Thursday, October 20, 2011

And now... more France!

We've only been on bicycles a few of times in the last couple of months. Sorry for the gap in posts. We have been doing a lot of moving about, however, and there is much to tell.

First, the really fun bike ride we went on after leaving Paris was in Basel, Switzerland, and it was a repeat of something we enjoyed last year: ride to swim in the Rhine. It is still thrilling to us both that in this city they have managed to clean the water enough to swim in it, and that people jump in whenever the weather is warm.

lock up the bikes

jump in the water!

Being the second year in a row, we are now calling it an annual tradition. Basel is where we were blown away by bicycle merging onto the freeway offramp to get into the city. It's also where the bicycle parking for the football (soccer) stadium is almost as impressive as the stadium itself. And there's a dinosaur in the park. We are lucky to have friends in Basel and look forward to going back again.

But because this post is about France, let's move on. Basel was a stop on the way to a small farm in rural western France. Somewhere between Limoges and Bordeaux are rolling hills, green and grassy or green and tree covered, and a house sitting gig awaited us.

The place is beautiful. The "town", or cluster of crumbling stone buildings, is almost impossible to find on a map. 

The services are limited to a van that comes up and sells bread to the elderly local population. We were about 10km from the nearest village where we could do any shopping and we had left our bikes in Switzerland. Fortunately, the kind owners took us for a comprehensive shop before they left - all the things that last like grains and beans and things, plus a fairly good stock of milk, cheese, and citrus fruits. The rest we'd have to get from the garden and the chickens.

That's right, a real farm. Ducks, chickens, turkeys, geese all quacking and chirping about, laying eggs every day. Twelve sheep, of a rare breed, who didn't seem to want to stay in their field. A couple of sweet black labs, one young who could have gone for miles and miles of walks all day every day and the other on his last legs. And a couple of cats, one who disappeared within the first couple of days and didn't reappear until the owners returned and the other who brought dormice into the house, sometimes dead, sometimes not so dead.

What a fun place to house sit. Letting the animals out in the mornings, collecting eggs, feeding, watering, walks in the woods, mushroom hunting, sheep chasing and jailing, harvesting vegetables to eat and to dry, and Joshua even used tractors. 

Also a nice amount of time to do some online work and plenty of lovely spots to sit and do just that.

Alfie (short for Gandalf) in the grass, Joshua at the table, 
Pippen in the foreground wondering why I haven't given him a treat yet

definitely a lucky place to be

what is this guy looking for?


We had a really lovely time. Joshua got to do all the sheepy things he hasn't done in a long time. Like put them in sheep jail when they escape, trim their hooves, and even some dagging or crutching. What is that? Well, you tell a sheep to sit on it's hip and then you trim the wool from around their nether-parts. No kidding.

I believe this ram is named Dell. Huge.

that's right, girl, you're next!

they kind of hate it

Joshua knows a bunch of moves to keep 'em from getting up
and yes, he is barefoot

the littlest guy, Norman, didn't try anything - what could he do?

and finally a rare photo of the owners, Peter and Mandy

We had a really nice time taking care of this farm. We managed to get the sheep in a field where they didn't escape, at least for a week or so. And none of the birds were eaten by pine martens. Peter and Mandy were kind enough to let us stick around until our planned trip back to the US for family events, so we did what we could to help them get things harvested, built, and the sheep happy and healthy. We really do hope to go back one day.

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