Alex James: Everyone ought to keep chickens

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

I do love it here in Gloucestershire with the sunshine on my face, watching the flowers grow. But this week it occurred to me that just walking into a shop and buying food might actually be quite a good arrangement after all, and the best way of going about feeding my family. I mean, getting all that stuff from the shops is certainly easier than trying to make it all from first principles.

But you don't know until you try. Chickens are fantastic; everyone should have a couple. They are no bother, and about as hard to look after as a goldfish. They hardly ever die either (well, once at most). They just cockadoodle around, affirming life in excelsis, and pretty much just eat leftovers. And the eggs... you can't buy eggs that taste like that. Heaven.

Pigs are another story, though, and far trickier. We hit a pig watershed today. We have had our pig for a couple of years and we love her, which obviously makes things quite tricky. Initially, we had two pigs, but one died. As far as I understand it, it is not really fair to keep pigs on their own, but she did seem happy, and keeping her alone seemed less terrible than the alternative.

The butcher took her away today. He is going to keep her and breed piglets from her and send me a couple – or, failing that, a whole lot of sausages.

Message in a bottle

At Daylesford Organic Farm this weekend I found some of Sting's olive oil. It's called Il Palagio and comes from his place in Tuscany. I must say it sets a new benchmark for rock gentlemen farmers everywhere: astonishingly good. I've already run out after having it on everything, particularly apples, with a bit of salt and pepper. Delicious. How far and fast we have come from those frozen Linda McCartney veggie-McNugget things.

I see green shoots

The first lettuces are coming out of my greenhouse already. Greenhouses, like sock drawers and suitcases, never seem to be quite big enough; they are always bulging at the seams. My experiments at growing vegetables are progressing well at this early stage. I'm doing black potatoes, white carrots and yellow beetroot. Mental.