Before getting to our next volunteering, we decide to go to the « Beers and flavours » festival of Chambly, nearby Montreal. We park the car in a quiet place, it is really nice to be able to go to such an event and be able to sleep just right there !
Craft beer and with it, micro-breweries have taken off all over Québec for about ten years. There are several tens of brewers there and a lot of happy looking people who enjoy the musical concerts under the setting sun. It is a really nice moment. We get to see the concert of the « Chiens de Ruelle », a very catchy music with intelligent critics of the society. After having tasted several beers, some really good and others completely undrinkable (there is something for every taste!), we go back to our van for a first urban stealth mode night ! It goes really well !
More than 3350 beers from micro-breweries to enjoy in Québec !
The next day we go back to see Manuel, it is nice to see him again. A little like in French Polynesia, we had our regular get-togethers with Sylvain, we saw Manuel several times after we first met. The fact of meeting several times just for the pleasure of conversation and enjoy each other’s company is as if we built a life during the month spent in this region. I think we enjoy the little pleasures of settlement when we have been deprived of them while we are traveling. Seeing friends, knowing places to go to, going for shopping at the same place and finding there people we know… All this participates to the feeling of being part of, put down the bags and for a time, to grow roots. Before leaving Montreal, we do a last visit in the beautiful biodiversity museum but the visit is a bit of a disappointment. Not many natural solutions are given, most of the changes are coming from science and technology.
After having lunch with Manuel, we’re on the road to Ecoumene. After having spent so much time having space in a real house and on separated activities in the middle of other people, finding ourselves together in the small space of our car, just the two of us non stop together, seems to require a few adjustments to find back our travel harmony. Being tired does not help either of course. But soon we have to put our differences aside in order to arrive at the Jardins de l’Ecoumène, our next volunteering place. In order to learn more about this wonderful place, it is HERE. We are warmly welcomed by JF, Guylaine and one of their sons Félix. We are again very well accomodated and we start right away on fascinating discussions with them ? One of the topics is of course the saving of heirloom and free-pollination seeds as the Jardins de l’Ecoumène are a seed company and cultivate a lot of those seeds preserving the diversity of the garden for the generations to come. A truly beautiful mission !
Work in the fields is nice and very different than veggie growing. Team members are quite autonomous and we accompany the one or the other in their activities. I love the dry extraction with Myriam, it is a soft and beautiful activity with all these dried flowers from which we collect the seeds. When it comes to the wet extraction of melon seeds, it is, let’s say, less clean as the melons are way passed maturity, up to nearly rotten but it is also fun, a little like cooking except you don’t to care about splashing out everywhere, we just cut melons one after the other to gather the seeds and the chickens get the rest.
The day after we arrive, it is actually an off day so after a bit of weeding, Guylaine takes us to spend the afternoon in the nearby village, Saint Damien, for an « épluchette de blé d’inde », a « peeling of Indian wheat ». Translated, it is a very nice afternoon in one of the village houses eating a lot of delicious meals prepared by all the people of the village and also to celebrate harvest, cooked corn in water and scrubing it in butter to enjoy with salt, it is just amazing ! The house belongs to Céline and Rémi, who share their passion of natural and traditional dies as well as weaving textile. The other people around who share this passion came to present their craft and how they do it. I learn how to spin wool (using dog hair!), we discover weaving machines for making stocking dating back to the early 1900s, we watch the amazing patterns coming together on traditional Québec woven belts and get to see a wool ball turned yellow. We visit the beautiful veggie garden of Céline. We go on a tour at Geneviève and Mathieu, the village potters, who make magnificent pottery. Catherine tells us about the holiday cottage she is opening on the other side of the village. Our eyes are opened wide with wonder and we dream about finding a village like this one to participate at the wonderful renewal of craft arts as those are happy and smiling and dynamic people with a strong motivation to share their passion, the type one would really enjoy to have as neighbours and friends !
Tom also works at creating a promotional video for the Jardin and visits all the positions of the little family enterprise. In the region, life seems pretty nice. Not all is perfect of course but there are coops, people who want to live simple and nice lives, creative too, people who want to do things by themselves too, a beautiful region inspired by the many different people who are settled there and who by their craft galvanize that feeling. Find here below the videos of the Jardins made by Tom:
We leave the good care of Guylaine and JF and meet Anna on our way back to Montreal. Anna is a long time friend since engineering school and is now a researcher at the Centre de recherche de l'université de Montpellier on the relationship between beeds and wood but also is a beekeeper herself and is currently in Québec to attend and speak at conferences on the topic.
Here below videos we made with Anna back in France when we visited her before we left:
It is such a great reunion. It is a real breath to see a long time good friend. Québec is really for me a reunion time between Adrien, Candice, my mother, Simon and Anna, I am so spoiled and happy, these friendly and familial moments are so necessary to keep the travel motivation intact and to continue to explore without being under the impression that those precious links are being lost.
We sleep in the road and the next day arrive in a little village of Haute-Mauricie, to meet Alain and Renée for another week of volunteering on a totally different – and unknown to us – subject which is wood working. Before leaving for our world tour, we had the idea that with the Canadian forest being so vast, there should excellent experts in wood working in this country and not knowing anything about it, we thought it would be useful for when we’ll have our farm to learn the basics. Searching for possibilities on the internet, we found the « Gosseux d’Bois », Alain, and his youtube channel, HERE.
We wrote him a little message just in case he would reply to us and finally here we are, some months or a year even later, on the parking lot of a village in the middle of Haute Mauricie transfering our stuff in their truck to go for another 2h30 drive into the forest, far from sealed roads in order to spend a week at their wooden cabin and build windows. Find HERE a little summary of what we learned during this week.
This week is out of ordinary and there is a feeling of being in a complete other world, totally disconnected, on a lake shore, under the shade of huge trees spending our days using wood cissors, planers and other tools we discover one by one. In any case, the work of wood and particularly cedar which smells so good is really a craft we enjoyed ! After this week, we already see ourselves building up the furniture for the farm and the guest accommodations ! We discuss a lot of course with Renée and Alain and spend nice evenings even with the cabin wood being quite a tight space for 4 people. We go on a little walk in the forest and collect some delicious wild blueberries, Into the Wild the movie comes regularly to mind for sure. This parenthesis is soon over and the windows are near to ready, there are so many different steps, the result looks good, to us at least !
We go back one last time to Montreal because I have a brewery course and Thomas is attending a fermentation workshop. Thomas discovers recipe ideas, is taught what in fermentation works in restaurants and a lot of things you can put in glass jars. It is an actual restaurant Chef presenting the workshop and it is really interesting. When I meet Thomas back, he is very enthusiastic and we decide to go and eat at the restaurant, Poincaré in Chinatown, of this chef and discover with our palates the results of the class. It is delicious, especially the fermented fries ! On my side, it is my first actual class on the topic even if i did try it on my own before. It is very interesting and confirms the idea of brewing beer on our farm and clarifies the equipment we will need to do so at a very small scale. The class is given by the Labaq organisation by a passionated beer-amateur and it is very to listen to him speaking about the history of beer and so many different things revolving in the beer universe that would be impossible to summarize. A beautiful day of learning about fermentation for both of us that ends up beautifully in this delicious restaurant !
This time it is the real goodbye as we are leaving Québec after two and a half months in this beautiful part of the world as much for the landscape as for its adorable inhabitants ! Before leaving Montreal, we have a last treat, Patrick Patissier, just go there, it's delicious.
We sleep again on the road, nearby Mont-Tremblant this time and when we are about to park for the night, which is already pretty fresh, we cross paths with a deer in the middle of the village. Next day we visit the Ferme des Petits Oignons (Learn more HERE), recommended by JM and his team. Warmly welcomed, we spend a day with the team, myself on the garlic plantation work seated behind a tractor with two other workers and Thomas on the garlic preparation for plantation and on the cape gooseberries and aubergines harvest. It is a way more mecanized farm and it is interesting to see how they function, another beautiful place and people even if a single day is way too short to discover them.
Off to Ontario ! We go through Ottawa. We already feel that we have left Québec when we arrive in this huge administrative and very urban city. We get away by going to visit the agriculture museum and the tropical greenhouse. The museum is very oriented towards conventional agriculture and modern foods (very transformed,full of preservatives - « anything rotting is bad » kind of attitude) but there are some farm animals to see so it is nice and some pictures of more traditional agriculture in black and white are quite interesting too.