Friday, 31 August 2012

THE DAY


I am staying in a little caravan for these first three weeks of my trip, the farm is out in the countryside near to Mouries in Provence. Since caravan in French is la caravane and la is feminine, my caravan has been referred to as “she” which sounds affectionate to me but is normal in the French language. Apart from the wasps coming in and out, the possible wasp nest in one of the cupboards and the semi broken window that has let in a heavy rain shower, she is old but also cosy.


I have been getting up at 7 or 7.30. By that time I can hear that the milking is taking place down in the farm from the sound of machinery that is whirring in action and the shouts to the goats to move along the platform once their turn to be milked is over.


I drink a cup of tea, in a bowl, French style and then go down to the fromagery at 8, where I put on the plastic apron, hair net and white clogs. I am then ready to go from the cop webbed, dusty environment of the barn into the inner heart of the building, the dairy. In the sterile air conditioned dairy the smell is clean but milky. I wash up buckets, (seau) with just hot water but not soap, I unload the fromage moulds from the washing machine and stack them on a drying rack and I ladle soft fromage into clean moulds draining off the whey as I go. When the milking is over I rinse the soft muslin clothes that have strained the milk and the large metal funnel and the ladle (louche) and place everything to dry.

Then it might be time for a breakfast of more tea, fruit, yogurt, and honey. After that there is most likely more cheese to make, maybe Fromage, Faiselle or Brousse. The Brousse would have been left to cool after the hot milk’s encounter with the vinegar which made it curdle and cling together. I pour a scoup of the mixture through the muslin clothe separating the curd from the whey and then turn it with the ladle so all the liquid drains off until it reaches a grainy, sturdy but soft consistency. Then I spoon the prepared cheese into containers dependant on the orders (commandes). Once all of it is done and all the equipment and floor is cleaned, it might be time to get the lunch ready. The meals are feasts of fresh vegetables and fruits from a local organic veg box and various proteins like meats, fish or eggs and of course goats cheese and then fruit after.

After a siesta and at about 3.30 or 4 o’clock depending how hot it is, I take my small backpack, with water bottle, dog’s water bottle and bowl and head down to the farm where the goats are waiting at the gate. I spend 4-5 hours in the prickly scrubland countryside with them and the dogs, guiding them through the vallons and hills apart from when they take the lead and guide me instead.

On returning to the farm we must give eleven little goats their special food in an enclosure within the enclosure and battle cheeky bigger goats out of the way. We must give Hortense, one of the kids a drink of milk from a bowl, encouraging her to drink it like a grown up and not from a bottle. Once everything is in order it is time to eat and then head to the caravan to go to bed.

I like the pace of the day, working a little bit before having breakfast, taking a siesta after lunch and giving the goats the time they need grazing gives the day a steady routine.