Camel’s cortal Vernacular heritage
Sheep farming was significantly more important than cattle farming at Evol : before the First world War, as many as 2000 sheep grazed in the valley, and only about 150 head of cattle. Each family owned a herd of fifty or so sheep, and two to six cows.
The village specialized in selling young sheep: the lambs which were eight months to a year old were sold at the autumn fairs, when they came down from the mountain pastures.
Breeding relied on a collective organization. The herds were grouped and grazed on the different pastures of the valley depending on the season. The cami Ramader is the path of transhumance, which allowed herds to go up from Thuir d’Evol to Molina.
In the spring, the sheep grazed around cortals (small stone barns). From June 1st until September 30th a cowherd kept all the cows from the village at the devesa, the common village grazing land of Valleta, between the refuge of Molina and the Gorg Negre. By the middle of June, all the herds would be high up. The cows grazed the grass of the Pla de la Valleta, and the sheep roamed in the woods and on the steep slopes.
On Saint John’s day, there was a procession to the Gorg Negre. » The priest exorcised the waters and the mountain….and chased away the demon which was at the Bac Dels Pudents, at the Gorg where it was said to assume the appearance of a black ram. Then the priest would bless the shepherds and the herds.”
In September the cows gradually descended to the village, followed by the sheep.
« In the spring, the watching of the herds was entrusted to three owners who arranged everything with the local shepherds, who were mostly from Evol. Each family had two or three cortals at different altitudes: in winter they would be near the village, close to the forest up to 2000 metres above sea level. In the summer, the animals were grouped together from La Molina to Gorg Negre and in the forest; in October, we went down half-way, and at All Saints’ to the « Llosers”, and back around thevillage for Saint Andrew’s.” Jean Mauri, January 28, 1972, in an interview by Jean Bècat. Source: Revue Conflent n°67, 1974. La Vallée d’Evol, vire en haut Conflent, Jean Bècat.