Mr. Fairweather is a bit of a dreamer. That suits me fine. I’m a bit of a dreamer myself. It can make things frustratingly slow sometimes but at least we dream the same dream together. That’s kind of what marriage is I suppose.
We had always wanted a life out in the country. Mr. Fairweather probably wanted it more but he certainly brought me up to speed fairly quickly. For our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs., he got me a DVD box collection of River Cottage. I like to refer to it as Vintage HFW.
For those unacquainted with the joys of HFW and River Cottage, it is the story of one man (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)’s escape from the rat race and his move to the countryside in search of the good life. He starts out renting a small cottage on a third of an acre by the river Brit – hence the name River Cottage. And the DVDs follow his adventures making it a self sufficient smallholding and introduce you to a host of colourful local characters who initially seem quite bemused by Hugh and his mop of floppy curls and earnest ways.
The first of these is Escape to River Cottage. It is inspirational. I love it. Over Christmas and this rainy, stormy winter I have been snuggled up with the Little Paddler watching vintage HFW. Watching as he digs up the lovely cottage garden full of foxgloves and lupins and makes his terraced beds and begin planting and sowing. He begins his on-going battle against slugs and mice and seeks advice from organic growers Michael and Joy Michaud. From his shaky beginnings (seven blackcurrants and a seedling massacre by assailants unknown) he builds a really thriving kitchen garden. Surely this is a mirror of things to come for me. The similarities are undeniable. I shall have to dig up lovely flowers, albeit mine are docks, thistles and creeping buttercup. I shall be making outdoor raised beds – not terraced as our ground is fairly level and not railway sleepers after all as they are way too expensive. And so far I have had shaky beginnings, shaky middles, bone shaking halts and fairly rattly restarts. Ok – so the similarities are tenuous at best. Minor details.
HFW gets hens. On looking back at the programme, I note that he builds a good run with six foot high fencing. I am going back to the drawing board after my fox saga. Current chicken accommodation is woefully inadequate for free ranging and the hens are wilfully destroying my potted plants and depositing landmines at the door as they seek food and safety from further fox attack. He also gets pigs. Oh the dream! The wonderful porky, delicious dream. Secure fencing also needed for pigs. Think I’ll fence one area for both hens and pigs and try and keep things affordable that way.
It occurs to me that HFW must be a man of some means. The outlay for fencing, sleepers, animals etc isn’t small. I have been investigating. I know that he runs it on a bit of a budget and tries to barter for things and get his free food where possible but still some things must be bought in cash. Mr. Fairweather and I have a lot of saving to do in order to live the dream now there’s an income coming back in. I certainly don’t know when we will be able to commission a hand woven traditional eel trap….
I have taken notes though of HFW’s love of the waste not, want not ethos. I love what he does in the kitchen. It’s all so achievable. Well. Almost all of it. I am going to need to find me a butcher to get friendly with. So when we kill the pigs, he can teach me how to butcher my own animals. Whatever about learning to skin and gut a duck from the internet and books, I wouldn’t fancy it with a pig. I love the idea of foraging for my own food. But apart from berries and elderflower, I don’t really trust myself to seek out and correctly identify wild food. As for shooting pigeons and deer and diving for fish and crabs – all a little out of my league but entertaining watching none the less.
Also, some of ideas are a bit for the birds. I don’t necessarily agree with all his experiments but some just take the biscuit. Vegan spiritualists who use crystals and meditation to rid the house of mice, or a hedge witch to help him pick out a yule log are both so contrary to everything I believe that I don’t even know where to start with them. However, leaving those bits aside, I’m a big Vintage HFW fan.
So apparently is the Little Paddler. She points at the various animals to express approval. “P” for pig. “Bop bop” for hens. “Cak” for ducks/geese. “B” for birdies in general. So really River Cottage is an educational tool for all ages.