Published: May 6th 2011May 4th 2011
So most of you are probably wondering how we ended up in France in the first place, let alone come to work on a farm.... Well this is where our good friends Maddie and Cory come in once again to this story. When we were in Lagos Portugal we were all sitting around having a drink and telling stories of our European adventures when Maddie and Cory told their story of working on a dairy farm in France call Ferme Fromage de Solere. They gave us great detail and after a few beers and discussion we emailed the farm and asked if we could stay for a while. We got an email back about a day later that said we could stay as long as we liked and the dates we had chosen worked out perfect for them. Sooooo now that you know how that all worked out we can start with the story.
We took the train from Barcelona to le Tour de Carol, France and then the bus from Le Tour De Carol to Auterive. We sat in the train station waiting for our train watching about 4 come before ours was supposed to be there until a
train pulled up about 5 minutes before it was supposed to and in the wrong spot. We looked at eachother as if it could be ours but it might not be and then saw people running to the doors as it was about to close. We grabbed our things and jumped in crossing our fingers that it was ours and yelled out "Le Tour De Carol????!!!" Finally someone answered right as the doors shut and thankfully we were on the right train. The train ride was beautiful, it was a mixture of natural waterfalls, forests, and followed a river all the way to Le Tour De Carol. When we arrived at Le Tour De Carol it seemed as if the train had stopped at the end of the world in the middle of a forest almost with no civilization to be seen for miles. We were a little scared but thankfully an amazingly nice woman a little older than us showed us the way, helped us buy our train tickets, and translated for us whenever we needed. She was an amazing person and absolutely squashed everything we had heard about the French being rude and unhelpful.
We arrived in
Auterive mid day, it is a small town near the dairy farm on Tuesday the 26th of April. We were greeted by our host mother, Wendela, who was just dropping off a girl from Canada who had been at the farm for over 6 months. We tossed our bags into what looked to be a 'mini' mini van and hopped in. The car smelled of a mixture of mold and cow poop and was in dyer need of being detailed but you could tell it was doing a good job at being the farm car. We arrived at the farm, picked up our sheets and a sweater that could have passed for the perfect costume at an "ugly sweater party" and went straight to work. Onno, Wendelas husband, who does most of the farm work and works the evening shift for milking. They split us up so Shelly got to do the milking with Onno and Rachael got to do the feeding with another girl who was working there from Holland named BerBere pronouned (bearbear) with rolling R's. The farm has 4 pigs, 21 cows that get milked regularly, 3 calves, 4 "pings" or yearling cows, 9 chickens, 1 border
collie named Cami, 8 Cats who enjoyed the left over milk (3 new born kittens arrived while we were there as well) and a million spiders :). The deal with the farm was that we worked for about 6 hours a day and we got a free place to stay and free meals. It worked out pretty sweet. There were 7 people regularly at the farm, all Dutch except for Shelly and I but thankfully everyone spoke at least a little bit of English. Fee, Berbere and Jelte pronounced (yelta) were the people around our age that were alot of fun. We all hung out in the evenings playing games or watching American movies and one night made an "adventure" to the man made lake near by. We made some great friends on the farm to say the least.
We both became very attached to the animals and got to learn how to produce cheese and yogurt. The farm produced 7 different types of Cheese, sold fresh farm eggs, milk, and yogurt. We learned the ins and outs of working on a farm, with the animals, how to milk by hand and by machine, and also the process of
how the biological farm runs and stays profitable. The farm doesn't buy any outside goods for the farm besides for packaging for the cheese such as boxes and papers and a few other miscelanous things here and there. They use the urine and manure from the cattle for fertilizer, they use left over makings from the cheese (the whey) to feed the pigs, and they grow their own hay for feed for the cows. They sectioned off areas of their property that the cows were allowed to graze on the grass and would switch the areas every day. It was a pretty amazing system and related alot to a class that we both took in college called "Holistic Management" which focused mainly on biological and healthy ways to live your life.
The cheese was absolutely amazing. We got to try every flavor of cheese, along with fresh milk "right out of the cow" literally and fresh yogurt. Here's how our daily schedule went : 7am up and down stairs for coffee, 7:30 start work, includeds feeding and milking. 9am breakfast with fresh yogurt cheese and milk. Round 2 of feeding and then chores until 1pm when lunch is served.
At 2pm the 3rd round of feeding is done then your off duty until 5pm when coffee is served, then at 5:30 the last round of milking and feeding is done. Dinner at 8pm and then a game called Bonsai after dinner. Bonsai was Onnos favorite game, as it was the perfect excuse for him to have another glass of wine before bed and Wendela wasn't allowed to say no more. Before we left Wendela and Onno gave us 2 wheels of cheese to take home with us as a going away present and gave us a kiss on each cheek goodbye. The farm was a great break away from city life.
In 2 weeks we got to travel outside the farm twice. Both of us separately got to go to the market in Toulouse with Onno on Sunday and sell cheese. Onno and Wendela have been doing the market now for over 25 years and several of his neighbors had been there for much longer than him. The market had everything from wine to veggies, clothes to fossils. Almost anything you would need to get for a week you could find at the market in Toulouse. On our
second adventure away from the farm we went to a nearby town called Foix. Rachael drove the "mini" mini van, Shelly navigated, and Berbere offered decent entertainment. We visited the famous castle of Foix and got to see how amazing and beautiful France really is. Mountainous and green, full of rivers and streams, it was truly more beautiful than either of us had ever expected.
There are more photos below