Money matters (392)

by Max Akroyd


With grumpy hens, and seeds unsown, I couldn’t hold it off any longer. A trip to the farm shop was required this morning.

Or was it? A look at the items on my receipt reveals some unremarkable things : potting composts, hen food and dog food. But these items, upon closer inspection, are a bit odd. Mysterious composites of stuff, provenance unknown, bought to replace two obvious and naturally occurring things, soil and food.  

I’m used to scouring supermarket receipts and thinking, “hey I can grow that/process that myself”. The farm shop purchases have escaped this scrutiny, until now. Generally, I’m finding the best yardstick to use in such matters is to ask whether a seventeeenth century peasant would have used or needed the thing in question. (Let’s set aside the inconvenient fact that some things – like a tetanus jab – fall foul of this strategy). 

Or, to look at it the other way, it seems the essence of progress is to buy something you could make, but shrink-wrapped in colourful plastic packaging.

You could argue that these products are time-saving. But I’ve missed a precious morning in the garden. The cost of the purchases, plus that of the petrol going to get them, represents a lot of time and effort in itself. Money is time. And I suppose I should also be mindful of all the finite energy resources inherent in manufacturing and transporting all these heavy consumer items.

If you get fancy ideas about replicating a product at home, there’s usually some expert to tell you that things will go wrong. Your chickens’ heads will fall off for sure due to the imperfect nutrition of homemade hen food. They need genetically modified soya you know – after all it’s only natural. Your seedlings will twist and die in your homely mix of seed compost. Well, I’m starting to think experts exist to obfuscate the bleedin’ obvious … for cash.

So that’s it. I’m resolved. No more soft handouts to agrochemical industry. I’m going to overlay my existing undertakings with some more: producing my own hen food, dog food and seed composts. But how? Dog food is straightforward because it was expertly covered here. The other two are slightly more testing. For the 21st century peasant, research always  starts with an internet search. So far I’ve found this for hen food and this for seed compost. I’d like to avoid having to buy one of these. And also any textbooks on hen nutrition, if possible, my insomnia isn’t that bad.

The next step is to throw the question open to the kind readers of one’s blog! If you have any answers or suggestions, please let me know. 

In the meantime, I’m off to spend the afternoon pushing an underpowered grass-cutting device round and round in circles to satisfy the perceived expectation of others that grass should look a certain way. Modern life, eh?