Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Grain harvesting in France

France has such a rich history. There are still 'grain harvesting' celebrations and re-enactments of how it was done in the olden days. It was called the 'battage' and a group of men would go to the first house, or small holding on their list. The machines were set up early to avoid the heat of the day. On the hour a bell would ring and everyone would set to their tasks, some loading the wheat complete with stalks into the machine, others filling the sacks with the grain, others loading the grain into the attic of the house.

video link

At 5 minutes to the hour a bell would ring and all would sit in the shade and have a cool drink - wine usually and get ready for the next round which started with the bell ringing on the hour again.  This continued all day until the task was done. The machine was dismantled and moved to the next on the list - which could have been next door or a mile down the road - then re-assembled ready for tomorrow. Then all the workers went back to the current days house.

A huge table would have been set up by the householders and all the workers were fed. Then slept (where? I don't know) The next day it started over again and continued until all the area harvest was indoors.

Many French houses had, and still have, an attic for storing the crop, it kept it dry and also served to insulate the house. Over the years I have been in many French attics and found maize cobs, walnuts, no grain though - the small rodents got it a long time ago.

I was told this story by Monsieur Cottillon. I worked as his home help in 2010. He was 97 and his wife is 94. Sadly he passed away last summer, but on one of my visits he explained this story to me. He was a fascinating person, he was still working his garden at age 97. I was there to help his wife who was ill with Alzheimers.

Here are some photos of the grain sacks similar to those Monsieur Cottilon would have used.
I have a lot of these to sort out still and I would really like to keep them all.

I am photographing them with a long term view to cataloguing. (One day)
All are for sale on my etsy shop DorsBien