Day 34, Heavy Metal Machinery and Confusion
Alas, another glorious day had come in Super Mega Ultra Champion Chateau City. The birds sang, the bees buzzed, and the wifey was as excited as I for what the day may have held. As we came down for breakfast (toast, spreads, tea, and coffee) we were asked if we wanted to help harvest strawberries later that afternoon. We kindly agreed. I know Shana hates farming/harvesting/manual labor/bugs/meat/spiders/dark forests/racism/seaweed/the dark, but she does enjoy harvesting berries.
Most of the morning was spent helping prep for lunch and light housework. We also made use of their ping pong table. Yep, thats right. Not only is this place awesome, but they have one of the most epic things you can have: a PING PONG TABLE!!!!!
After surviving FOOD-NADO 2013 (aka lunch) we got ready to harvest berries.
Our host and I grabbed the bikes to put into the back of the small cargo van. Our host said we would join him for an hour of touring the farm and harvesting then we would ride the bikes back to the chateau. As we were putting the bikes in the back of the van I noticed the "free candy" sign in the corner. I also realized there were no windows in the back and it was completely separated from the front of the van. I thought, "What a good Idea. If people were able to look in they'd get greedy and steal all of the free candy he has before he'd have a chance to put up his sign."
Shana, our host, and I all drove out to the farm. We noticed something strange. We noticed something wasn't right. There weren't any strawberries anywhere in sight. No blue or black. No red or green. No berries of any color in between. We looked left, then we looked right. No fruits or berries were in our sight. We looked around and what did we see? Fresh grown wheat as high as my knee (RIP Dr. Seuss). Our host had taken us out to see how wheat was harvested and how they made STRAW BALES, not strawberries (saying straw bales with a french accent sounds a helluva lot like strawberries). Now everything began to make sense.
Our host's cousin was driving a giant wheat harvesting machine. It cut the wheat, shook the bran from the stock and left the stock in a line behind it (so they can be made into STRAW BALES), and stored the grain in a container in back. We were asked if we wanted to ride in the giant machine. Shana wasn't too impressed, but being the giant man-kid that I am I jumped at the opportunity to ride in the machine.
I climbed the ladder to the cockpit of the massive Wheat Harvester-a-nator 5000 with new and improved wheat saw and carbon rolling attachment unit. I think Farmers Magazine called this machine the "Death Star of wheat harvesting machines" back in their September issue. I opened the door and our host introduced me to his cousin and I said "bonjour" which meant "I know this is how you make your living and I can tell by all the dials, switches, knobs, triggers, pedals, and flux capacitor that is very difficult to drive and you've had extensive training and this machine is no joke and if I mess up you and your family will have to split ramen packets and slice potatoes so thin that they'll be see through so you have enough food to go around, but CAN I DRIVE PLEASE!?!?!?!?!?!?!?" Needless to say I have to work on my French because from that initial "bonjour" all I got to do was sit in the tiny chair next to him and watch, which actually wasn't that bad. The mechanics of the rig were amazing. There was even a rear view camera to witness the carnage if you ran over a fellow farmer. You could be a YouTube sensation and in prison all at the same time. After awhile it was Shana's turn. I said "merci" and climbed down the ladder. After Shana's turn was done she told me when she climbed in Selina Gomez had come on the radio. Our host's cousin did what any respectable farmer would do. He turned it up and carried on.
Now that we were bonafide wheat harvesting experts our host said we could go back to the chateau and help with dinner. We were off on our 16 kilometer (google it if you absolutely need to know how many miles that is) bike ride.
It was going to be a beautiful bike ride home through the country side of Northern France. There was a song in our hearts and a KKAAAAA PPSSSTTTTTTTTTT uh oh. After making it approximately one and a half kilometers my back tire had popped. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "all that cheese had finally come around to bite you in the ass". If you thought that, then you're a dick because that's not why the tire popped. It appears this tire was brand new around the time Elvis Presley was King... of stealing music. The tire had essentially disintegrated from the rim. Shana was very angry that that tire had popped while I was blown away at the sheer fact that the tire still exists to this day and we had made it as far as we did. We decided to call our host to ask what the best option would be. We tried both the numbers given to us, but we forgot that we're now in a diffferent country and needed the country code to dial the number... so we walked back from where we came. I was still astonished by how a "tire" (for lack of a better word for a tube shaped dust cylinder) in that condition made it that far, but I could hear Shana's anger seep from her pores. I tried to make the trip as jolly as I could by giving her road side dandelions (her favorite, roadside or not). We went back to the wheat dumping facility in hopes of catching our host because we had no idea if they'd still be working on the same field. Sure enough after three minutes our host pulled up to drop off another container full of grain.
Once the grain was dumped and weighed we threw the bikes in the back and our host took us to an old lady's house near by. She was very nice. We snapped beans for her and she gave us small bottles of apricot water (think juice box in bottle form). Our host's sister arrived not too long after finishing bean splitting and and we said our thank yous and goodbyes.
There were guests staying at the chateau and they liked to eat late. These guests are like people who come to a restaurant ten minutes before closing and don't leave until at least an hour after you've closed. If you've worked at a restaurant you'll know what I'm talking about. They're the worst kind of butt-faces. The bad news was we were going to work late (by work I mean dishes) and the good news is we got to feast on what they were eating. Our hosts sister made a duck loaf with crust surrounding it (sounds weird, tastes excellent). There were also peanuts and other things in the mix. I felt like a king eating a dish so tasty. She also made a cake covered in fruit that tasted like sugar coated dreams (see diagram omnomnom).
After a loooooong day and night we (yaaaaaaaawn) decide.......ed to....... sssssss aaaaaahhhhhh ssppppp.
a group of old roadsters drove by and Jerrad managed to snap the camera at the perfect time
wheat for days
big wheat machine that we rode in
where to harvested grain is dumped
roadside dandelion <3
Day 35, Hay there
The day started off with sleeping in, light housework, then some free time (aka candy bean game time). After draining all of my phone's battery, lunch decided to sneak up on us. We were served ratatouille, potatoes, pork sausage, fresh bread, cake with cream & fresh fruit, coffee, dark chocolate and a coma. After lunch it was off to the strawberries, aka straw bales.
Before we left our host asked me if I had a driver's license. I hesitatingly said, "Yeahhhh, but, I suck at driving." He then asked if I wanted to drive a tractor. Thinking he didn't hear me I repeated myself, and also mentioned I didn't know how to drive a stick (hoping the tractor was a stick). He seemed to get it at that point, and he had me sit in a tiny side seat inside of tractor while while Jerrad hung on outside of it. Yes, that's right. Jerrad was OUTSIDE of the tractor, hanging on to the back of it while we drove about 30 miles an hour to a close-by shed (see chart 42c).
At the shed, we hooked up a trailer to the tractor and headed to a field with straw bales scattered across it. Remember that time I said our host understood my complete self-doubt of driving? Well, he didn't. When we got to the field he asked me again if I wanted to try driving while showing me a couple of the steps (something about neutral clutches). I then remembered I was in France, Help-Xing, on a chateau and I told myself to stop being a baby and try it. So I did. And I didn't kill anyone! And I only almost broke the tractor once! (Take note: tractors with giant trailers attached to them aren't fond of super sharp turns). It was actually really fun and I was really proud of myself, especially since I've only had about an hour total of stick shift training in my life.
I slowly drove the tractor around the field pulling up next to piles of straw bales while Jerrad (aka Mr. Hunky Manly Beardy Man - see diagram BABE) would lift the straw bales and throw them onto the trailer. Once we filled the trailer up with hay, we headed back to the shed. Our host took the wheel while Jerrad and I hopped on top of the 10 foot tall pile of hay and rode it back (yeehaw). I was all smiles the whole way back. Try riding on a tractor in the french countryside with wind blowing, sun shining and Mr. Hunky Manly Beardy Man by your side without smiling. It's not possible.
Once we got back to the chateau we were told we had the rest of the day off AND we had the chateau to ourselves. BEST DAY EVER. We decided to play some ping pong, relax and eventually eat a proper 18 course dinner. We set up the table all fancy-like (knives on the right, forks on the left, dessert spoon on top, two drinking glasses, serving dishes, etc.) and reheated leftover lunch food. We had a ratatouille/potato mix, barfy (or as Jerrad says, "delicious") pork sausage thing, framboise soda, bread, cheese, salad with homemade french dressing and wine.
After dinner we headed outside to lounge and do some future trip planning. I decided to give my parents a call and we chatted for a bit. They mentioned how they were planning another Europe trip because Jerrad and I inspired them. They talked about how different the communication is nowadays; they can stay up to date with our trip by reading my blog, texting and talking on a cell phone via wi-fi. They said when they went on their Euro-trip back in the day, they would write letters, correlate which city they would be in at certain times and send letters back and forth via Western Union. I think they went to Europe in the 1800s. We chatted for a bit more and said our goodbyes.
Jerrad and I stayed outside to watch the sunset (at about 10pm) and I told him I wanted to go inside because I was getting cold. He called me out and said I wasn't cold but that I wanted to go inside before the scary creatures came out. To be fair, I could hear the bugs and animals start to make noises and rustle around.
After we headed inside I took a much needed shower and put on my Parachute Pants (TM) (Now with 3 purposes in one! They're pants! They're pajamas! They're boner deflaters!). When I got back to the room I saw our good ol' friend; Mr. Three Pound Moth. Jerrad gently shooed him outside and headed off to shower. As soon as he left Mr. Three Pound Moth's cousin, Dr. Four Pound Moth, decided to say hello. I realized moths are the pigeons of the bug world; they're basically butterflies but no one likes them. Pigeons are basically doves but people despise them. I decided I don't mind moths as far as bugs go and that Dr. Four Pound Moth could stay the night. And so we headed bed. Goodnight moon, goodnight parachute pants, goodnight moth.
buttons and stuff
the most ridiculous selfie ever? a tractor selfie.