Reason for life

This blog is for my best friend, driving force and most beautiful person in the world. Sue.
It is also dedicated to my 2 sons both of which I am so proud of. And the prettiest girls in the world my daughters. Also Jack, Hannah, Callum and Marco who can not share this experience but are always thought of.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Self Sufficient Life

A Self Sufficient Life

I Stumbled on this site last night whilst doing a bit of research for this blog posting. It really is worth a look and your support if you are so inclined. Their article on GM modified crop pollen started me thinking about an issue that affects us directly, nitrates.  We are, I guess like many on the self sufficiency trail, asset rich and cash poor, which means any opportunity for a free meal is a good one and not to be missed.

One of our favorite free meals is mussels.  They are a pleasure to collect, being a really good excuse for spending time at the seaside, and are for us almost a complete meal we can produce without buying in anything as we substitute our cider for the wine to cook them in and can produce just about everything else needed.

But there is a dark cloud on this horizon, chemical fertilizers.  Although this does not directly affect the mussels themselves, it basically feeds the green algae in the water around them which then dies and rots quite naturally, but in unnatural quantities, which then builds up pollutants in the water and the mussels then soak up the pollutants in the water making the mussels dangerous to eat.

This problem is serious enough for the local papers to print a health warning about collecting and eating mussels from effected beaches, and I am told notices appear in the Maries office (town council office) local to the beaches most effected. Both of these measures, although laudable, are really only effective if A. you read enough French to understand the notice, or B. if you regularly visit the Office of the Marie before going to the beach. If you are a tourist or even a nonnative French speaker it is very easy to miss the warnings.

Now I am aware of the arguments put forward for the need for increased productivity of farms and farm acreage  I was born and lived in the over-crowded south east of England and worked for many years around London, Oxford, Brighton and quite a few other major cities, so I have seen the overcrowded housing and tiny gardens therefore understand that not everybody has either the volition or the space to grow their own, and therefore there is a need for the supermarkets to be able to source produce readily and in abundance to feed the needs of the overpopulated areas of Europe. But is there really no alternative to the artificial fertilizers commonly in use? Okay I know there is, but are they as effective, and as cost effective because if they are not is there really a solution to what is  potentially a serious health problem?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

self sufficiency and cash part two

Okay so part one on this subject did not get off to a flying start, however there have been no further breakouts, although I am starting to suspect that the chickens are hatching something! But I shall just have to wait and see. So, two subjects close to my heart self sufficiency and cash.
I should explain that I was introduced to John Seymour's iconic book of self sufficiency by Sue before we left England and I devoured the pages I was indoctrinated! I think I have always felt that I should have lived in an Iron age round house and led a fully autonomous from any state control life style. Except, that other than in my dreams there is no way I could really do this, as a self confessed "petrol head" and semi part time consumerist I do not stand a chance. Looking back on it which bit of France I thought I could create my piece of utopia in God only knows, however I tried, and then realized that planning laws, and everyone else in the household were not so enthused by the round house idea, undaunted I continued with the grow your own side, and then realized we needed cash!
The reality is, that however much it rains here in the winter and the inside of the house resembles a ploughed field with all the mud on the kitchen floor, a source of continual sorrow and work for Sue, I cannot create a paddy field, so rice production is out. Equally I have noticed that banana palms are a bit on the sparse side around here. As for the cacao production well the less said the better. In short we like most other people have to visit the supermarket from time to time, not to mention the many and numerous ways, some of them quite innovative, that the French bureaucratic system and our children try to part us from as much of our cash as possible.
If you read this and are thinking of doing exactly what we have done don't let this article put you off, just remember that you will need to think of new and equally innovative ways of replenishing the coffers, or avoiding paying the very official looking bills that the local treasury take so much pride in producing, in what I must say, are astounding quantities.
 Would I go back to the "old life"? Never, mind you, its not normally me that mops the floors.

Friday, April 1, 2011

selfsufficient life style and cash

This evening I was going to do a well thought out piece on the subject of providing for the needs of the family, culinary and otherwise, whilst still being able to pay our way in society.

And then the pig escaped.

Whilst doing the final rounds of the winter quarters and wishing the animals a last goodnight, with a jug of cider in my hand in readiness for the fine curry Sue had done for dinner, I looked at the pig enclosure, and just did not see porkers in her usual place in the shelter.  Having enjoyed her dinner, she usually retires early to digest her food and generally relax for bed. I walked on, said goodnight to the sheep... and the full horror of the situation dawned on me. THE PIG WAS NOT THERE. Not really at this point knowing what to do, I went into the house put the jug on the table and then realized that Porkers could really only have gone in one direction; through the back fence and into the neighbour's garden, and thus out into the little close of houses at the back.

Quick as my wellies would carry me I ran round the road to the close, and there quietly demolishing the council rubbish bin, was Porkers. Having now found one hundred and thirty kilos of very mobile pork, the sheer enormity of the task of returning her to the pig enclosure dawned. I decided to return to the house via the field and fetch a rope and some help. Sue got some bread and Libby ran back with me armed with two of the loaves.

Well at first all went well we lured Porkers into the edge of the field and started to head back along the side of the field towards home and safety, then Porkers decided she really was not ready to go home yet and ambled off into one of the gardens.

We had by now attracted some unwanted attention from the owners of the gardens Porkers was now happily rotovating the lawns of.  To counter this, and reassure our long suffering French neighbours, I decided to shout (in my best French) "it's okay she is not dangerous"  (C'est bon; elle n'est pas mechant!"). Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight it was more a matter of concern for them what their mad English neighbour was doing taking his pig for a walk, than concern  for their safety at the hands of a perfectly content pig happily scattering their compost heaps,  however I like to feel that I have somehow reassured them of my sanity and fine grasp of animal husbandry.

Eventually we persuaded Porkers to walk at a sedate pace along the the side of the field and back home, at which point we encountered Vince, our long suffering friend and neighbour, who simply enquired if it was normal in England to walk your pig and would it not be better to take the dogs? And as though this came as no suprise to him, he asked if we could go and fetch wood together in the morning, but, bless his heart, he did lend a very useful pair of hands to finally getting Porkers back in the enclosure.

My thanks really go out to Libby and, as always, Sue for keeping calm and thinking in what had slowly become from my point of view a very difficult situation. And as is her usual wont, she deftly rescued dinner and just had a slight laugh at what must seem at times the complete lunacy of her other half.

As I am in the eyes of our neighbours what could at best be described as the eccentric English man, it has probably not really affected my community standing any worse than some of my previous exploits, so all's well that ends well as they say.  I blocked the up the gaps in the fence as best as I could for tonight and tomorrow... well. let's just say I am keeping my fingers crossed...  

Thursday, March 31, 2011


This is a subject close to my childrens heart, ie. how to avoid eating it, and can I grow baked beans in the garden preferably ready canned with a H......... label. The answer is of course NO, now eat up your greens they are good for you! This lead me to thinking about  children who are brought up from birth in a self sufficient household and how they will differ from a child with a "conventional background". As Thai and Libby had a less selfsufficient start although vegetarianism and organic produce played a large part they actually eat more vegetables more willingly than Kisha or Louis who had self sufficiency almost from birth and complain bitterly or just not eat veg, although age may play a part in this.
Anyway after this ramble which is probably unsolvable anyway I will get to the subject I was going to write about VEG. The two pigs, porkers and scratchings, we had last year as weaners and raised to the fine weights of over one hundred and twenty kilos a piece, one of whom is sadly no longer with us apart from in the freezer, did, as a bi~product of their general living habits, create a superb new veggie patch for us. After a bit of a spend on the credit card I am now in the position, thanks to Dobbies, of starting to make full use of the marvelous rotovating habits of pigs. Broad beans are doing marvelously, the leaks are putting up a good show, and the salad crops in the newly acquired polytunnel (again thanks Chris) are showing signs of a speedy free and healthy tea time.
Dispite all this and the fact that Sue is a truly great and innovative cook, will the kids sit down happily to a good home produced meal with real fresh produce get up from the table and say " wow thanks
Mum and thanks Dad for all the hard work"? Will they will they f.........
To end this sad but vaguely humorous tale and restore the faith of our eldest daughter in me being a worthwhile human being and Sue not being a poisoner, I have deciced that after we have raised this years piglets and gained yet another superbly rotovated veg patch I will search the seed catalogues next winter for grow your own Prada shoes and Gucci handbags( I probably got that the wrong way round. Bang goes my street cred,  I can still be a digger and part time dreamer can't I?)

some pics

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Today we said goodbye at least for a while to our friends dog, Charlie. We were looking after said little yorky for Jen while she was in hospital, thankfully Jen is much better now and back at home and so is Charlie, but he has left a lasting impression on 4 of our chickens by grabbing them warmly by the throat and trying to stangle the life out of them. Charlie has when it comes to chickens and I am told cats, the targeting instincts of an excoset missile and the killing instinct of a trained assasin, but he is fantastic with the kids!
Charlie's one dog attempted extinction program for the chickens prompted me to think yet again about our fencing situation. Our three sheep Mutty, Little Man and his sister Little Girl are at present in their winter grazing which is well fenced. Although and let this be a warning to all if you buy sheep fencing, there is a right and a wrong way up. The little sqaures go at the bottom this stops the sheep sticking there heads through and getting stuck because the horns face backwards. However despite just before erecting the final 50 meters of the stuff a friend saying " I have had a terrible day, had to take all the sheep fence down because it was upsidedown etc." I have now realized that all 100 meters of my new sheep fence is UPSIDEDOWN and spend many a happy time extracting the sheep from the wire.
But back to the point about Charlie, despite the cost of good quality fencing being a never ending problem to us and I guess many a smallholder we will have to bite the bullet this year and properly fence the big field that we used the electric fencing on last year. As the electric stuff has about the same effect on the sheep when they have a good fleece as me shouting stop at them when they are striping all the bark of the neighbours prize trees, absolutly none at all. But good quality fencing properly erected ( yes I will have to redo the existing 100 meters in the summer, sorry Sue) keeps preditors out as well as the livstock in and as such is worth all the money and the effort.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Only Recipes: Stewed Borlotti Beans with Smoked Paprika

Only Recipes: Stewed Borlotti Beans with Smoked Paprika just found this site it really does have some good recipes. One of the problems Sue and I face is getting the kids to eat the produce we grow. The kids like processed food despite the great efforts that Sue makes to give them a healthy balanced diet. I suppose advertiseing and friends have an influence on the likes and dislikes of the kids as well as the ease of eating of processed food naturally gives the kids a preference towards them and the fact that the home produced stuff is around them all the time and therefore lacks the exotica of the supermarket stuff.