The grass is very green ‘à la Ferme’

June 2014

We’ve just got back from spending a fantastic week in Najac, on the Tarn-et-Garonne and Aveyron border. As a surprise for my dad’s 60th, I booked us a gite on a farm, high above Najac, with views of the chateau. If you’re interested in staying on a farm in Najac, La Singlarie is the ideal place, and comes highly recommended.

Morning mist over NajacIMG_1798
This was our base while we explored the region, and we did see some lovely sights. Back on the farm, the children got to feed the pigs, chickens and donkeys, and we got to sample some tasty sausages and enjoyed fresh eggs each day. We would definitely like to have ducks and chickens, a couple of pigs and a goat on our land, although we’re not quite ready to take on 50 acres just yet!

We discovered that rural life very much equates to tractor-hogging roads but I guess that is something we will have to get used to if we want to live in a predominantly agricultural area. The locals were extremely friendly, even if their strong accent was sometimes hard to understand.
With regards to the cost of living, we were expecting everything to cost less than in Chamonix, but we were surprised to find there wasn’t much difference. Diesel may have been slightly cheaper, but petrol was practically the same, as were the supermarkets. The bakeries and cafés however, were astonishingly cheap, to the point that we often questioned why we had been given so much change. On one occasion, I felt like I was buying the entire boulangerie and was worried a 20€ note might not cover it, only to find the bill came to just over 5€! Incredible!

The trip definitely proved one thing, that there is more to life than working all the time for other people. Our move away from Chamonix is imminent and we are ready to embrace rural country life! Although we absolutely adored the beautiful villages and countryside of the northern Midi Pyrenees, we have decided to branch out our search area to include the Gers department, which might just be the place we are looking for. With no motorways, yet good transport links and within range of numerous airports, the Tuscan-like rolling hills of Gascony might just have something to offer us, besides gallons of Armagnac! There are plenty of hotels and this will obviously increase employment opportunities for me. I feel a second road trip may be on the cards.

While we were away, we also got some positive news from one bank that may be able to lend us more than initially expected, for the purchase of a secondary residence. This changes quite a lot in the grand scheme of things, and our criteria is constantly evolving. I would like to stress that we are definitely making progress, 6 months in, even though our situation has not changed. I like to think that we are ‘fine-tuning’ our plans and weighing up all the options, so we will be better prepared in the long term.

Spending some time with my parents, I got to learn more about their ideals and what they are looking for in their search for a new life in ‘la belle France’. It is true that we do not have the same needs and dreams but we know we will both have to compromise to find a solution suitable for all of us.
My parents are wanting to spend more time with their grandchildren in their retirement and enjoy a change of scenery. In fact, my mum would be quite happy to live anywhere that doesn’t overlook somebody else’s living room! They don’t want to be building tyre houses and carrying out lengthy renovation works. They’ve worked hard all their lives and want to relax. I am sure my dad would enjoy looking after his chickens, possibly having a go at home-brewing his own ale and doing DIY jobs in and around the house, whereas my mum would most likely want to get more hands on in the garden, make her own homemade jam from our fruit trees, and drink plenty of coffee with the locals while improving her French.
Pete and I obviously have ecological preoccupations, with a view to becoming self-sustainable, and we accept that will have time in the future to carry out longer renovation projects, such as building an earthship! The main priority at the moment is to break the cycle and make the move.

After visiting some properties and land in Aveyron, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne, we believe we should buy a property that is at least partially renovated, so that we can move in straight away. We considered buying a yurt to live in during the construction of our eco house, but it just doesn’t seem practical, and unfair to impose our two children on my parents 24 hours a day in close proximity. We will definitely need two separate living areas or annexes, so that my parents can escape the trials and tribulations of raising two children under 5 all over again!

I am sure that once we are there, the children will embrace outdoor living, and I am hoping they will have enough stimulation through hands-on learning from their father, that any tantrums will diminish!

Pete wants to get working on the land straight away. He’s been working on our Chamonix garden and putting into practice the techniques he has learned on his online permaculture theory course.

In time, we would hope to build an eco-gite, cob house or earthship-type structure to rent out, to enable Pete to teach permaculture principles to anybody wanting to learn about them. Unlike the numerous other permaculture courses available around the world, this knowledge would be provided free of charge, to make it available to everybody. After all, isn’t “sharing the surplus to create abundance” one of the most important ethics of permaculture?!



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