Six Acres Of Goodness

by Anna

We have officially been at our farmstay in Couiza for one week. We have learned a lot of new things….like how to use a strimmer, how to drive a motorized lawnmower, how to stack firewood and how much hard work it takes to organically grow your own food! Aside from working to help maintain the six acres of land where Russell and Yvonne live, we have been given some pretty awesome jobs, like dog-sitting their four sweet boys, Remi, Ouzo, Whiskey and Pernod, helping to make gooseberry jam and vegetable curry, and the best job of all, sampling all of Yvonne’s marvelous cooking, which always incorporates the veggies, herbs and fruits that they grow here.

Our new home Wheat and wild poppies
Born to Mow! Farmer Johnny
Remi, Ouzo and Whiskey

It has definitely not been all work and no play, as Russell and Yvonne make sure that we have time to go explore the surrounding area. Russell has been an excellent tour guide on some great outings to Rennes-le-Chateau, a castle that sits on a nearby hilltop, Limoux, where the Tour de France will kick off on July 17th, Alet-les-Bains, another nearby town with natural springs where we filled up our water bottles, Esperaza for a flea market and to his friend Gerard’s in the town of Quillan to order firewood.

Our firewood masterpiece Our balcony with a view

On Friday, we took a day trip to Carcassonne. It was an amazing town with a fortress that was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. It was truly a breathtaking site, and we spent the day exploring the fortified village and castle. We hopped on a train home that evening back to Couiza and met Russell and Yvonne’s friends, John and Caz, who were visiting from England for the weekend. They were all set up outside with cold beers and a box of wine, so needless to say, we had a really fun time getting to know them (and trying our best to decipher their accents!).

The fortress in Carcassonne
Cappuccino break Place Marcou

This weekend there has been a festival in Couiza to celebrate the Summer Solstice. We decided to check it out last night, and walked into town around 10:30pm. We had to get geared up in some light reflective vests to walk along the dark road to town, and thank goodness for our headlamps (I can’t believe I ever gave Johnny grief about registering for these!) which lit the way. The little park in town had been transformed with a stage, dance floor, lights strung in the trees and of course a bar and pop-up crepe stands. We listened to all of the French tunes and Lady Gaga songs that Johnny could handle and then trekked back down the road home. There must have been a zillion stars out, one of the benefits of being somewhere with barely any lights!, and we passed by a concert of frogs and toads in the river (it was honestly one of the loudest things we’d ever heard!).

Headlamps? Check.  Reflective vests?  Check.  Box-o-wine?  Check.

This morning Johnny and I rode bikes to Esperaza to visit the weekly Sunday market. There is actually a pretty big hippie culture in the surrounding hills, so the market is filled with all sorts of handmade jewelry, clothing and other “heady” things (aka: Johnny was in heaven).

Esperaza market

We’re now sitting out on the back lawn; it is pretty hot today and will stay light till 10pm. Other than a random thunder storm earlier in the week, the weather has been one of the best parts. Johnny and I sit outside with wine and beers every evening with Yvonne and Russell and watch the sun sink behind the hillside.  They have great stories of all the different people who have stayed with them through HelpX. They said at one point, they had six helpers here all at once, and their house was like the United Nations! One helper from New Zealand, named JJ, taught Russell his recipe for vegetable curry which we tried the other night, and it was DELICIOUS! It is definitely something we’ll be making again!

Russell cooking up some curry

Inspired by the local (and heated) games of Petanque in town, Yvonne found a Petanque set for us yesterday, and we played at sundown in the grass. Johnny is determined to get good enough to go join a game in town…..we’ll see.

Boule! Johnny working on his form

We’ll be here for one more week and a couple days, so we’ll be reporting back soon with more updates from Couiza.

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