Sunday, 25 July 2010

How it all began

This is an introduction to give you some idea as to how I came to be here doing what I am doing.
It was 1996, Life was stuck in a rut, repetitive job, long hours for not much reward. I was fed up of Britain, house prices were already out of reach and it seemed that we would be renting forever. We also had a baby on the way so life was about to change, so why not make it a big one and change everything.

So we went to a French property show in Harrogate, couldn't believe how cheap properties were in the Limousin. We could have a house and barns and lots of land with a monthly mortgage payment way less than what we were renting just a house for in Cumbria.
I only had enough spare cash to do one property finding visit. This was also my first time in France, and so I struck lucky and agreed to buy the second property I visited.
In August 1997 the mortgage was arranged and the place was ours(and the banks) It consisted of 2 houses in need of renovation, 2 large barns and 27 acres of land, mostly treed and badly neglected and
spread over 46 separate parcels. After half a dozen week long renovation visits during the following
winter we arrived here permanently in early June 1998 with all our possessions packed in a van, a 9 month old baby, virtually no money, no job and not a word of French- even to me this now looks a little foolhardy when I see it written down.

So what, I asked myself could I do to earn some money here. This is how I got started producing firewood both for ourselves and to sell. I had only once before picked up a chainsaw, I did a weekend chainsaw course run by the BTCV somewhere around Newcastle when I was 18. The course was great however at the end they showed an old Forestry Commission Video of chainsaw safety and accidents which scared me to death and resulted in me not picking up a chainsaw for another 15 years.

So I was now in the situation where economic necessity forced me to conquer my fear of self preservation and so I acquired an old, late 1970's Stihl 08 which is all metal and weighs a ton. Little by little trust was built between man and machine and a great partnership resulted. I now have a Husqvana 365 which is a beautiful machine, powerful, productive and solid but not too heavy.

So I began to make a start on my woods using a basic principle to remove the poorer and overcrowded trees to give space to the better ones so that they might realise their full growth potential. So this my first ever posting in my very first blog gives you a little background to what will unfold in the posts that will follow. Hopefully a few of you will find the adventure interesting and worth following. I refuse to believe that I am the only tree mad person out there!

Thanks for looking -Michael


  1. You are not alone! I moved from the city last year and as I was researching best plantings and trees for firewood I came across your site! This is very comprehensive and introduced me to the idea of coppicing which is much underutilized here in the U.S.

    Cheers! .....and Thanks,

    Brent on Fox Island

  2. I am experimenting your style of life in S.Korea. Cheers. It was nice to learn how to build up a log cutting stand.

    Byung Soo Kim, Seoul, S.Korea

  3. I enjoy your posts, and I had to come to the very beginning to see how you started your life there. I grew up in the piney woods of Arkansas in the United States, and my travels to Europe have primarily been to cities like London, Paris, Edinburgh, etc.. So I know nothing of European forests.

    Now I'm writing a novel set in France and my protagonist is fleeing gunmen in a forest near Grenoble. I realized I needed to research trees among other things so I came upon your site through my searches. A thoroughly entertaining blog.

  4. Eureka! I found you! You've given me some basic tree information about where I'm living now in La Lozère, southern France, in a small village called Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole. I'm just about at the end of researching and going around in Southern France circles. I am also writing a novel (like anonymous above) and my trees are talking trees, so to speak, and I'm desperate to know their exact names. Nobody (so fa)r around here can help me, but I'm still looking for someone like you who can tell me the names of at least a few of these characters in my book. Would it be possible if I took some photos of a few of my friends and sent them to you for exact identification? I thank you for your wonderful tree stories and the amazing life you've grown along with them!