Five years ago next week, we saved Pepito from the abattoir for the princely sum of €2,000.

He’d spent his working life pulling gypsy caravans full of tourists up and down the hills of the Dordogne. We thought he’d enjoy an easier life carrying suitcases for guests in the yurt camp we expected to open the following April.

We didn’t know he’d been put to work far too young, which permanently damaged his back. Or that he had arthritis in his legs. Or that, without a microchip or papers, he should have been given away or sold for his meat value of €800. And we couldn’t have imagined it would be years before the campsite was finally open.

We only knew that we wanted a working horse instead of a tractor and Pepito came along at the right time.

A very hungry horse

But apart from pulling a stubborn pine tree from the old pig woods and a little harrowing, Pepito has never worked in écovallée. Instead, he has eaten – acres of grass in the Summer, and tons hay in the Winter.

The only trouble is, hay is expensive. Last year, after a very dry Spring, Pepito’s hay cost €5 a bale from our local agricultural supplier. This year, they’re selling bales of this essential, life-giving feed for €6 each – even though it is more plentiful. It may not sound much, but it’s a crushingly huge increase for us, considering Pepito will eat one bale every day until the grass starts growing again in April.

Animal attraction

We don’t regret saving Pepito from the slaughterhouse. He doesn’t plough the field or carry luggage as we intended, but he does keep the grass down without the use of fossil fuels – and he does create mountains of manure for the veggie patch.

He is also the star attraction for many of our younger guests – and one reason why some families choose écovallée over other yurt camps. This big-bellied, gentle horse, will come running from the far corner of the valley at the sight of an apple, a carrot or a stale baguette held high, and stand patiently while his hair is turned into plaits.

He’s a beautiful, friendly beast we wouldn’t want to live without.

Pepito’s turn for some love

Even though écovallée has been a success since we’ve been open, all the money after tax has been reinvested in the campsite – on infrastructure like the spectacular solar shower, off-grid grey water treatment, perhaps the world’s most beautiful compost toilet, wooden floors for the yurts, new covers, furnishings and more.

Now the bulk of our work is done, it’s Pepito’s turn to receive the attention he deserves. Not only does he need good hay and oats to get through what might be another bitterly hard Winter, but we’d love to build him a field shelter to give him the option of getting out of the wind and rain for the first time in his life. The wood for the frame is waiting. We just don’t have the resources for walls or a roof.

How you can help

The reason we are making “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” available now, instead of waiting for a publisher, is to raise funds for Pepito. The €1 you spend, after fees, will keep him in hay for over two hours. For every 10 people who buy the book, we can feed Pepito for a whole day.

As the book describes, it was never our intention to be poor. Some people will say we shouldn’t even be keeping a horse. But we want Pepito to end his years in écovallée and we will do everything we can to make that happen.

We can do this together

One of the many things our experience has taught us is that living the sustainable, self-sufficient life is almost impossible for one small family unit. The sensible, practical way forward is through community. The community should ideally be made up of people living in the same area, sharing skills, tools and whatever support is necessary throughout the year. But thanks to the Internet, that community can include people from around the world.

If you can spare €1 to help feed Pepito, please do so. If you would like to buy a whole bale, better still – you will receive one copy of “The yurt camp, the English mafia and the French resistance” for every euro you spend. Your money can be redeemed against a holiday of any length at the écovallée yurt camp, at any point in the future. And you will receive a book that, as one reader puts it, is “€1 very well spent”.

We’re not a charity. We’re just a family doing our best to get through the Winter with our horse – which will be all the easier with your help.

Hay or nay? Say yay today!

To buy your book(s), visit the écovallée facebook shop and click on the sock monkey. Then enter the number of books you want to buy and pay with paypal. You will receive your copy (or copies) by email within moments. With all of our thanks.