Backyard chickens: More eggs coming soon!

This is one of my Australorps, happily parked in the nest box.  I'm so proud of her.  I knew she'd be statring to lay sometime soon, since she was exhibiting signs of sexual maturity (large, bright red wattles and comb, squatting, and no longer shedding her neck feathers).  But I wasn't sure when she would lay, or if maybe she had already started.  Some hens don't lay in the nest box (my Wyandotte) or even the coop.  So since they free-range most of the day, I thought she may be laying in the woods, or the neighbors bushes, or Lord-knows-where-else.  I felt bad shutting all of the girls in just to see if one hen was laying, especially since there aren't many nice days left, so I was determined to wait for a rainy day to keep them all in the coop.

But apparently that won't be necessary.  This afternoon I came home from dropping Ethan off at his "grandparent's" house, and was greeted by only three happy chickens.  I checked the bushes, the neighbor's yard, and the woods before thinking that she might be in the coop.

And there she was, right where she was supposed to be, and hopefully working on laying an egg.

The first ones seem to take a while -- the Wyandotte sat on the nest for about 90-120 minutes for the first few days -- so I had to leave for work while she was still sitting in the nest box.

Let's hope she has something to show for all that sitting!


Backyard chickens: Scrambled eggs!

Since I collected my fifth egg today, I decided it was time to make some breakfast!  My mom came over after going to the farmer's market, so she got to share the feast.

I was going to do a side-by-side comparison of my "yard fresh" eggs with the all-natural eggs from the farmer's market.  But my mom didn't get any this week, and the ones I had in the fridge, while still good, are a few weeks old.  I didn't really think that would be fair.

But my eggs would have won anyways.

The first thing I noticed was that the shell was extremely hard.  I don't feed any supplemental calcium, just standard Nutrena layer crumbles, some table scraps, and whatever they find while free ranging.  I did get some oyster shell bits for winter, though, since they won't be able to range as much.

The second surprise was how orange the yolks were.  I had thought that the orange yolks from the market eggs were bright, and they certainly are when compared to a store-bought, factory-farmed egg.  But the yolk from my hens were BRIGHT orange.  The egg white was also a yellowish color, not clear.  How orange everything was became even more obvious once the eggs were cooked...

No Photoshopping.  The eggs are really this color!
It looks like I made scrambled yolks!
Surprise #3?  They tasted like eggs.  I had thought that maybe a truly fresh, free-range egg might taste... I dunno.  Eggier?  Kind of like milk from a grass-fed cow tastes different.  Nope.  Although a free-range egg does have more nutrients, the taste is the same.

So breakfast today was yard-fresh eggs (scrambled with local milk from grass-fed cows and cooked in homemade butter) and toast with homemade raspberry jam.  If I'd made my own bread, the entire meal would have been entirely homemade.  But it's close. 

I also noticed that one of my Australorps kept squatting while she was out ranging today.  That's supposed to be a behavior that comes right before egg-laying, so maybe soon we'll be getting 2 eggs per day!


Backyard chickens: Yard fresh eggs!

We haven't eaten any yet, but I've now collected 4 mini-eggs from the Wyandotte.  She seems to lay them between 10:30 and 11 am; if I go out there any earlier, she's sitting on the little nest she scooped out of the pine shavings in the coop. 

I have to say...  There's nothing cooler than collecting an egg that's still warm from the hen who laid it.


Backyard chickens: We have eggs!

After 5 months of not-so-patiently waiting, on Monday morning, I found our first egg!  It was tiny, smaller than a medium supermarket egg, but it was perfect.  I am disproportionately excited.  You'd think I had laid that egg myself!  Yesterday, I accidentally left the coop door open overnight, so the girls scampered out at first light, and the mystery layer must have laid an egg somewhere in the woods or bushes instead of in the coop.  But today I kept them shut in.  At 9:30 I went out to check on them, and my Wyandotte was sitting on a little impression she made in the pine shavings.  She's the most shy, but she didn't move when I came to the window.  I left to give her some privacy.

And by 11, we had another egg!

Our first eggs!  The first is on the bottom, today's is above it.  The white ones are extra large eggs from the market.
If I get another tomorrow I'll have enough for some scrambled eggs, so I'll take some comparison shots of our homegrown eggs with the farmer's market "all natural, cage-free" eggs.  The market operation isn't free-range, so I'll be interested to see the difference.


Christmas gift-giving poem and simplifying holiday shopping

Something you want,
Something you need,
Something to wear,
Something to read.

I just came across this poem on a message board, and I really like it.  Shayne and I have been discussing (even before we had a child) how to keep Christmas from turning into a toy explosion.  Obviously, the Christmas season is about Christ, but we do believe that giving generously is an expression and celebration of God's gifts to us.  So we're not anti-gift.  We just want to keep it in control for the little guy.  Especially since he's way too young to even know and appreciate what's going on!

This year, I'm determined to avoid the "It's two weeks before Christmas, what on Earth do I get so-and-so!" scramble.  One one hand, I hate thinking about Christmas this early, since it's not even Halloween.  But, on the other, I want to select thoughtful gifts for the people I love.  And I simply cannot do that when I'm pressed for time and caught up in the rest of the holiday rush.  We stay pretty calm about Christmas here, but with work, the baby, and other family commitments, we do get pressed for time.  And unless someone is saving for something large, I REFUSE to get gift cards. The only thing less personal is cash.

So, I got my Grandma's gift over the summer, and I just bought my mom's a few days ago.  I've got a LONG way to go, but at least it's a start!


The Dream

While I am much, MUCH happier with our house and property now than I was a year ago, I still have this dream of buying a house in the middle of nowhere.  We've been trying like crazy to simplify our lives, both physically in terms of excess possessions, as well as spiritually/emotionally.  It's harder than I expected.  Between work, family obligations, and my personal desires, I often feel like I'm being torn in two or three directions.  And our "stuff"...  We already have less than many people I know, but we still have some clutter and junk that we don't need or use.  It's a work in progress.  Thankfully, the living spaces of our home are pretty clutter free (excepting the kitchen, which seems to collect crap like nowhere else), and they feel much more serene as a result. 

But the embodiment of the simplicity dream, for me, is a cabin in the woods.  On vacations Up North as a child, we almost always stayed in vintage cottages - places with more charm than convenience.  There was one that had a makeshift bathroom on the screened-in back porch.  There was a tub on one side, a sink and toilet on the other, and the main entrance to the cabin ran right down the middle.  Another place didn't even have a tub.  Or a shower.  We bathed in the lake every time we stayed there.  We lived through rickety beds, mismatched furnishings that wouldn't fetch a dime at the Salvation Army store,and cranky vintage appliances for a week or two every summer.  And I loved it.

So when I was perusing the real estate ads (bad idea, I know) and found an "Up North Cottage" for sale right in the area where Shayne and I hope to someday move...  I fell in love.  Hard.

It's small, about 800 square feet including an addition, but it has more than enough personality to make up for it's size.  There's a fireplace, knotty pine paneled walls, hardwood floors, a vintage kitchen with drainboard sink, and 20 acres of meadows and woods surrounding it.  It's the closest I could ever get to Up North here in Indiana.

It was on the market forever.  And then one day, when I checked the ads for the first time in a while, it was gone.  I mulled it over for a few weeks, then decided to call the realtor to see if it had sold or just went off the market for a while. 

Nobody's bought it yet; the seller is just taking a break.

Maybe there's still hope.


The Great Purge of 2010

We have bulemia of possessions.  In the week before Ethan's first birthday party, Shayne decided to go through his boxes in the basement and get rid of everything he doesn't want or need.  I organized the dining room and bathroom.  The end result was a monster pile of trash in front of our house on trash day, plus a load of stuff for Goodwill.  Most of it was Shayne's.  I don't know what he tossed, but I know that two shelving units in the basement are now empty.  Impressive.

What has been really great is how peaceful our house feels without the clutter.  We've already started to reaccumulate junk on the dining room table again, so I'm making a serious effort to keep that area clear.  It's so hard, since it's just the natural dumping ground for mail, baby toys, or anything else that we happen to be holding when we come into the house.  But it's also the first room we really see when we come in the back door, so when it's not cluttered, it just makes the house feel more welcoming.

I still need to get rid of more clutter.  It's like a snowball effect; the more you clear out and organize, the more you realize you still need to do.  But we're getting there.