Many people yearn to grow their own food and live a simpler life – but, when Coronavirus hit, some decided it was now or never. Have their dreams of burgeoning veg patches and frolicking livestock come true?
On their one-acre plot of Hertfordshire countryside, Sarah Apps and Liam Armstrong live with three chickens, 59 tomato plants and – until this morning – three pigs. “It’s been an emotional day,” says Apps. They plan to get more pigs later in the summer, and next week more chickens are arriving; then ducks and a goat, a couple of turkeys for Christmas and, maybe next year, bees. Living on their own land, and becoming more self-sufficient, had been a bit of a dream for the couple, but it took the Covid pandemic to make it happen. “You just didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Apps. “Young people were dying, older people were dying … I think you really need to live for the days that you’ve got.”
When they spotted a run-down bungalow that came with an acre of land, they went for it. They had been living in Romford, Essex. “We could hear the roar of the M25 and I could barely be bothered to mow the small patch of lawn we had,” says Apps. They moved in November and spent the winter creating raised vegetable beds, putting in fencing and making animal enclosures. It has been gruelling physical work – they have done it mostly by hand – moving around 30 tonnes of soil. “It was our fitness thing through lockdown,” says Apps. But now they have growing just about every type of vegetable you’d find in a well-stocked supermarket, eggs every day, and in a few days the pigs will return for the freezer. She breaks off to check on a chicken who is in their kitchen. “She’s just had a bath. She’s not very well.”