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we like it wild: fresh eggs

by Grace Bonney

Right now, in between bouts of rain, we’re dreaming of whiling away an uninterrupted afternoon in the early summer sun digging through dirt and loosening root balls. For most of us a garden means flowers, for some it may mean fresh fruits and vegetables. For a select few, working in their garden may be more akin to working on a small-scale farm complete with barnyard animals. We visited one such hard-working garden this week on our search for Easter inspiration.

Dary lives in Novato, a woodsy enclave in Marin County not far from San Francisco, and in addition to growing tons of veggies and wonderful cutting garden, she is also a mother hen to about 20 chickens. Producing one to two eggs a night, Dary’s chickens produce plenty of eggs to go around the neighborhood, so she was happy to share some of her clutch with us for this weeks post, as well as show us around the coop. Lucky for us, there were even a few hatchlings to play with. So cute!

Here’s a guide to Dary’s garden chickens: Jersey Giants are the black and white chicks, the yellowy-orange gals are Buff Orpingtons, the browns and whites are Red Sex-links, the brown-orange are Rhode Island Reds, and the black and browns are Araucanas. All these chickens lay lovely large brown eggs, except for the Araucanas, who (as any Martha fan can tell you) lay beautiful pale blue eggs. Although the outside colors are lovely, it’s what’s inside that’s the real treat. Homegrown eggs have richer yolks and thicker whites adding extra deliciousness to omelets, cakes, and other dishes.

Instead of dyeing our eggs we decided to turn them into mini vases for a springtime tabletop display. Just gently take off the top of your egg by tapping it on the edge of a bowl, then pour out the yolk and white to use later (we recommend making a Spanish Potato Tortilla with the leftovers – yum!). Rinse out the shell and make a paper sleeve with a small enough opening to hold your egg without slipping through. Fill your eggs with water and take a walk through your garden (or visit a florist and pick out a few stems) to gather little bits and blooms to fill your eggy-cups. Smaller flowers and sprigs work best; we used geranium, viburnum, lilac, muscari, forget-me-nots, and dogwood for ours. This project is so simple that you could easily whip out a dozen and use them as placecard holders for your Easter brunch or dinner. When you’re done you can compost the whole thing. Talk about easy clean up!

(If you’re interested in raising your own chickens, check out Sunset Magazine’s One-Block Diet experiment going on right now. Click on Team Chicken to read all about their chicks, and check out their recommendations for books all about raising chickens on your own, but check out the whole site to see what it’s like to try to live off the land when the land is your own square block of suburb.)

CLICK HERE for more beautiful chicken and flower arrangement pictures after the jump!

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