Thursday 28 May 2009

Week 71

Week 71

Reasonable weather bar the wind that seems to have blown for much of the week, causing a particularly large bough of a particularly senior ash tree to give up the ghost and crash to the ground.

The fishing, although difficult, has been rewarding for those who have battled the breeze. The river here follows some huge meanders, and with woodland on the opposite side, more often than not it is possible to find a sheltered lie to cast to. Once again Olive patterns have caught the most fish, The same was true twenty years ago, although then the Olive imitations were more traditional patterns like Greenwells Glory, Kites Imperial or a Ginger Quill, rather than the Wulffs and Adams developed on the other side of the pond that are in wide use today. Mayfly have started to put in an appearance although few fish are looking at them yet.

The grass in the meadows has shot up and is dotted with Cuckoo Flower, Ramsens are up and out, along with the Iris. Balsam Poplars look a little iffy, particularly some of the younger ones that were planted ten years ago and the Oaks have beaten the Ash in the race for full bloom.

This month we were down to one chicken, natural wastage and mysterious disappearance cutting the herd to one, a very good one, but despite all encouragement and training, only able to produce the one egg per day. A few phone calls to source new fowl, revealed that some Free Range chickens laying eggs for one of the more upmarket supermarkets were out of contract and were available for a small fee. Further enquiries revealed that the birds in question were only 72 weeks old and had been offered short term work filling pies for the same supermarket; the eggs that they now laid were too big for the egg boxes that displayed a happy chicken in a field living to a great age living on grass and tofu.
In a shed on wheels there were several thousand hens, they had access to the outside world of willows and gravel, and yes they were fat, but then their future was in a pie. They were undoubtedly better kept than Battery hens of old, but bore no resemblance to the free-range chicken on the egg box.
I took home twenty, but could have taken a thousand. Few had feathers on their bum and all were a little reluctant to leave the sanctuary of their new hen house for a few days. They all came with an egg in, and have continued to lay every day, we are inundated with eggs that are never knowingly undersold; they may not fit the supermarket egg boxes but they do fit the egg box in our fridge. It’s easy to keep chickens and you get good eggs from a happy chicken. Undoubtedly they are a nuisance in the herbaceous borders, but get them on your veg garden in an arc that you can move every day and they will not only provide you with eggs but bigger and better veg too for several years - surely a greater long term return, than one family sized Chicken and Mushroom Pie.

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