St. Pierre
First Day in France
Moving South
Vienne and Vinsorbes
Dutch Campground
First Days in Italy
Montelcino Antonio
First Days-South Italy
First Days-Giovinazzo
Living in Giovinazzo
Picking Olives
Outings and School
Rosa's show
Hols & New Yr
Back to School
Croatia-Plitvika, Krk, Cres
St. Pierre
Camping on the Med
Eli's Diary
Rosa's Diary


3-9 April - St. Pierre

Escaping the snow




4th April Monday

We are up late for us after 7.30. Eli has been up for a while and comes in to tell us that he is on his way out to feed animals. Rosa is up and after him in a flash. I am last up so have breakfast and do a little clean up in the kitchen and we get the other boys out soon after. There is plenty to do. We muck in feeding animals, fixing feeding troughs, getting out summer tables, moving boxes to burn and so on. Eli and Rosa join in and we all work well. I take the small boys in early and they want a bath so I put them in and start doing a bit of organizing of our own stuff. Then it is time for lunch. We are a big crowd as they are two other 13yr olds here on work experience. Carinas boys had been being homeschool up until recently but have decided themselves to go to the local school so they are already gone. We get some down time after our big lunch so I catch up with this and some e-mails.


5th April Tuesday,

We manage to get up with everyone but Rosa was a bit unwell in the night so I try to pursuade her to take it slowly. She is so enthusiatic that I let her go out for a short while to feed animals and then I stay in with her for a while. We get going and I try to find things to do. Mike has distinct jobs loke fixing doors on duck houses but I am finding it a bit harder to figure out what to do without asking every five minutes and Carina doesn't tell me much, so I try to do housework and stuff too, I make some bread for lunch which we have outside which is lovely. The wind has dropped quite a bit and we sit in the sun for a while afterwards. I follow Carina to the donkeys later which she is trying to teach to carry traps and the other older children are learning how to clean their hooves and put on tack etc. Rosa gets a little go on one and is very pleased. Sammy and Finn follow us about alot and are content but have to be watched near the ducks as they delight in chasing them. Sammy enjoys brushing the donkeys too. Later I have to keep an eye on them as they head for the house in the late afternoon so I do a bit more housework and then some sowing. I have been unable to find a spot in the day to get a shower or bath but it is very necessary so I slip off once Mike comes in. It is great to get clean. We have diner and Carina tells us that they have been getting lots of bookings for people and groups over the schools spring break. They told us before we would only have the room in the house until then so we are not surprised to be asked to vacate it. However they also give us the impression that they are concerned about the up-coming busy period of lots and lots of people plus our family. They suggest we can camp at the top of the hill and still help and we can work something out about food as we won't be able to eat at the house when they are cooking for guests. We all go to bed and reflect on the change in circumstances. We are not sure what is best. They are new to Wwoofers and have only had two both young single people who put in long hours of work. However they realize that we could do more work if they told gave us a list of things to be accomplished and left us work at them. It is all part of the Wwoof experience to negotiate a fair exchange. That doesn't aways mean hours of labour against food and accommodation but can mean cultural experience for children, art projects or other ways of exchange and a family is obviously a challenge. It all depends on things like expectations on both sides and what you value. It is a good learning curve for us if we ever manage to become Wwoof hosts ourselves. Tonight though it is a little uncomfortable even though it was all discussed in very open and friendly terms. We have a look at other farms on the list before bed and wonder when we should move on.

6th April Wednesday

This morning everyone is in good form as we breakfast together and when I ask for a list of things to do Carina tells me she would like an area at the front of the house cleared for a wooden play house and then the pieces brought round from the garage. I am pleased to have a longer project and she also shows me the boards for painting their farm signs on. Mike has more holes to dig for trees and Eli and Rosa go to help with feeding all the animals. Finn and Sammy help me as there are lots of smaller pieces of wood to carry and they are very enthusiatic. When we stop mid-morning Carina tells us to take a rest and says that she is fine now about everything she just needed to sort it out in her own mind as all the up-coming stuff was starting to over whelm her. The shed looks easy enough to put together so I gather tools and make a start. The boys play nearby and by lunch time it is half way there. However I comment on how flimsy it is. Apparently their last one blew away in one of the 135mph winds they can have which is why they are putting it near the house in its shelter. We decide it is still not close enough and it would be better moving the wood pile. I start painting the signs after lunch and Mike comes to move the wood pile when he is done with the last of his holes. Keeping busy like this certainly makes the day fly and we are surprised when we have to tidy up for diner after 7pm. We feel much more relaxed about our contribution and we discuss our installation up at their bergerie on the hill were there is a kitchen and tables and toilet. It all needs cleaned out for the groups soon anyway so we can do that and then use it for ourselves. We think that we will stay another week that way. 

7th April Thursday

The family have gone off early this morning as one of their foster kids is starting a new school. We get up and breakfast with Chemile their student and the kids go out with her to meet the transition year kids who have been here all week. They all go to feed the animals. I start sorting and cleaning out our room and wash sheets and the bathroom while Mike goes and finishes raking under the where the wood pile was and scraping over Berte's new laid path with a wire brush. I get out eventually to continue painting and pause to help Mike and Eli and the others with the donkeys as they are going for a walk up the mountain with Chemile and the kids.

Its funny after all my years on the periphery of horses with my sisters and friends I am the most experienced with the donkeys as the others have only been at it a week. I help them figure out which bridle goes with which and get them on and ready to go. Mike gives me a walkie talkie so I can keep up with progress. He calls me later to tell me that Eli slid off a donkey as it went down an incline but all is well. They can't find the right path to head up the mountain so go to the castle instead. I keep painting after giving their other foster child and my guys lunch. Mike calls again to tell me the others have lost their donkeys and down a slope. Apparently they wondered off when they stopped for a picnic. They have gone in search of them and find them shortly after.

They all make it back tired from their adventures and put the donkeys away and come in for a cuppa. Carina and Berte get back soon after and are pleased with all the progress. Just then Sammy has a nasty fall onto a sideways laying plank right on his teeth. The poor fella cuts the inside of his mouth but worse has knocked his two front teeth and they are both wobbly. We shall have to see if they fall out. Carina gives him some homeopathic medicine and he sits quietly at the computer for the rest of the evening. They help up move up to the Bergerie. We park herbie beside a caravan we can use too and have our tea in the Bergerie and get to bed, tired out again.

8th April Friday,

We wake up to soft rain and Mike and Eli and Rosa go down to help with animal feeding while I get the boys organized and breakfasted. Sammy can only eat small pieces of bread because his teeth are so sore, poor thing. After breakfast Sammy goes down to play and hangs out in the turkey run where Mike is fixing wire. He looks after the cockrel as he has been put in there for a bit because he was harrassing the new hens and the turkeys have it in for him. Sammy carries him about gently talking to him.

I start power-hosing out the Bergerie of all the dust and hay. Its s frustrating job as water pools where I can't sweep it out easily and it all feels wet as the weather is still mizzly. Finn loves it but has to be changed. I nip down with a tarp to cover the unfinished play house and wish the week had been the other way around with us camping in the good weather. We have lunch at the Bergerie and Mike goes back to work and I mind the kids in the caravan playing. When he is done with his last tree Mike takes a break and I go down to do a bit of sign painting but don't stay long as it is getting late. When I go back up with blended soup we made earlier Mike has a fire going outside and we sit around it for a bit before and after Shabbat diner, but we are cold away from fire.  The sun appears in time to drop patches of light and colour across the farm and mountains. Then it's into the van for our movie, and bed.

9th April Sat

We spent a pretty cold night last night. The kids were warm enough but I felt chilled on and off. There was some wind too which made us a bit nervous as we have heard about the really high winds here. It seems better in the morning at least the sun is back but the wind is cold and the kids are not very happy to get out and breakfast. It is our day off but we are thinking of leaving and finding a farm at a lower altitude.

We have a slow morning and look at the locations of new farms. I go down and talk to our hosts who understand and I finish the sign I'd been painting. I go back up and we start packing, although I am not moving very fast due to lack of sleep. Mike gets going and I notice a cloud descending a far valley that looks suspiciously like snow. We start to speed up as we feel an even colder wind preceding it. Sure enough flurries of snow start arriving. Mike brings the van back down the mountain because he has to finish some website things, and I give the kids soup and finish up the dishes in the Bergerie. I realise we have Finn and Eli's bike to bring down and Sammy has no shoes on and the snow is heavier now and the wind is blowing hard. Only Sammy has his coat. I put Sammy on Eli's saddle and put last dishes and stuff on the carrier. Eli and Rosa run ahead with other bits and pieces which I tell them to put in the van. Finn rides his bike part way down the mountain but gives up and I have to put it over the handlebars. He doesn't want to walk but I have no where to put him and we are all getting colder. It is only a short distant to the farm house but both boys are howling by the time we get there, and we meet a howling Rosa who couldn't find where the van was parked and so had been wandering about looking for it instead of setting down her load and going into the farm house. I dump my stuff outside the door and invade the house with three crying children. From time to time we get these 10mins of chaos in our lives. Mike was working away at the computer oblivious to what it had been changing to outside.

The kids warm up by a nice fire and I show our photo's to our hosts while Mike finishes. We see a little of the snow is lying so Mike gets the rest of the gear on and we say our goodbyes. We are down the mountains fairly fast by a different route. We pick up some pain au chocolat and baguettes and go towards the Med where we can see clear sky over the Med. We decide to head westward as the next farms are in the foothills of the Pyrenees. We make reasonable headway but the kids need a break. When we get off the autoroute and they spot a MacDonalds, we capitulate as they have had a rough afternoon. Mike goes out and set up the van for our new DVD while we drive routine and we get underway again. We get past Marseille but there more and more wind so we start looking for a village to stop as it is too late for campsites. We eventually find a suitable place to stop in a car park beside a old stone granary. We are afraid to put up the top due to the wind but Eli and Rosa are so tired they agree to slip into their bunks as it is. They are quite deep but I would be claustrophobic.  

3 April - to Alps and French border

We make very good time to Cuneo and then we hit the alps.  I convinced Suzie that we should go just across the French border, so we stopped not far over the border and wild camped in a town.

In the morning I had to fix a petrol leak in the hose from the fuel tank to the engine.  In the cold alpine morning, I lay under the unjacked car, unscrewed the hose clamp, cut off the end where it was leaking, plugged the end, then pushed the cut end back on and reconnected the clamp.  Tools used:  Swiss army knife and a stub of pencil (to plug to fuel line temporarily).  Resources consumed:  my fleece and Suzie's coat, both of which got soaked with petrol and had to be tossed.

Suzie picked up our French breakfast of bread, croissants and pan au chocolate in the local bakery and we continued our slow drive to Nice.  We stopped briefly at a beach outside Nice to give everyone a chance to stretch their legs.  Suzie left a message for our WWOOF hosts, as we were likely to reach them today.  Inland  through Grasse and put off by some detours but eventually got on the right roads. 

Had a brief stop to fill up on petrol and with the aid of a WiFi network at the service station were able to collect emails while sitting in our 1971 camper!

Stopped en route at an outdoor market where there also was a playground for the kids.  People all very friendly, wind is very cold!

As we head back to the car we get a return call from our WWOOF hosts who tell us it's fine to come today.

Arrive La Pierre

Carina and Berte have made La Pierre a brilliant place.  They got it as a ruin 3 years ago and did all the work themselves; the house now has *** bedrooms and is a Gite.  They also have a teaching farm here, and host children's camps in teepees and a dorm room on the farm.

They have 5 children (the eldest 2 are fostered) and lots of animals:  donkeys, ponies, horses, ducks,  geese, turkeys, goats and (very large) pigs.  There are eggs in an incubator inside; in 2 weeks there will be chicks.  Our children are very glad to have children to play with, a large farm to roam around, and animals to see and help out with.  We have been given a room which we can stay in, unless they get a booking for it.  We're glad of having the indoor space, particularly so because there's a very cold wind.

First day I fixed a pony/donkey feeding box and a donkey cart.

5 April

Fixed doors to hen, duck and turkey houses, to keep out foxes and ferrets or sables or something like that.  Starting digging holes.

6 April

Dug 9 holes for trees.  Moved a big log pile.  Set up their website on my company's server.  Today was our first full day of work; they were able to give us enough to fill the day and we were able to manage the kids so we could both work at the same time. 

It was I felt a good introduction to the idea of doing our own farm work, if we end up getting land back in Ireland.  The rhythm of the day for me was: hard physical labour in the morning, then a big lunch, then some computer work, then back to physical labour mid afternoon for the rest of the day.

7 April

I had planned to hike up the mountain directly behind us with Eli, but as they wanted to exercise the Donkeys, he and I and Sammy went along with some of the others; I walked with Sammy leading a nice and stubborn animal, while Eli alternately rode and led his.  Sammy had difficulty after a while keeping going but with a lot of convincing and a little food I got him to the Castle where we had a picnic.  I thought we would've had to tie up the donkeys, but they just ate the grass around us, sometimes coming up to beg food off us. 

I was right about tieing them up, actually.  As we were thinking about leaving suddenly the animals bolted down the hill one after another!  Everyone ran after them; I stayed back with Sammy and tried to hold back the last, big, donkey.  I managed to keep him under control for about 10 minutes but eventually he was so anxious to join his friends he was getting a bit worrying to hang onto, espeically with Sammy so close by, so I let him go and grabbed everyone's gear and headed down with Sammy.  As it happens we found Eli just below with 2 donkeys he had tied together - the one we had just let go and his own one.  The others had gone further down the hill and the rest of our group had followed them.  It all ended well, with none of the animals or people hurt and we took it easy going back.

That evening we had to move out of the house into a place where they have summer camps.  I drove the camper up and unloaded some gear into an old caravan which had the 2 main windows blown out in high winds! It started to rain.

8 April

It rained all day today.  The kind of moderate but soak you through rain.  We arrived down to see a delivery of the new trees (my holes weren't big enough!) and new poultry, Rosa was very pleased to see the different birds (hens, turkeys, pigeons).  The cockeral had to be moved from the henhouse because he didn't like the new hens, so he was given residence in the turkey enclosure.  Rosa and I went inside and closed ourselves in while I worked on fixing all possible escape (and entrance) routes in the wire enclosure.  Rosa spent the time observing the interactions between the various birds and telling me which ones were not allowing others to eat, which ones were happy etc. 

Sammy appeared later and came in and picked up the Cockeral, who had been hiding in the corner because the other (bigger) birds had been getting at him.  He kept telling me the Cockeral was happy in his arms and he carried him around inside there while I worked.  The Cockeral really was happy because he didn't struggle at all.

Later I went up to see how Suzie was doing cleaning up the roofed picnic area (Bergerie).  I made up some soup for later as the cold damp weather was getting us all cold.

Later I made a campfire and did some last work putting up supports against the wind for the new trees.

Shabbat that evening and a well-deserved escape into cinema.

9 April

Very cold night last night and we decide it's enough.  We pack up to leave, and the warm day starts to cool and by the time we're almost done it is snowing. 

I go down to the house to help with some final stuff on their computer and Suzie does the last packing and feeding of the kids.  She arrives in later with Sammy Finn and Rosa, crying shivering and dripping with snow! 

The kids go downstairs to warm up while I try to rush the computer stuff but they are using a piece of software I don't know and the menus are all in French so it's slow going.  Finally it's all done and we say our goodbyes.

It is a very windy journey.  We eventually wildcamp in a car park next to a round tower in a small town, and decide it's too windy to put up the poptop, so the big kids agree to go in with it down.

Parting thoughts - if/when we are WWOOF hosts

If we have a farm, it would be great to plan from the start for the worst weather, so that when it rained or was windy we'd have covered passages between buildings or whatever is appropriate.  Also if we set up with WWOOFers in mind I would (1) lay down rules and expectations on our side and find our there expectations up front.  (2) Assume the best of our WWOOFers.  (3) set up common areas for WWOOFers where they can take food, loo rolls, soap, whatever, without worry that it infringes on our own stuff.  (4) Also layout could be family-oriented, for example reuse/junkyard stuff either fenced off, out of the way, or in a building, not just lying around the place.  (5) Regarding use of tools, the toolshed has to be tidy and well laid out so people can find and replace things easily.  Also a small sticker on items that says what maintenance should be done on it each time it is used and when the next bigger maintanence task needs to be done.  (6) When WWOOFers are coming, need to take time to be sure everything is ready for them, especially where they are living and eating, loos, showers, etc.  And then give them time to settle in before they get to work.


This site was last updated 05/10/05