Looking Back at Days Gone By . . .

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 🙂

http://thesnailofhappiness.com/2015/02/15/shifting-my-focus/

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. 🙂

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Looking Back at Days Gone By . . .

  1. What lovely memories…my mouth is watering at the thought of all that delicious abundance!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admit it made my mouth water just thinking of all the joy we took in gathering, cooking, then eating such abundance 🙂
      Unfortunately, so much of what we could gather seems to have either diminished gradually, or has totally disappeared in the area, especially with all the changes made to accommodate the many holidaymakers who love to visit Cei Bach 😦
      I guess it’s one of those changes that inevitably happens when people discover such a lovely spot – they want to visit, but also to have as many conveniences available nearby as possible, which then hastens the demise of so much of what they found lovely in the first place 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Night Owl, I loved this post and in particular talk of Cai Bach, as I know it well, its lovely to share thoughts of such amazing places. Up here in Lancashire, I also try to gather as much of our food and fruit as possible, and often fail to ‘make the best of it’. Whilst Mr R and the squibs are always game to try anything new, I do struggle to find a new way to use something I have gathered in plenty. I have to admit I have not yet looked back over your posts, but was wondering if you might share some seasonal recipes and ideas when spring unfolds xx All your expertise needs to be spread!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Sarah 🙂
      I have to admit that I used to haunt both the library, and any second-hand book stores I could reach, in order to find older recipe books that had such wonderful recipes, especially those that used all of the goodies we gathered 🙂
      Nowadays, there’s so much that can be found online, that I rarely have to look through what books I have left. I confess I gave most of my old books away when I moved 12 years ago – it was a battle between less shelf space in my new home, or keeping my most favourite books, and the old recipe books lost – although they went to much deserving homes, where they still give much joy to a new generation of gatherers 🙂

      One thing the internet has given to me, is the ability to find out so much more than what was available to me all those years ago, and I admit to being rather envious of younger generations who have all that information at their finger tips 🙂

      Mind you, that saying, I think the best information I got when we first started out, was from the older generation from us, who had done the gathering out of necessity during the war years – now they had some amazing tales to tell! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Night Owl, I think we probably have similar books on our respective shelves, and have had similar conversations with people around us, but if you have any secrets you are willing to spill, I would be very happy to be able to put them in my family’s recipe book

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry, my laptop crashed, I was mid reply, I think you have so many things you could share, I would love to learn more from you xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Liked reading about all your preserving etc.
    I too made rose hip syrup and sloe gin etc. Collecting lavender and sewing little pillows for friends was another pastime. Ha! Now I write on wordpress and don’t live offa the fat o’the lan’ so much.
    Thanks for following my posts. Glad you still have the time!

    Like

    • Yes, I have very fond memories of those times, but time, and bad health, has made it impossible for me to continue doing it all – and I really do miss the fun of it all, though not the back-breaking work of gathering firewood, etc 🙂
      I’m thoroughly enjoying reading your stuff – and others I’ve discovered recently 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. Hope your health improves. It must be frustrating at times, to say the least. Some of my friends are really struggling with major health problems at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Unfortunately there’ll be no improvement, but I wake up each day determined to look forward, rather than backward, and that helps 🙂
        Having my crochet helps, but actually writing something after so long was a real spirit-lifter, too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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