The bell has tolled. The time has come to deal with one of the truths of our subsistence.
After lying wide awake in bed at some ridiculously early hour watching the sky turn from lead to gold we agreed the Mother’s Garden male voice choir’s time was up.
Notwithstanding some people’s sensibilities I need to relay what is happening right now down on the farm.
We are meat eaters. Never a lot, and less and less and less these days, but we still partake of it once in a while, in family union Sunday roast feasts and assorted other dishes.
We have kept chickens during most of our time at Mother’s Garden, and for various reasons, none of them culinary, we have had to dispatch a few that had either survived a dog attack or grown so weak as to become the pitiful victims of the vicious pecking order. And, as I am sure you can imagine, there have beenother unavoidably grim mammal, reptile and insect moments as the circle of life spins around us.
Yes, the facts of death, in contrast to the rainbow wonders of farm life, are understood by all ages here, rightly so, with the unwritten yet essential accord that killing is only ever a last resort to end suffering (the serpent that had to ushered away from the back door last week being a case in point).
But there is another reason now.
We have never eaten any of our fowl before because their job description has clearly been to supply eggs not meat. So they live very long and happy lives laying in the mornings before free-ranging far and wide in the afternoons until, finally, they peg it. There have been scores of them over the years and, of course, we get to appreciate their different characters. Early on we had the odd cockerel too, and it was the same story. It would be unbearably tough to kill and eat them, emotionally and otherwise.
But when we bought a box full of day-old black Vilafranca chicks in April this year we knew we were committing to something else. We wanted more hens to boost the ageing brood, yet also knew that, inevitably, their number would include males. These would be for the pot.
Of the 17 fluffy balls nine have turned out to be plump hens, meaning we have eight argumentative, boastful cockerels that pre-empt the dawn. Actually make that five.
We have always talked long and hard about the importance of food provenance and animal welfare, and have willing trailed miles to a village butcher’s shop where the husband and wife team rear their own livestock. But, for goodness sake, if we are really serious about it then we should be facing up to the realities and doing it ourselves. Farmer’s daughter Maggie, who has more experience of such matters than me, is in total agreement.
So we are doing it.
The John Seymour self-sufficiency book is open on the kitchen table, a 4lb 8oz roast chicken is on the menu this Sunday, and the freezer is full.