Wednesday, 24 September 2008


It has been "Heritage weekend".
We visited an Agricultural Museum out in the northernmost point of the Départment de la Vienne. It was a "corps du ferme" purchased by an associative / co-operative group to display artefacts from farmers and firemen. At one time it was, and maybe still is, used for educational groups to experience by-gone days with real implements and machines. There was one room devoted to the history of the plough since Abyssinian times.

Here our acquired guide showed us the "charrues" and told us how at the age of 14 he started farming on a machine that had a "versoir" , that is, the blade that cut through the soil and turned the clods of earth. This particular machine looked jolly uncomfortable and the wooden or rubber tyres, if it had any on the iron wheels, were missing. It was the last of the ploughs before the very first tractor. He retired 18 years ago. He spoke to us about other English people who lived near him who were musicians and how he once used to play the violin in folklorique groups but now sadly he said he was too old for dancing. In the next room with great delight he showed us one of the earlier washing machines. It was a manual marvel! A metal perforated drum, sitting in a V shaped metal water container was above the box in which the twigs and logs would be fired. The woman, for then I suppose it was mainly woman's work, would have to stand and turn the handle of the drum whilst the linen or clothing inside tumbled in the heated water! Then he showed us the "barrattes" which were the butter churns. Outside another man demonstrated how butter is made. Of course we had to buy some! We also looked at the construction of the "four à pain" which was constructed slightly differently to that of our neighbour. Oh I wish I had one! We also watched cord being made whilst the accordion music blared happily. Unfortunately it was only on a cd, perhaps they needed me to play my instrument?
Then after a picnic lunch of home made quiche, fromage et salade, then chocolate with coconut gateau and a fresh apple washed with a glass of red wine and a flask of tea enjoyed in the sunshine on a track between the maize we ventured to the Chateau of Les Ormes. We have driven through this village on the N10 many times but if one stops and deviates to the village on either side of the main through route one comes to admire the most amazing church in the style Roman-Byzantine. We also visited the Relais du Poste which was once a stopping point for the Kings and their retinues, and a beautiful 18th century Chateau which once belonged to Madame Pompadour.
Of course we were only privy to some of the rooms. English Heritage would make something of the kitchens. At the back of the house was an amazing "glacier", the ice house. Imagine the labour and the expense involved in the collection of the ice from the Auvergnat mountains, north of the Vienne. Imagine the number of people required to climb the mountains and descend with the ice, others who would assist in the carriage of the ice in boats along the River Vienne, which eventually joins the Loire River before they travel together to the sea, then imagine the unloading and the smashing of the ice into smaller pieces to carry it through the door to the vastly huge stone well about 10m deep and 10m in diameter! All for the sorbets to be stored in the summer months!!!! The privileged were privileged indeed! The others had to labour! We can only imagine! Would you wish to have laboured and served or to be served and not to have laboured? The sun shone! We were happy!

This boat (photo below) was moored just outside of the grounds of the chateau but we know no more than that. It was very beautiful and obviously quite old. Stunning in the sunshine.

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