Last week I posted a pic in the What is it? thread Pearl sent me a purple Moosage, suggesting that some might appreciate a post here in ‘gear’, with a bit more information. Now, I’ve been hanging around soaking up the knowledge for five years and when Pearl has a ‘thought’ and shares it with you, well, there’s no getting out of it is there? Is there?
So, here goes . . .
Ok, so last summer, we were at our local ’Dechetterie’ (Council Tip) In theory, we’re there to be getting rid of crap from our place, to make things tidier - In practice there are times when we seem to come back with more than we’ve dumped This was one of them. René had done the trip on his own, returned home and told me there was a pile of BIG barrel rings in the skip. So back we both went - with an empty trailer. We hit paygold - we saved a LOT of kilos from the landfill.
We asked Veronique if we could rescue the barrel rings (we’ve known her for nearly 20 years) so next thing, she’s climbing into this enormous industrial sized skip and starts handing up the rings - big ones, medium ones and tiny ones. Then up comes a a saw, a couple of scythes, a pitchfork, various enamel bowls and biscuit tins. Then, we spot it sticking out from under the mangled iron! A Chevalet! Just like the one we borrow from a friend, when we do our “let’s gather wood for the bread oven like real peasants” routine. “Hey can you get that thing there? no the one next to it” and up it comes . At that moment I see him out of the corner of my eye, an old french guy stepping forward . . I get between him and the skip and shove the old man forward, to grab the treasure. In the blink of an eye the chevalet is in our trailer and the old guy is pissed. I assure him we know what it is, we’ve been wanting one for ages, and we’ll be using it as a tool not a garden ornament. He seems only slightly mollified.
So, I present to you, Le Chevalet, aka Presse fagot (pron. Press fag-oh)
In the days before the wood chipper (or worse, bonfires) consumed the small branches and twigs left over from the regular hedgerow coppicing that continues to this day around here, the Chevalet was used to compress springy twiggy branches into easy to carry and stack, bundles of firewood for the bread-oven. Most houses or hamlets around here, had their own bread oven. Some were attached to the house, most were attached to an outbuilding called a boulangerie.
The majority have fallen into disrepair, fallen down completely, or the building re-purposed and the oven removed. We repaired ours and regularly used it. (till we sold it and the cottage to buy a boat, but that’s another story)
Traditionally a length of ‘ronce’ (thin but strong blackberry runner) was de-thorned and laid parallel to the chevalet. Twigs were piled up across the tool (and the ronce) and then the handle forced down and locked into place, to compress the bundle whilst it was being tied up. Unlock, move the bundle aside, and repeat. I wish I could post a video, but we've no branches to tie up - I'll add one in the winter if anyone is interested. I reckon it would be a useful piece of kit to have on a homestead as we've found it really does make tying up bundles of twigs sooo much easier. I found this website which shows different designs including a very simple "two sticks and a length of rope" and plans for a wooden version.
For our 6’ diameter breadoven, we needed 4-6 of these bundles to heat up the oven mass for cooking bread, and the oven would still be warm 24hrs later as we pulled out the cooked overnight rice pudding called 'Tergoule' here in Normandie.
Some of the tools we saved:
Would have been a real shame to let this workmanship be melted down
We heard a few days later that Veronique (not her name LOL) got a bollocking from her boss, and stuff was not to be taken out of the skips from then on. I wonder if the old guy who missed out on the Chevalet put in a complaint??