Let’s start at the very beginning.
Our fields were farmed by my family before I was born. Before my Dad was born infact. My grandfather, and his brother, bought the farm in 1937. So my dad and his brother and sister were raised here from when they were born, just like I have been. Is it any wonder that I wanted the same thing for my children? The third generation to have grown up on Radmore Farm.
My childhood was nothing less than a dream. Freedom to play outside, animals to care for and a different activity every day; from picnics amongst the rows of harvest time straw to tractor rides and taking our fishing nets down to the brook (because my dad promised us their were fish in there, not just his attempt to keep us busy at all!). There was always something to do, someone to help, something to learn.
My parents were really busy, it’s easy to look back through the fun-loving eyes of a child and only remember the good bits. But their job was hard, it was long hours, it was was all weathers, and it was stressful. We had a 500 sow pig unit, and all their offspring, which equated to about 3000 pigs on the farm at any one time. My dad had also bought some more farm land giving him about 500 acres of arable land to farm. This didn’t give them many free minutes! Luckily my 2 great aunties lived on the farm and they provided all the entertainment needed when Mum and Dad were busy.
‘The Aunties’ as they were fondly known by the whole family, had never married and moved to the farm shortly after their brother bought it in the late 30’s early 40’s. They taught me sustainable living, providing for yourself and avoiding waste like no one else ever could! They must have been in their 80’s when I was born, and lived into their late 90’s and one well past the 100 mark!
These 2 women used to darn socks, pick blackberries from the hedge rows, walk around the fields collecting sticks and logs for the fire, and collect rainwater to use on their garden. And they didn’t do it because it was trendy, or because the wanted to save the planet. They did it because it was normal! Because why would you buy things that you could make or collect or grow? They told stories of the 2 world wars they lived through, of the soldiers that camped on our farm, and of the prisoners of war that were sent to our farm to work. They told us stories that the Italian Prisoners of War became great friends with them as they worked on our farm (the aunties cooked hot meals for them and in return the POWs made them hard-wearing shoes. They even kept until they died letters that these men and their families sent them when they returned home after the war). They even told stories of hearing on the wireless that the Titanic had sunk! They lived through times when girls didn’t go to school for many years if at all, through depression, suffrage, rationing, through plumbing and electricity coming into homes, and through us having our first female prime minister. They saw so many changes to the world around them, but they still lived their way. They went to bed when it got dark, and rose with the sun. They never turned the lights on! They walked and got the bus, never owned a car. They cooked. They grew fruit and vegetables. They made their own fertilisers from sheep poo they collected round the farm, mixed with rain water. They even made cushioning for inside their shoes when they got old and worn from sheeps wool they would find on the hedge branches. They bottled and jarred, and pickled and preserved, from recipes handed down from mother. Even when sometimes it backfired, like when they attempted to give the Vicar a glass of sherry, but instead gave him blackberry Vinegar due to lack of labelling! A most embarrassing faux pas! But what I loved most about them is that they so happily involved me in their ways and history. A little girl born 80 years apart into a very different world!
The most important things I learned from the aunties that set me up for life:
1. Make the most out of what you have
2. You have to eat a spec of dirt before you die
3. Enjoy learning and make the most of school, especially as a girl!
4. Be part of the community, it gives so much back
5. Everything has a use, don’t throw anything away
6. You can swing a full can of blackberries over your head without spilling any, if you swing your arm fast enough!
So it was an obvious choice to open a farm shop, and bring my children up in this lifestyle too, wasn’t it?! I just hope I can relay ‘the aunties’ healthy, active, sustainable, and most importantly happy lifestyle to my boys.