What strange weather we are experiencing in the second week of the New Year! (The first week was spent with the stomach flu…something we are glad to forget and does not merit any further details here!)
I could describe this crazy weather pattern in a paragraph but I think the phrase ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ gets to the point rather quickly with the illustration of the graph below. If you have an aversion to reading graphs, the synopsis is this: we had a 67 degree temperature swing in a 5 day period…from a low of 5 degrees last Saturday to a high of 72 degrees the following Wednesday. And now, low and behold, we are the midst of an ice storm which has brought much of our area to a standstill. Everything is coated with ice and the weight of it all has the potential to be destructive on several fronts.
We are tolerating this with an eye to our fruit trees and other plantings that are unduly burdened by the extra weight of ice but we have some real concerns as to how the blueberry/strawberry netting enclosure will fare under this frozen weight. The deflection or sag of the netting is evident here. Arg! We have fingers crossed that the nylon netting will be resilient in the end. So, perhaps it is time for some chicken news!?! Our dear flock of hens has provided us with a steady flow of eggs (as many as 14 a day so far – not bad for their first winter) which we have shared with friends and family…as well as finding a long list of daily uses in our kitchen. The range of color has been enhanced by the recent activities of Myrtle, one of the Easter Egger chickens whose eggs range from green to blue.
I love the phrase attributed to Mark Twain, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Well…my version of that is “To a chicken farmer, every recipe includes at least one egg”…or two or three or four!
Toad in the Hole…on the griddle and plated…
French toast with Canadian Bacon…Spinach salad with bacon, mushrooms and hard boiled eggs…Beef tenderloin hash with egg on top…Chili Huevos Rancheros…. And perhaps the most fun of all so far…a luncheon yesterday of Croque Madame…a type of French sandwich which we gladly shared with the Wards.
I started with a lovely loaf of rustic sour dough bread (not an easy find in the middle of an ice storm!) Then I coated the undersides of each slice of bread with a healthy spread of Béchamel sauce (essentially a basic white sauce with cayenne pepper). I placed the bottoms on my buttery griddle, added Gruyere cheese and a nice slice of prosciutto. The top slice of bread was added and these cooked on both sides. I added some more cheese on top to melt under the broiler while I started a pan full of easy over eggs. Voilà, Croque Madames for four!A few stats to report: Since the first egg was laid on December 3rd, they have produced 303 precious eggs to date. We gave many as holiday gifts and have been doing our best to continue to share with friends and family but I am now scheming just how to market these to those interested in buying them. More on that next time!
In the meantime, here is what we are reading: Dave is enjoying this book on composting that lists chicken manure as one of the most valuable assets a chicken can provide to the farm. “Chicken, goat and sheep manures are at the high end in nutrient content, cows and pigs at the low end, and horses and cattle (on feed) in the middle.” As I walk the daily container of poop from the coop to spread out onto the fallow fields, I am reminded of another quote that indicates that the farthest fields receive the least manure due to their distance from the source. What an incentive to walk a few more paces! And I am enjoying this book about a husband and wife (in this instance, the wife was the one dragging her feet) who started an unusual egg farm and made it into a going concern. I can agree with the reviewer, the story is both funny and informative. Speaking of chicken facts, in the past year I have read extensively about raising chickens and dealing with their wonderful eggs but I must admit that I had an embarrassing moment recently when I shared a dozen eggs with the Burroughs chemistry teacher, Eric Knispel, who so kindly adopted our roosters. Here is the package Kate delivered with a little chicken humor on the label! He ever so gently reminded me that eggs always need to be stored pointy end down. Drat, I knew that but in my excitement in putting his eggs into their package, I nestled them willy nilly in the carton! Even though I knew better, I was grateful to have this detailed explanation for why this is the best practice. Aren’t chickens…and Mother Nature…fascinating?!? Thank you, Eric!
As dinner time nears, it is time to figure out the next use for our eggs. I hear that Kate is making a Frittata and I am making pasta Carbonara. Little Coulter seems to go along with just about anything we cook. Here he is, exploring the winter wonderland!