I was reading the latest post of a friend of mine, who is doing her best to be as self-sufficient as she can, and it brought to mind such wonderful memories, of when I was still young, and strong, and capable of so much 🙂
I love reading about her determination to be as self-sufficient as she possibly can, as it reminds me so much of our lives when we first moved here to west Wales, over 31 years ago now.
In those days, our freezer was always filled with the fish we caught fresh from the sea, just below our house at Cei Bach, and the Rabbits that hubby had to cull locally for the surrounding farmers. Our pantry was also lined with rows of jars and bottles, filled with the glut of fruit and veg – grown in our own garden, plus next door (which we had been given permission to harvest, as it would have been wasted otherwise, with it being a holiday let at the time). There was a Mulberry tree next door, and we always looked forward to the fruit ripening, as it was something we’d only ever come across in that particular place!
We also had mile upon mile of hedgerows where we could gather other foods as we took our daily walks – all for the price of our free time and very little effort – and I always delighted in any fresh-picked mushrooms we could find – including bracket fungus – or Chicken in the Woods, as it is also called. Another fungi we used to gather was the immature Puff ball, which is the only time when it is really edible – when the inside is still white – and this became a firm favourite of ours, especially when sliced, and fried, in a knob of butter – or there were lush, and abundant, blackberries, elderberries, damsons, the occasional hazelnut tree – and, even rarer, we came across a walnut tree that was still giving out it’s fruit!
There were many other wild fruits that we gathered, including the rosehips that I turned into a syrup to give to my daughter daily (also using it on pancakes, too), At that time, our most read book, was the well-thumbed ‘Food for Free’, written by Richard Mabey in the early 1970’s, and this became our most used guide to whatever we could gather 🙂
There was always the smell of cooking in my kitchen, as I prepared these wonderful, free, foods, so that there would be plenty to see us through the winter. It really taxed my skills at the time, to think of new ways to prepare the food, so that it would last, and so that we didn’t get bored of the same things served all the time – and, as I was almost a vegetarian at the time, apart from the occasional fish, I really needed to make sure my diet was as healthy as possible – and all of this free food made sure of that! 🙂
At that time, I also used to make most of our clothing on an ancient Singer that moved by a foot-powered treadle plate, and we got whatever else we needed from local charity shops, or markets, where we had also bought most of our household goods second-hand, too.
There was very little we had to buy new, and I even made my own bread, with the flour coming from our local health food shop, and cooked in a wood-fuelled Rayburn stove.
In this way, we always felt that our carbon footprint was a very light one, especially as we heated our home with the driftwood we gathered from the beach, or from fallen branches in the nearby woods!
Things have changed a lot for me since those days, due to ill health, and our carbon footprint isn’t as light as we’d like, but I can look back on all of those years, when we strived to make our lives as simple as we could, and I know I can feel good that we did our very best to do so. 🙂