L'apiculteur est arrivé avec son 4X4 pour monter jusqu'aux restanques et deposer les ruches. The beekeeper arrived with his 4X4 to climb up to the rock terraces and place the bee hives.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
This morning Mr Pottelet, the beekeeper, came to deliver four hives. Jean-Marc met the apiculteur at the edge of the gravel driveway, where the two men took a steep passage that leads to several hillside agricultural terraces, where Jean-Marc will plant his vineyards.
I hurried to dress, grabbed my camera and rushed up the other side of the hill, just behind our house, but it was too late. The men were already headed back down the hillside, having placed the buzzing ruches.
Zut! I'd missed the bee-installation. Never mind. My attention soon caught on the unique vehicle driven by the beekeeper. I watched the tail end of the rover disappear down the steep path, at which point I hurried down the stairs beside our house, to our driveway, where the quatre-quatre was now arriving.
Shaking the beekeeper's hand I couldn't wait to ask about his four-wheel drive. "An UMM?" I questioned, amused by the metal lettering on the front of the car.
Lately I've been fascinated by the Citroën Méhari and the history of this off-road vehicle. The beekeeper's 4X4 looked like a mix between a Méhari and a taller landrover.
"It was meant to be a mix between a tractor and a truck," Mr Pottelet explained. The vehicle was originally conceived by the French engineering company Cournil as a prototype. Its raison d'être was to function as something between a tractor and a truck.
I circled around the tractor-truck, wishing more than ever that it were my own. Jean-Marc has wanted to trade in my Citroën C3 but, being only 8 years old, it is hard to justify the need for a new car.
"Does it get good gas mileage?" I asked the beekeeper, who told me the diesel engine doesn't consume much.
"But it can't be that comfortable," I pointed out, "how was the two-hour drive getting here this morning?"
"Elles sont très agréable à conduire." "They are very nice to drive," the beekeeper said, summing things up.
And it must be quite useful for him, I thought, what with the four buzzing hives he was able to transport.
I began to wonder how I might justify the need for such a vehicle of character?... Two golden retrievers and a steep and winding driveway... was that enough to justify it?
"Je peux vous demander une question indiscrète?"
I wanted to know what a car like this costs. The beekeeper said he paid around 4000 euros after finding it in Le Boin Coin, the local classifieds.
4000 euros? By now Jean-Marc, who had been anxiously following the conversation, was looking relieved--interested even. What with so many French Riviera women driving little Mini Coopers ($$$), he might count his lucky stars that his wife's set her sights on something grander.
Now all my husband has to do is sell several hundred jars of honey to pay for it. Better yet, maybe he can trade for it? Wine and honey for a lemon? But this baby is no lemon!
The UMM rover arriving high up on the third terrace. The beekeeper, who also has 12 donkeys, tells us these dependable workers would be ideal for clearing this land.... Don't tell Mama Jules, or she'll pass out in excitement. After a gypsy trailer, or roulette (or maybe even before it), she dreams of having a donkey.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety