The 434-days-to-go review

by Max Akroyd

Instead of complaining about the antics of my porcine friends today, I thought I’d try and step back from the hustle and bustle of mundane events and take stock a bit. A storm is coming in, and my old bones needed an excuse for a day off.

For better or for worse I’m trying to hit a target of self-sufficiency by 1 June 2011, a mere 434 days from now. How am I doing? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, don’t rush with the truth!)

As well as being great fun to write, this blog has a selfish two-fold purpose. Firstly, it acts as a much needed kick up the bum for me. It would be hard to record “Dear readers, today I sat on my backside, ate chocolate and watched Flog It.” (Even though that’s precisely my plan for this day!) Secondly, it will act as an aide-memoire for next year, which is why I record almost every detail now: if something really works I want to be sure to repeat it next year when it really matters.

So, in retrospect, what has “really worked” so far? Specific things that spring to mind include the October sowings which are a real success so far: I have caulflowers and kales in the field growing away (or feeding the slugs) already, and plants lurking at the back of the polytunnel which I could eat now (no, not the dandelions). Tatsoi might not be everybody’s culinary delight, but anything which bridges the hungry gap is fine with me. Still having half a pig in the freezer at this time of year helps alleviate a lot of worries.

A diet of arcane brassicas and pork will be much improved by some nice things preserved in jars. It is this export from the present to the forthcoming year of self-sufficiency which will take its place on centre stage in the coming weeks and months.

An unrelated, but equally important, theme will no doubt arise from my desire to complete the livestock on the smallholding with a donkey and a cow. There, I’ve confessed: the cow and her milk are an obvious addition, but something has welled-up in my incipient peasant conciousness which demands that I own a donkey. Hopefully I’ll work out why in due course!  

In more general terms, this project has been upgraded in my own perception from ‘highly improbable’ to ‘almost possible’. The efforts with our animals and vegetables obviously help this process, but it’s also down to the barter network which is forming. No man is an island, and success is far more likely with local trading partners.

This sense of support I feel is greatly enhanced by the comments received on this blog. I’m going to take this opportunity to make you all cringe and to thank you sincerely, from the damp depths of my smelly wellies in fact, for your continued, morale-boosting support. The good life is definitely much better when shared. 

Finally, I’ve taken a picture of every growing area in the garden and will repeat this at the start of forthcoming seasons (unless I forget). So here it is, warts – or at least docks – and all…

Edit: my photo of the area we call “the Allotment” seems to have vanished. I’ll add it back in later… in the meantime, you can guess the picture: long beds, lots of plastic mulch…

Right, where did I put that chocolate?