Saturday, July 30, 2011

P - I - C - T - U - R - E - S

The Castration

Our first farm - injections with the catheter

At the Haras with Celia

Salting the cheese (small scale farm)

The small scale cheese factory

Camembert cheese aging

Our desserts - berry crepe and creme brulee

our entrees

This was a special cheese - they're wrapping a specific type of leaf around each cheese for the aging process. I believe this helps to give a distinct flavor.

The large scale factory's cheese aging

Separating the curds from the whey and then spreading the curds out

Celia, me, and one of the other employees at the bull facility. We were cleaning out a few stalls.

Feeding the bulls! (At this point we were done so we got a ride!)

Me, Justine, and Sebastian eating ice cream

Take two. (aka funny picture)

Our walk Saturday on the coast

Same picture as above, except without me in it

The weirdest toilet I ever saw. Right before our walk, Sebastian and I stopped at the toilets at the beach. We both entered our own stalls and I immediately exited, mentioned that my stall was a shower, and waited outside for Sebastian's. Turns out, it was a toilet. More specifially, a turkish toilet where you plant you feet, go, and pull the string to flush. Good thing I always carry tissues :P

A picture of what we walked Saturday (approximately)

Petit Vantina and me :)

Deux Jours ... et Puis - les Etats-Unis! (2 Days .... and then - the United States! )

Thursday morning with the Vet was such a cool experience! Before we left for the farms, he showed me around the clinic, explaining everything in English, for he was from Belgum and could speak both French and English at the same level. This was good because there were several scientific terms that don’t translate so easily; for example: progesterone = progesterone while pneu = skin. Our first farm was on a farm to see a cow that just gave birth a week prior. She wasn’t excreting her urine properly so the vet had a look. The diagnosis was that the farmer pulled a bit too hard during the birth, wherein he ripped a part of the uterus. In other words, her urine was spilling into her uterus – ow. So he gave her several medications using a catheter for smooth injections. He also gave the farmer medication for the ear for a later date. I was told that this sort of injection was first used by Americans and that it was brilliant because of the withdrawal time.  Our second farm involved two cows which were both not eating correctly. I forget exactly why, but I do know that the cows were too sick to be properly fixed. They needed to be put down, but the farmer wouldn’t listenL. After a quick stop at the clinic to pick up the necessary tools and medications, we stopped at a farm and met with one of the other vets. Turns out, I got very lucky, as it only happens about twice a year… I saw a horse get castrated! Since the anesthesia would only last about 30 minutes(IF the weight that the farmer gave us was correct), they had to work fast. It turned out that their timing was impeccable and the castration was successful.
I was picked up by Laurence(farmer’s wife) for lunch and then left with her and the girls for Rennes. Nicolas picked me up for the last time. I’m staying at his house for the rest of my time in France. Yesterday I spent the morning with Nicolas, visiting twelve farms for inseminations. After lunch, I switched off and left with Damien. He had five farms; however one involved 32 cows and 11 heifers! Julian met up to help. This was fun because I helped read the numbers out loud to identify which cow received which strain of sperm. We eventually made it back to Nicolas’ where the two spent some time talking and I left for a run and later workout. Once dinner rolled around, Nicolas, Anais, and I left for dinner at a Creperie in Rennes. Both my dad and I took them out for dinner as a thanks for everything; my dad was there in spirit … and payment – thank you Dad! Anais and I got a salmon, crème fraiche, lemon, and chive galette with salad on the side (my galette however included goat cheese). Nicolas got one with ham, cheese, and eggs I believe. We shared a bottle of cidre and alter ordered crepes for dessert; one with peaches(me), with salted caramel(Nikos), and with Spekkulos(Anais). It was a great, relaxing, gourmet night out.
As for today, I had the choice to visit the farms with Nicolas/Nikos for the inseminations or stay back. It’s my second to last day here so I planned to spend the morning out in the town, visiting the local shops. I returned with tomatoes, a nectarine, fresh French bread, an apricot pastry, and pictures. (maybe even a bit tanner?) I shared the bread with Nikos and his colleagues for lunch and split the apricot pastry with just Nikos since it was too small and I didn’t know we were having company. Everyone brought their lunch and we ate out on the terrace under the sun. The rest of my day has been very lax- working on my report, watching a movie, etc. Tonight Anais works late so Nikos and I may eat at a friend’s house. I’ve got to run over to the grocery store before they close(7:30pm) because they’re closed Sundays. Hopefully Nikos will finish his work soon! For my last day tomorrow, I have no idea if we’re doing anything or not. It all depends on if Anais is working as well as the availability of friends. It’s going to be beautiful and would be perfect for the beach. Not sure what’s going to happen. Until then.
P.s. My blog is soon coming to a close. 2 days left!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rice is to China as _____ is to France

If you tried to guess where I went Monday and you guessed wine or bread, you were wrong. However, if you guessed cheese, you’re a winner! Yes I went to two cheese factories. Do you know what’s better than French cheese? FRESH French cheese; after touring the large-scale cheese factory I purchased tasted four cheeses and decided upon one of the unpasteurized cheeses, stronger in taste. This first fromagerie(cheese factory) makes its cheese from milked that comes from several local farms with the Normande cattle breed. Although they only truly make four types of cheese, their final output is greatly varied. For example, the cheese could be pasteurized, not pasteurized, have an added Calvados flavor, etc. For the tour itself, Célia and I had the director show us around, explaining in more detail how each process was carried out. I was lucky because the information explaining the cheese history and processes were both in English and French.  However, the videos and our tour guide were all in French.(Not a problem) Afterward, Célia and I went to the closest restaurant we found for lunch. We both ordered a salad with sundried tomatoes and goat cheese on toasted baguette for our appetizer. For our main dish, she had beef and I had a white fish with capers in a creamy lemon sauce with rice and a broccoli and potato puree. Lastly, for dessert she had crème brulée and I had a crepe filled with berries and currants. What a great surprise for lunch!
After our gourmet meal, Célia and I left for the little town on Camembert to visit a small-scale farm that makes their cheese directly from the milked cows on the farm. These cows are special however wherein they are crossbred: a Holstein and a Normande. This way, as is the goal, the breed will develop genetics with the highest milk output that is rich in proteins and fats. This cheese was not put out for sampling, but it was still really cool to see the fabrication of cheese. The special thing about this farm is that everything is done by hand whereas at the other fromagerie, mostly everything is done by machine.
Since we still had time to spare, Célia and I sporadically visited a Haras, or a farm with several horses. This specific Haras was where Célia had her 6 month internship, so she singly was able to show me around as well as be invited in for some juice and treats.
Yesterday was much less eventful, taking place at the office for the whole day. Of course, we went out for lunch, but that’s not the point. My time was spent writing an article in both French and English about my internship here in France. I had Célia help me with the fine points and corrections of my final French article. Otherwise, it would be sloppy. Turns out, they are going to post it in their magazine, which is issued four times a year. As long as they don’t forget, I’m going to receive one in the mail back at home. Upon my return to the house, I decided to grab a bowl, my mp3 player, and go berry picking. Yes, it turns out that they have several blackberry bushes here. Therefore, I’ve been eating them in my cereal for breakfast and whenever else I get the chance. Last night Elyse(15 yr old daughter) and I made a special treat for the family: blackberry and apple crumble a la mode. Since her mom and youngest sister were still at a friend’s house, we set the table and got everything ready for when they got home.
Fortunately, this morning I will be driving around with a large animal veterinarian. I’ll be with him until lunch, where I will be dropped off back at the farm. After lunch with the family, I’m riding with Laurence (their mother) and possibly her daughters to Rennes. Nicolas is going to pick me up and then I’ll be resting at his house until Monday. I can’t believe it’s Thursday – where HAS the time gone?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The First Day of My Last Week

WOW what a beautiful afternoon! It was raining this morning – well misting really – but around lunch time the clouds cleared, the sun appeared, and the air was warm! Before I get ahead of myself, let me start with yesterday.
After our lunch of “oeuf a la coq” with toasted baguette, a large pile of steamed, garden-picked green beans, and a pear and apple tart, Sebastian, Justine, and I left for Dinan (sp?).  As this was a good-sized town, there were several stores open as well as several vendors selling their hand-crafted art.  I ended up buying a wooden, crepe spatula and later had ice-cream with Justine and Sebastian. Yesterday’s weather was better in the afternoon as well. At one point during our walk, we hiked down this very steep, cobble stoned road.  It was about .3-.5 miles in length with a great incline. And of course we had to walk back up. Once we returned, I grabbed my belongings and left yet again. We met Nikos and Anais at McDonalds for dinner, ate, and parted our ways. Poor Anais and Nicolas probably did not get home until about midnight last night since they had to drive an hour to drop me off and then two hours to get back home.
The farm that I am staying at is one with great genetics of the Normande breed.  There are about 70 dairy cows here as well as several calves, heifers, and bulls.  The family is super nice too; comprised of a mother, father, and three daughters (one of which is away for the week).  My morning started out … well a bit iffy: I woke up around 7:15 just to be picked up at 10:15 (as I was expecting my ride around 8 or 8:30). Though, that wasn’t really a big problem. My ride for this week happens to be a girl named Sylia (sp?) who is actually 7 months younger than I am.  For the morning, I met everyone at the office and helped Sylia translate a small portion of the company’s website into English. For lunch, we went to a restaurant with the President, a farmer, and another employee.  Following, I toured the facility of the bulls.  I saw their many genetically favorable bulls (about 180) ranging from the age of ~6 months to ~18 months. These bulls are purchased from farms placed on site until they’re at the age of ~11 months. Then, the employees take blood and semen samples to determine if the bull is in fact a true genetically favored bull. If not, they are sent somewhere else to grow large and then be sent to the slaughter house. (No one ever said the life of a bull was easy). I was dropped back off at the farm around 5:30 and took advantage of this beautiful weather by going for a run and working out.  Tomorrow morning I’m going somewhere really special, but the only way you’ll find out before my next post is if you guess right wherein I’m there to tell you. I shall leave you with this: What is French famous for?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

8 Days and Counting

*Sigh* … the weekend. It’s nice to have a break from working on the farm, as it was a LOT of work. As a result, the day after we finished the cement wall I had a sore back, but it’s gone now. Friday evening Nicolas picked me up from the farm, wherein we later went out with Anais, Sebastian, and Justine to a Creperie! What a wonderful surpriseJ; Nicholas ended up paying for my dinner as a gift. I tell you – my American friends – that the French (at least those in Bretagne) are impeccably nice people.  (Thanks Nikos!!!)
After our soirée, I left with Justine and Sebastian and had a long, restful sleep during the night. The next morning, I ate breakfast like a French(wo)man; a croissant containing chocolate morsels, with tea and a yogurt.  I find here that the French very often dip their bread, croissant, etc into their coffee/tea and so that’s exactly what I did and it was actually very good! After lunch, Sebastian and I visited Justine at work and then left for the beach. No … we didn’t go swimming.  Both the weather and ocean were too cold- not that that was stopping other people from swimming and tanning.  We ended up walking about 5 miles along the coast of the ocean.  I love walks like that: nature walks near the ocean, with the waves crashing against the rocks, the coastal breeze blowing in your hair … simply bliss.  In the end we were tired and sore, but nonetheless very happy.  Later that night, Justine made zucchini gratin with pork chops and then waffles (called goffres here).  Problem was the waffle maker kept blowing the electricity circuit the second it was plugged in.  So she ended up making crepes with the batter; I can officially say that I’ve had waffle crepes! They were the most interesting crepes I’ve ever eaten too due to the resulting crunchy texture.
This evening, Nicolas is going to pick me up and drive me to my last destination in Normandy.  So far I know that I will be staying on a farm for lodging and meals, and will be picked up each morning to visit work related to l’OS Normande.  I know that it involves cows, but that’s about it for now.  The rest of my day here looks rainy and cloudy, so I doubt we’ll be doing much outside. I do know that we’re having “oeuf a la coq” for part of our lunch, as I’ve specially requested it. Basically, it’s a hard partially boiled egg with a liquid yolk for dipping toasty, herby or buttery bread.
I can’t believe I have one week and one day left here. Honestly, I’m getting kind of nervous because I’m taking the train from Rennes to the metro in Paris to the RER in Paris to the airport, where I have a connection in London. There are soo many things that can go wrong, even though my friends have given me the metro and RER map of Paris with the directions specifically written out. Still, I’m nervous. Almost done, but not sure how I’m going to feel once I get back! Wondering if I’ll notice any more differences between France and the U.S.A. once I return?

Friday, July 22, 2011


Cutting, skinning, and cooking fish!

Part of the goat barn

Before - after(as I forgot to take a picture): 4 built walls (6 levels with 11 cement blocks per level). LOTS of work. Result? A sore back.

The milking parlor

Left: after milking vs right: before milking

Frederick giving a goat an injection - I forgot to mention I found a sick goat (half of her udder gave blood and not milk). Long story short, two days later Herve was pulling a dead goat out of the barn :/

Herve with his horse Royal

When the controllers came - you can see the milk being measured out at eat "station"

Yay cement walls!

Pouring the mixed cement

One of the replicants of a large church (perhaps a monastery?), made from small stones

Another piece of art

Me with the miniature Mont-Saint Michel!

This morning - I wasn't too happy with the hay nor pitchfork

The technician for grading the goats

Last Day With the Goats

I got in a fight today. It was between me, a pitchfork, and a pile of hay. Okay, so the pitchfork was on my side. I was TRYING to feed the goats but the dumb pile of hay wouldn’t give. You know when you’re trying to move a large object (couch, table, etc) by yourself, so you try to get in between that object and the wall? And then? You push with all the strength possible, but the darned thing doesn’t move an inch. That was me except in a different perspective: I was lying on top of the block of hay, using my feet to push the layers down, dislodging them from the entire pile. No such luck. I finally figured that if I pushed at a certain angle, I could make it so that the pile was a bit more manageable. In the end I won. However, the hay didn’t let me get away that easy; the bunch of hay left remnants in and on my clothes, in my hair, but luckily not in my mouth (yuck!).
After the normal routine on the goat farm, a technician came to grade several goats for a future competition. He measured several different parts of the goats, including their udder. Speaking of udders, did you know that you can over milk a goat? Yep. It’s not like the milking machine for cows, which automatically detach from the teats. Instead, goat milking is all manual, wherein we have to pull the machine off and attach it to another udder. If they’re over milked, their udder can get sick. Around 5 today, I’m leaving for my weekend. Again, not sure what I’m doing but I’m sure it won’t involve hay.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Day

Today I did the same round of milking, feeding, and bedding the goats as well as cleaning up the barn. Afterward, Frederick and I finished the cement wall. Since we were just about done with the wall, we ended up working until all of the mixed cement was done wherein we didn’t eat lunch until 1:15. Afterward I was expecting to do some more work on the farm, but just so happened to have off until the evening milking. There wasn’t really any work to be done anyway since we finished building the walls. Having this time off, Frederick drove me around town showing me several fields of corn, wheat, and grasses as well as a large factory that heats corn, alfalfa, etc into several small nuggets for dispersal to the farm animals. Even more, an artist lives on a farm in this town.  What I mean is that he constructs replicates of larger buildings(churches, Mont-Saint Michel, etc) from small stones, glass, and cement. He’s about 75 years old now, but I believe still constructs these as it is his hobby. Tomorrow is my last day on this farm and then I’m off to stay at a friend’s for the weekend. Not sure what I’m going to do, but a long distance bike ride may very well be in my future!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 5 of Rain ….

The controller for the milk included three women, rather than my expected “one man” show. The milking took about 2.5-3 hours, but just the same wasn’t too bad. They hooked up these tubes for measuring the amount of milk each goat gave, collected some into a smaller tube for the lab, and typed all of the data onto a laptop in the milking parlor. Instead of immediately hooking up another goat after milking another, we had to wait for the large tubes to be changed. Otherwise, milk would get mixed and both the components and amount of milk from each goat would be unknown. I worked some more on the cement wall and as of now there are only three more layers of the last wall to do! (I wonder what the next task will be once this is done?) Between yesterday and today, I helped again feed, milk, and chase the goats. I say chase here because there are always young goats that love to escape and then run around in the barn. If they leave the barn, they linger for not even a minute and then run back in the barn. These goats are nothing like the cows; they(the goats- most often the young ones) are extremely curious wherein they will stare at you all day long, try to eat your clothes(so yes I have been “accidentally bitten”), and run everywhere jumping on hay or sneaking in the milking parlor when they’re not supposed to. Cows on the other hand: calm, cool, and collected … sort of. Still, goats are quite silly and annoying when you’re trying to finish a task with several mouths yanking on your clothes.
Luckily, we finished work around 7:15 today and the rain had stopped.  Therefore, I went with a run and Antoine came with me. We had to have run about 2.5 miles in our 22 minutes, wherein we then returned to stretch, wash up, and eat dinner. I was extremely happy for dinner: boiled potatoes, steamed cabbage, carrots, leftover green beans, and broccoli and then boiled eggs and sausage. I ate everything but the sausage. For dessert? Blueberry yogurt J. Here in France dessert is often yogurt, but sometimes something else (what we consider dessert). Well off to bed! Bonne nuit! (Good night!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finish vacation and then back to milking the .... GOATS?!?

So the rest of my weekend was filled with … rain :P . Saturday it rained ALL day, but we still all enjoyed ourselves. It turned out that Rozenn’s brother came with his wife, son, and wife’s cousin. Our day involved cooking, eating, playing cards and Rummikub, and talking/telling stories about the past. It was a great day even though we didn’t get outside. Sunday was equally as rainy and windy. So, I went with Rozenn, David, and the girls to the pool! There was a heated pool for the little toddlers, one a bit cooler for laps, and then the main pool: it was heated with fan-like waterfalls spouting out, an area with a fast current – “the river”-, and a seating area with warm hard jets for massaging your back and small cold jets on the seat, in the pool. There was even a slide, and I’m not talking kiddie slide; you could find this at an amusement park it was so long. This place also had a sauna, cold pool for blood circulation, and who knows what else, but that cost extra. The rest of our Sunday included eating lunch with the family and leaving immediately after to avoid traffic. That evening, I helped Rozenn make crepes and then was picked up by Nicolas wherein he dropped me off to my next destination the following Monday.
So now I’m on a farm until Friday evening with goats, rabbits, and a horse. There are 400 goats to be milked, 10 billy goats, and then several young males or females. The milking is definitely not like that of cows. For instance, each goat has only two teats and a smaller udder. In milking, we use one machine per three or four goats. Since they’re not sent out to pasture like the cows, we don’t need to clean their teats so milking is simply hooking them up to the system, manually detaching it, and reattaching to another goat.  The whole milking takes about 1.5-2 hours to do. I must say, goats are a funny animal: they’re very curious and always try to eat anything they can get their mouths on. And that includes your clothing.  So since this is a goat dairy farm, the family of course drinks goat milk. I had it for the first time this morning and it was good!(Not sure if I prefer goat’s or cow’s milk yet … might be cow’s milk, but I’ll decide at the end of the week). The ~30 rabbits here are grown for meat; I feel that the French eat more rabbit than we do, and I still have yet to try it. Their one horse, Royal, used to race, but now spends her time in the pasture. She was a birthday gift for Ervey(the father here) a few years ago and it’s told that she rides fast, so I won’t get the chance to learn how to ride her.
Yesterday I started work immediately after Nicolas dropped me off. I helped Frederick (oldest son of 25) feed the goats and clean up the barn a bit. I also helped dehorn a few goats. For this, imagine a wired cheese slicer, except make it stronger and that’s what you use to dehorn goats. Frederick cut them while either Ervey or I held the goats. Around lunch time, I went to his house to eat with him and his girlfriend, Jessica. Afterward, we had a little break and then went to go work on their cement wall, for the hay barn; this included me, Frederick, Ervey, and Antoine(youngest son of 15). After a café break, around 5:45, we left to milk the goats. In the meantime, Frederick was working on the cement wall some more. Once we finished work for the day, we came back to the house for dinner. That’s when I met Kristin(mom) and Laura(daughter of 23). They both work with chickens, at another location. The mother is quite unique: she loves to chew your ear off and absolutely loves to cook. I think she made 4 meals and a dessert or two last night- not that it was all for dinner... I guess I’ll find out what was tonight?
This morning I started work around 7:25 wherein I helped milk, bed, and feed the goats. I also helped with some more cleaning and cement-wall building. I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of work to do here. It’s great, but I need a good break every once and a while. Ervey also showed me the garden with lots of zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, lettuce, cauliflower, leeks, green onions, and more! (I can’t wait to have a garden of my own- I’ll have lots of fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers<3) Soon we’ll probably continue with the wall and then milk the goats later on. Today and tomorrow morning there’s someone coming to check and see how much milk each goat gives. You know what that means: a LONG milking process. Might try to steal a nap before I miss my chance. Before I forget, I can’t promise pictures because it seems that the internet here is slow so you’ll all just have to wait! A bientot! Until next time!

Friday, July 15, 2011


One of the caves on the farm - for poire and cidre

Didier with his barrels of fermenting Calvados

Me trying to get the calf to eat

Patrick et moi sur le bateau! (on the boat!)

Our 14th of July aperatifs

Foie gras anyone?

Marine(Rozenn's sister), Bruno, and me

Me in a wetsuit! Haha.

I made it up!

One of the boats sailing on the ocean

Our July 14th moon-lit sky

If you look hard enough, you'll see a large strawberry cake in the center, on the top shelf. That's what Rozenn bought everyone for our lunch dessert :)

Our set table for lunch today, out on the terrace

Pork next to our catch from yesterday (makerel)

David with our other catch from yesterday