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Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Family Heritage

In Non-Fiction on February 21, 2016 at 11:38 am

I find family history and ancestry discovery very interesting—where we’ve come from and from whom, the genes we carry and the different names that have evolved throughout our history. It will be interesting to read in another hundred years’ time how it transforms further, for example: the occupations people held during the 20th century compared to the 21st century and beyond. For instance, my own family tree shows ancestors who worked as steel turners or farm servants—imagine the roles stated on upcoming censuses nowadays: IT Specialist, Graphic Designer, Baristas, to name a few. Today we have the Internet, which is a great tool to research your family tree, although I doubt whether a thorough exploration can be achieved without any cost involved or investigating findings further to create a precise map of our forefathers. However, the Internet can be a foundation to build upon. Many results are found in the Country’s census report that is a primary source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy. A methodical practice, which acquires and records information such as: full name, date of birth, dwelling, occupation and age of every occupant inside the residence at the time of the census—a procedure in ‘olden’ days that would have been hand written and kept in huge ledgers. This can be a wealth of information to pinpoint correct documentation of birth certificates, marriage and death certificates to clarify or conclude your enquiries.

Our ancestral tree begins with our parents and it’s not surprising it was named a ‘tree’ as from your mother it branches off to one direction and from your father another to create huge offshoots that are grafted and sometimes interweaved with divorces and multiple marriages with subsequent kith and kin—growing-out to a never ending expansive sapling of generation after generation. I once heard that the memories of direct descendants can be passed on through our genetic make-up. How true this is, I do not know. It’s relevant to the times when we’ve heard people talk about an extraordinary occurrence that is referred to as reincarnation. Have you ever heard anyone say ‘he’s been here before’ or ‘I think I was reincarnated’ —when in fact it’s believed it is because of our descendant’s memories being evoked through our DNA. As I said, this hasn’t been proven. Nevertheless it’s interesting.

My mother investigated her family tree quite a few years ago and it took a copious amount of time and dedication to complete; four years in fact. Thankfully through her efforts we have a documented history that began with a copper miner named John Phillips, born in 1796, married to Martha and they had seven children of only one is found documented as married with children and another documented with one child but no marriage. Records say they were all living in Cornwall and later it states in the census they were either living with each other or next door to each other in to adulthood. That’s where the tree on my mother’s side begins.

My father’s side, where the tree branches to a different bough was researched by my father’s cousin and it’s thanks to him that I have some information as well as photographs—another element of my family’s history I enjoy and I’m so pleased I have these wonderful pieces of the past. Sadly I hardly have any photographs of my mother’s family—perhaps many held by displaced members of family and some I’ve been told were stuck to hospital walls during my grandmother’s confinement back in the 70’s and were ruined whilst removing them from that wall after she passed. Her name was Ruth and she was my mother’s mother and she’s my little piece of missing history as we never met, it is such a shame not to have known my grandmother, apparently we have similarities. She sadly passed away a few months after I was born from multiple myeloma. She gave me my name and although she no longer had her sight she was able to hold me. My older sister remembers her, but vaguely, as she would have only been six years old at the time she passed away. We have a few cherished pictures and one of her mother, my great-grandmother Violet, who also passed too young and who never even got the chance to see her children grow as she died when my grand-mother Ruth was only six weeks old. It was 1921 and with no mother, Ruth was placed in the workhouse along with her brother. At some time they were taken out and grew up in the care of her mother’s sister Florence and her husband Robert who they believed to be their parents until discovering this wasn’t the case when her aunt passed away suddenly when Ruth was 14 or 15 years old.

Returning to the ancestry exploration my mother did. As well as many hours spent she also had to obtain certificates to either determine findings or develop them, which in turn was charged a fee for each one ordered. The census played a huge part in the journey and the outcome was marvellous and documented well in writing and with a complete tree to keep and a tree that keeps growing. Let’s hope when none of us are here to cultivate it anymore, our descendants will nurture it so that it is always sprouting new shoots.

One Half of my Family Tree

One Half of my Family Tree

 

 

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Second Season

In Non-Fiction, Poultry on January 24, 2016 at 10:20 am

It’s my second season of breeding Muscovy ducks. They truly are endearing creatures. I’ve mentioned before in my posts that I began breeding so ‘my girls’ can do what’s natural—have their clutches of eggs hatch out (instead of brooding all spring and summer), and let them raise their young. Usually they abandon them at around 8 weeks, sometimes later and that’s when I can move all the very-quickly-grown ducks into their own enclosure, where they’ll be safe. Also this means that when they do move to pastures new, I’m not running a marathon trying to catch them in a net. This is the usual practice! I expect it’s quite amusing to watch if you’re the observer (my husband), surveying as I run around in my pyjamas—big net in hand—on collection days. Becomes increasingly harder too when they begin to fly! With exception of the drakes who are too heavy to get off the ground and much easier to capture, but heavier to carry—by the time I sold my last few drakes last season they were bigger than their fathering drake!

They are not ducklings for very long. Therefore, fortunately I have more options this year as Mr C put his constructing skills (yet again) to good use and has extended my enclosures, adding a new one for this precise time of the year.  During the winter it can remain empty where I can either re-seed with grass or something productive to benefit the hens and ducks.

I don’t think I could tire of holding and watching newly hatched ducklings, although sometimes difficult to hold depending on the mother’s mood. I find the best time is when she’s still sitting waiting for others to hatch; once they’re all out you can forget it! And rightly so, it’s her job to protect them, you have to respect this. There are times when they don’t make it out of the shell or they make it out and die, for reasons that can’t be exactly determined. Not hard for them to get squashed under big clumsy mother duck or for the shell to crack and dry out.

I kept the first one to hatch last season and named her Bella. I purposely haven’t let her nest this year; she’s tried a few times. Three ducks nesting is plenty as they can nest up to three times in one season. All my three Muscovy hens nested twice last season, resulting in sixty offspring, which I was fortunate to sell on to new homes as well as the males for meat. By selling them I was then able to put the money towards their food bill for the ducks and chickens, which usually runs into debt throughout the winter, as they eat more and lay less, resulting in less eggs for me to sell to cover their food. Food for my poultry never comes out of our own income; the eggs always manage to pay for the weekly food bill along with selling the ducks, it allows me to sometimes buy new water feeders or laying chickens. I also grow some basics, which is more of a treat with extra nutrients. I’ve just planted some silverbeet (known as chard, Swiss chard and seakale beet, similar to spinach but has a stronger flavour), so they’ll enjoy that when it’s ready.  So far there are twenty ducklings of various ages, thirteen still with their mother duck. Some are ready for new homes. I get some wonderful colours—black, white and green, just white, as well as black and white, blue and white and a lovely smoky grey.  There is one girl that I will be keeping! Last year Mr C told me I wasn’t allowed to keep any. He said, “If you keep one, then another and then before you know you’ve got twenty ducks”. Well it’s true and I’m not naïve to this fact, but I wanted to keep one!

One day Mr C asked “who’s that one over there?”

“That’s Bella”, I replied.

“Bella” he said, thinking to himself how he’d never heard that name before. “Who’s she then?” he asked.

“She was the first one that hatched out, she’s Daphne’s— I’m keeping her”, I answered with a grin.

He rolled his eyes, “You weren’t supposed to be keeping any …hmm”.

When I told Mr C this season I was keeping ‘the black and white female from that wee group of Daphne’s because I don’t have that colour in my flock, he didn’t say anything, well …not aloud anyway!

 

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Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to Mexico, Central, and South America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas 2015

In Non-Fiction on December 28, 2015 at 11:58 am

I hope everyone who reads or sees my blog had a good Christmas and is enjoying the festive season. I actually felt fairly Chrismassy this year. I don’t normally. My Christmas senses were developed over many years living in England, therefore the sense of cold weather, early dark nights and dark mornings are what associates this festive time for me. And although warm sunshine is alluring for those who’ve never experienced it at this time of year, it does become less important as the years fly by. It’s comforting to feel that Christmas spirit despite which country you live in and what the weather is doing… so it was nice to feel its return this year. Perhaps after eight years I have  become accustomed to the differences. Long may it continue.

Merry Christmas xxx

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Photo of me and my daughter in England on her first Christmas. She will be 15 years old next year!

Broth or Soup?

In Non-Fiction on November 9, 2015 at 1:41 pm

 

Homemade broth or soup is beneficially nutritious in anyone’s diet – in addition to being cheap to make!

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A big pan of it could easily feed a large family and you can put in ham or chicken. You could make it vegetarian by just adding lentils and veggies or even pasta if you want some more carbs. It is also a good way to use up left overs. I grew up with ham broth and dumplings and it’s still one of my favourites today. My mother makes the best!

I make broth and soup often and you can’t go wrong—so easy to do! I have rarely used a recipe for either and simply experimented with whatever’s at hand. Roast vegetable soups are also very tasty and one of my other favourites is cauliflower soup and pumpkin soup spiced up with some fresh chillies.

The ingredients below are for broth (or to blended to make ham, chicken or vegetable soup) and can be altered from week to week depending on what you have in your fridge and cupboards, or whatever pre-cooked meat you have left over from the night before.

 

Ingredients:)

(Options of meat)

  1. Pre-cooked or left over joint of ham
  2. Pre-cooked bacon pieces
  3. Pre-cooked or left over roast chicken

 

Vegetable basics: Onion, carrots, celery (parsnip and swede optional but add great flavour)

Omit anything you don’t like and add in what you do like, such as cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potato and butternut squash.

1 or 2 cloves of garlic

1 cup of lentils and barley (optional)

Chicken or vegetable stock

1 tbsp of coconut oil or olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Method:

Prepare all vegetables by chopping them well unless you plan to blend to

make soup or prefer a chunky broth.

Heat the oil in large deep saucepan then sauté onions over medium heat for 2 to 3 mins until soft.

Add vegetables and stir through for a minute before adding stock. Top up if needed with boiling water from the kettle until vegetables are covered.  Turn up heat until boiling point is reached then turn down low; preferably place a lid over the pan and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.

Add choice of pre-cooked meat and simmer for five minutes before adding salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

Serve with fresh bread or folded wraps.

 

You can also freeze any leftovers in plastic tubs for another day!

Homemade Scotch Eggs

In Non-Fiction on October 23, 2015 at 11:12 am

Having failed miserably to find a decent scotch egg in Christchurch, New Zealand, I decided to have a go at making my own. The result was awesome! I highly recommend making your own, but they can be time consuming and messy during the coating process so keep a warm bowl of soapy water to hand so you can keep cleaning your hands to prevent creating messy egg balls!

Ingredients:

7/8 eggs

approx. 700g of pork sausage meat

3 chopped sage leaves or a teaspoon of rubbed sage

a handful of chopped parsley (fresh rather than dried is best)

cup of flour

2 cups of panko crumbs

1 litre of (good quality) frying oil

Salt and pepper

 

Method:

  • set one egg aside for later7ed51714-7112-4721-807e-a4217822a6f2
  • boil remaining eggs for four minutes (six if using duck eggs), cool under running water, shell and set aside

In a bowl, mix herbs and sausage meat together and divide into equal portions. Using wet hands to prevent sticking, create a flat patty shape with the meat and place a boiled egg in the middle of each patty folding until the eggs are covered.

Using separate containers or plates, place the flour, egg (beaten) and crumbs on them for the coating process.

Take your time and carefully roll each meat egg ball in the flour, then the egg and then the panko crumbs and set aside.

Place in the fridge when finished. Can be made the day before cooking if desired.9ea814bd-d189-4e41-a44e-6ae15d354d65

Cooking:

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

In a high sided pan (a wok is ideal if you have one) heat the oil. Don’t overheat! Test after a few minutes with some of the crumb and see if it sizzles.

Carefully lower each scotch egg into the oil using a large draining spoon. Cook two or three at a time for 5-8 minutes and drain on paper towel. Finish in the oven 5-8 minutes.4f23444c-2edc-4281-b8dc-b1a8195686e8

Serve with salad, chutney, chips, mayonnaise – or whatever you want! Eat hot or cold!

Enjoy!

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Japanese (3 ingredient) Cheesecake!

In Non-Fiction on October 22, 2015 at 12:14 pm

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Ingredients:

3 medium sized eggs

120 grams of good quality white chocolate

Cream cheese

 

Preparation:

First, separate the egg yolks from the whites, then place the whites in the fridge and pre-heat your oven to 170 Celsius (325 F).

Melt the white chocolate in a pot. When cooled, mix it with the cream cheese using a spatula, then add the egg yolks and stir well. Remove whites from the fridge and mix them well.

Mix egg whites in with the cream cheese and chocolate mixture so you get a homogenized mixture.

Pour the mixture directly into the pan, which is previously covered with butter (do not leave the mixture) and bake for 15 minutes at 170 Celsius degrees (325 F), and then 15 of slightly lower temperatures around 150 Celsius degrees (300 F). Turn off the oven and leave the cake to stand for 15 minutes. Remove, leave to cool completely, then decorate with icing sugar or fruit if desired.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

‘It’s all trial and error’

In Gardening, Non-Fiction on October 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

It’s all trial and error with gardening. I’ve grown things that have been prolific in my garden at one time and then flopped the next time. All depends on seasons, which are not necessarily consistent.

I’ve begun slowly and tried not to be too keen; allowing the weather to warm up rather than rushing with eagerness because it’s 20151021_140438 now spring! I kicked started with some pak choi, coriander, lettuce and potatoes as well as potting some already established annual and perennial flowers in tubs. I’ve also got some flower seedlings on the go: calendula (from the daisy family), viscaria mixed (cottage garden plant) and sunflowers.

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I was late planting garlic this year as I wasn’t at home when I needed to get them in the ground and although it’s not too late, it’s not ideal so I’ve only planted half the amount this year. The cloves will be third generation seed deriving from the original elephant garlic I purchased from a farm in the North Island so I’m not sure how they will turn out. Hopefully well!

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Now the weather is settling and the frosts have passed I’ve begun potting tomato and pepper plants. I picked up some beautiful 20151021_140129gerberas (my favourite) for a very low price the other day and potted them too. One year I tried to keep things in my greenhouse but the mice kept getting in and helping themselves and unless what I’m growing thrives in a very warm environment like tomatoes and peppers then my greenhouse becomes overwhelming for seedlings. My seedlings do best in my mini-greenhouse that now has a great new cover on it thanks to my mum who made one out of mesh when she visited last year. It stands in a spot that gets sun for half of the day and that seems to suit—as I said ‘trial and error’ because what works one season doesn’t always work the next! And I’m no “Monty Don” so I just give it go. Nonetheless I do try to be frugal as possible with compost, seedling mix and seeds as you do have to buy them, unless you’re an exceptional gardener and have your own compost pile—mine however is very small and it does take years to break down (and mine did) but I am not that good at remembering to add to it, however, with poultry and a guinea pig that enjoys fruit and veggie scraps there’s not much that goes to waste in my kitchen. Even though I miss the mark when it comes to composting I do use my chicken’s manure as a fertiliser!

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So spring is off to a productive start with seeds germinating successfully and chicks and ducklings due to hatch this week and next. I love this time of year.

Brrr… It’s Beginning To Look Like Winter!

In Non-Fiction on May 28, 2015 at 2:16 pm

The weather is cold here in New Zealand and winter is certainly making an entrance in to the autumn season. I don’t think anybody likes the cold. With the long months of light nights, warmth and hot dry temperatures that we have here during the summer, it’s quite a shock when the cold arrives. Wood is stacked at the door for the fire and looking outside I can see all the jobs I’d wish I’d completed during the warm months! The memories of gas central heating in England never fade and my bedroom heater is now out of the wardrobe and I think the electric blanket on the bed won’t be far behind! There are always jobs to do in the garden to prepare for winter and my hydrangeas and hedges are screaming out to be cut back and the weeds (that are always ridiculous) are getting out-of-control. There is a still lot to look forward to over the coming months. The end of our four year renovation project is imminent and that’s a huge relief and accomplishment all rolled into one. Mr C and I both agreed during a recent conversation that even though we’ve made such a difference to this old farmstead and we love our home, we’d never do it again unless we had a lot of money to pay someone else to do all the work haha!

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Renovation Road – is long

In Non-Fiction, Renovating/DIY on March 5, 2015 at 2:50 pm

The road to completing our renovation has been a long one. Does our enthusiasm wain? Heck yeah! —Although, at last there is an end in sight. When we moved home we could have bought a new house and just moved in and had nothing to do but explore New Zealand. This actually sounds quite nice and easy. So why didn’t we choose new and contemporary? Well… we did live somewhere for three years previous to moving to this farmstead and we were not happy there for at least two years, so we were relieved when we finally found somewhere else. The earthquakes hindered the move, but we got there eventually. We both liked this house because it was historical, charming, and quaint and needed a lot of TLC.

The house has had many changes over the years and the last time it was decorated was in the 1980’s, which included a fitted kitchen and possibly one of the bathrooms was replaced at the same time. The original kitchen used to be situated where we’ve created a study and previous to that it appeared to have been used as some kind of farmer’s (man) cave. I have my doubts that the wall covering comprising of wildlife was put up in the 80’s but rather the 70’s. Anyway, we became aware of these changes firstly because there’s evidence in the roof and a sepia photograph showing that part of the house used to be two storey and all of the ceilings have been lowered throughout.

Secondly, a couple of years ago, out of the blue, a guy knocked on the door and told me how he used to rent a room in the house back in his student days (during the early 1980’s). He decided to stop by this day whilst he was visiting Christchurch on business, having travelled down from the North Island where he currently lives. He enjoyed his trip down memory lane and told me how the house was back then. How there was a fire place in our bedroom and was in fact the room he lived in. It was certainly unexpected but quite fascinating to hear his stories about the place. There was one room he couldn’t explain as the door remained locked and perhaps that was where the owners stored their things whilst the house was rented to students. He told me there was a hallway that ran through where we have the living room through to the back room and so on. He could remember all the names who came and went and who was in each room.

At one time it would have been the only house down this road and the surrounding land was farmed for many years before acreage was sold off in lots of ten by the previous owners and other dwellings were built. It will be interesting to find out all its history when I have the time to research.

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Our home in the early 1900’s

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When we moved in 2011

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Our home 2013 with two new front windows and one coat of paint!

Renovating is one thing, but living in a property whilst doing the renovation is not easy, but it has become easier as each room has been done. Honestly, this was the worst property to clean that I’ve ever moved into. It took me at least a month to work my way round to make it liveable, my hands were swollen by the end. As the years have passed I cannot remember how many times I’ve cleared rooms, moved things and reorganised. We never would have taken on such a huge project if Mr C wasn’t a builder by trade. In addition, I too am hands-on, have vision, love designing interiors and creating a home from scratch is not only about the building work. I feel I’ve done a good job with the interior of this home on a tight budget, such as: curtains, light-fittings, upcycling furniture, making blinds, colour and ideas, flooring and laborious sanding and painting too. Mr C has done all the plumbing work himself and that was far from straight forward, as well as insulating the roof and under the house. It’s just as well that I love rustic and vintage as all the doors are original—early 1900’s—and taking them back to the wood after being painted and also covered with plywood has been a hard task. Some come up better than others and some we’ve opted to paint one side. The study door is actually bowed—it all adds to the character!

Building materials alone in NZ are ridiculously expensive and pretty shocking. For example: there are many old windows in this house, most are original sash windows. It would be impossible to replace them all so you choose the worst, the ones that have rotted and can’t be saved. To replace ‘one’ large window, like for like but double glazed was going to cost $6,000—we nearly keeled over! We opted for good old UPVC double glazing, which is still fairly new here and people still opt for double glazed aluminium. Mr C worked as a window fitter many years ago so we didn’t have to pay for installation. Nevertheless, what we paid to replace one large window and two smaller windows in our newly renovated living room amounted to what we’d spent years previously to replace ALL the windows and doors in our old home in the UK! Therefore, to replace all the windows in this house we would require a second mortgage!

The last largest project in the house is imminent. It will be done by the end of the year! I already have the butler sink, which a friend kindly brought over from the UK for me in a caravan he was importing (I would not have had a country-style butler sink otherwise, I can not find a new one for under $600), and the stove is on order, which is amazing and I can not wait to see it stood in my kitchen!  The kitchen wasn’t meant to be the last room, but living and working quarters became a priority as the kitchen is workable, although I do hate it with a vengeance after four years. “Let’s not even start with the cooker!” … “No let’s!” — It doesn’t even have a handle on the oven door anymore and only one ring works properly. And the sink, oh it’s so small, plus I do miss having a dishwasher now! We could have forsaken a cupboard and put one in, but half of my kitchen is still packed up anyway, so I didn’t really want to lose cupboard space!

The room has such wonderful potential as it’s a large space and before the living room was done, it was our kitchen, dining and living room for two years! So onwards and upwards! The last room is in sight!

Pictures are below of the kitchen as it is now, although photos can be deceptive! It looks better to me in snapshots than in reality.

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Erin Maxwell

In Non-Fiction on January 27, 2015 at 10:05 am

Cat Rescue & Battery Hens

 

A thoughtful, considerate and compassionate animal lover who grew up in Christchurch with pets such as dogs, cats, birds and fishes, hopes that one day she can do more to help animals. But with limited space, funds and time, Erin does what she can from volunteering her time to Cat Rescue Christchurch— to saving battery farmed hens—to running her small business Creature Comfort. She lives with her supportive husband Andrew and 7 year old daughter Sophie and 5 year old son Lachie, who has just begun the journey of school life, which is challenging with the special needs that Lachie has.

Life is hectic in the Maxwell’s household with Erin helping in the animal welfare community, Sophie’s horse riding lessons, Lachie’s physiotherapy and not forgetting their 8 year old Huntaway cross named Ave. They adopted Ave and she’s a huge part of their family. Erin remembers her first pet—it was a goldfish she named Jellybean—she chose the pale and poorly looking fish from the tank to take home, but sadly it didn’t live very long. She persisted and each fish she chose from then on when her dad took her to the aquatic centre, also looked unwell—perhaps a sign that at the tender age of five years old she was going to mature in to a commendable advocate for the welfare of animals.

It was after the time of the February earthquake in 2011 that Erin became a volunteer at Cat Rescue Christchurch, assisting them (alongside many other volunteers) to humanely trap un-socialised stray cats or kittens that are being fed on the streets by people. When they are capture the cats and kittens they are fasted overnight and then taken to a vet the following day for de-sexing. Erin abets with the trapping of these displaced felines all over Canterbury. After their visit to the veterinarian she takes them back home to desensitise them and teaches them social behaviours, and they get very used to children with Sophie eagerly helping to feed them, sing to them and talking to them—perhaps a future animal carer in the making? Her little brother is okay with animals, but he has a tactile sensitivity to furry things and doesn’t find them as interesting as his older sister, “and that’s fine, he doesn’t have to”, says Erin.

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It was through a friend also working at Cat Rescue Christchurch that set off Erin’s interest in the welfare of battery hens. “The more you look in to it, the more depressing it gets, so I focus on what I can do”. As her knowledge expanded she realised the large scale of culling that was involved after approximately eighteen months of egg laying. Erin was horrified and wanted to do something—anything—within her means to help. She began by contacting a farmer and offered to take a few hens with the intention of rehabilitating them and finding them a new home as pets. She started with five. The next time it was ten. It became apparent after a while and because of limited space it would be better for the hens to have a short transition period between being collected from the farm and rehomed, reducing the amount of stress on the birds. She created a Facebook page: Battery Hen Rehoming Christchurch, and requests came flooding in to take on these ‘lucky’ chickens. People were excited to have the chance to do something positive for their welfare and provide them with the opportunity they deserve, to simply do what is natural to them: eat bugs, dust bathe, run, flap their wings and lay their eggs comfortably.

There was an occasion after the small rescues had begun when the passion for the birds exploded and blew up in to further determination to help when a Dunedin farm closed. To rescue every bird was unfortunately improbable, yet she managed to work with the organisation HUHA (Helping You Help Animals) as a team and save three hundred birds. New Zealand’s biggest ‘No-kill’ shelter (HUHA) hired a truck and drove from Wellington all the way down to Dunedin. Three hundred hens were rehomed from the vast, continuing-to-grow-list Erin keeps from people contacting her, either through her Facebook page or from word of mouth. “People share the Facebook page… people deciding whether they want to get chickens and if they can rescue some they are really keen, because these hens are still laying they are only 80 weeks old . The reason the farm culls them is because in their contracts they are not allowed them older than that because their egg shell gets a little bit brittle, so even though it’s fine to be collecting the eggs they can’t withstand the packaging and transport process as well. So it’s just a QC thing for them I think”.

While battery hen farming continues to be controversial and it persistently gains media interest and coverage, Erin hopes that one day more people will have backyard chickens to decrease the demand for battery farmed eggs and in turn reduce the magnitude of the industry. “It’s the welfare side of it, because you look at the Animal Welfare Laws and very basically it is that the animal has to be able to express their natural behaviours. They need food and shelter as well. I don’t understand why battery farms and free range farms are allowed to do this sort of thing when the chicken’s obviously, cannot express their normal behaviours. They can’t even stand upright, they can’t scratch… they can’t flap. And the fact that they have to trim their beaks to stop them attacking each other shows that they’re in a situation where they’re not happy. So I don’t see how the cruelty on a massive scale can be okay when you know if I kept my dog in a way that restricted behaviours the SPCA would be on me and she’d be removed”.

Erin brought some ‘free-range’ hens home yesterday and by the end of the day they will have all gone to new homes. They are in good condition in comparison to cage hens that have pale faces, combs and wattles as well as typical baldness. Nevertheless free-range chickens still live in cramped conditions with 10 hens per square metre. There’s a pecking order with hens and when it comes to getting food it’s the weaker less dominant hens that would suffer most in a free-range environment. As soon as Erin receives the go ahead phone call from the farm she gets her list out and starts contacting everyone to arrange a unified collection for the following day. She only collects the amount of hens from the farm she can rehome. “The odd person changes their mind and gets them elsewhere. We don’t guarantee eggs. Eggs are a great bonus but if you have five chickens I can’t say you will get five eggs every day and when they first get them they won’t lay for a week or two because of the stress of moving”.

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I asked Erin: What does she think her children have learned from the experience of living with a mum who rescues hens? “I think Sophie is learning the value of her food. She knows out of the five Bantam hens we have, we might get one egg a day, there not consistent layers, so for her that’s so treasured and she’ll guess the weight. She’s definitely learning the value of what you’re consuming and it’s actually good to value your food more, then the expensive stuff you tend to eat less… so if you’re buying true free-range eggs they’re a bit more expensive, you’re going to be thinking a bit more about how your consuming them”.

 

Written by Vicky Clements

Copyright © 2014 Vicky Clements

All photographs taken by Vicky Clements. Copyright © 2014 Creative 1975