Dutiful Workers

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Friday, September 11, 2009

a summary of a few jobs and experiences over the few weeks at Les Brindelliers. 

To market to market to buy a fresh...quail (6), duck (1) and rabbit (3)!  Had the pleasure of accompanying Kevin and Jennie to the Wednesday morning market.  This is a large market that permeates the town winding down several different streets, through parking lots and along storefronts.  Pretty similar to markets anywhere, there was a mix of plants, meats, produce, clothing, cheese, tacky bits, breads, and bad music.  I practiced some french to buy a bit of wild boar sausage, morbier cheese, and a fresh baguette. The most interesting part of the market was the animal section.  Ducks, quail, turkey, dogs, chicken, rabbits.  Poor rabbits, it seems all everyone wanted to do was inspect their genitals!  This area of France seems quite laid back about producing your own food - even to sell, and most people keep their own animals.  Instead of going to market to buy meat, you go to buy the animal and raise your own meat. 

Been watching these strange little creatures called quail.  Tiny little birds that are easily cupped between your two hands.  They are so small they're hardly used for meat, but their eggs are considered a bit of a delicacy - especially in the UK.  What makes a delicacy?  If it's the fact that the eggs are tiny and delicate, then I guess that's it.  Beautiful to look at, they are nicely speckled with brown.  Hard boiled for the salad, you become quickly frustrated trying to peel them.  Mostly you get more shell bits and egg bits on your fingers than you actually get off, and when the shell does start to give way, it's almost like tearing paper. 

Driving through the countryside, we were forced to stop the car as a herd of cattle were walking along the road.  These cattle are native to this area and are white with brown spots - almost always creating round spots around their eyes giving them a very characteristic look.  Watching the group walk down the narrow road, I was amazed at the pitch of the banks along each side - higher than a person stands, and then the hedgerow grows on top!  It was almost like walking through a tunnel.  These deep sunken roads gave difficult times to Allied tanks during the war as they would crash through the one side and become stuck - not being able to angle up the other side since the road was so narrow.  A popular tactic for the Germans was to keep a soldier wander back roads with an anti-tank weapon ready to lob them into the trapped tanks. 

One afternoon we went to another farm to pick damsons.  These look like small plums, but are a bit more sour.  The trees are soo laden with this fruit that the branches are touching the ground and many are broken.  We filled 4 large bags with damsons, and several with fallen apples for the pigs.  While picking, I heard the terrible sound of a bomb siren piercing through the air.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  In my mind time rewound and I was living here during WWII running to get my family from the house and trying to find shelter for ourselves huddling in fear.  Jennie said it was just the fire department deploying an engine.  I couldn't believe that all of these weren't abolished after the war.  Who, that had lived through that terror would ever want to hear that sound again?

Walking through the fields with Brian one afternoon we were noticing how small and narrow the fields were.  Apparently during Napolianic rule, fathers had to divide their land equally between their sons.  Instead of giving one field to each, each field was divided.  After several generations the tracts of land become quite small indeed - lined with stones and trees.  Some remarkable trees still remain with their roots exposed out of the ground.  Many years of tilling the soil has worn away the dirt and left the roots exposed. 

Searching for eggs is always exciting.  Now a bare nesting area, and later there will be a perfectly formed oval just waiting for you.  Most exciting to find.  The best is when you pick up the egg in your hand and find that it's still warm!

Candling eggs that have been in the incubator for a week now.  All lights out, except for the powerful torch.  Each egg goes up to the light to see inside and examine for signs of life:  air sack growing, and embryo forming.  Holding life in your hand.  Eggs that have been incubating for longer have stations of veins along the inside of the shell.  Close to the 21 day mark you can hear tiny peeps coming from inside the shell before they hatch.  What a wonderful experience to watch life developing before your very eyes!

Damson fruit is in season, and the kitchen is a flurry of damson processing.  Damson wine, damson sorbet, damson chutney, damson jam, and even damson vodka.  I guess this can be made with really any type of fruit - 1/3 fruit, 1/3 sugar, and 1/3 vodka.  Staying at the house are myself and Brian, and Susy and Heinrich a German couple.  Jennie (the host) requested that Susy make a cake to help use up some damsons.  It's a great recipe of a plain cake with damsons and jam filling the center.  Coming in for tea the kitchen smelled wonderful and we were all ready to have some cake.  Glancing around, Jennie couldn't see the 1/2 pitcher of damson vodka that she couldn't fit in a bottle previously.  Lo and behold it was in the cake!  Susy had not been around when it was made and mistook the directions of 'half jar of damsons' to mean this container and not the jam jar.  Needless to say the cake was splendid and we all had second helpings!  :)

Spent an afternoon doing some grueling work - burning brambles.  Some other poor sap helpx-ers hacked and slashed down thick patches of brambles and piled them up.  After a week or two of drying it was time to get rid of them.  Our job was to pick up the piles with pitch forks and carry them over to a giant burn pile.  Thorny falling apart messes were what we tried to pick up and carry across the field while stumbling over the stumpy remains of the bramble bushes while pieces fell out of the bundle and thorns lodged themselves into my feet.  Thank goodness they burned fast as it was extremely satisfying to see the horrible things go up into smoke!

Walking further, we notice that areas are barricaded off - not just for private land, but for unfound munitions.  How many trees still bear the proof of war buried deep inside?

searching for eggs and pulling them out still warm from underneath the chicken. 

building the henhouse
eating bunny
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