Saturday, July 30, 2011

#64 - Organic Certification - Paperwork Stage

For the past couple of years, we've looked into getting our land organic certified. Since it is raw land and there has not been any interference with it (since 2005) other than the small area in which we camp, it would be perfect. Our land is undisturbed and would be suitable for going organic.

Since there are tight regulations with this organic certification, we want to get a jump-start on the process because once you put anything on that might have to wait three years to get certification as you follow their guidelines to essentially "de-contaminate" the land. However, since our land is sitting in its raw state, for years, this process will be easier to go through, if we start right now.

We have been reading mountains of material and printing another small mountain of reference paperwork and forms related to organic certification. The "National Organic Program" (NOP) is run by the USDA and their website is sometimes a bit of a jumble to navigate. But, that is where we began our research a couple of years ago...

It's not a task that is easily approached, but at this phase in our lives, it is not as daunting.

I found even better details with printable forms for organic certifications at the state site...the Texas Department of Agriculture:

The state site was very organized, clear, easy to navigate; all forms were available and categorized into the area of certification in which you are interested (livestock, crops, etc.).

Since we are getting much closer to the day we will be moving to our acreage full-time, we need to get on the ball with our certification process. Deputy Dave is awesome; he is on board and doing all he can to move forward into this challenging territory. Organic gardening is not unknown to us since all personal gardening in our backyard is done through organic means. My indoor potted plants are treated the normal way, with regular potting soil, but the edible gardens are all organic. And this includes NO pesticides or fertilizers.

My herb garden always does fantastic in all kinds
of weather, after all, herbs are weeds.
Also, a lot of people have an idea of what it means to be "organic," but those ideas are usually not sufficient for organic certification. Going organic means you must change your way of thinking and your actions in farming must reflect that deep change. For years, I was more aware of artificial intervention, but didn't want to do anything about it. Then, Deputy Dave and I began to slowly incorporate changes into our backyard gardening that would allow us to embrace the organic concept.

Part of the problem is that our society is SO afraid of bugs. But, guess what? If you quit using the pesticides, then you just might get some bad bugs, but you also might get a lot of good bugs and things have a way of equalizing. Also, you get WORMS back! The soil is allowed to be soil again!

Even today, I am still learning and I know I've got a LONG way to go, but I'm always eager to learn new things. Staying stale in life is not an option for me. Since I'm an avid reader, I'll do all I can to give Deputy Dave the boost he needs so this chain-reaction can get moving!

Tomato vines burnt by heat exhaustion and drought in Texas
that the Texas Dept. of Agriculture has declared Texas
a "disaster" because of severe drought. We could not
battle the daily heat and dry conditions. We just hope
some of the tomato vines will recover, if the drought ends.
I can tell you one thing above that would NOT be allowed in a certified organic farm...the treated wood that we used to frame out the garden in the above picture is a no-no. Of course, it's been "treated" and that means it should not touch the soil in the organic zone. But, these boards were so old, and Deputy Dave had them in place long before we learned this detail about going COMPLETELY organic. It's a tidbit that we found interesting. Once we get moved to our land and start farming the areas that are organically certified...we can't have any oops moments like we had above with the boards.

Speaking of "organic" products, I remember being amazed that even MANURE has to be "organic." Heck, I thought all poop was "organic," but it turns out that I was wrong. The old adage of "You are what you eat," seems to be true for manure. I guess...whatever goes in, must come out and if inorganic foods are going in, then inorganic matter will be left behind. ....Talk about the cycle of life...

The bottom line is that going organic means you must exert great control over your livestock and crops because one little blip can ruin the organic status. And yes, it is more expensive to start doing things the organic way and it's not as easy to maintain because you cannot just run down to the local store and buy everyday products off the shelf during a half-price sale, but if you are committed, then you find a way to make it work.

Friday, July 29, 2011

#63 - The Stifled Evil Laugh

This morning I walked outside to go about my normal chicken routine. I opened the front door to the coop, propped the ramp in place and led them to an area in the garden where I spread the feed to get them busy so I could lift the sides of the coop that expose the nest zones without them pecking at me.

As I opened the last side door to examine the nests...WHAT DID I SEE??? An egg! I looked around and confirmed, YEP, I was all by myself! I found an egg ALL BY MYSELF! It's my egg I tell you --- MY EGG! hahahah (evil laugh).

And I was all set to do a happy egg dance in the backyard; Howdy was carefully watching me and contemplating his next move. If I'm happy, he's happy.

I love Howdy.

Little did I know, I was about to experience more of God's grand sense of humor. I do believe God is the ultimate prankster; I'm living proof of this theory in action.

Anyway, just as I was in a mental and emotional whirl of excitement at finding my first egg, and I could immediately tell that this egg was LARGER than the rest -- BINGO!

However, the elation soon faded as I began to process the critical fact that the egg looked as if it had been attacked or trampled or partially pecked or simply was laid as a "problem egg."

I let the side door slam down as I frowned and had a two-year old moment.

So, it turns out that the first egg I get to find on my own has turned out to be a rather humorous experience. All of the thrill I had anticipated was in crumbles as I realized the egg's insides were nearly bursting out of the damaged parts of the shell.

Still, I ran to get my camera, took a few shots of the egg laying in the nest, then carefully carried it inside for more pictures and refrigeration.

Once Deputy Dave got home, I could tell that the daily question about whether or not I was capable of finding any eggs was looming large, so I quickly told him, "Hey, I found my first egg today."

His face lit up, "You did? Well, where is it?"

I opened the refrigerator and pulled out the plate that held the egg; the pitiful egg that was barely able to hold itself together, "Here it is...the first egg I found!"

His smile melted into a warped expression of confusion as he stuck out his neck to get a better look and said, "What the heck happened to that egg?"

I shrugged.

Then, he tried to find the positive angle, "That egg sure is a lot bigger than the other ones we gathered. You found the first big egg. Way to go Babe!"

I looked down at the plate with the mangled egg and said, "Thanks."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

#62 - PeeWee Cracked Eggs!

Yesterday, we couldn't wait any longer. We took the three tiny eggs that have been laid, so far, by our backyard chickens and we cracked them open into a bowl.

Cracking these eggs open felt kind of like a fascinating science experiment with an emotional link as we said our, "Ohhh's" and "Ahhh's."

The eggs were beautiful! The yolks were the best color of a deep sunset orange. Our little eggs with their colorful yolks looked like art. Delicious art.

One by one, Deputy Dave carefully cracked open the eggs gathered from our backyard coop and I took pictures. We savored each moment...the feel of the shell strength, we smelled the egg contents and poked at the yolk a bit to find it to be firm and not as easily broken as store bought yolks.

Deputy Dave got a grocery store egg out of the refrigerator and cracked it into the same bowl, next to our three home-grown eggs and the difference in size brought about some hefty laughter in our kitchen.

I was given the task of scrambling the eggs for Deputy Dave to have ready for his home-made stir-fried rice recipe. It was delicious. The eggs are always the best part of the fried rice. Members of my family are always digging for more of the tasty fried eggs mixed in with the rice. Yum-Yum.

To be honest, as we were taking our first bites of this dish that had eggs in it from our chickens, I had a tiny bit of trouble eating. It's irrational. But, I guess it almost felt like eating part of a pet. With grocery store eggs, there is a detachment --- I don't know the chicken that laid the egg in that horrible commercial plant, but I do know Miss Speckles. This is where the city girl attitude and the country way of living must converge and start to be reconciled.

Learning to eat more than our homegrown veggies and herbs is necessary; this is our future. I am excited.

But, we have no fresh eggs laid for us to eat. All we've had so far is the three eggs found by Deputy Dave. Every day, multiple times, I go outside to check for eggs. I even search the yard for a rogue egg, but there have been no more eggs. My chickens are holding back.

Deputy Dave and I were standing outside with the chickens happily pecking around us in the yard and he said, "I bet that within a couple of weeks, we'll be trying to do our best to keep up with gathering the eggs in this sweltering heat; we can't find any now, but I bet that will be changing very soon."

As a chicken pecked Deputy Dave's feet, I laughed and told him that I couldn't wait to be pestered by lots of eggs needing to be gathered. I've waited all of my life to be able to gather fresh eggs and the fun is just beginning!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#61 - Weird Egg Information

Over the past few days, I've been reading everything I can about chickens and their eggs. Speaking of eggs, my brain is fried.

Often, we don't always find ourselves with heightened awareness on a topic until it hits us at home. Then, we suddenly become more sponge-like in that particular information zone. Right now, that's how things are for me. Some of this information about eggs has only solidified my stance and determination in raising laying chickens.

First, a shocking revelation about the USDA's lax regulations about egg quality has made me even more thankful that we are proud owners of laying chickens. I was under the mistaken belief that I was getting "fresh" eggs when I was at Walmart picking out a carton of eggs with the most far out date stamp that I could find. Then, I read the USDA's requirement that eggs be packed within 30 days of lay.

THIRTY DAYS FROM THE TIME OF LAY? How does this translate to me? Gross. It translates to gross.

This means that my carton of eggs may sit in my refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, but I had NO IDEA that the eggs might have previously laid around up to 30 days before they were even packaged for the market. This is NOT my idea of "fresh" or "Grade AA" or "Grade A" or "Farm-Fresh."

I feel duped by the USDA and am becoming increasing leery of their so-called "regulations."

On another note that currently doesn't apply to me because we re-located our two roosters several weeks ago...If you have a rooster in the yard and want to collect eggs for the fridge, then remember that higher temperatures (over 85 degrees) can result in faster development of embryos. These eggs might provide an above-average gag factor as you crack them over the pan only to find little chicken embryos sizzling.

On a common note...something that has happened to most of us, especially those of us who live in Southern states...Have you ever taken your eggs out of the refrigerator and put them on the kitchen counter in preparation for cooking to soon notice a thin layer of "sweat" forming on the egg shell? These sweating eggs are now vulnerable for the transmission of bacteria and other disgusting yucky scientific things to travel through the eggshell pores into the INSIDE of the egg. Try to not put these back into the fridge after they have been sweating. It sounds as if the best thing to do to prevent your eggs from sweating is to use them quickly. If they do sit on the counter and sweat, the eggs are fine to use, if you do so in a timely matter. To me, this is simply another solid reason to have your own laying chickens...there are less transportation issues and temperature changes that could promote sweating. And again, I wonder...What if that carton of eggs I bought from the grocery store has already sat sweating for an extended period of time, after all, we do live in Texas and it is difficult to escape temperature changes and eggs are especially susceptible.

Cleaning eggs is tricky. You do not want to soak an egg because the pores of the shell when wet will transmit bacteria. So, if your egg is a bit dirty, it sounds best to rinse it quickly with a light scrubbing. You don't want the shell to be wet for long, just enough to get the dirt off the shell. The rubbing of sandpaper to scrub the shell appears to weaken the waxy coating on the shell that protects the inside goodness, so I'd be more prone to stick with a quick rinsing in clean, running water. For goodness sake, if the egg is completely smeared with chicken poop...throw it away...unless you are starving.

It is interesting to note that if the waxy coating that occurs naturally on eggs is washed off, this will lessen the shelf life of an egg. So, washing might cause the opposite of your intention to take place. Again, our brilliant USDA's "excellent" commercial food production plan allows for eggs to soak FOUR hours before a water change is warranted. Anyone up for a four hour soak in dirty water? Once you start learning about the dynamics of egg chemistry and freshness guidelines for the commercial farmer, you become a bit more leery of the eggs sitting in that carton at the grocery store.

My previous concept of "fresh" eggs has been busted.

For those of you who are really into wanting to "clean" your egg shells, just so you know, it's probably not worthwhile to go through the effort or to spend the money on the sanitizers or to take the time to use the sanitizers because there are studies that prove that a regular running rinse water of your eggs is just as effective in cleaning eggshells.

Unless you are immediately eating your collected eggs, storage of eggs is something that should be given priority. Porous eggshells absorb odors, so make sure you store your eggs somewhere that will provide an additional barrier from odors. Remember to not let your eggs come in prolonged contact with any water or ice water during storage. Dry, cold storage is best. Don't use old ice chests used for fishing to hold your eggs because you might be surprised to eat a fresh egg that tastes like spoiled trout.

Yolk color of your farm fresh eggs will probably be much more pale than the commercialized version. I've recently learned through my elected inundation of chicken egg research that some commercial egg plants will add marigold flower petals (among other things) to their feed and this gives the yolk an "artificial" darker yellow coloring. However, there is no difference in taste from a pale yolk to a deep sunset colored yolk--- other than a TRUE farm fresh egg being actually FRESH and unaltered from its natural state.

I've yet to break open one of our eggs, but I will take pictures of the first egg we crack. As Mike from just let me know, the first few eggs may be "wind eggs" and have no yolks. It will be interesting.

So far, we have three eggs --- all found by Deputy Dave. It is Wednesday and I've still yet to find an egg on my own. But, we've only had three eggs laid in the past five days. Some of our chickens are not mature enough to start laying...we're just getting started, and I am learning so many fascinating lessons about raising chickens. It's more exciting than I imagined it would be.

Feathered Ladies...Bring on the eggs!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#60 - Technical Hang-up with My "First" Egg

This past weekend was thrilling. After waiting for over three months for fresh eggs from our first flock of chickens, my niece and husband found the first two eggs nestled together in the coop on Friday afternoon of last week.

So, technically, I did not "find" an egg yet. We have enjoyed seeing the first eggs laid, but I've not yet stumbled upon an egg BEFORE anyone else. My "first" moment of finding an egg on my own has yet to arrive.

For those first two eggs that my husband and niece discovered together, it was incredible. Shaye delighted in the screaming and the excitement and the high-fives as we had an egg-discovery-celebration. She just KNEW that she'd wake up Saturday morning to find more eggs. She said, "Aunt Lana, I bet we'll wake up tomorrow morning and find SIX eggs and the next day we'll find one-hundred!"

Six to one-hundred. Wow. In her little four-year old mind, those chickens were going to be pretty busy.

I asked her, "What are we going to do with one-hundred eggs? We can't eat that many!"

She looked puzzled, then gave her solution, "We'll get boxes, lots of boxes and put all the eggs inside the boxes."

Alrighty, we have an answer. Boxes and boxes full of chicken eggs. What fun!

So, we get a good night's rest Friday night and we wake up Saturday to a confident four-year old Shaye wanting to go check the coop for her six eggs. She felt that we needed to quickly move those six eggs out of the coop because one-hundred more eggs were to follow soon after. Only, the coop didn't have six eggs. It didn't have any eggs.

Shaye gave me a sad face.

Howdy...with his beautiful full mane shaved off. Never again.
So, Shaye and I had a talk...we discussed the appearance of our chickens, some have really red waddles and combs that are full and easily seen from across the yard. A couple of other chickens have tiny beginnings of waddles and combs, but they are barely noticeable with light pink color still blending in with their chicken head. I explain that until that waddle and comb were bright red and big with some jiggle movement, the bird is not mature enough to start laying eggs.

That seemed to help her understand which chickens might lay eggs and which ones were still rather young. That afternoon, she'd point at a chicken and say, "You are still just a kid; no eggs for you."

So, Saturday we did not have eggs. Sunday we certainly did NOT have one-hundred eggs and Shaye had to go back home.

Monday came and I was outside doing my morning routine with the chickens...feeding them and opening the doors to the coop so they could free-range around the yard all day. I checked every nest for an egg and guess what I found?

Nothing. No eggs. I only found chicken poop.

A couple of times throughout the day, I checked the coop for an egg and found nothing. I walked around the yard looking for a stray egg --- an egg could be anywhere. Each time I went outside for an egg check, I found no eggs.

I just KNEW that I would find MY first egg, very soon. But, all day Monday there were no eggs to be found.

Deputy Dave came home from work that afternoon and he entered through the back gate, made a walk around the yard, peeked into the chicken coop and guess what he found? A little brown, speckled egg. It was actually a tad larger than the first two that he had found on Friday with our niece by his side.

He strolled inside and said, "Did you see that egg out there yet?"

My mouth dropped open. I replied, somewhat indignant, "What? An egg? I've been in and out all day long since the early morning hours and there weren't any eggs."

Deputy Dave's demeanor changed and he tread lightly, "Well, I'm not sure it was an actual egg; I didn't get a close look...if you go out there right now, I bet you'll find your first egg."

Nice try, but pretending you did not see it doesn't count.

The egg has already been "found" --- and not by me. So, I throw a mini-pity-party.

But, I was still excited. We walked out there together to get the egg and it was actually still a bit wet and soft. It must have JUST been laid as he was walking into the backyard.

It figures.

Third egg found --- a bit larger than the first two eggs and
this one also has pretty speckles. Maybe THIS is an egg
by Miss Speckles, but surely she doesn't lay larger eggs
than the Buffs?? A mystery, for sure.
With the third egg that's been laid brought inside the house, we compared it to the other two in the over-sized egg carton and we were perplexed to note that this new egg is slightly larger with specks all over it.

On Friday, when we saw the small size of the two eggs, we naturally assumed that the little gal, Miss Speckles had been the producer. I mistakenly thought the Buff Orpington's would lay much larger eggs. Over the weekend, we learned different...we realized that the Buff Orpington Chickens actually do lay eggs about that size. Reality hit home, we won't be getting the commercialized, hormone puffed up version of a store-bought egg. These are backyard chickens and they are giving us eggs that are truly "normal" and not inflated by artificial interventions. Still they are small.

We have been laughing about what it will be like to cook with these eggs. How many of these eggs will it take to amount to one regular egg for recipes? I imagine it will take two or three of these small eggs to make one regular egg.

The first two eggs found on Friday. The third egg
found Monday and it's different. Who laid which egg?
Anyway, the bottom line for today's post is that I've yet to find an egg on my own. It's now Tuesday and I've already had several visits outside since the early morning hours, and I've not found any eggs.

I'm here all day...constantly checking and amazed that Deputy Dave leisurely strolls outside and POOF he finds eggs.

Maybe, like many chicks, they like a man in uniform. (Couldn't resist).

I'd like to find an egg, on my own. I wonder what will happen today? Maybe the backyard should be off-limits to Deputy Dave, for the time being, at least until I find my first egg. Then again, I gaze out the window to look at the five chickens, and I am beginning to wonder...Is this an egg-laying conspiracy?

Well, perhaps it's just bad timing on my part. Perhaps.

Monday, July 25, 2011

#59 - I'm an Egg Junkie!

This past Friday, we were blessed to find our first eggs in the chicken coop. My last post gives details of that incredibly, exciting day.

After we found those eggs, we felt like we had won an Olympic Medal! We were on cloud nine and enjoying the beautiful scene. A deep sense of accomplishment washed over us as we realized that we were doing something RIGHT and we were learning how to produce our own healthy food!

I liken the feeling of finding your first egg to how a five year old feels after learning to ride a bike for the first time. It is exhilarating, gratifying, fulfilling, a joy-packed moment that has staying power and adds to your sense of freedom.

There is something about an egg that has me captivated by its simplistic magnificence. The potential in one little egg is a concept that is deeply entrenched and tangled with all things important in life. I looked at those eggs that we found in our backyard chicken coop and knew that with a different direction, those little eggs might have had a chance to grow into baby chicks instead of ending up as unfertilized eggs sitting in our refrigerator. But, a city backyard is not conducive to rooster-raising, so there won't be additions to the flock any time soon.

However, I do love, love, love chicks. There is something about a fuzzy wuzzy chick that is sweet and lovable, like most newborns we see, they bring out the side of us that is more vulnerable and filled with fresh hope.

A chick's protection by its mother is a beautiful tale as old as time itself as testimony to the love a parent feels for a child...the protection, sacrifice and tender or firm care that is given with innate abilities is amazing.

I look at the shell of the egg and think about the strange mingling of delicate, breakable potential and freaky strength that the shell boasts. On one hand, the egg will easily rupture with a tap in the right place, on the other hand, the egg can be placed end to end and have a grown man stand on it without breaking. Engineers take note. God is the ultimate structural engineer and His mind-boggling creations with things, such as an egg, can amaze us to no end.

To know that a chicken will lay an egg on a regular cycle is something that I am sure people through time have appreciated. I can only imagine how many people have gone out to the coop in a desperate search for fresh eggs so that their family could be fed nutritious food from a source that would hopefully continue to get them through the rough patch. An egg is densely nutritious; so much delicious goodness in such a tiny, compacted space.

Then, I considered how many dishes can be made with eggs...probably infinite.

As I marveled at the beauty of the egg shell itself, I thought about all of the artists through time who have taken an emptied egg shell and turned it into an intricate work of art. The shell as a delicate canvas gives limited space, but the designs are only as limited as the imagination. There is always something interesting about seeing a decorated eggshell.

Of course, when growing up, I would save every eggshell from eggs we were cooking, starting months before Easter. I would take an ice-pick and gently tap the ends of the shells and blow out the egg, rinsing it afterward to make sure the shell cavity was clean. We'd dye the empty eggs in honor of the Easter Bunny, but then I'd stuff these hollowed eggs full of confetti that I had painstakingly created from extra paper around the house and we'd have a ball. These were the days BEFORE you could buy a carton of prepared confetti eggs.

One Easter, we were bashing confetti eggs over each other's heads in the backyard, during our Easter pool party, and I walked over to my brother with my evil side in full action to smash a real, raw egg over his head --- the raw egg I had hidden to use just for this purpose. Yes, it was premeditated action. Regardless, I tried to act innocent, as if this traitorous raw egg accidentally made its way into the bunch. I put on my acting hat and feigned a shocked expression of horror as the egg yolk dripped down my brother's head and face. He stood there trying to absorb the attack. I continued my act, "Oh my gosh, how did that uncooked, colorful egg get into my bunch of confetti eggs?"

But my mother didn't buy it. Everyone stood around watching my mom for signs of her opening a can of whoop-ass as my brother stood uncommonly speechless and quite messy with glistening egg mess all over his head. I was beginning to have difficulting holding in my inner celebration. But, I dared not laugh out loud. My mother was not amused. Even my brother, the victim, was afraid of my mom's reaction...none of us were sure whether we had permission to laugh or whether we should start running in opposite directions for our lives.

Why did I do it? Hmmm...I was thirteen. That's the only answer I've got.

However, it was worth it. But, my mother's revenge had just started. She ordered my brother to go inside the house, even in his egg yolk mess, and to retrieve a fresh egg from the refrigerator. Then, as my brother looked on with a mad-house crazed expression filled with pure boy-joy and a bit of terror from possible unknown ramifications...she made me stand there with my arms down, with everyone in a circle watching, as she ordered my brother to smash that egg over my head. And he did. Hard. It would have broken with much less "smashing" energy than he exherted. But, I guess he figured it was his GRAND chance to get back at big sister, with parental approval. Actually, I asked for it. Afterward, mom went into a fit of hysterical laughter which FINALLY gave all of us permission to follow suit.

My sweet brother and I in a REAL hug.
Not the kind that makes you yell, "Don't touch me little pest."
But, mother warned that the rest of her eggs were OFF-LIMITS.

We lived through it. It was a wonderful Easter, egg yolk hair and all.

Speaking of egg yolk grandmother would frequently make a hair treatment from egg supposedly make your hair shiny. I just remember the whites drying to a crispy level and me wondering if I'd ever get it washed out of my hair. Egg whites layered my curly hair and acted as a polyurethane. Yes, it was shiny and if I touched it, my hair literally would crack.

In my husband's military days, he would crack a bunch of eggs into a large cup with a dash of Tabasco Sauce and swallow it all whole as I gagged while watching. Disgusting. Do all guys go through this stage?

At a rather expensive restaurant, but my husband still
making me crack up.
Today has been an egg-bland day because I've already checked the coop this morning and there were not any new eggs. Nothing since Friday when we found our first two eggs laid by Miss Speckles. I feel like an egg-addict...I need a fix. I'm an EGG JUNKIE!

This man may have to lead me away in hand-cuffs...I am
addicted chickens and to freshly laid eggs.
I'm a dangerous woman.
Anyway, I do feel sorry for the ladies as they "scream" out before they lay their egg. I had heard this distinctive distressful call for a couple of days before finding these eggs. It was such a piercing sound, as if one of the chickens were being attacked. I'd race to the door with Howdy on my heels because he was in alert-mode as well...both of us would rush outside to find the chickens perfectly fine. Howdy and I would stand there looking at each other, as if to say, "You DID hear that didn't you?"

This happened a few times. I don't know if I'll ever become accustomed to that sound, but now I know what they do before they lay...they sound as if they are in moments of agony. Laying an egg as GOT to be agony. Since I gave birth twice to non-eggs, completely naturally, I think I can sympathize with their screams.

Today, I am feeling a bit in the dumps. We do not have any new eggs, and my body is hurting from doing too much this weekend. Did I mention that my four-year old niece stayed with us all weekend long? So, it sure would take my mind off things if I were to find a cute little egg. I'd be set for about another...24 hours...yes, I am a hard-core chicken-egg-junkie.

I can only imagine how I'll feel once we get moved to our acreage and finally get some goats.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

#58 - Houston - We Have Eggs!!!

Deputy Dave and I were gone all day long yesterday. We drove up to our house to find my sister and niece waiting for us in our drive-way as we had planned because my niece, Shaye, would be staying the weekend with us.

We all walked inside and after we unloaded the niece's things from the car, I scooted my sister out the door so she could tend to date night with her hubby, well, date weekend. Hubba Hubba.

After my sister left, I decided to head to the master closet to take off my nice "city" clothes and put on a Walmart nightgown so I could play and get dirty with the niece without worrying about ruining nice clothing.

Meanwhile, as I was in the closet changing out of my nice clothes, Deputy Dave was taking Shaye on a walk in the backyard to check out the chickens. She LOVES being with the chickens. In fact, she's been asking my sister lately, "When are we moving to a farm?"

My sister, the city girl, smiles and thinks to herself, "Never."

My sister is an out-of-doors kind of gal, but not a farm gal. My Sissy loves to camp, to hike, to go to the beach, to simply be outside, but it's her aversion to wild animals that prevents her from ever wanting to live on a farm.

While outside with her Uncle, Shaye searched for tomatoes, but our plants in are in the middle of heat exhaustion which tomatoes. She was a bit disappointed.

Deputy Dave decided to open the sides of the chicken coop to check for eggs that we've been anxiously waiting for...the chickens were 20 weeks old as of yesterday, Thursday, July 21st. He opened the coop side panel and Shaye was about to get all excited over the golf ball that was in place to encourage laying and he warned her by saying, "That isn't an egg Shaye, it's a golf ball."

Then, he looked down at the bottom layer of coop nests and he said his eyes nearly bulged out because there WERE actually two eggs! Not golf balls, but eggs! TWO EGGS!!

He yelled as he pointed at the eggs, "Shaye, those right there aren't golf balls, those are REAL eggs!" She began to jump and down while screaming, "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!" Her uncle, Deputy Dave was also screaming, "Eggs!"

And then he began to yell my name and Shaye began to scream my name. In a panic, I ran to the back door and opened it as they literally began to fall inward. I was thinking that something was REALLY wrong. To that point, I was unable to make out what they had been screaming; I just heard screaming. Usually, not a good sign. At the backdoor, as they were falling inward thru the opened door as I was rushing to them, they were wild-eyed and looking at me while yelling together, "Eggs! Eggs!" It was incredible. In unison, my 46 year old ADORABLE husband and my absolutely precious four year old niece were yelling, "We found eggs!"

I think I did the run in circles thing while my brain tried to catch up. For a second, I was Miss Stupid.

Shaye, in her excitement, was jumping around and being the epitome of a four year old who just found fresh eggs. My husband and I followed suit. All three of us became INSTANT four year old kiddos together! I grabbed my cell phone and called my sister...the woman who is TERRIFIED of my chickens and let her daughter personally say, "Mama! I found eggs!"

And Shaye continued, almost breathless, "Uncle David and I were in the backyard and there are two baby chicken eggs and, and I found them!" Then, Shaye promptly handed me the phone back; she was finished with the phone. She headed back outside.

Deputy Dave, always thoughtful toward my chicken elation, had told our little niece that the two of them could not touch the eggs until the aunt had been able to see them up-close and personal. Then, the two of them led me outside to the chicken coop where I beheld one of the most beautiful sights to date...two little brown eggs in the coop, laying nested beside each other.

Actually, we were perplexed...TWO eggs? One chicken laid TWO eggs at one time? We looked down to the ground and realized that Miss Speckles had been the one to grace us with both of these little, precious eggs. She was actually trying to guard her eggs. I had a rush of guilt, so I decided that I would make sure to give her an extra serving of her goodie-feed. I felt so proud of her!!!

Deputy Dave grabbed the camera and took our pictures, against my protests. Remember? I had JUST put on my Pink Polka-Dot Walmart moo-moo and he wants to take pictures. Me and my first eggs that I've been so excited about finding for about four me wearing a Walmart moo-moo in the bright 5:00pm sunlight. P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

I have to tell everyone that Miss Speckles is called another name by my niece. It's kind of weird, but four year olds are allowed to do weird things. As chicks, she knew we were not really giving the chickens a name, at least not consciously. So, our niece began to automatically name the chickens with her imaginative tags.

She said, "Here is one I will call Thursday and that one is Friday and this one is Saturday and we'll call this one Sunday." It was hysterical. Then, the female little white speckled chick got her attention and she named it "Shelley Faye." This was not a random day of the week kind of name. I was shocked because this was my mother's name. To complicate the chicken naming mother died five years ago, when my sister was five months pregnant with Shaye. My niece never got to personally meet her grandmother. However, my sister and I talk about Grandma all of the time...Shaye loves saying my mom's name and talking about her being in Heaven.

Shaye's own name came from my mother. My sister took my mother's name, "Shelley Faye" and combined the names to create my niece's name, "Shaye."

Since I found it odd to call this cutie chicken by my mother's name, I began calling her, "Miss Speckles." But, when Shaye is at our house, we call the chicken "Shelley Faye."

Shaye has drawn me pictures of Shelley Faye aka Miss Speckles. I have a drawing on my refrigerator. It still hits me funny when she tells me, "I have a picture of Shelley Faye to give you." The first time Shaye told me this, I thought that she was actually going to give me a picture of my mother, but then she gave me a little drawing of the chicken. I laughed out loud, "OH YEA!!! The other Shelley Faye. How silly of me."

Life can be strange.

So...out of the five chickens that we have in our backyard farm, the one chicken that is the smallest and most precious...the one named after my mother by my niece...that is the chicken to first lay eggs. And that little chicken produced more than we could have imagined; she gave us two little brown eggs.

We didn't even know chickens could lay more than one egg in such a fast time-frame.

Best of all, my niece showed up at my house with perfect timing to find these first laid eggs. I can only think
that all of this happened in God's timing.

For so many weeks I had imagined myself searching for eggs in the backyard and could picture myself finding an egg and spinning in circles as if I were singing "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" while caught in my own thrilling moment.

I had finding my egg all planned out: I'd get the camera, take a load of pictures and fully document the moment. Then, as Deputy Dave drove up our street, I would replace the egg where it was found so he could see it as I had found it. A perfect plan. Naturally, in my mind's eye, I'd find the egg while Deputy Dave was at work. After all, I am the one home all the time, so I just knew that I'd be the one to find the first egg.

Ha Ha!

However, NOTHING I imagined could have held a candle to the incredible moment of hearing those petrifying screams that had me rushing to the backdoor only to find myself hearing the chorus of those two yelling, "Eggs! Eggs!" And to see those husband looked like an excited boy and my niece looked like the happiest kid alive.

My husband said, "Come on! You have to come see it for yourself!" So, all three of us went outside to look at the nested eggs that were inside the chicken tractor/coop that my husband had built and to get pictures. Deputy Dave refused to let me change back into my clothes because he wanted to, "...capture the moment." So, there it is...the my moo-moo. But, it was pretty awesome. I could not have planned it better. A child who is so close to my heart got to find those eggs and share in our extreme happiness. Shelley Faye gave us wonderful gifts today. If only I could have recorded the celebration, but you can probably imagine the scene as well.

These chickens and these two eggs have brought us more joy than can be expressed. I don't really understand it, but that's how we feel...full of giddy joy.

Inside the house with the two small jewels, we continued to celebrate with hugs and high-fives. Deputy Dave washed the eggs, put them in an old egg-carton, then into the fridge. Those little brown eggs looked so small inside the hollows of the egg carton...small eggs, but I bet they are tasty.

Then, we had a brief explanation to Shaye that there were not baby chicks in the eggs because these eggs were the kind you from the grocery store. Her excitement didn't dim and now she wants to eat the eggs. My husband said, "Those eggs are so tiny. If I make tuna salad, I'll need to boil twenty of those little eggs."

I just can't wait to take these cute little eggs to a family function as mini-deviled eggs. This is going to be fun.

And Houston, we have eggs.