We had Sunday free, which was good because we had loads to catch up on. It was a beautiful day!
We spent the morning writing up the blog from the last few days – we’ve been doing so much cool stuff that we haven’t had time to update it. We then headed to Cal La Lluisa to upload everything, check emails etc. We both walked barefoot down the road, and it felt pretty good apart from the occasional sharp stone. We were also happy to avoid this poo, although the butterflies seemed to appreciate it.
I stuck to coffee in the restaurant, but Anna had had enough of fruit teas and decided to try a mystery bottle from the top shelf. It turned out it is called Ratafia and is something that people make at home all over the Pyrenees. It has up to 50 different plants in it, which vary from valley to valley, and is fermented outside – apparently being exposed to moonlight is important in the process! All I can say is that this one was bloody delicious, like a fortified wine with added herbs that made you feel like it was doing you good! It was also about 20% alcohol but served in a half pint glass, so by the time we left we were feeling a bit light headed!
We walked down to the village to catch up with Silvia – she wanted to take us to one of the Project areas with her husband Rafael so they could show us some work we could get on with tomorrow. We waited in the other restaurant (there are two!) for a while, and then she and Rafael came to collect us.
We left the village and wound our way up another gravel track to the top of a small hill on the side of the mountain. The project is basically a herb garden; they are growing herbs in lots of different microclimates in the area to see which microclimates are best suited for each species. Our job for tomorrow is to weed the plots. Rafael gave us a demonstration of what to do. We said we felt a bit bad that he was doing all the work, but he said that one person working and three people watching was quite normal in Spain! After the demo we went and checked out a cool little cave formed by a spring. The water from here works its way down the hill and forms the village supply. Apparently natural water supplies are quite common here and are regularly tested by the government to ensure they’re safe to drink – better than paying for horrible hard water at home!
Silvia asked us if we had time before dinner to see their chickens. Of course we did, being basically tramps these days (in the best sense of the word). So we went up another track, at the top of which was a massive black and white dog bounding around and checking out the car. This was Silvia and Rafael’s Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees). He is only eight months old! Apparently he will put on another 20 kg before he is fully grown, so will weigh in at about 60 kg.
These dogs aren’t used to herd animals, they are to protect them from predators, including eagles and wolves (which used to be more common here). They are raised from pups in the company of the animals they will guard, so that they become family. It’s important not to pet and fuss them too much because they also need to guard against people sometimes. Silvia said she struggled with that, and so did we! Apparently you have to be careful to pick the dogs with the right temperament; the ones who are too nice are no good for guarding. I said I thought there would be a good market for those nice dogs in the UK. So fluffy!
This guy was being used to guard chickens. Rafael told us that the hardest thing for the dog is to guard against predatory birds, because it’s hard for him to tell the difference from the chickens. When they started this little family they lost one chicken and had another injured, probably to eagles, but recently there haven’t been any incidents so they think the dog has learned his job!
Rafael said that he had heard of rewilding projects in the UK to re-introduce big predators, and he said that these dogs could be part of the solution to protect livestock. I think this would be a great idea; I would definitely not mess with these chickens – look at those teeth!
We headed back down the hill and Silvia and Rafael drove us home. One the way they insisted on stopping at their place to give us some of their home-grown potatoes. They had another dog at home, a little spaniel who was completely mental, jumping up at us and rolling over to get his tummy tickled. Silvia said he was very nervous, Rafael added that this is what happens when you cross a Spanish dog with a French dog. I don’t know if this is always true but I wasn’t going to argue.
After the guys dropped us at home we started cooking a much-needed dinner. Halfway through there was a knock at the door – Silvia had brought us gardening gloves. These people are too kind! Eventually we had dinner – sausage and mash with amazing Spanish sausage from the butcher in Organya. So good! Now all we need to do is get started early tomorrow and do sufficient weeding to justify all the incredible kindness we’ve been shown in our time here. A tall order!