miracles in the hen house

our first egg

You can’t deny it. That, right there, is a thing of beauty.

Magically, within only a few hours of bringing them home, one of our chickens laid our first backyard egg. It was glorious.

I’m not sure how to describe it but that first egg – it’s momentous.

When I opened the nesting box and found it there I’m sure my smile must have split my face in two. It was the most delicate pink and warm, so warm. Lovely.

We ran straight inside and boiled it up, toot suite.

And there you had it – one step closer to freedom.

It is one thing to read about freedom from the corporate food chain, it’s another thing altogether to actually taste it. We are getting two to three eggs a day from our little flock, enough to keep us and our family and friends in eggs. Even Lyall Lovette’s tiny little eggs have yolks that rival any store bought “free range” eggs in colour and size. And the taste, well, that’s a whole other story. The yolks are fresh and firm and stand up at attention in the pan. All from our East Van backyard. Lovely.

For me, protein from my garden represents a huge step forward towards self-sufficiency. I can now trace the exact origin of 90% of the protein that crosses my lips. How many people can say that??

Every morning it seems magic to me that these little ladies are turning my table scraps and weeds into fresh, glorious eggs. We are working hard to keep our garden as closed a loop system as possible. Basically that means we do everything we can to produce what our garden needs, in our garden. Rather than importing fertilizer, we use traditional compost, sheet compost, compost tea, and plants that fix nitrogen, build the soil and accumulate nutrients. And although we still need to provide our chickens with laying mash, scratch and oyster shell, we’re making sure the bulk of their diet consists of veg from the garden. They go bananas for greens!  We’ve finally figured out what to do with all the mint that regularly takes over the back corner of the garden: presto-chango – eggs! Ta-daa!

I recently finished reading a collection of essays by Wendell Barry on food and farming. Towards the end he provided a list of steps we can all take to make positive changes in regards to our food. The first one gave me goosebumps:

Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it.

You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life.

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