Sunday Breakfast

Yesterday, we drove over the border to the tiny state of Rhode Island. The destination was an Antique Market where a friend works. It was fun to browse. I bought a photo postcard of a cowgirl from the 1920’s. Even better was going out to eat. Rhode Island is the birthplace of the classic American diner. There are ersatz copies in malls, but they are nothing like the few true, original ones left. Like this one.

modern diner

It was 1:30 PM when we sat down to eat, but we still ordered breakfast. I had French Toast topped with Fresh Apples, Cranberries, Homemade Granola and Apple Cider-Maple Glaze. My son had M&M Pancakes with Whipped Cream, and my husband ate Banana-Chocolate Bread French Toast with Custard Sauce. I drank cups of good diner coffee.

diner food

This was not fake, over-priced nostalgic fare. This was the real deal. I ate every bite.

Who Was Here?

It’s snowy. The wind is biting cold. I’ve been bringing frozen waterers inside and carrying fresh water out. It gets dark too early. I’ve been whining (or whingeing as my British friends say.) Complaining is fun for awhile, but then it gets boring. It’s only the beginning of January, for goodness’ sake! I decided to turn my attitude around.  Nothing like a walk with Lily Dog to get me to see the world differently. She lets me know that snow is meant for snuffling and galloping through. It’s exciting.

There’s a path near my house named Two Rod Trail. It’s been there since before the Revolutionary War. In fact, the Minute Men marched down it to the infamous bridge in Concord where some say the war started. It’s name comes from the fact that it is two rods wide. The stone walls are still there. But now, instead of fields on either side, there are woods. Perfect places for little animals to live. Someone besides us was also out and about yesterday.

snow tracks

I imagine the pitter-pattering tiny feet, the furry belly dragging in the snow, the tail marking a fine line behind. I’m not a tracker, and my Guide to Nature in Winter doesn’t give me a definitive answer. I can imagine all sorts of voles and field mice making their way through the snow. Beatrix Potter would have dressed them prettily. It’s nice to imagine them curled up and warm in a bed of leaves under those old stone walls.

Year End Egg Count

egg carton

I keep a tally of eggs laid. Over the last year, the number of chickens in my flock has ranged from 12 to 16. Some were too young to lay, some too old. All molted and took a break. Some went broody, sat in a nest and refused to move. They didn’t lay for weeks. When it got too hot they went on strike. They don’t like to lay when it’s too cold. Despite all of that, we collected 1,270 eggs. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But, that averages out to only 3.5 eggs a day. Not a great number for how many hens I keep, but certainly enough to keep us in omelets and pudding.

It costs about 8¢ day to feed and bed each hen, which comes to just over $400 a year. Divide that by the number of eggs, and each egg costs 30¢. If I were to buy organic eggs at the market, I would pay the same amount. However, add in the cost of the hens, the equipment, medicine, egg cartons, electricity, sand for the run when it gets muddy, fencing, cabbage and cost of the pet sitter when we go away…this is only a partial list… then again, let’s not add that in!

I could do it differently. I could own all Golden Comets, wonderful, productive hybrids. I currently have two, Philomena and Agnes. They each lay an egg every day, without fail, even when the weather hits well below freezing. They are young; this is their first laying season. They’ll keep this up until they are 18 months old, when they’ll molt. If I had a flock of 16 of these pullets, I’d be getting almost 3,000 eggs a year, and the cost of each would be less than half what I currently shell out. At the end of two years, they’d be turned into soup. I have absolutely no problems with farmers who do this. In fact, I eat eggs and hens that come from such farms.

But, I have a small flock of many breeds. Each is an individual. By the time their two productive years are up, they’ve become a part of the warp and weave of my life. I keep the old girls around. Marge is seven years old, and she’s been cackling and commenting on every going on for the last six years. That’s worth 8¢ a day to me. My new Polish hens, Tina and Siousxie are outgoing, silly birds, but they’re ornamental and each egg will be a surprise. They pay for themselves with their personalities. Worth every penny. I’m fortunate that I can afford it. I’m also appreciative of the farmers who farm to support their families and do it differently.

Here’s to a productive 2010 – however you define productive!

Things to Come in 2010

I have plenty of New Year’s resolutions. There’s the usual how to be a better person promises. You don’t need to hear the details. Always boring to tell. But I’ve also got some much more interesting than that stuff planned for HenCam in 2010.

Next week I’ll be adding a new page to HenCam – FAQs! I’ll post about ten Frequently Asked Questions. I already have a few written, including, “Cold Weather Care” and “Help! My Chicken Looks Sick!” Steve has written one on HenCam technical specs. What would you like to read?

Also, for the New Year, I’ll be opening a “store.” Some of you have asked about HenCam hats and t-shirts and such. Would you wear a HenCam baseball cap? Drink from a mug with Pip’s picture? Want notecards? A bumper sticker? I’m open to suggestions.

We’re also working on a *free* ring-tone featuring Marge’s loud complaining. Won’t that be fun to download to your phone!

All the Best in the New Year-

Terry and the crowd at Little Pond Farm