We don’t come close to claiming to be fully fledged smallholders, but I feel as if we have expanded our livestock quite significantly lately, so that we’re getting that bit closer. The ex-council smallholding where we live once afforded its owners a modest living by growing flowers for seed, apparently (one day I’d like to look into the original residents by digging around in local records and history books), and providing enough land for self-sufficiency in vegetables, but as James and I both work full-time, it’s not nearly as productive a plot as it could be. However, I do think our efforts could be worthy of the term microholding.
Our morning and evening rounds consist of four stops – first Audrey and Mabel, our two Araucanas who become pet chickens between September and February when they shut up shop and don’t lay a single egg between them. Next, it’s the five cobb chickens we recently acquired and are raising for Christmas (two will be served at our 12-strong lunch; the other three are destined for the freezer).
Then it’s the turn of the magnificent hybrid hens who keep us, our friends and family in eggs all year round.
Our last port of call is now the pig run, where we are thoroughly enjoying the company of our two Gloucestershire Old Spot weaners, who remain nameless lest we become too attached.
Feeding them is really good fun – they’re even more appreciative than the dogs in devouring whatever comes their way. James has been gathering acorns for them, because of course they’re a porcine favourite and this supplement means we can save a little by giving them fewer pignuts. Apples and pears have gone down well, too. In fact, despite it being the tradition to take on piglets in spring and dispatch your porkers in early November, it seems there is an abundance of autumn food for them to enjoy and we’ll be making the most of it by, unconventionally, keeping them till the new year. Buon appetito piggies.