Last week we went to a very pretty village on the Belvoir Estate to visit Richard, Gerald and Jo Botterill to make sure we’re all set for the C-word… Christmas. The Botterills grow our geese, turkeys and ducks for Christmas, as well as supplying us with their very special 100-day chickens throughout the year. Even though Christmas isn’t for another 5 months, this time of year is crucial for us to start getting prepared – there’s a lot of Christmas dinners resting on our shoulders.
After a fantastic lunch and a few brews, we went out to check the birds. First up were the geese, who we found sheltering from the sun under a big sweet chestnut tree in an undulating field in the heart of the village. These geese are not only beautiful (and noisy) but also quite the local spectacle; each morning they are walked from their houses (where they sleep) through the village to the fields where they spend the day, and then escorted back at sun down.
This 500 strong gaggle are only just over 6 weeks old, so have recently become large enough for it to be safe for them to come out into the fields to stretch their legs and wings, and peck about and eat grass. At this age they have built their frame but still need to develop that all important breast and thigh meat. Getting this frame right is crucial because this will mean plump birds at Christmas, so the Botterills make sure that the birds have all the correct vitamins and minerals in the early weeks to help them develop properly.
As you can guess from these pictures, they are completely naturally grown, extremely free range and completely free from growth promoters and additives.
Then it was on to the chickens…
These little fellas had recently arrived to the farm and so were safely tucked up warm inside with lots of feed. They’ll stay here for about 6 weeks and then go out to here…
These chickens are our 100-day old chickens which have been described by Chef Stevie Parle as “one of the most truly delicious things I have ever eaten.” It’s easy to see how the Botterills’ poultry tastes so great when you see the care and natural lifestyle they enjoy.
Finally, on to the festive favourite, the turkeys…
These young turkeys, (technical term: poults), are not quite old enough to go outside just yet. They have another couple of weeks inside and then the barns which house them will be opened up on one side, and the turkeys can wander out into the fields and roam about.
Before we knew it our time was up and so we said our goodbyes to our new feathered friends and to Gerald, Richard, Jo and Barney (the dog) and headed back to Yorkshire to get cracking on the rest of Christmas preparations. We’re already looking forward to those never-ending turkey sandwiches!