Tuesday, 8 September 2009


No one's exempt from chores; everyone has to do their bit. As you can see, some of us enjoy our chores more than others: the dogs love chasing the young pheasants home. I never look this happy when I'm cleaning the bathroom.

The weather is dictating chores at the moment, pushing some to the forefront and moving others back. It's muggy, foggy, and drizzling - I expect to see Sherlock Holmes walk out of the mist or hear the Hound of the Baskervilles howling. It might be romantic or ethereal as a setting in a novel, but in reality it's very wearing.

I've had to do a chicken re-shuffle, pairing some and re-housing others in appropriate groups. We have limited chicken housing and need to make optimum use of it. It's taken a week to get everyone re-arranged. Our meat chickens grow so fast you can nearly hear their joints creak. Subsequently, they outgrow their housing and require clean ground regularly. The boys pitched in this morning and we carried 27 meat chickens to their new home in the aviary. In the next few days I will put some poultry netting around it and let them onto grass. They should all be in the freezer by Christmas.

It could be chicken for Christmas dinner now as the wild pig I shot went to London. The stalker offered the pig to Lady S who sent it to her butcher in London, where it will fetch top dollar (pound). It's complicated on an estate. Although Paul buys the right to the stalking, a certain amount of meat is 'expected' by Lord and Lady to go back to the house. Like a tax.

This highlights a issue with eating locally in England. We live in the south west, where a lot of England's food is produced. We have weekly Farmer's Markets where we can buy what local meat and produce. However, luxury items such as buffalo cheese, sheep's milk/cheese, and certain wild meats fetch much better money if sold in London. Farmers (and estate owners) want to maximise their profits. That means a lot of local foods go to London to sate fads and fashion. When it's fallen out of favour, it will show up in local markets again.

But I'll try and focus on what we have, not what we've lost. I'll concede to the weather and be glad of the the produce I do have, which is still abundant and varied at this time of the year. I started some wild plum jam this morning, and I will go harvest more today between showers. Making jam is certainly one of the more pleasurable chores.

Speaking of varied and abundant harvests, I found this website. The author moved to Cape Cod with her husband to live a self-sufficient life, and she has challenged herself to eat something they've grown, hunted, or harvested themselves at least once a day for a whole year. In the spirit of camaraderie (or commiseration, I'm not sure) I'll try and keep up with her. Check out "What's for Tea then?" in the sidebar of this blog to see how we do. And definitely check our her progress, it's very inspiring.


Pomona said...

Thank you for posting the link above - I love reading about other people trying to be self-sufficient, too - and seeing the different problems. On reading about your pig, I am glad that I live in a county of yeomen! I have bought in no vegetables or eggs for several months, and very little meat - and that really only for variety. We have now finished our own bacon and sausages, and so will have to wait a few weeks for more - succession is really the issue, and a commitment to eat seasonally - we're working hard on these! But fresh fruit in the winter is something I crave, so I am sure I will be buying citrus and bananas.

Would love to know more about meat chickens - could you do an instructive post? Or perhaps you could email me with a few hints if you have time?

Pomona x

Jennifer Montero said...

Hi Pomona - Meat chickens are a snap. They're a quick turnaround crop. The trick is 1) breed 2) hygiene 3) quality food.
1- I buy day old chicks for about £1 ea, of the same type used to produce commercial chickens you buy in the supermarket. They are bred to put on weight. The difference is how you treat them. I give them space, a low protien diet so they don't grow too fast, and lots of scraps just like the egg chickens.
2- The d.o. chicks are vaccinated which is important, esp if you keep egg layers too. Lessens disease risk. Also worth starting them on a chick crumb with an anti-coccidiostat. Coccidiosis is the only problem I've encountered with chicks.
Alot of food goes in, which means a lot of poo comes out, so make sure you move them frequently enough to let your ground recover.
They're such a quick crop that there's no need to worm etc as long as they're moved regularly
3- Use a good quality compound food. I estimate each chicken costs me about £4 to produce, even buying the most expensive organic food, and finishing them on corn if the weather gets cold.
I can give you the ph number of the place I get them. I think they're Cambridge way. They deliver for a flat fee £25, whether it's 5 chicks or 500. If you know others who want to do a few, you could club together on an order and split the delivery cost.
If you try them and get any problems, email me and I'm sure we can help. But I've always found them quite easy, and I'm no expert!
Hope that helps ;-) Jen

Poppy Cottage said...

I wonder where the powdered cheese comes in..... I am sure there is some way around that!!

See you later.

(think the pig thing is a tad unfair!!)

Jennifer Montero said...

Powdered cheese is one of those luxury foods...at least if you're American ;-)

Can't make knitting group tonight - I'm on partridge duty / fox patrol though it won't be easy to see much in this fog. Can I pick up apples tomorrow?

Pig thing is just one of the many joys I've found living in a class-oriented society. My anthropological training helps me put it in perspective. Sometimes.

She can take my pig but she'll never take my mac & powdered cheese!!! Viva la revolucion!!

Che Jennifer

Pomona said...

That info is so useful, thank you. Perhaps you could give me the name or phone no of your supplier. Then we just have to sort out the housing!

My exposure to all that gentry/aristocracy thing made me the rebel I still am today - but I had thought that it wasn't as bad as it used to be. Obviously not!

Pomona x

Debra said...

I'm a bit lost for words...excuse me..Jennifer, i have stumbled onto your blog a few times now. I always find it to be such a rich and interesting read. I have to say though after being a vegetarian most of my life but recently have been eating some meat, i am now not so sure. Before it was just choice and inability for my body, or so i thought. Now it is for the love of some protein...but you have me thinking. That poor pig...awww. It sounds so dreamy where you live...fishing to be caught fresh for your evening meal...lucky girl. When my books are all read and done i know where to come...happy day :)