A few years ago, while visiting Ireland, we stopped at the home of my wife’s close friend Dave. He’s got an amazing place near the coast in County Sligo, where he lives with his twin daughters. Among his activities, he fishes for food, has started participating in old-fashioned bartering fairs, and is growing all sorts of vegetables in a homemade greenhouse. He passed along a book to me that he promised would be inspiring. He was right.
The book was Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour, published in the 1970s (here’s a link to an updated edition), and it explained everything you needed to do to set up on 5 acres of land with an astonishing array of beasts and crops (and beer), and to make yourself damn-near self-sufficient. I don’t know how practical the advice is in every detail, but the philosophy is simple and important: the more you can produce for yourself, the better off you are. Or as the Italians say, chi fa da sè, fa per tre.
In a world of uncertainties and constant worry about the quality of life in the future, this could not be more true.
Here in Levanto, in our own little way, we are trying to become ever more self-sufficient. This means reusing everything, finding ways to recycle that which cannot be reused, and becoming tuned in to the cycles of the land and what it can give you. When the walnuts are falling, collect them and make nut sauce, which you can freeze for the entire year. When you have cut down your cauliflower, save the leaves for soup. When the oranges get blown down by the Tramontana winds, make marmalade.
There’s a satisfaction in living off the land, even to the smallest degree, that is inexplicable.