LThe guests who stay at Kastonea Agritourism in Erratzu have the opportunity to accompany us during our chores at the farm to learn about how we care for our animals. Whether you are staying at the Ballenea House or the Kastonea Apartments I or II, you can learn how we raise our calves, lambs and piglets. We milk our sheep and cows. We gather fresh eggs from our hens and we feed the cows, sheep, horses, pigs and hens. All of this is done in the traditional way our ancestors did when centuries ago, they lived off of what the land gave them. The caserío, or farmhouse, as a means of livelihood.
From our small garden, we pick vegetables and greens that stock our pantry throughout the year. Each season of the year marks a different activity. In the winter, we do the butchering. In the spring, we raise lambs and milk the sheep to make cheese and yogurt. In the summer, we work the fields to harvest food for our livestock and in the winter we garden. In the fall, we gather the livestock that has been grazing all summer and we prepare for them to spend the winter in the barn. A living experience of what it means to live from the land in a rural atmosphere.
All of the agritourism activities are carried out at our farmhouse which is 1 km from the accommodations, in the neighborhood of Iñarbil. Depending on the season of the year, the type of activities change. You can make an appointment for your visit once you arrive.
When spring arrives the Baztan Valley awakens, the animals feel that winter has ended and they graze in the pastures filled with fresh grass. Come milk the sheep with us and discover the first chicks to hatch at the farm.
In the summer, work at the farm changes radically. The cows go out to graze with their calves during the whole season. We visit them everyday to make sure they have everything they need. We sheer the sheep and take them out to graze to the communal pastures. We stop milking them and they stay out until fall so they can take advantage of the grass in the hills. Every 4 or 5 days we visit them to make sure the flock is together, especially at the beginning of summer when the days are longer and they are more likely to come into heat. During this season it is important that the rams do not separate from the rest of the herd, in order to guarantee lambing in the winter. The hens, whose eggs we gather daily, and the pigs that we raise for slaughtering in the winter are the only animals that remain in the barn. We dedicate our summers to working the fields. When the weather is favorable, we cut the grass in the pastures, dry it and place it in silage to be able to feed the cows and the sheep during winter and spring, when they will stay in the barn.
If there is a time of year when Baztan shines with all of its splendor, that time is fall, without a doubt. The smells, the sounds and especially the colors, give us an unforgettable concert. Our forests change the freshness of the green for the reddish ochre and natural brownish tones. The first fall rains offer a very special fresh fragrance, replacing the floral scents of summer. The chestnut, walnut and oak trees give us their fruits and the farmers strive to harvest and preserve the fern to use it as bedding for the animals in the winter. The fresh fern that makes our mountains so green matures and turns them a spectacular reddish brown. While the cows and calves enjoy the last days of nice weather outside the barn, we bring the sheep down from the mountains to the lower forests in the hills to eat the chestnuts and acorns which will give them extra energy to face the winter.
In the winter our work at the farm doubles. By this time, the lambing is complete and we are now milking our sheep. The cows are gathered in the barn to protect them from the poor weather and we feed them the silage we have made in the summer. The cold and the snow come to visit, and we make use of these conditions to do our butchering and fill our pantry with txistorra, blood sausage, ham and pork loin. At this time, Carnival comes around, a tradition our villages celebrate just as our ancestors did. A rural Carnival, with the puske-biltzea, or collection of food house by house, farm by farm, to celebrate the festivities. Costumes, masks, mozorros and Damas as a culmination of Carnival, a festival with rural roots deeply embedded in our villages. Before these three days of Carnival in Erratzu, three other celebrations also take place: Emakunde, Gizakunde and Orakunde.