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September 16, 2011

tales from the green valley s01.

This is a repack of previously published individual articles.

A 12 part series which was the predecessor to “The Edwardian Farm” and “The Victorian Farm”. It might well be subtitled “The Jacobean Farm”. The same archaeologists – Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman work without modern conveniences to try and turn theory into practice, rediscovering how things were done in the year 1620, with each episode following the tasks of a calendar month.

To begin, the team use oxen to plough, sow seeds by hand, try to bake bread and prepare a Jacobean feast.

The pressure of 17th-century living mounts as the farmers race to harvest a crop of pears, and try to build a shelter for the livestock before the weather worsens. A thatcher builds a roof for the cowshed using bracken, and the team drive the pigs into the woods to fatten them up on seeds and nuts. They then reward themselves for their hard work by cooking a traditional meal of spit-roasted mutton.

Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn make a wattle-and-daub wall for the cowshed, and a slaughterman arrives to kill the male pot-bellied pig. In accordance with 17th-century customs, the women in the group face the task of butchering the carcass – and the team use every part of the animal to create a range of traditional dishes, including hogs’ liver pudding and pork sausages.

The historians and archaeologists try to take time out of their busy farming schedule to celebrate a 17th-century Christmas. They decorate their home with holly, ivy, rosemary and bay, and cut a giant yule log – once the centrepiece of Jacobean festivities. The team then cook a range of seasonal recipes, including mince pies which contain meat, and pease pudding

There is little food to be harvested in January, so a meal is created using the ham that has been preserved since Arthur the pig was killed, with pease pudding and whole grains. Meanwhile, Ruth Goodman uses a salve of herbs and animal fat to treat a cut on a patient also suffering with a painful elbow, for which her prescription is sage in oil

A storm leaves the toilet damaged, so the team faces the unenviable task of building another from scratch, while explaining the unusual ways in which human waste was used in the 17th century. A music specialist brings a collection of period instruments to entertain the farmers by the fire, and Lent heralds yet more culinary challenges.

Spring arrives, bringing the promise of longer days and respite from the cold weather. The farmers begin to sow seeds and brew beer in preparation for the year ahead – but must first dig up overgrown brambles and weeds. Newborn piglets bring welcome entertainment, and the team tries out a dangerously addictive 17th-century gambling game.

The farmers give the house a spring clean, sweeping the chimney with a holly bush and dusting the place with a goose wing. They also care for a newborn calf, and attempt to build dry stone walls, while on the menu are a range of 17th-century veal dishes and an unusually green omelette.

Alex and Fonz work overtime catching up on the spring sowing, opting to cut the furrows with their period breast plough instead of using the horse. Chloe milks the cow and the farmers make butter using a replica churn, before having a well-earned rest with a spot of 17th-century-style salmon fishing.

Alex and Fonz face the daunting task of washing and shearing the sheep by hand, and are less than impressed with their refreshment – a ‘posset’ made from hot milk, ale, nutmeg and pepper. The team organise a festival to celebrate midsummer, with a feast of elderflower fritters, mutton and sops in wine. They also light a large fire and perform dances to ward off evil spirits.

The women make the most of the July weather by washing all the clothes and bedsheets in ‘lye’ – a mixture of ashes, water and fermented urine. Meanwhile, the men tackle the job of making hay in the meadow. Fonz reflects on the farmers’ achievements as the team harvests the peas.

The arrival of August sends the group into a frenzy of agricultural work as they prepare to leave, cutting the wheat and cooking the grain. Historian Stuart Peachey prepares the farewell dinner, including rustic goose pie, pureed white carrot and fermented cider – which the team use to toast their year of hard graft on the 17th-century farm. Last in series.



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