Our first flock of chickens has given us a valuable education about the process of a chicken laying eggs. It took our chickens to reach between 21 and 25 weeks old before we began getting eggs from each of them.
The first few eggs were small and the shells had specks all over them, which I soon found out were flecks of dried up blood. Yuk. The first few eggs were small and lighter in color, a soft beige. We would pull an egg out of the nest from the bowels of the coop and look at it while thinking, "Um, I guess we could put about three of these together to make one regular sized egg." We had Pee-Wee sized eggs on our hands. Still, we ate them.
However, we didn't know that the chickens were going to lay eggs that would keep growing bigger and bigger. The color of the eggs also developed richness along with the increasing size so that we were enjoying an egg carton full of beautiful brown eggs.
This past weekend, Deputy Dave went to check the coop nests and he walked back in the house with a whopper. I thought my eyes did the cartoon thing of popping forward out of my head and then snapping back in place as I took a gander at that monster. Instantly, we both had a moment of feeling sympathy pains for the chicken who laid that massive baby!
I believe, for a chicken, this has to be considered a "jumbo" egg. We wonder if we will be getting more eggs of this super-sized variety. All I can say is that one of those chickens out there is the MacMama of laying chickens.
Having chickens has made me appreciate their value more than ever. I can't imagine what it was like for our ancestors who were forced to live off their land. An egg is a densely nutritious food and it is extremely versatile, so they had to be thrilled to find eggs in the coop on the farm. I am starting to see how farmers would need certain basics on their farm to ensure a healthy existence...a milk cow, crops growing in the field, a few pigs and chickens. It must have been nice to not have to run to Walmart for all those "necessities" such as Ziplock baggies, plastic wrap and sodas.
After eating a few FRESH eggs found in our backyard chicken coop, I immediately noticed the difference in taste (I'll never buy another grocery store egg again); I've found that eggs are more favorable as a food choice than ever before. And, I've always been an egg kind of gal. However, I can't imagine the delight and high-quality taste after being able to churn your own butter, to savor fresh milk from the cow and to have a bit of buttermilk in the fridge. Taking it further, I'd be giddy at learning how to make some home-made mozzarella...my mouth is watering.
It seemed that society is coming full circle. We started as farmers...working the land for survival. Then, with bartering and commerce in the market, we became less appreciative of farmers. Soon, the "cultured" segment of the public began to frown upon the life of a farmer as something distasteful. The high-rise resident began to believe that farmers were limited in lifestyle and experience. The irony cracks me up. More than ever, I understand that those who are further removed from farming knowledge are more dependent on others to sustain their life. It's that simple. To me, farmers are "survivors" in the purest form. Little do those high-rise mindsets understand...a farmer is a person who has the benefit of a broad, all-encompassing view of life; they fully understand the earth itself and they have above-average working comprehension of the seasons, of chemistry, geography and biology in action, of true profitable work and a deep understanding of what it means to reap what you sow.
I believe, all along, farmers had infinite wisdom and did not let the silly city boy know that he would always be a "boy" in the farmer's eye. The name-brand suits and money in the bank did not equate trust and admiration. These days, we are making the circle complete by returning to the days of holding great value and respectful admiration for farmers. These guys are producing our food; some are not so concerned about the quality as they are the quantity, so this means a wake-up call for the farming industry and for those concerned with producing healthy foods. The farmers who dedicate special attention to making sure their animals and crops are worthy of being table food are again suddenly a treasure. Even the non-biology person who despises laboratory lessons is realizing that preservatives, hormones and toxins are not far-fetched words...they are descriptions of what is going into and onto many of the foods they are munching and serving to their growing children and grand-children. So, it's a good thing that a segment of our farmers are again trying to embrace the practices of our ancestors.
These days, I am probably hyper-aware of these issues. Maybe I've simply grown wiser about halting my ignorance and neglectful attention toward farming practices that it's not so easy to close my eyes about certain "distasteful" commercialized food production practices. Increasingly, I feel uneasy about being so far removed from the life of a farmer. The generational gaps between our farming ancestors and ourselves is staggering.
Our home in the Greater Houston area is a non-farming piece of geography. Oh, people have their horses and Texas does have cattle on most every corner, but I wouldn't say these people were "farmers." However, our acreage in Livingston has quite a few farmers surrounding our land. These farming families are incredible. I look forward to getting to know our new neighbors and to buying local, fresh, and home-grown foods rather than taking my money to the grocery store. And yes, a Farmer's Market is a delight. My mother was a huge Farmer's Market proponent; us kids always escorted her to the market and she was a member of a veggie co-op for years. Her dedication toward bringing farm fresh foods into our home was an important task to her. I appreciate her dedication. But, the truth is, she knew the bottom line about the importance of avoiding foods produced on a commercialized level. She was a wise woman.
However, I must make a terrible admission --- to be honest, I'm don't always trust the Farmer's Markets in Houston because I've heard too many jokes about the vendor who ran down to the Big-Boy-Market to buy good looking tomatoes before heading to the Farmer's Market to sell the same in a marked up price. City people have to be aware and on their toes. A good idea is to get to know your vendors at the Farmer's Market so you'll have confidence about the origin of the food you are buying. Get to know your farmers! City life is created to put obstacles between the farmer and the buyer. City life is concerned with corporate business, not farming.
I partially submit; I do believe that there is a need for some to live a congested, crammed, densely-packed, crowded kind of life, I understand, but corporate America and its trappings are not always flattering. We can even see this in farming...the more corporate-minded a farming business becomes, the more out-of-touch it seems to become with quality because meeting their overhead requirements and producing less without using the best for increased profits seems to be a priority. So, this is another reason I'll be glad to put some distance between me and the metropolitan area. Yes, I still need corporate America in my life; I won't deny it, but I sure can live farther down the road from it.
I'm ready to step up to the plate. I'm eager to meet some farmers around Livingston, Texas. Over this next year, I'll be tackling this goal. I'll share my experiences with you as I make my introductions. Hopefully, my family will eventually small-farm most of our own table foods, but that will take a while. I can picture Deputy Dave cooking with his home-churned butter. I can taste the fruit with fresh whipped cream...he already whips up his own, never buying it from a store. He's a pro at such things. Until then, I will try to shake hands with local producers in Livingston and catch a glimpse of their enviable lifestyle.
I have evolved. Yes, give me a tractor over a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus ANYDAY!