and so it begins

Last week Fañch trekked to the other side of the region to surprise me with material for making cheese and butter. I got a call around 9pm saying not to worry but that he would either behome late that night or the next morning. Of course I was confused as the last I had heard he was simply spending the day spreading manure in the fields. As it turns out, he was already 3 hours away and by the time he finished picking everything up he might be too tired to drive home. In that case he would sleep a few hours in his car before returning the next morning.

Well by 11pm he messaged to let me know he was going to go with the second option and sleep in his car before continuing with the long drive home. What I didn’t know was that he was actually stranded at a gas station having filled his car with gas instead of diesel. Not wanting me to worry about his current state of “stranded-in-the-middle-of-nowhere” he simply told me he was going to wait until he was well rested to return. Eventually he was able to borrow a tool from a passing family in their camper and proceeded to empty the tank. However this turned out to be quite a long process, punctuated by a visit from the gendarmerie who had been called to check out this strange man seen siphoning gas out of a car in the middle of the night. So, after this mishap and earlier road construction, missed exits, and detours, Fañch climbed as quietly as he could into bed at 4:30am. As usual, his alarm went off at 7am and he was with the cows by 8.

Pictured below are the two main machines he brought home with him that night (plus a stainless steel table that just barely fit in his car).

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This is the machine that will make cream.
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Afterwards the cream will go in here where it will transform into butter.
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playing house

Annie and Jean-Yves have left for the week on vacation (a few towns over) so Fañch and I are staying at the farm while they are gone. It feels great to be staying in the house and it makes me excited for the day when we will call it our own.

The weather has certainly taken a shift towards autumn. Now when we head outside in the morning there is an additional layer or two beneath the rain coat. Because yes, the rain is back as well. Though I am certainly not complaining, hearing it fall from the palm fronds in front of the house or dripping into the rain barrel are two of the most pleasing sounds at the farm.

While his parents are out of town I will be helping with the milking some more. The other day Fañch and I milked the cows and at the end we both remarked how much we enjoy doing that together. By now we have found a good rhythm and the hour passes quickly as we work together like a well-oiled machine.

Hopefully sometime next week we will go and pick up some of the supplies for cheese-making. I am eager to get started and see what I am capable of producing. Plus Fañch is excited to be the guinea pig for all my attempts.

My dad sent me two jars of peanut butter in a care package for my birthday and I am down to about half a jar. I’m debating making peanut butter cookies but then my PB stock would be back down to zero. I think I need to just start making homemade peanut butter as well.

August 20th, 2016

Well, I haven’t posted much in the last couple weeks but I think I have a pretty legitimate reason! While this post isn’t related to something that happened on the farm recently, its story will essentially form the basis to my future life at Fern Island Farm.

On the morning of the 23rd, Fañch took me to Mont Saint-Michel de Brasparts in the Monts d’Arrée region of Brittany. It is one of our favorite spots to visit and was actually the location of one of the very first dates we ever went on. When we arrived there was so much fog that we couldn’t even see the top of the (not-so-very-tall) “mountain”.

We drove part way up before parking and climbing the last few stairs to the top. A tiny 17th century chapel sits upon the hill and the fog had settled eerily around it. Typically, you can see for miles in every direction, with stunning views of the countryside. That day, however, the visibilty was so limited that while we could hear the tinkling of bells that mark the close proximity of a herd of sheep, we could not see them anywhere.

Having finished our little tour of the funsize summit and its surrounding trails, we perched on a rock to eat the pastries we had picked up on the way. Fañch told me not to look because he had picked out a special gâteau just for me. When he gave me the okay to turn around he was holding a raspberry muffin with the little ring we had picked out set on top. Then, in English (he had been practicing), he asked me to marry him.

Now, we have been discussing marriage recently btu despite that fact it still completely caught me off guard. I was so overwhelmed with joy and excitement that nearly a minute passed before Fañch asked, “so that’s a yes?”

After the ring found its new home on my left hand, and the muffins had been reduced to a few crumbs, we remained on the rock for some time watching the fog slowly lift. The lighting from the rising sun, the dissipating fog, and lingering clouds had an enchanting effect on the surroundings.

So, on August 20th next summer, Fern Island Farm will play host to a gathering of Bretons and Americans in order to celebrate our wedding. I am absolutely ecstatic and cannot wait to say “I do” in the apple orchard! I’ve posted quite a few pictures from the morning of the proposal to share with you all (you can click to enlarge them in order to see a bit better)!

the top of the "mountain" (big hill) is hidden by the fog
the top of the “mountain” (big hill) is hidden by the fog

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the 17th century chapel
the 17th century chapel

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at first we thought this was the sun coming over the horizon but it was actually the sun reflecting off a lake in the distance
at first we thought this was the sun coming over the horizon but it was actually the sun reflecting off a lake in the distance
spider web
spider web

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the fog beginning to lift
the fog beginning to lift

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the usual view from the top begins to emerge as the fog bids farewell
the usual view from the top begins to emerge as the fog bids farewell

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the ring we had picked out with the little flower set in resin : )
the ring we had picked out with the little flower set in resin : )

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hello sheep!
hello sheep!

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many people had used the stones to write various words, names, etc.
many people had used the stones to write various words, names, etc.
so Fañch made one for us, too
so Fañch made one for us, too

shifting.

Today is the first of September and marks the end of the tourism season here in Brittany. School starts back up today for most people so the vacation homes have begun to empty out and there are no longer multitudes of campers making their way to the coast.

Last Friday was the last day of the larger market at Fouesnant before it returns to its smaller winter-market size. Most of our customers are local folks who come consistently every week so normally our numbers shouldn’t decrease too much once all the out-of-towners have left. Of course there will be fewer products once the tomato plants tire out and the cucumbers call it quits, but our usual customers will still come to see us for the squash, potatoes, and leeks throughout the winter.

Last Thursday Fañch and I went to Brest for my visa renewal visit. It went surprisingly smoothly for this sort of thing and we were done within 20 minutes. It was the first time Fañch had tagged along for one of  these bureaucratic immigration/visa/residency permit types of appointments. He admitted afterwards that despite knowing we had all the necessary documents and the women helping us were kind, he was still on edge throughout the entire meeting. My new life here has become so normal now that we often forget my presence here is dependent on my yearly visa.

I am techinally enrolled for school again this fall in the same program I did last year but I feel no particular pull or desire to sit through the same classes again. We have been discussing cheese-making more and more and I feel that my interests and motivations have completely shifted in that direction. There are already plans and ideas for putting together a lab at the farm where I could work. I’ve decided the first thing I am going to attempt to make is American-style cottage cheese, and then I will go from there!

Camille had mentioned to some customers that there may be cheese and butter in the future of Enez Raden and apparently people were very excited about it, already promising to buy whatever we make. As the summer winds down Fañch said we can go buy materials so I can get this show on the road!