Farmer Dave Continues to Amaze!

Quick post here as Dave just brought in an amazing bit of harvesting on December 27th no less! This, after a very cold span of very frigid days that included temps as cold as 2 degrees and hovering around 5 degrees for several days. I can kind of understand the root vegetables since they are below ground, but you are seeing two types of delicate lettuces as well as spinach here? and he brought in some Swiss Chard earlier that I put to use before the photo!

It takes quite a bit of commitment and fortitude to go out and cover and uncover the protective plastic sheeting each day and to gauge whether to do that or not due to the weather predictions.  Bravo, Dave, you are my hero! Now I have to get to the kitchen to start cooking with these gems!IMG_1646.JPGSpeaking of gems, here is little Coulter, wearing the chicken sweater that I knitted which he received for Christmas from Nana. Adorable, if I must say so myself! img_1615img_1630

Laying an Egg…Idioms and Reality

Have you ever wondered about the phrase, ‘laid an egg’ which implies that one failed or screwed up somehow? Why is a goose egg considered to be a negative?  Where the heck did this come from? I’m trying not to be offended by this nomenclature since I’m so enamored with my egg laying chickens!

I do not want to seem defensive here since I still find each and every precious egg laid in our nest boxes (and elsewhere!) to be a small and personal gift from our hens, but I did want to find some answers to this question so of course I turned to the internet. I’ll spare you the links and just give you a quick quote I found that describes a couple of valid origins.

“Throughout my search, it seems that the majority of “goose egg” references is in the world of sports. Referencing a scoreboard and seeing the number zero that has a similar “look” as a round, elongated egg of a goose. Sample scoreboard references: “The home team got a big goose egg on the scoreboard,” or “At the end of the game there was nothing but goose eggs next to our name,” and even used as a verb sometimes “I played a tennis match and was goosegged, I lost 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.” Some believe that the term is an Americanization of the British term “duck’s egg” and that even that originated through sports – in 1870, in a game of cricket, a “duck’s egg” denoted a score of zero; and around the same time in baseball, the “goose egg” reference came alive. In tennis, a score of zero is known as “Love” in the USA, which “sounds” like the original French term for the score “l’ouef” which means… you guessed it – an egg!”

So, please disregard the negative aspect when I continue to describe our current egg status which I find to be pure success! We are thrilled that after 3 weeks of the initial hen laying we have recorded a total of 90 eggs with our highest single day of 9 eggs and our highest weight of 54 grams. Yeah, progress!

But I’ve been on the lookout for something called a ‘strange egg’ and we were on the receiving end of that for the first time this morning – perhaps a little Christmas present?

So I ventured out to the coop at first light and found what I can only describe as a strange egg! ‘Strange eggs’ are recognized as those that are laid by very young hens before their reproductive systems have been fully developed. Sometimes they are ‘bumpy’ looking due to a partial shell, but they can also be shell-less and encased in their membrane alone. This is what I found today sitting on the drop board of the coop. It looks pretty normal, right? IMG_1603.JPG

Well, it is a good thing I was not surprised when I picked it up and my citizen scientist persona got right to work on this!  A photo doesn’t tell the tale but hopefully a video does.

Given the research on this type of ‘egg’ I was curious to cut into it and see if there was a yolk inside. Here is the answer!

Yes, there was a yolk inside but the entire egg package was on the small side, also indicative of a hen that is newly laying.

We took great joy this Holiday Season in dropping off wee packages of eggs in small containers to our friends and neighbors. But this brings up another question: do we wash the eggs we are gifting to people? FYI, anyone who received eggs from the farm: Yes, we washed the eggs and they need to be refrigerated just like eggs you would buy from the grocery. But here is what some of the eggs look like before we washed…just a couple are less perfect looking.  IMG_1590.JPG

We are learning more and more about the egg industry and want our facts to be correct when it comes to egg freshness as well as egg safety.  Do you ever wonder why you see racks of eggs sitting on the kitchen countertops in foreign films? or the same in outdoor European farmers’ markets? There is a very interesting difference in how these commercial eggs are handled.  This  is a really good article that details much of the issue at hand.

So again, all eggs ‘gifted’ from the farm have been washed according to the USDA standards but I’m seriously interested in the issues presented by the author of this article and want to keep safety first and freshness next in all that we do here at the farm.

Our holiday celebration with little Coulter was very fun. He played the piano…img_1572

Greeted Gramps at the front door…img_1601And helped decorate the Wise Old Owl tree in memory of my dad (‘hoot’ owls were the centerpieces of his 90th birthday celebration)…img_1512He gladly helped with all the present unwrapping this morning but interpreted each and every bundle to be a TRUCK!

Hoping for Peace in the New Year!



Let Them Eat Eggs!

I must be quite simple minded since the thrill of picking a warm egg out of the nest box has not dimmed in the least for me in the past two weeks since we gathered the first egg here at the farm. The hens are starting to be more productive since more of them are laying and I can see that they are a nearly constant presence in the nest boxes early in the day. The size of the eggs is also growing as the first ones are typically smaller.  IMG_1536.JPG I have faithfully recorded all the egg laying events since things got going in my Farm Preservation notebook as pictured below. This is a simple, lined composition book that I previously decorated with paper, ribbon and my labels to record all the farm canning and freezing.

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Once egg production began, I decided to record the egg laying info using pages starting from the back of the book. I record each egg by identifying the date, which breed laid it (I can usually determine), which nest box it was laid in and the weight in grams since it is much more precise than ounces. Once the egg laying is rampant, I’m sure I will simplify this routine to sheer numbers but in the meantime, it has been fun to keep track of the comings and goings in the coop.

Of course the ‘fowl’ (ha!) weather caught up with me finally and I had to move the Chicken Fountain indoors where it has a better chance of not freezing. Our dear contractor, Mark, came over to help facilitate this move since it is really hard to put heat tape on a garden hose which was the extension of the water source between the indoor and outdoor coop. I can’t believe that after only a couple of days of using an interim water source, I had to retrain the hens to the fountain! Now relocated underneath their drop board and all is copacetic in the coop.  IMG_1553.jpg

So, you might ask, what are we doing with all the eggs? So far we have gathered 40 eggs and have begun to distribute some to friends and neighbors as Holiday gifts. I found these adorable containers on line and paid dearly to have them shipped from afar but they are too cute for words when I add my labels to them. IMG_1527.JPGI can’t vouch for what the recipients are doing with them, but daughter Kate has been inventive and so have we. Here is Coulter enjoying a nice lunch of scrambled eggs with blueberries from the farm. IMG_1466.jpgThe Wards – as displaced Californians – made Huevos Rancheros one night recently and sent this photo to make us drool. Jason calls this a sinus clearing dinner!IMG_4696.JPGWe went back to our college roots and revisited the Ponte Vecchio pizza that I learned to make while working as a pizza chef (chef is a real stretch here) in a small, local restaurant. It is quite possible that you have never experienced the wonders of eating fresh eggs in your pizza pie so let me just give you some details about how it can be done!

You don’t have to make your own dough as I always do but why wouldn’t you since it is simple pimple?  Dough is not the focus here so I will go on to the pie toppings and will promise to figure out how to better utilize WordPress and add a recipe section to the blog to showcase specific ingredients.

I also make my own sauce from our own tomatoes but please don’t let this stop you either. I put my jarred tomato sauce into a pot and reduce it to a nice thick paste but it spatters so I screen it off and stir often. Here it is, rather messy but worth the effort! IMG_1507.JPGOnce the sauce is reduced to a deeply rich red, it is spread evenly on the dough that is patiently waiting. (Eggs are tauntingly watching the progress and waiting their turn!)IMG_1513.JPGThen the eggs are BEATEN, (ever so gently, I promise) and ladled evenly on top of the sauce.

In the meantime, the mushrooms are sauteing with some scallions from the field – a bit of a change from the original recipe which used a topping of raw mushrooms and no onions. IMG_1506.JPGCanadian bacon is the key though and it is chopped up and added next to the delight of all. img_1521Yumbo, yumbo! This pizza, reprised 35 or so years after cooking it at the Hide Out and Hungry U (neither restaurant in existence today) in Amherst, Massachusetts, is the new family favorite! Farm fresh eggs take center stage as one of the key ingredients to the pizza! IMG_1523.JPGWouldn’t you know, Dave brought in many of the green tomatoes before the first frost and has been diligently ripening them using paper bags and apples to create a gas called Ethylene for ripening purposes. These taste pretty good on our daily sandwiches! Hard to argue with a farm tomato this time of year!

Never an idle moment here, I continue to endeavor to supply The Artery with gift items from the farm kitchen. The owner, Kim, tells me of people who buy my sweet pickles and open them in their cars in the parking lot and start eagerly munching away! IMG_1501.JPG

I have been keen on making a Christmas deadline for a Bohus designed sweater Stora Svanen or Large Swan that my brother commissioned for his wife, Ann. I sent it off today and dearly hope it fits and that she likes it and wears in good health! IMG_1548.JPGMy brother was quite enchanted with the history of the Bohus tradition so when I mentioned to him that I was pursuing an out of print book on the subject, he managed to track one down and have it delivered to my door. I can’t stand my excitement for this! Even tho it is written in Swedish, I’m able to determine bits and pieces here and there as well as enjoy the rare photos. I’m now considering learning the Swedish in my spare time!  IMG_1494.JPGMy brother is not the only one to send a surprise book my way. A knitting friend, Laura from NC, sent this book which I received today. It is full of fabulous recipes that will fit the bill here at the farm and I can’t wait to further explore the colorful pages! Thank you, Laura! IMG_1555.jpg

Looking forward to the holiday joys with little Coulter who is not quite sure what is going on but glad to be a part of whatever it is! IMG_4446.jpegIf I don’t have a chance to write again before the end of the year, Happy Holidays to all!

Cause for Some Egg-citement…a Sitting Ova-tion!

Joy, joy, joy! Our first Seven Oaks Farm egg appeared yesterday morning and it was unbelievably exciting for both of us.

The day started much like others where I made a visit to the coop at first light to open up, feed and do a little clean up. I noticed a bit of a different atmosphere in the coop yesterday morning. For one thing it seemed as if one hen, a Rhode Island Red with the largest comb and waddle, was really agitated and unusually vocal in a way that I had not heard before. She had a certain elongated squawk to her voice that I didn’t read as panic or fear but just something different. Dave was with me when I cautioned aloud that I had a feeling there was something providential about to happen. After clean up was over, I picked up this particular hen to comfort her and she buried her head in the crook of my arm (perhaps for warmth since it was quite chilly) and stayed there for some time before several others tried to take her place. In response, I broke one of my current ‘rules’ and put a corn cob out for an early treat whereas I usually prefer that they eat their regular food in the morning before getting treats.

Off we went with the Wards to the local Christmas tree lot to search for the perfect tree for all and to get a photo op with our dear little Coulter. IMG_4548.JPGIt didn’t take long for him to decide he was ready to go home!fullsizerender-1After sorting out the trees to each location, we headed back to the farm and immediately went out to check on the chicks.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature egg and six or so white tailed darned deer???? (more later on the deer in coming posts!) IMG_1433.jpgThere it was, a precious, little egg, (foreground) sitting pretty as can be in one of the nest boxes! The egg you see at the rear is the ceramic egg meant to encourage the hens to lay in the nest box. Such excitement…at nearly 23 weeks, an egg at last!  IMG_1431.JPGThis one weighed 38 grams which is small but also typical of the first eggs a bird will lay.

How fun was this! Perhaps I had a little help on the way this week and must give credit to all my sources.

Last Tuesday on my morning walk I spotted two gorgeous, plump pumpkins on the Ward’s street that had been put on the curb for the trash men to take away. Bonus! Although I was tempted to put one under each arm and carry them home to feed the chicks, I texted Jason and asked if he would mind snagging them on his way to the farm that morning. He stopped, did a ‘grab and go’ and provided me with these two lovely specimens for the chicks. IMG_1333.JPGChickens love pumpkins and will eat the flesh and seeds voraciously so what better than for me to serve them some discarded pumpkins! I cut one of these up post haste…IMG_1334.JPGAnd served them up to a delighted group of hens…thanks to Jason!IMG_1340.JPGSo today I continued on the egg watch to see if there would be any additional egg laying. There was less of a panic atmosphere in the coop this morning but I could ‘spy’ on the chicks through a small gap in the wall between my workshop and the nest boxes. The same Rhode Island Red was nesting  or ‘using’ the nest box and low and behold…a second egg was laid this morning. Here are both eggs in the egg basket I have from the Luehrman farm. IMG_1449.JPGUpon visiting the coop this afternoon, the chicks seem to need some comfort and that same RI Red hen hopped up to get some cuddling and was also soon joined by a friend.IMG_1446.jpgWe look forward to many more eggs in the future as well as fun from Coulter! img_1387