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help exchange   Host 23433
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All Year: on and off all year
Area (ha): 1.25 + 1.25 ha forest
Persons: 2 to 5
Category: Organic Farmstay
Host ID: 23433
Country: France

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Last Updated: July 18, 2018

The sea is 10 minutes walk away, and helpxers are free from 12:00 every day in summer. Still 2 or 3 places available during the summer. Please do read the profile carefully.
We are also looking for:
*an experienced vegetable grower/market gardener for a stay of 3 months or more, as a volunteer or as a paid worker if eligible.
*Someone prepared to take on the shopping and some of the cooking for 4-5 people as a part of their daily tasks will be very welcome. You need to have a driving licence and some experience of driving in Europe. Knowledge of French and/or Italian would be very useful.
*Other specialist skills we are looking for at the moment include fencing, repairing dry stone walls.

We prefer to take helpers who are available for longer stays and
the minimum time helping here really is a full two weeks : 1 to 3 helpers in the vegetable garden, and to help with clearing the undergrowth in 1 ha of forest.

This is a working garden and we are often very busy, so to enjoy their stay here helpers need to be (or learn to be) really observant, good at listening and registering instructions about how to complete a task.
In all seasons we need help with the harvesting of vegetables, leaves and edible flowers for our restaurant clients + help with sowing, planting, watering, weeding and clearing areas which haven`t been cultivated recently.
There are two people working in the garden apart from the helpxers.

A major project for 2018 is to create a long fruiting hedge and to establish our first permaculture `plant communities` around existing trees (avocado and mango for example). Someone with practical experience in forest gardens and permaculture in warm temperate to sub-tropical climates would be useful to really get this project going.

We run a certified organic market garden. We sell our produce direct, to local restaurants and through other systems like AMAP and La Ruche qui Dit Oui (called the Food Assembly in English). In 2015 we were among the first 100 producers in the country selected by the College Culinaire de France as a Producteur Artisanal de Qualité. Market gardening is combined with an exotic fruit orchard and a botanic garden of New Zealand trees planted as small natural-style forests. We are moving towards permaculture and agroforestry, and already practise polyculture with lots of companion planting.
We have given a home to three hives for bees which come from the much colder climate of north-east France.
I am very happy to explain the techniques we use, to visit the New Zealand plantations with you, and to answer any questions about the garden. However you do need to ask the questions to get me started as I am aware that some people are much more interested than others.

Our year: This year we hope to have time to rebuild a `fox-proof` chicken run (which will include the beehives).
From end November through January/February we pick clementines, mandarins and avocados, and sell our winter crops. Menton is virtually frost free and it is usually pleasant working outside even in the middle of winter.
Each winter we also prepare new areas for planting using no-dig and raised bed techniques.
Until the end of October we sow, plant, weed, water, pick and deliver our crops (generally about 25 different crops are ready for harvest at one time).
Other work includes building new raised beds, taking in areas of the land which have not been cleaned and planted for some years, sowing green manure crops, repairing dry stone walls, building and strengthening fences (and finding new ways) to keep out the badger and the wild boar, creating compost and mulch, cutting firewood and clearing the undergrowth in the forest.
The garden is terraced on 32 levels and you need to be fit to work here. It is a beautiful site on the frontier with Italy, see photo which shows an empty-looking space in the centre with the forest above. This photo was taken in 1999 before I arrived to restore the land and start the garden.

In the garden we speak French, English, some Italian (if your priority is learning the French language this is really not the right place for you as the languages get mixed up!).
Accommodation is in the house, single or double room, bathroom, laundry. Occasionally helpxers need to share a room.
Wi-fi access is available for your own computer/phone. I do not lend my computer.
It is only 10 minutes walk down to the sea, and 20 minutes to the centre of town. There are buses and trains nearby to explore the Alpes Maritimes and Italy. And we can collect you on arrival at the nearest train or bus station.
Please note that:
• you are asked not to apply unless you like to do or share the cooking and do the dishes, can accept being part of a team, like working out of doors, have some real gardening experience and adequate health/travel insurance (or Carte Vitale for residents of France).
• from June to August inclusive we start work at 0600. In September at 0630. The rest of the year at 0730.
• the house and garden are no-smoking areas, but it is OK to smoke on the kitchen terrace as long as you leave no traces. There is an extreme risk of fire all summer.
• the whole property is a no-drugs area.
• the terrain is steep and there is open water in deep reservoirs. It is really not suitable for families with children.
• you need to provide your own mosquito and sun protection (although we supply anti-mosquito plugs in the bedrooms and candles for the terrace where we eat).
• you must have comprehensive travel insurance which covers your activity here as a volunteer.
•Tell us if you have a valid driving licence, have already been driving in Europe, and are willing to help with deliveries.

Your help is asked for about 25 hours a week, but it can be a bit more when we are really busy, or if there is a crisis. If you come here please be prepared to participate in and enjoy the life of the garden. Extra help can be compensated by time off, so please don`t apply if you risk being one of the very few who say "I`ve done my hours" when we are desperately trying to get something finished ...

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