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Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hello, I have finally taken the plunge and joined this fantastic forum. Let me tell you a bit about us.

We (my husband and I) live in the French Pyrenees at just above 2500 feet. Our land is about 2.5 hectares, meadow and woodland with a couple of streams running through and a couple of water sources; we also have the free use of another 10 hectares. We were gardening organically in the UK for 15 years but when we moved to France we discovered Permaculture and we both went for a PDC: we never looked back! Even after nearly 8 years we are still excited.

Our house is a small off-grid converted stone barn, electricity is from solar panels, water from a source, heating from wood burning stove and cooking range. With us are 2 donkeys, 3 horses, 2 geese, 9 Indian Runner ducks, 2 rescued cats, 3 dogs and about 50+ chickens - oh! and I forgot, 2 beehives. When I work it out, I'll post some pictures (if any one is interested).

Well, that's it for now, I am looking forward to making new "friends".
A bientot,
Olga


 
Lorenzo Costa
steward
Posts: 801
Location: Italy, Siena, Gaiole in Chianti zone 9
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Hi Olga your story is very interesting and the region sounds great. Well we're happy to see you found the path to permies.com hope it will be useful reading through the forums.
I guess with your experience and the really interesting project you're living with your husband you'll be a great source of information and practical solutions.
Just so you get around the big universe permies actually is I think it could be interesting reading these to posts:

universal welcome

and

how permies works

But I would like to invite to create a thread in the projects forum about your off-grid farm. It would be really nice to see some photos, and as you will se in the projects forum it will feel cosy to share your past achievements and the future ones.
projects
Welcome!
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hi Lorenzo,

Thank you for the warm welcome. It's like going to a big party where you do not know anybody, and suddenly the host appears and says Hi, let me introduce you...

Anyway, thanks again, the links are very useful. I'd love to go and start a thread in Projects, but it's all about finding the time. At the moment, I am busy with the glut of tomatoes, cucumbers, French beans and blackberries, while the raspberries & plums are about to ripen: I'd like to catch them before the birds do! I also spend quite a bit of time trying to find an answer to my chicken problem (see thread in critters - chickens). So maybe later on, it could be fun!

Olga
 
Lorenzo Costa
steward
Posts: 801
Location: Italy, Siena, Gaiole in Chianti zone 9
207
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Hi Olga, I'll see your thread in critters chickens. This period is always full of stuff to do the best time for sharing project achievements is for sure the winter time when we all are more tucked in our homes and have more time. Feel free to take your time. I hope you get a great yield
 
Danielle Diver
Posts: 60
Location: France
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Hi Olga!
I live in the Deux-Sèvres region and am starting a little farm. We live on a small organic chicken farm and have started raising pigs. We are newbies, looking for land, and learning as much as we can as we go along.
It's always nice to learn about projects close to home, so I can't wait to hear more about yours!
Bienvenue et à bientôt!
Danielle
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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Hi Olga, welcome, though i am not often on here, more a lurker i suppose !
your place sounds lovely, a dream for me and hopefully i will get there next year ...i have been in france a long time, but hope to end up in the pyrenees. is there anything you find you can't grow at that altitude? the pyrenees are an amazing place, i am regularly down in the vallée des gaves, where are you settled ? though i have been here a long time i have never met any other permies, maybe we could get a casual group going down here in the south west?!
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hi Danielle,

Thank you for the welcome. I'm going away for nearly 3 weeks so I won't be able to be on line much but I'll be back soon!

Hi Lil,

I am in the Comminges, not terribly far I suppose, still, a long way as there is no road through from one valley to the next. I've found that almost anything grows well, just a bit later than in the valley, but I have a large greenhouse and a bit of a micro-climate. When we first arrived here, we asked this old boy who'd be farming in the area his whole life and his father and grandfather before him (and probably going back several generations) what grew well and what did not. His answer was:"Och! pretty much everything, except garlic!" And for the life of me, garlic I cannot grow. I have tried different varieties, planting indoor and outdoor, in autumn and in spring and the results are always disappointing, even the wild garlic I planted is not doing so good. I guess it pays to listen to the old folks!

Keep in touch
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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Hi olga, yes i know the barronnies, lovely area.....very rural and beautiful, we have done wild camping down there a few times, we are on the lookout for an old barn/very cheap house with some land, so we get around ! isn't that funny about garlic ! so what do you grow down there ? are you up high ? you must be looking forward to the autumn colours down there ..
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hi Lil

I'm going away tomorrow morning so I don't have much time to chat tonight and I don't know if I'll have internet for the next two weeks but to answer your question briefly, our altitude is 2500ft (750m). Not terribly high, but high enough to get snow sooner and longer than in the valley. In terms of annuals we grow the usual stuff: carrots, onions, potatoes, leeks, courgettes, pumpkins, beans (French and Kidney), corn, amaranth, chillies, cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatilloes, herbs, salads, celery etc. and this year, we even grew tobacco! We just start sowing a little later than most. We have cold winters, wet springs, hot summers and the autumns are usually warm, sunny and beautiful - well into November. Of course with climate change, it has become a little unpredictable. As for the perennials the list is quite long but I can tell you about it another time. We've been planting trees and shrubs for the last 5 years and although still immature, our forest garden is slowly taking shape and has just started to really bear its fruits, literally

Anyway, do write back but don't be offended if I don't reply straight away.

Are you in France at the moment?
 
Lorenzo Costa
steward
Posts: 801
Location: Italy, Siena, Gaiole in Chianti zone 9
207
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Great to see the french scene is growing here on permies
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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that sounds a great garden olga ! yes i a m in france but heading off tomorrow as well for awhile, hope you have a great trip and the weather is kind to you. looking forward to hearing about the garden some other time ...
yes >Lorenzo it would be great to have a more active french permie group ! how are things in italy ?
 
Corrie Snell
Posts: 54
Location: San Francisco, CA for the time being
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lil hodgins wrote:Hi Olga, welcome, though i am not often on here, more a lurker i suppose !
your place sounds lovely, a dream for me and hopefully i will get there next year ...i have been in france a long time, but hope to end up in the pyrenees. is there anything you find you can't grow at that altitude? the pyrenees are an amazing place, i am regularly down in the vallée des gaves, where are you settled ? though i have been here a long time i have never met any other permies, maybe we could get a casual group going down here in the south west?!


I'll join!

Hello, my name is Corrie Snell. I will be living near Gaillac in a loft apartment on a hamlet with 40 acres this winter, November through March. And, I intend to live in another area of SW France next winter, too. Our plan is to purchase something in that area in about 2-3 years. My goals this winter are: improving my skills in French (very strong base already), finding and connecting with other Permies in France (particularly the SW), and generally coming to a conclusion with regards to whether life in France is right for us.

One of the things I've thought of that I would like to pursue this winter is going to retirement homes, or finding elderly people still out on their own, and becoming a companion to them. I have a soft spot for the elderly, and really value their knowledge and stories. It would benefit me in two ways: more time speaking and listening to French, and (hopefully) getting tips (like you, Olga) on the way farming used to be in the area.

I'd love to hear from you Olga and Lil!
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 387
Location: South West France
30
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Hi folks - it's great to have more Frenchies in the forum !

I've not been around a lot because we're really busy but now the evenings are darker, I'll try to pop in when I can and join in the conversations.

Irene
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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back online again, how are you, corrie and olga getting on ? enjoying these wonderful temps.
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hi Lil and everyone here,

I am back on line. Sorry I was silent for so long but first I was away, then my son had a massive stroke while he was in Australia, and 2 days after that, we had a fire in the house that pretty much destroyed the first floor. I did a lot of travelling backwards and forward once they repatriated him to the UK and I am pretty knackered!! I am no spring chicken any more and dealing with French insurance companies in between visits to the UK just finished me off!!

The amazing thing though, is that the garden survived an unusual amount of neglect at a time when there was very little rain for long periods of time and high temperatures. The only casualties were a few cuttings and seedlings in the greenhouse that did not survive the absence of watering. I did not, unfortunately, have the time to preserve many of the produce and I am already missing the tomatillo chutney! We've just finished the last jar from last year's batch!

We've had an unusually mild winter here, so mild in fact that the Japanese quince is in flower and the fig tree is budding. The calendula never died and is still flowering while the borage and mullein are growing fast. Next week, the temperature is dropping to a more seasonal average, they are predicting -5C at night in the valley so I guess we'll be a tad colder up here.

Anyway, just wanted to say Hi, I'm back and hoping to keep in touch again! Oh, by the way, if it's not too late, Happy New Year to everyone.

 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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Welcome back Olga and i am so sorry to hear about your son...i hope he is doing ok..what a shock it must of been to you....good thoughts going your way....
Been offline here which stil hasnt been resolved so trying to type on my phone! Younger eyes needed!
Thats a good permie garden surviving on its own...good design...we too were very mild but 2016 has been very wet so far...
 
Olga Booker
Posts: 87
Location: Pyrenees Mountains, South of France
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Hey, where is everyone? Hi Danielle, Lil, Corrie, how are you guys doing? It would be nice to hear from you, find out how you weathered the winter and what are your plans for spring.

The last two days here have been absolutely glorious: beautiful blue sky, brilliant sunshine and a crispness in the air. Spring is definitely on its way and it feels very exciting. I took advantage of the nice weather to clean and tidy the greenhouse and sort out my seeds. We repaired some of the raised beds and a gate, mulched some areas, generally tidied the garden and enjoyed every minute of it. I was amazed to find out that all the small neglected seedlings which were left outdoors survived the winter. quite a few trees are budding, some are just about to flower and I can't help thinking that it is much too early.



 
Corrie Snell
Posts: 54
Location: San Francisco, CA for the time being
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Hello! I'm here! Olga, I'm sorry to hear about the troubles you've had! It's wonderful that you sound so cheerful and positive after it all. Spring has a way of doing that to the mood, doesn't it? Forget January 1st, those first few days that feel like spring are what really push the "re-set" button!!!

I've so far happily passed about 12 weeks here since early November. Took 3 weeks to travel back to Morocco to spend the holidays with my husband who was unable to take the time off work. And, he just finished spending almost three weeks here with me!

I've met great people, including a neighbor woman that I walk with a couple times per week, and a hiking group that I was graciously adopted by, that I go on full day randonnées with once per week, weather permitting. It permitted it a lot more before Christmas. Lots of rain and mud here now. Quite a few glorious days, too, but they haven't been lining up with the hike days lately.

My French has certainly improved, despite my laziness in the book-study department. Watching TV in the evenings has been a help. There are so many interesting shows on here, little travel documentaries and food shows...my main interests. And reading French magazines has been a great tool. Again, my main interests covered so well in the beautiful magazines here.

I never got around to going to a retirement home to make a friend, but now that I'm already starting the countdown to my departure date, I think that may have been for the best. I already feel sad enough thinking of losing the connections I have made with people who are still active and lively. If I had made friends with a lonely, home-bound elderly person, and had become a regular visitor, it would be sad to think of them missing that after I'd left. I'd miss it too, of course, but it would be more of a loss to them. (I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way)

With regards to coming to a conclusion on whether or not life in France is right for us, I've concluded that it's not. I LOVE FRANCE. However, it's mainly been a special vacation place before now. A place I yearn for throughout the year, and then relish while here for a couple weeks every year or two. I didn't like how France became normal, and everyday while I was here. I want to keep it special. Also, I came in the winter specifically to experience one out in the countryside here in the SW. My husband and I want to settle in a place with even less winter, even less than this mild year.

So, as I sit, looking out onto a rainy day, I am selfishly wishing for the sun to come back out so I can be outside more my last 4 weeks! So, "hello from France," becomes "Goodbye to France" for now. I wish you all a happy spring and upcoming growing season in this lovely place!
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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Hi olga, how is life going in the mountains ? enjoying this lovely autumn ? hi to everyone else, sorry i have been offline for a long time!
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3579
Location: Anjou ,France
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Things are cool here in Angers on many levels ( its 13c for starters )
How is it with you ?

David
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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cool here today , really for the first time, a long hot dry summer and running into autumn....lit the fire last night for the first time...how is life in angers?
 
David Livingston
steward
Posts: 3579
Location: Anjou ,France
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worryingly dry here too thinking about the fire have had the electric heating for the past couple of nights will start the fire up tomorrow . Harvesting apple and pears at the moment plus the walnuts things are good veggies a bit down due to the poor weather this year but on the whole things are great some pics on my blog thingy link below
 
lil hodgins
Posts: 43
Location: s w france
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sounds good, i will have a look later
here we are into figs, apples, bits n bobs around the garden, toms/cucumbers n peppers, i have dug these up and popped them in the greenhouse when the nights started getting cooler, a couple have been going a couple of years, even with neglect, pears and grapes are finished, just, sweet chestnuts are in, . heading to the pyrenees this weekend to collect some wild walnuts. yes dry here too, but the fruit trees are fine.
 
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