Wednesday, June 29, 2011

1 Calf, 2 Calf, 3 Calf ... Four?

Around 7:00 tonight, I will be moving onto destination #3- another farm where they have cattle and chickens; maybe I'll eat less beef and more chicken! Starting tomorrow, this whole "destination #" will get a little messy. In other words, I will be at this next farm for only a few days for sleeping and eating. For the duration of my days, I will be working with other people, possibly doing research with a professor, etc(I'll let you know the specifics as soon as I do).

Prior to my leave, I have seen 3 births so far. The "true birth" (wherein I saw the whole birth of a living calf) occurred Monday evening, right after dinner. If it wasn't for the size of the calf's head, I wouldn't have seen the birth. However, Isabelle received a phone call from Jean-Michel calling us down to help him. The calf's body was situated correctly, however its large head made the birth difficult; it was a boy! Effectively, Isabelle and Jean-Michel tied ropes to the calf's two feet and helped pull it out; they pulled when the mother cow pushed, so to avoid hurting her. We left the calf with his mother so that she could lick him dry. Isabelle later went to retrieve him and place him in one of the holding pens. This was no easy task however: after waiting for the storm to pass, she went out a little after 11:00pm. There was wicked, angry lighting, loud thunder, and, luckily, only drops of rain. Isabelle told me that her venture back to the house was very erie; she was alone in the dark with just a flashlight, in a horror film type storm, with a single cow mooing in the background. Okay, so the "cow mooing" doesn't seem frightening, but it was at the time. That night was a restless one; it was very hot and humid, the thunder storm was extremely loud, etc. The next morning, we again woke up to milk the cows. Every morning, the French ask each other "Tu as bien dormi?", meaning "did you sleep well?". I tell you, not one person answered "yes", myself included.

Before I move on, I would like to inform my readers what "milking the cows" entails on this farm. Each day, twice a day, the milking parlor is rinsed prior to milking and the cows are retrieved from the field; Isabelle gets them in the morning and I get them in the evening. We then turn on the milking machines, clean each cow's teats with soap (6 cows on each side of the parlor), attach the milking machines to the cows, wait, and then give them this yellow, antibacterial protecting agent. We do this for all of the cows that pass through; there are a select few that give milk to the calves, wherein the milk is collected in a large metal container. Lately, due to so many births, we've had several cows like this. And the first collection is very crucial because of the colostrum, which is very thick, yellow "milk" that gives a calf its necessary nutrients and immunity. Once all of the milking is finished, we rinse the parlor, scrape all of the manure out of the parlor, hook the milking machines up for cleaning, clean the buckets that were used to feed the calves milk, and then wash the parlor with a blast hose.  If it’s the morning, we also fill a plastic bottle with milk for breakfast. During this time, Jean-Michel is feeding the cows, wherein sometimes I jump over there to help with shoveling and sweeping the fodder closer to the cows. After breakfast and sending the kids to school, Jean-Michel left for a day’s worth of meetings and Isabelle and I did the daily feeding of the cattle and sending the cattle out to the pasture. The two of us went over to the building with the calves to do some bedding and cleaning. We also saw another birth and brought the calf to a holding pen. The life of a cow is quite hard: you’re born, and after an hour’s worth of licking, taken away from your mother into a hay-filled miniature house, bottle fed and eventually bucket-fed.  Then, depending on your genetics and gender, a few things could take place; if you’re a male, you’re likely to be fed until fat and of the age for beef or veal; if you’ve got great genetics, you’re name will be everywhere as well as your sperm. If you’re female, you will most likely grow up to produce milk and, after several inseminations, births, and milkings, you’re sent off to become food. I’m sure glad God didn’t make me a cow! The upside is the pasture, but still.

After we finished with work and lunch, Isabelle took a nap and I did some business of my own. Not too long after I started, I was nodding off and decided to take (yet again) a nap. It wasn’t until 4:00 that I heard a tapping on my door – Isabelle came to wake me up for the evening milking. Prior to, we went to feed the heifers their hay, wherein Isabelle asked me to. In order to feed them, I had to push a large roll of hay. Remember, I had just woken up. I tried pushing the hay with the pitchfork, then with my hands, and then several times by running up to the hay to try and push it- no such luck. Isabelle eventually came over laughing and helped me out. Once we were milking the cows, I decided to finally ask to try some “freshly milked milk”; with a cup in one hand and a teat in the other, I had the freshest, tastiest glass of milk. This morning, we did the daily farm work, filled a large sack with wheat, fixed one of the electric barriers, and fixed some pipes. Since its Wednesday, the children have no school and, even more, have only two days of school left; they helped us with the farm work. Only a few hours left here and I’ve got to do some cleaning/packing.

Until my next destination!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hot, hot, hot

It’s summer! As of a few days ago, “summer officially began”. And the weather isn’t holding back either; it was 78 Saturday, was 85 yesterday, and will be even hotter today. Now I’m regretting my “I miss the summer weather” quote because working in the sun is frankly… awful – bugs, sweat, muggy, and more odors. I don’t mind it though because I saw that the temperature is going to return back to the lower/mid 70’s (at least for most of this week). There wasn’t much to my Friday except relaxing, watching Julie & Julia(if you’ve never seen this movie, I HIGHLY recommend it- especially if you’re a fan of food), and milking the cows. One interesting thing that happened was that the veterinarian came. There’s this one calf that’s having respiratory problems, but we have yet to figure out why. Thus, if I understood correctly, the vet gave injections under the tail of five calves. We’re going to monitor them and see if all of the calves develop the same breathing pattern, briskly inhaling and exhaling. If so, I believe we would figure out the problem- I just have to ask (again) exactly how that works. One additional thing to my Friday was the town celebration! Around 10:30pm we left the house and arrived at a location with hanging lights, live music, children dancing, and several inhabitants of the town. People were either talking, dancing, singing, eating sausage galettes or fries, drinking beer/wine/etc, or a combination of the few. The last song I heard was in English: “Bye bye my Roseanna” and was brilliant in harmony. Right after, we all headed to the field to watch the fireworks (at midnight)! I heard so many exclamations: c’est magnifique! O, c’est cool! O la la! ... It’s going to be so odd to come back home and have the sun set before 9 o’clock; it does not become dark until about 10:30pm here. Though, it was nice to be able to go to bed in the dark Friday night.

Saturday morning, after having about 5 hours of sleep, I woke up to help milk and feed the cows, fed the heifers and calves, restocked buckets of fodder, and helped move heifers to the farm(this time a success). Right before lunch, we all went to HyperU to do some grocery shopping. As compared to SuperU, HyperU is much bigger with small stores inside, a café, etc; I would say the comparison is similar to Wal-Mart and Super Wal-Mart. I was able to buy a coat for 2 Euros just outside the store, which made me very happy because I will no longer freeze during my evenings out! As a side note, I am often very cold and so wear several layers of clothing when it’s cold/cool out. Once we returned, ate lunch, and put Esteban to bed for his afternoon nap, I turned on Ratatouille and started prepping the dessert with Ines; that was the first time I ever watched Ratatouille in French. Unfortunately, Isabelle came in with Ines’ homework, but we were still able to enjoy the film and amiable atmosphere of the kitchen. Now for the guessing game. What did I make for dinner? Here’s your hint: dinner was an American dish, with a bit of Italy tied in- we are a melting pot after all. No, I did not cook pizza, but yes I made spaghetti and meatballs! The family loved it and I was relieved because the children were against the sauce and side of spinach, but after tasting the dish, they loved it! (Well, except Ines who dislikes spinach and practically refused to eat it- she’ll come around.) I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but the meatballs were delightfully scrumptious; I found the recipe on, under Tyler Florence’s spaghetti and meatballs. I forgot to mention that Isabelle has a well-stocked kitchen with several gadgets that you would find in a top chef’s kitchen; the costly mixing bowls, several rubber molds for cooking/baking, etc. Since I obviously needed ground meat, she was able to personally ground up the meat (that comes from the farm) by using an attachment on the mixing bowl (which can also peel fruits and veg’s!). We then enjoyed sandwiches for dessert, with a selection of homemade oatmeal raisin or oatmeal chocolate chip cookies around chocolate or vanilla ice-cream. After dinner, it was bedtime. It seems that everyone had trouble sleeping because of the heat, but I remain awake, in need of no nap – how odd.

Sunday morning, after milking the cows, I went for a sunny, God-filled, country run. It’s always great to get your daily exercise. It helps you keep a healthy, properly functioning, fit body and raises your serotonin level (exercise makes you happy!). Around 11:00, we all left to visit Jean-Michel’s grandmother! She is a 97 year old, talkative, jolly lady. She lives in an old folks home and her husband just died last year; either they knew exactly how to live to stay healthy, they have great genetics, or both. Mamie(“grandma”) also does a lot of sewing and knitting- I would love to learn. Despite her age, Mamie has the spirit of a child: she’s talkative, lively, and very sweet.  Around 12:00, we left for the Kermesse (school’s celebration). After enjoying lunch together, all of the students dressed up in costume to march from their school back to the Kermesse.  There were witches, gypsies, fairytale characters, and the more. Back at the Kermesse, the games started up: duck racing, dart throwing, pool games, a slip and slide, and more. The parents buy tickets for their children and the children use them for the games/rides or for the bake sale; all profits go to the kids for school field trips and such. I ended up helping with the bake sale, selling their assortment of cakes(made by the parents), crepes, galettes saucisses(galettes with sausage), candy, and the more. At one point I bought an éclair, expecting what I deem a “real éclair”, only to find out that it was basically a doughnut with chocolate frosting and chocolate sugary crème inside; after I took a bite, I gave it to Jean-Michel and he finished it for me. Around 7:45pm (~2 hours after the scheduled “closing” time), we got ready to leave. Right before then, several adults were thrown into the pool, wherein I was almost one of them! After crouching down in a ball, basically whining (in French), and having the women protect me, the guys(family friends) decided to give up (phew!). Even though it was 8:00, the sun was still very hot; I could have gotten a tan! The night was a difficult one because the weather was so hot (~90 degrees). Even more, today is supposed to be 95! However, a quick storm passed and broke a bit of the heat. Nevertheless, it’s still hot.

That leaves us with today- what did I do? Well, you know how you wake up in the morning and after an hour or so, you’re finally awake? That didn’t happen to me- I was tired ALL morning. I helped milk the cows and send them out to pasture, clean up some, retrieve heifer calves from the field, and watch another embryo collection as well as several inseminations. Jean-Claude was our technician, where he was able to collect 8 viable embryos (a good collect). Last time, we had to perform two collections wherein we only collected 7 viable embryos. While he was inseminating the last 3 heifers(of the 10-12), I laid down on top of the hay and tried to take a nap. Once Jean-Claude was done, we brought the heifers back to their grazing and went to the house. At this point it was 11:35 so I jumped in bed, set my alarm, and took an hour long nap. My timing was perfect wherein I woke up to a wonderful aroma luring me to the kitchen. Isabelle was making galettes(from the Kermesse) with bacon, crème fraiche, slices tomatoes and potatoes, and an egg; add a bit of freshly cracked salt and pepper and I was in heaven! For dessert, I tried “Le Far Bretons”; it’s a specialty cake in Bretagne made with prunes/raisins and is divine.  I ended up getting the recipes for galettes, crepes, Le Far Bretons, and “French” lasagna(anyone have a meat grinder I can borrow???) from Isabelle; I can’t wait to cook them at home! I have only two days left here; I leave Wednesday. Perhaps I will return in the future, perhaps not…

Exactly 5 weeks left in France – where has the time gone?

A Bientôt!

The Vet with Isabelle

One of our newest family members!

The town festival/celebration

The fireworks!

The view from my room


A part of Mamie's room - look at the knitted duck!!

Pirates at the Kermesse

Esteban on the mini float

Ines the witch!

At the right: a girl crossing the pool ; at the left: a boy racing with bunny ears

Esteban on the mini zip line

The bake sale

Bring the heifers to the farm

Me and the heifers!

Insemination time!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cows, Calves, and Meetings

I found a solution to the bad weather vs working out dilemma: I can work out where they house the cows! Of course, it’s where only people and tractors go- aka on the opposite side of the cows. This way, if it rains, I can still exercise. I ended up working out Monday and Tuesday, but not yesterday. I had pushed it a bit too much and so Wednesday I was way too sore. In fact, for the morning, I would compare myself to a zombie robot: I was doing what was necessary for the farm with a dead on straight stare as if I was sleep walking. Therefore, after breakfast, I took a 1.5-2 hour nap AGAIN. (This was my 3rd day in a row of taking a 1.5-2 hour nap, which is very unlike me.)

Tuesday was a day of cleaning up the farm. Isabelle and I got to ride on the front of the tractor as if it was a ride at the fair! Once we rounded up all of the empty bags, mini rope, and so on, we hopped in the tractor with Michel(grandfather) and drove to the area where they burn their garbage. It’s not very good for the environment, but it’s better than taking up more dumpster space on this Earth. (We don’t want Earth to turn into WALLEE’s Earth after all!) That night, we all enjoyed Croque Madames for dinner; bread stuffed with eggs, ham, and tomatoes all baked in the oven with Swiss cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday was … well let’s say there have been better days. For one, the wind was very angry, making everything much more difficult outside. Isabelle, Esteban, and I did some weeding in the garden and eventually moved on to filling another sack full of some sort of fodder for the cows. In the middle of our work, Isabelle’s friend stopped by and they went inside to have a chat over some OJ. (They don’t drink too much coffee or tea) I decided to stay outside and continue with the work. Not even 2 minutes later, Michel showed up and helped me fill the rest of the sack, wherein we then hitched it onto the tractor and brought it over to the cows. Following, we commenced the milking of the cows and then all went out to rally up some heifers from another pasture. It was really annoying because the heifers kept breaking the electric barrier as well as turning back around to the original pasture. We ended up only taking one back because she was giving birth! During our walk back to the barn, an intern, Marlen, from a local goat farm joined us in helping with the birth. The problem was, the labor had started days ago and they were some complications. As a result, the calf was somewhat dry, making the birth very difficult. It took many hands, many ropes, and lots of lubricating oil to get this calf out of the poor cow. If you haven’t guessed yet, the calf had died days ago. The next morning, someone came to retrieve the calf for proper incineration and disposal. It was sad: it was the first birth of the heifer, but the calf didn’t make it. In the end, she turned around to see what had caused her so much difficulty and pain; I don’t know if she realized what it was, but it was nevertheless a sad sight.

 For yesterday, Jean-Michel and I went to a meeting for the Normande cattle breed. It turns out Nicolas, Sebastian, David, and a few other people that I knew had come to the meeting! I also met some more French interns as well as one from the Netherlands(He didn’t speak very much French – English was much preferred)! The meeting was all about the Normande cattle breed from milk production to fertility to everything else really. Normande heifers(36 months I believe) are inseminated later than are Holstein heifers(24-28 months). I believe the reason being is the size of the cows; Holstein cattle are larger than are Normande and so grow larger sooner. Also, Holstein cattle(which by the way are the black and white cows) produce more milk. However, Normande cattle(white, brown, black, brown-red – in my opinion prettier J ) produce milk with a higher concentration of proteins and lipids. Therefore, Normande milk is more often used for the production of cheese, yogurt, etc. The meeting ended up lasting 3 hours, but since I had friends sitting by me it wasn’t so bad … I was also reading my French expressions book since “French cow talk” is really hard to follow. Afterward, we had lunch and then all left for the farm. At the farm, several presentations were taking place: cows, heifers, calves, fodder/food, and tractor technology for feeding the cattle.  I didn’t get through all of the presentations because we left to milk the cows back at home. Nevertheless, I still got some pictures!

This morning I helped again with the milking, had breakfast, and then was given time off for myself. So now I’m sitting at my computer relaxing with my pillow and blanket, searching for recipes (for France and home<3), listening to Sarah McLachlan, and who knows what else. Tonight we’re all going to see the fireworks for the celebration of the town. Here in France, there are many celebrations: each individual town, music, school, etc. Do we have days like these back in the U.S.?

Isabelle bottle feeding the day old calf (now about 5-6 days old)

Jean-Michel feeding the cows silage(contains corn, hay, alfalfa, and more?) with the tractor. Afterward, he gives the cows their minerals (salt and a mixture of calcium, phosphorus, etc)

Jean-Michel, Michel, Mary-Lyon, me, and Marlen helping with a birth

Father and son with the stronger, more durable rope. In this picture, you can see the calf's two legs and head, with its tongue sticking out.

Presentation #1 - Nicolas at the right

David presenting a Normande cow

Normande heifer calves

Somehow these picture didn't make it in my past blogs: (now you can see me on the horse as well as me with Nicolas and Anais at the beach!) 

*Life is good* ... J’aime bien la vie (I love life)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Musical Videos - Family Talent**

 Chantal, Gabie, their children, and some cousins singing - Chantal made the song.
One of the cousins playing the Accordion!


Ines getting ready to help me bring the cows out to pasture

Ines, Esteban, and me

The apple tart that Isabelle made

The rotating, circular milking parlor

The pregnant cows that are out in the farther pastures.

The church

The table for Sunday lunch

Our main dish

Our salad with hot cheese

The family's nephew (Pierre?) with his cake

Several of the kids
Our foie gras

Our dessert (taken apart)

Me with all the children

The family and me


Day 6 of clouds, rain, and wind. I can’t wait for real summer weather; I’m not sure I’m going to get that until I return to the US however. Yesterday morning was nice, but of course the clouds moved in and changed the beautiful weather. The day started out with the daily morning milking, feeding of the calves and heifers and cows, and then a confirmation of healthy cows. What I mean by this is that it turns out there are more cows than I thought! (around 170 or 180). These cows are out in other pastures that, in guessing, are also owned by Jean-Michel. If so, he has a whole lot of land!! (For the house, farm, animals, and crops) As I was saying, the reason the cows are out in the pasture is in part that they are expecting calves within about 2 months; the farmers told me that they stop milking pregnant cows two months prior to the expected birth date. Once we were all done with the farm work, we headed back to the house to have breakfast with the kids. Then, we all got ready for the day and left for church/the communion. This church was more modern, but still beautiful and majestic as are all the others. The service was better too for some reason- as compared to my first French church service. I felt the atmosphere was brighter and friendlier- possibly due to so many children- and I also understood more of the service. When we all received communion, I asked Isabelle what we were supposed to say after we received the bread. This is what I heard: Etudie Amen. Translation: Study Amen. So I was thinking, okay if that’s what you’re supposed to say. So once I received the bread, I said “etudie Amen” and went to sit back down. I realized that Isabelle had actually said “…tu dis Amen”. Translation: You say Amen. The boy dispersing the bread must have thought I was nuts! After the service, I met many many family members wherein we all met up at the restaurant for lunch.

The room was set beautifully for lunch, with a green badminton theme due to the nephew’s(Pierre) interest. When we sat down, we were served champagne with peanuts and mini crackers, a badminton racquet with birdies filled with chocolate candies, and mini amuse-bouches (toast with salmon, toast with cheese, and mini pigs in a blanket). We were then served duck foie gras with an onion and currant jelly(sounds weird but was very good) and toast; this was paired with a sweet white wine. After our “entree” (in English- appetizer), we were served our plat (entree). This dish included veal, a baked and pealed apple with a dab of jelly, pomme de terre farcie(a stuffed potato), and sautéed mushrooms, all surrounded by a creamy crème fraiche sauce. Then it was time for dessert! Nope – I lied; we still had one dish prior to dessert! This was a simple salad with hot cheese baked in a light pastry dough, resting on a bed of lettuce, and situated next to a thick fruit vinaigrette. We had finally made it to dessert: little balls of dough filled with a small amount of thick cream and surrounded by sugary hard caramel candy and chocolate candies. The meal was simply exquisite along with great company and music too! The family is quite musical from singing to piano, guitar, and accordion playing. In fact, the mother (Isabelle’s sister) made a song for her family to sing. If all goes accordingly, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the music on my blog.

Lunch finished around 3:30pm and we were heading over to the family’s house for the rest of the day. Just before we left, we all took pictures and then lo and behold three people on horseback crossed our path. All three were very kind and allowed the children to each have a turn on the horse. You’ll never guess who else got to ride the horse too… me! It was great! I would absolutely love to learn how to ride a horse- perhaps in the future. Arriving at the house I brought my laptop, Magicjack phone, and such to make a few Father’s Day phone calls. Well, the internet did not want to work for my laptop, the Magic jack did not want to work for their computer, and the family’s laptop didn’t want to work for either. Chantal(mother) was very nice and ended up letting me call my dad from her house phone. In the end, I couldn’t get through to anyone, wherein I was limited to leaving a few voicemails. During the whole process, more and more girls came in to see what I was up to and were very curious to hear me speak English as well as write an email in English. They also tried helping me set up my MagicJack phone, but as I said earlier, no such luck. Once I gave up, we all headed out to the garage to sit with the rest of the family and friends for mini amuse-bouches and champagne. Following, we immediately went upstairs to Marie’s room and talked about horses, dogs, puzzles, and the French language. Marie is currently working on a 1000 piece puzzle of Mona Lisa and she’s only about 9 years old! (she appears very intelligent and mature for her age). Most of the girls told me that they ride horses or “double ponies”, which are larger than a pony, yet smaller than a horse. As for the French language, they wanted me to both say and write something in French to see how my grammar was. One of the girls tricked me; in the French language, there are times when one has to add an “e” at the end if feminine or an “s” if plural; I forgot the “e”. We then had to go back for dinner- not that I was hungry. All of the girls were following me, wanted to sit near me, etc. I loved it! I love little children and the little girl inside me still lives and will live on forever; I’ve just grown responsible and a bit taller is all ;). The dinner was much lighter with platters of sliced meat, potato-like salad, lettuce, tomatoes, cantaloupe, cheese, bread, and strawberry cake. We had to leave a bit earlier than everyone else because of school the next day, so we left at 10:00pm.

As for today, I helped milk the cows in the morning, had breakfast with the family, and was given time off until lunch. I ended up taking a wonderfully peaceful 2 hour nap, waking up just in time to help set up lunch. We had fresh lettuce as well as leftover creamy beef bourguignon stew. Today feels like a somewhat lazy day – too bad it’s not nice out because then I’d go for a run… no such luck. Peut-etre a demain? (Maybe tomorrow?)

On verra! (We’ll see!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Technicalities of Milking

Meuhhhh!!! That is actually French talk for moo! (So if you ever talk to a French cow, now you know how ;) ) And of our lovely cow friends, there are a few that need certain attention. What I mean, for instance, is that some cows only have two or three teats that "function" (give milk). There are only about two or three cows of the 70, but nonetheless one must pay attention. Therefore, we have these orange caps that are molded to fit into the milking machine for the teats that don't function; this way no bacteria will be sucked in and contaminate all of the milk and also the milking machine can function properly. These cows lack four fully functioning teats because other cows in the past(as a calf or heifer) had "nursed" from these malfunctioning cows. Those nursing cows now wear plastic nose rings that poke other cows in the udder so to say "look out"! For another technicality, once a cow has birthed a calf, the farmers must pay attention to the subsequent milk. The first milk after birth is colostrum which contains very essential immunoglobulins, antibodies, and several nutrient factors, all necessary for the calf's immunity. The farmers milk the mother cow and place the colostum in a freezer with other bottles of colostrum. Prior to feeding the calf, they compare the quality of the milk to decide on the best for the calf. The reason being is that some mother cows do not always yield the best quality colostrum and so the farmers look for the best for the baby calf. There are more procedures and such for the cows, however I can currently not think of the others.

So that leads us to Friday! Friday I went with Sebastian (David didn't come), where we travelled 2 hours on a bus with several other colleagues and farmers. In fact, Pierrick and Verronique as well as a few other familiar faces were on the bus with us! The problem? It wasn't the fact that the weather was windy, rainy, and cold. The problem was that when I left that morning, i left something at the house- any guesses? Doubtful that you would guess correctly, I'll tell you; it was my voice. Yes, my talking was set at the "whisper setting" with the volume of .1 ... Needless to say, I had very few conversations. It wasn't my day. At times I felt like Ariel the Little Mermaid when she lost her voice: nodding my head, waving my arms, making faces, etc. Nevertheless, the day was interesting. When we arrived on the farm, I was able to see the circular milking contraption. It turns out that there are no robots that do the milking, but rather it is the same as on every farm. The only difference is that there are many spots for the cows and that the platform rotates in a circle so that a cow can easily enter and exit the milking parlor. After the parlor, they presented some cows and spoke about their milking yields, pedigrees, etc. (Again with the confusing technical french) Following, I saw heifers, bulls, and baby calfs! In fact, I saw one that was just a day old and it was soo mignon (cute)! After our coffee/tea/hot cocoa/orange juice gathering, we left for home. As it is mid June, Sebastian had his final Judo meet, where the teammates were presented and new belts were distributed; Sebastian received a brown belt after just 3 years! (The next color is black.) Along with Justine(his girlfriend) as well as the other teammates and coaches, we all enjoyed galettes with sausage, fries, salad, and crepes for dinner. As it was nearing mid-night, Justine and I left to sleep.

In the morning, my body decided to wake up at 7:30am, believing that it had had enough rest. I ate breakfast with Justine and after she left and Sebastian woke up, Sebastian and I went for a bike ride! It lasted an hour, wherein we did about 10 miles; it was a great work-out. We even stopped at a cherry tree and enjoyed a little snack! (I couldn't do that in my neighborhood even if I wanted to). Once we returned, we left for Jean-Michel's farm. Later on, I milked the cows with the whole family: Jean-Michel, Isabelle, Ines, and Esteban. When I turned the hose on to wash the milking platform(in between milkings), I didn't grab the hose and so it gave me and Isabelle quite the shower. Even though it was just water, I felt bad, but couldn't stop laughing. The hose had only showered my leg whereas it had showered Isabelle's face and part of her body. In the end, it's just water. After the milking, we all helped bring the heifers out to graze. In doing so, you have to open many barriers that are electric wires connected to keep the cows in. Poor Ines tried to close one of the barriers and ended up grabbing a loop of wire in trying to make it easier to close. In effect, Jean-Michel screamed becuase shocked her hand without realizing what she was doing. After a few tears, she was just fine, but I couldn't stop laughing because of Jean-Michel's scream. (of course I did it discreetly, but still ...) Once the heifers were in the pasture, we all jumped in the car to drive back to the house. You'll never guess who was driving- me. I say this because I've never learned how to drive a stick shift car. I mostly learned the petals and the concept of the gears; I just need to know where the gears are (Isabelle switched gears for me). So I have officially driven a stick shift car! It definitely gives you something to do rather than our common automatic cars in the US.

For dinner, we ended up ordering pizza and it was thinner than our traditional NY style pizza, giving it a crisper crust. I was going to watch Ratatouille in French with Ines and Esteban, but they had to go to bed early tonight because of tomorrow; we're going to a communion of Isabelle's nephew and we're getting back late. Also, Esteban will not have the chance for a nap and so sleep is of the utmost importance tonight. Well ... for another evening I suppose. Happy almost Father's Day for the Father's out there!

A trop tard! (Until much later!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cows, Kids, and Cuisine

Happy Thursday! I can not believe that it's the 16th of .. June?!? Yeesh, time flies. I've been having quite the experience here in France. Before I left for this internship, I didn't know what to expect and now? I still don't know what to expect - someone else is doing all of the scheduling for me! (And I send great gratitude to those people - Jerome and Nicolas as well as others). It's nice living my life day by day here, not exactly sure what to expect the next day. And it's also nice to have someone else cook instead. Granted, I don't always cook at home - Sean, Dad, Mom, etc(thank you all) - but I do it enough to appreciate when someone else shops for the food and cooks. I feel in this world we sometimes forget to appreciate what others do and especially how much they've put into what they give - time, work, money, love, and the more; make sure that other's know that you are thankful by verbally saying so. Otherwise, we assume and, as a results, others feel used - unappreciated. Also (for those who have become open with God), don't forget to thank Him too - He was the one to create this world you know .. and everything in it - past, present, and future. Ps - Father's day is coming up.

Okay, I'm not here to lecture you, but to tell you about my life in France.  Tuesday was my busiest day here so far; I milked the cows twice, helped feed all of the animals, did some lifting, lots of walking, and all retrieved the cows. For the milking, Jean-Michel's mother comes to help; she is short, stout, and strong, but sweet. Jean-Michel's father works with the plants(corn, hay, barley, etc); he doesn't like working with the animals too much. It turns out that there are several trees next to the farm that grow truffles- and I'm not talking about chocolate. Truffles are a type of expensive mushroom that can be shaved on top of food, like parmesan cheese. I believe they can't be harvested until the trees grow much larger, wherein you can then dig for the mushrooms. Yesterday I didn't do too much work on the farm. Isabelle let me sleep in because I wasn't feeling so well(I'm still a little sick, but now I think I'm losing my voice). Also, the children (in primary school) don't have school on Wednesdays, so we did a lot of playing and hanging around while mom and dad did some work. Esteban(son) was in the tractor with his father and Ines(daughter) was with me and her mother. Ines calls me her big sister and I call her my little sister; she and Esteban want a big sister, but that's impossible to ask of their dear mommy, so they've got a temporary one. But that's a problem ... Isabelle told me today that she wants me to stay for a much longer time and that she doesn't want me to leave the children, especially Ines who is becoming very attached. Why do I have to live in another country, and so far away?? I told her that in the future, I will try to come back. (I just need to find the money, time, etc)

Anyway, for lunch, we had Isabelle's brother over wherein she made a delicious salad with lettuce, bologna, cheese, eggs, balsalmic vinagarette, and who know what else. We also had some BBQ'd chicken with boiled potatoes and the tarte aux pommes (apple tart) that Ines, Isabelle, and I had made. (The food here is really delicious- Isabelle cooks to the taste and never measures anything; she is a really good cook.) Later in the afternoon, Ines and I retrieved the cows for milking, wherein she then "milked the cows with us"; she's too small to actually milk the cows so she did some mini side jobs.

Today, Jean-Michel had a meeting to go to and the farm work was at a minimum; two milkings and preparing a full 500 kilo bag of shredded wheat. For "shredding" (proper term?) of the wheat, someone switches on the machine, the wheat falls and fills a metal bin, and then goes through the shredder and comes out through the bottom. We were shoveling and filling buckets, emptying the buckets of wheat into the bag, and surveying the metal bin to avoid overload. I found it to be very fun! Around 10am, we left to do some food shopping, get a cell phone fixed, and stop at the Vet for a certain cow product(?). After we dropped the food off, we went to the mall! I didn't end up buying anything, but Isabelle purchased a pair of pants, perfume, face products, and a father's day gift for Jean-Michel. I ended up getting a few free trials of perfume after we left the perfume/make-up store; I was even given a mini trial bottle of Chanel #5. I don't really wear perfume, but nonetheless I have to say that it's still pretty cool. Lastly, for dinner we had rice with fish and French mushrooms with a creamy delicious sauce that I was planning to make in the future. I am saying "was planning" because it turns out that one of the ingredients comes from a container that is probably not sold in the U.S. So much for another good recipe to add to my book!

Well it is officially 10:00 and tomorrow I am going to be working with David and Sebastian again. We're going to visit a farm that has this very expensive milking technology that enables the cows to be milked by a robot, except in a rotating circle! Once I put pictures up, it will be more clear.

Bonne nuit! (Good night!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pictures Following

The calf suckling the other calf's ear (covered in milk)

(Les cailles) The quail - 4,000!!

Isabelle behind the calves

The milking parlor

David and Rosenn

At the market - they had chickens and rabbits with their heads still on!

Vegetables at the Market

The ocean view from the beach house

The dining room in the beach house

A view of one of the boats after the ocean's descent

One of the rooms in the beach house

The ocean