15. One Unique Family
Most families wouldn’t decide to move to a desolate island to start a farm from the ground up, but that’s exactly what one determined family did. The French island of Quéménès is nearly a mile long, nine miles from the mainland, and is mainly treeless. In the winter, intense storms engulf the island creating icy waves that slam against the sharply jagged shoreline, making it a difficult place to live. Yet for this family, it was the perfect place for what they were about to embark on.
14. The Only Inhabitants
What would it take for you to leave the life you’ve created to move to an island where you’re the only inhabitant? For most, it would take a whole lot. For the Cuisnier’s, life on a desolate island seemed like the perfect fit. They explained their experience to BBC,“Coming here was an act of glorious folly. But it turned into the most wonderful adventure. We developed the farm into a successful business. We raised a family. It has been unforgettable”. Although wonderful, life here was no cake walk.
13. They’re Not The First
Although the Cuisnier’s were the only human inhabitants on the island while they were there, they weren’t the first to cultivate the land. Farmers have been living on the island since the Neolithic period, which is also known as the last phase of the stone age. More recently, in 1953 a seaweed farmer by the name of Henri Tassin was able to make a living off the land. In fact, during the same time, nearly 30 people inhabited the island. But for more than 25 years, the island was abandoned.
12. The Country’s Plea
The Cuisnier’s got the chance to live on the island by responding to an ad, which told them about this old way of life and how they could be apart of it. Interestingly enough, the country itself, more specifically the Coastal Protection Agency, made the advertisement in search for caretakers for the island. In the end, it was the same agency that brought them in, that would chase them out.
11. Only A Mile Long
The island is only a mile long, and for many, that seems unfathomable to live on. The island itself is only inhabited by seabirds, seals, some farm animals, and of course, the Cuisnier’s. When they first moved to the island, life was rough as the conditions were nothing like they were accustomed to. Their compelling journey began in 2007 and went on for nearly a decade.
10. The Beginning
In the beginning, the family had no electricity and no running water. This made everyday chores feel almost impossible. Simple things like taking a shower, proved to be difficult, “We opted for solar heating skillfully crafted with 5-litre water cans surrounded by a black trash bag”, said the couple on their blog. They explained that getting enough hot water to have a decent shower was a challenge in itself,“In April the sun cannot heat a can of 5 litres of water, even cleverly placed in a black bag”. In the end, a hot shower would be the least of their worries.
Part of the condition of living on and watching over the island is that the couple still had to pay rent. Although it seems a little strange to have to pay to live in these conditions, it was the reality the couple agreed to, and it would later haunt them. With the pressure of rent on their backs, the couple got to work trying to run a profitable farm, which proved to be rather difficult due to many storms and plagues that wiped out generations of rabbits.
8. Positive Attitudes
Knowing that this experience could provide serious value to their lives, the couple maintained positive attitudes throughout the entire process. They explained to BBC that in conditions like this, you must just keep on going, no matter how hard it gets, “One year we lost a whole potato crop because of rabbits…But luckily we’d diversified with other activities, so we just got on with it and eventually, the hard time passes. Just like in winter, when there is bad weather, you stay warm by the fire till it’s over”. A lesson that instilled great patience, which they were going to need if they were going to make this work.
7. The Worst Of Times
At times, the weather got so bad, that a singular storm would last weeks. One year, the couple experienced something I didn’t even know was possible–a salt storm. A salt storm is similar to a sandstorm, but instead of sand, it consists of salt that is extracted from the ocean due to intensely violent winds. Conditions like this, make it almost impossible to farm in. The Cuisnier’s were about to come face to face with the harsh realities of mother nature.
6. An Unimaginable Discovery
The first year the couple was on the island, a bad storm hit and after it settled down, they made a gruesome discovery. While David was walking on the beach, he found four human skeletons. The bodies were most likely from sailors that had died at sea and washed up on shore, only to be covered by layers of sand and dirt over years of stormy weather. Most likely, the bodies were uncovered by ferocious waves crashing against the shoreline.
Luckily, only one emergency occurred during their time on the island, and it put local emergency services to the test. Soizic accidentally cut off the tip of her finger while working, but thankfully, within 20 minutes a helicopter ambulance was there. Although there were harsh times, there were also some really amazing times, too.
4. Started A Family
While the couple lived on the island, they started a family! By the end of their stay, they had added two healthy children to their world. Not only that, but they had improved the landscape by bringing agricultural diversity. They told BBC that when they got there, the island was overrun by blackberry bushes, and when left, it was transformed.
3. Diverse Farmers
The family was quite successful at farming, especially for having so many challenges to face. They not only grew many potatoes, but they harvested seaweed and created organic cereals. They never once used pesticides or chemicals on their crops, and they made sure to eliminate all waste, even down to using plants to filter water. Being farmers weren’t their only roles, however. They also became hosts for half the year by opening up the guesthouse to anyone interested in their way of life on this special island. If they haven’t impressed you yet with their numerous skills as farmers, they’re about to.
2. Sourcing Energy
What’s even more impressive, is that the entire time they were on the island, they produced all their own energy via wind turbines and solar panels. The couple was determined to create “a successful business with the environment”, and that they did. Soizic told BBC that there are more islands like Quéménès, which serve as nature reserves, making it possible for anyone to try this lifestyle. Although the times were great and they wanted to stay longer, a couple things got in the way.
1. An Amazing Experience
The family said they never felt alone on the island, because they still very much lived in modern times,“From the farm, we can see the mainland and the other inhabited islands. We have the internet, we have constant visitors. Never once have we felt alone!”. It eventually became time for the family to leave the island, as the Coastal Protection Agency started to become hostile with them about a rent dispute. Their children also needed to be properly educated and they felt it was time to move on. Although it was time to go, they wanted to be clear about how they felt, so they told BBC,“…if we’ve decided to go, it’s because we have new plans. So yes it’ll be emotional, it’s a chapter of our lives ending. But not sad”.