A Quacking New Way of Life by Helen Redfern
I’ve recently taken to going to bed armed with a chicken coop catalogue and a copy of Keeping Chickens and Other Poultry by Vivian Head. It’s laughable, I know.
See, I’m swotting over which chicken breed produce the most eggs per year, whether to go for a hybrid or pure breed, how an egg is actually made (I never knew). And of course, being the person I am, I’m looking at pretty hen coops and runs and wondering whether to get the Long Legged Hobby Hen House or the Long Legged Maggie’s Six. And what colour to paint it in.
But what started all of this? What happened to the girl who would rather bake a cake with eggs from the supermarket because they had a use-by date on rather than produce them with her own chickens? (Apparently, they don’t come out of the chicken with the date on). Buying eggs from a supermarket is a lot less messy compared to keeping four chickens who will need feeding, the collecting of the eggs and, ugh, cleaning.
Well, quite simply, we moved house. Four weeks ago in fact. And by doing so we gained space and inherited three ducks. One male and two females. Neville, Vanessa and Jemima. They’re Indian Running Ducks, which means they can’t fly but run, eat and quack (they’re quacking at me outside the window as I type this, wanting their second breakfast). They also lay eggs. Gorgeous, large, white shells. They’d be perfect in my signature gingerbread loaf. But what they actually taste like, I don’t know. Because, rather selfishly, the ducks are laying them on an island in the middle of our pond. Too far to reach with a pole (we’ve tried) and too deep to wade. The final option is to find out the blow up boat we bought in Majorca last year and send out the small boy to fetch them.
But anyway, I digress. The duck eggs planted a seed in my head. I’d recently read about Rose Prince and her children setting up a pop-up bakery and Vanessa Kimbell has been inspired to set up her own too. Both of these women make sourdough bread to sell to their village and it has gone down a storm.
What if I did something similar? I now live in a small village. No shops, one pub, a few cows, a bull. Couldn’t I make cakes with my own eggs and sell them, pop-up bakery style? I have massive concerns that I won’t be able to do it and I’m daunted at the amount I’ll have to learn and take into consideration. But, so far, I’m ignoring the demon doubts and starting to make some plans.
Once school is out and we have the long, hot(!) summer holidays we will buy our chickens and invest in a coop and run. In September I’ll be going on a pop up bakery course run by Vanessa to pick her brains. There are books to read and chickens to research. Oh, and an oven to buy (involving yet more research and cash).
In the meantime we’re going to keep trying to reach those duck eggs.