eggs

A daily harvest from our garden

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Some of the bounty coming from our garden right now.
Some of the bounty coming from our garden right now.

With such a warm spring (more like summer!), the garden is rushing along at the moment.

Every day we’re harvesting something from our garden. Yesterday it was: eggs, green beans, purple beans, tiny wild strawberries and blackberries. Tomorrow it’s likely to be more beans, a zucchini, and more eggs.

With just two of us, it’s hard to keep up! But that’s not a bad problem to have 🙂

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Home-made ploughman’s lunch

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This super-simple no-knead bread was the star of the meal.
This super-simple no-knead bread was the star of the meal.

With such a mild winter, it seemed like the perfect time to have friends around for Sunday lunch.

Like all our meals for guests, we try to feature our locally grown produce as much as possible. Today it was a home-made ploughman’s lunch.

Store bought ingredients:

  • deli-sliced ham
  • various cheeses

Home-grown and home-made ingredients:

  • freshly baked no-knead bread
  • beetroot, feta and walnut salad
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • “Australia Day” chutney (zucchini, apple, onion and saltanas)
  • cucumber relish
  • savory pickled cherries
  • pickled burr gherkins
  • freshly-picked mustard leaves

We then followed that up with a steamed marmalade pudding, using home-made marmalade.

This is the life of our inner-city farm… 🙂

The spread of food, laid out on the table, ready to eat!
The spread of food, laid out on the table, ready to eat!

Is this a free range organic egg?

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Is this the egg that it's supposed to be?
Is this the egg that it’s supposed to be?

With a greater focus on sustainability, many consumers are shifting to higher quality, more ethical products. This includes free range and organic eggs, instead of the horrifically cruel cage eggs.

But are consumers getting what they paid for?

As the recent horsemeat scandal has shown, there’s every incentive for producers, wholesalers and retailers to cheat. In the case of meat, they do this even when DNA testing can catch them out. For organic vs cage eggs, it’s potentially worse: no test can tell between the two.

Thankfully the majority of suppliers will do the right thing, but it only takes a bad egg, as they say …

To be confident about what we’re buying, we need to know where it’s come from, and to have confidence in the supply chain.

The most direct approach is to grow the food yourself. Our backyard eggs are a perfect example: we know exactly what they’re eating, and the conditions they’re kept in. When we sell eggs to friends (to pay for chicken feed), they too can have confidence.

Alternatively, one of the community supported agriculture sources would be the next best option.

After that, we’re really relying on the reputation of the provider, which may not count for much.

This is a problem that needs a solution if ethical food is to have a real future…

On dealing with a glut of eggs

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This is what five dozen home-laid eggs looks like
This is what five dozen home-laid eggs looks like

When we started with our chickens we had three: two Isa Browns and a hand-me-down (of unknown type). Once they started laying, we were receiving 2-3 eggs a day (14-16 a week). That was enough for our household of two, plus some extras to sell to friends or to give away.

The hand-me-down chicken unfortunately died, but about a month ago we ended up with four more. With the Church requiring the nuns to leave the convent next door, we’ve ended up minding their chickens too.

So now we have six chickens, for a total of 40-42 eggs a week. That’s a lot of eggs!

Thankfully there’s a ready market for organically fed, locally raised eggs 🙂

We sell them to our friends and workmates, at the price of $4 per half-dozen, the same price as the equivalent eggs in the supermarket. That gives us enough income to pay for the chicken feed, plus a bit left over. So they pay their own way!

Of course, if we fall behind in offloading the eggs, quite a pile results! The photo above shows 5 dozen eggs packaged up, ready to go to friends who’ve placed pre-orders. There’s no danger that eggs will be wasted, even at 40 a week 🙂

Interesting way to use summer veggies

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Bibimbap is a Korean dish that contains a range of summer vegetables and an egg on a bed of rice.

Our version of Bibimbap had Lebanese cucumber (softened in salt water), spinach (blanched and dressed with sesame oil and sesame seeds) and carrot (lightly fried in rice bran oil) all harvested from our garden less than an hour before dinner, along with a couple of eggs from the chook pen. Delicious!

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Constructing our chicken coop

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Our three girls, happily clucking around the chicken run.

With the house renovation essentially finished, our attention has turned to the garden. The highlight so far is adding chickens to our family, an essential part of any inner-city permaculture system.

The photos in this post show key steps of the construction process. This is one massively over-engineered chicken coop, which all comes down to the mindset you have when starting the project. If you’ve come from a bit of light DIY, then you build something simple. If you’ve come from six months of building a house, as we have, then you build … a small house.

The upside is that, following the grand tradition of backyard coops, it does mean that all the left-over building materials can be recycled into the coop. It should also last for a while 🙂

A few construction notes:

  • The coop sits on a base frame of recycled hardwood, 500mm above ground level. This gives some protection against rats, termites and general rotting. It also gives the girls somewhere to shelter from the sun and rain, and they spend a lot of time napping under the coop.
  • The coop is quite high, for no real reason other than avoiding the need to crouch when cleaning it out.
  • The nesting boxes are made out of recycled eco-ply from the kitchen, and they give easy external access (for when they finally decide to start laying!).
  • An old curtain rail provides a roost, and they happy put themselves to bed each night.
  • The coop is connected to a chicken run beside the fence. By working against the boundary, only two new fences needed to be built.
  • Learning from the nuns next door, the run is built like fort knox, to protect against foxes (oh yes!), rats (heaps) and scavenging birds. This includes aviary mesh on the sides (tucked underground and weighed down with old concrete garden edging), and chicken wire across the top. Every gap has been plugged to the best of our ability.
  • The feeder and water are all suspended off the ground, again for proof against rats.
  • While we lock them up in the coop each night, the run is secure enough to leave them out if we have to go away for a week.

We now have three chickens happily clucking around. Two Isa Browns, and a “something else” (inherited from relatives). No eggs as yet, but the Isa Browns are still very young, and the older bird was moulting when we got her.

And now for the construction photos…

The base of the coop, with recycled hardwood legs and a floor of reused yellow tongue construction flooring. 1.2m x 1.2m
Framing for the walls, just like a house 🙂 Made of reused 90×45 oregon and pine.
The coop moved into place beside the fence, before it gets too heavy! The back wall has gone on, and the first window constructed.
We had left over insulation, so might as well use it!
The construction of the nesting boxes, made from eco-ply. Apparently you need one per five chickens, so we have room for the flock to grow!
The outside being clad in Weathertex watherboards, to match the house. Ok, we know that’s going overboard!
Almost there! Just the inside walls to be done, reusing some left-over plywood sheets.