Tales From the Green Valley

Once upon a time, in the bleak midwinter, we would get depressed. I don't think this is unusual in and of itself, but we used to channel our Seasonal Affective Disorder by plotting grand plans of escape and/or renovation: the unbuilt garage-mahal, the kitchen remodel, the first garden re-do at the Red House, an untaken sabbatical in England. It should come as no surprise that we moved to Newburyport during the Winter Solstice. Some things come to fruition; other plans are shelved as the days get longer.

One of our lingering fantasies from the dark days is the idea that we should pick up and move to England. Or Wales. (And yes, we are aware that winters are actually darker there. Nobody claims this is logical.) We actually almost did it once, going so far as to applying for work visas and taking tests to prove we are competent speakers of English. (Alas, U.S. workers have to jump through many more hoops that their E.U. counterparts, which makes no sense as the linguistic and cultural similarities between the U.S. and the Brits is obviously closer than, say, with Greece.)

We also took our tenth anniversary trip to England and Wales, which we loved. That trip was under the guise of research for a move, and I suppose still may be if we ever get sabbatical-crazed again. In the meantime, we catch all the BBC we can and are interested (of course) in their gardens.

And that brings us to this amazing TV show we found on YouTube: Tales from the Green Valley.

It's about a group of anthropologists who live on an English farm and work on it for a year, using only tools and techniques available in 1620. It is quiet and British and utterly amazing. There are 12 half-hour episodes, each about one month of the farming year (which, incidentally, started in September, so makes for excellent fall and winter viewing). They wear the clothes and live the life, including raising and slaughtering livestock, building traditional outbuildings, and growing heirloom crops and veggies. Each episode also ends with a meal of traditional, seasonal recipes. It's a lot like Frontier House from PBS (which we also love and occasionally rewatch), but without the drama.

We like to watch it to be inspired by what we can grow and do here. The seasonal eating and traditional English food was fascinating, and we also like to see what can be done without electricity and/or special equipment (our homemade compost sifter on a tripod of large branches sprang to life after watching Frontier House, for example). We'll let you know what Green Valley-inspired projects crop up here in the spring, but in the meantime, definitely check it out for yourself! You can get started on Episode 1 here:


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