“Finaly! I got a job!”
Even though I couldn't speak French.
And sudently it was Saturday and myfirst job in France started on Monday. I was still 300km away and Ihad to hitchhike to the little village where the wineyard was...wait, what was the name again?
A bright minded girl gave me the ideaof renting somebody's car for a couple of days, so I would have a wayto go to work and to find somewhere to sleep. After lots of phonecalls and world wide webs, I got a deal, a nice car for something like 10€ a day.
Thanks to thisbright minded girl and to the good hearted people who helped me findthis job, I spent 2 great months working in the wineyard and livingin a forest with the beautiful people I met there.
L  A    P  E  T  I  T  E    F  U  M  É  E   -
Living in a forest and working in the wineyard in France
When you ask something to the universe, it often gives you even more. Well, this can be good or bad, depending where you see it from. But there is always an intention, a vision, a wish or an invocation. There is a will, there is a way; probably not straight, and not always the one you chose, but there is a way. And someone said the contrary, but almost the same: “Walker - there is no way. The way is made by walking it.” 1
What I wished before arriving to this unknown chapter of my life was to find goodpeople and a nice job.
And with these wishes in my head, I left Montpellier, direction Libourne, next to Bordeaux and St. Emilion, the very heart of the wine culture.
I got the rented car, and I drove some 60km to visit a friend who would land me hisbike.
Some weeks before I received the email saying that, if I had a house to sleep not far from the workplace, they would grant me the job. My friends adviced me to answer that I had rented an appartment closeby. I would have the job I needed, and the rest would come. My faithful Turkish tent was with me. I had a sleeping bag, a pan to cook, knife and fork and spoon, salt, pepper and olive oil, some coffee, my camera, my notebook and my guitar. I had my smile and my thumb and I could hitchhike; I didn't have French speaking skills but Portuguese and English and Spanish and lots of universal unspoken language experience. And I had a great deal of excitment towards this new adventure.

First night, I arrived to the village and first went to make sure I knew the way to the wine castle. I found it, and I found a cemetery closeby, with a little parking. There was a camping-car there, but it was late, lights out, so I stretched my bench and went straight to sleep.
Early dawn, I'm out having some morning fruit and 2 guys got out of the camping-car. Hugo and JN, coming from Normandie.
“Bonjour! Es que …” - couldn't understand much, but I captured the name of the Château in their unknown words, so we were all going to the same place.

Over there I met the whole team, more young people with their trucks and camping-cars. But I was not the only one with a tent.
We started with some simple tasks, but after the midday break the team leader sat next to a grape vine and talked for half an hour at least. I could get something like 5% of what he said.
At the end of the work, we went to see our new home for the next two months – a beautiful clearing at the entrance of a forest.

The wine property that employed us had several parcels around the region. It happens that they own this little place, the intersection where the wineyard and kiwi plantations end, and the forest begins.
I chose a little corner protected by the trees and gathered lots of dry grass and made myself a fluffy surface that I could call bed. and pitched my tent on top of it. Tried it. Not far from the best bed in the world. The sunset behind the trees gave us a nice palete of colors to start our first fire. We sat around and cooked and began to know each other.

Hugo and Jn came in a camîng-car from Normandie. Sully and Léa too, with Taca the dog, and Tatum the cat, and 6 rats; Thomas & Thomas, from Bretagne, they had a little truck; Stephane, from the Parisien Region; And me, from Portugal, both with our tents.
Slowly, we started to feel more and more at home. After all, we had quite some time ahead of us, and all seemed to be dreaming about the possibilities we had to make our environment more comfortable.
I got one of those big plastic sheets and opened it above my tent. Hugo lent me an extra tent, that I used to store all my food. He also got me one more sleeping bag, the nights were quite cold.
The spirits were high and the atmosphere was very festive. Everybody came for some money, but having fun was a must. We were all young and free and life was a gift.

After the first week, we were all pretty much exhausted, the job was not easy. But we had some free time, and we decided we needed a shower and a dry toilette. Time to climb some trees, cut some wood and dig some holes.
I always loved gardening, so I delivered myself to the task of preparing a place to make something grow. I made some beds with layers of straw, ashes, small pieces of wood, little stones and soil. I also made a big hole closeby to deposit our organic waste for compost. Next week we had a visit from my friend Greg, and he brought us some baby salads, and several Basilic varieties.
We got some Camomile flowers from the wineyard, and we also planted it in our garden, together with some seeds of Radish. Very fast our plants were growing, the ideal weather of the region was a mix of hard sun and rainy days; the nights were still cold, and at dawn it was freezing and to get out of the 2 sleeping bags was a sacrifice that had to be made. I'll be eternaly grateful to Stephane, the older element of our group, who would be already outside preparing a little fire for our morning coffee.
Hugo, the Dreamer - one of my favourite pictures of the season. He looks to the place where later he built a shower for us, we can see the light of dreams in his eyes.
Every working day meant finding some dead old grape vines that needed to be gone, and with pleasure we would gather them in one truck, to be added to our pyramid of firewood, fortunately always there ready to heat our lives.
Fire was the center of our home. Where everybody met, where things were said and decided. Around this fire, I played my guitar for hours. Singing and playing some djambés, didgeridoos and gambards, even some improvised percurssion made with what we could find - everybody joined in the jam, a place for sharing and communication. I was grateful to the life I had, and to the new “family” around this same fire.

Around the fire, the name for our camping came to light: La Petite Fumée. And with ashes we baptized this very special little corner, where the fire will forever burn such are the good memories I have.
One day I received bad news from home - a very close friend just departed. Around this fire, I released my tears and I reminisced all the times we spent together, and I gazed the stars shining strong on the night sky. I felt his presence. Next day a big rainy storm poured down on us, and helped me to wash my mind and accept the cycle of life. Jah bless.
The job was not always easy. The weather getting hotter and hotter, we started earlier in the morning to profit from the fresh hours of dawn. I was the only element from the group coming from the south. The Bretons and Normands were not so used to the sun, but with time everybody adapted well. 

Back to our forest, the shower time was a blessing. Water is life, and to get it we would pass in the cemetery, an infinite source of water, or better go to Castillon La Bataille, a nice village closeby where there is an excelent source, we would fill up all our bottles and tanks and it would last us some days.
Our spot was only getting better. We built a table with some wooden pallets, some big wooden benches too, that Stephane beautifuly carved, we even had a couch that we found. We also had to adapt to the changes in the sun's strenght and direction, and we built a new “living room” for the daytime, a chill out area that offered us a wonder called shadow, so precious, and we hang some hammocks where we slept amazing siestas after midday. Our garden gave us some delicious blessings too.
Our shower, a magic place for relaxing after work.
“Estamos no último de Maio, e como passou rápido este mês. (…) Como passa rápido o tempo como a vida voa e os anos com ela batem asas para longe de nós. Bato asas por vezes volto anos atrás e estou feliz com o que passei, escolhas e decisões difíceis ou fáceis que me tornaram eu mesmo.” (2)
"E começa Junho. É Mardi. Ontem foi Lundi e foi duro. Eu, Hugo, Jn, Bret e Daro com Jeremy e Ramon, o tractorista. De manhã transformamos um belo campo beje e vermelho cheio de papoilas numa mistura de terra batida e areia virada ao contrário em que era nossa tarefa tirar todas as raízes e fazer montes com elas. Bom tempo não extremamente quente, phones nos ouvidos e a manhã passou incrvelmente rápido. Chega o abençoado meio-dia, e a suposta hora de manger, que foi reduzida a meia hora e passamos novamente ao boulot. Acabamos o campo da manhã e passamos a outro mais argiloso e bem menos simpático. Para caminhar e arrancar as raízes foi complicado, pois a terra estava aglomerada em grandes blocos e as raízes ficavam presas e era difícil andar sem torcer um pé. Durou até às 18h penso, portanto vão pagar 2 horas extra.
Hoje não há pas de boulot, e peutêtre o resto da semana também não. É pena, estamos cá para fazer argent, mas sabe bem descansar o corpo, ontem foi duro. Hoje o suposto era atacar a praia, mas o Jn ontem esteve malade, e hoje é a vez do Sully, que passou a noite a ir e vir da toilette.
As melhoras a todos os membros da La Petite Fumée Family.” (2)
“Aujourd-hui est Samedi! The beauty of having a shower in a Kiwi plantation field (...)
Tudo a dormir sestas ou a ler livros. Eu circulo quase nu pela floresta atacado por mosquitos e por sentimentos místicos de encontros comigo mesmo e com algo a que posso chamar Deus, porque quero e ninguém me há de impedir. Porque sou livre para viver preso no meu corpo em parte mas fluindo como uma pena que voa e voa sem trajectória definida e sem fórmula matemática que a consiga calcular nem etiquetas nem verdades absolutas, somente ser e ser. Despejo os resíduos orgânicos no buraco do compost, frutas e outros alimentos em decomposição, como todos nós um dia. Faço a roleta rolar e a espiral gira, o ciclo continua mesmo que tu estejas parado. Recupero água da plantação vizinha. Transpiro. Ouço tantos tipos de cânticos diferentes, desde pássaros a ratos, grilos e sapos. Ouço música humana, ou melhor feita por humanos mecanizados, mas bem ao longe, ambulante, passando na estrada D936. Estamos bem? Estamos muito bem. Preparo-me para fazer uma salada bem fresca. (…) E como está a saber bem esta escrita espontânea sentado à mesa torrando debaixo deste sol seco tudo vai bem abro os poros e com o suor deixo escapar pensamentos menos positivos. (…) Não tenho algemas. Nunca. Eu sou eu. Amor? Sempre. E tudo o que de bom com ele vem. E tudo o que de mau também. A vida é um risco, viver mata e o amor corta mais que qualquer espada de samurai. Mas cá estou eu, pronto para tudo!” (2)
From time to time, the weekend would arise the party energy of this wild group, and we would all jump in a camping-car and hit the road. Visits to the near city of Bordeaux could be strange after so much time “out of civilization”, but it was funny to haunt the urban world in a big group of dirty farmers. We would always meet some new friends, there are a lot of seasonal workers around this region. We also spent some nice times in the house of some family of Thomas, they welcomed us for some food and showers and fluffy beds and couches, party and music and socialization, for which I will always be gratefull.
“Regarde au-delà de ce que tu vois... Et tu vas trouver!”
One of those days in Bordeaux, we ended up laying down in the couch watching the Lion King 3 with the kid of the house. This message was said by Timon or Pumba, those two wise spirits that can push you forward with their positivism. It means that you should see beyond what your eyes can reach, and there you will find... Whatever you're looking for, sometimes we find only when we stop searching, sometimes we don't pay attention to the important messages right in front of us, we don't value the beauty around, we don't even notice it, so focused on our daily tasks.
And so life went on, and 2 months passed quite fast. Between the forest and the wineyard, bonds were created, episodes and adventures written in the book of life, never to be forgotten.
The salads and the radish on our garden grew to be eaten by the ones who planted them and who watched them grow. Our little corner in the entrance of the forest came out to be quite comfortable with our almost daily improvements, but the same way that we built, we had to unbuild. We left it like we found it, but everyone knew that one day we would come back...
(1) - “Caminante, no hay camino. Se hace camino al andar.” Antonio Machado, Spanish poet (1875-1939)
I discovered this poem back in 2012, when I was a pilgrim, walking together with my friends from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, on the Way of St. Jacques.

(2) – Excerts of texts taken from my journal. Some words are probably French or something close.
Like usual, I kept a diary of my days. It's something I've been doing ever since, it feels good. Once I read an interview with John Frusciante, the guitar player from the original Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he says that writing can be therapeutical, because “it helps to slow down the train of thoughts.” I share this feeling. It can be so liberating to write whatever you want, whatever comes to your head, without filters. For some time in my life I've also been doing something I learnt in a book called “The Artist's Way”, a book I found in the floor in the end of a psytrance festival. Something called “morning pages”, that consists in waking up and grabing the notebook that you keep next to your pillow and just write whatever, not thinking about it, just releasing these very first thoughs you have, that are still pure in the sense that barriers and frontiers are still laying down, your dreams are still pretty much possible before reality rises and you tell yourself that you don't have enough time, or money, or whatever it is that's stopping you... When you do this, you will probably transform this gloomy dreams into words, ink in the paper. Just this little step makes it already closer to reality. The point is not that you read it back. The point is just making these thoughts a bit more physical, a bit more real, to slowly drag them from the back of your mind into a conscient quest. This morning pages helped me to achieve some of my dreams, maybe they can help you too...
photos and text by:

Oliveira de Carvalho ©
photographer // videographer // storyteller
open for submissions and suggestions

+33 6 48 60 53 53

You may also like

Back to Top