Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

The Fat of the Land

John Sey­mour (Lit­tle Toller Books, £12)

I al­ways found John sey­mour’s most fa­mous book, The Com­plete Book of Self-suf­fi­ciency, a lit­tle preachy and smug. This, his first book on the sub­ject, newly re­pub­lished by lit­tle Toller, is much more fun be­cause he talks about his mis­takes as well as his tri­umphs.

He must have suf­fered a se­vere re­ac­tion to his mother, a south­ern belle used to din­ing with diplo­mats and for­mer mem­bers of roy­alty. In the late 1950s, he bought a re­mote suf­folk farm­worker’s cot­tage miles from his near­est neigh­bour. It had no elec­tric­ity, the land had been un­cul­ti­vated for decades and the milk­man wouldn’t de­liver.

He bought a dark Jer­sey cow, Brownie, and had to learn to milk her and then deal with an av­er­age of two to three gal­lons a day. He and his pot­ter wife, sally, made cheese and but­ter and fed milk to the pigs they’d bought, as well as to their hens, geese, dogs and cats. all thrived. as a re­sult, they had a farm­yard be­fore they knew it.

They grew all their own veg­eta­bles, which had to be pre­served be­cause there was no elec­tric­ity, and grad­u­ally re­fused to buy ar­ti­fi­cial fer­tilis­ers, partly be­cause they ob­jected to the price and partly be­cause they had plenty of ma­nure. They also had a hen called Hen­ri­etta and dis­cov­ered that the se­cret of keep­ing fowl was to ‘sim­ply leave them ab­so­lutely and en­tirely alone’.

sey­mour loved liv­ing among ‘peas­ants’, found his fam­ily so healthy they didn’t need the den­tist and lived to be more than 90. you may not want to fol­low his ex­treme ex­am­ple, but there’s lots of ad­vice for hen keep­ers, veg­etable gar­den­ers and am­a­teur builders.

as well as this, the book is beau­ti­fully writ­ten, ob­ser­vant, in­for­ma­tive and funny—but he never re­veals why he calls ants ‘dis­gust­ing lit­tle fas­cists’. Les­lie Ged­des-brown

A de­tail from The Self-suf­fi­cient Gar­dener by the au­thor’s wife, Sally Sey­mour, who il­lus­trated the book

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