La Chatte Gitane (or The Gypsy Cat) was the name we chose for our cottage in France at the time. We chose it while on the road, moving house the first time round, from Ireland to France with 2 dogs and 7 cats in the car.
This blog began its insignificant life as a recipe book for friends and family who would ask me repeatedly for a recipe of this, that and the other.
Since then it has taken many different directions, like we did and like gypsies tend to do. Sometimes making a U-turn and revisiting familiar roads and taking a break when necessary.
You'll find recipes here, but also musings about the places we've called home, the gardens that we've established, not always successfully, the homes we've improved and the environments we've lived in. Currently, after yet another stint in Ireland, we're back in France @ Le Mas d'Ayen

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Our New Volunteers. Fighting the Brambles and Gorse.

As some of you may already know, we are hosts in the Help Exchange or HelpX scheme.  The volunteers, from all over the globe, help in the garden or house and in exchange they get a bed and board.
Now, some people might think this is free labour for the hosts and slave labour for the volunteers. It might be in some places, but it is not supposed to be.
In the first place it is a cultural exchange where people who travel have a safe place to stay and get some experience along the way.
The volunteers are on average 23/24 y/o who take a year off, after university or college studies, before they join the hectic 'adult' world. They travel the world or nearer their native land. I wish it existed when I finished my studies - I would still be traveling probably ;-)
Not all volunteers are that young. People take sabbaticals at any age. Our eldest volunteer, Pat, was 68 and we had a hoot.

Here is Pat helping (and doing a fantastic job) to decorate a cake for friends of ours.

You see, it's not all slave labour. Generally they work 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. They get a comfy room and fantastic food. We take them sightseeing and include them in our family and social life.

Sunday, I collected 2 lovely people from their previous host's place. Keegan from South Africa and Mikaela from Australia.

Their first task is to clear a bit of land from brambles and gorse that was nearly encroaching onto the house.  Not to worry, we've still got plenty of blackberry brambles in other areas on the land.
They are doing a great job.

Young willows have been liberated.

Heaps of gorse and brambles, waiting to dry out and be disposed of.

 Here comes Trouble 

 All vying for the newcomers' attention. And they get plenty of it.

Patricia xxx...x


  1. What a wonderful idea. I could see me doing something like this, both volunteering and hosting. Such a lovely way for all to learn about different cultures and people and to make new friends x x

    1. It is a great scheme and I for one, love the interaction with people of all over the globe (without having to travel myself ;-) )
      I've never lost touch with some of them and it is lovely to follow up on how their lives have evolved over the years.

  2. I came over here thinking your 'new volunteers' were goats, as goats love to clear brambles .... how wrong was I .... haha ;-)

    It looks like a very fair exchange for work, the chance to meet new folk and spend time in different parts of the world in exchange for a good days work. I bet they get so much more life experience this way. What a wonderful idea.

    1. Now that you mentioned goats....hmm..maybe I can bend Bert's arm and twist his ear haha!

  3. Sounds like a good scheme. When I was a teenager I did a student exchange with a French lad, but it didn't work out because he wasn't the slightest bit interested in learning about England or English!

    1. Ah, yes. You get all sorts, eh.
      This is different though, because the volunteers themselves get in contact with us. They are definitely interested in the country and the type of work that wants doing.
      Often they want to set up their own smallholding or veggie garden at a later stage in their lives. Or they just want to experience a different kind of life. :)

  4. Oh wow that's fantastic. A brilliant idea xx

  5. Some friends of ours do this every summer too, it is such a great idea for all involved. I agree it would have been fantastic to have done this when we were younger. I wish we had room to accommodate people in our house, we would love to do it too.

    1. A caravan ? Or a tent ?
      If you state that in your profile, some volunteers prefer that even. As long as they have access to a toilet, bathroom and sufficient food it shouldn't be a problem. x


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