25th April Mon
Mum and Dad leave we pack in sunshine and leave too make it to
village beyond Bordeaux. The drive was particularly pretty and relaxed
through lovely countryside passing canals and rivers.
26th April Tues
We wake in the middle of school drop off time and it make me think of
home watching all the normalacy. We me a nice woman as we are having
breakfast in a little square. Her name is Natalie and she lets us use sink, loos and internet
at her work! We drive on and have a picnic
in a muddy banked harbour with big campers all about us. I even do
some translation for dutch man about how this campsite works.
Apparently you pay the harbour master. We continue on and pass La
Rochelle and find a little cheap campsite not long after. It is run by a
nice couple called Sandra and
Phillip who are interested in Woofing and let us use their internet for
free. We have diner in the van as it is raining and get to bed
27th April Wed
We can't motivate ourselves to leave as it is lovely
and sunny and relaxing. So I do a spot of fishing with Eli and we are
sucessful at last. While we eat out catch Mike take the others to the
camp pool. Un headed but Rosa gives it a go. We chat with the
proptietors and have lunch. I phoned the farm and our
Bee keeping contact from last summer and headed to them first. We will
go to the farm on thursday.
It is an easy run to Jean Marie's
family, and we get a very warm welcome, and cuppa. Jean Marie is away til
frid looking for a place to be an apprentice beekeeper, but may get here
sooner. I ring next wwoofer host and delay til frid. Patrick and
Marie Madolaine are going out to move hives so Mike decides to go with
them to help. I have diner with their daughter Cecille and Pierre Luis.
Then we watch Aladin with Cecille. The others get back late 11pm. The
bees had been in rape seed fields but now are back in theirs.
Apparently you can move bees far away more than 5km and they will go
outside and orientate themselves to the new location and find the hive
when they need to, but if you move them to the otherside of the field
they will all go to where it was and not where it is and die as a
result. We all head to bed.
28th April Thurs
We come into
the house and have breakfast altogether. The family are so relaxed and
welcoming and we are all interested in much the same things. They have 4
kids 3 boys and a girl too but their youngest is 15. They show us
photos of a eco house they built near the sea. They used a kind of
clay brick that was very wide and had a lattice of air inside and fit
together with others like lego and needed very little cement. It was a
great project and the whole family built it together. The little guys
and I got to have baths.
Eli went out with Pierre Louis and had a
unicycle lesson. Mike had a go on the big one too. We all just hung out
until lunch and had another nice meal together. Later Jean Marie arrived
and we got to catch up with him and look at his pics from Ireland. Eli
and Rosa were in great hands as Cecille did an art project with Rosa and
Eli played on Pierre Louis' computer and had another unicycle lesson
with Jean Marie. They also go to help Celine make a chocolate cake for
after diner and Rosa carefully copied down the recipe. Then two boys
from down the road came and played with all the kids.
Then all the
kids and us got a beekeeping tour with Marie Magdoline and Patrick and
learnt lots about the bees and who is in the hive and what they all do.
Things like: the queen lays 1000-2000 eggs a day. Worker bees are female
and have long tongues to feed the males and glands on their backs to
feed royal jelly to the queen. They feed pollen to the larve as it is
high in proteen and eat honey to make wax 100 bees for one little cell.
Then Patrick went into a glass room and took apart a hive and showed
them the queen and all the others. He showed them how they get the honey
out and he brought a male bee out and let them all stroke it and then he
put it on his tongue!!
We all had a lovely diner together and
chocolate cake and a nice walk and chat after. I had a tour of their
field with its fruit tree and hives and other trees they have planted.
29th April Friday
We had late breakfast together again and had some of
Patrick's honey spice cake. He makes that mainly to sell and all their
bread too. We started to pack up slowly and all the kids played outside
on a great cart with Eli on his bike as the horse. There was more
unicycle practice as well. By the time we were ready it was lunch time
and we were invited to join them once again as the meal was ready and
there was plenty. We were really sad to leave after lunch and hope they
will all come and visit and we may see them again too.
The drive to
the next place didn't take long but we were very unsure of directions as
I had been given them in rapid french. We went to the nearby town and
turned around to try to work it out. A car passed us and as we followed
it they began to make signal for us to follow. We did and they were from
the farm and guess who we were. The place is a community of mainly very
young people two babies and lots of woofers and others. I think I
counted at least 4 with dreadlocks. They are all very friendly and
welcoming and we get a tour. There are five houses close together in a
little hamlet. They have virtually finished three of them and are
working on one of the others and then the last later. They are extending
the one they are working on with a strawbale extension which excits us
both as we should be here when it goes up. We don't end up doing any
work really just bring our gear into two bedrooms both with access just
from the outside newly completed. Rosa and Eli have their own and we
have one with the boys. They are small but have nice windowed doors and
veluxes and neat plastering inside with patterns and stone work peeping
out in places. I find a huge pot of lentil cooking on the stove and make
a big pile of lentil burgers still leaving loads. They are eaten by us
and the crowd as they come in. There are three other wwoofers one german
and two from Belgium arrived just after us.
The kids discover music
stuff upstairs. Sammy has a good go on the trumpet and manages very
well. Later some of the lads start jamming on electric guitar and drums
its very rasta.
We take the kids off to bed and leave them too it.
30th April Sat
We get up and find lots of fresh yeast bread for breakfast and we are
the first ones. Marie french canadian and her husband, french made it.
We have some with J.P. (french and the boss) and Thomas (german woofer
here 2.5months) then Mike joins them to work at putting the roof on the
extension. I can't do anything without the small boys following for now
so I make soup for lunch and tidy up the kitchen. After lunch Finn sleep
and Sammy is happy to play so I go and get a job which is mixing up some
fresh cement and filling in at the edge of a room over a pipe. It takes
me the rest of the day and I am joined by Finn who helps later. When I
am done I put some spuds in the oven and get a breather to catch up on
Another lovely morning, we think we have the day off and relax
outside saying hello to others when they pass. Marie comes and tells us
they make croissants and pain au chocolate for sale on sunday pms we ask
for 6 of each. She also asks if we can help them as the are working on
another house they need to move into for the summer. I decide to help
and Mike takes the boys on a bike ride. I am filling gaps in the stone
work in a second story of the house. It is enjoyable work
constructing and finding the right stones. Mike gets back and makes late
sunday pancakes but the compete with the timing of the croissants that
Rosa has been helping with. Some of us have both! The pain au chocolate
are amazing the smell alone has me in raptures.
I stop work pretty early and we have a lovely afternoon just hanging
out but decide to go for a drive in the evening. We stop by the end of a
sort of festival of young free thinkers and meet an interesting guy who
shows us around the place explaining what they did (set up a community
kitchen and had free spaces where people created stuff and made music or
had debates). The kids want to go back to a playground near where we
parked so we part company and head back there and have a sort of picnic.
It is nice to have a bit of space by ourselves and we feel refreshed
when we go back to the farm. The Belge couple have cooked and we are
just in time for diner. Maud the hostess and her partner and son arrive
and we say are hellos but we are pretty tired tonight so are first off
With the host in residence we feel a certain pressure to be up and at
em this morning. Luckily the kids are already settling in well and there
are lots of young adults around some wwoofers some not as well as the
other family Marie and Sylvain so they all find somewhere or someone to
be with. Eli is really enjoying the musicians who play all the time
nearly and talk to him a lot.
Mike and I get to work. I have a creak in my neck which is really
unpleasant but can continue in one house with the hole filling with
stones and Mike is working at a roof. We keep at it all moring and are
glad when lunch time comes. We hang out with the kids for a while and
luckily Finn falls asleep. Astrid (Belge) gives me a great neck massage
which really helps.
In the afternoon I am putting up tongue and groove
pannels on bathroom wall and Mike is still at the roof. In the end I
help Robin (Belgium) alot as he is inexperienced with woodwork and tools
and it seems I know more than him which is funny to me, as our boss J.P.
does seem to assume the young men know stuff they don't necessarily. I
knock off earlier than Mike because Finn wakes up and the others need
some attention too. When others take a break we start diner together and
make a veggie curry. The larder is full of beans and pulses but Thomas
tells us that it is usually J.P. that cooks and he just boils them with
some onions and eats them as they are with a little cream fresh so he is
really pleased with our contribution.
Marie offers to let the boys have a bath first Rosa has one with
Maylee her baby. Rosa and the baby are great friends now. Mike ends up
taking over and then goes off to bed early with the boys. I stay
up at one of the houses having great chats with the lads there, as well
as with James (USA) latest woofer addition.
dissappointed to see clouds and feel the odd but of wetness as it has
been so beautiful but we are still able to breakfast outside before
getting the kids organised with some art and getting to work. I do a bit
of cleaning up and sorting the tools and then finish the wood paneling
at the top of the wall fitting bits arounf the roof beams. I am up and
down measuring an cutting all morning. At lunchtime I make some humous
with the chick peas I find cooked. The kids are all content and are let
watch a movie in the afternoon at the lads house. We are to help plaster
the upstairs of what will be Marie and Sylvains summer house while there
house is rented out. We mix lots of plaster. Here it is made with
a high sand ratio and we wonder would it work in Ireland as it is very
nice to look at. We all help chuck it on the walls and manage to do a
reasonable job. They leave lots of stone showing anywhat as it is very
nice to look at. Later I stop and mind kids and the baby. We have a nice
walk down the lane. Mike goes into Chateaux Briand to do internet stuff.
When he gets back we make a sort of coleslaw and falafel and I make some
soda bread too it all goes down well with some of Thomas' wine. I have a
chat with Christof about how Maud found the place but wandering about
the countryside talking to people and what we hope to do when we get
home. Then I take Finn off to bed.
The days are flying in
and I realise when I wake it is already Wednesday and there is a markey
in Chateaux Briand today. I get up and get the guys organised and we go
in. It is a nice town and market and we have a good look around.
Highlights for the kids are a knife shop with swords, crepes au sucre, a
dog hairdresser with pooch mid treatment, and lots and lot of fowl for
sale including baby ducks they can pick up in their boxes. I get a
couple of nice cheap African print trousers. We meet up with Astrid who
was in with Marie and Sylvan who are staying and take her home. It takes
me three goes to find the road we came in on but we make it back to the
It is not really a farm but a collection of old buildings
with just a vegetable garden and a couple of goats more a community in
the making. There are some perminant members, some semi perminant and
then the wwoofers. Some tensions arise we notice from time to time as
space, food, and work are allocated but so far we are not involved and
feel we are both working very hard and since we suppliment the food too
it seems to be working.
I make some muffins before going to work and
then spend the afternoon doing a huge sweep upstairs and down stairs in
the house we have been working on as it is soon to be the woofer dining
room. Mike takes a break to play with the small boys in the woods as
they aren't able to occupy themselves this afternoon but both Eli and
Rosa seem to have found their neach. Rosa hangs out and plays with
Maylee at her house all day and Eli hangs out at Roman's house and chats
or plays with some of his many instruments. He loves listening to the
lads play and jam together and Roman says he enjoys talking with him
It is after six when I stop but tonight Maud our hostess is
cooking. It is nice to have diner handed to us. We have a bit of banjo
and accordian after diner but I am wrecked so get off to bed pretty
After breakfast I go looking for work and there
isn't a whole lot to do so I just clean up what is about to be our new
wwoofer kitchen as we have actually been using Pierre and Johans house.
After a while I decide to go and work in Marie's little vegetable garden
as there is very little else going on in the construction. Sammy and
Finn come with me and we have a lovely time together weeding. The garden
is set out as a spiral and maze and Sammy likes walking around it. He
says he loves gardening because he remembers when we used to do that in
our own house when we was younger. I have a nostalgic 4 year old.
We stop for lunch and a break but go back again in the afternoon.
When we stop I make two big onion and tomato tarts because we are all
eating together tonight. It is an effort to build community feeling
after various meetings with Maud and the lads. We are glad to be quite
out of any of that. We set up tables and blankets out side and everyone
brings something and we have a lovely meal together. There are a bunch
of lads who start to juggle and they are great and get into a circle in
order to pass a ball as they go. The little guys get a sucession of
wrestling partners on the rugs all big lads and then Marie and Sylvan
bring out desert which is gorgeous: an apple and pear torte and a
apricot loaf thingy. We don't stay up too late though.
up a bit late and play with the boys and Mauds little boy 20months for a
while before going in search of work. Sylvan asks can I help them
plaster a chimney so I go help mix up a batch. They use a heavy sand
type 1 bucket lime to 4 sand or 3 pure sand and 1 sand with clay in it.
It looks very nice on the walls and in places they put designs in
different colours or allow stones to show, but it sheds sand when you
brush against it. I don't know if that stops. They do brush it
afterwards and maybe it needs more. We lift the mix up a ladder and
Marie joins us and we get going. It is not very heavy work compared to
brushing down the stone or flicking on plaster between the stones and it
progresses quite fast too. We work until after 1pm and I am starving
when we stop for lunch. Astrid has made a salad and their is bread so I
just tuck in and then go lie in the sun with the boys for a while.
Sylvan goes back before Marie and I and we get a bit longer in the sun.
Then we take over and finish the top of the chimney and have a nice
chat. It is after six when we stop. Thomas puts on some pasta in the old
house as their is no gas in the new kitchen yet and I go make a sauce
then we all have diner together along with Marie and Sylvan and we also
have Shabbat blessings with everyone which is very nice. The kids have
their movie and I hang out an chat with Thomas until we have a grown up
movie (Black and White about a trial of an Aborigial man good movie)
with Robin and James in the new kitchen. It is cold so we all sit under
JP isn't here so we have a nice morning
skiving of work.
I have a bath at Marie's house which is lovely and then Mike bathes Finn
Mike goes into Chateaux Briant with James and wee guys. I
stay and climb up a big scaffold to work at pulling out stones
from wall to make a window into a door. There will bit a stairs added
outside later. It is tough work the stones are pretty solid and heavy
too, but I like the challange of working with a crowbar, and Robin is
having an even harder time on the other side of the wall than me. He has
a break while I keep at it and one the hole start to enlarge it gets
easier. J.P. has to come help me lower some of the larger stones and
Robin comes back and we make good progress so I stop. I am pretty tired
anyway. Mike packs a picnic and we go out for a tea time picnic by
a river. Its lovely and the kids enjoy the time with us and each other
playing on rocks and running along pretty trails.
Later I sitt up with
Thomas chatting and drinking red wine with Mike and after until late.
Up late and
take it easy today. Mike makes pancakes and we all help with the 6hr
prep of pain au chocolat. While taking breaks to play in the sun in
the garden. We have lunch and finish with our reward the pain au
chocolat are great again. We do much the same chatting to various people
in the community until evening. Then we muck in and make a communial
diner although Marie and Sylve do most I do make a carrot cake, well
three, we are a big group and we eat in their house. Its all very
convivial. The kids love it.
I take the day off to do our
laundry and organise some of our own stuff. Mike does some wood work in
the roof space. I go to town with Maire and wee ones to get car
picnic food for tomorrow and we have nice chats and are sad to be
parting. When we get back J.P.s asks do we want to go see his house. We
follow him and have to wait ages as he picks up new sawdust for the
compost toilets. We eventually get there and meet his mum coming in from
the garden. Then he shows us his house. It is a small strawbale house
made for 450euro with all recycled materials. He explains the
construction to us and shows us other stuff in his big shed, like the
solar collector he is making. Its all cool stuff. Then he shows us round
his mothers house the first he renovated with the same methods we are
using ( sand plaster made to the ancient Roman recipe etc.) It is more
finished than the ones we are working and is really lovely, although
this is also do to his mother. She is a Feng Shui specialist. When I
remark on her crystals she brings me one for the car to "deflect bad
energy, from one mother of four to another". I thank her struck yet
again by the kindness of all the people we meet.
We go back for
diner. Marie and Thomas have made the wwoofer's new kitchen very homey
and Mike makes spagetti. We are joined by two new Aussie wwoofers so I
give them the info they want about what we have done and how it all
works then I go to bed.
No work this a.m. I don't feel to
bad as the Aussie boys are hard at it. We just pack and I bath myself
and the boys until its time for lunch and at Marie and Sylve's for
Maelee's 1st birthday. Thomas there too. Its a lovely warm atmosphere
with them all and we have lovely food too. Sushi. Very hard to
finish and do the final pack. Feels like we have been here much longer
than we have and we take lots of time over goodbyes. The kids are very
out of sorts too. Moving is getting harder for us all. At last we are
off. Heading for the coast in a uneventful run and we find a lovely
cheap site with good facilities and nice man too, and settle in for a
while setting up the big tent.
Lovely holiday day at the
site and on the windy beach not much else to report today. Chatting
about home and about all the experience has taught us and what we want
to bring home with us. Feel in the final days for sure. Last farm should
rap it up nicely as it was our first 2 years ago for a week when we
wanted to see would it work.
Computed getting e-mails
and journal up to date. Light rain at times Mike minded guys as it
took me until after lunch. Rosa and I went the 2km in to Damgan to look
for an internet cafe with no luck but our friendly campsite owner
offered the use of his phone line and Mike was able to send e-mails
Still and bit dull with occasional sun. Lots of
reading and some homeschooling today. I did a big sort in van clothes
books etc gotta make room for all the wine we hope to squeeze in
Kids content to hang out and play and meet a few other
kids at last. We have camped so often off season, except for school hols
a few weeks back on the Med, that we are used to having sites nearly to
ourselves. We are still the only ones on the beach. So the kids have
gotten out of the habit of meeting friends. Its nice to see them find
I phone our friends in the wwoofer farm we hope to visit on our
way home and they invite us for the rest of the weekend, after that one
of them is going away and we will find somewhere to camp for our real
Shabbat movie as usual, (a Jackie Chan- Eli loves them)
Saturday 14th May
We spent our usual half day packing and leave after
lunch. We make easy time but pass through a couple of thunderstorms. We
also pass along some of our cycle routes from our holiday biking along
canals and old railroads with Geff and Kate of Breton Bikes. We are
making some kind of completion of a circle as the ideas for this trip
were seeded then. They really started to take route at Mick and Jenny's
farm and when we arrive it isn't hard to remember why. They are warm and
welcoming despite being in the middle of packing up their house for its
summer rental as a Gite and moving into the barn. The place itself still
has the special kind of magic we remember from last time and they have
been improving it since then too. I cook a veggie curry while Jenny
finishes moving for now and we have a nice evening with them catching up
on each other and meeting Theo the bump from our last visit who is
Sunday 15th May
We have a peaceful sleep in the van in
a field across the road and despite hearing rain over night we wake to
just slightly damp morning. We go across to the barn house
and Mike makes french toast. Mick is a bit under the weather so I mind
Theo while Jenny gets a bit more stuff moved out. Then they go off to a
luncheon leaving a sleeping Theo with us and Eli and Rosa try to get
their diaries finished while Sammy and Finn play in the playroom they
have been pleased to discover. After lunch Theo wakes and when fed joins
our guys all outside hanging out with the fowl especially the hen with
Nico another young wwoofer comes back too. We just
hang out until Mick and Jenny come back and then we chat and do some
more diaries. Sammy explores and visits the various fowl pens and the
sole sheep (the ram) in the field near the house.
We have a nice
barbaque with them eating all their own meat. Then we have an early
Monday 16th May.
We get up to a misty morning in the field and
head in for some porridge, after breakfast we get sorted and re-packed
and ready to leave. Meanwhile Mick has been collecting some meat from
the abattoir. They don't slaughter all their own stuff and he lay
it out for cutting up and bagging. Sammy comes in and asks what animal
is it on the table. We say sheep and he runs outside to check if his
friend from yesterday is still there. He is, so Sammy says no more. We
say our goodbyes and thanks to Mick and Jenny and get under way. We are
just going to have a real holiday week this week and indulge in all the
foods we have been constrained about on our budget!
We drive to the
coast and find a lovely bay and site right on the beach and have and
nice afternoon there.
Trying to Sum up the Trip and Waxing
Philosophical and getting Sappy too...
It is hard to believe we are at the end of the experience. It
is hard to believe I am 39 today. Anyway the trip is winding up and we
aren't going to write about our last weeks holiday so I'm just going to
try a bit of summing up.
Well, it has
left us full of eco and lifestyle ideas and it has also turned us off some
too. We have learnt many
new skills or at least we realize we can do more things than we could
before. Its a question of confidence, in fact.
We saw many beautiful and some famous places, but mostly we were
able to have an inside view of how many people live their lives and
they introduced us to their different lifestyles, cultures, and languages.
Throughout it all our overwhelming experience has been of people's
kindness and generosity: our first stopover villages where people gave us hot
water and one man picked us vegetables, our first wwoofer stop in Tuscany where a
young couple took us in for the night despite us not working for them,
later our South Italian hosts looking after us so well, the friends we
made in Giovanzzo (I cannot list all they did as it would/has filled the site),
our neighbours there who fed us and clothed us, so many passing
strangers who went out of their way to help us in Croatia and France,
the campsite lady who opened for us and then gave us oranges and lemons,
the man who changed our tire and drove around to find us an open
campsite, the woman who let us into the community centre kitchen and
toilets and then let us use her internet connection, all the helpful
campsite owners, the other farms in France who welcomed us and the wwoofers and community members we met who played with our kids, became
new good friends, then there were people who we chatted to getting
directions everywhere, who were so nice, one man in Italy turned around
and drove in front of us to show us the way through the town, and of
course all the folk who like VWs who waved and honked along the way.
If we hadn't any faith in humanity this trip would have restored it,
as it was, we trusted people and they trusted us and we had our faith in
humanity confirmed and then build on tenfold.
downside, if you don't count roughing it for six months, and being kind
of exhausted at the end of it all, is that we missed our friends and
family hugely. Worse, since we are soon to be reunited with many of them, is
that now we have made more good friends who live far from us and we will
miss them now more than we could have known or imagined at the start.
We hope they will come see us and we can return to visit them like we do
our US friends and family, but of course it is hard to get everywhere
and it is never enough. It almost makes you want to not travel, but then
isn't that one of the great dilemmas of life: invest and risk loss- yet
hope to gain and grow, or don't invest and risk stagnation and