Where: Mailhac, France
When: June 2017
What: WWOOF’ing with a family of 7 in Mailhac, near Narbonne, who have gone back to basics and are living in roulottes (trailers) and a yurt in a field.
Olivier, our host, came to meet us at the church in Mailhac, as I’m not sure they have an address as such, we drove down the very bumpy track and into their field. When we arrived we saw horses, chickens, trailers and a yurt. We got out of the car and it was so hot, around 40 degrees celsius and no breeze. There was a distinct lack of shade in the field, and we wondered where we were going to pitch our tent. We decided on a field where they sometimes put the horses, it was pretty bumpy, and not surprisingly, full of horse manure. Jess pitched the tent, making a few holes in the bottom from the sharp twigs in the ground. We met our hosts and the family, and also two German girls, who were also WWOOF’ing. It was a bit awkward at first perhaps it was the language barrier, perhaps we were both checking each other out, or maybe everyone was just really bloody hot! We actually discussed leaving there and then, we just didn’t think we could cope with the heat and no shade, oh, and no running water. But we decided to stick it out one night, and we are so glad we did. In the morning we found a better spot for the tent, so weren’t stepping in horse poo every time we came out of the tent door.
Each morning Dylan had the job of feeding the chickens, collecting the eggs, and giving the horses their hay, he couldn’t have been happier.
Our first job was to remove the old wood from the goat enclosure so they could electrify the fence before the goats arrived. They got the goats from a local goat farmer, because they had stopped milking, so the family made use of them to cut back the trees and wood to help avoid forest fires, which is a big problem. Our next and main job was to complete a staircase and build a new outdoor eco shower.
One evening Jess helped Olivier move the bees from their current enclosure, near to the house, to the mountains, where there are more flowers for them. Georgie’s main job was to do the washing up, for 12 people, after every meal! But it made me feel useful and like I was contributing.
We really needed to cool off, so spent our free time at the local rivers, at the amazing Lake Olonzac, at the family pool in the town, and a few visits to Narbonne plage, which despite being pretty commercial, is a really nice beach and so good for the boys, the sand is soft, and the water is shallow, calm and warm.
Grandma came to visit for her Birthday weekend, because, well, any excuse for a visit to France! We went out for dinner, and the following evening took her for a wine tasting at a vineyard owned by a friend of Marielle and Olivier. The wine is all made by agriculture biologique, with no pesticides. They had loads of toys for the boys to play with to keep them out of our hair for an hour and the wine was really good.
We are so glad we gave this place a chance and didn’t just give up, it was such a great experience, the boys had an amazing time, they loved hanging out with the other children. They loved having the responsibility of feeding the animals every morning. And we really saw a change in them, mostly Dylan, who is becoming more and more confident. We learned a lot staying here, it was so interesting to see such a different way of living. The family have given up their huge house with swimming pool in town, to live the simple life, and spend more time as a family. It is really hard work, but they all seem to be loving it. Good on them.