Wartime Farm

I just spent much of my free time this week watching all eight episodes (and the Christmas special!) of Wartime Farm. I had heard of the series (through the online knitting community — I saw the sale of Alex’s amazing vest pattern by Susan Crawford for the Land Girls charity) but didn’t realize the episodes were on YouTube for all to watch until another blogger mentioned it.

I’m not even sure how to begin to describe how fascinating and instructive I found this program. The many ways of making do out in the fields and gardens as well as the home and kitchen both amazed and inspired me. Ruth, Peter, and Alex were the perfect living history presenters — their can-do attitude, work ethic, and smarts really impressed me. I loved seeing and hearing all of the historians and enthusiasts the main hosts interacted with on the show (I have more faith in humanity, knowing there are still traditional blacksmiths, potters, and flax farmers in the Western world!), and paused whenever someone who actually experienced the war was on the show sharing their memories. I thought I knew a pretty good amount about the subject matter, but I repeatedly exclaimed, “I didn’t know that!” as I watched. Children’s work camps picking herbs for the pharmaceutical industry? Hundreds of people living in caves in London? Pig clubs? Roofs on hay houses made of weeds?


I thought all of the little details were great — everyone was grimy after they worked (and I appreciated how few clothing changes they had, and how they portrayed soap rations), exhaustion, frustration, and anxiety were shown, and difficult emotions were explored with respect and gravity — I found the issues surrounding animals and the farm sensitively but realistically done for one example. The show was conscious that we (and they) could not experience what it was really like, most importantly because we know “what happened” as the people experiencing it did not — it makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

Viewing Wartime Farm has definitely enhanced my ration project. I desperately want to finish the vest that is on my knitting needles, am thinking about growing a patch of soapwort, and am eyeing all of my resources in a new light. What can I use in a different way, what can I stretch, what have I not utilized at all? I’m going to miss Ruth, Peter, and Alex — but did see that they have worked on Tudor, Victorian, and Edwardian Farm shows! I’ll be tuning in!


  1. I’ve never been a big fan of ‘let’s dress up & pretend documentaries’ but this was a real exception for me. I loved this series too! Leaving aside the war issues, so much of the resource scarcity message is still relevant today. I also loved the ‘can do’ / ‘let’s just get on with it and figure it out’ attitude (like converting an old ambulance to run on gas). So very different to the attitude that prevails today! Not just because we live in a deskilled society but because a lot of people even lack the initiative to try to figure it out together rather than being spoon fed commoditised goods/solutions.

    I particularly appreciated the comments at the end of the series when the presenters acknowledged how there was no concept of waste and also that collectively folks just got on with it, rather than now when it is just a few of us odd-bodies like us…

    By the way, I’ve started to grow soapwort because if a root is good enough for delicate historic lace, it’s certainly good enough for my dry skin and hair… I have loads of seeds and would happily send you some if US customs weren’t so very strict about seed imports.

    1. Thanks for thinking of me with the soapwort seeds! I think I’ll pick some up in the spring — they say it is easy to grow and it likes to spread — perfect! I thought Ruth’s hair was extra shiny and pretty when she used the soapwort. I read I that conservation experts used soapwort on the Bayeux tapestry!

      I also love all the old fashioned, common names for soapwort like Bouncing Bet and Wild Sweet William. 🙂

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