Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jekyll and Hyde, Chicken, Beans, Aching Bones and the Rent

The sheer joy of living here in Norfolk is that just one mile away I am up my lottie in the middle of a field in the countryside, and just twelve miles in the same direction I am in the city centre of historical Norwich.

One day I look like Worzel Gummidge and smell of farmyard manure, and the next I am in high heeled boots, dressed up to the nines smelling of Chanel No.5 – shopping and lunching in a beautiful city. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure that it is not a dream. It’s great being retired!

Today was a wonderful day too. I spent the morning jointing and freezing five chickens, and losing the battle in persuading my husband that keeping chickens would be fun. I thought I would have allies in friends who have chickens on their farm, but no such luck – maybe they don’t want to lose my custom of the odd box of eggs now and again.

Any of you out there that keep chickens who can provide me with more positive arguments to win the day? I wasn’t going to get them until the spring, when hopefully the chicken flu scare will be sorted one way or the other.

My reason for keeping chickens is not a logical one, I know that, but does life have to be logical all the time?

We don’t eat many eggs, due to health reasons, but we do eat a lot of chickens, (not from supermarkets), fish, fruit and vegetables, ditto those too. So I thought that I could be even more self sufficient by keeping a few chickens up the allotment for the freezer (sorry any vegetarians) and just a couple of chickens at home in a purpose built little henhouse and run. That way I would not have to go up the lottie in the depths of winter twice a day to let them out and put them to bed, as they would already be frozen. Good compromise I thought. We don’t go away much, so I don’t see that it would be a problem getting someone to look after them on the odd day or so, and they are apparently all right if you leave them two days with plenty of food and drink etc. And I have seen a really neat looking all in one unit that is so easy to keep clean for the garden, and a bigger metal one for the lottie. I am told by those in the know, that if you want to keep chickens to fatten you have to keep them in a shed, as free ranging ones burn off all the fat by foraging, so would not get fat enough to eat. Enough of that though.

This afternoon I went up the lottie for four hours. I did so much work, but it doesn’t look like four hours worth as you can see from the before and after photos. I decided to do some seed saving and as it was a lovely sunny afternoon it was a good time to do it.

The bean frame in the picture had runner beans and Blue Lake climbing French beans. Both were so prolific and tender and stringless that I left some to seed. It took ages collecting and sorting them. (The photo shows just a few, it was overflowing by the time I had finished and I had another bucket of mixed beans from the other bean frame.)Then I had to untangle and cut off the plants, untie the bean sticks and canes, make four trips to the compost bin at the far end with all the spent foliage, remove the chicken wire fencing and untangle the foliage from that and the string fencing, and roll up and store everything. The bean sticks I have piled up on a spare piece of ground that I left uncovered for where we can have a bonfire. I am debating whether to cut them down and use as peas sticks as they won’t last a third year for beans with the strong winds we get up the lottie.

Once done, I then removed all the pumpkin plants from the forefront and had three barrow loads of those to compost, so there were lots of walks to and fro along the ploughed edge of my plot. Further down the allotment was another framework of climbing beans and the Cherokee Trail of Tears pods that I saved had turned a wonderful deep purple, there were runners and a flat French bean (the names of which I will have to look up on my seed list) and I got a basket full of those, so there will be some to share amongst friends, and the remaining seeds are great in winter recipes.

I removed the frost bitten cucumber foliage that grew at the foot of the above rows and discovered not one but 12 cucumbers which was a surprise.

By the time I had packed up, I didn’t have the strength to even pick the Autumn fruiting raspberries.

I managed to get home and showered just before Patrick returned from bowling at 6.15pm so he was spared the farmyard odours and got the Chanel one!

A day off tomorrow, we are off to see Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans and the Complete Beatles, should be good.

And the rental cost of my little piece of heavenly allotment – just £8 a year – brilliant huh?

1 comment:

  1. You've answered the query in my e-mail re can you have hens at your lottie so I'll now ask are there other allotment holders with hens at your lottie site?


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