Tasha & Kiri's Winter En France travel blog

foothills of the midi-Pyrenees from La Soule

view of the marble quarry with old house/barn ruin in foreground -...

Falaises des Vautours - The Vultures Cliff, just behind our home

house door with Xavier's marble decoration and one of the cats, Noisette

winter fun at La Soule

Kirianne: We are now up in the Hautes-Pyrenees at 1000m altitude at a little homestead on a steep ‘mountainside’ (it’s rocky and snowy at the top, so I think that it qualifies as a mountain) with the view of a small valley village down below. At ‘La Soule’ there are 27 ewes although there hasn’t been any lambs for a few years, because they don’t have a ram, and they don’t need any other sheep anyway… The 27 ewes are kept as lawn mowers! ‘La Soule’ is the highest dwelling to the top of the mountains that surround the village, other than an old shack that is on the next slope over, that hasn’t been lived in for a very long time, we are told. When the family bought this property, the forests had been cut down and it was all fields and they wanted to keep it that way so they got some sheep. The fields are too steep to drive a tractor on so it was the best solution. The family also has two donkeys, Mirabelle, and her daughter, Prune, which live with the ewes. The two cats go wonderfully together, both males, Noisette (in English: Hazelnut) and Cajou (in English: Cashew), and are always getting chased around by the two kids, Elise (7) and Lucien (5). The children are homeschooled and ahead of their grade level; Elise is a keen reader, and Lucien is very intrigued in sounding out the words that I type.

The temperatures and weather are varied here; it has snowed twice for a day and at this moment it is raining. We’ve also had some beautiful sunny spring-like days. Kirianne has been doing a lot more school work here, including some Science. She and Elise spent a whole morning discussing and comparing the animals that live here to the animals that live around Yellowknife. There are many of the same, we have found out. Some gardening has been getting done and the kids have spent a lot of time in ‘La Petite Cabane’ trying to figure out how to recuperate as much water, from the empty sand box, as possible. And, of course they have been playing restaurant.

Tasha: I learned yesterday that "La Soule" refers to the south-facing slope, the part of the mountain exposed to "le soleil"! On the slope across the valley from us is a marble quarry, from whence came the distinctive golden-coloured Sarrancolin marble that has been used in Versailles, the Grand Opera, and other buildings of distinction. Since Xavier is a “marbrier” (he cuts and polishes and creates things from marble, like tabletops, sinks and counters), the centuries-old farm house is decorated and furnished with beautiful marble!

Paula is in charge of the homeschooling and running the household and care of the animals and garden. It still is “incroyable” to me that one can harvest garden produce (leeks, for the freezer, yesterday) in the middle of February!

The work today was installing part of a fence to surround a new garden and the intended fruit trees. I’ve never built a fence before, so it, like so much of the WWOOFing work I’ve done, was another learning experience! As there are deer around here (I spied 3 does yesterday when I made a little excursion up the hillside towards the cliffs in the late afternoon), the fences have to be 2 metres high!

Paula and I also did a bit of fence repair work a couple of days ago, when the sheep got out. I discovered on my walk that there are two more places that need attention. We’ve been cutting and carrying wood, too, but that’s been the extent of the hard physical work.

I am quite pleased that we stumbled upon a WWOOFer host who used to teach French as a foreign language! Paula's really helped me improve a bit, by explaining and continuously (and patiently) correcting me, and even giving me memorization excerises! I still won't be anywhere close to fluent when we return, though, contrary to my expectations! French is a difficult language!

The area here in the foothills of the Midi-Pyrenees is quite spectacularly beautiful. Yet another part of France that is beautiful and has lots of still-wild land. I am so surprised and impressed with the beauty and diversity of this country. Very glad we are here.

We just learned that there is a special treat tomorrow (Sunday). Since there has been lots of snow this week, we are all going skiing!

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