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David Livingston
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Hi everyone

Well this is the start I hope of a weekly Blog I hope to keep up on our new project . The Title says it all really

Permie for Pennies in France

My name is David Livingston and I live with my partner , who is french in a small flat near the centre of Angers ,France . The Flat is on the ground floor 40m2 and has a postage stamp size garden . I am unemployed and in the current economic climate see producing our own food and as much as everything else as we can our only way out of the current economic and ecological mess we are in . GF works part time in an organic shop

But we are in the process of moving to a new rented Home . Here is a picture of it .

Its a converted stable next to a manor house ( also empty )five rooms mostly small . Has not been lived in for some time , it comes with an overgrown garden and a much neglected orchard . Plus two also neglected barns attached plus 2 acres of Park land including mature oaks and walnut tree plus stuff I have not discovered yet .

One of the not joys of living in France is the bureaucracy . We first saw this place in April I would have moved in straight away and asked the LL for the money to do it up and set to it . It needs insulation,strangely the internal walls were insulated but the most of the external walls and roof not , half the windows double glazed . But the LL wanted to get a grant from the gov to do it up and then let to a person on the dole, that was the deal . Well its taken 8 months to get the money and this month they start work . To say I am dieing to get started is an understatement .

There are at least 50 trees in the orchard including five rows of espaliers ( three pear and two apple ) and verious single trees mostly apple and pear and I hope some plums . I have already planted a couple of peaches and apricots I grew from stones and some Black currents and raspberrys I had to move all of these from a previous garden I was renting as the lease finished in Dec . I cannot drive and the place is 37 km away I had one frantic day in the garden . How many of these plants will survive ?



This weeks question what should be my priorities?



Seeing to the trees ?

Or seeing to the garden ?

With my Irish roots my genetics tell me potatoes are a natural priority

Being a let I cannot go in for big earth works and hugels need wood . Any wood I get will be aimed at the fire I tried to talk to the LL about RMH but they were not covered by the gov scheme so no go .A "normal" wood stove is going to be fitted although it will have a cooking space on it, no oven. I intend to ask the farmer next door for a load of manure after making sure he does not use herbicides .

Anyone see anything obvious I have not thought of .

Remember I have very little cash .


David
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David Livingston
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A pic of the parkland and one of the Barns
Thanks to AJ for showing me how to add photos
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David Livingston
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Just recieved an Email we are going to meet the Landlord and the 'artisans ' next Wednesday . Hopefully a chance to do a bit of Pruning and get a date for when the work will finish . Maybe even find out what sort of work they are doing ? Its not clear .

David
 
Miles Flansburg
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David, what a nice place! I am looking forward to seeing what you do with it.
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
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Awesome! I can't wait to follow along. I hope all goes smoothly with the building improvements!
 
Annie Howell-Adams
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Looks beautiful, could the orchard prunings go towards hugel mounds?
 
David Livingston
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Hi Folks sorry for the delay I been busy then ill and now with delays am going to be busy again .
Some updated pics
As you can see we can now open the front door to the house
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David Livingston
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I have been working on the walls inside here are some before and after shots
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David Livingston
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Here are some pics of the two barns
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Jennifer Wadsworth
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What a beautiful house, David! All the best with your new site!
 
David Livingston
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I will post some photos later but here is the latest news .
I returned to the house on Saturday to finish what I had promised the LL I would do in the house when I noticed an intruder in the garden !
This intruder weighted about a couple of tonne and was trying to hide behind a Ceder tree . It was the Bull from the farm next door ! I was furious the bugger has killed a couple of old fruit trees in the orchard and damaged some of the new trees . There are no leaves on them yet the bugger uses them as scratching posts !
I was with my girl freinds father who went into panic mode as he was worried for my saftey I was more worried about the garden anyway I have now fixed the fence and am looking forward to a 'chat ' with my neighbour the farmer on this subject. I think suggesting if his bull eats either the yew or ruhbarb leaves then its not my fault might encourage him to take action .
Any way I managed to trim the espilelliers. They were a sorry sight it is obvious that the previous gardener who must have last done any cutting about five years ago ,had concentrated his efforts on the row closest to the house and neglected the far rows . Thus the far rows where totally out of control . I cut them back chopping out branches covered with mistletoe , ivy rot of all kinds . Some of the oldest trees I think may be over 100 years old . I doubt I will get much fruit this year from them I was more concerned with re-establishing a framework for future production . I also have my first wood pile
I am also going to try to collect some walnut sap , not sure why the french dont do this could be a good little spring crop for me .

David

Pics incuding that bloody bull in a few days
 
David Livingston
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Well here is a pic of the Bull in question now looking unhappy as he cannot damage the orcherd any more .
My GF would not get any closer to him

David

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David Livingston
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Also here are some pics of the apple and pear trees after I have cut them
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David Livingston
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The landlords workers have been busy sandblasting the wall I prepared and removing the bathroom .
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Judith Browning
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I love this thread...great photos of your progress, David.
 
David Livingston
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I managed to spend some time in the garden and I hoped to start digging ...... Unfortunetly I found a difficulty . A fence , it seems the previous person kept sheep and when a fence fell down or was pushed down by the sheep he just erected a new fence on top of it . This then became combined with nettles, ivy and brambles . So I "harvested " the fence and cut down the plants I also found lots of rotten logs . So I have made a pile of these logs collected three rolls of green plastic fencing "as new ", one roll of chicken wire fencing ,about 10 m of electric fence cable and 4 m of concrete pipe and about 3m of general green plastic wire for gardening . So I have yet to start digging
Good news our moving date is confirmed as the 15 April and one of my apricot trees I grew from seed three years ago has started flowering weeeeeeeeeeeee I am so happy about that .

David
 
Renate Howard
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Your photos are lovely (so is the bull but I can understand why you don't appreciate his visit!). FYI, winter pruning leads to more vigorous growth while summer pruning leads to more fruit next year. I guess I'm coming here late telling you that since you've already done it!

Save your "finds" - they may come in handy, especially if you can keep chickens. Fencing also makes good trellises.
 
David Livingston
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I know about the trees but it was a jungle full of walnut trees , ivy , mistltoe , and rubbish . I know I will have to prune again in june but at least I am dealing with a good skeleton.
I still have some other fencing to harvest I was thinking of trading it for other stuff I want .
As for chickens I am hoping to start building an ark soon . Question will appear about this soon

David
 
David Livingston
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My scythe arrived weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Am so happy

David
 
Renate Howard
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There is something to be said for pruning while you can see the structure without all the leaves in the way!

I couldn't find a scythe here but found a "corn knife" - which I had to use immediately and LOVE for "harvesting" tall grass and weeds that the mower can't handle. Definitely helps for chop & drop!
 
David Livingston
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Where are you in the world Renate ?
I got this one shipped from the UK but they are made in Austria .
I hope to persuade the landlord to pay for it
Rather than pay for a lawn mower but I will have to show him it works first .


David
 
David Livingston
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Ok it's confirmed don't panic moving day is 13 April

Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

David
 
Renate Howard
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I'm happy for you, how exciting! Work will progress so much faster when you can be there more!

I'm in the USA. I love your photos, they seem so exotic, LOL! We don't have many cute buildings like that!
 
David Livingston
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Tried to dig the veg patch this weekend . Oh dear , yellow clay , blue clay , stones and top soil depth between 15 to zero cm . Plus plastic waste ,bits of metal and glass.
I am a bit downhearted should I continue or abandon that plan and plant everything in the orchard turning it into my food forest or continue to dig up and more importantly clean up the land I intended for the veg patch . I should have realized there might be an issue with the land as we are surrounded by cattle farms .
On the subject of which I was visited by the bull again yesterday
Good news is the the new windows are up and it looks like the house will be ready for us to start painting next weekend
Still need to think about the veg patch though any ideas out there ?

David
 
Renate Howard
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Clay actually holds a lot of nutrients, and will eventually make a nice garden. In the meantime you just need to try to get as much organic matter in there as possible. You could clear the future garden area and plant strips with heavily mulched veggies and put some sort of nitrogen-fixing fast-growing groundcover on the rest (paths), like annual ryegrass or clover. Every season you want to grow stuff, switch between the path and the "bed", adding lots of mulch to the beds. You'd be surprised at how much just a good thick mulch can improve the soil texture as the microbes, worms, etc. start working under the mulch, pulling that organic matter down into the soil. You'll probably be too busy this summer for a full garden anyway, with the house repairs, the orchard, etc.

I wouldn't worry so much about the trash you find there, as long as it's nothing toxic. Maybe keep something there to put it in as you find it. Be careful, tho, there may be sharp pieces of broken glass too. I'm finding them in my garden (and woods, and yard - what happened here??)

Be careful with the bull. They can seem mellow but then all of a sudden become aggressive. I wonder if the farmer who keeps losing him would work with you to mend the fence on your side of his pasture. It's a diplomatic way of saying "I really want to stop your animals from coming over, and soon!" LOL! Asking him to do it, he may keep putting it off, but it would be hard for him to refuse helping you do it if you want to set a date and time to meet at the fence.
 
David Livingston
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Doh ! Plus damn damn damn !
I realize I was trying to dig up the old stock yard where they would work with the horses. I think the original owners took off the top soil laid stones on the clay , rolled it and covered it with gravel or other stuff.
There I was thinking about natural prosesses . I should have thought as it's the side of the stables that faces away from the chateau . It's where they would do the real work without disturbing the big house. Eagle eye hind site gets you everytime.
Time for a big think ( maybe about goats )

David
 
David Livingston
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Thanks for your suggestions Renate as I said time for a big think

David
 
Leila Rich
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Score! David, it all looks very idyllic, romantic and charming...from here
I'm quite keen on espalier, and I'm really interested in your orchard.
I can't see wires or anything in your orchard photos. Am I just not seeing them?
The trees' regular 'lean' kind of reminds me of overgrown cordon pruning; what do you think?
 
David Livingston
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Hi Lelia

These trees do or should I say did have wires , these trees no longer need to support that new trees do . The wires have rusted through in most places
They are five rows three apple two pear . Eight trees in a row The two eldest rows I think are very old maybe 100 years the trunks are over 30 inches circumference the three other rows are over 50 years.
No idea what type of apples or pears they are. Last year they had merged into one mass complete with ivy bramble and mistletoe. It was some work clearing them out and it will take some time before they are back to full production.
There are ten other stand alone apple/ pear trees plus some other fruit trees I brought.

David
 
Leila Rich
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David Livingston wrote:These trees do or should I say did have wires , these trees no longer need to support that new trees do
Silly me, of course they don't!
I got tied up with the cordon espalier thing- I've never seen mature ones and got a bit excited!
Considering they both need wires at the beginning, it makes no difference anyway...
 
David Livingston
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I don't know if I was starting from scratch I would go with either espelliers or cordons unless I was particularly space limited . It's lots of work and kit I would think it much easier to get small apple tree, ones grafted on dwarfing stock. Mind you I have seen really small apple trees that you step over now they are fun .
http://www.chrisbowers.co.uk/stepover-trees.php

And they can really look good in front garden setting

David
 
Aimee Grimmel
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bee chicken forest garden
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What a magical looking property David! How's it going now that you have moved in (assuming based on April move in date)??
 
David Livingston
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Well we are in !
So much work to do and things to sort out
Plus our computer died and our Internet connection had to be sorted out and believe me the paperwork in France ...........
Any way some pictures soon showing what has been going on .
I have been using the scythe and it's great fun very therapeutic I have to peen it soon bit nervous about that
The fruit trees are putting on growth like it's going out of fashion I expect a second marathon prune in June
No bees yet but I hope to get some end of may and keep them in a modified dadant with a warrè roof set up and run it like a perone
I have yet to start building my Ark for Chickens but the next rainy day
Veg I am building 4 plots for runner beans courgettes and oca plus some beds for tomatoes basil and coriander . A friend has given me some potatoes although when I can get round to planting them .......

I am busy but very happy

David
 
Margie Nieuwkerk
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I think for your veggies in the horseyard area, you can still do it. It is worth you seeing what Colette has done at Bealtaine Cottage. She is in Ireland and has a plot and near her house it's mainly rock, she quickly fashioned "potager" beds, just using rocks and filling with mulch and it is doing really well, every year gets better and she adds more, I suspect you could do the same in that area, and just put gravel inbetween for the walking areas. Here is a link, http://bealtainecottage.com/tag/potager-garden/. She has a shredder which she uses ALOT. It might be worth you picking up a second hand one, I have seen them very cheap second hand on ebay. It's an item most people buy and then don't use, but for us, and for you, it might be handy with all the wood trimmings, etc. Anyway, the link will tell you. You are going to have SUCH A NICE LIFE THERE!!
 
David Livingston
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Thanks for the link
As someone who plays Irish music as a hobby I have always had an interest in Ireland
Mulching traditionally often involved sea weed near the coast and featured in quite q few songs and tunes
I have started to mulch the old yard and hope to be able to plant veggies there next year .
I promise to post some new pics after we buy a new computer on Monday

David
 
David Livingston
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Sorry I have not been posting much been very busy hope to have loads more Photos soon but here is one of the Chateau next to the house

DAvid
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David Livingston
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Latest news just had a phone call - bees come next Friday
Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
 
David Livingston
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Well the Bees are here !
I have set up the ruchette ( thats french for a small ruche bit like a five frame langstroth ) next to the full size hive and I will transfer them on Monday weather permitting .
They seem calm and busy bringing pollen in after only an hour !
Pictures tomorrow with luck

David
 
David Livingston
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Well I transferred the Bees . No stings and only three bees dead ( out of about 5000 I think )
A very almost spiritual experiance . I tried to use as little smoke as possible .
First I took off the roof off the ruchette and loosened the five frames and left the crown board on the ruchette
Then I had lunch Well we are in France no sence in rushing these things

After Lunch I took off the top of the hive and took out five frames but left the others covered and dark. Then I simply lifted off the crown board of the ruchette had a slight panic as hundereds of bees looked up at me as though to say what are you doing ?I put the crown board back. Had a think, calmed down, got the smoker ready then gave them some smoke after taking the crown board off , picked up the frames and transferred them about 25 cm into the new hive . There seemed to be thousands of bees still in the ruchette .BUT several bees were already fanning , bums in the air in the new hive and in ones and two they all the ones left behind gradually came over to the new hive . An amazing experiance . Seemed hours but was about 50 mins by the time the last ones climbed across

Pictures soon .

David

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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...had a slight panic as hundreds of bees looked up at me as though to say what are you doing ?


Yeah - I can understand the "slight panic" bit! Glad all went well and am greatly looking forward to the pics!
 
It's just a flesh wound! Or a tiny ad:
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