3 April - to Alps and French border
We make very good time to Cuneo and then we hit the alps. I
convinced Suzie that we should go just across the French border, so we
stopped not far over the border and wild camped in a town.
In the morning I had to fix a petrol leak in the hose from the fuel
tank to the engine. In the cold alpine morning, I lay under the
unjacked car, unscrewed the hose clamp, cut off the end where it was
leaking, plugged the end, then pushed the cut end back on and
reconnected the clamp. Tools used: Swiss army knife and a
stub of pencil (to plug to fuel line temporarily). Resources
consumed: my fleece and Suzie's coat, both of which got soaked
with petrol and had to be tossed.
Suzie picked up our French breakfast of bread, croissants and pan au
chocolate in the local bakery and we continued our slow drive to Nice.
We stopped briefly at a beach outside Nice to give everyone a chance to
stretch their legs. Suzie left a message for our WWOOF hosts, as
we were likely to reach them today. Inland through Grasse
and put off by some detours but eventually got on the right roads.
Had a brief stop to fill up on petrol and with the aid of a WiFi
network at the service station were able to collect emails while sitting
in our 1971 camper!
Stopped en route at an outdoor market where there also was a
playground for the kids. People all very friendly, wind is very
As we head back to the car we get a return call from our WWOOF hosts
who tell us it's fine to come today.
Arrive La Pierre
Carina and Berte have made La Pierre a brilliant place. They
got it as a ruin 3 years ago and did all the work themselves; the house
now has *** bedrooms and is a Gite. They also have a teaching farm
here, and host children's camps in teepees and a dorm room on the farm.
They have 5 children (the eldest 2 are fostered) and lots of
animals: donkeys, ponies, horses, ducks, geese, turkeys, goats and
(very large) pigs. There are eggs in an incubator inside; in 2 weeks
there will be chicks. Our children are very glad to have children to
play with, a large farm to roam around, and animals to see and help out
with. We have been given a room which we can stay in, unless they get a
booking for it. We're glad of having the indoor space, particularly so
because there's a very cold wind.
First day I fixed a pony/donkey feeding box and a donkey cart.
Fixed doors to hen, duck and turkey houses, to keep out foxes and
ferrets or sables or something like that. Starting digging holes.
Dug 9 holes for trees. Moved a big log pile. Set up their
my company's server. Today was our first full day of work;
they were able to give us enough to fill the day and we were able to
manage the kids so we could both work at the same time.
It was I felt a good introduction to the idea of doing our own farm
work, if we end up getting land back in Ireland. The rhythm of the
day for me was: hard physical labour in the morning, then a big lunch,
then some computer work, then back to physical labour mid afternoon for
the rest of the day.
I had planned to hike up the mountain directly behind us with Eli,
but as they wanted to exercise the Donkeys, he and I and Sammy went
along with some of the others; I walked with Sammy leading a nice and
stubborn animal, while Eli alternately rode and led his. Sammy had
difficulty after a while keeping going but with a lot of convincing and
a little food I got him to the Castle where we had a picnic. I
thought we would've had to tie up the donkeys, but they just ate the
grass around us, sometimes coming up to beg food off us.
I was right about tieing them up, actually. As we were thinking
about leaving suddenly the animals bolted down the hill one after
another! Everyone ran after them; I stayed back with Sammy and
tried to hold back the last, big, donkey. I managed to keep him
under control for about 10 minutes but eventually he was so anxious to
join his friends he was getting a bit worrying to hang onto, espeically
with Sammy so close by, so I let him go and grabbed everyone's gear and
headed down with Sammy. As it happens we found Eli just below with
2 donkeys he had tied together - the one we had just let go and his own
one. The others had gone further down the hill and the rest of our
group had followed them. It all ended well, with none of the
animals or people hurt and we took it easy going back.
That evening we
had to move out of the house into a place where they have summer camps.
I drove the camper up and unloaded some gear into an old caravan which
had the 2 main windows blown out in high winds! It started to rain.
It rained all day today. The kind of moderate but soak you
through rain. We arrived down to see a delivery of the new trees
(my holes weren't big enough!) and new poultry, Rosa was very pleased to
see the different birds (hens, turkeys, pigeons). The cockeral had
to be moved from the henhouse because he didn't like the new hens, so he
was given residence in the turkey enclosure. Rosa and I went
inside and closed ourselves in while I worked on fixing all possible
escape (and entrance) routes in the wire enclosure. Rosa spent the
time observing the interactions between the various birds and telling me
which ones were not allowing others to eat, which ones were happy etc.
appeared later and came in and picked up the Cockeral, who had been
hiding in the corner because the other (bigger) birds had been getting
at him. He kept telling me the Cockeral was happy in his arms and
he carried him around inside there while I worked. The Cockeral
really was happy because he didn't struggle at all.
Later I went up to
see how Suzie was doing cleaning up the roofed picnic area (Bergerie).
I made up some soup for later as the cold damp weather was getting us
Later I made a campfire and did some last work putting up
supports against the wind for the new trees.
Shabbat that evening and
a well-deserved escape into cinema.
Very cold night last night and we decide it's enough. We pack up to leave,
and the warm day starts to cool and by the time we're almost done it is
I go down to the house to help with some final stuff on their
computer and Suzie does the last packing and feeding of the kids.
She arrives in later with Sammy Finn and Rosa, crying shivering and
dripping with snow!
The kids go downstairs to warm up while I try to rush the computer
stuff but they are using a piece of software I don't know and the menus
are all in French so it's slow going. Finally it's all done and we
say our goodbyes.
It is a very windy journey. We eventually
wildcamp in a car
park next to a round tower in a small town, and decide it's too windy to
put up the poptop, so the big kids agree to go in with it down.
Parting thoughts - if/when we are WWOOF hosts
If we have a farm, it would be great to plan from the start for the
worst weather, so that when it rained or was windy we'd have covered
passages between buildings or whatever is appropriate. Also if we
set up with WWOOFers in mind I would (1) lay down rules and expectations
on our side and find our there expectations up front. (2) Assume
the best of our WWOOFers. (3) set up common areas for
WWOOFers where they can take food, loo rolls, soap, whatever, without
worry that it infringes on our own stuff. (4) Also layout could be
family-oriented, for example reuse/junkyard stuff either fenced off, out
of the way, or in a building, not just lying around the place. (5)
Regarding use of tools, the toolshed has to be tidy and well laid out so
people can find and replace things easily. Also a small sticker on
items that says what maintenance should be done on it each time it is
used and when the next bigger maintanence task needs to be done.
(6) When WWOOFers are coming, need to take time to be sure everything is
ready for them, especially where they are living and eating, loos,
showers, etc. And then give them time to settle in before they get