Tom (37) is English and Joanna (28) is Polish. In early 2019 they decided to move permanently from their home in England to a 2.7 hectare (6 acre) plot in the foothills of the French Pyrenees; by car roughly an hour South of Toulouse and an hour North of Andorra.
They are working towards a self sufficient life, with the aim of organically growing enough food to feed a family and to produce enough energy to heat and light their home off-grid, 12 months of the year.
Their plot is on the South facing side of a lush green valley overlooking snow capped mountains. There is a small ‘modern’ (1970s) house where Tom & Joanna live, with a separate double garage alongside it. The terrain is roughly 50% grass / paddock, and 50% woodland. Wild cherry, walnut and plum trees are dotted around and on clear days the sun hits the slope from dawn until dusk.
The land sits 100m below the pretty mountain village of Roquefixade. The village is well known for it’s ruined castle, (Château de Roquefixade) and steep limestone cliffs that protect it from the Northern weather. In season, thee Gite d’Etape in the village serves as a good local restaurant / bar, and the two lovely towns of Lavalenet and Foix are 10km away with many shops, bars, restaurants etc. Both towns have weekly farmers markets selling fresh seasonal produce.
A young orchard is being planted and a 35ft polytunnel has been erected on a newly landscaped ex-paddock. Crops on two large growing terraces will be cultivated from Spring 2019.
The couple have a small tractor, chainsaw, mower and basic tools; mains water, mains electricity & a good WiFi connection.
Mantenimiento / bricolage
Ayuda en una granja
Ayuda en proyecto ecológico
Ayuda con animales
Ayuda con idiomas
The Ariège is one of the least populated and most beautiful areas of France. Volunteering at this smallholding offers the chance to spend time in a stunningly beautiful, tranquil space, to experience rural life in France, contribute to (and learn from) a project aiming at true self-sufficiency.
Tom & Joanna are recently married. They have a cat and a beautiful friendly puppy! (at time of writing). Joanna is a yoga teacher and a pianist. Tom ran a business before the lifestyle change and now heads up the physical aspects of land management. They are fun and hardworking, and fantastic vegetarian cooks!
For lovers of the outdoors, The valley is a perfect place to be. Cyclists, walkers and historians regularly come to explore the area, to visit the castles and lakes, and hike along the valley to nearby Chateau de Montsegur.
The land is situated such that you are sure to find a private spot in the trees or the paddocks to relax, to read, enjoy a glass of wine or just work on your tan :)
Tom & Joanna are looking for energetic, handy people who don’t mind physical work and are happy to get their hands dirty. You will have the chance to learn new skills and help with a variety of projects, including:
1. Design and implementation of a rainwater collection system and passive irrigation system for the vegetable garden.
2. Fencing off areas of land for animals using natural Acacia posts and wire mesh.
3. Basic forest management, including clearing woodland scrub, pruning / planting & disease treatment / prevention.
4a. Preparation of 12 month planting schedule to ensure year round yields.
4b. Sowing of seeds in line with the planting schedule. Caring for / harvesting organic crops.
5. Building a stone & Cob pizza oven using recovered materials from the plot.
6. Selecting and planting berry bushes along one side of a 150m orchard.
7. Installing bee hives.
8. Building a large chicken coop and tending to chickens.
9. Conversion of double garage into a self-contained dwelling (subject to planning permission).
10. Building outdoor yoga platform in the forest.
11. Building a rough wooden shelter for tool & machinery storage.
12. Furtilising and digging over soil in preparation for crops.
Tom - English & a little French / Joanna - English, French & Polish
For the first volunteer (or couple) there is a private, clean & comfortable spare double bedroom in the couple’s central heated house. Additional helpers will camp out under the stars in the paddock, orchard or woods around the house.
Fire wood can be easily foraged from the forest and there is running water available from outside taps. There are plenty of excellent camping spots on the land, and renovations of the garage are also underway.
At time of writing the garage plumbing is ready for a bathroom (shower, toilet & basin are on site ready for a handy person to install them!) and there are functioning electricity sockets inside too. The space is clean and clear, but currently there is no flooring, heating or hot water.
Your own car, motorbike or bicycle are preferable to see the sights and go to the shops, but for those without Tom & Joanna can collect from the airport and provide lifts to the nearby towns when they are going there. There are also plenty of opportunities to relax, hike and explore locally on foot.
All guests have access to the main house bathroom with a hot bath / shower, basin and flush toilet.
You will be offered three vegetarian meals a day:
9:00-9:30am - A simple light French breakfast with fresh coffee / tea.
1:00-2:00pm - A hot or cold lunch.
7:300-8:30pm - A main evening meal with wine or beer.
Tom and Joanna bake bread everyday and cook with fresh, local produce, and they value time spent sharing meals. Food is very important to the couple and guests can expect good quality ingredients prepared well.
Tom and Joanna have travelled the world extensively for many years exploring Europe, South America, Africa & Asia. In years gone by they have worked as volunteers themselves so know what it’s like and they hope to be excellent hosts because of that experience!
The couple are very sociable but outside working hours appreciate their own space. On days off and in free afternoons volunteers can canoe, swim or wakeboard at the nearby lakes. The nearest ski lift is less than 30 minutes drive where you can ski and snowboard during winter months. There are numerous trekking / hiking routes nearby, rock climbing and the beautiful town of Foix with great bars and restaurants is just a 15 minute drive from the plot. Barcelona is a 3 hour drive, and you can reach Andorra (for tax free shopping and great skiing) in around an hour.
Volunteers are asked to help for 25 hours p/week, Monday to Friday; typically starting at 9:30am. Your afternoons will be for you to explore and enjoy France.
Where possible volunteers are asked to bring a set of work clothes and suitable footwear for working outside.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
5 hours a day, 5 days a week