Tales from the Green Valley

I’m really exposing my inner geek here when I say that I’ve recently become interested in a BBC television series that is now playing on TVO called, “Tales from the Green Valley.” The program follows a group of experts as they attempt to run a Welsh farm using materials and resources only available during the 17th century. The show is very much in the tradition of shows like, “Iron Age” and “1900 House” but with less interpersonal and social dynamics — therefore less drama and more education. Each episode depicts a month in the life of the farm over the course of a year delving into herbology, farming and agriculture, cooking, cheese-making, food preservation, and other practical day-to-day practices that would have been common-place in 1620 rural England.

My partner Davin started watching it a few weeks ago and completely sucked me in with accounts of all the cool things they were doing. For example on last week’s program they made tansy omelettes by chopping fresh tansy leaves and squeezing the juice into an egg mixture. I looked tansy up in one of my herb books, “Herbal: The Essential Guide to Herbs for Living” by Deni Brown and it turns out that people really did make mini cakes called “tansies” around the time of lent as a way to offset the effect of gasses caused by overconsumption of peas and beans. The book does warn (and so did the program) that tansy contains both camphor and thujone (potentially toxic) and should be eaten with caution.

In this week’s episode the group demonstrated how a farmer would go about preparing a large plot in which to grow a cash crop of peas. They even went so far as to obtain a variety grown during thaqt time period. Watching them prepare the soil, dig furrows, plant, and cover the soil really makes you appreciate the easy work one can acheive with a rototiller! Weeding sticks were fashioned from branches to help pull weeds from their hay field. One stick was bent on the end like a cane while the other was straight. They used the bent ended stick to grasp and hold the weed and then pushed the straight stick against it and pulled up removing the weed roots and all. Very inventive.

The show is actually only a short account of a larger ongoing project to reconstruct a working 17th century agricultural landscape that is documented in a book called, The Building of the Green Valley. It’s a fascinating project that actually took hundreds of volunteers rather than the few experts depicted in the show so I recommend looking there if you’re interested in learning more that goes above and beyond the tv program.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “Tales from the Green Valley

  1. Interesting. I hope it will get aired here in the states; it would be a welcome change from the “Texas Ranch House” that was played on PBS recently. Most of what was aired was catty fights about who was in charge. Really quite pathetic.
    I did like a show in the same vein that took place in Nova Scotia. There may have been a bit of drama, but for the most part it was interesting.

    Thanks for info Gayla!

  2. That is so cool. I’m going to try and watch it. I see the next viewing is Sunday at 7 – is it on every Sunday?

  3. It looks like the series finally made it to the other side of the pond. As well as the “The Building of the Green Valley” book [When we started the site had no buildings just heaps of rubble covered in trees and brambles] there is the published research data of the group who own and period farm the site [and have done so for the past 20 years] catalogued at http://WWW.stuart-hmaltd.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. There are about 60 volumes on period food and farming and many more on other related Living History topics. For suppliers of these books in North America try Sykes Sutlering at sykesutler@Hughes.net or the Bookshop at Plimouth Plantation the big Pilgrim Fathers 1620 Living History site near Boston
    The farm livestock is run communally and each mini orchard has been adopted by local families. The site hosts a weeks living history for schools each summer and there is an ongoing conservation and restoration works program with a lot of input from foreign volunteers, so far 550 people from 28 countries have worked on the site. Do get in touch for more details. If anyone is over here and you want to see the place let me know. For details on what is happening there and when email GZMorley@AOL.com and ask to go on the mailing list also try http://www.Grayhill.org for pictures of the site.
    Stuart Peachey

  4. That’s so funny, my boyfriend and I have totally gotten into watching the show as well, the sheep were so cute last week when they had to get clesned for shearing!

  5. I watched the series in Thunder Bay, Ontario and was mesmerized. I bought the DVD and watch it all the time. I would love to volunteer my time to working on the Green Valley Project if I can help. If anyone can put me in touch with the organizers of the project it would be a dream come true for me.

    Thank you to the whole cast, crew and everyone involved for creating this project. Cori.

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