Sally Seymour’s lovely scraper board illustrations*are based on the farm near Dinas where the Seymour family strove to become self-sufficient in the 1970s. The illustrations appear in the book Self-Sufficiency – The Science and Art of Producing and Preserving your own Food, which she jointly produced with her husband John Seymour in 1973.
Their brave attempt placed them in the vanguard of the self-sufficiency movement with the publication of Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful in 1973 and the screening of The Good Life (inspired by John Seymour’s writings) in 1975.
Whether or not you are tempted by life on a small holding, John Seymour’s writing is worth looking out for. Many of his books are out of print, but in preparation for your Tegfan holiday reading, you now have a good excuse to dally and browse in your local Oxfam book shop. You might find the tone a bit opinionated, the coverage idiosyncratic and his dedicated anti-modernism tiresome, but he’s idealistic and able to turn what appears to be awful drudgery into fun.
Here he is on a canal holiday in Holland with Sally, stopping by a remote farmhouse where they found:
the farmer, his wife and no less than sixteen children. The cowshed was attached to the dwelling house (an excellent arrangement) and the farmer milked sixteen cows. I asked him, in my foolishness if he had a milking machine. He pointed to the children and said: “What do I want with a milking machine?” He turned all his surplus milk into cheese…. made completely traditionally with no scientific instruments at all. …The Dutch cheese that is sent to England is specially made for the English market out of pasteurised separated milk in big factories. The Dutch themselves will not eat factory-made cheese …only the English will take the factory-made stuff.
John Seymour’s enormous success as an author also launched the careers of Dorling and Kindersley, who published his Complete Book of Self Sufficiency in 1976. This book was revised and re-issued by DK in 2009 and still gets rave reviews.
* Limited edition prints from these illustrations are available from The Carningli Press and I have seen them on sale at The Sessions Gallery in Newport.