Since leaving the barn in the mountains, we visited the market at Cauteret, way up on the mountains, a summer tourist resort and ski station in winter. The organic Market Halls in Pau, a largish town in the region. It was disappointing to pass the regular food halls and see the throngs of people clammering to buy produce, only to discover a less populated organic location in a different area. Personally I think that I would choose the regular market hall and pitch my wares to all then try to attract customers from a much smaller section of the population who probably already have their favourite stalls. Arthes d’Asson market, again hugely seasonal for the tourists, but much better situated down on the valley floor, didn’t have a brilliant vibe, but good to visit none the less.
Pont d'Espagne, with all the tourists
Between market visits we have been making the most of our free time, taking energetic mountain hikes, cooling ourselves in arctic mountain streams (accidental canyoning incident in my underpants that amused everyone on the bank no end), soaking up the sunshine and never for a moment finding time to do absolutely nothing. There is always a distraction or a discovery to be made or something to discuss, even if it is only deciding where to sleep rough for the night, which we did for a long weekend.
temporary sleeping arrangements
We spent the following week helping Denis, a young farmer who has bought several hectares of abandoned agricultural land above his parents farm and is busy clearing old pastures that have been reclaimed by nature. There won’t be a shortage of firewood for many years, but it takes an extraordinary amount of effort to gain even the smallest parcel of land back from the wild, his project is truly of enormous proportions. He produces organic meat for consumption, grows fruit for jams, juices, jellies and sorbets that he sells locally, along with various balms and creams from cultivated and wild sources. Our work involved strimming bracken to reduce its vigour, apparently if you cut if every time it reaches the three leaf stage it slowly weakens the root structure and eventually the whole plant gives up. Another task that will take several seasons. We harvested blueberries and blackberries and enjoyed delicious sorbets and also provided the manpower to erect a machinery store that he had had in mind for ages but never the hands to get it done. It was good to feel appreciated and to achieve obviously beneficial projects for someone who works so very hard every day.
Vallée Arthes d'Asson