The weather gods have thrown everything at us this winter and this week we had the tiniest sprinkling of snow. On Tuesday morning the garden and the rooftops looked as if someone had dusted them with icing sugar, and just for an hour everywhere appeared to be picture-postcard perfect. Unlike much of France which is blanketed in snow our little flurry of charm didn’t last long and has become but a fleeting memory captured on camera. In the meantime the cold has continued, our lemon trees are wrapped in thermal blankets, and the fire is burning constantly. Read more
Which came first the chicken or the egg? It’s a question that is guaranteed lengthy debate around our table at supper. All of our children have strong opinions and know their own minds and no one is shy in making their thoughts be known!
In our garden the chicken most definitely came first; it’s now just over a year ago that we bought our first four hens. Within a month we had added another three and later a couple more somehow sidled in from somewhere to join the fray. Happily though, since then there has been many times when we have asked ourselves why we’d never kept chickens before. They’re a riot! There’s been a lot to find out, with chesty coughs and sore feet to learn about amongst other things, but that’s where our French neighbours have helped so much; there’s not much they don’t know about chickens, although they do struggle to come to terms with how our chickens are part of the family while their’s are part of the larder. Certainly we have a better understanding of some subtle differences between French country animal husbandry on one side of the fence and children’s pets that lay eggs as a bonus on the other.
In addition, Roddy has become a dab hand at administering the necessary potions and drugs in the dead of night with a torch between his teeth – he’s found that the flock are better treated then when they are all half asleep. He’s remarked on more than one occasion that it’s easy to see how a fox could kill a whole hen-house without any trouble at midnight.
As those of you who have followed the blog for a while know, our chickens are often the star of the show.
However, I have to admit that for a time they fell into second place, with our Muscovy ducks claiming the centre of our feathered stage; not because the ducks were ducks or because they were enormous; no, it was because of their antics around the garden. You see it turned out that Penny and Adrian (who arrived as a couple) were in fact, not a couple. No, not for them was there the simplicity of being a male and a female; instead there emerged the complexity of having two large testosterone-laden adolescent males in our quiet rural space.
Now this in itself did not bother me, Penny was still called Penny and I simply forgot my plans for free range duck eggs; I liked them, we all liked them and they were here to stay, until that is, they started chasing each other whenever the urge took them. They hurtled around the garden whenever they felt the need, and anything in their path was sent flying; nothing would stop them, for neither wanted to be caught by the other; whoever made a false move lost and then the loser had to succumb to the other’s, er, desires (let’s just leave it at that). It became known as the ‘sex run’ and it was all quite hilarious until it became really quite dangerous for small creatures and small girls, and that’s when we decided they needed some girls of their own. Luckily we knew where there were plenty; some friends of ours who live thirty minutes away were very happy to have two drakes to replace their aging champion, and now our two boys each reside over a harem of females, extremely content.
That brings me back to our chickens and our two roosters; Fritz, our original bantam has been joined by Falafel, our young Faverolle rooster who hatched at the end of May last year. These two have never fought, the result I suspect of them being surrounded by women. There has been the odd squabble at times, but now it all seems to have evened out – Fritz has the small bantams as his consorts and Falafel has the bigger girls. This just leaves Constance the Silkie, lets just say Constance is a bit of a floozy, and she just hangs out with whoever she feels like!
Our little flock are free to roam where they please
On rainy days they seek out the wood shed
and the barn where we keep the mower.
I am told that several decades ago, when new people moved into the village, they would always be given two or three laying hens as a gift from the Mayor. No one seems to know when this started or indeed when it ceased, but what a wonderful welcome present. Just about everyone in our village keeps chickens, ducks and geese – for the pot.
Talking of pots, we are not going to kill our chickens of course; the only cooking involved is with the eggs, and of course free-range chickens mean fantastic eggs! Ours are really fabulous jewels with deep, dark, rich-orange yolks and hard thick shells. We have eggs of all sizes; tiny ones from the smallest bantams all the way up the size scale to the double yolkers delivered by Chuckles a couple of times a week; she was one of the original four we bought in 2014 and is now the reigning matriarch. We have near white eggs, pale creamy-colored eggs, and deep brown eggs; in fact we have all sorts of eggs.
Lots of eggs means lots of egg dishes and sometimes we have to be a little inventive, but it’s amazing how many different recipes and ways to use them Roddy and I come up with. Eggs are of course the perfect quick lunch or supper; easy to cook whether you fry them, boil them, poach them or bake them; we also add them to homemade pizzas
and we sometimes serve them hard-boiled with a little steamed kale from the garden, which is just about the only vegetable still going strong in the winter weather.
I also love scrambled eggs with a few herbs, a dish that most of our French friends cannot understand; they call them œufs écrasés which literally means ‘squashed’ eggs. It’s a wonderful way of cooking eggs for us, but our friends look at the results with much ridicule, and there is much muttering about the English and their strange ways of doing things!
Of course, our eggs also make the best cakes and our little chefs are slowly turning into egg snobs. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but baking certainly has a different hue when the girls start talking about egg quality from our garden!
Tell me how do you prefer your eggs? and which do you think came first – the chicken or the egg? Have a wonderful Sunday x