Sunday, 18 April 2010

Just how healthy is self sufficiency?

Face value, I haven’t been to the doctors in fourteen years. I don’t get colds, I don’t get sniffles (if I’m unwell it is of course the worst illness in the history of the household, but because I’m a man I soldier on and don’t bring it to the attention of those closest to more than once or twice a minute). However, the fact that I don’t seek help can be a worry in itself.
The last time I had my blood pressure checked was that last visit fourteen years ago. A lot has happened in fourteen years. Until ten years ago I was living in London and was living the opposite to self sufficiently – would that be dependently?
Anyway, I guess it’s been on my mind a little lately, so when I saw an ambulance parked up offering free blood pressure checks, I decided to take up their offer.
It was a Saturday morning, and not surprisingly business was slow for the paramedics manning the stall, most of whom were sitting inside the ambulance fiddling with the equipment. Just outside were a ring of chairs. I smiled at one of the ladies and sat where she indicated.
The thing is there are times when I think my lifestyle is hard on my body. In the depths of winter I often get soaked to the skin and freezing, literally freezing cold. I’m out feeding, watering and bedding down every day in conditions that even the animals I’m caring for don’t venture into. In the house there’s no central heating and away from the fire I can quite often see my own breath.
On my diet I’m pretty sure I score points because I keep it as natural and pure as possible, but I never consider fat content, or calories, or salt levels, but then I don’t eat anything that’s processed and not made from scratch at home, and my only big no nos, are additives and preservatives. I eat butter, not margarine. I eat cheese, I drink wine, and when I get the beginning sensation of a wobble to my tummy when I move about, rather than cut back on what I’m eating, I’ll just go out an hour earlier each day and work a bit harder until I feel as though the extra weight has gone. I have never been to the gym and I don’t own any bathroom scales.
All of which you could take two ways; either I’m living a natural life and listening to my body, or I’m being foolish and not taking advantage of ‘healthy options’ offered in the shops.
All these thoughts rushed through my head in the time it took the paramedic to bring the equipment over. I gave my name, age and signed to say I wouldn’t sue them if they gave me bad news.
She wrapped the black strip, like a bandage, around the top of my arm and began pumping it to inflate.
There’s the book as well. I have felt a lot of stress lately with the book coming out. That’s natural, I don’t want to let anyone down, the publishers, my agent and not least of all my family and myself, and have found the pressure much higher than I thought it would be. I can imagine that pushing my pressure up.
When the bandage was fully inflated, she wrote on a clipboard before address me.
‘The best today,’ she said. ‘It’s very, very good.’
I felt my insides sag with relief. Only now I realised that all of the lifestyle analysing wasn’t weighing up which way the result might go, it was gathering excuses in case it was bad news.
But it wasn’t. It was good news.
Very, very good – aren’t they lovely words?
So there you have it, self sufficiency is a healthy lifestyle for good blood pressure. As if I had any doubt…

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

And life moves on...

Actually I wasn’t sure whether to call this week’s blog, ‘And life moves on…’, or ‘Shattered!’ as both are appropriate. This time of year, this transitional period between winter and spring is crazy. There is just so much to do, and although I adopt the ‘hit the crocodile closest to the boat’ philosophy, which at any other time of year helps me prioritise, right now it seems to be working against me, as the bloody crocodiles seem to be climbing over each other to get at me, and I keep changing focus and now have a farm full of half finished projects.
You know how it feels? I don’t know if you can still get those kids toys where you have a flat picture in a frame cut into lots of square pieces with one piece missing, so you can move the pieces about to form a picture or mess it all up, but if you want to move one square, you have to move other squares out of the way in a complicated sequence first. That pretty much describes my land at the moment.
Sorry about the metaphors one after the other, that’s my allotted two for the blog so you’re okay, there won’t be any more.
Okay, so in a condensed form, this is what I’m facing: I need to bring all the wood that I have cut down in the woods into the stable to dry, but before I can do that, I need to move Maddy and her babies who currently occupy the stable. In order to move Maddy, I need to build her a new enclosure. To build her new enclosure, I need to cut straight, slim lengths of wood to use as fence posts. To cut the fence posts, I need to start burning some of the brushings from the last lot of wood so that I can get to them. But, in order to start burning, I need to move the horses out of the field that’s right next to the burning area.
No, no, don’t glaze over, there’s more…
I can’t move the horses up into the top field until I burn the brushings from the hedging I did up here. I also need to do work on the vegetable plot, and, and, AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You see? The kids picture metaphor works, doesn’t it?
Last night I almost worked until it got dark. By quarter past seven I was completely shattered, and kept looking at the sky willing it to get dark so I could go home and have a glass of wine in the bath. I gave up at seven thirty, figuring it was almost dark, and last thing put the chickens to bed.
With spring in the air, the three cockerels have turned into little sods. They absolutely refuse to go to bed at night, and the only way I can catch them is to wait until one of them jumps on one of the hens and then grab him.
So last night, tired, aching, hungry and smelly, I had to stand in the middle of the chicken field waiting for the cockerels to get randy (which wasn’t long), and then when they did rush over and grab him mid-coitus, but, worried I might do some damage if I simply dragged him off, had to hold him gently until he had finished. I desperately wanted to laugh but I thought it might put him off.
Honestly, the things we do…

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The self sufficiency bible is out!

Of course I understand this is a blog about my self sufficient lifestyle, but right now my whole life is dominated by my book coming out, and come out it has! Anyone who has ever dreamed of writing a book will have wondered how it would feel to wander into a branch of Waterstones or WHSmiths and found their book on the shelf. That's the dream I had, anyway.
It's got something to do with feeling that I've achieved something.
It's got something to do with Debbie, and my mum, and my family and how they see me.
It's got everything to do with sharing my passion for a lifestyle that at its most simplistic, living close to animals and nature and growing or making what I need, and at its most complex, the daily struggle to survive financially and emotionally, is just so rewarding and (most of the time)such fun.
It's funny, but sitting here I can't think of another way of life that is so enriching. Of course that's subjective, and of course I understand that someone else will have an entirely different point of view and would hate to live the way I do, and that's fine, that's how it should be, but for me, living as self sufficiently as I reasonably can and at the same time sharing many of my discoveries and understandings in a published book, this is everything I have ever wanted. I really am very lucky.
So how does it feel to see your book on the shelf of Waterstones and in the front window? Absolutely bloody marvelous! Scary as hell too, but bloody marvelous none the less.