Closed loop systems, herbs and eggs….

At present, we live with 10 laying chickens, 5 retired chickens, 1 Rooster, 2 teenage chickens and 2 Mumma chickens with 10 chicks and we love it. We love watching the chooks go about their day, and we love the eggs.

Why so many chooks? Probably because we believe in letting our chooks age with respect and pass on from old age, for although they are no longer laying eggs, they are still contributing to our closed loop system. What is our closed loop chicken system? It is part of our sustainable slow living homesteading system.

Kitchen and garden scraps including weeds go to the chook yard, any left-over scraps are raked up along with straw and manure from under roosts and this goes to the compost bin to break down. It is too rich and hot at this point to put directly on vegie beds. In a few months this beautiful rich compost is added to the vegie garden beds and seedlings planted for a new crop. The chooks also free-range keeping pests’ levels under control and they provide us with eggs, ethical, local and homegrown.

Now to chat about some Egg myths…

Eggs shell colour is determined by feather colour!

Nope, the colour of the eggs comes from the breed of chickens. The shell colour has no relationship to the colour of the chook’s feathers. For example: Blue & green: Araucana, Pink: Faverolles, Dark brown: Marans, Light brown: Barnevelder, Speckled light brown: Welsummer, White: Leghorn. A carton of eggs with a variety of colours is such a pretty thing to see.

Different coloured eggs have different nutrition level!  Nope again, all eggs have the same nutrient value and there’s also no difference in yolk or taste due to shell colour. Taste is due to food eaten by the chicken and how it is cooked.

Egg Yolks colour range (from pale yellow to deep orange) depends on the chooks diet.  True. The orange colour in the yolks comes from carotenoids in the feed given to chickens. However, it is a myth is that free range eggs always have a vibrant, bright yellow or almost orange yolk colour. The reality is that yolk colour depends on what the chickens have been eating. So, at certain times of the year when there is little green feed around in the paddocks like now, yolk colour will not be very deep. It also depends on what extra feed the chickens are getting. Those that are fed corn, green leafy plants or access to green grass have eggs with darker yolks than chickens that eat wheat or just pellets.

Poached Eggs

Now if you have chickens you will have eggs, so you will always have a meal on hand. One of our favourite meals for lunch is poached eggs.

So simple but so yummy

Stovetop Method: Fill saucepan with about 3 inches (8 cm) of water. Heat until water simmers gently. Break cold egg into small dish or saucer. Holding dish just above simmering water, gently slip egg into water. Repeat for remaining eggs. Cook in barely simmering water until white is set and yolk is cooked as desired, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove eggs with slotted spoon and drain well. We eat our eggs on an English muffin or sourdough toast with cooked spinach, grated cheese and herbs such as parsley or chives. A quick nutritious meal sourced from our back yard.

Our Hints for perfect poached egg:

A shallow saucepan with large surface area is best for poaching eggs.

For poached eggs with a compact oval shape, use cold fresh eggs.

If desired, 2 tsp (10 mL) vinegar can be added to the poaching water to help the eggs keep a compact shape.

The poaching water should just barely simmer; rapid boiling will cause the eggs to break up as they cook.

Poached egg on skimmer

Herbs

Before winter hits don’t forget to gather the last of your herbs for drying. Herbs can die down in winter months or are annuals, so we need to collect and dry our herbs for use over winter months. Some of our favourite herbs that we dry are, thyme, mint, oregano, bay leaves, marjoram, parsley, chives and sage. Also, lavender, calendula and chamomile are handy to have dried.

My favourite low-tech way is, tie herbs together is bundles with string, hang bundles upside down on a line, broom handle or an herb drying rack. You can wrap a paper bag around the bundles to keep the dust free. (I don’t usually do this step as I Iike to see the and smell the herbs as they dry). Leave to dry in a warm, well ventilated space for 1-2 weeks. Once dry and crisp, rub them to the crumble, remove any stalks and store in airtight jars. Shelf life around 12 months. The herbs can be used in cooking or making tonics or pest control, for a mixture that’s anathema to clothes-loving moths, place dried rosemary, thyme, cloves, lavender or bay leaves into a small cloth bag and hang them in your wardrobe and place them in your drawers, crush up dried lavender in a mortar and pestle and sprinkle onto a pet’s bedding to help repel fleas.

Connect with nature, live simply and we all benefit.

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