Now that the weekend has passed, and I have successfully settled into the life here at the second farm, I want to give you a better explanation of my hosts, the farm, and the other workers.
To begin, the farm is located in the Ardèche region of France, which is maybe 200 km west of my previous location. It is both incredibly hot and mountainous (think a cross between Vermont’s rolling hills and the American Southwest). The farm itself is located on the top of a veritable mountain with curving cutbacks leading to its entrance. As the climate is so hot and the terrain so rugged, the majority of land is devoted to animal grazing. Here they have nineteen donkeys, many sheep and goats, three pigs, chickens everywhere, and the invevitable cat/dog combo.
In terms of my hosts, I have once again had the incredible chance of falling in with a nice group of people. Doni and Inde Bigliardi are the owners and have been farming here for over ten years. They are a relatively young couple, with several children ranging from two to fifteen. Each is a comedian and very kind. In addition, there are several other workers (actual workers, not volunteers like me) who are spending the summer. Mikhail studied forest management and constantly ready to drop a joke at my expense. Lea is an ecology major working an internship in a local city throughout the week and a resident of the farm on the weekends. There are also several others, but I do not yet know there names.
Now, what does the farm do? In actuality, the Petite Ane Bleu is just as much a tourist destination as a organic farm. Though Doni and Inde produced organic vegetables and fruits for sale for many years, they fell upon hard times and have decided to apply a portion of their time to organizing donkey-led nature hikes (hence the Little Blue Donkey title). Visitors from all over France and Europe come here to rent a donkey, walk through nature, learn about organic produce, share experiences, and eat organically produced food. Additionally, as we all eat meals together (hosts, visitors, workers), it is a really good way to introduce people to the WWOOF program and organic farming. Meals are the focal point of exchange and let us introduce people to another way of life, while learning about their own.
Specifically, this morning’s work represents a pretty typical day: we woke early to eat breakfast and prepare a breakfast/picnic for the guests. When I was done eating, I left to feed the goats, sheep and pigs, which are enclosed near to the farm. After, we retrieved, groomed, and prepared the donkeys for the hike. When the guests were successfully sent off, we spent time harvesting raspberries that will eventually become jam that is sold to the visitors. In short, it is a combination of playing host and being a farmer, but I am already starting to see some lessons boiling to the surface.
Right now, I am off for the mandatory afternoon siesta to avoid the extreme heat. Keep your eyes peeled for a more analytical and comparitive post to come.