Too Many Eggs


Morning haul.

Eating seasonally means there are times when you have a few, times when you have plenty and times when you have LOTS. Given the nature of biology, you have to plant or raise extra in order to hit the minimum target. As we gardeners know all too well, stuff happens. The bear gets in the chicken tractor, the deer get in the corn, the birds hit the cherries the minute they’re ripe. Having excess is particularly true when it comes to eggs. Despite the efforts of breeders, chickens lay more in the spring and less in the winter. If you want to have enough eggs in the winter, sure as little green apples you are going to have way more than you need come spring. In order to have an average of 12 eggs a day year round for my family of seven, I need about two dozen chickens. I like Delawares, as they lay well and are also of a good size to make eating chickens, including fryers and broilers.

Which is why, at the moment, I have 20 dozen eggs in the refrigerator.

Barred Rocks – an earlier experiment in chicken-keeping – not as productive in winter.

Delaware chicks.

So what do you do with lots of eggs? Well, first, I rotate them, so I know which are the freshest and which are the oldest (oldest being relative, as they aren’t ever going to be more than two or three weeks old). Older eggs are better for hard-cooked eggs, deviled eggs, etcetera, as they are easier to peel. Older eggs also whip up more easily and have a greater volume when whipped. Back in the days when eggs were whipped by hand, cooks preferred them with a little age; today, this strong-arm tactic is usually provided by a mixer, so it’s less of a problem. However, older eggs also deflate faster, so use them immediately in your meringue or souffle.

White pullet on the right is a Delaware.

Delaware rooster.

Some people sell them, but I have so many irons in the fire, it’s too much trouble. I share with people I like who don’t have chickens. I just sent eight dozen over to the neighbors, who lost all their chickens in a barn fire last week.

I cook them, preferably in recipes that use up a dozen at a crack. These include scrambled eggs with ham or bacon and chopped sauteed onions, frittatas and omelets. Angel food cake, divinity candy and meringue cookies help take care of the whites, while gold cake, homemade ice cream and eggnog use up the extra yolks. Floating island – a meringue cake with a custard sauce – takes care of 12 whites and six yolks at one go.

If all else fails, I hard cook them, chop them up – shells and all – and feed them back to the chickens to make more eggs.

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IANS – Male Animals


Father and son; we bred both of them.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain

When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).

You can’t run male animals together.
In most cases, this isn’t true. In my own experience, bulls, stallions, male dogs and roosters do just fine running in the same corral, pasture or pen; I’ve never tried it with sheep or goats. I would, however, add a few caveats:
First, I would not run a young, really aggressive animal with an elderly male. I’ve noticed that particularly with stallions. The young one is pushy and the old one just doesn’t have the endurance to keep putting him in his place. If the young one is passive, it may not be as much of a problem. The father and son pictured above did fine together until the young one got to be about three and started beating up his 29-year old father (that’s quite ancient for a horse, by the way). However, running a young stallion (say about 12 to 18 months old) with four or five older geldings is a really good way to teach a snotty youngster that he doesn’t rule the world. Those good old boys will quickly knock some manners into Junior. Running a group of same-age stallions or bulls together usually works just fine. There will be squabbling, of course, until everybody learns his place in the pecking order.

Spreading the hay piles at least 10 feet apart ensures everybody gets enough chow.

Second, you must make sure they have plenty of room. Crowding any group of male animals into too small a space means more dominance fights. With roosters, in particular, the bird on the lowest end of the totem pole tends to get crowded into a tight corner and may be killed. If there’s plenty of maneuvering room he can usually get away. The industry standard for commercial chickens is two feet or less, which is ridiculous. How would you like to spend your life in an equivalent space of five square feet? Most backyard poultry experts recommend at least four square feet of coop for free-range chickens and up to 10 square feet total (coop plus run) for chickens in a run. Our chicken pens have a seven-foot square coop and a 16-square foot run for eight to 10 hens and a rooster. That’s more than 20 feet per bird. If you’re grazing them year-round, horses and bulls need a couple of acres apiece.

If the mares are where he can see them, he’ll run the fence and talk day and night.

Third, the females of the species need to be out of sight, sound and smell. Otherwise, testosterone kicks in (think of teenage boys on the beach surrounded by girls in bikinis) and the squabbling can quickly become outright fighting. In any case, you need to keep an eye on things, and if somebody is getting bullied, make some changes. For that matter, even when you’re running females together, you should always keep an eye on the animals at the bottom of the totem pole. The ladies are equally devoted to the hierarchy, and alpha mares can be at least as mean and nasty as a bunch of adolescent girls. In fact, a band of brood mares is a lot like a high school, with cliques and popular girls – and the mares enforce the pecking order with hooves and teeth.

Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum was the one who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.

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Dirt and the Dress Code


Nothing hubby likes better than playing in the dirt.

A ranch wife must be able to make her peace with dirt. Dirt is ubiquitous, permeating, omnipresent, pervasive and abundant. It comes into the house on work boots, irrigation boots, tools, animals, small children, vegetables and the slightest breeze. If you relax your vigilance for a few days it will overwhelm you, but at the same time, if you try to achieve floors so clean they can be used for a dinner plate, not only will you fail miserably, you will never achieve anything else. My ranch wife mother-in-law used to sweep the floors after every meal; she said if she tried to do it only once a day the mess was so disheartening it made her want to throw her apron over her head and cry.

Of course those muddy paw prints aren’t ours!

And about that apron — when you are constantly shuttling between cow milking, cooking, bread baking, gardening and critter catching, an apron is not a bad idea. The best kind is either the standard butcher’s apron, which amply covers both chest and tummy down to the knees, or the classic old-fashioned bib apron style beloved of farm and ranch wives in the period from about 1920 to 1950. The ones I remember were the kind that had a sort of yoke around the neck, sometimes with fluttering half sleeves, always with big pockets and usually in pretty flowered or gingham patterns. In an era when many women had only a few clothes — sometimes just one or two dresses for the workaday week and one for “good” — and when washing was likely to be a once-a-week activity and dependent on good weather to dry the clothes, an apron was vitally important. Not only did it protect you from kitchen spatters, it could be used to dry the tears of the child whose sister had just clobbered her, gather eggs or fresh asparagus and, in a real pinch when the halter was out of reach, lead a balky horse off the front lawn.

Zoot suits — the rancher’s most fashionable rain wear.

If you are the sort of woman who requires weekly manicures, facials, pristine white blouses and perfectly ironed linen slacks, think very carefully before deciding to marry a rancher or farmer. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a manicure under the daily onslaught of dishes, gardening, fence mending, grease — the sort that comes from helping hubby replace a bearing on the tractor — wood hauling and similar sorts of grubby or hand-intensive activities. I always used to wonder how it was that I could clean my fingernails, get in the car and go to town, and they would be dirty again by the time I finished the drive. I finally decided that the dirt had been absorbed internally and was just making its way back to the surface.

The classic apron.

As for clothes, wear a pristine white blouse (or pristine anything) and I guarantee you will have to go catch a wayward piglet or the cow will give you a kiss. Wear shorts and you will need to climb through a barbed wire fence. Wear sandals or flip-flops — a chicken will mistake your toe for a large worm or you’ll drop an egg on your foot in the process of gathering them. There’s a reason the stereotypical rancher wears a big hat (sun protection, egg carrying and waving at critters to get them to move); long-sleeved workshirt (mosquito and fly deterrent; keeps the hay from getting in your shirt and pants when you carry a chunk somewhere); Levis (barbed wire fences, thorny brush, etc.) and boots (big-footed horses, cows and the occasional rattlesnake). Yes, the ranch wife has a dress code – it’s just a bit different from that of most women.

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