Grow, forage, cook: the smallholding dream, in books

The start of a new year never fails to prompt my (already fairly impressive) desire to dream endlessly about new ways to live my life.

The current frontrunner in future plans, sitting pretty in pole position for a good few years now, is the dream of having a little smallholding somewhere in the countryside.

We’d have a kitchen garden, some chickens, a herd of alpacas, goats, woodland, a few pigs, ideally a little stream somewhere on the land with a watermill. We’d aim for self-sufficiency (but not beat ourselves up too much when we head off to a grocers because the veg ran out…)

It’s grow, forage, cook writ large, if you will.

Goat
Goats and fields: this my friends, is the dream…

I’m not the first, I know, to feel increasingly disillusioned with the whole capitalist / consumerist urban lifestyle we live. A quaint farm and entirely homegrown vegetables seems a pleasing antidote to the rat race. (Whether the reality would live up to my expectation is yet to be seen…)

At any rate, I’ve been reading up a lot on smallholding and self-sufficiency recently and thought I might recommend any books I’ve found particularly interesting.

I was originally planning on putting lots into this one post, but I’ve written so much about my first book (because I flipping love it!) that I’ll be back in a week or two with some more. So, first up:

How to be free by Tom Hodgkinson

I’m not one for hyperbole (wry understatement being more my modus operandi) but I can’t help but proclaim: this book changed my life!

Encompassing far more than mere dreams of self-sufficiency or smallholdings, this book discusses how to escape the omnipresent anxiety caused my modern day living, or, as the author quotes William Blake, the “mind forg’d manacles” of existence.

In essence: ways to get off the consumerist rat race and live for yourself again. (The answers, incidentally, are all pretty pleasing: cycle more, drink with friends, laugh, stop buying so much shit and don’t work in tedious boring jobs.)

The author’s politics are certainly more extreme than mine, but I am completely won over by this book, thanks largely to the intelligence and wit with which Hodgkinson (editor of the The Idler www.idler.co.uk) puts forward his (sometimes rather radical) ideas.

But it’s the philosophy at the heart of the book that really spoke out to me: don’t get stuck on an endless hamster wheel of trying to achieve what seems important (progressing up the career ladder, rushing to fit hundreds of things into your day, working all hours to feed your beast of a mortgage…) Instead, reassess what you need and what you want in your life and simply step away from all the other nonsense and focus on the small, important things instead (family, friends, being creative, drinking and eating well…)

Don’t start a revolution; just live in a more community-minded way, with some land to tend and a ukulele to play.

Honestly, as a way of life, I can’t think of a much more appealing proposition.

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4 thoughts on “Grow, forage, cook: the smallholding dream, in books

  1. I’d love a smallholding, it’s something I think about a lot and a lifestyle I think I’d enjoy. One day! I own quite a few books on self sufficiency which I have dipped in and out of as and when I’ve fancied a read. I’ve added ‘How to be free’ to my wishlist, sounds fab 🙂

  2. It sounds like a great book, right up my street. I’m an endless dreamer as well, I’d love some land and an orchard with bees and chickens. Happy sigh. Up the road from us someone is building an eco house, and they’ve already got goats, sheep and cows in their adjoining field. I’m watching with interest. I love it when people follow their dreams. I hope you get to follow yours one day too. CJ xx

  3. I’ve been feeling this exact same way lately. There’s society’s idea of what my life should be, and then there’s what *I* want, and the two are always at odds. I’ve really been trying to simplify lately. I want to get back to what matters to *me*. So this book is definitely right up my alley!

    I recommend “The Backyard Homestead” by Carleen Madigan if you haven’t read it.

  4. Bravo ! There is a lovely dream and absolutely doable. Those mind manacles are a little tricky to get off. We are moving in that direction here but I’ll never be self sufficient. But I can absolutely see you doing this. You are a fearless maker Sabrina.
    When I ever take time to read again, I’m cracking that one open.
    Love to You,
    Shalagh

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