| Last updated
Wake up, check social media, grab some milk from the fridge and cereal from the cupboard - it's a routine millions of us are used to, and one we see no reason to give up.
Well, this is excatly what a pair of siblings decided to do. After having all of that stripped away from them, siblings Jacob and Poppy would love 'everyone' to experience a more simple life, but fear in the modern world we might be 'too far gone'.
The pair took on the challenge of living an Amish lifestyle for the Channel 4 show The Simpler Life, which saw 24 participants attempt to last more than four months on a farm in Devon with no electricity or technology, while only leaving their 40 acres a handful of times. The group had to grow their own food, look after - and sometimes make a meal of - animals, hand-wash their clothes and attempt to sell their produce to earn money.
"We had no idea of what to expect - you just kind of jumped into it," Poppy, 17, said. "At the start it was just piles of tinned food, and it felt so unimaginable that we'd get to a point where we could eat food we'd grown."
The group had five Amish people from Ohio to help guide them through the process, but it was still a shock to the system as Jacob described going from a life as a uni student, where he went out at night and 'woke up at 12', to 'getting up at half six, milking a cow and then going and grafting' all day.
The group did soon get used to 'getting up every day with a clear purpose', and as their crops began to grow and they settled into life on the farm they found satisfaction in settling down with a plate of food at the end of the day which consisted of home-grown potatoes, a freshly caught fish and veg picked the same day.
"For the first time ever in my life you had a plate of food where you’d done everything from beginning to end, and it was a really satisfying and educational process. We just did it all; we milked these cows so I could make a brew and the cows I milked were in the barn I’d built," Jacob said, adding: "It was a huge sense of accomplishment."
On the contrary to what you might expect for a 16- and 21-year-old, as Poppy and Jacob were at the time, the pair didn't miss their phones while on the farm. Their time was always filled, whether it was with weeding the crops, cooking or simply sitting in a chair reading, and Poppy stressed she 'did not want [her] phone back' when she returned to her normal life.
"For the first couple of days I felt like an alien," she said. "I didn’t understand what was going on, I think it was because you were so trapped in in this simple life and old values, and seeing other people on their phone was really strange. I couldn't see the point in social media, but after a while I got used to it and I was posting on Instagram two days later," she said.
Jacob agreed, describing the return to normality as a 'big shock to the system'. He likened the initial feeling of freedom to a 'honeymoon phase', and remembered feeling 'guilty' about using technology.
"Looking online to see memes and stuff, it felt like everyone else was in on an inside joke and you were the one left out. But then we slotted back quite quickly. I’d love for everyone to experience what we did, but I think in the modern world it’s too far gone.
"I would have loved not to have to use my phone when I got home, but I needed to find a job in television, so I used it to try and find jobs. Unfortunately we live in that world where we need it; we need to be contacted all the time," he said.
Though the return to technology took some getting used to, it became hard for some of the participants to resist the pull when England saw repeated successes in the Euros in the summer of 2021.
Jacob managed to borrow a radio from a local shop owner in order to listen to the final, and though at the time he didn't think a lot about it he admitted later it 'caused a bit of tension'. Still, neither Jacob or Poppy regret the move, with Jacob saying he'll 'never forget a Euros where [he] listened to England get to the final in a barn'.
One thing Poppy did struggle with while in Devon was the lack of ability to express herself through her jewellery and outfits. The participants were given just a couple of plain outfits to wear, and as a result the student felt as if her identity was 'stripped away'.
"I just felt like an absolute idiot. I thought the boys' outfits looked so cool [but] the girls literally look awful, even when I watch it back I’m like ‘oh that is not me at all’."
Poppy ultimately decided to leave the show early after getting tired of 'weeding all the time' and 'doing the same thing every day' when she knew she could have been spending time with friends and family, though Jacob stayed until the experience came to an end.
The 22-year-old described the relationships he formed on the farm as the 'biggest surprise' for him, but also drew attention to the positives of the quiet time he spent there.
"Before the farm I think I’d read like three books in my life, then I read tons while I was there," he said. "There is a lot to be said for just doing simple things that just make you feel good, and that are good for your mental health. Being there taught me that you’ve got to take life as it comes every day, and notice when you’re not doing as okay and then get help or speak to people. That’s definitely something I’ve been trying to do since I left."
Both siblings missed out on things in their normal lives while on the farm, but an undeniable takeaway from the experience was the bonds they made with the other participants. Their experiences have since been broadcast for the world to see, but Poppy said such a once in a lifetime experience is tough to exhibit for someone who wasn't there.
"When I came out, it seemed like what I'd done wasn't that big of a deal. Friends were like 'oh that's interesting, but have you seen this thing on Instagram?'," she said.
"It felt like no one understood, and I guess they’re not going to understand. Only people who were there will fully understand."
Featured Image Credit: Maty Sene Carpenter/Supplied
Chosen for YouChosen for You
Most Read StoriesMost Read