orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

To book an informative and fun wine tasting whilst holidaying in Italy or arrange for a wild food walk in your area contact me on tuscanytipple at libero dot it or check out my Facebook page

Total Pageviews

Thursday, 10 April 2008

of bees and hens

Ever since James and Alison have arrived in Italy on Sunday, the weather has been absolutely atrocious! Rain almost non-stop, wind and cold, so we haven’t really been out doing any more work, just sitting indoors waiting for spring to finally get kick started. I used the time to read up on a couple of things for projects for later on this year. The above two books have just arrived in the post and I thought I do a little book review on these for anyone else who may be interested in taking up these activities.

Henkeeping and Beekeeping (sub-titled Inspiration and practical advice for would-be smallholders) are two books out of a series published by the National Trust and Country Living Magazine. The other two books in this series are Home-Grown Fruit and Home-Grown Vegetables. As I feel quite confident on the latter 2 subjects, but want to start keeping some livestock I started with the former two. Both are very much aimed at the beginner, who may only want to keep a few hens or a swarm or 2 of bees in their urban back garden, but the tips apply to actual smallholders like ourselves too. They say ‘you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover’, but I must say, I was immediately attracted to these little volumes. They are hardback, pocket-size books, that you could easily carry around with you in the garden. There is no glossy binding or fancy colour photos inside, instead they have tastefully done and clear colour and black and white drawings. Both are clearly written with a nice dash of humour and practical examples out of the authors’ own experience.

Henkeeping, by Jane Eastoe. The author herself apparently keeps only about 3 chickens in her back garden, but clearly has researched the subject. She gives advice on basic care, breeds of chickens with their individual charcteristics, hen houses and runs and problems you may be experiencing including diseases, pests and protection from predators. I liked the drawings of the different breeds and the detailed descriptions of them. It has also given me more of an idea of how to build a chicken house and run, especially their dimension per chicken. I would have liked some more detailed instructions, being not such an inventive carpenter myself. But with John Seymour’s instructions together with the information out of this book I should have probably enough to go on. It’ll be the next project for me.

If I wanted to criticize something it would be that this book as well as the one on beekeeping is very much geared for readers in the UK and their climate. The other thing that is lacking is that the author clearly only keeps hens for egg production and mentions nothing on how to kill and pluck a chicken, something I’m not particularly looking forward to, but would make sense. Why only keep chickens for eggs and then buy chicken to eat? Especially since eggs are relatively cheap, whilst meat seems to get more and more expensive.

Beekeeping by Andrew Davies. This volume gives advice on all aspects including the hive, equipment needed for both beekeeping and honey production, about the need and routine of regular inspections, how to manage bees, honey harvest and of course potential problems. The book does not claim to be a complete guide and the advice is very much to get some practical hands-on experience by watching and talking to an experienced beekeeper. It appears that beekeepers become some sort of anoraks and don’t talk about anything else much. Remind me of that if and when I start getting like this! Again this book is a little ‘UK-centric’, but it does have a good section of further references, including a couple of good web-sites. The one major omission in my view is wax extraction and use. Surely apart from honey bees also produce wax, which max lovely smelling candles. Given the advice of this book I shall go and see the vineyard, olive producer and apiary half way down our hill to see if I can have a look at what he does with his bees and where I can get equipment and bees locally.

Both books really wet my appetite to get stuck in and learn more and they will certainly be referred to often. So just waiting for the weather to turn sunny again…

No comments: