Hens Eggs and Bonfires – Country Matters with the Hodge November 2017

Country Matters
By The Hodge
“She who cackles most, lays least eggs”
Traditional country lore
So, now we know – eggs are safe, even for small children and the prospective mother. Eggs, rich and golden, runny and delicious; fried, boiled, scrambled, poached, coddled, as an omelette, as an ingredient… cheap, nutritious and… safe!
The unfertilised ova of the domesticated jungle fowl, the most populous bird on planet earth. We eat 12,813,000 eggs per annum in this country – that’s 196 for every person and a total of 35 million a day. Our farmers produce 85% of those eggs, the rest are imported. When there was a health scare a few weeks ago, it transpired that our friendly neighbourhood supermarkets were promoting their credentials by telling everyone their eggs were all British but what they put in ready meals and sandwiches were all cheap imports – the source of the food scare!
So for a nutritious, cheap and easy meal, go to work on an egg. Toast those soldiers, chip the top off and dip your spoon into the golden reservoir of gorgeousness. And remember… it’s safe.
* * * * *
November marks the start of winter for the countryman. The clocks have gone back, the curtains are drawn early, the fires are lit and we take on the mantle of whatever weather is thrown our way. Cold winds, frost, rain, snow, more frost. We change our diet and get the casserole dish down from the shelf and enjoy the stews and winter vegetables. Every cloud has a silver lining!
Not much work can be done on the farm once winter sets in. The mud and the cold means that animals are brought in and bedded down in their barns. The fields lie fallow awaiting a breath of warmth in spring and the new life that it heralds but in the meantime the farmer spends his time on planning and maintenance – there’s always plenty of both.
You may not have the same responsibilities in terms of livestock but if you have a garden you can do your bit. Precious hedgehogs will be finding cosy corners in which to hibernate so don’t be over-tidy. And before you light a bonfire, make sure the base isn’t one of those cosy corners. It’s best to move the whole structure and make sure before you light it. And talking of bonfires, my usual message is to attend an organised firework display and not try to do-it-yourself which is expensive by comparison. Fireworks are alien to all non-humans – farm stock, dogs and other pets, horses and wildlife – and no one knows what effect your snap crackle and pop will have on those creatures around you except for the pet owners who live in dread of this time of the year. So please be considerate.
Whilst ranting, the same goes for Chinese Lanterns which have proved to be a real menace, either setting fire to things or being eaten by cattle or sheep, causing their deaths. Please don’t have anything to do with the infernal contraptions.
You can also do your bit by looking after the birds that visit with dedicated feeders and fresh water. Keep the feeders clean and the food fresh and enjoy the sights and sounds of a regular stream of visitors to your garden throughout the winter.

If you dread the coming of winter, and many do, try and make the most of it. When there are bright sunny days, dress up and get out there and make the most of the countryside around us. And even when the weather is poor, the sights and sounds can still be amazing. Keep warm and comfortable, look after those around you and before you know it, spring will be just around the corner.

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