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.
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.