Saturday, 19 December 2009

Never again! (part 1)

Another typical French phenomenon is ‘affouage’. In the wooded areas of France the communes have the right, in consultation with the forester, to allocate plots of wood which have to be cleared, and to offer the clearing to the villagers. The affouage however is strictly regulated. One can normally register around September in the local town hall.
The forester determines which part of the wood must be cleared, and will, depending on the number of villagers having registered, divide the area in the same number of plots. Every plot has a number, and on the day one goes to pay, the payer gets allocated his plot. This goes literally by taking a number from a hat. In Cormatin there were roughly 18 registered ‘lumberjacks’ and hence there were 18 plots, at € 35 each. The size of the plots was roughly 30 x 30 m (between pole no. 7 in the foreground and myself), hence approx. 1000 square meters. On the plot everything had to be cut with a diameter under 25 cm; the forester had marked a few thicker trees as well which had to go. Twigs and branches had either to be stacked neatly, or to be burnt. There was also a time frame. Cutting down the trees had to be finished before April; the wood could stay in the wood all summer to dry, but had to moved from the forest by September.
Of course we did not have the foggiest idea what this meant, but it sounded interesting. We live in an area, where water comes from a tap, where (3 phase) electricity is almost always working, and where we have telephone and even ADSL. However, excrements disappear into a septic tank, and gas comes in bottles from the local supermarket. For our heating we are completely relying on wood, because neither electric nor gas heating is really an option (price wise). We have 2 wood burning stoves in the kitchen and living areas, and two kerosene heaters for emergencies and for our studies. It sounds a bit dramatic, but the bottom line is that we can generate very comfortable temperatures in the winter. Anyway, € 35 for a piece of a forest sounded like a bargain. I did a rough estimate, based on (guessed) numbers of trees, diameters and heights, and came to the conclusion that anything between 10 and 20 stère sounded realistic. 1 Stère is as much wood as you can get into a volume of 1 x 1 x 1 meter; depending on the way you stack 1 stère equals (effectively) between 0.6 and 0.8 cubic metres. Knowing that we get through 6 or 8 stère in a winter à € 50 per stère, the decision was quickly taken. We went to the mairie, payed our € 35 and felt like landowners, who had just acquired a piece of forest.
(To be continued in 1 week's time)

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

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