Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Letters From The Barn: Consider The Egg

Letters From The Barn: Consider The Egg

When I toss out food for the chickens, big dog eyes it hungrily. She no longer eyes them hungrily as she has figured out they taste better unfeathered, the way I present them to her later. She still looks at their kibble though, kind of like a giant relishing the possibility of eating the food of a field mouse.

Once they've cruised on and have no interest in it anymore, she's allowed to go and gobble up the specks of dust that are left. It really brings home that dogs are true scavengers. They actually look forward to picking up the leavings. You would not be able to tell she had already been fed three times that day. Each time, she brings the same devotion to the tiniest crumb. But, every crumb needs to be worshiped, I suppose, just like every just opened flower bloom, so why not? She's just the one to do it.

The same goes with eggs. She loves them. But, has learned that if she can wait til I crack one into her bowl instead of the stealthy pre-cracking in the barnyard of her own doing, she not only gets to eat it, but she keeps her life as well.

The cat loves eggs, too. Now, she would actually be capable of catching a chicken. I've seen her eat birds and even a portion of a squirrel. She gave up a bit into the fur coat aspect of it, but was quite energetic. She can bat a moth the size of a bird out of the air and will. Her late night hors derves. She's also fond of grasshoppers. The chickens are too. If only I could teach the cat to bring them to the chickens as token gifts the way she does me. Then, we'd have a nice thing going here.

Maybe the problem is she doesn't understand that the eggs come from the chicken so does not understand the need to return a favor. If she did though, I'm sure there's be a chicken egg fiesta each day before any ever got into my fridge. So, let's not try that.

What do the chickens like to catch? Anything small and running and jumping. No small children, thank goodness. Though worms and small snakes do attract their interest. They especially love bits of raw meat scraps. And, anything green from grass to clover.

The varied diet makes their yolks rich and full. If you've ever seen one, the store kind pales in comparison. The fresh yolks actually sit up higher on the whites, too, when you're frying an egg. (Though I admit to steaming mine.) A fan of bacon grease in general, I don't like greasy eggs. They look and taste similarly cooked in a tiny bit of water and that way my grease quotient is saved for something really important like fried potatoes. 

The one things fresh eggs are not good for is an easily peeled boiled egg. For that, they do need to set a few days first. A fresh egg has no air pocket built up inside, which is why it sits so prideful on its egg white throne in the skillet, but also why it's hard to peel when boiled. There's no air chamber yet built up between the white and the shell. After a few days, though, when one has built up, they peel more like a store bought one.

One thing thing they never do is crack like a storebought one. They always seemed to have stronger, thicker shells. You should see how many times mine fall between the barn and the house. Oops! A chicken laid an egg on top of the hay bale. Watch it fall down four feet. Watch the goat nearly step on it seventeen times before I can get between its legs and save it. And the crazy thing is, they are often savable. Uncracked. And even unblemished. Though perhaps if chickens know about such things, the poor thing has a heart attack from watching her hard work jumbled around like that.

Chickens do know they've created something new and unique, though. Something that is just theirs.They'll preen and dance and call after they've laid. It's my favorite time of day, watching their dance. If you go pick up the egg right then, it's still warm. Kind of like picking vegetables in the middle of the day with the sun still warm on them. If there's a little bit of a chill to the day, it's a hand warmer as I walk back to the porch.

The only mistake you can make is putting one in your pocket thinking it'll just be for a moment. Or you can, and it'll be fine there for quite a while. Until you sit down. Not that I know about that personally. I have never sat down to write a column on farming, even this one, with an egg in my pocket. That would be ridiculous. Utterly.


Author: Meriwether O'Connor