40 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd

I’m sure it’s been the nature of the weather that has made this year feel interminable. Like text with no paragraphs or punctuation, spring and summer became one long, dry mass. If the weather in Brittany is anything, it’s diverse thanks to the procession of fronts fresh from the Atlantic.  This year they didn’t come – well, until Sunday. Then the grey slumber finally erupted into downpour – siling down it was – a late, late reanimation of everything hitherto dusty, dessicated and dying.

The present, unfamiliar growing season – neither summer not autumn – feels like a bit of a bonus for the aspiring peasant. Normally at this time of year the wealth of the harvest makes you deservedly a bit lazy about available sowing opportunities. Not this year! There’s a real and pressing need to recoup and I’ve discovered a whole load more stuff in the seed box that can assist. Previously neglected things like Chinese kale, Chinese cabbage, Texel greens, cima di rapa … and there’s also versions of more familiar things like broccolis and cauliflowers which can be sown now. This journey of discovery is cheered along by the coo-ing six week old who likes nothing better, it seems, than sitting in his bouncy chair in the greenshed, listening to music and to the rain hammering down on the plastic roof.

In the coming year of self-sufficiency I’ll obviously need to win a generous summer bounty. But I’m (almost) grateful for the necessity to discover the August/September sowing window. After all, the constraints of ‘the growing season’ need to be  loosened considerably if I’m to eke out a diet – the luxury of packing up for the year around now belongs to another, modern era.

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It’s approximately a year since the idea of Rural Idiocy got pressed into words. Reality draws ever closer! 

After much strimming and mowing in the last few days, the field has returned to the becalmed order of early spring. In some ways not much happened between then and now!  It might seem strange, then, to report that I’m quietly confident that this thing can be done. My knowledge, sufficient to achieve self-sufficiency, only exists in fragments but there’s enough of them now to believe that they could be knocked together into a sustaining whole. Perhaps healthy pigs and healthy brassicas instill confidence, or at least diminish the significance of an inability to grow beetroot.

Typically, there are plenty of bad things in the larger world which could yet derail the project. To some extent, I’ve always been spurred on by that hot breath proximity of financial crisis and marginal family finances. In addition, we’re now in the final scene of an epic struggle with French bureaucracy which has sapped our collective energies for weeks now.

It would be unfortunate to fail because of paperwork. Hopefully that won’t be the case. Fingers crossed!