Sheep Farming in the Lot

Sheep Farming in the Lot

Well this was quite a summer, our elder son left us to go to university in England, our flock has, at long last, started to produce lambs and the magical house, which sparked our desire to live in the Lot, is to be sold.

Samson, our elder son, passed his BAC S(Science) this summer, the same week as he passed his driving test. He was so thrilled to know that he was on his way to university and his future. He was eight when we left England and has always wanted to continue his studies there. Also he looks upon the UK as a land of ‘Milk & Honey’ so he had to return to judge for himself.

Getting through the maze of the university application from France was no easy feat. UK based students have a tutor to guide them through the UCAS (Official Body for all university-applications) form, personal statement, help with choices, places and finance. Only by talking to a friend in England, who had succeeded with her children a few years previously, were we aware of the procedure. We got there in the end, luckily.

Trying to get any financial support from the French government ended in failure. If there is a way, we couldn’t find it and just ended up going round in circles. Tuition fees (for this year – all change next year) are all or partially funded by UK, you are means tested and luckily (or sadly) we qualified for full funding. The UK system is based on the students getting a student loan for accommodation and living costs – although NOT available unless you have been resident in the UK for 3 years. So in despair Samson asked his grandfather for a private loan. Thankfully he agreed and Samson is installed in a student house in Bristol and goes to the UWE reading Environmental Science and Marketing. He has found work to pay for running costs- food, beer etc. and is very happy so far, having just survived Freshers week. A week dedicated to First Years to get to know their new surroundings and one another, although it just sounds like one big party.

We are very happy to have the Bergerac/Bristol Flybe connection, so if needed we are only a couple of hours away.

At last the first of the long awaited lambs has been born. A gorgeous little ram lamb (called Joseph). The flock is Caussenarde – the local breed with black eyes and ears, very rustic and hardy, ideal for extensive (as opposed to intensive) rearing. They don’t have huge carcasses but the meat quality is exceptional, being fed on only the most natural feed – grass, hay and barley. Did you realise that ’Label Rouge’ lamb never go outside and is fed on concentrate? We were a bit shocked, thinking that if you buy Label Rouge you are buying more of a free range product. Our initial flock of 27 experienced ewes should all produce within the month and we have 30 young ewe lambs coming next week. So by the end of the year we should have a flock of 80 plus. I can smell the mint sauce already !!

The magical house, owned by my father-in-law, John Collier, is to be sold. This house was our annual holiday destination for years before us buying our own house. Nestled amongst the walnut orchards of Cazillac par Martel (north Lot) it has been his holiday home for some 33 years. John, a well known and shown sculptor in the UK, France and Germany has spent each summer in the Lot, working away on pieces for forthcoming exhibitions. Local walnut, given to him by a neighbouring farmer, features regularly as a preferred wood for his mainly animal sculptures.

Bos-Gros has been a wonderful setting for his work and it is with sadness that it is to go, but flying is not practical with all his tools and sculptures in various stages of finishing and driving has proved to be too hazardous for him in recent years. Unfortunately it is too far from us to let it out or care for it, so after much procrastination the decision was made. A real Gem of a property, it is ready to move into, but still masses of space and potential for conversion into a massive house, or workshop and studio, or what ever you desire.

Update: Since this article was originally written, the house has been sold.

©Tessa Collier 2005

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