Self Sufficient August

Self Sufficient Augustlast subsistance lunch

It was going to be “No Buy July”- the challenge was to go without money for a month.  But we delayed the challenge by a month for a variety of reasons: most of our crops were not ready until late July; we spent the first half of July staying with friends in the Alps; and I had bad morning sickness that could only be alleviated by constant snacking. We couldn’t come up with such a catchy (corny?) title for August, but it was a lot more practicable. We slackened the rules a bit, from not using money at all, to not shopping or buying food and drink.

I did buy some tickets for the fringe festival- but hey, that only comes round once a year and we had lots of visitors who were keen to go to shows. It would have been sad not to join them, and mean to expect them to pay for us. Other than that, and direct debits for telephone, broadband, power and council tax, I did not pay for anything during the month (my excuse being that I need these for work as I work from home).

We definitely didn’t starve, in fact we ate very well, and very healthily on vegetables from the garden and meat from the freezer.  We started the month with most of a roe deer in the freezer- we hadn’t caught it ourselves, but we had butchered it. We also did a shop on July 31st and bought plenty of flour, pasta, rice, eggs, fat, cheese and sugar. We did not stock up on luxury items like chocolate,  biscuits or frozen pizza because we felt that this was against the spirit of the challenge. We bought enough milk for the first week only. This was going to be the crux for me. I’d made it through “no-dairy February”, but that was before getting pregnant. Thankfully our friends looked after me (and baby) by bartering milk for our beans, jam and accommodation.

We did not have to skimp on entertainment, and hosted more meals than we were hosted for. We were also able to give away plenty of beans, carrots, courgettes and jam. I supplemented our own produce with raspberries and blackberries from Blackford hill. I also eyed up the bunnies as an additional protein source, but decided that any attempt to catch one would probably end up with me in a gorse bush looking stupid.

During the second half of the month the weather turned unseasonably cold and dreich.  All but two of the tomatoes stayed green and the peapods failed to fill out. It did not affect us greatly as we had tinned tomatoes in the cupboard, but it did give us a small sense of what true subsistence might feel like: in a word, vulnerable.

In summary, this is what I learned:

  • How to make granola, gooseberry cordial and courgette bhajis;
  • That fruit juice is not an essential item for the weekly shop;
  • That there is great pleasure in giving and receiving simple things;
  • That beans are OK as a commodity for bartering, but home brew beer is better; and
  • What it feels like to have your food supply at the mercy of the weather.

Guest blog by Ruth.


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