This blog has gotten pushed to the backburner of my life, I'm afraid. Even though I still love cooking and writing about it, I have started putting more time into my paid work and other writing. But last week something happened that I couldn't resist reporting here. I hope this is the beginning of a return to more steady, if not exactly frequent, food blogging.
Last Monday, I was able to leave a message on my spouse's work voicemail that I've been wanting to leave for a long time. Just two words, but they represent a lot of hope and investment: "Un oeuf!"
After seven months, one of our chickens had finally an egg.
When we bought the chickens, we were told that they would start laying when they were about six months old. They were six weeks old at the time. Their six month birthdays came and went with still no sign of any eggs. We consulted various experts and all of them said the same thing: they won't start laying until the days get longer or we put a light in their coop. The woman who advises me on their feed at Borden Mercantile said they need to be getting 14-16 hours of light a day in order to lay. We talked about installing a light, but were dragging our feet on it. Running a long extension cord across the yard with a two-year-old running around seemed like a bad idea, and installing electricity in our shed would be a major undertaking.
As it turns out, we won't be installing a light, at least not this winter. Even without the requisite 14 hours per day of light, our chickens are now laying gorgeous, light-brown, perfectly formed little eggs. Since the initial lay last Monday (we got dressed up and had a fancy dinner with an expensive bottle of wine to celebrate Egg Day) we have had three more.
So it's been an exciting week. The only bad part was that the picky eight-year-old, who does most of the chicken-care, was not the one to discover the first egg. I went out to clean the coop last Monday and I was the one who found it. She wasn't the one to discover the second or third eggs either, partly because she became discouraged and stopped wanting to go out to the coop to feed the chickens for fear of being disappointed again. Finally, on Sunday morning, she found an egg. And then, all of a sudden, it was worth it.
I've been thinking about the importance of kids feeling connected to their food and food sources and feeling that keeping these chickens is a big step in the right direction. In the above photo, two-year-old M'hijo is thanking the chickens for laying the egg so that he could eat it. He has seen, in books, that eggs come from chickens, but actually holding that egg in his hands, and then seeing my fry it up later, made it so much more real for him. I think so, anyway. I have to admit it that it was a learning experience for me too, and I thought I already knew that eggs come from chickens. There was something about actually getting that egg from our coop, from our chickens, that made me see the situation in a whole new way. I thought "Okay, I EAT reproductive byproducts that come out of birds. This is WEIRD." Not weird enough to make me a vegan, though. :)
So far, I haven't eaten any of the fresh laid eggs myself, giving my daughter the chicken keeper that honour. I am looking forward to seeing whether I actually notice a difference in the taste between a fresh egg and one from the grocery store. I'm also looking forward to the day when our chickens lay enough eggs each week that we can stop buying eggs altogether. This may mean getting a couple more chickens. I'll have to start thinking about new names.