When did it all begin to go wrong..?

Preserving was a skill most people used regularly throughout the war..

As a twenty something year old I had often thought very deeply about many things and when I turned 30 decided to do something about those thoughts having first devoured many books on self-sufficiency and self-reliance (The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour being my very favourite at the time) .. I began to grow a vegetable garden, keep poultry and goats, all in my back garden.

At that time I decided to reject artificial fertilizers and weed killers on my property and try to be as organic as possible. I taught myself about organic principles, animal husbandry, and studied the life cycles of different species of animals and vegetables. One of my biggest thrills was planting my very first courgette (zucchini) seeds and harvesting my first ever home grown vegetables.
After Emily was born the Hobbits and my ex-husband and I bought a farm in Wales… I kept chickens, ducks, pigs, cattle, sheep and hand milked two of my goats morning and night. At one time we were self sufficient in many vegetables (not as many as I would have liked- I’m not a great gardener!), eggs & milk and would have been in meat too except when it came to it I couldn’t kill the animals that I had nurtured and studied every day. They all trusted me and I had bonded with them all… I just couldn’t do it. I’d make a lousy farmer..

Wayback in 2001 at our farm in Wales

That seems like a lifetime ago now… its been years now since I’ve grown a garden and I really miss growing and providing food for my family. Earning an income and the time that involves has had to take priority.
But I am still so very interested in the ideal of a society where people begin to take responsibility for their health and well being and begin to reverse the health, social and economic problems we are plagued with. But as our liberties are eroded by our countries obsessions with control, many people are finding less freedom to address these problems by using their own ingenuity in supporting themselves. It concerns me when I read that flower beds are tolerated by town bylaws in urban gardens but some do not allow productive vegetable beds because they look unsightly…. people should not be struggling at this level they should be encouraged and applauded for taking such an initiative and being so responsible.

My old farmhouse kitchen back in Wales

I wonder frequently “when did it all begin to go wrong…?”. When did we decide that fresh, tasty wholefoods/vegetables harvested from healthy, worm filled soil was a bore and that a TV dinner out of a box, containing genetically modified ingredients and food that has been sprayed within an inch of it’s life was acceptable to use day in and day out?
With that in mind I hope you don’t mind me sharing a Facebook conversation on health and diet that some friends and I enjoyed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts- I really would
C xxxxxxxxxx


I was on a program at the local YMCA called at the time “The Biggest Loser” after the US television show. It was very regimented. 1500 calories and 2 hour workouts daily but Sunday. It involved running and I worked up to a 10k but It took a toll on my body so I took to long walks instead. Best thing about it was I had to keep a journal (such as your blog) which kept me focused and more aware of what I was doing. I made an important discovery, I was leading a mindless life, especially how much eating I was doing unconsciously. I mean it was being driven not by fundamental need for nourishment, but more sinister psychological things, such as rejection. So I discovered that eating and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Some drink. Some smoke. Some do drugs. Others eat. So mindfulness became a practice when eating. Being aware what I was eating and for nourishment sake. Wow, what a difference. You also mentioned processed foods. That is why I admire your program. Handmade nourishment out of necessity. Michael Pollan wrote in his book, Food Rules, eat only what your granny would recognize. Sound advice. Organic farming, when you think about it, is farming like grandpa use to do – no synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, and all the modern better life through better chemistry type of farming. Our land nowadays is all jacked up like a person on a dozen different meds. No wonder everybody is messed up – eat a lot of chemically processed foods that mess up body and mind, so instead of changing your diet you take a handful of meds meanwhile you live a highly stressed existence. Here in the good old USA, no wonder there is a health crisis. You are exactly, 100 percent right – food does taste better because you feel better detoxed from the modern hell we have created for ourselves and our kids. Also, those long walks in the outdoors is also terrific therapy. Thanks.
Yesterday at 08:05 · Unlike ·  1
  • Carolyn Ekins

    And what you are saying is exactly has been proven in books like the China Study (mindless consumption of animal proteins and junk/processed foods) and YES I am completely shocked just how many MEDS so many people in their 40s and 50s are on and a lot of it is purely diet related. Food can be our drug of choice and that leads to health problems just as drinking, smoking does too. Many people who have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, erectile dysfunction, etc have the ability to cure themselves by changing their diet (its been proven over and over again) but it’s kind of heard to make that radical change if food is your drug of choice. But WE DO have a choice…. we can try and fight our addiction or carry on as we are and keep buying those meds and continue to suffer. (I’m not dissing meds here- some of them are absolutely necessary but just really sad that today we have to take so many of them- where did our health go?)
    • 14 hours ago · Like ·  2
    • Karen

      Love LOVE all of this^. My thought? Our health went at the same time as the concept of personal responsibility. We bred a generation of people that were told, “science will fix everything. Do what you want!”, and now that’s come home to roost. My grandmother, now 100, always said, “everything in moderation”. Since she lived through two world wars, the Spanish flu *and* me as a child, I think that’s still pretty sound advice.
      13 hours ago · Unlike ·  2
    • Keith

      Bless your grandmother, her wisdom has served her well and it is a lesson passed on to others. Like you said, Take responsibility for your action includes what we nourish our bodies with. There are dire consequences to mindless eating. I have been down that road, though. Put stuff in my mouth without thinking. Grandmother is right, moderation and always leave the table a little hungry but satisfied with what you have ate.
      13 hours ago · Unlike ·  1
    • Carolyn Ekins Loving this thread too ♥

      13 hours ago · Like ·  1
    • Carolyn Ekins I’m also interested in WHY we have stopped taking personal responsibility for ourselves- do you think it is that and if so what caused it? Ideas….?

      13 hours ago · Like ·  1
      • Julie

        I have a thought that once rationing finished in 1954 and with the advent of better accessibility to food and scientific research we perhaps got ‘carried away’ with what we could ‘achieve’ to make lives easier. So many housewives of the time were so excited about frozen food and convenience foods that natural and wholesome foods were in some part forgotten about. That the natural progression of being taught how to cook properly and the advent of such things as the microwave made us forget that actually the best jacket potatoes are the ones that you prick all over with a fork and put in the oven for an hour… I had the fortune to work for a wonderfully inspiring lady called Helen Browning who is the Chairman of the Soil Association on her Organic Farm in Wiltshire – such an inspiring time – and as her PA I had a fabulous insight into what actually does go into our food and how it could be so much better for us if only we went back to basics and did do crop rotation and natural pest control.
        11 hours ago · Unlike ·  2
      • Carolyn Ekins I agree so much with that and wow! Helen Browning 🙂 I agree so much about getting back to basics.. before moving to Canada I had a small farm run on organic principles- this is the only way forward xxxxx How long were you her PA?

        2 hours ago · Like
      • Keith

        My dad and mom were children of the Great Depression in the 1930 and so learned by necessity. Make do what you have. It may not have been a lot, but it was nutritious and enough calories to sustain. But the advantage they had compared to nowadays was the tradition they came from. They were from the preindustrial food era. When organic was organic.There was process food, but not any thing like it is today. My parents’ folks didn’t have a lot of money, but they raised most of their food, butchered their own livestock, bartered and worked for what they didn’t have. Think about it, to a certain degree things didn’t change for country folk for thousands of years and in certain parts of the world today it is still the same way. For me, things started to change pretty fast for country folk when electricity came to the farm. Then it really accelerated after WWII. The world changed dramatically and old ways faded. Farms increasingly got mechanized and grew larger to be more efficient as production dramatically increased. It didn’t take a lot of people to grow a lot of food. Industrial methods invaded livestock production and slaughter houses grew large and fabricated all the meat products on the line eliminating the butcher at the corner store, which itself gave way to the supermarket. Efficient transportation methods were able bring food grown 1,500 miles away just days after it was harvested. To make sure that factory food stayed on the supermarket shelves for God knows how long, a new array of chemicals were added to the food not only to better preserve it, to make it look, smell, sound and taste better for sophisticated palettes. Old ways and traditions were forgotten when grandpa and grandma died. Now we are three or four generations off the farm and don’t have a clue about how what we eat is produced and processed as long as it is “fresh and yummy” when bitten into every where but at the family supper table. What the hell are the basics any more anyway? And can we get it at the supermarket? Oh, by the way kids, I don’t have time to cook any thing in the microwave, so why don’t we do it the way mom used to and i’ll go for a bucket of chicken and we will eat it in the mini-van as I drop you guy off for what ever you are going to do tonight. Or, do we even to have time for that? When are the going to invent a pill so we just pop it In our mouths and we won’t have to bother to eat at all.
        about an hour ago · Unlike ·  1
      • Carolyn Ekins I really don’t want this conversation to disappear….it has to be preserved and added too. Maybe I could post some snippets on my blog and see if there is anyone else who would like to join in…. its very important. Thank you for adding you thoughts Keith xx

        39 minutes ago · Like

15 thoughts on “When did it all begin to go wrong..?

  1. I agree with Carolyn fresh wholesome food is what our bodies need. In Australia now they are discouraging sugar intake and encourage us to move more. Also diet wise they are trying to get everybody to eat whole foods now. My mum has a garden and she grows everything and always has. When I was young my Pa had a big garden of Vegetables and it was yummy. Plus organic food is not full of toxins that build up in the body.

  2. Love this post. I love hearing other peoples stories about how they made do a generation ago. Everyone looks dumb struck when we announce we’re eating of rations and we’re doing it less expensively than a modern day diet AND we’re saving money. (already got august 2013 holiday planned)

    My mother is from south africa, but even she remembers being rationed, not to the same extent as somewher like the UK but somethings were still hard to obtain and some became completely unavailable.
    My mother in law remembers being a child in the war, how her uncle had a sweets factory so they didnt have to worry about their sweet ration running out. lol
    Our kids have become more appritiative of the sweets they get now that theyre rationed. The monthly sweet ration for all 5 of usis 3kg … which hubby and i dont eat so kid have all of that… which, with home made cakes/ biscuits is really sufficient.

    We’re digging out our back garden at the moment… so much clay so it’ll take some work… but its with a view to dig our own victory garden.
    Our diet (and health) has already improved by us adopting a 1940s ration based diet, a veg/fruit garden seemed the next logical step.
    We’re lucky in that we also have my mother in laws HUGE garden to use for that purpose aswell… so we’ll be knee high in strawberries and carrots in no time. (fingers crossed)
    I cant wait to boast my first carrot cake with HOME grown carrots, however funny they may look 😀

  3. rationingrevisited good luck with the carrot cake! I have fallen off the Ration wagon a bit *cough* lot! *cough* but am planning on re-starting (along with blogging as well – I have been a bad Tempewytch!), I also wish we could grow stuff but it would be more work for my husband (crutches and digging is NOT a good combination, although I could probably get our Cairn Terrier to do that bit *grin*) .. I promise to blog this weekend if anyone fancies popping to my blog on Typepad 🙂

    Hmm wish we had a bigger kitchen (I would LOVE the one in the photos above)

  4. Well..I think without doubt good wholesome food is vital for our physical, mental, emmotional and spiritual well being. The evidence to the contrary is all around us. Yesterday I was nearly bowled over by two almost maniacal young children who were sliding, yelling, crashing into people. Both of them had pasty sallow skins and to say they were hyper is a understatement to say the least. They could not stand still even for a second even when they spoke to each other.They both looked jerky, nervous and almost as they had ‘ticks’. I was not surprised when their parents appeared after turning a blind eye to the havoc the kids were causing, looking bloated, pale and tired out. The trolley they were pushing was loaded with squashes, coke, crisps,cakes, biscuits, sweets, sausage rolls and ready meals. There was no fruit or vegetables or any evidence of anything that would need to be cooked from scratch. Is this sheer laziness? I don’t know. Lack of good healthy eating information? Hardly…we have had it pushed down our throats, scuse the pun, about five a day for several years now.To add to this horror story I actually saw what must have been a baby no more than 16/18 months old being given a sausage roll to eat as the babies dinner! The mother was sat in town downing hers at the same time as her childs. I found this shocking but it isn’t uncommon here in Britain. I wonder what the impact will be in the future.

  5. I worked for Helen for 2 and a half years, I only finished because I had Willow in 2001. I have to say that it was the best time in the whole of my working life (and it’s been quite varied :)) The real thing that always hit me about life at Eastbrook was that it was a little (well 1400 acre) pocket of culture, philosophy and ethics all brought about for the RIGHT reasons. The farm was taken on by Helen from her father and she turned it into an organic farm way back when conventional farms were practically all that existed. The farm hands live in tyed cottages and the same families have worked there in some instances for generations. It is obviously about caring for the land and the animals but also caring about the people and the whole way of life. We still go as a family to see the farm and love the Happy Pigs who reside close to the Ridgeway on the downs and have lovely little houses and plenty of room to roam around.
    The work that goes into the farm is phenomenal and pretty labour intensive (so I guess that that in some part is why organic food is more expensive) but the people who work there know every bit of the farm and crops are rotated and fields put to clover to regenerate the soil on an anual basis.

    I do try and be as ethical as I can regarding food, but unfortunately sometimes pennies dictate that organic is not always a feasible option. I think that we can all do little things that will add up and make a big difference in the way that we look at life and perhaps if enough people do enough little things then change can happen more quickly?

    Anyhow, I could wax lyrical for hours on organics, antibiotics, what we feed our chickens etc……

    I do need to congratulate you again on losing more weight !!! It delights me to follow you and i feel very privileged to have known you for all this time 🙂

    I have bitten the bullet and bought scales as well :-0 – I have 3 stone to lose (42 lbs? ) – I’ve been very good this week and eaten LOADS of vegetables and feel so much better for it.

    Speak soon 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Omigosh, small world isn’t it? My brother lives in same village as Helen Browning and nephew used to work for her. So here I am in NZ reading about you and the Ridgway…

  6. It has taken a century to learn what our grandparents already knew. Real food in modest amounts. Previous generations spent a greater proportion of their income on food. We have cheap food, but at what cost?

  7. Yes, indeed, I applaud you Anna for that comment…. What is our goal ? where are our values and what happened to our sense of cammeraderie?…. xx

  8. Carolyn,

    I find this really inspiring. And I too love John Seymour’s books. I discovered two of them in a charity shop and fel in love with them.

    Just one thing I need to say. It dismays me to see animal proteins and junk food in the same category.

    Many of the studies on saturated fat were done with transfats – and we now know the dangers of the latter. Red meat studies often include processed meat.

    I found this site interesting. It gives a clear, detailed and frankly, quite fascinating rebuttal of the China Study:


    The author has also written some amazing posts explaining that the China Study data shows a much stronger link between wheat and heart disease/cancer.

    What I love from a rationing perspective is that we were told to eat less wheat and more oats and potatoes.

    Why am I saying all this. Because I spent many years struggling with my health and went down many blind alleys. The vegan diet was one of those blind (damaging for me) alleys. And as a trained nutritionist, I’m fairly confident that I did it as well as I could.

    I’m not suggesting we should eat masses of animal protein. This isn’t a plug for the atkins diet, far from it. I believe in the power of vegetables! And the rationing diet ;0)

    Best wishes, Lorna

  9. Hi Lorna- yes this is fascinating and I never am blindly lead by any studies however I do like to acquire knowledge, test out theories for myself and draw my own conclusions….everyone is different too.

    Being vegan is tough (as you found out) as you have to try and nourish yourself properly but I personally do feel simply great!

    That being said I did lose 57 lbs on the 1940s Experiment way back in 2006 at my very first attempt and then I was a meat eater. And I felt good then too!

    I’m a really BIG BELIEVER in using meat and dairy sparingly and having a plant strong wholefoods diet and of course rationing saw that most people ate this way…. and YES less wheat! People definitely ate more complex carbs such as oats and potatoes… I have both of these everyday 🙂 A big bowl of organic oats made with plain water- nom nom nom!

    The China Study of course clearly showed scientifically how cancer growth in rats could be turned on and off simply by the amount of animal protein consumed. The magic percentage was 5%.. the rats consuming 5% or less saw their tumours shrink, the more animal protein they consumed the more tumour growth increased..

    All I can see today is an obese sick society (I am one of those) and I think diet is the key medicine to heal these gaping wounds.

    Cut out the junk processed convenience food (and use it only very occasionally not everyday), eat fresh organic foods grown close to home, use meat and cheese sparingly, eat fresh leafy green vegetables abundantly, have some complex carbs, pulses, raw nuts and legumes daily, ditch table salt and use sea salt, drink lots of water instead of pop and enjoy a piece of fruit everyday, take some exercise and just be happy!

    That’s how I’m seeing it anyway 🙂

    Really enjoyed your input Lorna!!!

    Thank you

    C xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  10. Hey, this is a great blog. I’m also interested in how different people get on with different types of food (and drink), Some people thrive on one type of diet, others another. Why is it? Is it all about metabolisms / activities / body types
    / sensitivities?
    But back to the wartime, economy, healthy food comments – it is strange, isn’t it, the relationship we have with food these days? We talk about it a lot, it’s on the TV all the time and so on, and yet we’re less able to deal with it in a basic form, and we’re way too ready to reject it or chuck it out needlessly. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you haven’t been brought up to just ‘make something from nothing’ or to ‘eek something out’ in order to use what you have, the whole meal preparation thing can become a big performance. You can spend a lot of time dashing off down the supermarket to get the right ingredients and if you don’t know the first principles, food preparation becomes a real chore at the end of the day. And the ready meals and takeaways are always there when you’re tired… The truth is that without the skills that come with observation and practice, you probably don’t have the speed or basic know-how to deal with real food, you can’t quickly turn a few basics into something delicious and you certainly don’t want to, or don’t know how to deal with leftovers (aren’t they dangerous anyway?).
    Wouldn’t it be so great it your wartime recipes and all this talk could result in the word spreading that you can prepare tasty, nutritious food that is better for you, with less waste, less bother, and a lot less money than it takes to drag round the supermarket or to head off for the takeaway. Keep up the great work!

    • I AGREE ABSOLUTELY! We need a non-corrupt Ministry of Food and Marguerite Pattens to infiltrate schools and work places to show people how to cook from scratch (a bit like Jamie did in Jamies School Dinners) except it really should be part of the school year… even one cooking lesson every two weeks. Get kids interested in real food again…. also lessons in community halls and work places to teach adults…basic foods, showing folk how much money they can save by cooking from scratch, how their kids will CALM DOWN and make their lives easier and quieter if they feed them properly! LOL

      But you are right- it isn’t easy even… we are all so busy and if you have no basic skills it has to be overwhelming. Convenience food has its place and I for one use it occasionally (and sometimes more often than I’d like) but what is wrong is eating day in day out out of boxes. Chicken nuggets for dinner everyday, crisps/chips for lunch etc…

      All I know for sure is getting off as much of the convenience junk/processed foods as possible sure makes you feel good!

      Great comments Jane!!!

      C xxxx

  11. This is all soo interesting and wow! what a coincidence, Jane, your brother lives in Bishopstone… I do think it is such a shame that we have lost our way so much in what is not a great span of time – we are all so interested in focussing on the future that we seem to forget the past and the present. Life is so materialistic and competitive these days – I continually ask myself why? and believe me, i have been one of those materialistic and competitive people. It doesn’t make sense any more – I know we have to move on and I know that we have to look to the future, but what is wrong with instilling values and ethics especially regarding food – it is after all how we survive – into our children and giving them a good grounding for their futures? I heard a very very disturbing report on the radio the other day – please look at this link – and read what we are contemplating doing to ourselves now !!


    J. xx

    • Julie I love reading your responses… I’m the same. There just comes a time in your life when it all just doesn’t make sense, the way we are living. It isn’t sustainable and we are creating our own demise…what can we do? Make little changes where we can, big changes if possible but at least do something.

      The most powerful way is by what we consume- it really is. Every time something gets rung through the checkout it is recorded and our eating habits are defined and suppliers continue to supply what we are demanding as consumers..

      I’ll check the link later Julie- after work xxxxxx

  12. That link is horrifying Julie. Have you read Margaret Attwood’s ‘Crake and Oryx’ – I hated it but it certainly resonates. I have a horrible suspicion that, given the right marketing, pseudo meat might appeal to many…
    Yes Carolyn, you’re right about kids and commumities cooking. I’m going to find out more locally and do some serious lobbying of the government, dept. of education to have PRACTICAL cookery as part of the core curriculum (and why isn’t it part of Science, History and Art too?).
    Off to kill eat my porridge and kill a carrot first…

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