Thursday 5 April 2012

Mr and Mrs Self Sufficient. (Part Two.)

The very first job is for Mrs Self Sufficient to decide on where the ideal place is to situate the vegetable plot - Potage.  Mr Self Sufficient's first job is to clear the jungle.  He can be heard to be cursing and swearing and saying:

"I think we (him) will tackle the overgrown acre of brambles, rushes, rose-bay willow herb, couch grass ('Twitch') and fifty years of the previous owners very own personal land fill site.  Anybody want an old gas mask, Anderson air raid shelter and ten dozens tins of powdered egg?  We won't use any fertilizers, pesticides or man-made chemicals.  Just good old manual labour, blood sweat and tears, 8 cans of strong ale (strictly medicinal of course) and a sack of Mars Bars for the missus.

Four hours later.  You're walking around doing a wonderful impersonation of the 'hunchback of self sufficient kingdom'.  You've broken your British manufactured spade ('made in Taiwan') and you have decided that you're going through a St John of the cross: 'Dark night of the soul' experience.

The vicar's wife won't be visiting you again either, because she was having a wonderful conversation with Mrs Self Sufficient, inviting you both to church and for a 'nice cup of tea' afterwards, and to look at all the parishioners latest holiday snaps, because she heard you call her something and it sounded like 'punt,' but it wasn't and you were really calling a blackberry root.  She's gone and you flop to the ground and crack open another tin of foaming ale ("Tish") and you look all around a your wonderful potage.  It looks like hens having been scratching around in your desert bowl wasteland.

Oh the joys of being Mr and Mrs Self Sufficient and their little smallholding!


  1. Yes, a not uncommon patch, don't forget the odd rusty bike frame, milk crates and rotten pallets. And thousands of unwanted samples of wildlife, usually slugs and snails.

    Looks quite small to start with, but a weeks hard labour doesn't seem to make much impression on the desolation.

    It's often at this point Mr wonders if he's actually done the right thing, it all seemed so easy from his armchair, and starts to investigate alternative methods of clearing ground. Sadly all the knowledgable locals have fled to the urban housing estates, it's closer to the Job Centre, so there's nobody to discuss the problem with.

    There are two theories about how to win an argument with a woman. Neither one works.

    Raggy cat's still out, must have some important business somewhere.

  2. Hi Cumbrian. the not uncommon patch sounds like how a lot of the allotment used to be - any one for club root? They used to be very useful for tipping or even burying your rubbish and taking home a few bags of topsoil. Today in the UK there is a waiting list of over 100,000. The rusty bike frames, milk crates and rotten pallets could be 'wildlife habitats'for mice and crested newts and snails and robins nests. Don't tell the powers that be or your veg plot renovation will be stopped and they will make it a site of scientific interest.

    A daft farmhand found eight milk bottles in a field. He shouts to the farmer:

    "I have just found a cows nest!"

    Just thought of another creature: smart dressed lady who visits gardens open to the public and takes cuttings and her handbag contains little plastic bags for samples and a pair of Marigold gloves. Well she paid for them, when she paid the entrance fee, didn't she?

    You make a good point about the knowledgeable locals. When you live in a town and frequent a ale hostelry, you can always find somebody who will help you rescue your garden for some beer tokens. When you move to the countryside you find that nobody will help you unless there's a machine they can ride on.

    Raggy cat must be busy.


  3. Yes mate, I thought of the allotments, and all the wierd and wonderful things that have been discovered / dug up on them. But the waiting lists just keep getting longer, with high food prices and low employment & wages, it's hardly surprising that peope are determined to produce what they can themselves?
    They've all read John Seymour haven't they?

    And the SSSIs, there's quite a few of them in our area, they get mixed reactions from the farmers, I suppose it depends on the amout of compensation offered. I remember one tale told to me by a small farmer that he wasn't allowed to cut a particular field until after a specific type of grass had seeded, by which time the nutritional value was so low it wasn't worth taking in. Despite the fact that the particular strain of grass hed probably been there for centuries. Strange world.

    I've come across the posh lady with the big handbag and little scissors, very sincere, often a church-goer, doesn't even do 32 in a 30 limit, never parks on even a single yellow line, horrified by all the immorality and slothful ways of the younger generation, non-smoker, non-drinker (except the occasional sherry), somehow doesn't relate cutting bits off other peoples plants as doing anything wrong.

    Quite true about the machines, and they seem to be getting bigger and bigger. BUt they'll cause their own down-fall, the vast quantity of diesel they require to operate is starting to run out. Dunno when, but the time's coming when they cease to be viable. I'm not the only one that thinks so, but the agri-businessmen and tax-collectors don't seem to be able to grasp this concept.
    So maybe the day of the skilled worker and horsepower will return, pity it'LL probably be too late for present-day Mr. Self-Sufficient.

    When we are born we are naked, wet, hungry, and we get smacked on our arse. From there on in, life gets worse.

    Raggy cat just come it, biccies, milk and curl up on kitchen chair.

  4. I watch the UK allotment scarcity with interest. The Landshare scheme seems to be doing really well and I think a lot of stately homes owners. farmers and churches could use their land for allotments.

    In my next blog I will show a big house near me that's letting people rent allotments.

    It really makes me mad to see how many farmers don't even grow a row of potatoes and only have a monoculture culture (GRASS) approach to farming.

    Yeah I have met 'Posh Lady' the plant cutting stealer quite a few times on my travels. I like visiting gardens around Kerry and county Cork. Wouldn't mind of being a gardener at a big house working in a walled kitchen garden. Heligan in Cornwall is one of my favourites. Cholmondley Castle in Cheshire is also well worth a visit - fantastic Italian garden and English cream teas.

    You're right about the big tractors. Will we see Organic tractors run on chip pan fat or will we see the return of the horse and plough?

    Great thoughts Cumbrian!!

  5. Yeah, allotments seem to have lost their cloth-cap-and-pint-of-bitter image, and become the latest "must-have" for the green-minded (and impoverished) population.
    And I agree, there's far too much land doing nothing, or producing nothing, it does seem a bit criminal not to be growing something edible. Even towns have bits of "waste" land here and there, and they all grow excellent crops of what we class as weeds.
    An acre is 220yds x 220yds = 435,600sq.ft. An allotment is 100' x 30' = 3,000sq.ft. So a 10 acre field would provide 145.2 allotments, say 130 allowing for access ways. Or more if they were made a bit smaller, not everybody wants, or is capable of looking after, a full-size one. And they grow a lot of varied produce. Some of the bigger farms would barely miss a 10-acre field, especially an awkward-shaped off-hand one.

    Big tractors running on chip pan fat? Good idea, and they've got the technology, but it's the chip shops we're short of.
    I think the horse is a better option, the holdings would have to come down to a size that could be managed with muscle power, and some of the older now-redundant traditional buildings would be brought back into use; or re-built if they've been demolished to make way for huge industrial sheds. It would mean a lot more employment as well, the countryside and villages would come back to life.
    Dream on.

    A Doctor was addressing a large audience in California ...

    'The material we put into our stomachs is enough to have killed most of us sitting here years ago. Red meat is awful. Soft drinks corrode your stomach lining, Chinese food is loaded with MSG. High fat diets can be disastrous, and none of us realizes the long-term harm caused by the germs in our drinking water. But there is one thing that is the most dangerous of all and
    we all have, or will, eat it. Can anyone here tell me what food it is that causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?'

    After several seconds of quiet, a 75-year-old man in the front row raised his hand, and softly said, 'Wedding Cake.'

    Raggy cat's in, waiting on the4 back kitchen window cill this morning, biccies and milk, now slumbering happily. Seemed a bit disgruntled last night when I removed it from my chair.

  6. You have some great ideas for allotments Cumbrian. When I was younger (sounds like the beginning of a sad song) all the Irish small farmers grew vegetables. Today when a farmer fills in their single payment form they are supposed to state that they are growing nothing but grass or else they will deduct the parcel of land from your payment. Also if you have a smallholding of less than 2 acres you can't claim nothing. They say it costs too much to administer. Years ago they used to give grants for land reclamation and drainage. Now they don't give any and land is overgrown with Gorse and Ragwort. The county councils are the worst culprits for it! I also think that the EEC is only for the big farmers.

    Would love to see Blacksmiths forges opening up again making horse shoes, ploughs, harrows, scufflers...and fixing things. Most horse shoes seem to be factory made now and the farrier drives to your smallholding and fits them.

    I agree it would create jobs and houses and a community if they renovated the old buildings.

    Why not build eco villages with cheap housing, allotments and environmentally friendly and sustainable heating...?

    Also why not have a new land army for the unemployed, creating these houses and allotments in the countryside? Why can't poor people live in the countryside? Is green belt just a smoke-screen to prevent poorer people living in the countryside?

    Great thoughts Cumbrian!!

  7. Your comment about the land army echoes my own thoughts.
    Thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of fit able-bodied people doing nothing, while the country (Ireland as well?) gets more and more decrepit looking every day, with litter, graffiti, polluted beaches, etc, etc, and the waste of productive land.
    I know a proportion of these un-employed don't want work, but lot of them would be more than willing to have something positive to do, a small plot to cultivate and somewhere to live. And the idle could be put to work cleaning up the whole country, earn their benefits. I know the Coucncil litter patrol do a good job, but they can't do everything and be everywhere every day.

    Or is that too simple, am I missing something somewhere?

    Billy was at school this morning in the outback and the teacher
    asked all the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers Came fireman, policeman, salesman, chippy, captain of industry etc, but Billy was being uncharacteristically quiet and so the teacher asked him about his father.
    "My father is an exotic dancer in a gay club and takes off all
    his clothes in front of other men. Sometimes if the offer is really good, he'll go out with a man, rent a cheap hotel room and let them sleep with him."
    The teacher quickly set the other children some work and took
    little Billy aside to ask him if that was really true.
    "No" said Billy, "He plays cricket for England but I was just too
    embarrassed to say."

    Raggy cat fast asleep on my seat. There's half a sparrow on the front step, must be saving it for later.

  8. It would be great to have a land army in Ireland and the UK. Why leave people on the scrap heap? Instead of paying off bank debt invest in the land and people. Shovels and spade jobs that give people something to get up for in the morning. Government owned public transport with conductors would also create jobs.

    I would recommend an allotment for anybody who is unemployed or retired. You will get fit, have loads of chemical free (hopefully) vegetables and make friends and gain tons of knowledge also.

    Have a look at Cloughjordan Eco village (Ireland's only one) in Tipperary. It just just shows what can be done!

    Raggy cat sounds like its got self sufficient skills.



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