Lane’s End Farm on the banks of the uMngeni River is absolute heaven for chickens and ducks and geese – unless the Crowned Eagle is visiting, of course. Susi Anderson lives with 120 fowls of various sorts, five dogs, four pigs, a couple of cows, three horses, three cats, four goats and a husband. It is little surprise then that she manages to produce most of their own food.
Animals are an integral part of a permaculture system and at Lane’s End every creature has many functions. The chickens pick the ticks off the cows, the pigs plough up and fertilize the potato field before planting, some chickens spend time in the veggie patch keeping the insect population down and adding manure. The goats keep the weeds along the riverbank under control and Olivia and Veronica (the cows) provide manure for the compost heaps and daily milk. Everyone gets to eat the extra greens from the garden.
While some chickens are reared for food, most provide eggs for breakfast. To make collecting easier, the hens have breakfast in bed and are let out at teatime once they have laid their eggs. Susi’s favourite eggs are the little speckled ones the Wyandotte bantams lay. Goose eggs make the best omelettes. During winter, with its shorter days, the chickens and ducks lay fewer eggs, so there are fewer omelettes. Fortunately, there is still plenty of bacon left from last season’s smoking session. Once Spring arrives, broodiness sets in. George the Muscovy gathers his girls and soon there are baby ducks, which will be ready in time for festive season celebrations. Summer’s bounty of patty pans, cucumbers and artichokes means meals at Lane’s End are always varied and delicious.
Inspirational reading: Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen