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The Good Life Bandwagon

Eggwina Cluckington

Eggwina Cluckington

Recently, I sent my partner on a course at Ballymaloe Cookery School, as a birthday gift. The course was called ‘How to Keep Chickens in your Garden’. Result? We now have three baby hens pottering around our back garden, soon to be producing lovely eggs for our family. Darina Allen has plenty of courses like this, like yoghurt and cheese making, or foraging for food. I think she’s fabulous.

I’m still cooking my way through her ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ but it’s changed my life already.

Urban farming is the new black, and I am firmly on that bandwagon. I was uneasy about misleading egg titles, eg, free-range really meaning cooped up but with a small door somewhere at the corner of the overcrowded barn where they probably live. Organic possibly meaning…well did you read this? I’ve decided it’s best to gather my own, from my own happy hens. No eggs so far, but when they lay, you’ll be the first to know. With one of the eggs brought back from Ballymaloe, I softy-hardy boiled it, mixed it with a good knob of butter, some sea salt, black pepper and a teensy bit of parsley – and my God it was good.

Next up, I’m learning how to make sourdough bread, and my own butter. I’ve already been out in the garden sewing some seeds. My partner planted a raspberry bush. A few months back, when we two were really broke, we could have really done with our own garden of vegetables and eggs. Next year, we’ll have them.

Tales of urban or windowsill farming would be much appreciated please!


  1. We have four hens in the backgarden and we love them. When we first got them we organised a pool (2euro each) with kids and grannies and friends, anticipating the very first egg. They are easy to keep and you get quite attached, ours were pretty destructive on the garden plants but are now confined a bit more to the back of the garden. The eggs are fantastic and we bring them as gifts whenever we go to friends. The neighbours mind them for us when we are away -they love the eggs too. Have to take a bit of slagging about being urban farmers but who cares!

  2. We have two cats, they dont lay eggs but they do sometimes bring home chip wrappers. 😀

  3. Lovely uplifting stories thank you!

  4. Question: is anyone out there baking their own sourdough bread? If you are, I’m already impressed and I want to hear more about it.

  5. If you want to stay sane, avoid the Daily Mail at all costs! Scaremongering at its finest. I’m surprised I didn’t get cancer just clicking on that link.
    I’d love to have some hens. I have an allotment, as a first step to being a bit more self-sufficient. It’s bloody hard work though!

  6. Sarah – God you are SO right. It is an evil newspaper, it really is. I keep scaring myself senseless reading it (I am already convinced I am a cancer-ridden infertile over-the-hill alcoholic ugly fugly aged-before-her-time cellulity no-hoper, all as a result of the various Daily Mail articles I have ingested. Sick.)

  7. “I think she’s fabulous.” I don’t. Any person who stands by their partner (her husband Tim Allen in this case) after being convicted in a public court of law of possessing 977 pornographic images of children as young as 5 needs their head examined, I don’t care how good their food or cookery school is. Some people have very short memories in this country.

  8. Declan, no-one should be blamed for someone else’s wrongdoing. I certainly do not have a short memory, and a food website is certainly not the place to discuss such an atrocious act anyway. If you need to vent, do it somewhere else – Jacqueline

  9. I want chickens soooo much!!! Enjoy! 🙂

  10. My parents have had hens (bantam and brown) for years in their suburban back garden, eggs are great, I’ve young kids and they just love going to my parents between the hens, the pheasants, the chicks!! it’s great entertainment. I won’t run out and get them mind you right now…maybe one day…

  11. A little off topic but has anyone ever tried the buttered eggs from the english market in Cork? I have seen them for sale but haven’t tried them as Im not entirely sure what they even are.

  12. Buttered eggs are utterly fresh eggs lifted from the coop, then rolled in melted butter. This keeps them fresher for longer, refrigerated or not – also, the buttery flavour seeps through the eggshell, infusing the egg with more flavour.

  13. Ooooooh, sounds great.

  14. Error, should read I WASN’T specifically referring to you, as opposed to I WAS…… sorry ’bout that.

  15. The morals of Darina Allen were never up for discussion! Seriously Declan, don’t tar her with the same brush. You don’t know her personally, and you don’t know what her situation is. Peace!

  16. I’m all for peace Jacqueline, really. It’s not Ms.Allen’s morals that I’d like to discuss at all, she has to live wth herself if she choses to stand by her husband who looked at pornographic pictures of children as young as five years of age, had she not stood by him, shoulder to shoulder, and publically supported him I would absolutely consider purchasing her products and perhaps even attend one of her courses, but the fact is because she did just that I could not even consider purchasing Ballymaloe products or derivatives of same (Cully and Sully for example). Had she done the right thing and condemned him and his actions, she’d still have another customer ! We all need to get real in this country.

  17. Jeez Declan, Darina Allen’s husband might have a conviction but she has done nothing wrong. Who she chooses to be married to is her own business. For all you know he sleeps in a shed.

  18. I’ve always wanted to make sourdough bread but have never done it, would love to know how you get on!

  19. I think most reasonable, non-Daily-Mail-reading people know that it is the person that commits a crime that should be punished, not their family. And I think we all know as well that sometimes certain types of Daily-Mail-reading people like to come to websites and make random comments to rile up the liberals.

    This may be a food site, but let’s not feed the trolls. 😀

  20. oh I got hens recently too and a just watching them pecking at snails in the ivy in my garden. so much fun to watch and the eggs are great.
    Ive also regularly make sourdough, it can be quite cantankerous but is very good (enough to make me get up in the middle of the night to knead it!). I use a ballymaloe recipe which I got while down there – it may be in the new book.

  21. I had to delete two comments here because they had the facts wrong on the specific offense that a certain individual was convicted of. Incorrect statements like that are potentially libellous and would leave us open to being sued – on legal advice I had to remove the comment.

    Commenters: please exercise caution when commenting about named individuals, check that you have your facts correct or you will be blocked and no longer allowed to comment here.

  22. Back on topic!! Sourdough bread – Dan Lepard’s recipe is the best ever. His book ‘the handmade loaf’ is absolutely wonderful. Sourdough bread is no longer a dense heavy brick-like substance – it’s light and tangy and tasty!

  23. Thanks michelle! I will definitely try that

  24. Declan, I had to delete yet another of your inaccurate comments despite leaving a clear warning, so you are now blocked. I would advise you to take the time that you are currently wasting here to look up the dictionary definition of the word that you keep attaching to this person’s name.