With the assistance of the vet and some medication, we have managed to stop the protrusion. However, I believe that having your anus and some of your intestines eaten has some internal repercussions, and now the pig is bloated and blocked, as it were. She ate almost nothing for four days, and I have been trying desperately to get her to eat, and with a Christmas miracle I have succeeded a little bit. So now I am hoping and waiting for this pig to poop, otherwise it's a 'coup de fusil' and this little piggy will be off to the market.
I hope that everyone is enjoying their holidays and have had a lovely Christmas day. Mostly what we have been doing here is eating (and milking, obviously). It is traditional here in France to eat a chapon, which is a castrated Rooster. I don't know if it tastes any different than a regular Rooster...but it was delicious nonetheless.
That's all for now,
Location: Halifax, Canada
Hello again folks,
It seems the last 7 months have passed with unbelievable speed. After another season of treeplanting and random Outland work, it's time again for another adventure.
The last two months or so have been spent visiting friends and family, and logging about five million hours with the colourful characters that frequent the greyhound buses from Jasper to Halifax.
I am now headed back to Soulere, back to the cows and the cheese, back to the rolling farmlands of Southern France. I hope to update anyone who cares with stories of the farm and whatever else I may come across. There will probably be a great deal less to tell than last year, but who knows where the path will lead this time. I guess you'll only find out if you happen to check this website.
See you in April!
Next Stop: Sieuras, France