Diary of a wannabe smallholder

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Allow me to introduce myself – wife (of The S0uthern’s long-serving reporter, Mark), ex journalist/bus driver/tour guide/florist, mum of two (The Young Master and The Young Mistress), general fixer-upper and everyday household marshaller.But most importantly of all, a wannabe smallholder.

It’s a disease, turning ordinary, reasonable folk into coveters/collectors of everything from chickens to mini-tractors, and rarities such as small square straw bales. “Aaaaah, my precious, my preh-shussssss” (in your best Gollum voice).

It started off with four chickens (“Won’t it be great to collect and eat our own eggs, straight from the hen’s bahookey?”), which multiplied slowly, but surely, into 30-odd. Gulp.

Then it was a hunt for planks of wood so thick and heavy you could have fashioned a Tudor warship out of them, and needed someone as hefty as Henry VIII to lift (“Raised beds would be just brilliant, so easy to manage”). Great for growing veg to feed the family... and the ever-growing flock of hens. Ahem.

The chickens were joined by turkeys, and then quail. And then at Christmas, some of the turkeys went... into the oven. We wondered how The Young Master and Mistress would take this. However, as even most vegetarians drool when a turkey dinner’s cooking on Christmas Day, after a brief explanation of how it works – we get the turkeys, we feed them, they live a great (if short) life and then (said whilst twisting hands in a gruesome neck-wringing demo), bam, that’s it, very quick (well, no-one’s ever going to tell a seven-year-old and a four-year-old it was a slooooow, lingering death, are they? And it isn’t) – they picked up their cutlery and tucked in with relish. Verdict? The best turkey – ever.

Then we moved on to Scratch and Sniff, two Tamworth piglets who made fantastic characters – and fantastic pork chops. In the words of The Young Mistress, whilst tucking into a belly roast one Sunday: “We get the pigs. Then we kill them. Then we eat them”. Sage nods from The Young Master. As the meerkat says: simples.

We tested their laissez-faire attitude to raising our own meat to the max recently. The turkeys and the pigs came from elsewhere, youngsters but recognisable as what they would grow into – dinner.

But this time on the menu it was cockerel. Or rather, cockerels. Cockerels which had once been our own eggs, incubated by our broody hens, and hatched into ickle fluffy chicks we ooh-ed and aah-ed over. Most had grown into fine big hens. But five grew into strapping big boys who started to crow and strut.

We separated them off, gave them a few lay-dees for company and a couple of weeks ago, we killed and ate two of them.

The verdict? Delicious. The family dogs are now looking quite nervous.