A Little Piece of England: A tale of self-sufficiency by John Jackson
|A Little Piece of England: A tale of self-sufficiency by John Jackson|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A warts-and-all look at what it's like to run a smallholding and aspire to self-sufficiency. It's informative, entertaining and a pleasure to read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 232||Date: April 2014|
|Publisher: JJ Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Here at Bookbag we're great fans of John Jackson. We loved his Tales for Great Grandchildren and Brahma Dreaming: Legends from Hindu Mythology so it was something of a treat to meet the author on his own ground, so to speak. Originally published as A Bucket of Nuts and a Herring Net: The Birth of a Spare-Time Farm this is actually Jackson's first book and thirty-five years later we're delighted that it's been republished in hardback complete with the original black-and-white illustrations by Val Biro.
For decades I've dreamed of attempting self-sufficiency: fortunately common sense has intervened and we've restricted ourselves to growing as much of our food as has been possible in a rather troublesome garden. If the idea of self-sufficency appeals to you then you really should read A Little Piece of England: it's not the manual you'll need if you decide to go ahead, but it will tell you what it's really like, not just in the good times but on the days when problems linger around corners waiting to trip you up.
In 1965 (before The Good Life was even a gleam in a television executive's eye) the Jackson family acquired a property inside the commuter belt but in rural Kent. The house wasn't without its problems (best summed up as 'not beloved of building societies') and the land was nowhere near ideal for what the family was about to take on, but space allowed them to acquire animals. Over time they would make themselves self-sufficient in eggs, meat, milk, vegetables as well as some fruit. Not all the lessons they learned were obvious - avoiding giving names to animals you plan on eating came perhaps later than it should - but over time they developed considerable expertise and the sort of stamina which you need when the day job has to take precedence, but the animals still need to be looked after.
Jackson was - (and still is at the age of 84) a lawyer and had no background in farming. But he had something far more useful: he had the right mindset. He describes his childhood in a family that was generally flat broke and the need to live on what they could grow or forage - or what they could get out of the sea. By the age of four he knew how to use the land and when, as an adult, he and his family moved to The Ridge that attitude was in his blood.
The book is not just very readable, but compelling. Looking back when I turned the final page I came to the conclusion that this wasn't just because of the nature of the story but because of Jackson's approach to life. He's resolutely positive and never bemoans his lot, accepting that problems will happen and that there's nothing to be done but to deal with them. Even when other people act less than well, there's no criticism - the reader can draw their own conclusions - and the emphasis is on moving forward. It made for an engaging read and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If you really are determined to go ahead then you would benefit from The Self-sufficientish Bible by Andy Hamilton and Dave Hamilton. The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gives a good overview and there's another story of the road to self-sufficiency in Pigs in Clover: Or How I Accidentally Fell in Love with the Good Life by Simon Dawson.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Little Piece of England: A tale of self-sufficiency by John Jackson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Little Piece of England: A tale of self-sufficiency by John Jackson at Amazon.com.
A Little Piece of England: A tale of self-sufficiency by John Jackson is in the Top Ten Autobiographies 2014.
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