Noel et la Nouvelle Année

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So a short but well needed change of scenery arrived for the Christmas period. For the time leading up to Chrismas we had been wondering what we would be up to for the 'holiday period', as with most things in life i decided to leave it to fate, feeling confident something would come up- which maybe you've guessed is usually how i decide to do things, (i find when i need or want something, something nearly always comes up. It's fantastic how much resistance it takes out of life, allthough it is important to say its not lazyness, its just the way life works if you decide you want something and go about things the right way i find you usually get what you are looking for if not push a bit in the right direction and voila)

So as you might have guessed we were told by someone that the farm he was working on needed a hand over the Chrismas week as he wasn't going to be there. The farm was just south west of Quimper, so time to pull out the hitch hiking sign again and off we go. After leaving the island on the 8am boat, followed by few others we started our walk to Paimpol, there were very few cars on the road. After maybe 20 minutes walking as the sun was rising eventually a car passed and pulled over for us, after dropping us off in Paimpol another car arrived quite soon after we had got to a good spot, unfortuantly he didn't drop us in a place convivial for a brilliant chance for another lift any time soon, a small village with not many cars being an understatment. A little longer wait eventually we were picked up by a tiny car with 2 youngsters in the back, a bit of a squeeze. We eventually got back on the bigger roads and after a few more lifts we were picked up by a mother and daughter who were going to Quimper an hour away, which meant we were going to be in time to meet Yveline (our hostess to be) at the farmers market where she was selling her produce from the little farm we were soon to get acquainted with. So we got to the market just after 12 to find our new host just packing up the last of the cheese into her old van. Before leaving we got introduced to Fred the friendly next stall holder, and a little more up market cheese, so after a few free samples of what he was selling we were off to chez Yveline, we were crammed the boot of her old van with the furtiture and produce that made up the market and off we went.

At Yvelines there were/ are 2 cow, 20 ewes, about 25 lambs, 4 dogs, around 12 chickens and the 2 pigs. It was the farm of here parents which she now runs with an eco volunteer. So we were here our new home for the next week. First job was first- sortir le fumier (mucking out the cow poo). An important job not just for the cows but for the person who has to sit next to the fumier when milking, which happens twice a day, which means so does the mucking out. The first night i had a go milking one of the cows- Claudie, it was the first time i have milked a cow by hand, i have already done sheep and goat so now the cow. So a quick lesson for those who are interested, take a small stool so you can sit comfortably next to the cow, then quickly wash the four teats then hold the desired teat in your hand and squeeze with your thumb and forefinger, coiling your forefinger under your thumb, this keeps the milk in the teat, then squeeze in with your next fingers, starting at the top and working down, this then pushes the milk down and out into the awaiting bucket, repeat again and again with all the teats until the udder is drained. It though is a long process although Yveline managed it unbelievably quickly, i guess after 60 years of practice i would be able to do it in the same speed too.

So that was milking which we got aquqinted to, and sped up the efficiency over the week. The other jobs we were entitled to were feeding all the animals this was nearly all grow on light, beetroot, cabbage and the hay and straw came from a near by voisin (neighbour), the beeroot had already been harvested and was left under a bash (tarpauline) but the cabbage was still in the field, so macheties at the ready. Toujours je me suis demandé pourquoi le travail comme couper les choux avec une machette est si amusant (I always wonder why the work like cutting cabbage with a machete is so fun). So that was that, then the bętes (animals) got a big handfull each evening, to keep the milk flowing.

The process of keeping milking ewes with their lambs. Ok so this is a little more complicated than normally keeping ewes and their lambs together crucially because if you left them to it the lambs would drink all the milk that the hard working farmer wishes to turn into cheese or yougart. So I'll begin the process in the evening just before they are bought in for the night. So after the cabage has been collected you put that in all the mangeoire (manger- feed tray), then get the ewes and lambs in they'll come charging in the ewes will start eating the cabbage, in this time you grad all the lambs and you put them in their pen for the night, over the week i am sure this got harder as they got bigger and wiser to the game. Then we would feed the two orphaned lambs there will be a photo of that. Then later feed the ewes again with hay and grain. In the morning you hope the gate for the lambs has stayed shut and they haven't drunk all their mothers milk, if everything has gone to plan you feed all the lambs fresh cows milk warmed up, all into a big bucket with teats, as they are drinking you keep an eye on them as each lamb has had its fill 'aller hop' into anther pen and the next lamb attaches itself to the teat. Then feed the ewes more hay, and get on with the milking of the ewes. Then they are happy until they are put reunited and out to the fields.

Le sortir et le rentrer des bętes (getting the animals in and out). So this too was a job to be done everyday, both the ewes and the cows were taken out to the field after lunch after both lots had been milked and fed, before this could be done though the electric fences in the field had to be moved to allow the cows and sheep new grass to eat, another time consuming job but necessary to keep everyone happy and healthy. So after this was done the ewes and the lambs were first to sortir, fortuantly they knew the process fairly well and therefore once let out of their barn your just had to follow them to the field which was about 200m away, close the gate behind them and then go and get the two girls. They had to be pushed from there stable through the tool shed out into the garden and then out towards the field where the sheep were, although they had seperate paddocks then close the wire gate behind then, fill their water and then rebranch the electricity and that is the work done then a 4 hour break before everything has to be prepared to get them all back in again.

Making yougart, this is a relatively simple process, you tak eyour milk of either cow or brebis (ewes) then warm to the  right temperature add some youghart from the last batch, then stir and leave warm, then put into the glass pots and into a cool box (but warmed not cooled) cover and so the temperature remains stable over night and in the morning new yougart.

Cheese was the other thing, so i will try and remember the process because stupidly i didn't write the process, but this is what i remember; so after you have collected enough milk to make it worth we collected 20 litres then into a grande casserole (big cooking pot) heat to the right temperature again i can't remember then add the rennet, which is what will split the milk, as this is happening get a big knife and cut the curds in the pot then use your hand to break into smaller pieces, then remove the whey (it is to be fed to the pigs after mixed with a farine, flour mixture- another one of my jobs). Then the curds are put into pots with holes in the sides weights put on top, and the remaining liquid is pushed out, and you pretty much have cheese, leave to mature and there you go.

This really was our week over Christmas, for Christmas day it was the same as any other soup for lunch, and no real celebrations. Well c'est la vie.

The return trip to the island we hitched to a friends house in the middle of Brittany and in the middle of no where, and fortuantly the chap who picked us up took pity on us, knowing the chances of us getting another lift was unlikely and took us out of his way to the house we were looking for. Here at our new residence for a few days we got our first chance to chill and i would say one of the first times on this trip i was able to do nothing and not feel guilty about it. But we still had new years to do!!
For new years it certainly wasn't like any i have had before, we when to the house of a girl who used to work on the island there we walked in and there were about 10 other friends there all French (obviously) and i joke not everyone spoke perfect English. So this was great easy converstation then the food started coming 'fruit de mere'- everyone should know what that is and no translation needed. Oysters and everything else that could be desired. The meal passed after midnight, and we began discussing what we were going to do, there was a Fest Noz which is the traditional dancing in Brittany and very popular (, so why not. So at about 1am we left for the 40 min drive to the Fest Noz after we arrived it was already in full flow and a new band just coming on to the stage, so to cut a long story short, we had a great evening all linked hand in hand charging around the hall, unusual for most but you might as well join in with the culture or else what is the point. Anyway we eventually left at around 6am for the journey home. Unusual and unforgettable new year.

Another couple of days at Helen's and we were back on the road again heading back to home our little island. On the way back we had to stop into a shop to buy a rucksack, so our lift kindly dropped us at a huge shopping outlet, shopping done, but in our hastiness to shop we had put ourself in a pretty bad situation to hitch hike out of, but very fortuantly we found a little spot wrote Paimpol on our sign and before we were really ready someone had pulled over, turned out he lived in Paimpol (over an hour away) and was on his way home, a stroke of luck to say the least. Lional was one of the good guys in life, really open welcoming and friendly the kind of person you want to get picked up by, as we cracked into a packed of buiscuits we had bought, he said don't worry about that how about you come back to mine for lunch. It's hard to express how much i appreciate that kind of welcoming it is the sentiment which expresses all that is good in human nature. So back to Lionals, he had a fanastic house he and his farther had built from scratch, it he said was the first and the last time. And today his two children and wife were at the school and as he was an ambulance driver he had the day off, so we looked at the photos of his house being constructed before sitting down to a big lunch. Then after chatting it was time to go, so he said he would drive us to the port, on the way he took us to see some of the beautiful coast sights which were fantastic. Then back to the port. (By the way he has a 16 year old daughter who would like an English pen pal of the same age, so if anyone knows of anyone, i would love to repay his kindness. Write to me me if anyone has any ideas)

So our holiday was over and back to what was now our normal life on the island.

We've just finished a new project so picture and details are going to be in the next blog.

Thank you again all for reading

All the best T
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