Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Eggs, Chickens, Kitchen, & Kids

While the legality of chickens in Salem lingers on in limbo I have been fairly silent about chickens and eggs. At least fairly silent for me, which is a completely relative measurement. But no more, and especially not today.

You will not take my chickens from me. A defiant statement I realize, but it simply won't happen. I have no intention of fighting with anyone, nor am I attempting to wave a red flag by stating this, I am simply saying it.

We've reached a time in history where pasture raised chicken (chickens not kept in tiny little pens) are $4 lb and eggs from pasture raised chickens can easily be over $3 a dozen, you will not take my chickens from me. I paid over $27 for a rabbit (for eating) yesterday. Animals that once were common are now affordable to only those of flexible, or considerable, income.

It isn't just about the money though. Not by a long shot. It is much more about the beauty and richness that the experience provides us. That can not be measured, it can only attempt to be described.

I've been reading Julia Child's My Life in France. I read about her first dining experience and how customers were asking (she had to get her husband to translate for her) "how was the chicken raised?" This has left me speechless and saddened, for I know how few places I could dine at now where anyone in the restaurant could begin to know that. The world has changed, and along the way we lost something precious.

Something beautiful happened though when I to page 60 in the book. This is the 'Le Cordon Bleu' Chapter and she is talking about how Chef Bugnard taught them how to properly made scrambled eggs. Here is the excerpt from the book:

With a smile, Chef Bugnard cracked two eggs and added a dash of salt and pepper. "Like this," he said, gently blending the yolks and whites together with a fork. "Not too much."
He smeared the bottom and sides of a frying pan with butter, then gently poured the eggs in. Keeping the heat low, he stared intently at the pan. Nothing happened. After a long three minutes, the eggs began to thicken into a custard. Stirring rapidly with the fork, sliding the pan on and off the burner, Bugnard gently pulled the egg curds together -- "Keep them a little bit loose; this is very important," he instructed.
"Now the cream or butter," he said, looking at me with raised eyebrows.
"This will stop the cooking, you see?" I nodded, and he turned the scrambled eggs out onto a plate, sprinkled a bit of parsley around, and said, "Voila!"
His eggs were always perfect, and although he must have made this dish several thousand times, he always took great pride and pleasure in this performance. Bugnard insisted that one pay attention, learn the correct technique, and that one enjoy one's cooking -- "Yes, Madame Scheeld, fun!" he'd say. "Joy!"
It was a remarkable lesson. No dish, not even the humbled scrambled egg, was too much trouble for him. "You never forget a beautiful thing that you have made," he said. "Even after you eat it, it stays with you -- always."

Immediately after reading this for the first time I knew I simply had to make scrambled eggs. And so I did, and I was overcome by how delicious they were. Amazing. The best scrambled eggs I've ever had, and I've always thought I'd had some pretty darn good scrambled eggs in the past. And that first batch has stayed with me. And I am reminded of it each time I remake it. I have been so taken with this part of the book that I haven't been able to read beyond it yet.
Something so remarkable from something so simple. Amazing.

But, of course, the chickens and eggs aren't just enriching in the delicious and healthy food they provide for us. Nor in the benefits that they provide for our yard and garden, which are quite numerous as well. They are beneficial in what they have taught my children.

Tristan attends story time at the local library (a fantastic library by the way!). The week of Easter the stories revolved around eggs and there was an Easter Egg Hunt afterwards in the courtyard. ~Yes, Salem's library has a gorgeous courtyard that is enclosed by a beautiful brick wall and that contains tables situated under brightly colored umbrellas, old gnarly tree roots that beckon you to lean up against them while reading, and landscaping that makes you feel like you've stumbled upon a secret garden. All it lacks is a small pond with fish.~
While we were at the library for story time this week I was pulled aside by the girl who had happened to read to the children Easter week. She wanted to let me know something that Tristan had said.
"I was reading to them a book and in it there was an egg, but it was a robin's egg, and it had a little bird inside," she told me.
Apparently Tristan felt the need to correct her on this and tell the class what was REALLY inside of eggs. He had the full attention of all the children there as he informed them on what was really in the eggs. They began asking questions such as "how do baby birds get in the eggs?"

Since this was beginning to veer into territory beyond the simple Easter themed story the girl reading the book suggested they just get back to the book.

Aside from interrupting story time and someone reading aloud to a class, I am quite proud of Tristan. This is a subject he does know a lot about, though please remember that since we don't have a rooster we don't have fertilized eggs and the chance of chicks.
I am proud of him for being able to speak up and out on an issue he was informed on. On having the desire to want to share that knowledge with others. Of holding the attention of the other children. Especially since these are children who have likely not seen a live chicken, much less ones in a backyard setting, or petted one, or raised one, or who have been responsible for gathering fresh eggs out of the nest boxes.

Never underestimate the power of doing things for yourself. Of taking charge of your lives and the ability to provide for yourself and your family. Never underestimate the endless benefits that can come from such acts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Looking Back at April

Shannon started his first year of rec soccer. This was his first game. I apologize for the poor photo quality, I was playing with a new camera, but you can see him there ~ he's the one with the ball.
He also lost his first top front tooth this month. We've finally come to the stages of big, goofy gaps in grins.

Eggs! These were the eggs we actually colored for Easter, something we haven't done in several years since ours are naturally colored. It was a fun experiment.
Here are our current Egg Tallies:

March 2011 - 97 eggs
April 2011 - 82 eggs
Year to Date (as of the end of April) - 349 eggs!

This month has been good egg wise as it is the first month since we've EVER had chickens where ALL our gals laid an egg on the same day. That happened twice this month. Pretty cool.
The general vibe about chickens continues to be positive, and that's making life a lot nicer. We may even look into placing another order of the "What the Cluck" t-shirts as we've had some inquiries about them.

The gardens have begun blooming and we've tried something new this year: selling some home raised plants! Most of them are heirloom varieties and, of course, they're raised 'organically.' I suppose legally I can't use that word since they aren't certified organic, but we grow the all naturally, without chemicals, even using collected rainwater as often as we can to water them. We've sold a lot of our tomatoes, the peppers are still coming in & we have some spoken for already, and the feedback has been really good. It will definitely be something we do next year too.
The best part of this is that it makes me feel like a true urban homesteader now. Obviously we're not able to completely live off of what we grow, but what we grow helps sustain us greatly and now it is even providing us with a little bit of income. Plus, it is wonderful to be able to get to meet new people as we have when we've sold the plants. Absolutely fantastic!

Finally, there was the last day of April, and the 60th Annual Ernest "Pig" Robertson Fishing Rodeo. This is our third year and, like previous years it was full of calamities. Broken lines, a broken pole, and so on. However, unlike previous years, this year both Shannon and Tristan caught a trout. Shannon had actually caught a second one, but as we were reeling it in and trying to get it out of the water, the line broke. We fished for a while longer with no success. Justin's parents were there (also an annual tradition) and, just as we were beginning to get ready to leave, Bill noticed a trout just kinda hanging out where we had our caught ones on the hooks in the water. Justin deftly swooped it up in the net!! It turns out the one that got away didn't get very far, and so we went home with 3 trout.

April also went out with a bang. Justin turned 30 and his party was last night. Needless to say it was a very good one. Full of good food, good drinks, and, most importantly, good friends.

We certainly are looking forward with hope and happiness.