Exterior Maintenance and Toys for Big Boys

In the countryside you get to see the occasional super car, it may be a rarer experience than it is for city dwellers but they are appreciated nevertheless.  In the city the ‘admirer’ probably thinks – I wouldn’t mind one like that, in the country we are more likely to think – nice car but what sort of tractor does he drive? – we remember Lamborghini started off making agricultural machines before super cars.

Being an agricultural region lots of properties on the outskirts of villages in Lot et Garonne were formerly farmhouses and they can come with largish parcels of land attached.

New residents moving from the UK to SW France are likely to have been relatively land starved,  after moving in they normally can’t wait to get started on their new domain.

Some will chose to lease or loan out land to nearby farmers or neighbours, some have a gardener, others will tend it themselves.

With the benefit of a barn or outhouses that often come included with such properties storage of equipment is not normally a concern.

The heavy clay soil and fast growing sunny climate make managing a sizeable parcel of land allied to the maintenance of the exterior of your property  a sizeable task requiring  the need for proper and more importantly, labour saving devices.

– Remember before you leap into a impulse purchase it will be cheaper to hire larger machines if they are only being used occasionally, of course they could be resold after use to defray some of the cost. There are ‘agricultural’ workshops in most decent sized villages which both sell and repair any form of equipment you can think of.

 So what type of equipment might you need and even if you don’t what appeals to big boys?

– This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but some of the more popular equipment I see in everyday use.

Tondeuse (ride on mower) .

Ride on lawnmowerYou cannot walk down any road or drive in the countryside from February to November without seeing men serenely progressing across their acres of ‘lawn’ on a Tondeuse.

These vary in size and sophistication ranging in price from around €900 to €3500 for the more popular makes in your local DIY supermarket. You can spend more for larger, robust machines if you have a considerable area to mow.

I once employed a young New Zealander – Peter, who having finished his University Degree in Economics was working/holidaying around Europe. I asked him what was he going to do when he returned to NZ – his answer was to buy a sit on mower and start a business mowing lawns. He said it was his idea of bliss, at the time I was slightly scathing, now I think he may have got it right.

It is not a physically demanding job, you should get a great looking end product afterwards and you are outside in the clean fresh air relaxing to the steady rhythm of a motor engine, what more is there to say?

Your only question is to mulch or not to mulch.

A riding lawn mower equipped with a driver’s seat and steering wheel is a motor land vehicle subject to compulsory motor insurance.

Micro Tracteur – Mini/Compact Tractor


A fully capable version of its larger brother which can multi task around your grounds, from mowing or ploughing onto a plethora of other jobs it is a versatile piece of equipment which brings endless hours of pleasure for the those intent on serious DIY in their grounds.

There are innumerable bolt on accessories which range from hole borers to working platforms, hedge cutters, ploughs, snowploughs, it’s a very extensive list…

Popular makes of mini tractors include Kubota, John Deere, Mahindra, Massey Ferguson, New Holland

Prices new start  from around € 6000 A good second hand machine from €.3500 Upward.

Tracteur – Tractor


Now you’re talking serious land maintenance and possibly serious super car asking prices. They can come with sophisticated, precise instrumentation to aid their operators whilst they sit in air conditioned luxury.

They are available with attachments to undertake any form of maintenance imaginable.

Normal householders would be massively over-equipped with a modern tractor however there are many vintage aged models still available which are highly feted and sought after by tractor enthusiasts. These come with much more affordable price tags which could be more easily justified across the dining table with sufficient wine applied first.

Maintained properly they still do a great job and provide endless opportunities for tinkering, polishing and discussion.

You can pick up a reasonable example of a vintage tractor from €3500 upwards.

In our village we have a rally of vintage working tractors during the annual fete.

?????????????????????????????  Tractors Parade during Village Fete

Sites are easy to find on Google and I have listed some below.

Motoculteur –  Rotivator/Cultivator

Size may not be everything but it certainly matters when it comes to rotivating your garden. When using one for the first time on my own smallish parcel of land I had opted to buy a small basic model which cost me about €300.

In retrospect I should have gone for something a bit larger, I had thought that would be a little OTT  although I had noticed neighbours were using bigger machines. In the event I had underestimated how difficult it was going to be ploughing through weed infested heavy clay soil.

You should be prepared to pay upwards of double the cost of mine for a new rotivator to make turning your soil an easier and quicker proposition.

Tronçonneuse  – Petrol Chain Saw

Anyone with trees on their property or a log fire will find hours of use for a chain saw. I also see them in use all the time by local French carpenters demolishing/building roofs or in fact when working on any sizeable pieces of timber.

Débroussailleuse – Petrol Strimmers

With the exception of very small gardens you will need a strimmer, electric or the newer battery operated  strimmers are unlikely to be able to deal with the tough fast growing weeds which abound after rainfall, electric models are somewhat limited by the run of their cable. Strimmers come in a variety of sizes like everything else but expect to pay from €120 for a small but efficient petrol model. Metal cutting blades are available as options on larger models to deal with dense undergrowth. They can be quite heavy to operate and are normally provided with shoulder harnesses, some are balanced better than others so when shopping don’t be afraid to strap one on and see how it feels, then imagine using it for a couple of hours….

Remorque – (Trailer)

Not a necessity but if you have space you will find use for it taking garden waste to the dechetterie, collecting items too big or dirty to fit in the car, moving furniture, carrying excesses of general shopping or transporting building materials.

A lot of people start off with one as an aid to moving items a bit at a time from the UK to France.

You can buy specialised trailers for transporting  cars or motorbikes, you can have trailers with drop down sides, fully enclosed trailers, tipping trailers, trailers to tow behind mowers and mini tractors, braked or unbraked versions, you can buy them for general use or a specific purpose.

There is a limit to the size of trailer you can use in France without registering it separately from your car. Trailers with a PTAC (weight of trailer plus payload) under 500kg do not require registration and need only display the same number plate as the towing vehicle. Trailers with a PTAC over 500kg require to be registered in their own right and display their own number.


For the purpose of the regulations, a caravan is defined as a trailer.

A small trailer will cost from €350 upwards, remember to practice your reversing technique in private before going public to avoid dents and stares….

Fendeuse à bois /Scie à buche –  Log Splitter/ Log saw

If you have a number of different size fires or are buying wood of different dimensions more cheaply than ready cut or using your own wood then these items will help you ensure your logs will fit your fireplace/wood burner/insert or oven.

Remember you must only use properly seasoned wood, for the best types of wood please refer to the article on heating in February 2015.

log saw

Souffleur de feuilles  Leaf  Blower

 These can save hours of raking + they have engines… petrol would be preferable to electric due to the restriction of length of cable.

Bétonnière   – Cement Mixer.

Anyone who has started on a project outside and decided to mix the cement by hand rather than buy a mixer or get it shipped in ready mixed will know how quickly they came to regret that decision. If it is a one off and there is access – buy it in ready mixed or rent a mixer, otherwise if you do decide to buy you will find use for your very own cement mixer most years on paths, patio’s, pool surrounds, ponds, walls etc.  Electric powered would probably be suitable for most DIYers but fuel driven versions are available for heavy use and larger capacity mixes.

Echafaudage – Scaffolding

You might think this is a weird choice to add to tools but anyone planning more than a modicum of DIY effort to the outside of their French abode will need scaffolding.

You can find plenty of light weight scaffolding in DIY supermarkets but having worked at 3 metres + on such equipment I felt a little like a high wire man where every movement was noticeable, eventually this was overcome by some serious strapping of the scaffolding to large beams. After using a more robust ‘professional ‘ set of scaffolding I was much more inclined to get out of bed in the morning to tackle the jobs on hand.

This is one item of equipment that probably makes more sense to buy second hand or hire, whatever you do make sure you are 100% acquainted with how to erect it safely.

Prices start at around €900 upward for a decent set of 2nd hand scaffolding

Compresseurs d’air  Air compressor

Air tools are the weapon of choice for professionals and serious DIYers perhaps more often used inside it also can be useful when working outside.

The initial onset cost of the compressor is offset by the cheapness, power and durability of the tools.

Carefully check the rating of the compressor to make sure it has enough power to work all the tools you want to use.

A compressor must at least meet the maximum cfm of your specific air tool. This capacity should be sufficient for occasional use of most air tools, and frequent use of tools that “burst” like nail and staple guns. If you need your tools frequently, use multiple tools simultaneously or have “constant use” tools like random orbit sanders, then increase the cfm requirement.

Most compressors will list their cfm at 90 psi or 120 psi. These are simply baseline values that represent using an “average” tool. If your tools require significantly less or more than the displayed psi, check the compressor’s owner’s manual. It should have a complete list of the compressor’s cfm at different psi’s.

I use a 50 Litre model which powers all the tools I need satisfactorily except orbital sanders. A starter compressor and tool kit like mine will cost from €120 upward.

You must consider the mobility aspect of using a compressor, the larger the compressor the more difficult it is to manoeuvre it into small or tricky to get to spaces although they can be used with a fairly long run of hose.

Any questions you would like to ask please contact me through this site or at my email on my own website


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