Monday, September 24, 2012

Jackpot and a lesson about eggs

Both my dad and husband are out of town on business trips, so the kids and I are holding down the fort. It is actually a lot more work to water my dad's huge garden and take care of all his chickens in addition to ours. We don't mind it, though, and there always seems to be an adventure waiting for us when it's just the three of us. Take today, for example.

Titus and I decided to wander out to the hay barn - though the door is kept bolted shut, the window is broken and occasionally chickens will fly in through the hole to lay eggs. (The breaking of the hay barn window is a story in itself. Maybe one day I'll be short on current stories and have to tell you that one...) It took a bit of convincing on my part - Titus is terrified of Chloe the sheep and rarely dares walk through this particular pasture to the hay barn because of the possibility of a chance encounter with her. Today Chloe was nowhere to be seen (note to self: check on the sheep), so we made it to the hay barn without incident.

Well, it is a good thing we went out there, because there were more than a few eggs in there sitting around getting old. Half of the eggs were turquoise, answering the question of where in the heck the Araucana has been laying. It was the next best thing to discovering a real chest of buried treasure in the yard - kind of like a surprise Easter Egg hunt. First we found this gross area of eggs in an old hay-filled barrel, where chickens seemed to be sitting on and breaking each other's eggs in order to lay their own... we saved what we could.

Then there was the Araucana nest - I wish this picture had turned out better so you could see how pretty those turquoise eggs are. Over on the other side of the barn were two huge clutches of white eggs.

All in all, just over two dozen eggs. But our work wasn't done, of course. Not only were the eggs filthy, but they could have been a month old and rotten for all we knew. The only solution: float them. This is an easy way to tell if eggs are fresh, and we do it pretty frequently since chickens around here are always hiding their eggs. Whenever we happen upon a new hiding spot, we have to do the float test to see if the eggs are suitable to eat.

Here's the idea: egg shells have tiny microscopic pores in them that allow the wet inside of the egg to slowly evaporate out over time. Think about the last egg you hard-boiled. Remember the small dent in the cooked egg, kind of like there was an air pocket in the egg before you cooked it? That is due to the amount of egg that had evaporated out of the egg over time (and is an indication that your egg wasn't laid very recently). The fresher the egg, the heavier it is because none of the inside has evaporated out. SO, fresh eggs placed in a deep bowl of water sink straight to the bottom and lay flat like a stone. Eggs that are a little bit older will stand up straight on their tip. Old eggs float.

All together we had three floaters. Those got chucked. Of the remaining eggs, about half of them were fresh and the other half stood up straight. I usually try to use the straight-standing eggs within the next few days, either in baked goods or I hard boil them and we eat egg salad sandwiches for lunch. The fresh ones are for eating for breakfast, and for selling to friends. Egg floating is a pretty fun activity to do with kids - think of how educational you can make it! I'm off to peel hard-boiled eggs!

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