Our next destination was Yvignac-La-Tour, France.
We found a young family on WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) that needed help with house repairs, babysitting their children, and helping with gardening.
Yannick drove us to a meeting point, a tiny town and then dropped us off at a big church. He pointed to the restaurant, bakery, and tabac shop across the street “in case we needed anything”. Then, he left.
In case you’re wondering, a tabac shop is a common site in small towns in France. Tabac shops are licensed to sell tobacco products in France and Spain. They also sell postage stamps, newspapers, and telephone cards.
Waiting to meet Aman (Yvignac-La-Tour, France)
We’re sitting on the steps of the old stone church, gray skies overhead setting the perfect canopy for the postcard scene. France, with it’s beautiful little towns scattered about the rolling meadows, along with it’s crumbling buildings whose history speaks in whispers, unveils a texture of possibilities.
A red, 2-door hatchback slows to a stop in front of us. A petite young man exits the driver’s side. He’s wearing black–T-shirt, loose pants, shoes–and his hair is standing up like a q-tip top–a black fluff reaching for the sky. He walks up to us, smiling, his hand extended. His name is Aman.
Aman, who I’m guessing to be in his 30’s, is our WWOOF host. He’s a comedienne, which is a French term for an actor. He helps us load the gear into his compact vehicle. We climb inside, and enjoy the raw beauty of it all–getting into the car of, mostly, a complete stranger, but someone who has been hosting WWOOFers for some 2 years, the ride along the winding streets between meadows and pastures, and the curious excitement of not knowing exactly what this house will look like, what the sleeping accomodations will be like, what the food will be like, what our WWOOF hosts will be expecting from us.
I was a little concerned because we were about a half hour from Mont-Bon, France, a small village peppered with old stone buildings and the old stone church at the town center, common to villages here in France, and, now, were far into the countryside and I thought, “What if it’s just a boring house and not much to do?”
After passing through a small town, Aman continues driving for another half-hour. We’re out there in the French countryside, far from the the outskirts of town. He steers the car in the direction of some crumbling buildings with overgrown yards.
From reading their ad post on wwoof.fr, I knew the hosts were a married couple with their 2 young children, that he was a comedian (French for actor) and she was a teacher, that they had a hectare of land and mentioned “no farming or building, just hanging out with our kids, playing music, enjoying the garden, taking walks, visiting the sea only 1/2 hour away or doing nothing at all”.
I feel my suspicions are onfirmed concerning the boredom aspect when he turns the car into a driveway of the crumbling building and parks.
Seeing the inside however, was quite a different story …
Once he took us inside though, my concerns evaporated.
The place was cozy and cavelike with curved corners and from the hand-plastered adobe. The holiday lights, strung from ceiling, that crisscrossed from one side to the other, added to the bohemian flavor. Within the walls were molded shelves, dug in, for books and other items.
The entire place was a mishmash of homemade glory.
The whole place radiated a warmth and peacefulness to it, a kind of vintage hodge podge of mismatched beauty, curbside finds and Christmasy embrace.
Aman shows us the house.
The front door enters into a dining room and open kitchen, a couch and shelves and a table in the corner, a dining table in the middle, and a small kitchen area on the other side. A winding staircase, with various shaped oak patterned wood for steps, curves up to the second floor which opens to a wide hallway, a bathroom on the right.
After showing us the upstairs bathroom and instructing us to turn off the lights when not in use, he leads us to an entry on the left side. At the end of the hall, a doorway leads into a large room with games laid about, a small version of fuseball, and a loom in one corner.
There’s a ladder perched near one end of the room that leads up to an enclosed attic room.
He carries the Northface backpack up the ladder, we follow him up to a cozy attic room.
This is where we’ll be staying …
Aman introduced us to Natalie, his wife and their children, Lucie and Atonopolis.
Then, he shows us the outside yard area …
He leads us around the overgrown yard, showing us the rabbits in their pens, and a goat that curiously stares at us as it munches grass.
Our job duties consist of weeding, making mud, transferring mud up the ladder to the second-floor porch, plastering walls, and playing with their children.
I put the children in the wheelbarrow and run them around the yard. They love it and I’m having a blast, too. 🙂
Since Natalie works as a teacher, Aman was home most of the time, directing the work, which was minimal, consisting of about 5 ñ 6 hours a day.
The food was delicious and organic, storebought or garden fresh.
Although there was work to do, Aman let us join him in the work, choose a task of our own, or do whatever we wanted. One of Aman’s common expressions was, “Do as you wish.”
For weeding, Aman hands me a wooden stake. He shows me how to stab it in the earth around the weeds, in order to loosen the soil around the roots, to pull out the weeds.
“Where’s the spade?” I’m thinking to myself.
Turns out that Aman forgoes the use of traditional tools, since they are made using resources that depend on oil reliance. Aman and Natalie are a part of “transition”, a lifestyle movement that promotes moving away from oil reliance and moving towards more self-sustainable practices.
Still, I’m thinking, it might be more practical to use an actual storebought tool for weeding or digging out vegetables.
Raegan and I laughed about this.
Nonetheless, it was an interesting experience.
Raegan and I, after a loverly dinner of boiled potatoes, fresh from the garden, with fennel greek vegetable and a plate of cheese, slept in the double sleeper. This morning, I placed the bag of flowers and the note in front of her. She turned from looking at me to see it and opened the note and read it, which said:
Happy Birthday Raegan
I love you, Raegan Test, and I’m glad that you are with me.
you + me = us (with drawing of her and I arm in arm)
She opened the flowers, carefully pulling them out and they come out in a nice clump, from having been pressed in the backpack, the small yellow backpack, for two days, since Friday, and she said: “I love you” about 4 times. 🙂
I used one grocery bag to hold the flowers, and another to tie it around the post that supports the upper, single bunkbed.
After the village visit, we returned home and, soon after being inside, Chaneux (Chano) arrived, a WWOOFer and teacher from New Orleans, a red haired, blue eyed girl, who will be here for a week sharing activites and work.
Aman gives Raegan, Chaneux and I a tour of the yard, showing us his rabbits, two goats, one sheep, garden, and pile of firewood, which we end up, for about 2 or 3 hours, forming a chain to transfer to stacking up against the exterior wall of the house. This was followed by weeding, pulling nettles and thistles from the ground.
We started in the backyard, then moved to the side yard. The nettles were difficult to remove and very thorny. The work wasn’t the easiest, but was worth the barter for a loft to sleep in and delicious food to eat.
For dinner, we had carrots sauteed in butter, with onion, sun dried tomato, bay leaf, and boiled, sauteed potatoes, cous cous, steamed or boiled artichokes with an olive oil balsalmic sauce that we spooned from a jar, red wine.
Later, they brought out a birthday cake, homemade, that was absolutely delicious, and we all sang happy birthday to Raegan.