Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Farm life with the Ashtons - Part 1

Too many clothes and the sweltering sun made me feel like I was being microwaved as I sat outside Lannemezan train station waiting for my host Katie to pick me up.  For months and months I had been dying to leave city life behind and find out all about farm life, so the Workaway website [link] gave me the perfect opportunity.
"I'll pick you up in a red four by four at 12 noon."  She had emailed me.
Bang on 12 noon a woman jumped out of a blue Citroen and ran towards me with open arms.  A completely different car but a quick guess suggested this must be Katie... otherwise I really don't know where I've been this whole time.
We got back to the farm and I met the rest of the family: Katie's husband Luc, and their two daughters, Phoebe their 12 year old and Romy their 8 year old.  Then I met the four dogs, four cats, forty sheep, two pigs, six chickens, two geese, three rabbits, four horses, and one donkey.

Now I would love to write about each separate jam-packed day but I stayed for so long that it's quite difficult to think day by day.  So instead I'll do a collection of my memories (like I always do when I've left it so long to write here)!
One important thing to emphasize is that I went intentionally for around two weeks and was still there after two and a half months.  I think that says a lot.  Katie asked me right at the beginning if I wanted certain working hours and days off or if I just wanted to be part of the family.  Without hesitation I said family and that's exactly what I became.  I hope everything that I write about my experience on their farm shows that.

Here we go! Enjoy!...

Phoebe jamming on the guitar whilst Romy and I sang along.  For most of my stay it was the same three songs... I know every single oooo and aaahhh of Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye.

Phoebe had her first ever gig one evening in a bar nearby.  I took so many photos and videos of her that someone in the audience asked if she was my little sister.  I said yes just to un-complicate things, and because I was so proud.  If she doesn't make it as a famous musician in the future then I'll eat my sock!

Digging trenches for the three new walls in the horses barn.  Katie going crazy with the pickaxe and reaching 60cm down before Luc and I had even reached 40cm.  We were so tired after three straight days of digging that at one point we caught ourselves obliviously gawking at the cement mixer turn over and over.

The doggies:
Enrique; the perfect name for him.  A beautiful, white Pyrenean Mountain dog with the personality of a little girl.
Ebony; a Newfoundland who followed Kate wherever she went.  Loved it when you hugged her with all your weight.
Jody; an Alsatian who obeyed every word you said to her.  If I was to get a dog in the future it would be one just like her.
Archie; the terrier who can only be described by one word: Crazy. He was busy all day long: "Where's my ball?  Oh my god I can't find my ball.  Oh it's ok my ball's here.  Maybe I'll move it over there.  Ok I will.  Right, it's over here now.  Is that ok?  Maybe I should move it there instead."

Nights at the duck farm.  By far the best duck and chips I could ever imagine eating.  The little old woman reminded me of my Granny too.

Bashing new fence posts in the ground around the field.  Me and Katie together took about fifty hits to get them in, then we were embarrassed by Danny alone only taking ten hits.

Me & Dee
Jo, me, & Nick
The neighbours are some people that I will never forget.  Mostly all British; ironic that they went to France to get away from Britain, but all admitted they were happier for the fact they had these friends.  They were all so friendly and welcoming.  I always joked with Kate about her description of most people; "They have the biggest hearts...", but I have to say she was absolutely right about these people.  Phil + Dee (the coolest and classiest lady I've ever known), Keith + Dot (we had the northerner connection going on), Jo (the funniest person alive) + Nick (people say he's quiet but he didn't shut up around me!) + Jade (needs to get her backpack on and come with me), and Chris + Paul all adored the Ashton family, and rightly so.  There is such a positive vibe going on in that small corner of France... who would ever have known?!

Strimming grass, strimming grass, and more strimming grass.  That strimmer was everybody's worst enemy.  I helped a neighbour with their grass... it was taller than me and took two days to finish!

Romy's dance show.  The concentration on her face was just adorable.  Some of the other little girls did completely the wrong dance moves.  Kate was laughing so loud... she definitely ruined that man's video recording!

Bike rides with Luc and Nick.  We went off road and every time I would almost slip off the cliff edges.  Mild exaggeration... but it was scary anyway!

Sleeping in the new bell tent with Phoebe and Romy.  We told ghost stories and got so scared that we all had to sleep together.

Reliving the past:
Making a voicemail for Phoebe's phone shouting "Wasssssaaaaapp!" from the Scary Movie film.  We had to re-do it over and over again until it was just right... I did exactly the same thing with my sister Beth when I was about Phoebe's age.
Another time, Romy and I stayed up really late telling countless "Knock knock" jokes and laughing so hard that everybody could hear us... My sister Darsey and I did exactly the same thing for about two years straight when we were younger.

Mr Goose

Mr Goose and Baby Goose.  Mrs Goose had been killed by a fox months earlier so it was just them two left.  They ran after everybody who went near them and would bite hard if they got the chance.  One night Baby Goose got killed by a fox and straight away I could feel how sad Mr Goose was.  I spent hours sat down near him just talking quietly and he eventually came to me.  After that I was the only person who could walk up and stroke him.

Samatan Market.  The kids and I asked for some chicks and ducklings and Kate caved immediately.  Back at the farm we put them all in the same hutch and the next morning three of the chicks had been accidentally squashed by the ducks.  We took the chick that was left inside the house and hand-reared him.  We named him Squeaky... because he really didn't EVER shut up squeaking!

My duckling Eeyore.  After a few days she turned out to be pretty small compared to the other ducklings.  I took her inside the house from then on so I could look after her and get her bigger.  When everyone else had gone to bed I would get her out and let her run up and down the table.  She got so tired after about ten minutes that she would climb in my hand and fall asleep.  One day a neighbour came round and accidentally left the door open to the kitchen where Eeyore's house was.  One of the dogs knocked her box down and played around with her so much that she died.  I was so distraught and couldn't stop crying all day!

Part 2 is coming soon...!

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