At home in a French castle?

Family Wanted
3 months or more
house-sitting in French farmhouse

Hello there! We live in a beautiful post-Renaissance-style Castle in a remarkably good condition, situated (in) … a region famed for its history and beauty. The grounds consist of a small woodland area, with paths for nature walks and abundant wildlife, a swimming pool (not heated) barns, a greenhouse and ample lawn areas. …

We are offering the 2-3 bedroom farmhouse, set on the edge of the woodland area, and very private. (It is obviously more human-sized to live in than the Chateau.) The property is located in an idyllic location in France, and is only 700 meters away from the nearest village with bakery, bar, post-office, library and twice-weekly itinerant services of a butcher, fish merchant, pizza maker and grocer.  We are only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Paris by train…

The simple life, in someone else’s house: Not necessarily simple

SusanCaba
The Resale Evangelista

As some of you may know, I’m planning to indulge my restless nature for the next year by house-sitting around the country.

That’s one reason I got rid of many of my possessions, packed up the rest and sold my house. I’ve minimized my costs and responsibilities, and increased my freedom. I’m in the midst of a 10-week house-sit right now near D.C., and will move to Santa Barbara next month for a six-week assignment.

So naturally, I keep checking the house-sitting websites, looking for future opportunities. There are great possibilities (competition for those is stiff), but also some that are, shall we say, more problematic.

Take that castle in France. I would definitely be up for three months in the French countryside. Especially with a family so thoughtful as to house me in the “more human-sized” farmhouse rather than that big, drafty château. Alas, the châtelaine requires a couple, or a family.

But even if I had a partner, the prospect has some drawbacks. I’m put off by the ad’s subtly bossy subhead: “FAMILY ONLY PLEASE! Please read carefully before applying.” Which makes sense, because a châtelaine (from medieval Latin) is keeper of the keys and mistress of the household–and is therefore, the boss. (The mister, in case you’re wondering, is châtelain or castellan.) I don’t really do well with on-site bosses.

My misgivings were reinforced by the description of “our ideal couple.” I don’t like that possessive “our.”

“Our ideal couple :  Is physically very fit and active · Have a relaxed ‘Can-Do’ attitude and plenty of initiative · Sense of Humour · Enjoy the challenges of gardening and being part of a team . Can use tractors or chainsaws · Have a keen interest in France · Love the outdoors . Love dogs · Get along with each other and enjoy working together · Each should have clean driving licenses, and no criminal history (may be checked) · Also, moderate drinking habits only.” (Boldface emphasis is mine.)

Doesn’t that sound more like indentured servitude rather than house-sitting? Not only do you have to work, you have to get along with your spouse (not to mention other members of the chain-gang). And when the mistress or mister gets to be too much, only moderate drinking allowed. (And you can bet that will be monitored!)

In my mind, house-sitting involves keeping the place clean, the plants watered and the animals fed.

Mary Sprague, chicken paintings, St. Louis artist, Duane Reed GalleryDuane Reed Gallery

Everyone raises backyard chickens these days. This is “Big Red,” by St. Louis artist Mary Sprague. Her work is available at the Duane Reed Gallery.

And by animals, I generally mean cats, dogs and fish. However, the craze for home chicken coops has led to a big increase in the number of people needing care for a half-dozen chickens; I can handle tossing feed and collecting eggs. But I do have my limits.

“We live on a 7-acre farm and are looking for someone we can trust with our home and our 2 goats, mini-donkey, mini-pony,  a calf, an outside boxer (he has a kennel), an inside cat, a cockatiel, hamster, bearded dragon, a few outside cats and a dozen chickens. There’s a possibility that we may need the barn stalls and the dog kennel cleaned while we are gone. …”

“We have kids! If you have kids this is a great place to bring them!” the homeowner says, noting the availability of a pool and a trampoline. Just make sure the kids don’t drown or break their necks while you’re out feeding the livestock and mucking the barn.

Oh, the animals—I could write a whole piece just on the animals requiring care. And so I will.

Coming soon: House-sitting opportunities, part two. “Talk to the Animals” will discuss the need to establish yourself as the “alpha dog,” devote yourself to the individual sensitivities of 10 indoor rescue cats, and Skype weekly with the “Mum and Dad” of two cats who “want someone who will love and spoil us…purr, purr.”

Watch for it….

Here are some well-known websites for finding house-sitting assignments and house-sitters. I have only been in touch, so far, with people on HouseCarers.com. I had a good experience with an assignment, a friend had a horrendous experience, and another friend spent six weeks in Costa Rica from a place on this site.

Some of these are free, others charge anywhere from $20 to $80 a year for access to their listings and the ability for you to post a profile. None of them actively matches homeowners with house-sitters; nor do they guarantee a successful experience. In general, house-sitters are not paid and they do not pay rent (though some might pay utilities). Some websites, such as SabbaticalHomes.com (which focuses on academics) mostly list homes for rent, for a month to a year.

Do your homework!

4 thoughts on “At home in a French castle?

  1. Pingback: Damn! I’m jealous… | Resale Evangelista

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