John Seymour - Extracts
We bought the cow because we got tired of walking a couple of miles to fetch milk. We bought the pigs to help drink all the milk the cow gave. We increased our garden to feed the cow and to feed the pigs and to use up the incredible amount of manure which came from these animals. And I could see myself condemned for the rest of my days to hard labour with a spade. And so we bought a horse.
I read a lot of advertisements for those little garden tractors. Then I went and looked at several. But I found that to get one to do any real work at all would cost cost over a hundred pounds; anything smaller would just scrabble over the ground like a dog digging for a bone. Further they make a terrible noise, and I like to hear the birds singing while I work. I think that is very important.
|from: The Fat of the Land - published 1961|
You can pitch sheaves of corn any-old-how on to a wagon and then lash the load down with a rope so that the load doesn't fall over. We needed no rope. We loaded the great Essex wagons - half up to the sky it seemed - so perfectly that the interlocking sheaves held themselves in...Our haystacks and cornricks were perfect, works of fine art. Not a wisp or a sheaf out of place, the whole thing a perfect shape, and thatched to perfection. Thatched as if it had got to stand there for ever. And not only was the work done right - it was done with a flourish. The thatch on the rick would be finished off at each end with a corn dolly. The horses would be turned out - at crack of day - with their tails and mains plaited and beribboned, their coats shining from the brush and straw-wisp...
Every weekend I would go back, from this ethos and this tradition, to Hexham. And I came to despise everybody who was not a farm-worker! I looked at the non farm-labouring world with contempt.
I had discovered that there was another world - another ethos - another kind of man altogether, and this discovery rendered the old world that I was used to absolutely valueless.
For the first time I learned to value the food that I ate. To realise that every loaf of bread, every rasher of bacon, had been paid for by hard sweat and well-directed effort. And for the first time I began to look upon the land as something living, something to be respected, something holy. The basis to everything.
|from: On My Own Terms - published 1963 (an early autobiography)|
...Man is only a talking monkey. Give him tractors and he will rape the earth. Give him trawlers and he will rape the seas. Give him atom bombs and he will blow us all up. He cannot be trusted with these things. He was far better off with sail, horse, and his own good muscles.
|from: 'Willynilly' to the Baltic - published 1965|
If we want a more civilized, organic, decentralized, human-scale, satisfying, less boring, and less dangerous society nearly everyone must start working for it, quietly, slowly, patiently, and knowing what he is doing.
And if the great power shortage does come: if the sheiks suddenly take against Cadillacs, or the oil does get scarcer, and if men become unwilling to toil a thousand feet underground in abominable conditions, and if atomic power proves too impossibly dangerous to put up with, if 'they' - whoever 'they' are - don't find an 'answer', then we shall be forced into a more decentralized and self-sufficient society whether we like it or not. It is better, in that event, to like it, and to be prepared for it, and to move towards it not because we have got to, but because we want to.
To go of our own free will in fact.
|from: Bring Me My Bow - published in 1977 - from an essay 'Self-Sufficiency'|
We Meet Our Neighbours
Before I go any further I must describe how we came to meet our neighbours.
We didn't go out of our way to meet them, and they didn't go out of their way to meet us. But the time came when our grass was ready to be cut for hay. I can't remember how we cut it: I think we got a contractor to do the job, and to bale it as well. We didn't have a tractor in those days, and one horse will not pull a grass-cutter.
We had no means of carrying hay except the Fish Van, which only held about a dozen bales and there were hundreds of them. So Sally and I went out with the Fish Van, and started the laborious and apparently hopeless task of carrying hay home in little dribs and drabs.
Then we heard the noise. It was a combination of tractor engines and Welshmen singing. It got nearer, and two tractors pulling two trailers came into our field, accompanied by about a dozen people. They were singing. They had evidently been at the beer...
|from: I'm a Stranger Here Myself - first published in 1978 |
It is all very well to talk about "the fruits of the earth in their season", and very nice too; but it is nice to be able to eat tomatoes in April, or pork in August. Of course if you buy these things from a shop you can eat anything at any time of the year, but then you find that you have to catch the eight-thirty every morning and go and sit all day in a stuffy office to be able to afford to do so.
If you do not want to catch the eight-thirty what you do is you grow these things for yourself, and preserve them...
|from: The Fat of the Land - first published in 1961|
As food, and everything else, is becoming more expensive, there is coming about a great renaissance of gardening for self-sufficiency. People find that they are saving a significant part of their salaries by doing it, that their food tastes better and does them more good, and that their children are healthier. They themselves benefit from some hard work in the fresh air, and from being involved in the benign cycle of the seasons and with the satisfying process of helping nature create beautiful and nourishing food out of what is apparently nothing...
|from: The Self-Sufficient Gardener - first published in 1978|
The 'owner' of a piece of land has an enormous responsibility, whether the piece is large or small. The very word 'owner' is a misnomer when applied to land. The robin that hops about your garden, and the worms that he hunts, are, in their own terms, just as much 'owners' of the land they occupy as you are. 'Trustee' would be a better word. Anyone who comes into possession, in human terms, of a piece of land, should look upon himself or herself as the trustee of that piece of land - the 'husbandman' - responsible for increasing the sum of things living on that land, holding the land just as much for the benefit of the robin, the wren and the earthworm, even the bacteria in the soil, as for himself.
|from: The Lore of the Land - 1982|
Just as we cannot, for ever, go on keeping hens in wire cages, or pigs in total darkness, or suppressing every species of life on the land except one money-making crop, so we cannot go on for ever ourselves living in human battery cages and more and more distorting our environment.
It's all going to collapse. Either the oil will run out, or the grub, or the uranium-235, or the power of man to withstand the unutterable boredom of it all, and Mankind will have to find a different way of life. And he will not go 'back' as many people think he will. He will go 'forward' to something very much sounder and better than has ever been before. And it is then that I hope that this book will prove useful.
|from: Self-Sufficiency - first published in 1973|
You cannot make people good, or give them good taste, by passing laws. Interference in our private affairs never has the result that it is intended to have. The cunning and venal find ways to get around the laws, and to cash in on them, while the rest of us have to pay for it.
We should mistrust all government, all the time. The less of it the better. Until we have adminstrative units of a sufficiently human size for us to be able to exercise proper control over the servants we pay to run them, then we must reserve the right of non co-operation. The present bureaucratic moloch can only exist because of our co-operation. Withdraw this and it will crash to the ground. We don't need to resort to violence. We don't even need to break the law. Passive non co-operation would be enough....
... Every member of every government in the world should be made to read a copy of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' at least once a week, and there should be a huge notice up in every council chamber and government office saying: DON'T BE PIGS.
|from: Bring Me My Bow - published in 1977 - from an essay 'Nanny Knows Best'|
THE AGE OF HEALING
The Age of Plunder is nearly at an end.
The Age of Healing is ready to be born.
And whether it arrives or not depends upon two people: you and me.
The Age of Plunder was the natural successor to the so-called Age of Reason: the Age in which humankind decided that it knew better than God. For 200 years now the greedy and ruthless have been plundering the planet but their time will soon be up. The whole thing is going to come crashing down.
It could not have gone on much longer anyway - because soon there will be nothing left to plunder. The forests have almost gone from the Earth, the fish of the sea are all but exhausted, the air surrounding us and the waters of the Earth will soon be able to take no more poisonous wastes and, most serious of all, the soil is going. For we soil organisms this could be terminal. As long as the oil reserves last agribusiness will be able to produce the agrichemicals needed to keep some sort of production of vitiated food going from the eroded soil, but the oil deposits - that Pandora's Box of evil things - will soon be exhausted and then the final account, long deferred, will come up for payment. The bailiffs who present it will have strange names, like Famine, Pestilence and War.
But, thank God, maybe the old Earth will not have to wait for this to happen. The whole great edifice of international trade and finance - the whole mighty plunder-machine - is quite likely to burst like a balloon that has grown too big. The whole thing is becoming unsustainable: it has grown too huge to manage.
Owing to the incorrigible tendency towards cannibalism by the huge industrial corporations - the tendency of the bigger ones to swallow up the smaller ones - these molochs are becoming too large for humans to control or the planet to support. Ten years ago no economist would have predicted the complete collapse of the mighty Soviet machine that had engulfed half the Earth. International capitalism will follow.
It is in the nature of a limited company that it can have no responsibility either to the environment around it or to the people who work for it. It is no use blaming the directors - if they do anything that might reduce profits for the shareholders they will quickly be replaced. And the shareholders not only have no liability for debts incurred by the company - but they take no responsibility for the world of nature around them. If the directors can secure bigger profits by dumping poisons into the nearest river - they have to do this. If they do not, they will very quickly be replaced. If they can make more profit by halving the work force - they will have to do so or again they will be replaced. If both shareholders and directors suffer from that most uncapitalist thing - a conscience - to the extent that it interferes with profits - that company will be swallowed up by another giant that has no such inconvenient scruples.
One of the most dramatic effects of the Age of Plunder has been to drive most of the world's population into vast conurbations. These huge assemblies of uprooted people, called cities, are not only ugly but also dangerous. The billions who live in them can only be kept alive by an enormous system of transport which brings water, food, power, fuel and all the necessities of life, often great distances. Any breakdown in the supply of all this would be disastrous. And the great plundering molochs of companies which run it all get fewer and fewer, and bigger and bigger, and more and more people find themselves out of work, not needed, redundant and disempowered.
And meanwhile the tiny scattering of people left on the land, which is the only source of true wealth, have been forced by their paucity of numbers to resort to more and more destructive methods of producing the huge amount of food needed to sustain these billions. They have been forced to ignore the laws of husbandry, which could have retained the fertility of the soil as long as the world lasted, and farm instead with chemicals and huge machines. The soil is becoming poisoned and eroded. The only beneficiaries of this have been the huge chemical companies but they will destroy themselves in the end because they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.
If we open our eyes, we will realize that all this is bound to come crashing down in the end. Then, in the ashes of the Age of Plunder, a new age could arise. The real New Age: the Age of Healing!
We will set about it, just you and me, to heal the ravaged Earth. If we do not - if we fail - then there will not be an Age of Healing: there will be an Age of Chaos and it will not be nice.
And we do not have to wait for the end of the Age of Plunder to start the work. We must start now.
And how can we - just the two of us, you and me, who are so few and disempowered - start this great work by ourselves?
Firstly, say to yourself, and I promise I will do the same, the following resolution:
"I am only one. I can only do what one can do. But what one can do I will do!"
Then consider what you can do.
Refuse to work for the plunderers. Refuse to buy their shoddy goods. Give up the ambition of living like a Texan millionaire. Boycott the Lottery, not because you think you won't win it, but because you don't want to win it!
Refuse to shop in the plunderer's "supermarkets".
Work, always, for a decentralist economy. Support local traders and producers - try to get what you need from as near your home as you can.
Take part in your local politics - boycott the politics of the huge scale, the remote and far-away. The current non-violent defiance of the law by people protesting against the export of live animals from Britain is a fine example of citizen-power.
Work for an economy in which land and property are fairly shared out among the people so that "everybody has enough and nobody has too much".
We must withhold our work, our custom, and our investment from plundering industry. This may cause us "financial hardship" : then we must endure "financial hardship" .
Road transport is the most destructive thing of all. If you live in a city, you do not need a car. (When you go to the country you can hire one - it's much cheaper than owning.) If you live in the country, you may need one - use it as little as possible.
Boycott most goods brought from far away. Take some trouble to find locally produced goods and buy them. Heavy road transport is enormously polluting.
Oppose new road building. Building new roads never relieves traffic congestion - it simply generates more traffic. The only way of solving the traffic problem is to have less traffic.
If you possibly can, do not work for huge organizations. If we withhold our labour from them, they will wither away. (Do not be afraid that this will lose "jobs". It will create more jobs - a multitude of small firms create more "jobs" than a few big ones).
Support local cultural activities. Boycott mass "culture" coming from countries far away.
Encourage, support, and initiate, local credit and finance organizations.
Buy, if you cannot grow, organically produced food. Thus you will help destroy the polluting chemical industry - and you will be healthier. Boycott, absolutely consistently, all products that have involved cruelty to animals.
Support the local and the small-scale.
I will do the same as I ask you to do.
The tiny amount you and I can do is hardly likely to bring the huge worldwide moloch of plundering industry down? Well, if you and I don't do it, it will not be done, and the Age of Plunder will terminate in the Age of Chaos. We have to do it - just the two of us - just you and me. There is no "them" - there is nobody else. Just you and me. On our infirm shoulders we must take up this heavy burden now - the task of restoring the health, the wholeness, the beauty and the integrity of our planet. We must start the Age of Healing now! Tomorrow will be too late.
|from: The Age of Healing first published in Resurgence magazine|