I wanted to go to the French Open in Paris for a day, but it was a long way to go from the USA without other plans. Having visited Paris previously, I was looking for other options when I found a “housesit” in Lagraulière, a town in Corrèze on a website called Trusted Housesitters. There are several other similar ones, but basically the site matches house and pet sitters with homeowners who need help with pet and home care.
I paid my application fee for the site, applied to the job in Corrèze which includes details about the owners, pets and home, and miraculously got it! After some communication back and forth, I booked my plane and train tickets in preparation for my next adventure.
Lagraulière is located in Corrèze, one of three “departments” in the Limousin region of central France. It is located in very beautiful countryside and farmland. Both the Dordogne Valley and the Lot Valley are 1.5 hours away by car; west and south, respectively.
Lagraulière is a small town with a bakery, pharmacy, church, restaurant, shop, post office and maybe a few other businesses. The “housesit” (which I put in quotes because it was a farmsit) was located in the hamlet Aurelle, which is a cluster of houses just outside of the town.
Linda and Derek
After two flights and a train ride to Brive-La-Gaillarde, I found Derek and Linda at the Gare (train station). The weather was truly atrocious. In the pouring rain, we loaded my bag in the car and headed to Jollity Farm around 8pm.
Fortunately, we arrived home to a warm, traditional French meal of lentils and Toulouse Sausage, that Linda had prepared in a crock pot. This dish, coupled with a melon salad, took the chill off my bones and filled my empty stomach.
Over dinner, I learned Linda and Derek are from England and living out their dream in Corrèze . Linda is a retired nurse that clearly uses her skills on her lot of animals, much of whom are getting a second chance. Derek is a truck driver who travels across Europe for three months at a time before he gets a month off to enjoy the farm.
They have kids in Australia and England. I earned the stay at Jollity Farm because Linda was returning to England for their grandson’s birthday, while Derek was going back on the road. In exchange for my free stay in Corrèze , I cared for the multitude of farm animals who Linda introduced me to the following morning.
The Morning Chores
First, we let the dogs out of their sleeping stall in the barn. For the next hour of chores, Elmo and Brisca, both border collies, followed us around as they waited for their walk through the woods. Three chickens (a rooster and two hens) roost in the barn overnight. In the morning, they get a few handfuls of grain.
Also, four goats, Hector, Zou Zou, Fifi, and Madam Zsa Zsa, spent the night in the barn. They normally stay outside this time of year, but Linda and Derek’s friend Rob started hanging gates for the paddocks, and the goats had means of escape. Yikes!! Not on my watch. Fortunately, they only had to stay in the barn two nights.
Going into the housesit, I was a little worried about the goats since they can be mischievous. By the end, they were some of my favorites, especially Zou Zou who always greeted me in hopes of getting a treat. And I had to laugh at Madam Zsa Zsa’s name, the only goat with a beard!
After filling a hay net for the goats, we filled a bucket for the pigs which included stale bread, grain, and some water. Delilah, Gertrude and Wee slept in their shelter until breakfast, but as soon as they heard us stirring, Gertrude and Wee trotted to the feed bin for their food. Delilah, on the other hand, was so old and fat, that we had to wake her from a deep, snoring sleep and then wait for her to trudge to the feed bin so the other two wouldn’t eat all the slop.
The Chickens, Ducks and Goose
Next to the pig pen is a hen house. Twelve other chickens, a MEAN goose and two ducks roost in the structure overnight. During the day, they are free to roam. As such we let them out as we fended off Gilbert. This big, white goose was the only grumpy animal on the farm. He hissed and pecked and threatened us as we tossed grain out onto the grass and into the feeder for the birds to eat.
Careful not to turn our back on the goose, we looked for eggs. I was very excited to do this. It was like having an Easter egg hunt every day! Unfortunately, no eggs were to be found that morning, but over the week, I collected about eight chicken eggs and one duck egg, that I ate fresh daily!
During my watch, two chickens went missing which stressed me out! Linda assured me they are just brooding somewhere. Upon her return, she found one chicken in the goats’ pen sitting on four eggs, and one chicken in the roof of the hen house sitting on twelve eggs.
She took them away from the mamas as she certainly didn’t need any chicks for the farm, but unfortunately, these eggs can’t be used as she didn’t know if any had turned into embryos. I felt bad about the waste, but the pigs probably enjoyed the treat. But given chickens only lay an egg a day, at least I know, the chicken in the hen house had been working its magic for a week before I arrived.
Could you imagine my shock if I would have ended up with baby chickens on the farm in Corrèze? I learned they take three weeks to hatch, so I was in the clear!
Finally, we visited the horses. Normally, by this time of year, the horses graze on the lush grass, however, due to the cold winter, Linda was still having to supplement the grass in the paddock with hay. Five horses, Gavrouche, Hurley, Suri, Jolie, and Lexie anxiously awaited their breakfast.
We tossed two hay nets over the fence and let them work out the pecking order. Lexie, the buckskin, was definitely the boss! She got first dibs on the hay as she pins her ears and threatened any horse that came near. Gavrouche, a retired racehorse, was next in the pecking order. Suri, a gray, and a retired dressage horse was third in line, and she patiently waited for us to spread out the hay.
Hurley, the pony and Jolie a retired chesnut broodmare brought up the rear. Jolie was definitely the sweetest (and most bullied). While they munched at the hay, we moved the electric fence. The fence gets moved five feet, morning and night, to control the grass growth and to give the horses a new swath daily. I can’t say I was very good at this. It’s amazing how hard it is to get straight!
At the bottom of the hill are the woods. We passed through the third paddock, gave the five sheep a pet and took the dogs for a short walk along a loop trail as we checked to see if Linda’s beehive had attracted any honeybees…not yet.
The morning chores are complete after the dogs get their walk, as the sheep don’t require feeding. There are five sheep and Lily with the black face and the gimp leg is the head honcho. She calls the sheep to join her in whichever field she is in.
LuLu Is the widest sheep. Ernie and Eric are a somewhat matching pair, and Belle is blind. Poor Belle, she was by herself most of the time, but I guess she didn’t have to share the grass! She would come to the call of her name like a dog though and was definitely my favorite of the bunch.
The Rental Car
The dogs and cat eat at lunch time, so after poo picking the fields, Linda and Derek took me back to Brive-La-Gaillarde to pick up my rental car. The business hours of operation are short at best in Corrèze, thus I couldn’t get my car the previous evening. Saturday, Enterprise Rental Car was open from 9-12 and 1-5. Sunday, not at all!
Fortunately, Linda and Derek joined me because the gentleman on duty did not speak English, and they did not have the automatic transmission car, which I reserved! Had a wished for a manual transimission vehicle, I could have rented it at the local supermarket, only 15 minutes away from the farm, rather than from Enterprise, in Brive, 30 minutes away. But I specifically wanted automatic.
While in a pinch I can drive a stick, being in a foreign country, unfamiliar with the language, the road signs, directions and more, a manual transmission seemed too much to handle. The Enterprise employee called all the other car companies of which none had an automatic transmission. He suggested to return later in the day, when another renter came in who was returning the one automatic vehicle that they had!!
With relief, I took the keys to the dirty car with a ¾ tank of gas! Back at Jollity Farm, we fed the dogs and cats. The cats have a pecking order too. Thierry was the head honcho with long-haired Claude being a close second. They ate together outside.
The two kittens, George and Millie, ate upstairs. George had the cat flu as a baby and was abandoned by his mother. Consequently, he developed an eye infection. Though he lost his eye, Linda nursed him to health every four hours! Millie, the gray kitty, liked to sleep in my room, so she joined me occasionally, but most the time all the cats spent their time playing, exploring and lounging outside, despite what the pictures show.
Last but not least, Chav, a white cat, did his own thing. Sometimes he showed up for lunch, sometimes he didn’t. He was around for the first half the week, likely due to the cold, wet weather, but toward the end he was missing in action for a few days.
I felt like every day I was looking for an animal…a chicken brooding, Elmo taking himself for a walk around the hamlet, a cat hiding out. I needed Linda’s personality…don’t worry, they’ll show up! At least I didn’t have to look for the fish. They enjoyed a nice little pond and a daily handful of pellets.
The farmhouse was heated by a wood burning stove and fireplace. Fortunately, I could work those, though I imagine some people don’t know how. I only needed to take the chill out of the night air at the beginning of the cold week. Toward the end of my stay, I just left the windows and doors open for a nice breeze and a parade of pets (and flies) to come and go.
Consistently removing my muck boots in the mud room and donning slippers the rest of the time hardly kept the house clean. I swept almost daily and washed the dishes by hand. My stay was very much akin to our ranch at Estabrook, with the addition of a TV and 42 animals!!
Out of the goodness of their hearts, Linda and Derek fully fund their farm themselves. Of course, that’s what most farmers do, but Jollity Farm is different because most of the animals that live on the farm are rescues.
Gertrude and Belle are blind. George is missing an eye. Brisca was going to be shot for killing a chicken when she was two. Now at twelve, she is down-right deaf! Elmo is missing half his teeth. Two of the cats were going to be drowned, as drowning unwanted kittens is common practice in France. And the horses, well they couldn’t preform any longer, so they needed a home for retirement.
It’s expensive and a lot of work to care for all those animals, not to mention, the flower and vegetable gardens!
The chores started back up in the evening, but since it remains light until 9:30 at night this time of year, we had some time to venture out. We met up with Yvonne who lives in Vigeois, a small nearby town in Corrèze. Vigeois is best known for its 12th-Century bridge and 6th-Century Abbey.
From Vigeois, we visited one of their friends nearby barn sales which included a selection of books, used clothes, and antiques. After browsing the sale, we continued to Pompadour, another small village in Corrèze, to donate some items to a secondhand store.
Pompadour is famous for its chateau and headquarters of the French National Stud. While there, we enjoyed an afternoon drink at a local café and checked out the public horse facilities, which included a practice area, a steeple chase course, and a racetrack. The public may watch all the general exercising and some of the events for free! Nothing was taking place while we visited, but races were scheduled for the following day which would have been cool to see.
After an enjoyable afternoon, we returned to Jollity Farm, completed the evening chores which included feeding the pigs, haying the horses and goats, and closing up the chickens before we went for dinner at a restaurant on a lake. Linda had chicken fajitas served in cream sauce (not exactly how you find them in the USA, and I had a rack of ribs. I suppose that wasn’t too traditionally French, except for the basket of bread!
Places to Stay
All in all, it was a good first day in Corrèze, and I was prepared for the chores and sight-seeing ahead of me in the coming week. If visiting the Corrèze is on your bucket list, Linda and Derek operate their organic Jollity Farm as a bed and breakfast as well.
While her clientele tend to be travelers from northern France who stop over for a night on the way to the south of France, anyone may stay in the stand-alone apartment, which includes a bedroom (no TV and limited internet), a spiral staircase to a children’s loft, a kitchenette and a bathroom.
While I had the run of the whole house (with a TV and good internet) because I was working, B&B guests simply stay in the apartment, and Linda and Derek serve them apertifs upon arrival and breakfast the next morning.
It’s a perfect stop over for families after a long drive. The parents get to relax in the flower garden with glass of wine or get an aromatherapy massage while the kids get to expend their energy while playing on the farm, feeding the animals, and hunting for eggs!
Domaine La Valade Farm
Yvonne and Rob (who I mentioned separately above) also provide visitors to the Corrèze a place to stay. They own and operated a camping site as well as two gites (basically a house for rent) called Ferme Domaine La Valade. They cook a few meals a week for their guests and offer rides on their six horses.
Yvonne gave me a tour of their property. The houses are lovely as are the tents. I thought I stayed in a fancy tent in Africa. These tents included wood floors, running water, and multiple rooms. They were like living in a house with a canopy roof!
I wish I would have snapped some photos while I was there, but I thought I would be back to ride horses later in the week. With all my sight-seeing in Corrèze, the Dordogne Valley and the Lot Valley, however, time escaped me.
As Yvonne and Rob are from the Netherlands, they market to the Dutch, though they speak French, English and German, so they can cater to many guests during the summer months.
Derek, Linda, Yvonne and Rob are all lovely hosts. I really enjoyed meeting them and exploring Corrèze, theLimousin region, and surrounding areas. ETB