Saturday, October 31, 2009

Goats and the Billy Goat

It's been a while, but I was able to get back to the goat farm Thursday this week. I took a day's break from helping Martine on her house and dashed off to milk goats with Aurelie and pour the curdle into the molds. It is now so dense that I didn't need to fill the molds all the way. The end of season milk is much richer in fat and makes larger cheeses than the early season milk. One of the arts of cheesemaking -- know your curd and adapt to the seasons so that both you and your customers can have consistently sized cheeses.

Aurelie and I laughed about paysans and their attachment to their land. She's separating from the father of her girls, and will leave behind her his house that she's worked on and lived in for fifteen years, intact and with no more than her own belongings. In France, property stays in the family. Her girls will inherit some day, but she, as their mother and not married to their father, has no rights upon his family farm. This is good for some, but hard for others. Imagine living twenty years with someone, perhaps married to him, and then walking away with only your own belongings?

Ah well, that's how it works here. The property goes to the kids. The wife/companion is simply passagère. This most particularly affects land-owners, thus, paysans. And yes, I've read Catherine Johnson's l'Affaire, and gone through these issues in my own divorce and confronted them in my relationship with a landed vintner. Whereas some new couples choose to sell their respective homes, and then move into a new home that belongs to them both, this just isn't possible when you're with a paysan/land owner. So... you deal somehow, right?

Aurelie has put the billy goat with the goats these past two weeks, and recently added in the yearlings. He's a discreet and hairy billy goat. Quite friendly actually. I think he even smiled for his photo. She put him in rather late compared with some other cheesemakers, on purpose timing the future births to just before and around Easter. When you enter the hay filled barn, his reeking musky scent fills the nostrils. Unmistakable.

I lunched with Paul Pierre and Isabelle, as usual. I wasn't very good company. I was drafting and re-drafting a dear John letter. Painfully, painstakingly. How to put into words all that I am feeling? The week before I'd come for lunch, but not to work with the goats, and broke down. Something I'd not done in years but been told by friends/therapists/etc., that I needed to do. Something's not right if you don't cry when you're sad. But it is such a wrenching act, and so not part of me. I tend to just deal and deal and deal.

Happily, they didn't tell me to get my act together, but simply were there, squeezing my shoulder, reassuring me that some moments just need to be lived through. Terrible isn't it? to cry and break down and pour out your sorrows to friends who are living much more powerful times with her terminal cancer. And yet, I felt safe and it just came. Yes, they are like family to me. They accept me in many ways and even if I'm a temporary burden, they are good to me. There are times I feel so far away from home and more than a bit lost. This feeling too will pass. There's more than a bit of Scarlet O'Hara in me, but till then, ouch.

And next week perhaps we'll harvest olives? Onward to the next season.


Lylah Ledner said...

again...I love your heart's honesty and vulnerability. also, love hearing about the cheese making experience. more...more ...more :-)

hope your weekend turns brighter with surprises form heaven....just for you.

Zuleme said...

It's nice to wake up here and see a new post about goats. The inheritance system does seem, well, challenging. I have read about American women marrying French men and then dealing with their future, especially if the man has children from an earlier marriage. And how does a farm deal with numerous children? One couple bought a new house and put it in the woman's name.
It is a tough decision to end a relationship that won't give you the future you want. Very tough. And especially tough when some of it was lovely. But your boys would always have been left out.
My mother was madly in love with a man who wanted her to run off with him and leave the five of us behind. She couldn't do it, for which I am forever grateful. Someday your boys should be too.

Madeleine Vedel said...

Thank you Lylah & Zuleme, the goats are therapeutic to put it mildly! And the weekend has been mixed, but that's to be expected. One day at a time.

And what mothers do for their children, hm? as we should but...