Day by Day, Foraged food, self sufficiency

Towards self sufficiency – March 2022

I’ve always had a yearning to be self sufficient; I grew vegetables in pots when living in rented city homes, I read books describing the challenges and adventures of those who lived off the land and the 1970’s iconic series “The Good Life” is still a favourite of mine. When we finally moved out to the countryside, it was so exciting to get our first few hens and have a small garden in which to try to grow more veg. Then, about fifteen years ago we were able to buy a field and my dreams could really start to become reality.

One of our current hens, Penny, Sparkly Eyes’ constant companion.

Initially we planted some trees with the idea that one day (still to come) we could pollard them for wood. Next was an orchard, a mix of apples, plums, pears and one cherry tree. I was keen to keep pigs for meat, but knew nothing about them. So, I jumped at the opportunity to look after some friends’ pigs when they were away. This gave me enough confidence to start up on our own, which we did, along with a group of friends. Our “pig group” continued for years, and included many days in the field with tea and cake while the children made dens, climbed trees and ran freely. We had bar-b-ques, bonfires and tractor rides. Friendships were made which last to this day, as those dirt streaked children are now at university and we as their parents have more grey hairs.

This years’ pigs; we have eleven Berkshire’s between nine families.

Then came the start of my bee keeping journey, together with a friend. We attended a bee keeping course and acquired our first nucleus of bees. Initially, with help, we did fairly well and it was wonderful to harvest the liquid gold of honey at the end of a good season. However, as life has become more multi faceted for each of us, our bee keeping has been pretty much a dismal failure these last few years. I’m hoping to try again this year and entice some bees to keep up residence in our hive.

One of our beehives.

Fridays were our pig feeding days for a number or years, and the boys and I, and later Dancing Toes too, used to take our books and spend the morning over in the field; working on the veg patch, reading, exploring the natural world around us or taking a walk up onto the hill. This was before forest school became popular and I sometimes felt a twinge of guilt that our kids were out enjoying the big wide world whilst their peers were doing “proper” work within the classroom! Our field shed held many parties too, including a tobogganing one for a friend who’s birthday coincided with a timely fall of snow.

Working in the shed always includes a flask of tea and a snack.

If all this sounds idyllic, in many ways it was and I’m incredibly grateful for the wild and free childhood the land has offered both our children and others. We have so many fun and heart warming memories.

Then, with exams, the arrival of Sparkly Eyes and the continued busyness of life, the field went fallow for a few years. I often felt guilty seeing it looking so unkept as I believe land is a precious resource and we have a responsibility to steward it well.

I’ve always had a sense that I need to develop skills that enable us to be more self sufficient, but during these decades of abundant food availability I have wondered whether my responsibility was more to pass these skills on to our children than for their necessity in my lifetime.

I love the colour as well as the taste of freshly picked veg.

However, the last couple of years have given us a glimpse of how fragile our global economy and food chain is and I’ve stepped up my endeavours to learn some new skills and refine my existing ones. I’ve found a fantastic podcast, The Self Sufficent Hub which I’d highly recommend to anyone walking in this direction, whether you are a seasoned homesteader or just curious about taking a few steps towards it. I’ve often felt the wildlife enjoy the fruits of my labour more than we do, but I’ve learnt so much though this podcast and as I’ve been encouraged, so the harvest has increased. Well worth a listen! Check out his You tube channel too. Below are some of the new sills I’ve learnt this past year.

Whole meal sourdough
Air dried apples and plums
Bottled plums

I’m a country girl at heart and feel very fortunate to be living in a rural area. However, it’s absolutely not a pre requisite for self sufficiency. I’m regularly inspired by others within the self sufficient community who are urban dwellers and are way more productive than we are, keeping hens, goats, bees, gineau fowl and rabbits as well as growing fruit and veg. I think it’s more about a mindset which any of us can develop. I’d love to know your steps into this way of living, and if self reliance is something that hasn’t yet been on your radar, I’d encourage you to dip your toe in and learn a new skill!

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