mercredi 7 mars 2007

Retirement, self-sufficency and pioneering

It’s 7.15 and I’ve just got in from scything some of the new field. Whilst I was scything I was thinking about my life here and some of the comments I had from people in the UK when they asked about what I was doing. The word ‘retirement’ and ‘lucky’ came up quite a lot and I have come away feeling almost guilty. Have I retired? Definitely not!

In the UK I worked hard for long hours as an Architect, helping to build up a business and earned a good wage which allowed me to have good standard of living. The cost of living was expensive because everything I consumed had to be collected as a raw material, refined and processed, manufactured into something and probably advertised before I bought it from a retailer. This all costs money as does the transportation between each stage.

Here in France I work hard for long hours on a variety of tasks (at the moment mostly building, farming and forestry) trying to build up the basics of a self-sufficient small holding. I don’t earn a wage (though at the moment I have a modest income from letting my flat in the UK – planning not ‘luck’). I have a good quality of life. The cost of living here is low (and as the small holding develops this should decrease dramatically). Many of the things I consume here I can make from the raw materials e.g. my heating, hot water, and cooking comes from the Rayburn – this burns wood. I have to cut down the tree, saw it up, carry it to the house, split it and stack it, dry it for a year, then cut it to length to burn it in the Rayburn. This amounts to about 3-4 weeks hard work each year to keep everything running through the winter – in the UK I just paid an electricity bill and a gas bill. Some of my food comes from the woods but when the small holding is established I hope to be as self-sufficient as I am currently with the heating, hot water and cooking. Of course there will always be things I can’t make myself and will have to buy, so I will always needs a surplus to sell or barter with or another source of ‘top up’ income (which is what I spent the first 38 years of my life creating and continue to work at).

Here I’ve changed a high earn/high cost lifestyle for a low earn/low cost one, but maintained, in fact improved, my quality of life. I work just as hard but I find it more rewarding and varied.

I’m nowhere near self sufficient yet, at the moment I am ‘pioneering’ building my homestead, creating fields from forest, building a barn and the infrastructure for self- sufficiency. It’s hard work, definitely not ‘retirement’ and I doubt it ever will be.

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