Garden in the meadow · Renovation work · The farm

Backbreaking work

A week ago we signed for our farmhouse just north of the barn, in a lovely forested area full of lakes and rocky outcrops.Typically when you move in, the remnants of the previous owners lives are left unloved in cupboards, under beds, chucked in garages and garden outbuildings. This house is no exception.The van is heaving with “stuff” pulled from the house over the last two days. Tony tackled the garage, workshop and cellar area and I, as usual headed off into the garden.We have taken on two hectares in our madness. The farmhouse was love at first site but came with an orchard full of neglected apple, walnut and cherry trees and pasture. Luckily the local farmer grazed most of it, so we have a relatively flat and lush grassed area to turn into chicken runs, garden and pond for the gozzies.The French are systematically cutting down the ancient oaks for firewood. A short sited policy but the norm here. All day the sad whizz of the chain saw could be heard. We hate it and plan to plant timber on our other pasture to balance the little wood we use in winter. There are about a dozen huge oaks on our perimeter. These will be protected and hopefully have a long life ahead of them still.Our geese, Bonnie (now known as nuclear as she chases everyone like a heat seeking missile), Bumble and Barley need grass. The barn garden is bare of anything green. Time to move them. But the large pond is a huge undertaking so a small stream under the garden bridge is being dug out to give them water enough for snorkling and sploshing about.The trees provide great shade for them, but the grass was in a sorry state, full of thatch, weeds and broken branches from the fruit trees.Time to tackle! Rake, gloves, pitch fork and shrunken brain cells because this job is just madness without a machine.For five hours I slog away and slowly what looks like enormous mole hills of debris appear. The grass is clogged and matted. Pulling all this dry dead thatch out will allow the ground to breath and the grass to recover.Before raking:After raking:Much better!I need to save my back from breaking, so call it a day. Next job will be another rake to even out the lumps and bumps, then a reseed.The poor apple trees are in a sorry state. Many branches have snapped in the high winds we have and there is too much dead wood. Ordering an orchard renovation guide off good old Amazon last night, I am hoping with green fingers and a saw to get the fruit production back on track. It’s a big learning curve for me, but a Labour of love. Being self sufficient in veg and fruit is a priority. We have our eggs from our flock and our milk comes from the local goats farm about 10 minutes from the barn. There is a pork farm too with free range pigs, that produces delicious meat. So all in all we will hardly need to visit a supermarket. Bread making and cheesemaking will follow and probably some home brewing. Well you do have to celebrate sometimes and maybe my bad back will need something too..for medicinal purposes of course!The stream has long since been covered except for this pond and bridge. I hated the bridge at first but think with some work it can be redeemed. Ideas welcome.Quick update…here is the pond cleaned up. Water to be added once thdcstream is dug out.And I bought a ride on mower. Wow this is so much easier and I am leaving large swathes of long grass to encourage the bugs too so this will be a breeze. The mower can have a scarrifier and airiating tool attached. I can get the meadow grass into better shape and save my back at the same time.

20 thoughts on “Backbreaking work

    1. And yesterday it felt like 10 adults! It seems madness but the buildings are very different and for very different purposes. In fact the farmhouse is going to be zero internet. The books and art materials are going there and we will be switching off. We are pacing ourselves and to be honest we don’t hang about on decorating. Luckily we multi task and can both work on separate projects.

      1. I think because we have always worked long hours, on average 12 per day, it’s not too overwhelming for us. We also love these projects. Challenges keep us on our toes.

      2. 12 hours a day is about normal for stuff you want to do. I wize commercial book printer in Singapore once told me that everybody needs a hobby job. That’s the literal translation from Mandarin. It means you should pick your work, and that you like it so much, you spend as much time as needed because it’s like a hobby,

  1. Love the bridge! Don’t change it. Best of luck with all you are doing. Keep posting when you can. Take time to enjoy your new place.

    1. Thanks Doris. I started hating the bridge. Then peered at it from different parts of the garden and actually it’s ok. A bit of tweaking and it’s kinda quaint. We are tomorrow taking it easy and having meal out at a mountain restaurant near us. They have fab views over the French countryside.

  2. Ha, I remember all the crap I cleaned out of the house and barn and garage when we moved in – it’s so crazy to me as we left our old house immaculate for the buyers – even washed the windows and mopped!

  3. It’s already charming, but will no doubt be marvelous with the work you’re putting into it! You’re so lucky to have mature fruit trees…am planning to plant some here, too. Congratulations!!

    1. I feel very lucky. We are going to plant more. Trying to find some old heritage fruits that you don’t get to see so much. Ours need a good clean up but got to read a bit of how or I might end up with no juicy apples at all!

      1. Loving the views, the fresh air and the countryside, coping with living with someone after many years of being in charge of everything myself is proving challenging on both sides but hopefully we will get the hang of that too. Sesspits and biomass boilers and peacocks appearing in the garden are all adding to the excitement of country living. 🙂

      2. Sounds lovely. Funnily me and husband are trying to be a bit more independent as we have spent over 6 years glued to one another. But that does include handing over decision making on some things as we can’t always do everything. Interested about your biomass boiler.

      3. The biomass boiler is a bit of an conundrum. It takes up a lot of room with the space needed for storing the pellets and although at the moment there is a money back scheme from the government, it seems quite expensive to run so not sure about it at the moment.

      4. We are using a wood burner. It works brilliantly but I hate burning wood unless I can replant the same as I burn. We need central heating ideally but it’s all a bit costly. Need to read up a bit.

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