My name’s Rachel. I grow vegetables and love chickens.
I’ll always remember my very first pea straight from the pod.
Perhaps that was how this all started. That, or as a reaction to my mother’s constant pleas not to get muddy as a child (sorry mum). But looking back, it was no surprise that as an adult I was bound to spend every weekend kicking around in wellies with muddy fingernails.
In truth I don’t think I even really liked peas as a kid. But that pea, in my grandparents’ garden, was the sweetest pea I had ever tasted. And as a result, I always knew I wanted to grow my own food when I grew up. That pea, well it had me hooked.
My love for chickens added further fuel to the good life fire. When I was roughly 10, our school took us on a trip to a farm and I saw battery hens. I don’t think I was meant to. But that image stays with me even now, and I always wanted to rescue some hens when I could.
Two years ago my partner-in-crime and I moved to a village and got our very own allotment. Neglected and unloved, it was the perfect combination of brambles, weeds and stubborn couch grass. Come rain or shine, we dug that patch and cleared it by hand – impatiently trying to grow things and constantly being surprised when it worked.
Not content with just one project, our house and garden needed some serious TLC. (Alright, I’ll be honest, the house still does). But the garden, well that was just good fun. So we cleared some space for the pitter patter of tiny chicken feet to join our family, and rescued some caged hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust.
I never expected to love those featherless beings quite so much as I do, but very quickly I was smitten. And in falling for them, three tatty little chickens made me question where our food comes from. It’s a journey of discovery I’m still on.
My aims are simple. Grow, organically, as much food as I can. Eat seasonal. Renew and recycle. Given that the allotment is one minute away, reduce my carbon footprint. Give the chickens freedom to flourish. Let them bathe in the dirt, hunt for worms and if they produce eggs, appreciate and value their hard work. Keep learning, keep smiling – because gardening is the ultimate therapy.
At times it can be tough. Snails have eaten my cabbages. My vet knows me as the crazy chicken lady. But it’s absolutely worth it. And that’s why I’ve decided to write this, because the good life ain’t easy.