Tasha & Kiri's Winter En France travel blog

in the Baronnies, the rolling foothills of the midi Pyrenees

typical Baronnies country

Anatoli and his skittish stallion - in the rain

working the oxen - in the rain!

the oxen yoke

the mule team (2 brothers)




Lucie enjoys her dinner, fed by "la grande petite fille"

Escots, Les Baronnies, Hautes Pyrenees

Chez Anatoli, Clementine, Agathe et Lucie

These few words pretty much sum it up...






"La petite fille"


We came for a day and stayed for a week!

This young family is preparing to shift residence to another part of France for the next 6 months, so although Anatoli had agreed to have us come in February, the reality of getting everything ready sunk in, I think, and he suggested that it would be better for us to come to their new location in late March. We can’t go then, because we expect to be travelling with friends from Yellowknife, so we agreed we would just come for an overnight visit while we’re in the neighbourhood.

At the end of the first day, after we’d stacked next winter’s wood supply, and Kirianne had helped Anatoli work with training his young stallion, who’s a bit skittish, and we’d restrung some electric fencing and helped clean the house… , Clementine, who’d been fighting a flu for weeks, announced that she was feeling really sick and it would be a big help to her if we could stay another day to look after the children and let her just sleep! No problem for us. We had no other commitments. Kiri worked hard with the animals, I worked hard with the housekeeping, and at the end of day two, it was suggested that if we could just go day by day depending on Clementine’s health, that would be great.

Of course, we are happy with this, because we really like the place, the family, and Kirianne especially has a totally independent role in working with the animals: 4 horses, 2 mules, 2 oxen. Anatoli uses the mules to transport firewood logs from the steep-sloped forests, and is training the oxen for same. All the animals are used in the summer “spectacles” that they put on. Oh yeah, they have one chicken, too.

So, the flu has made its rounds. Next victim was little Lucie (8 months). Clementine has been up and down with it. It’s better one day, then worse the next. And now Agathe (2) and I have it. I felt feverish and headachey for three days and last night the fever really came on. I felt better this morning, hung the laundry and that was all I could do. Spent the afternoon in bed with fever and headache again. I hope Kirianne doesn’t get it...

Feb. 28 Kirianne: I did get the flu but it only lasted a day or two.

I really enjoyed the farm and all of the horses. I never got to ride, probably because there were no horses at my riding level, but I would still take the horses for walks along the country roads, especially the beloved Dragon, Anatoli's first horse, who is 25 years old and spends his days in his box and out on short walks. Uzeste, the young stallion, is a handsome, black Spanish horse. His only problem is that he is scared of a lot of things, especially when people jump around him, which makes it almost impossible to ride him because you have to jump to mount him. So we spent a lot of time just jumping up and down beside him.

I learned how to conduct the oxen when they were pulling wood up from the forest. It felt like I was always about to get run over by them. To start them, a stick with a small nail at one end is necessary and to stop or slow them down, hitting them on the forehead and nose with the stick is just barely sufficient. [Tasha: I was NOT present that day; I'm not sure I'd have been able to let her do it. Each animal weighs 400 kg!!! and little 40 kg Kirianne is jogging uphill backwards in front of their lowered horns!!! One slip in the ever-present mud, and ... if their hooves didn't crush her, the following log could have! Needless to say, though, this work has given Kiri great self-confidence.]

Tasha again: Did we mention mud? Yes, well, it rained every day except one, and it had rained the week before, too. The barnyard was a giant morass of mud. And our cozy little caravan, our sleeping accomodations (thankfully, heated!) was parked right between the horse stalls and the woodpile. The driveway was mud; the fields were mud; the logging road was mud; our caravan floor was covered in mud. We immediately realized the only solution was to take our boots off last thing before we climbed in to bed; and put them right back on first thing in the morning. Or... in the middle of the night, when we had to step out into the mud because of all the tea we'd been drinking for our flu...

The little girls were very cute, both. Agathe insisted in referring to Kirianne as "la petite fille", so eventually we all called her "la grande petite fille". Lucie just smiled most of the time.

Eventually we had to leave, though, as the family was receiving other guests. So, though not fully recovered from the fevers, we were dropped at Bagneres-de-Bigorre on Monday morning, where we spent a very pleasant hour and half in a cafe, reading - just like you're supposed to do in French cafes - while it snowed outside, and then, when the spa opened, we left our bags at the cafe and "took the waters" for a very pleasant hour and half before we had to collect our bags and jog to the bus to catch the train to Pau.

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