Yesterday, as part of my shopping, I bought some toilet paper. It started me off thinking about our dependence on technology and disconnectedness from nature. Living in a hamlet means that I am a little short of mains services. We have electricity and water and telephone lines, but no mains gas and no sewage. The toilet paper, together with the wee and poo, are flushed into a settlement tank. The overflow from the first tank goes into a second, and the second feeds into a third in which there is a pump to push the ‘grey water’ into a soakaway in the field behind the house. Every other year I have a waste tanker come around and suck out the sludge from tanks 1 and 2. It sounds a bit disgusting, but at least I know what happens to my waste.
Many children now have very little idea where their food comes from and are unable to connect milk, eggs and burgers with living animals. Food that was once seasonable is available throughout the year. The food I have in my garden follows the seasons. In winter I have leeks, parsnips and kale. In store I will have potatoes and apples and squash and things I have frozen or bottled. There is wine from my grapevines and liquers made from the soft fruit to warm us.
Currently I have a lot of beans to process, and tomatoes to make into soup and ketchup. The apples are almost ripe and we have had some windfalls. The damsons are nearly ready to harvest and there are raspberries and blackberries enough to be going on with. The courgettes are still coming in quite regularly. This is a fruitful time of year. I have just pulled some beetroot and will cook those for our evening meal. Food fresh from the garden tastes much better and you know how it has been produced.
I heard a complaint recently that the supermarket, Tesco, stocked over twenty varieties of apples and none of them were English. This made me laugh at the ignorance of the complainer. The apples on the hundreds of acres of orchards around here are not ripe yet, not even the earliest varieties. If English apples were in the shops they would have been in storage for ten months. Much of our remaining feasting culture comes in midwinter and many of the traditional foods are preserved, such as ham, redcurrant jelly, potatoes and carrots from store. To demand seasonal goods all year is to devalue traditions and to ignore the seasons.