Domestication in a time of Coronavirus

Sapiens audioI’m currently reading/listening to Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari who says that early farmers did not domesticate wheat, wheat domesticated them. By the process of gradually farming it rather than gathering wild grains, early farmers (previously nomadic) began to stay in one camp for increasingly long periods to take advantage of wild (then planted) wheat until eventually they built small settlements. From then on they became a slave to their wheat, tending it, protecting it and finally harvesting and storing it. Thus they became domesticated by virtue of growing rather than gathering grain.

I’m being domesticated by my garden.

Google defines domesticated thus:
adjective: domesticated

  • (of an animal) tame and kept as a pet or on a farm. – “domesticated dogs”
  • (of a plant) cultivated for food; naturalized. -“domesticated crops”
  • Humorous – (especially of a man) fond of home life and housework.

I’m not sure about the ‘especially of a man’ thing. I’ve never been very domesticated as in ‘fond of housework’ but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve become domesticated by my own apple trees.

There’s a silly meme that Yorkshire folks are parsimonious.

  • “A Yorkshireman is like a Scotsman with the generosity squeezed out of him.”
  • “A Yorkshireman would cut a ha’penny in half.”

In my case it manifests as not wanting to waste anything, so after seven or eight years of  giving us no fruit at all, a couple of years ago our apple trees decided to deliver a modest harvest of apples, I was determined to make use of them. The bigger ones I peeled, sliced and oven-dried (yummy) and the smaller or less than perfect ones I turned into apple jelly. And because there’s only so much basic apple jelly that you can eat or give away I started to experiment.

I made apple jelly with:

  • Christmas spices
  • Mulled wine
  • Red wine
  • Port wine
  • Sloe gin
  • White wine
  • Cider

You can, no doubt, see a theme developing.

Having bought a jam pan, and not wishing to waste it (i.e. leave it standing idle) I made strawberry jam and rhubarb jam with our own fruit which I’d frozen earlier in the season. At a friend’s request I bought gooseberries to make jam. It would have been cheaper to buy gooseberry jam, so I’ve since planted gooseberry bushes and hope to make it with my own fruit next year. I’ve also put in blackcurrants and jostaberries (a cross between gooseberry and blackcurrant). I have space for raspberries to go in next year.


Those on my side of the Atlantic will acknowledge the looming threat of Brexit, since our government (no, I didn’t vote for them) seems determined to drive us off the edge of a cliff with no tradedeals in place by the deadline of 31st December 2020. So with food security in mind we returned to our raised beds (neglected for a few years), bought seeds, sowed and planted our vegetable garden. We put in onions, beans (broad and runner), peas (snap and pod), cabbage, beetroot, kohlrabi (purple and white), cauliflower, parsnips, carrots (yellow and orange varieties), garlic and six different varieties of courgettes. The much neglected strawberry bed continued to produce though we had to grab the fruit before the slugs did.

Veg small

So when Covid-19 hit, and the UK went into social isolation, we already had a head start on the garden and it absorbed some of our lockdown time. It helped to keep us sane to be honest. We were completely self-sufficient in vegetables during July, August and September. As I write this at the beginning of October we’ve only just begun to supplement what’s in the garden with a few items shop-bought veg. The greenhouse has produced four different varieties of tomatoes, Purple Ukraine, Ruthie, Yellow Submarine, and Pink Tiger. I have new potatoes and fantastic onions in store, and carrots and parsnips still in the ground. The leeks are growing nicely, and we’re planting chard, kale, savoy cabbage and Brussels sprouts and swede for the winter and will put in onion sets and broad beans to overwinter and produce earlier crops next spring.


That’s real domestication for you. I don’t know whether to be pleased or horrified!

And just because I couldn’t resist… here’s my Calendar Girls photo (complete with lockdown hair) without the embarrassment of getting undressed! What whoppers!



About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (, the secretary of Milford SF Writers (, a singer ( and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (
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3 Responses to Domestication in a time of Coronavirus

  1. carolee says:

    You were wise to get an early start into “domestification.” Looks like a very productive use of your space. I would make a good Yorkshireman, because I also hate waste, especially in crops I’ve worked so hard to grow. Loved the Calendar Girls photo…what a fun movie. Happy growing and good luck with Brexit…

  2. marionpitman says:

    Wow. Very impressed. We have some veg from the garden, but not grown by me – I am incurably nomadic.

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