Brewing, home-curing, smoking, preserving, sewing, mending, re-using, repurposing and recycling, growing fruit and vegetables, and keeping livestock have all been everyday activities for most people for most of settled human history. It’s only during the second part of the 20th Century that most of us have become divorced from the production of the food on our plates, the drink in our goblets, and the objects that surround us.
A couple of years ago life’s ebbs and flows brought me from the town to the country. We’re not ‘down-sizers’ or smallholders, but we’ve taken advantage of the opportunities to discover and use new and local foods and ingredients, as well as exploring other traditional country skills like foraging, brewing, curing, preserving, growing food and keeping poultry.
This blog is somewhere to record my experiments, give (and invite!) advice, and above all to share the marvellous fact that these skills are simple, rewarding, cost effective, sustainable, and anyone can do it. Time and again I’ve encountered a perception that these skills are difficult to learn, complex, time consuming, and even dangerous! My experience is that nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a lazy cook, and work long hours doing a demanding job. Whoever you are, and wherever you live – from the heart of the city to the most isolated rural spot – there is something here you should be trying!
The Country Skills ‘Manifesto’, in a nutshell?
That every day, we should all be eating, drinking, and using things that we have made, or grown, which we would normally have bought. Bread, bacon or beer. Jam, jelly or marmalade. Eggs from your hens, salad from your garden, or even herbs from your window box! Handmade place-mats, or decorative and scented candles. If you’re not normally a cook, then it might just be a meal from scratch instead of a microwave pack, or a lunch that doesn’t come out of a retail sandwich carton. Real food – food that we make ourselves, food that involves us, made with love for the people we care for (or just for ourselves!) – is full of good flavour, good vibes, and just plain goodness, and can’t help but enrich all our lives.
We should be filling our lives and our homes with food – and objects! – which have been hand-made, not manufactured. It’s good for us, good for our families, good for our communities, and good for the planet. Simple.