The family farm

A part of our big plan for this year is to spend time on the farm where hubby grew up and sort out the farm house which has been sadly neglected since his parents moved away. The farm house is part of a ‘homestead’ of three homes – two of which are occupied by relatives – built by hubby’s grandfather a long long time ago. It’s situated about a 20 minute drive from the town of Burrel – a 90 minute drive northeast of Tirana through a stunning landscape of mountains and lakes.

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The site of the farm was chosen for its source of spring water which still feeds the site today. The main crop is grapes (for making wine and raki). Animals are also kept for food and for sale at the market – namely pigs and chickens and cows. There is also a donkey, the work ‘horse’ of the farm. He’s essential for collecting key supplies from the main road during winter when the road down to the farm is inaccessible by car due to the high rainfall reducing it to nothing more than a long stretch of bog.

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We decided before we left London that come the spring we would relocate out to the farm and put some work in to making the childhood home habitable again so our visit over the last few days was partly to check out the amount of work involved – but mostly, a chance for me to be welcomed into the family and eat the pig killed to celebrate my arrival.

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What an incredible place it is… and what amazing souls who not only survive in the remoteness but have made a proper home. And what a welcome!

The pig was BBQ’d outside on the lawn while inside the wood burner cooked byrek and the kitchen was filled with salad and olives, cheese, and yummy cake. We ate until we were going to burst and then were told to eat more! The homemade wine was delicious and there were frequent toasts (gezuar!) made with raki retrieved from an enormous barrel.

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I was well out of my comfort zone and really felt the isolation of the place. It made me appreciate the absolute luxury I grew up in and appreciate the simplicity of not having ‘stuff’ around to complicate life.

Needless to say, we have a challenge ahead. The farm house is not in as good a state as we had expected (and our expectations were low). There’s a lot of work to do. And I had to use some imagination to picture how it must look in the spring and summer when the grapevines grow to form a luxurious green canopy that spreads out from the house.

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I think we’re up for it though. And now that our Albanian wedding venue is all booked in, we have some head space to start planning what we’re going to do to revive the family home.

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