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Our last year in the UK!

Ok so here it is 2017, our final full year in the UK before we make the permanent move to France to run a smallholding.

Moving from working in offices in the UK to working on our own land raising our own livestock and producing our own food will be a huge lifestyle change for us.

Friends ask me if I am apprehensive or have any reservations and I tell them ‘Are you kidding, I can’t wait to go’! I think that as you get older you perceive time passing more quickly and so I am looking forward to this year flying by.

We have a lot to do this year though…..

The farmhouse is more or less finished on the ground floor except a few finishing off jobs and the one slightly bigger job of moving the location of the front door. This year will mainly be about renovating the upstairs. We need to take it from a space that used to be used to dry onions and garlic to something that is habitable.

We have work scheduled in to raise the beams to allow us to raise the floor height and make sure it has plenty of insulation underneath for those remarkably cold French winters. After that comes partition walls, plastering the inside of the tiled roof to get maximum exposure to the beautiful oak beams and then fitting of velux windows or dormers (yet to fully decided on cost grounds) and of course we will also need a visit from the electrician to give us lights and sockets up there.

Neither Phil nor I are fantastic at DIY so we will be relying on the excellent tradesmen we have found locally to carry out all the big jobs. This also makes sense from a time perspective, if we had to rely on when we were over on holiday to do the work it would take forever!

With buying additional leave this year we are lucky enough to have 6 weeks holiday and we plan to spend every minute of them at the farm getting the grunt work done to help out where we can, and reduce labour costs.

In addition to completing the renovations there are a multitude of other things to consider ahead of the move. One of which is changing our car. Having always had cars that were more suited for a business commute I decided not to replace like with like when it came time to change my car last year and bought a cheap second hand run around from my sister. This bright orange Nissan Note is hardly going to do the job in rural France, so at some point towards the end of the year I need to start looking at 4x4s.

I am told by friends already out in France that buying second hand cars in France is a pricey affair, for some reason they seem to hold their value much more in France than in the UK. Our most cost effective option would be to pick something up in the UK to take out with us and then get a certificate of conformity in France to change it to a French registered vehicle. This will of course mean driving a right side car on the wrong side of the road in France but having spent 10 years driving to France and using my UK car I think the odd time it is difficult to see to overtake is worth the savings.

The other task we have ahead of the move is to properly research how to register with the local tax authority as a small agricultural entrepreneur business. The French seem to have wheels within wheels of bureaucracy when it comes to these things so I imagine this will take some fathoming out. I think our first port of call needs to be the local Chamber of Commerce which will test our French.

On that note we also plan to put a great deal more effort into our French this year and I am looking for a native French speaker to help me improve and gain more confidence.

Also on the list of projects this year are:

  • Attending a bee keeping course and taking a refresher Pig-in-a-Day course, also possibly taking a cheese making course at the School of Artisan Food

  • Marking out, laying and securing a large tarpaulin over the area that will be our kitchen garden to kill off grass and weeds to make it easier to till in a year or so for our first crops

  • Take down some unproductive large walnut trees and chop the wood to store for the log burner

  • Plant additional trees in the orchard, especially some cordons to get them to establish ahead of us being out there

  • Also plant soft fruit beds

  • Buy and have fitted a new water pump to allow us to have the option of source water in the house and also to save money when watering the veg garden and livestock!

Overall we need to end the year with all the major conversion work on the farm completed and ideally have started on the conversion of the piggery. We would also like to complete the initial stock fencing and re-gravel the farmyard. It feels daunting when spelling it all out like this but we will do what we did last year and plot the work in over the year as funds allow and tick things off as we go.

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