Amidst being haunted by the images filtering out of U.C. Davis this week another set of visuals impacted what for some is an iconic (the reporter’s choice of word) breakfast item. When I think iconic breakfast, dishes like eggs benedict, joe’s scramble, or french toast come to mind. Don’t forget the side of bacon. However, what has been newsworthy is the Egg McMuffin pictured below in all of its fineness.
The Egg, or in this case Egg and Sausage McMuffin has been flooded with attention because of a video capturing the conditions of the factory farm that supplies McDonald’s with their eggs. These conditions are nothing like the sunlit mythical old timey farm portrayed in their commercials. Footage which is as unappetizing as it gets was filmed with a hidden camera at one of our largest national egg producers. You can get a glimpse of it here at this link, 20/20 Sparboe Farms. What’s intriguing is that both McDonald’s and Target (another retailer supplied by Sparboe) have dropped the supplier and in the case of Target pulled the eggs from their ‘grocery’ section. Given the volume of eggs needed probably another ‘farm’ where the chickens never see daylight is in the works, but hopefully one where some basic standards are met. Or, you can just skip that Egg McMuffin.
Thank you Urban Farm Online for voting us “farmer of the day” on March 25!
The butchering of chickens and other forms of protein happens all of the time, by individual hand and factory. It’s an ordinariness that never loses its unease. Picking up your protein from a local butcher does however take the edge off.
What I wonder about is, when it took two urban farmers plus one 5th grade farmhand all day to butcher, prep, make stew and stock from two hens how anybody had time for the quilting, sewing and woodworking. Hell, even just splitting wood for a fire seems like it would go by the wayside.
post butchering cleanup
remains of the day
“We all go a little mad sometime.” Psycho
Maybe it was the leftover baked acorn squash I fed them. I think I’ve figured out who has started laying the blue eggs. Here she is, alone in a nesting box while the others are out pillaging the backyard.
Coq au Vin, the authentic version and a vast amount of chicken stock for canning was on our minds when my friend Cassie needed to dispatch four of her roosters for various reasons. I had Henry as a captive audience in the car so was inclined and able to give my “Where do you think your food comes from?” talk and tossed in “Chickens don’t poop out breaded nuggets.” for good measure. I didn’t know how he would react to the butchering.
The sharp knife option, you know they are dead
By the time we arrived at Garden Girl Farm Cassie had already butchered two of of the four roosters but we were up close and personal for the remaining duo. It’s not an urban or in this case farm myth that chickens run around once the beheading has happened. It’s unnerving just how long they are still active. In the moment it feels like forever. Once the birds was killed we dipped them in boiling water to ease the plucking off of their feathers. I have no plucking shots because, well I was busy with handfuls of feathers, going back in for the stubborn quills.
Cassie waiting for the headless chicken to quiet down
Once plucked Cassie butchered the chicken. Also a bit unsettling was the behavior of the remaining flock. Those hens were hanging around waiting to be tossed the bits and pieces of what was an outstanding anatomy lesson. Apparently there is nothing more tasty to a chicken then a fellow bird’s lung or liver. Moving on to the portion of the day that most of us are more familiar with we browned the now salted chicken in some olive oil.
The browning chicken
Into a stock pot the size of which I’m envious went the browned chicken, onions, celery, carrots and various herbs from the garden. Another portion of the chicken along with the above ingredients and a couple of bottles of Merlot went into another pot for the start of Coq au Vin. Remember scratch n’ sniff stickers? I wish there was that option for the simmering stock image.
The simmering stock
There had been a whole bunch of verbal bravado from the boy. Would Henry swear off of meat? Would there be tears? Nope, I think he’s just fine. A chicken pot pie was consumed for dinner that night.
Really, I was having fun
The awkward adolescents spent their first night in the so tight nothing will get into it chicken coop. The coop is near my outside bedroom wall so I kept thinking I was hearing things, like things on the roof of the coop. Glancing at Momo, my Akita as she was snoozing bedside without any “I hear something I’d like to eat.” look on her face confirmed that it was just my overactive imagination.
The finished coop pre straw and chicks
I brought the nesting boxes fabricated out of wood scraps with me to Garden Girl Farm in Richmond. Once there Cassie’s “minions” as she terms it helped me out with some custom paint jobs. Let me make it clear that when I get half of the word “chore” out of my mouth at home Henry has vanished. With Cassie all I hear is “What can we do now?”
The minions hard at work painting the exterior of our nesting boxes
An exterior view of the coop
Surf Camp for Henry and three of his friends has come to a crashing halt. It’s not due to shark sightings or a glassy ocean but the looming responsibilities (my theory) of their coach. He’s a nice guy, thirty six with a girlfriend who’s pregnant. In lieu of wetsuits and boards these guys have been helping out at Garden Girl Farm here and there.
The view of the highway and Chevron refinery from the deck of Garden Girl Farm
This past week Cassie’s ducks from Ideal Hatchery arrived and they were far from. While there appear to be happy customers on their website this was not Garden Girl Farm’s experience. She had ordered a straight run (males and females) of Peking ducks. Out of the 20 ducklings that arrived four were deformed, three have neurological issues (one runs in a circle), one is missing an eye and nine are crested. We have four of the “retards” which is Henry’s unfortunate choice of word at our house as they were being picked on by their peers.
Elsewhere around the farm Sasquatch after pulling out bunches of belly fur and making a nest with the fluff gave birth to two kits. Sadly she sat on one of them and it died. The remaining kit is thriving, here held by Freddy.
The boys while taking a post lunch break hung around with Big Gay Al hoping he would make a turkey move on them despite the warning that they would end up scratched. They finally got bored as he was not showing any interest in any of them. Which reminds me, there are also a couple of turkey chicks born about a week ago (Al’s the dad) and a new group of one day old chicks. Just another day around the farm!
A few of the one day old chicks
Misha with Big Gay Al in the background
Goose with Big Gay Al
This particular chicken coop was shown by Regina Rollin Designs and I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) fabricated by Steel Geisha Designs both of Sonoma, California. It was all pulled together at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Per their press materials “This garden strikes a balance between OZ and Auntie Em’s backyard.” I just know that I’m jonesing a coop bad. While there are wheels on this one the utilization of steel suggests to me that it’s not so lightweight. Than again all that steel might keep Momotaro my Akita from having live chew toys. The reality is that I’m going to build one myself with a bit of help. For a variety of reasons (a fence that needs repair first, friend’s schedules etc.) the project will not lift off until the second week of June. I’m still excited about it and having to wait has made me do more reading, a good thing. I’ve moved away from being drawn to colorful eggs and more towards chickens that are described as enjoying people company. Things like that. On a note probably only related in my mind I’m also a bit in shock that my sixth grader Henry has only a month of school left. He’s part of the construction crew. Had a moment of being truly grateful for public school the other day. Let me preface the story by saying that I save my cursing for peers and work, not to the best of my ability around the boy. Henry (his real name) comes home and describes a classroom scenario where a moderately developmentally disabled boy whom we have known since Kindergarten was being teased. Henry said he turned around and told those kids “Shut the fuck up!”. His teacher mentioned that perhaps he could skip dropping the “f” bomb and proceeded to give him two Panther Paws, slips of paper that signify doing a good deed. Have to love not being called in for a conference on that one. So yes, chickens in June.