We’ve written about our favorite farmers (daughter, Robin, and her boyfriend, Scott) and their forays as CSA-inspired providers of naturally-raised beef and pork. Capitalizing on the locavore trends in this area, they’ve developed a nice private clientele. (Visit and “like” their new Facebook page!) Now they are branching out at their new place to include farm fresh eggs and meat from chickens, ducks, pheasants and Cornish game hens. We were excited to see the first photos of the new chicks, who arrived by mail this past week.
While we’re up at the cabin, it can be a challenge getting really fresh food if you only rely upon the local grocery store. The Roma tomatoes we purchased to go with our salad this evening were from South America, for example. It’s a long way up to Minnesota from there, and the unfamiliarity is definitely an issue. Supplementing with Farmer’s Market and roadside stand purchases, enjoying the seasonal berries, vegetables and sweet corn as they become available is reminiscent of the way our families used to eat before the global economy. While having lunch at the tavern down the road over the weekend, we overheard the bartender talking about raising his own farm fresh eggs, and we were intrigued to learn more.
Jeff’s story is all too familiar: he sort of fell into this endeavor. He didn’t set out to keep chickens at all, but had a big dog kennel and a dog that escaped from it easily and regularly. So he brought the dog inside. Jeff then converted the doghouse and adjoining fenced kennel into a more hospitable home for several kinds of chickens: Black and White Sexlink (who lay the brown eggs in the photo), Polish Crested (the little white eggs) who have a Phyllis-Diller hairdo-like feathering pattern around their necks and heads, and Ameraucana (the pale green eggs on the right). He lets his chickens forage and supplements their feed, evaluating the results in a constant effort to improve his product.
Jeff likes the brown eggs for general breakfast cooking. He thinks the Polish Crested’s smaller size is good for topping a burger or sandwich, and he waxed eloquently on the Ameraucana egg’s superlative results in hard-boiled form. Jeff is so enthusiastic about his eggs, we couldn’t wait to try them. We placed an order for 1-½ dozen, available for pickup the very next evening. At $5 for the lot, Jeff isn’t going to get rich any time soon, but his passion is so infectious that he regularly sells out of his daily supply.
We picked up our eggs in the evening and enjoyed a delicious benedict-like breakfast the next morning. Pete likes using the flat sandwich thins that have about 100 calories apiece instead of the more highly caloric toast or English muffin base called for in traditional recipes. Spinach leaves, benedict sauce liberal with dill, and poached eggs on top were a perfect working breakfast.
This morning, we decided to try the Polish crested eggs and some of the leftover ham we’d brought up. This is the second pig we’ve purchased from Scott, and now that we know the ropes with the butcher, we had the ham processed specifically to our taste. Delicious in a foodie’s version of an Egg McMuffin with perfectly-sized fried eggs!
The Polish crested eggs, you’ll recall, are the pale green ones in the mix, so it was fun to have “green eggs and ham” for breakfast. With all the rain we’ve been having, I thought of more Dr. Seuss, too. Remember how The Cat in the Hat entertains the children who were left at home on “that cold, rainy day?” Notice how I don’t have a finished picture of our little sandwich? 🙂
This evening we topped off our multi-day sampling with the Ameraucanas, which Pete boiled per Jeff’s recommendation. Our spinach salads, with bacon, chicken, and mushrooms were simple and satisfying. All that was added was some of Newman’s own dressing and it was a very filling supper.
Another thing that’s different about these eggs is the vivid coloration in the yolks. While Pete maintains he can’t taste too much difference, if any at all, between these eggs and store-bought, their overall appearance is definitely less uniform and therefore more interesting than their more homogenous counterparts.
These pheasant chicks were among the first to arrive at Robin and Scott’s farm. I’m wondering if there is a more of a market for exotic birds’ eggs or the birds themselves? We’ve been lucky enough to have wild pheasant over the years, as it’s fairly easy to obtain in these parts, especially with sportsmen among family and friends. Pheasant makes for a very elegant dinner presentation. Robin and Scott also welcomed ducks and regular baby chicks to the farm within the last week. Their Cornish game hens should be arriving soon as well. We’re going to advocate for quail, which would be quite a novelty, too, but not too unusual to preclude sales, we think.
Jeff warned us that even with precautions, birds and eggs are favorite targets of all kinds of predators. We know this only too well, having lost the loon eggs off the floating hatch platform this year. Jeff’s flock was decimated by a marten last year. Though their neighborhood is semi-rural rather than wilderness, Scott and Robin are working on safe and secure surroundings for their new brood. Even domesticated dogs can’t always be trusted around production animals on the farm. Bird dogs don’t discriminate between domestic and wild: a bird is simply a bird.
Robin says it’s fun to learn about how best to care for her young charges, and she intends to build up the size of her flocks as she determines demand and viability. We’re proud of the kids and their business decisions. While it would be difficult, if not impossible, as a small farmer to make a living on birds and eggs alone, it’s a natural extension to the rest of their operation. What’s really nice to see is how they’re moving toward replicating what used to be commonplace among small, sustainable farms a generation or two ago: production animals for personal consumption as well as supplemental revenue to income from dairy and cash crops. Their plans are coming along nicely!
- A Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Chickens (marksdailyapple.com)
- Getting eggy with it (timesunion.com)
- Egg Farming (via Hortophile – My New Garden) (earthweev.wordpress.com)
- Egg Farming (hortophile.wordpress.com)
- Alice Walker: Fresh eggs hatch ‘Chicken Chronicles’ (sfgate.com)
- Yes to Happy and Free Chickens (kiyanti2008.wordpress.com)