Monday, May 12, 2008

I’ve always been slightly flummoxed by the apparent paradox around the two proverbs that must simultaneously be true: “many hands make light work”, yet “too many cooks spoil the broth”. How many people does one need for a particular task? Not one too many nor one too few. How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb? (I can't remember the punch line of that joke).

Back on February 7th, I told you about the first half of our exchange with a group of French friends: we gave them a course on how to build “fedges” and structures out of living willow rods, with the understanding that rather than paying us (a complicated process to legitimise in France) they would all give us a days labour in our woodland.

Yesterday, we hit pay dirt, insomuch as they came to our woods, as promised and gave us some invaluable help to collect up all the logs I’d sawn up whilst cutting a piste forestière (forest ride) to give us vehicle access to the largest trees at the rear of the woodland. We split into two, with Thierry and Éric helping me load the logs and husband and wife team, Guillaume and Annick, getting stuck into our first experimentation with growing a hazel / sweet chestnut / ash coppice, which was looking very much like a bramble patch before their ministrations. It was a day of exchanges, with Paul, our pig-farming neighbour, lending us an old Massey Ferguson tractor drawing an ancient trailer, for woodworking services already provided by me on his house renovation project.

This being France, the day revolved around lunch, which Gabrielle was exclusively occupied in preparing. We were proud to offer a barbeque mixed grill of rabbit (our own) satay sticks, organic veal ribs and goat (our own) cutlets. And some vegetarian options for Éric. I did smile as I heard one of the others (I can’t remember who) suggesting to Éric that he should have some meat, as it was so good, and they wouldn’t tell Virginie, his partner; the French, in general, really don’t understand the concept of vegetarianism.

The day was more than the sum of its parts. Guillaume and Annick achieved way more than I ever thought we’d get done and thoroughly enjoyed working in the woods. Likewise, Thierry and Éric worked very hard and we took out a total of six trailers of logs before the day drew to a natural close and it was all done in a great spirit of friendship: nous vous remercions!