For almost the first time ever our chooks have continued to lay eggs throughout the winter months. It’s not quite the first time, because when still living at our previous property there was a year when I followed the instructions given to me by a friend, who assured me hens would continue laying eggs in the winter months if their diet included some seriously hot and spicy ‘porridge’ two or three times a week. I was sceptical, but it did actually work – although it was a bit time-consuming to make. The girls kept right on laying, although not every day. Some element in the ‘hot and spicy’ apparently triggers the desire to lay an egg, but cooking up food scraps with oats, bran, bread crusts etc, and then adding generous pinches of cayenne, chilli, black pepper and curry powder into the mix did rather stink out the kitchen. It worked though!
However spiced porridge isn’t the reason the girls have kept laying this year. I’m not actually sure of the reason they’ve done so, but my theory is it’s due to either rivalry, or peer pressure following the addition to our small flock with a ring-in.
Earlier this year, as our neighbours prepared to put their house on the market, they rounded up their free-ranging hens in order to rehome them. Despite assuring his wife he’d corralled them all, it seems Rob couldn’t count. A renegade turned up a few days later. Although she’s a different breed, and larger than the bantams we have, we offered to take her if Rob was able to catch her, and hopefully she would be accepted by our girls.
Rob’s mission was accomplished, and fortunately ruffled feathers weren’t an issue, so Henny-Penny was soon happily pecking away with our chooks and doing what hens do best: laying eggs. But perhaps being of a breed that keeps on laying regardless of the season she kept on laying even as the weather cooled, and when most hens take a break for a month or three.
Which brings me to my rivalry theory. Our chooks were not going to be outdone by an uppity newcomer, so anything she did they were going to do also. Who knows if I’m right, but the egg supply has barely missed a beat all through winter, to the point where we’ve even had enough eggs sometimes to give the occasional six or eight away. What a bonus just for giving an unwanted hen a home!
Together with the entire population of Launceston I was amazed to wake up to a serious covering of snow blanketing our back garden last week. It was short-lived, lasting just 24 hours in most places, but it certainly provided some respite from the relentless and cheerless COVID-19 news that looks set to dominate the media for the foreseeable future.
Della dog was certainly nonplussed at seeing snow for the first time, and was very hesitant about negotiating it on our early morning walk.
Whether it’s print, TV, radio or digital, the media is filled with little else but stories that are in some way associated with the virus. The issue is of course dominating our lives. How can it not when so many people around the world are restricted now in how they are able to live. Here in Tassie there’s no doubt we’re existing in a bit of a bubble, protected from the worst health fears, mask-free – at least for now – and able to move about quite freely. Albeit slightly more physically distant than we were a few short months ago, and with considerably cleaner hands.
So for now our island state is in a safe state of isolation. Before COVID-19, this was considered a disadvantage, economically speaking. Perhaps more than any state or territory Tassie was regarded as a drain on the country’s coffers, the prodigal that always needed a hand up and a handout. It’s a view that has probably been revised, and not just because we appear to be virus-free, but also because our economy is chugging along better than it is in the mainland states. Certainly there are many people who’ve lost their jobs here as well, and/or are relying on JobKeeper and JobSeeker, but on balance our state economy is doing OK. Tasmanians do seem to have answered the call to support local businesses, and have enthusiastically embraced the idea of ‘holidaying at home’ grabbing the opportunity to visit our iconic tourist spots that are currently free of overseas and interstate visitors. My hope is that for some this will also spark an awakening to just how precious these places are, and a greater appreciation and understanding about why they must be protected from inappropriate commercial developments.
The unexpected snow played its part in Tasmania’s unique point of difference. It might have been a 24-hour wonder, and while not quite the clichéd once-in-a-hundred-year event – as it was ninety-nine years, almost to the day – the snow certainly helped to showcase Tasmania’s magical aspects, and perhaps gave more locals a clue about why the island is regarded by so many people as special. There are now calls to use this pandemic as an opportunity to reshape Tasmania’s future economic prosperity. It’s to be hoped those calls are heeded.