The least worn paths can lead to the most beautiful places, but no-one will have cleared an easy path to walk down.
On May 3rd, 2018, we signed a legal document, a commitment to purchase called a “Compromis de vente”, that instead of being based on fear, security, and insurances for the worst, is based on collaboration, mutual benefit and trust. It was clear from the notary that we are breaking new ground for legally binding partnerships.
There is a wonderful kind of hope that comes with collaborations based on love and faith in humanity. By working in this barely-chartered territory and acting from trust and confidence, Grain&Sens and some very important partners (the property vendors Bena and Robert!) were able to find a mutually beneficial ways to transfer the stewardship of a property valued at €680,000, with 200,000m² of ancient forests and prairies, where we can bring an inspirational project to life. We can come back to the site statistics in a moment.
So what did faith and confidence do for us?
This place holds tremendous emotional importance for the current sellers, and after showing around more than 20 visitors, they expressed they were finally eager to pass on the baton of stewardship to people with the values we embody. Could they find a low risk buyer, who doesn’t need to fundraise (from multiple organisations!), and could buy in 3 months instead of 5? Sure, but this place is the product of their life’s work. A precious testament to a life of labour and service. The emotional importance requires them to trust that we will be responsible guardians, that we will uphold their values of ecological living and of sharing this treasure with others in a responsible way. And we each trust one-another to do exactly that.
Firstly, the “Compromis de vente” usually demands 5-10% cash deposit from the buyers. The confidence from Bena and Robert (the current proprietors) enabled us to waive that (fear-based-worst-case-scenario-protection) deposit, and therefore invest our time, efforts and cash into a closer actualisation of our dreams and the renovation of the site, many months earlier than if we had to wait for the final sale. We have been humbled by this act of faith and are now putting our sweat, blood, and life savings into making our visions for the place come to life.
Robert and Bena also kindly invited us to move in before the final sale, but when fear based advice from the seller’s friends and lawyer started to sow the seeds of doubt and worry, a rent was proposed to be charged if we didn’t make the final purchase. A real “if this goes wrong” thought, but an emotionally charged one nonetheless. After some sincere and honest discussion, instead of asking us to safeguard this considerable amount of cash, this too was agreed to be waived to allow it to be invested into the site, instead of sitting in a bank account.
Subsequently, instead of kicking out two retired seventy-plus-year-olds upon the day of final sale, we are now working with Bena and Robert to understand their future housing needs, their financial needs in retirement, their security needs, and are offering any emotional support we can through this difficult period of detaching from a life-long home.
By putting our energies into creating something new, and acting from a place of love and faith we found a way to negotiate a partial purchase of the site, and commit to paying a rent for the remaining building, meeting the everybody’s current and future financial needs - a clear win-win.
These conversations aren’t always easy. They required us to interrogate our emotions and ask if they are based on fear or love. To “check in” honestly with our deepest feelings. We are working toward a new way of dealing with people. Understanding everybody’s needs, and remaining open to any possibilities that meet the needs of others. This is the path we’re walking. It’s not always clear how to walk down it, but with every step its beauty unfolds and inspires.
So what have we committed to buy?
The property includes 20 hectares (50 acres or 20,000m²) of land, with roughly a quarter being prairie, and the most of rest being ancient forests, primarily Beech and Oak trees, with areas of Chestnut trees, pine trees and tall douglas fir’s. There is a quiet stream flowing through part of the property, three freshwater springs, two large water reservoirs and a small pond.
There are many buildings too...
One beautifully renovated apartment for a small family, of 130 m²
Two large group gîtes, one with a capacity of 15 people measuring 305 m², and one with a capacity of 13 people measuring 290 m²
One large workshop of 210 m²
One open hangar of 20 m² with an adjoining room of 20 m²
Three adjoining workshops (fully kitted out) adding up to 90 m²
A “snow white” cottage measuring 55 m²
And 1 large heavy duty polytunnel covering 200 m²
Scroll through the gallery below for pictures
There are solar panels on the roofs for electricity and for hot water, low water usage toilets, low energy lighting and high quality insulation throughout the gîtes. There is art on the walls and there are birds in the trees.
It is a place that can’t be justly described in words or captured in pictures. It is a place we would love for you to see, to experience with us, a place you can come to live and laugh and learn and love.
The first few times I came to Lavenant, it felt like walking into the arrivals hall of an airport and seeing someone I love holding my name on a board... like a long journey was over, and I was almost home. This post was written in a beautifully decorated room here at Lavenant, art all around me, children playing and friends out the window bringing life into the fields and the forests. Freshly baked bread steaming next to the wood fired stove in the old wagon bakery. Guests are picking wildflower salads….
This path we are on is inspirational and humbling, but no-one has done the walking for us! We are also calculating loans from financial forecasts, calling lawyers and banks, and drafting investment terms while trying to babysit at the same time as cook at the same time as figuring out how much fencing is required to protect a field of Buckwheat from wild boars!
I believe we’re on a very beautiful path...why don’t you come and see for yourself :-)