The older I get, the more the thought of ‘living off the land’ appeals to me.
I was once seduced by the idea of residing in a bustling city, surrounded by the coolest restaurants and beautiful people. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live in the country, filled with nothing but fields and trees.
Now I find myself gravitating towards that simple, self-sufficient life. I want the muddy fingernails, the fresh homegrown produce and the hearty stews cooked on the stove after a long winter’s walk across the countryside.
And when I want something, I usually find a way to get it.
To clarify, I am currently very far from being self-sufficient. I buy the majority of my food from the supermarket and rely on larger companies to grow, harvest and ship a lot of my produce straight to my door.
That’s just how things are right now. But that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.
I’m not aiming to become completely self-sufficient in every aspect of my life. The idea of making my own clothes, freecycling and shunning consumerism completely is great in theory, but I just don’t think it’s for me.
I guess I’m more high-maintenance than I thought!
One thing I am interested in, however, is producing my own food.
The idea of dietary self-sufficiency appeals to me simply because I love the idea of living off the land and growing what you eat. Since becoming self-employed, I’ve realised how rewarding it can be to carve out your own life without the need to rely on large organisations that don’t always have your best interests at heart.
And what better time to start than now?
The cloud of impending Brexit chaos is currently looming over the UK, bringing an air of uncertainty and worry to the country. There are whispers of food shortages, empty supermarket shelves and frantic stockpiling of canned food.
Honestly, it’s a little scary.
I’m crossing my fingers that everything will be fine. But if it isn’t, I want to be prepared.
In a funny way, Brexit has been just the spark I needed in order to start my journey to self-sufficiency. I’ve had visions of growing my own produce and making my pantry essentials from scratch for a while now, but I couldn’t seem to find the motivation needed to just get started.
I guess every cloud has a silver lining.
Living in a London flat, there were some limitations to get around. Namely, space!
We’re currently saving up for a cosy cottage in the Kent countryside, but those dreams are still pretty far away. So for now, we needed to improvise.
I’m lucky enough to live in a large and beautiful apartment – we’re on the top floor with our own private rooftop and a very big kitchen. Lots of space for little vegetable pots!
I’ve grown rocket – or arugula, for my American readers – on my windowsill in the past and found it surprisingly easy. A quick rummage through my kitchen drawers turned up a packet of leftover seeds, and within a few days of being planted they have already begun to sprout!
A little basil plant is also happily growing on my kitchen windowsill, along with a stubborn garlic bulb that is so far refusing to venture above ground.
Now, my long-suffering tomato plants.
It’s a sad fact that tomato plants are my weak spot. No matter what I do, I can barely keep them alive for more than a month or so. It’s a running joke in my family that I should just buy a tomato plant, take it home and set it on fire to save time!
This year, however, things have been a little different. With careful watering and harvesting, I’ve managed to keep two plants alive this summer and they are now producing an abundance of ruby-red tomatoes!
Some crops, however, need a little more space than I can currently provide.
Luckily Elliott’s parents live a short drive away, and they have a huge garden. We worked together this summer to plant a diverse and vibrant vegetable patch, and after just a few short months it is already thriving.
You can read more about the process here – our patch has now extended to kale, spinach, onions, beetroot, carrots, kabocha, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and bell peppers. Not bad for a first attempt!
I’ve already noticed that our vegetable bill has decreased since we began growing our own produce, and that feeling is pretty addictive.
It got me thinking. What else could I make myself?
It seemed sensible to start with the basics – bread and milk.
I was gifted this bread machine for my birthday recently, and I fired it up for the first time this week. Making homemade bread always seemed so far out of my reach, but I was amazed at how simple it was. It takes just minutes to measure out the ingredients and add them to the machine, and then this handy little gadget does all the work for you – plus, your home will smell incredible for the rest of the day.
So far I’ve turned out three perfect loaves, and I can’t wait to experiment with new recipes!
When it comes to milk, I prefer to stick to the plant-based variety. I usually pick up Innocent’s brand of oat milk, but at £2 a bottle and containing only three ingredients it seems more logical to make it from scratch.
I used Simple Vegan Blog‘s recipe for homemade oat milk and was pleasantly surprised with the results. I think I’ll add a date or two next time as it wasn’t quite sweet enough for my tastes, but I can’t see a reason to ever purchase store-bought oat milk again!
Of course, we can’t produce everything ourselves. Bountiful apple orchards and fields of golden corn are a little out of my reach, even when we eventually purchase our dream home.
Luckily, the local farms are happy to pick up the slack!
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Hewitt’s Farm. I try to visit at least once a month and fill my bags with fresh, local produce. There’s nothing better than pulling muddy vegetables straight from the ground and taking them straight home to wash and eat.
It’s cheaper than the farmer’s market and more fun, too!
For the longest time, I didn’t even bother to research my nearby local farms. I assumed they would be far out in the countryside, not just a short drive away from my apartment in South London. Don’t make the same mistake – no matter where you live, there’s sure to be a local farm or even a shared allotment somewhere nearby.
Eating with the seasons is a huge part of living self-sufficiently and one of the things that attracts me most to this lifestyle. I’ve been doing my best to cook with primarily seasonal ingredients lately, and relying on our homegrown vegetables along with fresh produce from Hewitt’s Farm forces me to stick to this goal.
It may be a little extra hard work, but that’s exactly what makes it so rewarding and satisfying.
With uncertainty in the air and political unrest swirling just below the surface of the British stiff upper lip, it’s comforting to know that I have the means to support myself without having to completely rely on the government to get it right.
I can’t wait to see where this self-sufficiency journey takes me, and I’m looking forward to the day that I can type an update from my future countryside cottage – surrounded by well-tended vegetable gardens and fields as far as the eye can see.
Have you dabbled in the self-sufficient lifestyle? Do you have any tips on growing your own produce? I’d love to hear your thoughts!