Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All creatures great and small...

The month of August is going to be an incredibly busy time on the estate. Peter is going back to Old Blighty for a month, and during that time I will be putting in the orchard (1 acre) and the potager garden (1/2 acre), along with building the housing for all the new animals expected this spring. So that we don't fall behind, and so that we can make the most of the late winter and spring rains, we need to get the orchard and potager in as soon as possible. We are hoping to have enough produce in the first year, bolstered initailly by buying some organic produce in, to launch our own range of specialty comestibles such as preserves, chutneys and jams. We hope to launch this range along with a variety of free range eggs at the Christmas fetes this year. The idea is just to get the brand out there this year, then by next year we will be in a better position to meet increasing demand, and will probably start to meet with local gourmet food stores to have our goods stocked there for retail, as well as direct from the estate. Having lived in the area for the last 5 years, and having found it incredibly hard to find good quality gourmet produce, especially game, so we know that there is a niche market for Willowbrook Park.

I have found a great book in the local library that covers almost every sort of animal house that the park might require:

To start with, we will obviously need quite a few chickens. We have been offered some feather footed bantams by a friend who needs to get rid of some. On top of those, we will also look for some good laying hens.

They will be fed only on organic, locally produced grains and will be relatively free range (but will require large enclosures for their own protection).

I photographed this rather fine specimen on the Chatsworth estate. I have no idea what breed it is, but it was in good condition.

We will also have a number of other game birds including Guinea Fowl:

Pheasants (The first photo was taken at Blenheim Palace last year, the second at Cricket St. Thomas, the site of the 1980's series To The Manor Born.)

And Quail, which are not only perfectly roastable, but produce fine eggs of a delicate flavour which we will be able to market locally.

We did briefly consider getting some Peacocks, but were advised that they are incredible noisy, messy and destructive, with the potential to vandelise property. Still, they are pretty birds.

The website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has some excellent information of various brids, including illustrations, sound clips of their calls and statistics on each breed in the UK.

Apart from the game, we will have some free-range pigs (sans-booties)
And some Suffolk Sheep, which are a good all-round breed for wool and meat. They will also help keep down the grass on the 10 acre

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