Hot! More Thoughts from Rural France

cows

I have other posts written that will be posted over the next few days, but for now, here are a few more of the thoughts I wrote down while working on the farm at Des Sicadieres. Enjoy!

While I think I would enjoy living in the French countryside, working at des Sicadieres has made me realize that I could never be a full-time, self-sufficient farmer. The family here makes their whole living from farming, and in order to do so, they have about 70 hectares of fields, all plowed and planted by hand. The work is never done, and I get the feeling that you could work from sunrise to sunset and never feel like you’re ahead. I am only obligated to work 5 hours a day, which I do in the morning from 7-12, but I often help out again in the evening, as the farmers work for another 5 hours or so after the afternoon siesta. I don’t work the same amount that they do, but I help out where I can, by milking the cows, feeding the calves, washing dishes, etc. The family here has been very nice to me, and so I am more than happy to help out where I can.

There seems to be quite a lot of pride among the paysans of France. At the market, many of the vendors proudly proclaim this status with shirts or signs, and my current hosts have a sign on the front door that says “le monde a besoin de tous ses paysans”, which translates approximately to “the world needs all its peasants!”.

Man, farmers are the kings and queens of recycling. Nothing except food gets used only once (and even then, leftovers are food for the dogs and cats), and virtually everything is rather ingeniously turned into something else. It can and does occasionally go to extremes, but it’s fascinating to witness.

I’m convinced that when farmers sell a farm, they just chuck everything they’re not taking with them into the barn, or into a random corner. There is so much stuff just laying around, much of it in a state beyond repair, and much of it appearing to hail from previous centuries. The farmers here at des Sicadieres say that most of it wasn’t theirs, which leads to my assumption that farms just slowly collect old and broken stuff in every nook and cranny.

Teaching my host farmer how to play Appalachian folk music on his accordion is a whole new level of awesome. I’m trying to get him to let me take some video of him playing it, but he’s quite shy. You’ll have to take my word for it that this sort of crossing of cultures is really, really nifty.

Bucket baths are more complicated than I anticipated. It’s amazing how fast the water turns completely brown when you’ve been working in a bean field for the two days since your last bath. In other news, hot showers are now something of a source of awe for me.

Reading the memoir of a French peasant circa 1830 while living in a house not too different from the home of the author and not too far from where the book takes place is both very meta and very awesome. I’m reading “Life of a Simple Man”, and though I grabbed the book almost at random right as I left for the airport, in retrospect I couldn’t have chosen a better book to read during this trip.

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  1. This had me laughing out loud!
    Funny, I also came to the conclusion that my one-time fantasy of becoming a farmer doesn’t really suit me after all. It’s more time-consuming than raising children. The kids grow up and move away to live their own lives; the farm remains and demands constant loving attention.
    Also, the thing about them just chucking everything into the barn – my wwoofing host’s daughter rented a place in the small town and I helped clean out the storage space – unbelievable what junk and garbage was just tossed in there over the years. I didn’t find any valuable antiques, however. Drat!

    • I think I’d enjoy being a farmer as long as it wasn’t my livelihood. If I was independently wealthy, or had a husband who was willing to be the breadwinner, I’d love to have a small farm, or at least be self-sustaining, but a farm on the scale you need to be able to support yourself is just too much work for me!