Saturday 30 April 2022

"We must risk delight..."

I post about day-to-day happenings and reflections in our smallholding life. Sometimes I include observations that are a source of personal delight, such as spotting a native plant coming into flower. Or perhaps the successful germination of some seeds that have been sown. Sometimes the birth of lambs or the hatching of chicks. Part of me feels this is all rather trivial (even insensitive) in the context of a pandemic that has ravaged many people's lives; or the outrageousness of Putin's invasion of Ukraine; or the current on-going genocide in Myanmar (and many other forgotten wars around the world - remember the Rohingya?); and closer to home, the routine presence of food banks in virtually every town and community.  Then, encompassing all, there is the impact of global heating, the effects of which are already impoverishing further many parts of the world and with worse to come. And much more. 

But then this is a blog with a theme in which I share and sometimes reflect upon theme-related experiences. Some of it is simple descriptions of events (good and bad) and sometimes attempts at sharing delights. If the theme of the blog was something else then I would hope I would do the same with different observations and alternative delights. 

Even so...

However, I recently came across a poet (the American poet Jack Gilbert, 1925-1912), who I was not familiar with, and one of his poem's which provides a defence for the experience of delight and why joy is not only justifiable but also important "despite everything".

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.

by Jack Gilbert

What is Jack Gilbert's case for the defence of delight? Firstly, God ordains it ("that's what God wants").  Among the many scriptural exhortations to be joyful is "This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad". Secondly, the beauty to be found in the world ("summer dawn", the "Bengal tiger"). Thirdly, the capacity for shared laughter in the midst of life's deprivations  ("The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future"). Fourthly, in resisting delight it somehow undermines our sorrows and those of others ("If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation"). 

Therefore, "in the ruthless furnace of the world" we must nevertheless "admit there will be music despite everything". "We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight".

Any delights that emanate from a smallholding life are not the sum total of my emotional life of course and, like everyone else, life includes sources of disappointment and sorrow. But at the same time the sources of sorrow do not account for the totality of life experiences. I think I'll continue to share the trivial, delightful or otherwise.

...And speaking of which, yesterday I found a 
cowslip flowering in some rough grass. The first
time I have seen one on our holding. Once so
profusely abundant, now becoming more common again.

Monday 25 April 2022

Freedom day 2nd May

News released today from Defra is that the legal requirement to keep all poultry housed is being rescinded from midnight 1st May. As we'll be in bed at that time, sometime later on 2nd May we will open up the enclosed areas to allow the chickens a free run again. A number of biosecurity arrangements will still need to be in place but these are ones we adhere to anyway. 

There was in fact another outbreak of avian flu in Derbyshire just a couple of days ago but the frequency of cases is clearly slowing down. Perhaps there were also commercial considerations too in informing the timing of the decision. 

Avian flu this winter has been at unprecedented levels in the UK and the risk, all be it much reduced, persists. It does not bode well for next winter and we will certainly be thinking how we can better manage a poultry lockdown next time round.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Star of Bethlehem

At this time of the year the Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is scattered in patches all over the holding. They look particularly attractive in the dappled shared of a big oak tree (yet to break into leaf) where the whiteness of the stars stand out. Close up, in the centre of the six white petals arranged as a star, is a bright yellow cluster of stamens. Like the Lesser Celandine the flowers close up when the sun disappears.

The Star of Bethlehem is native to the Middle East and Europe and in the UK, possibly to the sandy soils of East Anglia. However, as it is also sold as a garden plant it could more often be the case that it is a garden escapee that has naturalised in the wild. It is a bulbous plant and it produces, with some vigour, numerous small bulbils that develop into mature plants. As a result it spreads very easily and can be quite invasive if not kept under control. Where there is the space, however, it is nice to leave it to its own devices.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)

Saturday 23 April 2022

Norfolk Black turkey hatch

The trio of Norfolk Black turkeys (two hens and a stag) which we saved from Christmas have laid well and we put a clutch of eggs in an incubator. Yesterday morning, bang on time (i.e at 28 days incubation) they started to hatch. Today we removed them from the incubator and transferred them to a brooder pen in the workshop.

There were eight live hatches. A ninth did hatch successfully but died, possibly trampled upon. Nine out of eleven eggs is a very good hatch rate. The remaining two eggs are being given another day in the incubator to provide a little more time for them to have a chance to hatch in case they are indeed fertile.

You can leave new hatchlings in an incubator for up to 48 hours and they have enough nutrient in their system from the yolk to manage fine. However, the incubator was looking a bit crowded after 24 hours and with one loss. The risk is that when you open an incubator it reduces the humidity level and potentially causes the outer egg membrane, inside the shell but encasing the chick, to shrink and the chick becomes 'shrink wrapped' and liable to suffocate. You have to be patient and desist from lifting the incubator lid 'to check'. You might be familiar with outer membrane shrinkage from when you peel a boiled egg. There is often an air space at the pointy end of the egg. The older the egg the larger the space as more shrinkage occurs as the egg ages. A rough indicator of how fresh your eggs are.

Day old Norfolk Black turkey chicks
just removed from the incubator to
transfer to a brooder

Friday 22 April 2022

Ewes and lambs

All the ewes and lambs have been turned out of the barn to graze outside for the last couple of weeks. They are enjoying the fresh grass and ignore the hay in the hayrack. The lambs are growing stronger each day and are beginning to make exploratory nibbles of the grass. The older, more robust ones muscle in with the ewes jostling for a place along the line of troughs for the supplementary feed when I put this out twice a day. There are several troughs in a row of different lengths so there is more than enough space for everyone.

The ewes sit in their family groups chewing the cud for a lot of the time during the day with their lambs sitting beside them or playing around them, occasionally standing on mum's back. Late afternoon tends to be the time when the lambs play as a group, running back and forth.

Three times a day (7am, 3pm & 10pm) I have to bottle feed one of the lambs who was rejected by this mother. I go through the gate and call his name (Finbar) and he immediately runs up to me,  however far off he is. For the rest of the time he sits with a family group and is only nudged away if he gets too close. He is nevertheless growing well and looks to be a strong ram lamb.

We are having an  extended dry spell at the moment and the rain that had been previously forecast for this week is not now expected. Whilst it might be generally unpopular, we really do need some rain now to keep the grass growing for the sheep if not for the vegetable plot and garden. 

Ewes and lambs taking advantage of the shade.
The ewe marked '5' is a first time mum and her twin
 ewe lambs are beside her. She was a bottle fed
orphan the year before last as her mother died 
shortly after giving birth. She has turned out to be
the most attentive of mothers.

Thursday 21 April 2022

Update on frog spawn

I mentioned a couple of week's ago that a friend recently gave me a jar of frog spawn for the pond I built eighteen months ago. I can't see any sign of the frog spawn nor any tadpoles. It doesn't look like they have survived. The goldfish, which have been quite active in this mild weather, I notice appear to have put on a little holiday weight.

As I had previously indicated, if it were a choice between frogs and goldfish I'd prefer frogs. Its just that in a previous pond I had they seemed to tick along together okay. 

This is the second cohort of goldfish for this pond. The ten originals were raided by a heron and, as far as I could tell, there were two survivors. Towards the end of last summer I bought a second batch of ten which so far are thriving.

When I first bought the goldfish I asked for nine but the odd number seemed to disproportionately perplex the person who served me. They suggested I bought ten instead. 

The reason for asking for nine fish is that in Chinese culture (Janet is Chinese) goldfish are auspicious creatures and nine goldfish promises prosperity. Goldfish are a common subject of classical Chinese art. If you go into a Chinese household, whether in China or among Chinese diaspora, you will often see a painting or a wall hanging depicting nine goldfish. 

Part of the reason for this is that the word for 'goldfish' (金鱼 Jīnyú, literally gold fish) is almost a homophone for  'abundant wealth' 金玉 Jīnyù, literally gold jade).  This seemed far too involved an explanation so in the end I settled for ten who in the event were not that lucky.

Painting by Lin Jing 林菁 in traditional style.
InkDance Chinese Painting Gallery

Wednesday 20 April 2022

"The loveliest of trees: the cherry now"

Driving around residential areas recently the various magnolia trees, which a couple of weeks ago were fleetingly in full majestic bloom, are covered in dead brown flowers, victims of the bite of frost. A little sad perhaps because an annual garden highlight is over prematurely for another year.

Not so the cherry trees that were unaffected and are now coming into their own. When they are in flower they are high impact trees but for the rest of the year many varieties are quite ordinary and blend into the background. 

There are exceptions, such prunus serrula which has shiny mahogany bark, or prunus 'Accolade' which has vivid orangey-red leaves in the autumn.  Another one is the Great White Cherry or prunus Tai-Haku. I first came across this many years ago on a visit to Beth Chatto's garden. Its has the largest of single white flowers in the Spring and it also has large leaves, big enough to keep the tree noticed during the summer. In the autumn the leaves turn yellow. I always find white flowered cherries the most appealing.

A. E. Housman in his Shropshire Lad series wrote about white cherries in the voice of a twenty year old. Only fifty more opportunities left to admire the spectacle so don't let the chance slip by.

The Loveliest of Trees: the Cherry Now 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

by A.E. Housman

Prunus Tai-Haku image borrowed from Beth Chatto Gardens 
Facebook page. One of my favourite gardens to visit 
and a first rate nursery.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Quail egg productivity

An unusual thing about quail compared to other poultry is that quail hens can lay two eggs per day. We have five quail hens and they are now laying daily. Yesterday's clutch was nine eggs. With some of the accumulated eggs, it was quail egg salad for lunch.

Monday 18 April 2022

Differences in scale

Some Little Gem lettuce ready for planting out in the vegetable plot:-

The fields next to us, this year contracted out to a salad grower:-

Rows of machine planted lettuce
bought in as small plantlets

Rolls of plastic sheeting ready to use

Young lettuce plants protected by plastic

Irrigation boom about 40m in length

On another farm in a previous year. Harvesting salad 
and immediately packed ready for delivery to supermarkets

Not to mention the massive quantities of artificial fertilizer applied during soil preparation and the enormous amounts of diesel to fuel the tractors, including the outsize track tractors, and the herbicides to keep the ground clean of weeds. Food for thought.

Sunday 17 April 2022

Thursday 14 April 2022

Lambing finished for this year

Maundy Thursday and lambing was completed today with twin ram lambs born this morning. We have ended up with eleven healthy  lambs: Six ewe lambs and five ram lambs. One of the eleven is a single the rest are twins. Lambing was completed in four weeks to the day. This included a ten day interlude between the penultimate ewe to lamb and today's arrivals.

Most of the ewes and their lambs are out to grass. I held back one set to keep the last ewe company in the lambing shed but she and her offspring have now joined the main flock. The rejected, bottle fed lamb is still in the barn but he will join the others shortly too.

It is always good to o see the ewes and their lambs grazing and watching the regular late afternoon and early evening antics of the lambs who like to play all together at this time of the day.

Monday 11 April 2022

The Lesser Celandine

A couple of weeks ago, when we had a warm spell, I spotted a clump of Lesser Celandine (formerly Ranunculus ficaria  - i.e, within the buttercup family - but now apparently Ficaria verna) which looked radiant in the sunshine. Its is a woodland plant and in this instance was under a leafless hazel bush by our front gate, and the late afternoon sun rays were upon it. Unfortunately I did not have my phone with me to take a photograph and forgot to go back later. Being no Edith Holden, I had neither the skill nor the time (mainly the skill) to execute a water colour sketch for a diary entry.

The Lesser Celandine normally flowers in early Spring, typically during February, and because of this its beauty stands out particularly well. In addition to the flowers it has very attractive glossy, heart-shaped leaves. One of the characteristics of the Lesser Celandine is that the flowers close up again when the sun disappears and the temperatures are low. Since my initial sighting the weather has been dull and cold so I have not been able to make good the omission.

However, today (Sunday), although it was still on the chilly side, the sun shone and the Lesser Celandine was out and about again, even though we are now well into April.

Although Wordsworth will be  forever associated with daffodils, his favourite flower was in fact the Lesser Celandine and he wrote three poems in its honour. Here is a snippet, the first verse, of one of them:-

There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,

That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;

And, the first moment that the sun may shine,

Bright as the sun himself, 'tis out again!

According to nature writer Richard Mabey, in his magnificent Flora Britannica, it was felt to be fitting to adorn Wordsworth's tomb with a carving of the Lesser Celandine but due to foral confusion or inept carving the result appears to be the Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus) - a completely unrelated plant.

Lesser Celandine

Sunday 10 April 2022

Lenten reflections from a Suffolk Smallholding - 6

Many smallholding and gardening activities require patience. Much of this concerns waiting for things that you want to happen. Sowing seeds and waiting for them to geminate. Or planting a sapling in the hope that one day it will become a mature tree. Or putting a ram to tup some ewes and waiting five months for them to deliver new lambs. All these sorts of things require patience. Living by the seasons helps to teach patience.

But patience also concerns how we respond to frustration. Patience in this sense is more to do with the extent an individual can wait calmly in the face of frustrating situations or adversity. Significant life events  can become a source of frustration. But daily life is also inevitably full of micro-frustrations: seedlings that die in the frost, being stuck in a traffic jam, a long queue at the post office, a call handler not grasping your query,  and so on. In the days of travelling on the Central Line rush hour, I recall (alas, more than once) the groans and outright swearing from passengers when we were asked to disembark because further up the line someone had "fallen under a train".  

The danger is responding to such frustrations in an over-aroused way, resulting in the release of stress hormones. That doesn't feel good. (And it can potentially make others feel bad too whether they 'deserve' it or not). Its not good for your physical health either. Patience is something worth cultivating.

It is a mistake to equate patience with passivity or making you vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Patience can be active and potentially a positive choice to deal with frustration in healthy ways. Possessing the capacity to exercise such a choice can, indeed, be liberating. In contrast, feelings of helpless frustration can lead to dissatisfaction and also inhibit more positive responses.

Professor of Psychiatry Judith Orloff tries to cultivate patience with her patients. She suggests the following  exercise to help practice patience and counter frustration. Join a long, slow-moving line to wait in. Perhaps in the grocery store, bank, or post office. Instead of getting irritated or pushy, take a deep breath and tell yourself, “I’m going to wait peacefully and enjoy the pause.” Meanwhile, try to empathize with the overwrought cashier. Smile and say a few nice words to the other beleaguered people in line. Use the time to daydream; take a vacation from work or other obligations. Notice the stress release you feel and how your body relaxes. Lines are an excellent testing ground for patience. Practicing patience will help you dissipate stress and give you a choice about how you respond to disappointment and frustration. When you can stay calm, centered, and not act rashly out of frustration, all areas of your life will improve.

Back to smallholding, gardening, living by the seasons and learning lessons from Nature. Here is a well-known poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning which contrasts human frustrations with unchanging Nature and the ways it can "Sing through our sighing...". It seems to finish with a prayer.

Patience Taught by Nature

 “O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”

And still the generations of the birds

Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds

Serenely live while we are keeping strife

With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife

Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds

Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards

Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife

Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,

To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass

In their old glory. O thou God of old!

Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—

But so much patience, as a blade of grass

Grows by contented through the heat and cold.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Nicotiana sylvestris seedlings in a 4" pot.
By the end of the summer they will be
5 feet high with 4" long white trumpet
flowers. Worth waiting for!

Friday 8 April 2022

Potato matters

 Today I finally got around to planting the early potatoes. Not that we particularly aspire to an early crop. We will use some later in the summer for 'salad' potatoes but the two early varieties I planted out today store very well and will be used over next autumn and winter. Most of the earlies  will in practice be harvested at the same time as the main crop potatoes. Our aim is to grow enough potatoes to see us through the year until the next harvest is available. In fact, it is a few years since we have had to buy any potatoes.

The first variety is 'Charlotte', in my view the pre-eminent potato of all and if I was confined to growing only one variety then this would be it.

The second variety I planted today was 'Red Duke of York'. This was introduced to me by smallholder friend John a few years ago and I have grown it ever since. The reason why I grow this every year is that, whatever qualities of a 'new potato' it might have, it makes the very best roast potatoes. It also stores very well and we have only just finished using up last summer's crop.

I'll plant the main crop potatoes later in the month. I have two varieties to plant. I could not find 'Pink Gypsy' which I have grown for the last two years and which we have been very impressed with. Instead, I have reverted to 'Picasso' which I used to regularly grow. This is a reliable heavy cropper which cooks well whatever the chosen method.

The second main crop is 'Pink Fir Apple' . A bit too knobbly for many peoples' liking but there is no need to peel them. They have a yellowish, firm texture and make first rate salad potatoes if you are happy to eat that in winter time. They boil well too. We like them very much.

Pink Fir Apple

Tuesday 5 April 2022

Tomato matters

One of the jobs today, in between lambing duties, was to prick out and pot on the tomato seedlings. They had all produced their first set of 'true leaves' and were out-growing the trays and modules they were sown into. They are now all in individual pots. This means that the space they occupy in our utility room has grown exponentially. Its is too early for the greenhouse for my liking. 

I am growing just three varieties of tomato this year. 'Sungold'  I grow every year in the greenhouse. These are an orangey coloured cherry tomato and one of the sweetest I have tasted. They are excellent for eating raw in salads and, in my case, on their own virtually every time I go to the fridge for something during the summer. 

The second variety is 'San Marzano'. I grew these last year for the first time as an alternative to the excellent and reliable 'Roma' which I have grown successfully for several years. Like 'Roma', 'San Marzano' is a plum tomato which is good for cooking. In our case Janet makes jars of passata with it for which we have a continuous year-round supply. I therefore grow quite a few plants for a large crop. Both 'Roma' and 'San Marzano' grow very well outdoors in a sunny spot. I will eventually plant out at least ten plants in a row in the vegetable plot. 

The reason for switching to 'San Marzano' was because it is 'indeterminate', as the seed catalogues will tell you. That is, it continues to grow vertically to whatever height conditions allow for growth. In other words it can be grown as a single stem cordon style with the stem tied in to a supporting cane. The general recommendation is to allow it to grow to about four feet outdoors (higher in a greenhouse or polytunnel) which more or less takes it to the end of the summer. The top can be snipped off to prevent further upward growth, and the plant's energy will then be directed to the developing tomatoes rather than producing more flower trusses and further fruit, which are unlikely to have enough time to ripen. You have to remember to regularly pinch out the side shoots or you will get unproductive lateral stems growing out.

'Roma', on the other hand, is 'determinate' which means it will only grow to to pre-determined height. Instead of a single stem it is a bush variety with multiple stems. No need to pinch out the side stems in this case. Because of the multiple stems bush varieties can be particularly heavy croppers, which 'Roma' certainly is. The drawback is that unless you devise an ingenious support system some of the fruit-laden stems will inevitably drape on the ground and potentially spoil. The plants can become untidy. I prefer the controlled growth of cordons, despite the little extra effort they require.

The third variety I am growing is one new to me called 'Matina'. This produces the traditional bright red billiard ball sized tomatoes. They look attractive and the variety is reputedly prolific. Whether I grow it again will depend on its flavour. We'll find out in the summer.

'Sungold' tomatoes. Not bright red but 
very sweet. Only 10 seeds per pricey packet,
though, so sow carefully! 

Monday 4 April 2022

Tube feeding a new born lamb

When a lamb is new born there is a very high reliance on the ewe to care for its off-spring and thankfully in the large majority of cases they do. But the first 2-3 days very often have a precarious feel about them and a watchful eye is needed to ensure things go along smoothly.

The first couple of days are a vulnerable time for a new lamb. The things to particularly look out for, once the lamb is safely delivered, are whether the ewe licks clean its lamb (or lambs) and is generally attentive towards it. This is important because it begins the bonding process between the ewe and the lamb and a familiarity with each others' scent. It also stimulates the lamb into activity and a desire to suckle. Another aspect to observe for is whether the lamb is on its feet. Normally they make efforts to stand very soon after birth and they usually succeed with this endeavour quite quickly. Then there is the all-important suckling. The lamb needs to know how to suckle and the ewe the requirement to encourage and facilitate this. Both teats need to be milked to check the ewe is producing milk and that it is readily flowing.

When it comes to suckling the widely accepted benchmark is that the lamb should be fed the first milk produced, the colostrum, within the first six hours of birth. This is when the richest milk, high in nutrients and immuno-potential, is available. There is always a sense of relief when definite suckling is witnessed within this time frame. The lamb's tail wagging away as it suckles is the giveaway sign.

The ewe seems to possess an instinctive skill set  to accomplish all this. However, sometimes first time mothers take a bit longer to cotton on. In some ewes who have given birth for the first time they appear to have a perplexity about them with one or more lambs tottering around their feet. They usually quickly get over this but occasionally it takes longer. This becomes a bit more concerning if ewes refuse to stand still for their lambs to suckle from them. From time to time I have had to resort to pinning the ewe against the barn wall with my knee to keep it still and using a free hand to try and guide the lamb to the teat. This usually has to be done several times for a day or two before the ewe (and the lamb) get the hang of it. In more resistant cases there are devices called 'adopters' which provide mechanical restraint to facilitate this task. I don't have any experience of these myself. In the worst cases outright rejection by the ewe results in the need for bottle feeding the lamb who in practical terms is orphaned. We have a lamb, one of twins, we are bottle feeding at the moment for this very reason, despite attempts to persuade its first time mother otherwise.

The concern with a ewe who is initially reluctant to feed its off-spring is that the six hour time frame to feed colostrum is quickly passed and the worry is that the lamb is getting hungry and declining in energy. This concern grows if the weather is very cold, as it has been of late. 

Bottle feeding a lamb which is only a few hours old is difficult and not a reliable means of ensuring the requisite quantity of feed is consumed. In addition, there is the risk that it will less readily take to the teat when the ewe eventually becomes more compliant. 

One way to manage this dilemma is to tube feed the lamb. This involves passing a flexible feeding tube down the lamb's oesophagus so that either milked colostrum or artificial colostrum can be fed directly into the lambs stomach. This lambing season I have carried out this procedure three times (Twice in the case of one lamb that was especially slow to feed). This provided a potentially life-saving nutritional boost for the lambs and also gave them the strength to continue in their own attempt to suckle. Both lambs are now suckling freely from their mothers who are also now compliant, and indeed attentively nurturing their young. 

We have one more ewe who is yet to deliver. She is an experienced mother and so hopefully tube feeding any more lambs this season will not be necessary. But a vigilant eye will be needed all the same.

Saturday 2 April 2022

Lenten reflections from a Suffolk Smallholding - 5

Joy in small things.

Quail eggs

 ...Speaking of eggs, the quail who joined us a few weeks ago have  all of a sudden started laying eggs.


Friday 1 April 2022

Egg shortages and the cost of living

Today there is the anticipated massive leap in consumer energy prices and a major contribution to the current 'cost of living crisis'. A number of factors are coming together (most recently Russia's invasion of Ukraine among them) to cause this, and the situation is likely to get worse. 

One particularly concerning area is the cost of food. The agricultural sector has warned that costs in relation to grain shortages, the increasing costs of fuel and energy and the cost of fertilisers, as well as more tortuous supply chains following Brexit, all feed into this. What is also clear is that the UK is yet to experience the full effects of increases in food costs.  

Today a predicted egg shortage is in the news. The increase in production costs, exacerbated by avian flu, has already resulted in some egg producers going out of business with warnings that more will follow. 

It is a mistake to believe that the current situation is down simply to recent global political events and short term economic fluctuations. There are some fundamental structural problems about how we produce food, how it is distributed and retailed as well as who has access to a healthy diet, that come into play. Interacting with all this is the climate crisis. I hope to explore these issues further here at another time.

In the short term, and probably almost certainly in the longer term, the case for growing whatever you can yourself is becoming ever stronger.