Half the lettuces in the veg patch are devoted to the hens this year. They get through a fair number during summer and we’ve some lovely cut-and-come again leaves that mean we should all at least be self-sufficient in salads over the next few months. En route to the flock of hybrids at the end of the garden, James simply lifts the protective frame he made with wooden batons and fine mesh and – with the old knife wrapped in a plastic bag beside them – slices off the girls’ daily ration.
We try not to give them too much – just a handful of the outer leaves between the 13-strong gaggle – as lettuce is a good digestive aid but isn’t packed with nutrients. Dark-green veg such as spinach, chard and leftover broccoli provides the calcium and vitamins to boost the birds’ wellbeing and ensure those soughtafter eggs retain their all- important rich, orange yolks.
Many of those crops grown for our consumption are plants kindly donated by Country Living‘s greenfingered picture editor, Jackie, who’s supplied virtually the whole office with beautiful tomato plants, plus I’ve been lucky enough to also receive purple sprouting broccoli (especially excited about this as I’ve not grown it before), chilli and courgette plants, too. They’re doing very nicely and have enjoyed lashings of rain, now let’s have some sun. Not that I’m wishing time away, but I’m looking forward to poached eggs with spears of PSB as soldiers this winter!