We wake up the next morning and hear roosters crowing in the yard. I have missed animals.
There are chickens, a friendly barn cat, a playful dog with beautiful ice-blue eyes, two cows, a donkey that trumpets loudly from time to time, and a draft horse. The farm here specializes in training draft animals.
There are two other wwoofers – a Swiss girl named Benedicte, and an older Greek guy named Nicolo. They are very friendly. Our host is a small, energetic lady. There is no hysteria or hovering, and there is a wonderful feeling of calm over the whole place.
I think one of the problems with our last hosts was that they were not farmers. They were city slickers who wanted to move out of Nice, suburbanites who wanted a country property and vanity garden in the mountains to brag about. Farms have working animals, junk piles and cluttered workshops, not lawns, micro-managed flower beds, purse dogs, and bohemian yard art.
The house is enormous. I’ve had dreams about houses like this one. Twisting passageways, secret doorways with dark staircases leading off to rooms filled with all kinds of tools or books.
You might push aside a curtain and discover a whole new part of the house at any time, a big attic complex stuffed with old curiosities, or an ancient basement built with rocks that breathes cool, earth-smelling air at you.
Our room is private and comfortable, with a little window and low ceiling. Outside the gardens are brimming with flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Just like in my garden, there are plantings mixing them together.
The mountains, the glorious mountains topped with snow, are always in the distance of every moment, and goat bells ring like music in the morning and evening.
Everything is so practical and beautiful here. Little planters built with cinder blocks along a stair case, stacks of wood, drying bundles of flowers and herbs. I am enjoying looking at the bookshelves and reading the interesting-sounding titles. I feel like you can know a lot about a family from their bookshelves, and here I see fascinating books all over.
The meals are so much better. Still lots of vegetables (which I like) and they are actually from the garden here, not the supermarket like at the other place. There is also homemade Tomme de Savoie cheese, cured bacon, and fresh eggs.
The first day we weed the garden (again), and the Teenager makes some comments, but the feeling of the place is so completely different that this seems like a different task than at the last house.
On the second day we help Nicolo and Benedicte haul buckets of wet cement to the shell of an old house they are rebuilding. Nicolo is a mason by trade in his native Greece. He speaks French with a funny accent and rolls the r’s, and shouts gleefully into his phone in Greek to his buddies in the afternoons. It’s hard work and the Teenager takes some awfully long water breaks.
Afterwards we are all covered with cement. Benedicte has a slight panic attack about getting it out of her clothes, so we all strip down to underwear at the little water fountain up the hill and hand wash everything, laughing.
Hard work is fun when you work with good people.
Later Nicolo asks the Teenager for a haircut. Teenager has never given anyone but himself a haircut in his life, but agrees to try. He does a decent job, but it wasn’t what Nicolo had in mind apparently, because he shaves it all off afterwards.
Then he offers to give the Teenager a hair cut, something the Teenager has been nagging me about for the whole trip. Teenager requests the usual high-and-tight he prefers that chops off all his curls and makes his ears stick out. Instead Teenager ends up with what I guess is a Greek Construction Worker haircut, almost bald on the sides, and kind of like a really short bowl cut in the back. Trying very hard to refrain from calling him “Egghead”.