Bleu Cheese and Milking Sheep

Tuesday June 9th, 2015

My day started bright and early at 5:30 this morning with a yummy Belgium chocolate muffin to wake me up and motivate me to get ready for the day. Shortly after I made the trek to the Univeristy to catch the bus for a two and a half hour drive from Toulouse to Roquefort. Aveyron, France is home of the famous Roquefort Bleu Cheese  which is made solely from unpasteurized whole milk from the Lacaune ewe. This was a really neat operation to experience since they still mature their cheese the old fashioned way which is in caves in Aveyron. The cheese cellars are kept at 10 degrees Celsius, which is rather cold if your in summer clothes. I have never seen a cheese operation; let along one where the rippening of the cheese took place in caves. I would highly recommend this as a fun stop if your passing through Southern France. Now I personally was not a fan of the bleu cheese taste, but enjoyed the tour through the caverns and Societe store. 

 Darcie, Me, and Ben exploring the cheese caves.

After the bleu cheese factory we went to a farm about 45 minutes away which is where the Lacaune sheep are raised and ewes are milked. A young man showed us around the farm and explained their twice daily milking routine, upkeep of the herd, and their breeding system to us. I was rather shocked to say the least to see the condition of the farm. One thing that has been stressed to the American students so far in France was that animal welfare is a huge priority to French farmers. Yet, at this sheep farm the flock was dirty, and crammed into a small space without much room to move around. As a whole the barns were looking worse off then the sheep farms I have seen in America. The facility was also sworming with flys without any form of preventative or solution to this issue. I am taking into account that this was just one farm so I can’t judge all French sheep farms off of this, but I was definitely not impressed. 

  The sheep barn at Roquefort Farms | They did supply sanitation booties, although the rest of the facility was not up to par.

While we were getting a tour of the main barn with 200+ head of sheep in it I saw something run into the sheep pen. I looked towards my friend, Morgan, and told her that I thought I just saw a rat run into that sheep pen. With a mordified look on her face, she spun around just as the rat ran back out of the pen. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone jump that fast and latch onto me. The best part was that while I was busting up, no one else saw the rat, thus giving Morgan a couple funny looks. All and all I don’t think she was a big fan of the sheep barns. 

Besides that hilarious moment at the farm, my favorite part of the day was surprisingly just walking up to the hay barn. I promise I’m not missing hay season that badly (sorry Dad); but rather the interior design of the barn was what caught my eye. Like many of the older buildings here in Southern France everything is built from brick and mortar. With a great brick wall outside, the interior also possessed several gorgeous ceiling arches contructed of bricks. I had never seen a barn like this before, and it was amazing. The simple beauty in it is unmistakable. 


To end the trip we watched the start of the second milking of the ewes in a connecting barn. The process is very similar to what you would see in a dairy operation back home, but with sheep instead of cows. Then we made the two and a half hour drive back to campus, getting in a little before 9pm making for a long day. 

 The milking parlor and first round of ewes getting milked


Laundry has certainly made it to the top of my list as I begin thinking of what I was to pack for my weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain this Friday-Sunday. Also on the agenda is to book a condo/hotel for our “free-weekend” coming up in two weeks. This is proving to be a bit more of a struggle then we anticipated but, I think we will get it figured out by the end of this week and be good to go and soak up some sunshine on the Mediterranean. I am hoping to hear where I will be spending the next month here in France soon, I’m hoping to stay in Southern France. But the students last year didn’t find out their host families and internships till a couple days before they left the school so hopefully we will know sooner this year. 

Fun Tid-Bits:

-French people say “forbidden” not “not allowed” 

-You have to pay to pee is most public places (I’ve found a free bathroom at the Capital though).

-I think the French love their dogs more then other people; dogs are literally allowed everywhere.

-Several farmer’s tile their fields which really surprised me. 

-When I tell people I’m from Bourbon, Indiana they think it’s the coolest town ever.. Little do they know that it’s not really where Bourbon is made. 

-I have never smelled anything worse than a crammed metro car during rush hour. 

Hope everyone is enjoying reading my blog as much as I’m loving sharing my time here in Europe with you all! If anyone has any fun topics they would like to hear about with life in France let me know. 



One comment

  1. Bethany · June 10, 2015

    Don’t worry! I’ve already spent hours on the tractor both tedding and bailing for you! PS – I love the Bourbon comment! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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