I am content.
I wake up in my cottage with a red door. I’m all covered with blankets but I get up and shower while it is dark. Breakfast is at 8 with coffee-in-a-bowl comme d’habitude and muesli laden with nuts. Then it’s to work.
I can bike ride to the greenhouses, down narrow hedge-lined roads that criss cross the stunning green island. There are no cars here. It’s a while since I’ve ridden but riding a bike really is…like riding a bike. If it’s raining or I am lazy I can ride on the tractor. Nicolas drives and I sit on a metal platform above the wheel making sure my gumboots don’t touch it. Aurelie rides a bike as she spends half the day working on a boat collecting oysters and needs to be able to travel to the south side. Temptation to make Tipping the Velvet references: high.
There’s much to do to prepare for winter and next year’s harvest. Also, there was a fire in the greenhouse a month ago and there’s still lots to tidy.
Pulling up nettles, rearranging equipment, picking peppers, repotting thyme and mint, putting potatoes in the compost, realising they were not meant to be in the compost, standing knee-deep in the compost picking out the good ones, weeding, realising I can roll tubing the same way that I roll theatre electrical cords and that that means I have a skill to contribute (mine are the neatest coils), hanging chilli plants to dry, dragging heavy dirty stuff this way and that, avoiding spiders because I forget that I am not in Australia and they will not be poisonous, once again forgetting that I am not in Australia when I am scandalised that Nicolas pours a bucket of water on the ground – one look at the clouds tells me I needn’t worry.
Lunch is at 1pm and we eat like kings. Veges and fruit and nut and seeds. Big salads and ratatouille crusty bread. Nothing is wasted and last night’s dinner is reheated with some extra rice or herbs that change the flavour. And tea. Lots of tea. Oh and of course the chocolate and pear gateau we made yesterday.
And the cheese. Oh the cheese…
…pause for small cheese related taste bud orgasm…
We get back to work, strapping a massive plastic sheet to the tractor to take back to the greenhouses. My French is getting better every day (slowly returning to my former glory) but I still don’t quite know what this plastic sheet is for. Sometimes instructions are clear, but their aim is not. But I assist nonetheless and enjoy the mental effort of trying to keep up with the slang-heavy conversation.
Dinner is excellent much like lunch. I learn an important lesson when Francois insists that I wash the tomatoes very well. In broken English (he speaks in English when he thinks something is very important for me to understand) he tells me that the little bits of black stuff might be rat shit. ‘This is ok. But it might be plastic sheet bits from the fire. This is not ok. Shit ok. Sheet not ok.’ I wash them well not really wanting to consume either.
We sit next to the fire and afterwards Francois, who owns this farm gets out his ukelele. I play guitar and sing The Waifs and Tracy Chapmen as that is still all I know how to play. He joins in while Aurelie and Nicolas read. When Nicolas takes up the guitar we have a slight difference in taste until we are able to settle on Leonard Cohen and we sing ‘the partisan song’ in French and English.
We talk and they make fun of my inability to pronounce ‘tout,’ a ridiculously overused word. If my French accent is as wonderfully comical as their English ones, having me around must be great.
Early to bed of course.
And that’s just today.
After 4 months of holiday I decided it was time to be of use to someone. I have heard a lot about wwoofing on my travels so decided to give it a go. The deal with wwoofing (worldwide workers on organic farms) is that you pay 15 euros for a massive list of host farms in a particular country. Then you go work on the farm and they give you board and food. This farm, Kervillon, is my first go at wwoofing. It is on the lle de Brehat in Bretagne and it is pretty damn gorgeous.