The last couple days were not as full as the trip winds down. On Tuesday we wound through the Ardeche mountains to arrive in Saint Pierreville where the restaurant where we ate lunch had felt art on the wall. Always a good sign!
The highlight of the day was a visit to the Ardelaine program. It was begun 30 years ago by five friends who wanted to convince the farmers to produce better wool and that, if they did there would be a market for it. At that time, wool was being thrown on the manure pile as waste. These friends brought in shearers and separated good wool from bad and then farmers began to understand that they had to change what they were doing in order to get quality. Today, from 250 owners they shear 50,000 sheep a year.
So, where to begin to sell this improved quality wool? They decided to start with mattresses and we were invited into see how they are made.
With 70 tons of wool collected each year, they are the only “short circuit” (direct sell) organization in Europe. When the shearers are through shearing for the season, they come to join some other employees making matresses.
If you look under this table you will see a mirror. This is so she can see where the long needle she is using comes through on the other side – inventive!
Wool mattresses are very traditional in this area but had almost disappeared because of the de-valuation of the wool. Today they make 1000 mattresses per year.
They keep a few sheep here as part of an educational exhibit. I think one spotted one looks familiar!
Besides having the sheep to help educate the 20,000 people per year who visit, they have created this amazing mechanical diorama (i don’t know what else to call it). It is the scene of a whole village involved in wool processing.
The play begins by introducing the shepherd and his sheep and, as each new figure is introduced, the spotlight moves to that scene and movement there begins. I can’t do it justice as a still shot.
Those of you who work with wool may be able to tell what is going on in the few scenes I am sharing here. I could have watched the story unfold several times over!
This was a very interesting visit and we came away with new appreciation for the inspiration and hard work that is creating programs such as these and, maybe, even learned a few secrets about wool!
On our last day of the tour we needed to get from Lyon back to Paris, a several hour trip. To break it up, we stopped for a visit at a very historic hospital in Beaune. It was founded in the 1400s and, since the 1970s has been a museum showing what care was like during this time – much more advanced than most of us thought with even the first women pharmacists!
The highpoint of the visit for me, however, were the tiled roofs. The tiles have been restored over many years. Some are 100 years old but this varies. The clay is from this area and they are 32 cm long, 2 cm thick and each one weighs 2 kilos – very heavy when you get them all together on a roof! But so pretty. I think this may be another felt inspiration!
With a quick visit to a very colorful little market outside of the hospital/museum, we load onto the bus one more time as our tour heads back to Paris.