Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Je Reviens à Tours!

Written Monday afternoon...

Well I’ve had a bit of a change of plans. I’m going back to Tours! The farm was great the first few days, and really, the family was very nice, welcoming, and laid back. On the third or fourth day though, I dug potatoes out of the ground for four hours. For the average person, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was too much for my back. I did NOT feel good that evening, and I still wasn’t doing that great the next day. Then my hamstring started aching, and I got a little worried. If I had really liked the family I may have tried to work something out with them, but then the chaos hit.

The family’s eleven year old basset hound, Lillie, fell down the stairs in the middle of the night and paralyzed her back end. She could only walk by dragging her back legs behind her. Stuart took her to the vet. The news was not good, but they hoped with a little rest she may improve a bit. The diagnosis was something like a slipped disc in her vertebrae that was pushing on a nerve causing the loss of mobility. The family was heartbroken. When they checked up on her after a couple days it was apparent that she was not doing well and were going to have to decide whether or not to put her down. Louisa brought Lille home for the weekend. She looked dreadful, but then again I think we all would after spending a couple days at the vet. Louisa broke down into tears shortly after bringing her home, and I was the only one around to try to comfort her. If Lille did need to be put down, I felt like the family needed to be alone to mourn. This was feeling less and less like a vacation.

On top of that, the work at the farm became more and more frustrating. I think this family may be the most unorganized I have ever met. Everything on the farm was set up haphazardly, although, some of this was out of their control. For instance, the two pregnant sows were delivered a month early, and the two holding pens were only 75% complete. There are concrete blocks in the pens that the sows are constantly knocking over, and one of them doesn’t have a solid gate. She has escaped a few times, one of which being my second day. It was an interesting initiation to the farm, having to herd a 200 pound pig.

Nothing on the farm was ever put back in the same place. It was always a challenge to find a feed bucket, and some of the tasks I was given had no rhyme or reason to them. This morning was a perfect example. I had the task of wheel-barrowing buckets of water to the donkeys because, for some reason, Louisa didn’t want to move them over to the daytime field with a giant pond and lots of shade. Finding the hose was a task in itself. The donkeys, of course, drank all the water instantly after I brought it, so we ended up moving the donkeys over to the field with the pond and shade anyways...

A farm is understandably a dirty place, but I think the farmhouse should be clean. This farmhouse was downright dirty. After a few days, I couldn’t stand the thought of walking on the floor with bare feet. The kitchen towels were greasy to the touch. Dishes were constantly piling up and “soaking” in dirty greasy water. The bathtub was always filthy and wasn’t cleaned after being used to wash mucky sheep’s fleece. I could keep going...

I found myself feeling anxious, my energy level dropped, and I was having a hard time imagining two more weeks of this. The most serious issue was my aching body, and the next location scheduled was another volunteer position doing more manual labor. The answer was obvious. I decided I'd go back to Tours and continue learning French at Tours Langues. I loved it there, and I missed all my friends. I missed speaking French too! On the farm, we only spoke English and opportunities to speak French with the locals were not that often. I contacted Martine yesterday right after I woke up. She responded the same afternoon telling me to return tout de suite! I even cried a little when I received her email and voicemail telling me to hurry back! She unfortunately doesn’t have the space for me again, but I will be able to stay with her until I find a new host family. The school has already contacted me and I’m set up to resume classes on Tuesday. I’m sitting on the train right now headed to Tours, and I feel so much better. I’m looking forward to another month in the Loire Valley!

I should point out that there were some great things about the farm. As I said before, the family was great. They went out of their way to make me welcome, and Louisa even wanted to set up outings for me to visit some of her French friends to work on my language. The food was delicious. Louisa was a great cook. We ate coq au vin one night that was made from one of the roosters on the farm, and there was always a bounty of freshly picked fruits and vegetables. I had the opportunity to do things I’ve never done before. Feeding and taking care of the animals was a treat and really fun (except for being head butted by Rosie the goat). I know more about animal poo than I ever thought I would! I even got to see a day old chick this morning. I really enjoyed the time I was able to spend with Louisa in the kitchen making jam, soups, and drying tomatoes. The kids were a bit exhausting at times, but also fun to watch and play with. On the whole, it was an interesting and rich experience that I will never forget!

Here are my favorite photos from the farm:
Johnny Dep was headed for the pot but is now a permanent pet on the farm due to the pleading of a previous volunteer. He lives with Girtty the goose.

Paxo jr. and the rest of the roosters
Peg Leg and his black hen
Poullet noir is highly sought after in France.
Les Couchons!
These pigs will all make a trip to the butcher before Christmas. They were the most fun animals to feed with their screeching squeals.
A happy pig waiting for the morning feed

There were about twelve piglets on the farm. They will replace the bigger guys that are headed for the butcher.
Rosie (and Daisy in the background)
Rosie looks sweet but was constantly escaping and and really enjoyed head butting me.
Cherry tomatoes
More cherry tomatoes

The day's tomato, ruhbarb chard, and strawberry harvest

Girtty the Goose - My favorite member of the farm.
She's a permanent pet who waddles anywhere she pleases. She came up to me one day and nibbled softly on my arm. I took that to mean we were friends, and after that she let me pet her.

Toscar - One of three great "outdoor" dogs
He may be trained to herd sheep at some point, but for the moment is tied up all day, every day.
Pheonix (3) and Harmonie (4)
Photo of Pheonix taken by Harmonie

Baby chicks
The five ducks on the right are called Indian Runners because of the way they walk upright. The two darker birds on the right think they're Indian Runners, so they're a pack of seven who always stick together.

One of the roosters

No comments:

Post a Comment