Looking back on the last year by Tessa Collier

Our first lamb - JosephIt has now been a year since I first submitted a piece for this site . A lot has happened during the year. My father-in-law’s house, that we were trying to sell for him, finally sold to a young Dutch couple who, we were glad to know, are becoming permanent residents in the Lot. It is a house that has suffered from being a holiday home for some 33 years & will now receive the TLC that it has long needed. It was very refreshing to meet them & to find the same enthusiasm in them, that we had when first moving to France. We made a point of driving up to the house & introducing them to the neighbouring farmers who we had known & enjoyed for years, in order for them to integrate as quickly & as well as possible. It went well & with presents from Holland & reciprical donning of fresh goat’s cheese, we left them all with ease to start their new relationships.

Our first born son, Samson, who had started university in Bristol last year, is still happy. He is still finding it a bit hard mixing with British students, not finding them very friendly. He much prefers the international student parties, we find this a bit strange. After all, just because you are British doesn’t mean you will still fit, he did leave there when he was 8 years old. It has been quite a learning curve for him. It is nearly a year that he has been working for Tesco which more than pays for his living costs. He has had his bike stolen from under his nose (not quite), lost his French driving licence, to name but 2 mishaps. But on the whole he is getting on just fine.

Our second son, Merlin, has also now left for university, he has gone to Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Also studying Environmental science, but he is doing it along side Spanish, rather than marketing, which is what Samson chose, and he has taken tourism as a third module. It will take him a bit longer to settle there as he was that much younger when we moved out here. He is much less confident in his English, although we have always spoken it at home. So, as much as being there to study, he is there to finish off his education in a global sense. We are lucky enough to have friends in Hertford who have taken him under their wing, & it’s good for us to know that there is someone not too far away from him. His bank account has been the biggest problem so far. Barclays was the closest to his student house, so he chose them. They also advertised £100 for students opening an account with them. He is being treated as an international student, despite the fact that both Steve & I still have Barclays accounts & have had for some 25 years – although somewhat dormant now. This means no £100 for Merlin, no cheque book but they do assure us that there are no charges. The most frustrating thing is not being able to speak to anyone on the phone at his branch. Just a call centre in, I assume, India.

The sheep have done pretty well this year. Joseph, our first lamb is now, along with his male siblings, being fattened up for the freezer. These are the castrated ones. We left 2 entire, one of which mysteriously disappeared & the other one went to the Moroccan market. With experience, we now know which market likes what. We may also try timing the lambing so the produce is ready for festivals etc. It’s all good experience & each year we learn so much more. The rams we bought in the spring are magnificent, big with an aire of royalty about them. We have great respect for them.

The bullocks are also doing well, but they won’t be ready for the freezer until autumn 2007, as we are aiming for slow grown, quality meat. They suffered from the flies this year & had to buy a vetenary product called Butox to keep these peskey insects at bay. They were being driven mad by not only flies but horse flies & another revolting one that I don’t know the name of. One of the bullocks (Bob) either had an allergic reaction to his bites or we think he may have put his head into a bee or wasp nest. He wasn’t a pretty sight, as he scratched himself raw. Two weeks of TLC & he was as right as rain again.

It is very strange for us to be alone, without the boys. It is a little empty as you get so used to having them around, after all it has taken up 20 years of our lives. However it is now time to move on. I have bought a potter’s wheel (ebay-UK) which has turned out (sorry for the pun) to be a bit of a nightmare as the speed reducer is broken & it hurtles around at great speed. I have enquired nearly everywhere but with little hope. So either I will have to convert it to a kick-wheel or try & find another one. Steve has been very good & has put a very small pulley on the motor shaft & a huge one below the wheel. So now at least I can practice at a workable speed without centrifugal force splattering clay all over the workshop. I have also taken up Yoga again, after 11 years. Luckily I found out about the classes from a friend & they are in English, despite the fact that our teacher is Dutch & they are just down the road in St.Matre. So now, hopefully, I will keep supple longer.

The letting has gone fairly well this year. We did have one lot for 3 weeks who ran riot in the house & it took me 2 full days to get the house ready for the next guests. I suppose it is par for the course really. But on the whole we have been pretty lucky. Thanks mainly to French Entrée, the off season lets have much improved, & I actually prefer them as it’s always such a rush in high season. Also I offer meals in the main house off season, using our home grown meat & garden produce.

Anyone interested in buying naturally raised sheep meat (or beef next year) do contact us on 05 65 36 51 10.

©Tessa Collier 2006

Find out more about Tessa’s rental properties
Les Places – sleeps up to 14
La Grange – sleeps 4/5

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