THE FIN­ISHED TUN­NEL­HOUSE

NZ Lifestyle Block - - The Good Life -

The end-frames and doors have yet to be fin­ished – they’ll be made from ‘poly­weave’, a wo­ven, re­in­forced plas­tic which takes fas­ten­ings eas­ily – but Anna is in there al­ready, work­ing on her gar­den. The lemon trees never left, and the space has a new lease of life. It’s a def­i­nite aes­thetic im­prove­ment too.

Is it more sus­tain­able than metal and glass? That de­pends how and what you count. Plas­tic film is mostly made from nat­u­ral gas, so is ul­ti­mately un­sus­tain­able. You’d make an aw­ful lot of it though, if that was the only use we made of the gas. There is also the ques­tion of ad­e­quate dis­posal or re­cy­cling, a de­bate in it­self. Glass takes a lot of en­ergy to man­u­fac­ture and to re­cy­cle, but you can re­cy­cle it in­def­i­nitely.

Steel ver­sus tim­ber? Tim­ber wins, hands-down: less en­ergy in the pro­duc­tion, less of a fi­nite re­source, more lo­cally-sup­plied.

Does it mat­ter? Prob­a­bly not. We con­sume so much point­less garbage any­way, whereas this is a food-re­lated and there­fore use­ful use. One of the bevy of helpers on ‘plas­tic day’ re­ported that her plas­tic 1980s-bought tun­nel­house cov­er­ing had lasted 20 years. If this struc­ture con­tin­ues to nur­ture good or­ganic food for that long – and it’s hard to see why it won’t – then it’ll have paid its way in spades.

Be­sides which, it’s just beau­ti­ful, isn’t it?

They range over a much more vast area than your av­er­age chicken, so they’ll hap­pily pa­trol the gar­den, the or­chard and your pas­ture, and prob­a­bly your neigh­bour’s pas­ture too. The only caveat is never en­cour­age them into your vege gar­den as while they’re not as vig­or­ous in their scratch­ing as a hen, they will dam­age plants, and you’ll need to keep them out of the or­chard dur­ing fruit pro­duc­tion time (or pick up your fruit very quickly).

How­ever, th­ese pro­tein-hun­gry birds prob­a­bly won’t find ev­ery­thing they need to main­tain peak con­di­tion all year round, so they will need some feed avail­able – see page 61 for more in­for­ma­tion. If you can per­suade a fe­male guinea to use nest­ing boxes or at least ar­eas near to the hen house, you’ll get an egg a day dur­ing the lay­ing sea­son (spring-sum­mer). It’s eas­ier to ei­ther hatch your own eggs or buy keets when they are very young so you can con­tain them and im­print a ‘home’ area on them, al­though there’s no guar­an­tee that this will mean they lay where you want them to lay.

Oth­er­wise you may need to watch care­fully for nest­ing ar­eas – fe­males of­ten share nests so egg num­bers can quickly build up – and get to them daily.

The cream-brown, some­times speck­led eggs are very thick-shelled com­pared to a chicken, and they’re smaller; when you’re cook­ing, you’d use three guinea fowl eggs in place of two chicken eggs.

When it comes to eat­ing the bird, think of them as a plump chicken, with a bit more flavour, slightly gamier – closer to pheas­ant – which makes them a pop­u­lar del­i­cacy meat in the US and Europe.

The av­er­age, full-grown adult guinea fowl weighs 1.4kg, but be­cause of its lighter bones, it’s ac­tu­ally more meaty than it looks, dress­ing out at around 75% of its liveweight (vs 70% for a chicken). Once pro­cessed – the same as for chicken – it will pro­vide enough to feed two peo­ple. Its tasty dark meat is lean, low in choles­terol and rich in es­sen­tial fatty acids.

Ideally, you want to go for a younger bird (around 12 weeks, weigh­ing 800g-1kg), and if you’re grow­ing some for meat then con­sider con­tain­ing them and feed them a pro­tein-rich poul­try pel­let so it’s eas­ier to catch and process them.

You can use al­most any chicken recipe with guinea fowl. The older the bird is, the more you risk the lean meat dry­ing out dur­ing cook­ing. Roast­ing or casse­role are the best op­tions; if you go for a roast, it will need reg­u­lar bast­ing or you can cover it with ba­con to main­tain mois­ture.

The frus­trat­ing thing about own­ing guinea fowl is their in­de­pen­dent and very cau­tious na­ture com­pared to the pretty friendly na­ture of the chicken, but that’s also what helps make them very low main­te­nance birds by com­par­i­son. They do well in most cli­mates (ex­cept snow), don’t tend to get sick, and rarely need worm­ing, un­less you are keep­ing them con­tained in a small area over their life­time (not rec­om­mended un­less short term in the case of birds for meat).

Guinea fowl live in fam­ily groups and pair up for life, so you have the de­light of watch­ing a grow­ing fam­ily (or not, see page 62 on breed­ing and rais­ing guinea fowl).

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