When I was small we grew rhubarb in the back garden. Whatever variety it was – we had sourced the crown from some friend or relative so there were no labels – it grew gigantic stems, as thick as a baby’s wrist, topped by enormous leaves that we thought looked like child-sized umbrellas. I was never a fan: it was so stringy that it had to be peeled before cooking and I was always extremely dubious about any fruit or vegetable that did such a good job of shining the inside of the saucepan in which it was cooked.
Mornings have gotten spicier in recent times, not to mention more chocolaty, as I’ve been using some of Carluccio’s hot chilli oil to fry my breakfast egg (ah, maternity leave: time – Little Missy willing – for a full breakfast!) and grating lots of the birthday cacao over. Mouthfuls of intense, savoury yumminess, and plenty of lovely runny egg yoke to mop up with homemade fennel-aniseed-caraway bread.
It’s looking like summer has already arrived in North Cork and the hens, although their numbers were reduced to three of the original four after a run in with a fox during the winter, are thoroughly enjoying the sunshine. No matter what weather we’ve had, they’ve still managed to produce a steady source (especially after I found their secret stash!) of dark yellow-yoked eggs for baking and cooking, as well as being entertaining company in the garden.
We didn’t have very many new potatoes this year so those that made it into the pot were treated like gold. We planted them, as normal, on 17 March – the traditional time in Ireland for planting the spuds, as far as I know, especially when they’re earlies – but the weather was nasty after that so I think more than a few simply rotted in the ground. Between that, the terrible summer, the death of our cat and subsequent rise in the bunny population (we must not have been eating enough Rabbit Stew) it hasn’t been an entirely successful summer in the garden. At least we’ve the hens to keep us fed and entertained, although when the weather was absolutely appalling there, last month, they seemed to go through a bit of a depression, egg laying dropping to just one per day. Fortunately they’re now back up to a three-a-day average – making a lovely accompaniment to the few potatoes that we managed to salvage.
While we were away in France, we were lucky enough to have my Naas Cousin come to house- and chicken-sit for a few days. Not only did she take extraordinarily good care of the place and livestock, she also left us a gift of the cutest pair of dozy bear eggcups. Boiled eggs will simply never be the same again. Thanks Elaine!
After the excitement of our first – albeit cracked – egg, three out of four of the chickens have been earning their keep. We’re still not sure who’s holding out, but most mornings, when we go out to the run to feed and water them, there are three eggs waiting in the nesting box. They’re small – I’m using two instead of one at the moment – but perfectly formed and, I didn’t expect this, have an incredible flavour. It must be all the Ballyvoddy slugs that they pick up on their wanders around the garden.
On Saturday – two weeks after our (supposedly) point-of-lay pullets arrived – there was great excitement when the Husband discovered a little egg, still warm, on the bottom of the hen house. Unfortunately, by the time he found it, it was already cracked, proving that our chickens still haven’t got the hang of things. The chicken that laid the egg managed to do it from her perch, rather than the nice cosy nesting box. Still, the cat was delighted to get an egg for her tea and hopefully it won’t take too much longer for the rest of the girls to follow her example.When you take the cost of the hen house and run into consideration, this is, as the Financially-Orientated Brother pointed out, the most expensive egg ever in the history of egg-laying. When the chickens get the hang of the egg-producing life, we are hoping that the average cost of each egg will come down quite a bit.