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Beauty of backyard farming


Antoinette Connell

Beauty of backyard farming

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I was in a full stare-down with a rooster. His head cocked to one side, he kept a steady gaze on me while standing his ground. I maintained mine as well.
We were at eye level. No, I wasn’t down to his level, he was up to mine.
His comb adorning his head like a crown, the rooster, in all his majesty, stood with one foot poised to step, his craw pushed high and his plumage glistening in the light. It was a picture perfect moment.
A better portrait of an animal I have never seen even though it is a stance that we see from time to time from yard fowls wandering around the place.
It was an impressive display until the owner shouted: “Get from there,” and, with a half-hearted attempt, flung a lash at the “fowl cock” that was perched on the table’s edge.  
With haste the rooster flapped his wings and took off, jumping from the table on to a chair and then to the ground. All his quiet dignity was gone in a flash as he let out a cluck and disappeared under the table. The hens that had been knocking around also fled.
I was at the home of a bailiff of old attempting to interview him for one of those personality pieces for the newspaper. The old man who captured my attention earlier guided me towards the kitchen/dining area. In between serving writs and doing other odd jobs in The City, he was more than willing to oblige me with an interview.
Clearly, his other love was fowls. His home was overrun by his feathered friends and futile was his effort to get them out of the house. It was futile because he refused to close the back door so the animals just kept making their way into the house. I suspected that he really was just putting on a show for me.
This man and his humble City home would be a grand example today for others to follow. The house was modest in its furnishings because the owner’s real emphasis was on subsistence farming. If I remember my history correctly, and for those of you who do not, it is a form of livelihood in which the crops and livestock are mainly for the use of the household.
The old man might have had a soft spot for fowl indeed; he also enjoyed the chickens as part of a main course. Those chickens roaming around were actually what we know as free-range chickens today. No preservatives, no steroids, just plain old foraging for food in the backyard and house. They provided eggs and meat.
The old man also had several fruit trees in the cluttered yard, preferring food to space. He explained how he drank mostly juices from whatever trees were in the backyard and these included lime, guava and golden apple.
With that he plunked down one of the biggest tumblers of juices I’d ever seen before me. I would have drunk it too if I didn’t have to compete with the fowls of the table for by now they were back. In the end they won the battle; too many beaks for me to contemplate drinking after them.
In this time of alarmingly high food prices the old man would have been well off, supplying a major part of his food needs.
I still believe that we eat a lot more than we need to and our efforts at kitchen garden are not done with a great deal of zest. That old man explained how he worked and managed to save because of the other things he did around his home.
It did not take much effort on his part since he used his spare time early on morning and late evenings.
This practice could go a long way in helping those who are part of the Government’s healthy lifestyle initiative.

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