A most lovely friend came by tonight to catch up and keep me company during my few weeks of flying solo with the kids, we had a great time although my ramblings may have somewhat dominated the evening (sorry B!) Whilst allowing me some self indulgent waffling I pondered with her the subject of my next blog post, having thought about writing about Sophia’s sudden love of mathematics. However, as things progressed we decided that more interesting was musings on chickens and my (somewhat unsubstantiated) rants about honey. Hopefully, you’ll agree!
We visited our new house today again to take some boxes over and start the moving process. The kids enjoyed tearing round an empty house (and poking in the ash of the woodburner when I wasn’t looking) and I enjoyed a few hours of solitude in the rural Devon countryside, I am definitely looking forward to more of that. Before we left we had a nose around the vegetable garden to assess the state of things and noticed 3 new neighbours, a nosy cockerel and two hens. Sophia and Isaac were delighted, especially when the former indulged us with a storybook ‘Cock a Doodle Doo!’ It was lovely to see them and got me thinking about chickens.
I am fairly certain that I have almost convinced Dan to get chickens (our other suggestions of a puppy, a few kittens and some guinea pigs have not gone down so well….) I’ve been doing a bit of a research and am torn between buying some hybrid layers and having a reliable egg supply or rescuing some battery hens. The latter feels like the kinder option but the selfish part of me wants to know that if we’re investing in animals we actually get a decent amount of eggs in return. (Hence the first part of this post’s title – trying to calculate how many eggs we’d get a year from an average layer!) Any advice would be much appreciated. Perhaps a few rescue and a few layers would be a good plan to satisfy my philanthropic leanings. Watch this space…
The vegetable garden and greenhouse were of a good size and I’m feeling hopeful that I might be able to grow a large amount of the vegetables we eat if I get on with it as soon as we’re in and stay focused on the task at hand. We’ll be growing everything in raised beds or pots which hopefully will make things easier than my last two growing experiences (in the borders at our current house and on a sprawling allotment plot with friends back in Brighton). Being realistic about what we eat my priority vegetables to grow are potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, herbs and hopefully some soft fruits. Perhaps a tall order but I have lots of seeds and two willing pairs of hands to help, or do I mean hinder?!
This is especially important to me as I’ve been going to the community market at Matthews Hall in Topsham every saturday morning for my fruit and more recently our vegetables as well and this will soon be coming to an end when we’ve moved. I’m gutted as I love the ritual of chatting to the family running the stall and picking my own produce, knowing that it is usually from local farmers and coming straight from farm to me rather than going via a supermarket with all the associated costs (both financial and environmental in terms of carbon footprint). There is something special about markets like this, if you live nearby I’d urge you to pop in – not only will you get some bargains but you’ll be supporting local men and women in their businesses. Every day we hear of local shops and markets getting run out of business by Tesco and the like so we should support what is still going while we can! Another of my favourite stalls at the market sells handmade chutneys and locally produced honey from bees near Haldon Forest.
And so I come to my ranting about honey! After having discovered the aforementioned supply of local honey last year I’ve endeavoured to always get our honey from there since and this was further strengthened by a trip to Tesco and Lidl. We’d run out of honey and had missed the market so ended up in the supermarket looking for some. I wasn’t surprised by Lidl not having any British (or even European) honey but despite a fair few stocked shelves I couldn’t find any honey in Tesco that didn’t say in small print ‘a blend of EU and non EU honey’. Even in the small cooperatives and our local convenience stores I cannot find British or European honey. My disclaimer here is that this is just one Tesco that I checked and I assume products can vary from store to store. I’m also very aware that supermarkets like Waitrose and Marks and Spencer are quite likely to stock British honey.
But that is besides the point (kind of)! It is a fairly well known fact that the future of bees is under threat and although I’m aware that that is largely due to loss of habitat, surely supporting British beekeepers would help towards ensuring their survival. They play such an important part in our ecosystem, we can’t let them just die out. So I guess that’s why I was (naively) shocked at how unavailable British honey is in our major supermarkets.
The bottom line really is driven by profit and profit alone, regardless of what effect that has on the environment and local businesses. I already knew that really but my experiences with honey have made it a reality.
I was going to leave it there with an urging to shop responsibly and locally but I know it’s not that simple. When it comes to the crunch a large majority of families simply cannot afford to shop as mindfully or ethically as they’d like to. The supermarkets have the monopoly on affordable groceries and that really is a sad state of affairs. And I have absolutely no clue what could change and how it might happen to shift the balance back to the smaller and more environmentally friendly food sources. All I know is that it should happen and I suspect that strong communities are part of the solution.
If you’ve any thoughts on the topic I’d love to hear them. Do you consider the environmental ramifications of what you buy or does affordability dictate your choices?