Joe Barry: Home harvest wins against shop produce
Hens alone earn their keep with eggs
Those of us who believe in the benefits of producing home-grown food always have to be careful we are not dismissed as eccentric tree-huggers, the type who are said to wear sandals, eat muesli and support Friends of the Earth.
Nothing wrong with any of the aforementioned, but it does somehow lessen your credibility if you are perceived to be a bit unworldly and interested in things other than just making money.
But then what is the point of living on a farm or having a garden if we don't produce food for our own households?
If we want to save money, there is probably not much to be gained from growing our own food, provided, of course, we do something else worthwhile with the time that would have been spent working in the garden. But if we want naturally grown fresh fruit and veg that are full of flavour, as opposed to the stuff from the supermarkets, then there is no argument. Home-grown food wins every time.
One of life's great pleasures has to be wandering around the garden throughout the summer and autumn, picking and eating strawberries, raspberries, peas and young raw carrots. They taste far better, as do the eggs collected each day from the hen house. Commercially produced eggs have a paler yolk and do not have the wonderful taste or texture of a really fresh egg laid by a hen that also enjoys full access to grass, weeds and whatever else it finds outdoors.
Having reached pensionable age, my original flock has been dispatched and replaced by a dozen Speckled Marans. These are not quite as productive as some of the hybrid breeds, but are easy to manage and have an attractive appearance and character.
I also purchased six Khaki Campbell ducks that are reputed to lay on average an amazing 320 eggs each per year. There is something extraordinarily soothing and therapeutic about watching and listening to hens and ducks as they scratch and forage, and the bonus of lots of fresh eggs means they do earn their keep.
The orchard, which I wrote about in detail last year, is in its second season and we now have a surplus of fruit, some of which we will put through the juicer and freeze for future use.