• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Beau M. Davidson
master gardeners:
  • John F Dean
  • Timothy Norton
  • Nancy Reading
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • Christopher Weeks
gardeners:
  • Tina Wolf
  • Saana Jalimauchi
  • thomas rubino

Tell me about your experiences homesteading in Europe

  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all! This is an open call for people to tell their stories and share their triumphs and woes in different countries in Europe. I know there are some amazing storytellers here, and more knowledge than I can even imagine. I am still in the process of finalizing where I want to buy some land (so far Sardinia), but before I'm boxed in I thought "why not see what did and didn't work for other folks?". So here we are, let 'er rip!

Some topics could include:

-Renovating property (a ruin even)
-Affordability
-Immigrating and integrating (if you moved to another country)
-Beurocracy (hisss hisss, stay away!)
-Giving up (if, when and why?)
-Wish you did it differently?

Looking forward to reading it all!
 
Posts: 58
Location: Portugal
33
goat foraging hunting chicken homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We're only three months into our homestead in Portugal.

My partner is Portuguese and we have both spent a lot of time here before moving together, so it's not exactly a whole new world. Nevertheless, it has been a learning curve for both.

• Pro - Great weather and if you go to central or northern Portugal, you get decent rain in winter too. The south is gradually becoming an expensive desert and I would avoid it if you want to do permaculture.
• Con - Wildfire and invasive Eucalyptus are huge environmental problems. There are often droughts in summer. Make sure you have a reliable well or spring.

• Pro - Everyone wants to help. We have had a constant supply of gifted potatoes, eggs, lettuce, jam, broccoli tops and crops to plant since the day we arrived. Buckets of things appear outside the door and often we are not sure who left them and have to do some detective work. Everyone knows everyone and can recommend tradesmen or tell you where to go to get things.
 • Con - Everyone wants to know what you're doing and they gossip a lot. We have made some people bitter by refusing to plough up our plot of land this spring like everyone else. They think it's 'going to waste' because we've left the native meadow. The veg garden is covered in chickweed and other 'weeds' so that it doesn't dry out, but everyone thinks we just don't know how to do it properly. We have been offered bottles of pesticides or for an old man to come and helpfully spray everything for us - including one who boasted that the pesticide he uses is now banned in the EU because it's so toxic. People have offered repeatedly to rotovate everything to a lovely, lifeless naked dust or even to come and do all our vegetable growing for us - they are a little confused when we politely decline. I love our garden so much how it is - we have so many types of nesting song birds, swallows, snakes and a thriving ecosystem buzzing insects - they love the wildflowers and I am so confused why everyone wants to kill it or thinks it's an eyesore - we think it's beautiful. So your ways of doing things may clash with 'established' knowledge on many fronts.

Integration - People are very welcoming but don't expect to find 'your crowd', especially if you have moved somewhere remote. Portugal is struggling with rural depopulation as all young people flee the countryside for the cities on the coast. Villages are literally dying as the last of the older generations pass away one by one. 60% of all the houses in our village are empty, abandoned or already a roofless ruin. My partner and I are spring chickens - we are young - the youngest in the village by several decades! All our friends in the village are old enough to be our parents or grandparents - which is fine and wonderful in many ways - but there is no-one our age who we could befriend and 'hang out with'. You know... watch a movie, down some beers, shoot the shit! Not everyone needs that sort of interaction and if you are older you may feel differently, but I do miss having a tight friendship group of people my own age.

Also if I did not speak the language I would probably feel very isolated. Being able to talk with people is not only a huge advantage, but makes you feel part of the culture and community. Whatever country you're thinking of, start learning the language as soon as you can - ideally before you move there! It has taken me 2 years to become conversationally fluent in Portuguese, even having the advantage of a native speaking partner.

• Pro - Land and property are cheap. We bought an 11 bedroom traditional granite house with an orchard, a well and a ruin that we're converting into a barn for 150,000Eur. We looked at some houses that were only 20,000-30,000EUR... Hell, there's one for sale in our village for 10,000. If you just want something small with land to grow, you can get great deals, especially in depopulated areas.

• Con - Bureaucracy. We had to change our entire game plan because of the laws in Portugal. The law is very difficult to research online, even in Portuguese. We eventually found out through estate agents and the bank a key detail: you are not legally allowed to live on 'non-urban' classified land in Portugal. They will also not give you a mortgage for it. Many small adorable houses with loads of land in the middle of nowhere are legally classified as 'agricultural support buildings' and you may face problems if you start living there full time. Due to the way land is developed and classified in Portugal, it's very, very difficult to find an 'urban' property legal for dwelling that is not in a village or town. You may find it hard to find that perfect farm in the middle of nowhere - that was what we were searching for and eventually we had to compromise with a house in a village and the knowledge that we can buy more farming land further up the mountain fairly cheap. It's also expensive/impossible to reclassify land.

Con 2 - After buying your property, you enter a whole new level of bureaucracy. Be prepared for a bunch of taxes, fees, obscure rules and laws that no-one will tell you exist. No-one really seems to know for sure what the rules are and you will hear many different version and get totally conflicting advice from everyone you ask - until after you've made your plans and invested - at which point you will of course learn it's legally impossible! Finding out how to do things legitimately is a constant and exhausting struggle (and usually involves paying dumb fees to some authority). We both speak Portuguese and have the support of my partner's family  to help us unravel this stuff and even then it's a total mess. Be prepared for everything to take months and cost a lot more than you'd like - especially if you are looking at renovating a property.

Con 3 - There are loads of grants and subsidies available (this is actually a pro). Finding them and unravelling the absolutely torturous process of applying for them and providing all the right documents is a whole other kettle of fish. We are not great at paperwork and feel that many of these things are out of our reach because we have no-one to help us and can't afford to hire someone to advise.

Pro/con - in Portugal and likely in many other southern European countries, most business needs to be done face to face. The majority of businesses here have no website or online presence at all. You find them by asking around. If you need to have an important conversation, you need to go there and find the guy directly. This can be great in some ways - very annoying in others. It depends what you need. If you want a wood-stove, you can just walk into a metal workshop by the side of road where a bunch of guys are welding them and speak with whatever random guy you find and he'll be happy to tell you all about what they're doing and show you how they're made. Great! But on the other hand, for administrative matters that in the UK you could do in a few minutes on the .Gov website, you will instead have to do an awful lot of taking numbered tickets and waiting in line in a windowless, beige, Kafka-esque room for 45 minutes - maybe more - the clock on the wall will be broken and time stands still in these places - only to be told bluntly by an extremely impatient middle aged lady behind the desk that you're in the wrong windowless, beige room and the right one is on the other side of the town and only open for 20 minutes on a Thursday... Repeat 5 times until eventually told to go back to the first place. This video is a very accurate portrayal of the reality - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wtbQUaC9mE

What would we do differently? I would have liked a house with more land adjoined to it. Living in the UK while property hunting abroad was hard. We didn't have a budget to fly out multiple times and take our time visiting loads of potential places. We had less than a week to view all the property that we wanted to see. I would have liked to have been able to check out a lot more, but our situation made that impossible since we were both working full time in the UK and had barely any holiday time to take!

Hope this helps!
 
pollinator
Posts: 848
Location: East of England/ Northeast Bulgaria
302
5
cat forest garden trees tiny house books writing
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've bought an old house on 2/3 acre in Bulgaria, but we aren't living there full time yet due to visa issues. It's difficult for non-EU citizens to get residency. As they don't want to be seen as an easy backdoor into Europe, Bulgaria is harder to get a long-term visa for than many other EU countries. It's not impossible, but it is challenging. They don't have an easy digital nomad visa like so many EU countries.

The language is a challenge. Especially in rural areas, older folk may speak Russian or German as well as Bulgarian, and in some areas, Turkish, but will not speak any English at all. Most younger people will speak some English. The education system is good and my neighbour's 11 year old grandson speaks fluent English. In the mayor's office, one of the staff called in her ten year old to translate, and they did a great job! I'm slowly picking up more Bulgarian. An added challenge for some may be the Cyrillic alphabet, but I found learning to read that far easier than pronouncing sounds that just don't exist in English! Google Translate is a huge blessing.

In many ways, my experience of village life has been similar to Rudyard's.

Because so many younger people move to the cities and overseas, most rural villages have many empty houses falling into disrepair. Unfortunately due to the way inheritance laws work, many will never be sold or lived in, but every village will have something for sale. A small house in need of significant renovation on 1/2 acre can be bought for as little as 4,000 EUR in an area that attracts few expats. Often these will be earth built with earth floors, great for someone wanting to explore natural building techniques. But it's important to choose carefully if you want other people nearby, as some villages really are dead, literally no one lives there.

As in Portugal, most places for sale will be in villages. It's harder to find an isolated house on larger land that's legal to live in, though there are some. As we're older I didn't want a lot of land and wanted a village centre location, so it wasn't a problem to be in a village.  We have the main house on 2/3 acre and then a second place with a much older house on 1/2 acre. I hope to garden about 1/4 acre and use the rest as coppiced woodlot. Total property cost was under 15,000 EUR, but the house will need at least another 15,000 EUR spent on it to get things functional and comfortable.

The village I'll be living in still has a shop, a school, an active community centre, a bus service to the nearest town. But most people living there are over 60. There's some movement back to the villages, people when they have kids who want the children to grow up with space and freedom and clean air. But generally, Bulgarian villages outside the touristy regions have a fraction of the population they once did.

Which leads to a huge plus - in most places, people are enormously welcoming to newcomers, so kind and generous. They love to see people moving in rather than houses slowly decaying. But they use a mix of traditional gardening and the worst of conventional growing. My lovely neighbours don't understand why I'm letting weeds grow and don't want my garden rototilled to bare earth. There's already an erosion issue, so I want plant roots to hold the soil there! I will need to cut or scythe the growth in summer to stop it getting too weedy, but as my garden doesn't border anyone else's, no one should complain I'm causing a weed problem.

I love that growing and gathering and preserving one's own food is not considered weird. 1/2 acre is considered plenty enough to feed a family. Everyone living in the village has a big vegetable garden, fruit trees, grape vines, and some livestock. Here in the UK, I've been asked why I bother to forage for blackberries when I can just buy them in the shops!

Another plus of Bulgaria is that though there's plenty of frustrating Kafkaesque bureaucracy on one level -- exactly what Rudyard describes for so many things! -- on a village level there's often very little bureaucracy. Some villages may enforce rules far more strictly, it depends on the mayor, but mine seems relaxed. Minimal taxes and interference with what you do on your property, as long as it doesn't disturb anyone else. If I wanted to build a big new house on the land, there would be a long and very complicated process to go through to get approval. But I can do what I want with renovations to the house and buildings that are already there or build new outbuildings, no permits needed, no extra taxes. If I wanted to build a cob studio in the back yard, no problem.

The annual property tax for my place is about 30 EUR. Though like most of Europe inflation is an issue, the cost of living is generally low compared to Western Europe. Good internet is generally cheap and widely available, though those who also need to work from home should check that before buying. Some remote places especially in the mountains or very rural areas may provide a stunning landscape but have no internet at all. That might also be a plus for some, of course!
 
Posts: 1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We moved to rural France (limousin) in 2020 and already moved back to Belgium now.
We love the simple and slower life and had a nice property, just like in portugal/bulgaria, France also has those remote villages with a few people of an older age living there, but more empty houses.
Pro: if you move to one of those almost-empty villages, the mayor will help you a lot and people will be happy to help and be welcoming (if you speak French)
I believe permaculture and natural vegetable gardening is not weird at all, so no-one told us to spray something or do any of those bad thing to the soil. Mulching for example is almost standard. Even in very remote places you will find groups/organisations of eco-friendly gardeners who do plant-/seed-swaps and small events (and again, as long as you speak French, you’ll be very welcome!)
Cons: (the biggest reasons we are back)
-we have kids and didn’t know french governement has so much “power” over the kids who officially live in France. School was a nightmare (back to the 50s-60s in a bad way) and homeschooling is not allowed, you also can’t really choose a school.
-We couldn’t get the medical help we needed, on paper and when asking around before our move, we would have no problems finding a doctor, dentis,… in real life: nobody was accepting new patients. Even though we were less often ill, you still need a doctor sometimes.
-bureaucratie 🥴 don’t get me started on that!

We are back in Belgium, as that is what we know, but miss calmness of the french countryside so much! But also the old stone buildings, we alread did so much work and I love that old aesthetic!
We don’t think we’ll stay in Belgium (it is too expensive and over-crouded), but we needed to come back to what is comfortable and “normal” to us, and we are taking our time now to decide what we’ll do.
France wasn’t our dream-land to begin with, it just seemed easier than a lot of other european countries, as it is still kinda close to visit friends&family, and our french isn’t perfect (we speak Dutch/Flemish), but we had some basic knowledge from school, while other languages are an extra big thing to learn.
If we would fo it again, we’ld try to travel around more searching for a place and maybe rff ernt something and try living there for a while before buying something.
 
steward
Posts: 6158
Location: southern Illinois, USA
2105
goat cat dog chicken composting toilet food preservation pig bee solar wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Caroline,

Welcome to Permies.
 
gardener
Posts: 923
Location: Málaga, Spain
311
home care personal care forest garden urban food preservation cooking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you don't mind extending the meaning of homesteading... I try to homestead in a condo in a big city.
While I can't deal with cattle or any of the rural stuff, there are many other things to take care in an appartment.

I learned how to make homemade soap long ago, as a recycling activity (I was involved in ecologism back then). I use that soap and some vinegar as my only cleaners in the shower. Then, a few years ago, ecoanxiety reached me, and I got myself into learning more and more homemade stuff. At least, the kind of stuff you can make in a big city.
I always favoured long lasting tools, like iron pans and steel pots, and recently try to avoid stuff with electronics when there's an analogic alternative.
I turned my windy terrace into a not very successful pot garden. Made wild yeast sourdough bread, after the lockdowns fever (when everyone learned to make bread) was over. Made keffir and labneh. Joined a shared garden, so I can turn my kitchen scraps into compost without my wife complaining about the flies.
I learned how to do microgreens, but it's very time consuming when there are cheap alternatives.
I purchased a hand coffee grinder, in part because of the flavour, in part because of not depending of another electric device which breaks before five years.
I tried to get rid of plastic bags, but we still are enforced to throw the trash in sealed bags, and we get some trash bags for free from a family member...
I learned how to mend my clothes, but it didn't work well. Once the tissue is worn out, you mend one hole, three more appear. I blame bad clothes quality.
I tried to buy groceries in bulk, in these stores where you bring your own bag and pay on weight, but these stores are only to be found in the old town, and it takes one hour and a half on city bus to get there and come back, not counting that the product is more expensive.
I dislike having to purchase everything in small plastic packages, an my wife too, but she does most the groceries at the supermarket for convenience, and plastic garbage is still our biggest waste. Buying elsewhere is both expensive and time consuming. Even if the plastic goes to a recycling center, we dislike having to use so much of it.
We don't use a clothes drying machine, we think it's such a waste in our climate not to use cloth lines.
I'm reading now the composition of every new clothing, as I don't want to buy synthetic clothes anymore. I'd say only 1/10th of the clothes in any clothes store are made of natural fibers, and it makes it very difficult to find something worthy. Like two to three hours to find a pair of trousers which are not synthetic or slim fit.
I refused to buy a dishwasher, and I get bad looks from wife every time she needs me doing something else than hand dish washing.
I learned how to make oil candles, for lighting in case of black outs. But wife refuses to use candles in the appartment with the children around, so I had to learn how to make them 'outside'.

Soo, homesteading in a city is still possible, but you will face many adversities. People is expecting you do it the fast and convenient way, and get angry at you for being slow with your tasks, or by 'losing your time' with a hobby making stuff which is cheap to buy anyways. It's both exhausting to make the stuff and to deal with the incomprehension.
 
pollinator
Posts: 91
38
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Abraham, your list of ways to just use less, of many manufactured and electronic devices is impressive.
And my hats off to your efforts to minimize your impact on the planet.
Your post would have made a great addition to the"JUST USE LESS "  topic that was posted several months ago.
 
steward
Posts: 10617
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
5709
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Abraham Palma wrote:I learned how to do microgreens, but it's very time consuming when there are cheap alternatives.

I purchased a hand coffee grinder, in part because of the flavour, in part because of not depending of another electric device which breaks before five years.

This statement nails much of the theme you are covering Abraham. Life used to move more slowly, and each neighborhood had shops you could walk to, and hand operated equipment was the norm. By the time you work a job to pay for even "cheap" stuff, it's more expensive than most people realize!

I learned how to mend my clothes, but it didn't work well. Once the tissue is worn out, you mend one hole, three more appear. I blame bad clothes quality...
I'm reading now the composition of every new clothing, as I don't want to buy synthetic clothes anymore. I'd say only 1/10th of the clothes in any clothes store are made of natural fibers, and it makes it very difficult to find something worthy. Like two to three hours to find a pair of trousers which are not synthetic or slim fit.

My son's approach was to wear essentially the same thing every day. He bought the heaviest weight grey cotton T-shirts he could find on the web and he bought second-hand dress shirts from the local charity shop and that's what he wears to work every day. We used to be able to get a decent weight 100% cotton dress pants for him, but not any more. All you can do is look for the heaviest weight fabric you can find, because, as you say, everything wears out quickly. At least with a farm, I can mend things for "farm use" and be very generous with the size of the patch, so the "three more holes" are covered before they form!

Soo, homesteading in a city is still possible, but you will face many adversities. People is expecting you do it the fast and convenient way, and get angry at you for being slow with your tasks, or by 'losing your time' with a hobby making stuff which is cheap to buy anyways. It's both exhausting to make the stuff and to deal with the incomprehension.

Hang in there. You mention children and they can often get involved at younger ages than many people think, particularly if you consider their size. We put the cutlery drawer and choose a shelf for out dishes that was kid-height when the children were 5 and 2 1/2 and they learned to set the table and put clean dishes away starting at those ages. If the dishes had been in an upper cabinet as people typically do, they would not have been able to help!
 
Abraham Palma
gardener
Posts: 923
Location: Málaga, Spain
311
home care personal care forest garden urban food preservation cooking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You are right Jen.
Children can do many tasks when encouraged. While they don't do it well at the beginning, without practice there's no improvement.
However, it's as you said, the house is not built around the concept of children helping. Most of the stuff is out of their reach, even using the small stairs.
In the case of the baby, we would love to have even more stuff out of her reach! She's now slamming everything she gets on her hands.

Educating children isn't easy. My elder one is almost eight years old. So far, he dresses himself without help, but we are still struggling to have him tidy the clothes he's taken off. He takes his shower alone too, sometimes he goes out of the bathroom with foam still on his hair. He sometimes helps with dressing the table, although miraculously he almost always feels the need to go to the toilet before helping. Removing the dirt dishes after lunch is on the wish list. We wish he would play and entertain the baby more often, releasing us for more heavy tasks, but ten minutes is the most he plays with her.
Friends are surprised that I let him handle the knife, and that he is able to spread butter on his bread slice without help. The most difficult part was convincing her mother he wouldn't cut himself to death. The second most difficult part was to be patient and wait for the boy while he takes his time slicing the bread uneven.
Whenever I can't sweep his bedroom because of the toys, I tell him to tidy and sweep himself the bedroom, since I wasn't able to do it when I had to. When the windows show clearly the marks of his hands, it's his duty to clean it. He doesn't put his heart on it, but he's learning.
In the kitchen, I convinced him to help making cookies (olive oil cookies with chocolate butter on top). He helped with only a quarter of the tasks, not counting dish washing, but he felt he had cooked the cookies himself alone, and the cookies tasted wonderfully for him! I'd teach him more but he is still afraid of the stoves.
He manages his own money, which he earns by behaving and gaining points. We let him decide on what to expend his money, but bills (more than 5€) he must expend on clothing.

The lesson I encouraged for this year was to do his homework without being asked to. It was exhausting to make him remember every day that he had to do some homework. So I'm giving him points every evening he remembers to do it without being asked. My wife tried the same thing over the clothing. She expected the boy not to leave his clothes everywhere but in the wardrobe, folded if possible, and to choose proper clothing for the occasion. She was unsatisfied with the first days and didn't give him any point, and obviously, the boy didn't improve. Oh, he tries to fold his clothes now and then, but we have to ask him to do these chores, and there's always a t-shirt laying in the living room which shouldn't be there.

I think the problem is not the children, but the expectations from the society: If I let my child use a knife I am a bad father because he could get hurt, and it's my duty to protect him from all harm. That's not what I think, but that's what I think the other parents think. Somehow, they think that making children work is wrong (not just paid work), that they should only study and play. And then, managing a home with kids becomes a daunting task. No wonder we have so few children.
 
Yeah, but how did the squirrel get in there? Was it because of the tiny ad?
Botany Bonanza Bundle by Thomal Elpel
https://permies.com/wiki/240272/Botany-Bonanza-Bundle-Thomal-Elpel
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic