Clearly, I will do just about anything for a supply of fresh eggs. The question remains will I do it on an ongoing basis?
Today is day 7…or is it 8? of my farm stay. The days have a familiar, and not unpleasant, sameness to them. Feed the chickens – feed HRH Poodle – feed self. Let chickens out of their coop, collect eggs and stare at goats. Poodle is my constant companion but leery of the goats so she supervises from outside the barnyard. Dusk – under threat of chicken predators – secure the coop after the birds have all filed back inside. Feed goats – feed dog – feed self.
Set the above scenario against a beautiful island backdrop, utter and complete silence (except for the chickens and the goats), and constantly changing – tho generally wet – weather. You can begin to understand my slippery grasp of time.
The hours between animal chores have been spent HERE. Working at my desk, starring out at the sky in all it’s changing shades of gray and trying to imagine chickens at home in the city. It’s “imminently doable” – as a friend once declared about a truly impossible task. I’ve browsed books on coop design, consulted urban chicken owners, even looked at city codes: no more than 3 birds, no roosters. Easy-peasy, right?
I want to want chickens…but I’m afraid I really just want the eggs. Really fresh eggs are transformational. This is NOT hyperbole – me? Exaggerate? People go on rhapsodically about backyard tomatoes, or fresh corn. I would maintain the same could be said for homegrown lettuce, berries and kale. But I was unprepared for the astonishing difference in flavor, color and bearing of a truly fresh egg. It’s hard to go back to supermarket eggs.
You see, I make killer scrambled eggs – just ask anyone in my household – that most simple, comforting and soothing of meals. The secret is to add water instead of milk as you’re whisking the eggs together. Scrambled eggs are slow food. Rush them and you’ll end up with stringy, watery shards. Hardly the food of comfort. I believe it has something to do with higher heat and protein – Alton would know. Low and slow in a small saute pan with butter. Oh yeah, it has to be butter. Gently stir to form large curds and turn off the heat when the mixture is still runny. Residual heat will firm everything up to perfect, moist, succulent perfection. Food of the gods!
And then there’s poached; the humble egg’s highest calling as far as I’m concerned. Boil some garden kale with plenty of chilis, whip up some soupy polenta top with an egg and prepare to be moved to tears. Or top an utterly simple homemade cheese pizza with an egg or 3, bake in hot oven til the thin crust is done but the egg is still runny and you’ve got Pizza Carbonnara, one of our family’s favorites.
A backyard coop just seems like such a natural progression. I’m not looking for pets. I’ll admit, I haven’t really bonded with my flock of 12 out here on the island. Their icky, pecked-at behinds sort of sealed that deal on day 1. Beauty may not be skin-deep but if you’re a chicken you’d do best to hang on to your feathers! And then there’s the poop…lots of poop. Well, I guess lots of chickens=lots of poop. At any rate, I’m not yet sold on adding birds to my backyard. But I’m lovin’ the fresh eggs!
While we’re on the subject of flightless birds and sh*tty complications. My friends at Old Goat Farm, in addition to countless chickens, ducks and a few goats, raise peacocks. Gorgeous birds. Loud , nearly senseless birds. Really, really loud birds. I could never “do” peacocks; what a racket they make with their screeching and anguished cries. Like a pretty woman with a fingernails-on-chalkboard voice. You don’t even eat their eggs – well I suppose you could, but… The “old goats” let the pea-hens hatch their eggs but I’ve been told they’re not very good mothers. Often the pea-chicks will imprint on one of the other birds. I’ve seen a mother duck strut her stuff followed by “babies” nearly twice her size. Peacocks aren’t the smartest critter in the barnyard if you catch my drift.
Beautiful? With out a doubt. Their size alone is impressive. A few summers ago I was out at Old Goat Farm for an all day board meeting followed by a delicious but chilly potluck dinner out in the beautiful garden. Around dusk – it was close to the solstice so it must have been nearly 9:30pm – I got to witness the 3 resident peacocks fly up into the towering Douglas fir trees that surround the pasture. It was breath taking to see these magnificent, HUGE birds take flight. I had no idea peacocks could fly! The birds roost in the treetops to keep them safe from predators who might make a banquet from a kill. If I lived on a farm with peacocks…which will never, EVER, happen, I would never tire of watching their dramatic assent every night.
My point? If enormous, “flight-less” peacocks, with their tiny little brains, know to take to the treetops maybe I can master my new web software. My photos are still “grounded” and my pages are rough…very, very rough. Let’s just say the “barnyard” is due for a good mucking out and leave it at that. To my readers, thank you for persisting with me through this transition. I promise I’ll divulge my egg secrets…as soon as I figure out my recipe page.