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!