The kitchen

Heart of a small­hold­ing

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

Is there any prop­erty telly pro­gramme that doesn’t chirp on about the kitchen be­ing the heart of the home? It’s a do­mes­tic if ac­cu­rate cliché, and if it’s true for your av­er­age sub­ur­ban three-bed semi, it’s dou­bly true of the small­holder kitchen.

The small­holder’s kitchen is nor­mally the phys­i­cal link be­tween the out­door small­hold­ing ac­tion, and the calmer, pos­si­bly neater, in­ner sanc­tum ar­eas for rest and re­lax­ation. Whether you have a boot room, util­ity or dog room as the ul­ti­mate step to the out­side world or not, the kitchen is the last semi-ac­cept­able bound­ary for the wear­ing of wellies. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a hurry, best in­ten­tions of ‘no muddy gear in the kitchen’ go en­tirely by the way­side. It’s why the kitchen floor needs to be swept with an old-fash­ioned broom be­fore it’s fit for hoover­ing, and why we own a mop and bucket that ac­tu­ally gets used.

A kitchen is as es­sen­tial to small­hold­ing life as a wheel­bar­row or a muck fork, and it’s far from be­ing a one job room. Its main pur­pose may be for cook­ing and eat­ing, but the small­holder has all kinds of projects and rou­tines that make the kitchen mul­ti­pur­pose be­yond the norm. If you’re lucky enough to have a range, the cool bot­tom oven might be res­ur­rect­ing a new born lamb from hy­pother­mia. You’ll be pick­ling and pre­serv­ing jams and chut­neys, ketchups and rel­ishes; cur­ing and sausage-mak­ing; blanch­ing and bag­ging, whether it’s from for­aged or home grown pro­duce. And th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties re­quire kit, from pre­serv­ing pans to ther­mome­ters and lots and lots of jars, bot­tles, fun­nels, sieves, la­bels and lids, so stor­age be­comes a ma­jor is­sue. You can’t ex­actly keep food re­lated items hy­gien­i­cally along­side live­stock kit, so a small­holder needs more cup­boards, shelves and stor­age con­tain­ers than the av­er­age house­holder. It’s why scul­leries, pantries, larders, freezer space and gen­er­ous util­ity rooms are so much in de­mand. I don’t think we’ve run a train­ing course when at least one bud­ding small­holder hasn’t ‘oohed’ and ‘aa­hed’ over our an­cient cob­ble­stone floored scullery, and I have to say, the stor­age space keeps me sane, and the dogs out of cool­ing left­overs. Old nails smacked into beams gen­er­a­tions ago carry colan­ders and pans, and bot­tles of cider are kept chilled on old paving slabs, ready to add to stews or serve to a tired shearer. Less ro­man­ti­cally, large plas­tic stor­age boxes hold sacks of flour, and enough dried goods to see us through any bak­ing frenzy. It’s this room that keeps the kitchen us­able for its other tasks, or we wouldn’t be able to move in it. The kitchen ta­ble is where I fill in live­stock medicine records, plan which cows will go in which shed for the win­ter, watch the house ducks through the kitchen win­dow, plan and pre­pare the menus for our cour­ses, and de­cant cider vine­gar from the bar­rel in­hab­ited by the oc­to­pus-like vine­gar mother. In win­ter it’s where wet boots, jack­ets, hats and gloves steam by the range, and year-round it’s where large hairy dogs sprawl, Ma­bel un­der the ta­ble, Mack in his bed by the oven.

The small­holder’s kitchen is where we care for live­stock, mooch with pets, dry our clothes, pre­pare, eat and drink our pro­duce, work, so­cialise, plan and dream. And it’s the warm­est room in the house.

TOP: A kitchen get-to­gether RIGHT: Rain­bow chard LEFT: Ducks in the kitchen

Sweet chilli jam

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