by Max Akroyd
With the solstice less than two weeks away I’m trying to think a bit more clearly about the nuts and bolts of self-sufficiency. 2010 is my dress rehearsal for full self-sufficiency in 2011. I’ll admit that, so far, my vague formula has been: grow lots of vegetables and soft fruit, add as many wild foods as possible, throw in a pig or two and some poultry and hope for the best. And there’s no doubt that I could pull through on that prescription, with a lot of nettle soup in spring…
But from somewhere in my animal memory, I’m getting a strong urge to diversify as much as possible. Maybe it’s the rhubarb sprouting away happily as if it’s spring. Or the raspberries still in fruit. But something is sugggesting loud and clear that the rules are being slightly adjusted of late and that presents a potentially big problem for the self-reliant peasant.
The result of these musings will be the introduction of some different animal protein in the new year: ducks and more hens for meat and, if I can find one, a goat in kid for milk and cheese. Normally I don’t consume milk, a strange thing for an adult mammal to do really, but I can see now that it will offer another line of food insurance.
Being a product of the consumer age, I can’t help seeing my food requirements as a long (supermarket) shopping list which I’m working down in my mind and crossing off the items one by one. If I can whittle it down to just flour and soap on that list by this time next year, I’ll be a happy, and relieved, man.
To address my need for fruit in the near future, I have a plan to grow as much soft fruit as possible. Abundant and quick to yield, things like strawberries, gooseberries, currants and rhubarb, will be the cornerstone of my fruit intake. And raspberries… the most generous and problem-free of the lot.
So today I planted thirty six canes: half of them red, summer ones (Zeva and Himbo Top) and the other half yellow, autumn ones (Fallgold) because a succession is vital too… I’d planned to just pop them into a couple of trenches I’d prepared earlier in the year, and then get on with something else. But things don’t quite work out that way and I spent most of the morning raking over the trenches, assessing the size of each cane’s roots, fashioning an appropriate size hole, planting the cane and finally firming it in…