As today is Monday and the beginning of a new work week, I think it is time for an update of what we are doing here at the Moulin Ruel. Here we go:
Like I may have mentioned before, Christine works part-time as a pharmacist in the summer when other families are taking off. This week happens to be one of those times, so Alain and I are here alone (because the Czech couple has also left). Luckily, Christine makes it home for lunch and saves us from a gastronomic breakdown, but for the rest of the day, Alain and I work together on projects. There are five primary ones right now.
After breakfast, the first major task is attending to “Clafoutis,” the milk-providing goat. Knowing that she would be working this week, Christine spent the last week teaching me a crash course on the ins and outs of cheese making, hoping I could replace her while she is gone. The system is working perfectly. Each morning, after enticing Clafoutis into the barn with hay and expertly (okay, just barely) coercing the milk from her udders, I make our daily cheese. First, the current day’s milk is mixed with rennet and whey and left to separate. Then, the separated milk from the previous day is poured either into little moulds and left to dry or kept in its whey. The result is either a small chevre cheese or a cottage cheese called “fromage frais” eaten with jam for dessert.
Having completed that task, Alain and I move onto our primary job of constructing the “chevrarie” or goat house. It is made using “corded wood masonry” which is an architectual form that combines split logs and lime mortar to create an ecologically friendly, attractive, and insulative wall. Check out this site for more information: www.cordwoodmasonry.com/Cordwood.html The goal is to make a small and warm structure to house the farm’s five goats and their three expected babies throughout the cold, Isère winters. More on the project to come later in the week.
After lunch, Alain and I move onto the cutting and splitting of wood necessary for the corded wood chevrarie and the heating of the house. This past Saturday, we finished harvesting all the wood that Alain had cut this past winter and calculated the total of his efforts. I am not kidding when I say he cut and transported fifty tons of logs in three months time. (That is enough for two houses for two years.) Now that it is here on the farm, however, it needs to be cut down to size for the oven or the goat house. While he mans the circular saw and divides logs into foot-long pieces, I split the wood with an ax if it is to be burned or more carefully with a wedge if it is for the chevrarie. The whole process is carried out in a tranquil semi-silence as we cover our ears with thick protectors and move with coordinated precision.
While those three primary activities are the bulk of each day’s work, we also have two other projects planned for later in the week. The first task, the construction of a small cabin, is necessary because all of Alain’s hay fields are not connected to the main property. Thus, to avoid driving on the roads with bulky harvest material, he has a set of tractor attachments for each field. One of these attachments, which simultaneously lifts the hay to aerate and places it into a neat row, is in need of a protective structure for the winter. Theoretically, we will be digging four foundation holes, placing uprights within, and building a roof above.
Last, but most sentimental, Alain and I are planning on constructing a bench later this week. Behind the house, there is a small hilltop that overlooks the entire valley, including a Thirteenth Century chateau and the Alps in the distance. Earlier on, I had mentioned to the family that it might be a nice place to have a bench, so we are going to build one. Hopefully, it will become another symbol, much like the tree at the Petit Ane Bleu, of my time spent here, projects accomplished, and a friendship discovered.
Wishing you all the best,