You may have noticed that there was an eight day gap in the posts I put on this blog. The cause of it was a talk I gave on Tuesday to Sunniside History Society. I had a great deal of work to do to get the presentation into shape - lots of photos to take, research to do, maps and plans to draw. I chose as my subject "The Good Food Guide to Medieval Sunniside" and it appeared to go down well with the people there.
The talk allowed me to combine my interest in history, food growing and photography. It also allowed me to go back to an era in our history when most people were genuinely self-sufficient. And whilst I am nearly self-sufficient in terms of the food we consume in our household, a study of the medieval period reminds me that when it comes to my livestock, we still have some way to go to be in a position in which we are genuinely living only off what we produce. Whilst I try to maximise the amount of locally produced fodder for our goats and poultry, we still have to make a monthly trip to Hexham to the animal feed supplier. We need to look seriously at how we can reduced and then end completely our reliance on manufactured animal feed.
One issue I covered in my talk was the importance of local woodland to medieval communities. Use of woodland was strictly controlled by the local lord of the manor, and for good reason. They were vital local resources for firewood, fodder, foraging and in some cases hunting. We use local woodland around Sunniside for fodder and foraging. Soon we will be using it for collecting firewood as well. Our old gas boiler at home is about to be replaced. When it is (within the next month) the gas supply to our house will be terminated. Our new biomass boiler will burn logs. We have been building up a supply of them on the allotment for over a year, knowing that at some point they would be needed. Nearly all are from the local hedgerows. We chop the branches off so that we can put them into our goat paddock where the goats eat the leaves. When they have finished with them, we chop up the branches.
Living like this has certainly brought home to me just how important local woodlands were to medieval people. Without them, people would simply freeze to death.