Remember Tom and Barbara (Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall) who gave up their lucrative city life to set up a smallholding in Surbiton?
If you’re not English, The Good Life (or Good Neighbors as it was retitled for the U.S.) was a British sitcom from the 1970s about a middle aged man who quits his job in advertising to raise pigs, chickens and vegetables in the suburbs (with the help of his adorable wife) in an attempt to become self-sufficient.
Which brings me to Mik and Jill. Mik and my husband knew each other from university; he and his wife worked in a variety of proper jobs until last year, when they decided to buy a small (5 acre) plot in Suffolk to tend sheep, goats, pigs, turkeys, chickens and a large vegetable garden instead.
We had the grand tour and they served delicious pork from one of their own pigs with roast vegetables from the garden, and though they admit they don’t weave their own toilet paper out of feathers and flax, they do milk the goats to make cheese, do their own lambing, redistribute baby pigs according to the number of available teats, collect the eggs and generally live the smallholder’s dream.
It’s hard to tell who’s happier — the animals or the farmers. Mik’s turkeys follow him around adoringly — flying up to sit on the fence and gobbling mournfully in his direction when he abandoned them to eat dinner.
It was dark when we left (with a leg and a shoulder of home raised lamb), and all the animals had been tucked up in bed, safe from foxes. The pigs were snoring on their sides in the pig houses, the turkeys peered anxiously out of the turkey house, clearly hurt that they weren’t allowed to sleep with Mik in his bed (AGAIN), the sheep grazed, the chickens clucked, and we got the strongest sense that all was right with the world.
We’re breaking even, Jill told us, but that depends how you look at it. I’d say they were doing much better than that.