It’s not the end of the world. As I write this, I am listening to the radio, where sombre voices are speaking of madmen rattling their swords, about missiles, about storing food for a no-deal Brexit, about droughts, floods, forest fires. Stay indoors. Cover the windows, cover your eyes. Be afraid. And I am afraid.
Yet, outside the open door, the sun shines, the swallows loop their exuberant loops, the tomatoes still ripen. The cat – a cooler head than mine – licks her paws, caring not a jot for the news. Not the end of the world, then. Not today.
At the back of the house there is a room that originally would have been the ‘summer kitchen’. It would have had a sink, a dirt floor, a fire or oven, little else. It would have been used for cooking in the hot, dry summer months as a way of keeping the main house cool. Ours has been ‘refurbished’, meaning the floor has been tiled and the walls have been papered, the main result of this being a good deal of dampness.
For the time being, until we begin to get it back towards its original make-up (never), we are using it as a food store. The shelves are filled with airtight tubs of dried wild mushrooms collected in the nearby forest, of canned tomatoes picked from the garden. Pickles, jams, blackcurrant syrup, nettle beer, brined green beans, dehydrated courgettes (and a bubbling demijohn of weird cloudy marrow ‘wine’ that will probably be a solitary pleasure). In a week or so, two of the sheep go to slaughter so we will have a freezer full of mutton and hogget, and there is still much to come from the vegetable patch. It is not enough food to get us through a winter, let alone a nuclear one, though it is a start; we will, at least, be self-sufficient in tomatoes until the season is in full swing again next year.
It is a whispered truth than there was an element of fear for the future in our decision to move towards a self-sufficient lifestyle. (That’s not quite true. My partner is more positive than I am, and my dark mutterings about storing water, after one too many glasses of wine whilst listening to the news are, thankfully, counterbalanced by happier, more reasonable thoughts.) If things do get difficult, here we are in a better position than most to weather the storm. A well, chickens, bees, sheep, fruit, vegetables, wild foods.
These may not be our salvation come the end times – however they manifest – but are surely our salvation in any case. Connected to the land, to the creatures that roam and scuttle, to the sighing plants and, well, everything, we are happy, and healthy, and a part of things. Apocalypse or not.
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