The Season of New LIfe

Earth teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life. Earth teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall. Earth teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone. Earth teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.    William Alexander

What a great quote. Watching the seasons has taught me a thing or two. I’m always trying to learn more about Mother Nature through observation. (a few books help as well!)

One interesting fact I’ve come across in regards to planting in the Pacific N.W. specifically the Inland Empire, is observing the lilacs in our area to determine when to plant certain vegetables.
Plant root crops when the lilacs are in bud.
Plant cold hardy veggies when the lilacs begin to leaf
Plant frost tender vegetables when lilacs are past full bloom.
Good information unless your trying to beat the season by forcing early crops using  a hoop house and floating row covers. NO it’s not cheating!
How ever you plan your garden it sure is an awesome thing to see spring in the N.W.

Why Are Your Eggs So Damn Expensive?

 

free-range-chickens

Some one recently asked me “Why are free range eggs are so damn expensive? At first I was offended, then I was confused by the question.

Then I actually had to laugh. How could a measly 33 cent egg be such an emotional issue and the financial scorn of this one individual?

Finally I decided I had, before me, a great opportunity to educate someone regarding the world and economics of a local farmer.

Lots of people claim that we all should support our local farmer. It keeps money locally, it’s great for the environment as there is less waste from farm to table because outsourced food is coming from either out of state or out of country burning up diesel, tires, and the road. Buying local connects people to their food supply thereby ensuring they get the best product available.

But… sometimes people who complain about pricing don’t realize what it takes to get that all natural or organic food to them. It’s time to rethink our priorities when purchasing food for our families and start realizing you get what you pay for. CHEAP really doesn’t mean better.. of course more expensive doesn’t either. But a quality food grown with healthy ingredients on healthy land with sustainable practices by farmers who are committed to the best food they can raise and sell just costs more money.

So before I talk about the costs associated with producing “the incredible edible egg” (to borrow a phrase) I wanted to highlight a few health benefits from consuming this awesome food.

Some of this information is from an article I read authored by  Dawn Walls-Thumma writing for SFGATE.

But first I want to start by pointing out eggs are a great source of protein. they provide complete protein. One hard-boiled egg has 6.29 grams of protein, which gives men 11 percent of their daily intake, while women get 14 percent.

Let’s begin with fat and cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends reducing intake of both saturated fat and cholesterol in order to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Several studies including one from “Mother Earth News” found that eggs from pasture-fed free-range hens contained  1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 of the saturated fat as conventional eggs.  Another Research and Education study gave some similar results, with pastured hens producing eggs with 10 percent less fat and 34 percent less cholesterol.

Vitamin A is needed for good teeth, bones, and eyes need this vitamin for good vision. It also acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage. Studies have shown that free-range eggs contained 67 percent and 40 percent more vitamin A, respectively, than cage bound mass produce unhappy hens eggs.

Vitamin E also also protects cells by acting as an antioxidant, in addition to promoting healthy blood and circulatory system function. Free-range eggs contain more vitamin E than their conventional counterparts. The “Mother Earth News” survey found triple the vitamin E in the eggs they tested, and Pennsylvania State University research found double the vitamin E in the eggs of grass-fed hens

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat known as “essential” fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture them on its own; you must consume them from food. Omega-3s are connected to heart health, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and other potential health benefits such as decreased risk of diabetes, stroke, digestive disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers and dementia. All three studies found higher amounts of omega-3s in free-range eggs versus conventional eggs. “Mother Earth News” reported the most modest differences, with the free-range eggs they tested containing only twice the omega-3s as conventional eggs, while the Penn State study found 2 1/2 times more.  Another Education study four free-range hens produced eggs with four times the omega-3s as their caged sisters.

So now that we agree on the health benefits of eggs lets talk about the cost of production. In order to move our ladies during their laying season we have to provide adequate shelter for their health and safety.

In order to offer something different than the mass produced egg where the hen is bound to a small cage with no access to fresh air, sunshine or grass, we like to provide them with fresh grass, bugs, and sunshine all day long.

We do this by using  a chicken tractor to house our girls.

To move this “Hen Hotel” takes man hours and fuel. We can’t move it by hand so we have to use our tractor or skid steer. This of course adds to the expense.

We also provide electrified fencing to keep them safe from predators like hawks, eagles and coyotes.

Just the other day Chad was able to “dispatch” one of those predators (the fury kind that love to use their teeth).

And when it comes to supplying food, we use the best feed we can find. Fresh pasture and plenty of all natural feed gives these hens what it takes to supply us with the jumbo eggs we offer. That kind of feed is costly and sometimes challenging to find.

You add distribution costs, FDA compliance permits and licenses and you see that there is quite an expense to getting fresh healthy jumbo eggs to our customers.

I could go on and on extolling the AWESOMENESS of that small oval chicken fruit. But I won’t. It is nice to know that with all the heath benefits that eggs provide, it also gives us a good protein for 33 cents per serving. Try to venture to the health food store and get the same vitamins, protein and omega-3 fatty acids for that price, not to mention…. have you tasted some of those vitamins?

Naturally Dyeing Eggs

I saw this article Fox News publish in 2013 and thought I’d share it with you. There are all kinds of info on dyeing naturally, so I’m sure you can find other dye created from natural ingredients so have fun.

By the way, the eggs we did this year are not all naturally dyed, mostly because we really like the color of some dyes. Some of the egg colors turned out stunningly beautiful with rich deep earth tones and that’s because they are brown eggs which gives all the colors a “jeweled” look to them.

9 Ways to Dye Eggs Naturally

The time has come to celebrate the age-old tradition of dying Easter eggs. For most families the historical ritual, symbolizing the renewal of life, will consist of hard boiling a dozen eggs, purchasing a few packets of PAAS egg dye and rounding up whatever stickers are in the house to slap on the pastel shells. While tradition is important in any household, why not mix it up this year and try making your own dye?

For over a century the FDA has been cracking down on artificial dyes. In 1950, many children became ill after eating Halloween candy containing Orange No. 1. The FDA found later the color was toxic. In 1976, the agency banned Red No. 2 because it was suspected to be carcinogenic. While food quality testing has come a long way, if you’d rather not take the risk, here are 10 suggestions for dying eggs au naturale.

Prepping

When you finish hard boiling your eggs, use the hot water as a base for your dyes. Pour the hot water into medium-sized bowls, one for every color. For each cup of dye, make sure to add 1/8 cup of distilled white vinegar to each color once the water has cooled slightly. This will ensure the color does not fade once it is on the egg. Remember, just because the dyes are natural does not mean they won’t stain your clothes. Wear latex gloves and old clothes and cover the surfaces where you are working with newspapers.

Blue

There are several ways to make the color blue. You can add a cup of blueberries into your bowl of hot water, let them sit for 10 minutes and then strain. Another method for making blue is to use one red cabbage, chopped into two-inch chunks, and leave the cabbage in the water until the water has fully cooled. Then strain.

Red/pink

The whole spectrum from red to pink depends on the amount of time an egg is left to soak. So, when making red dye, remember you also have pink at your fingertips. Red can be made from adding a can of sliced beets to two cups of boiling water with a teaspoon of vinegar. Let simmer for 10 minutes then strain the beets. The color can also be made from cranberries, although a bag of fresh cranberries has to be soaked in the water/vinegar solution overnight.

Brown

Don’t cry. The color brown is made from the skins of about six to eight brown onions, using only the dried brown parts. Let them soak in the water/vinegar solution until it turns a rusty brown and then strain. The color can also be made from adding 1/2 cup of ground coffee to the water/vinegar solution before straining.

Yellow

This cheery color is probably the strongest of all natural dyes. It is made by mixing three tablespoons of dried turmeric to your water/vinegar solution. The golden spice is a key ingredient in Indian curries and will leave a stain on nearly everything it touches. If the fear of having yellow fingers for days is too strong, you can always make yellow by simmering the peels of six oranges in your water/vinegar solution for 20 minutes.

Orange

The color orange is made from adding a tablespoon of paprika powder to your solution. Be careful, even the smallest whiff of paprika packs a lot of heat. If you are working with very young children, skip the spicy coloring and use two tablespoons of annatto seeds instead. Let them simmer for 10 minutes before straining the seeds.

Green

For a lighter green, add two tablespoons of green tea powder to your water/vinegar solution. For a deeper color green, use the skins from six red onions. Let them simmer in the solution for 15 minutes and then strain.

Purple

There are two options for making the color purple, one slightly more kid-friendly than the other. Purple is made from boiling a cup of either red wine or grape juice and adding in a tablespoon of vinegar as the liquid cools.

Gold

For making a bronze/gold dye, simmer two tablespoons of dill seeds in one cup of water for 15 minutes. Then strain the seeds and add a tablespoon of white vinegar.