Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Abundance of Eggs

Silicone muffin pans make an excellent "mold" for freezing individual eggs

So, what does one do when there is an abundance of eggs? I'm getting anywhere from 12-18 eggs a day from my 26 least this is how many I'm finding. Little stinkers like to lay all over the place, which makes daily egg gathering something of a daily Easter egg hunt.

My husband and I can only use so many eggs; the rest I'm trying to sell, and that's hard to do here in the country when so many of my neighbors have eggs for sale or are giving them away for free.

A friend suggested freezing eggs in silicone muffin pans. Brilliant! I'd been cracking the eggs open and freezing them in containers, intending to use them for scrambled eggs or omelets. Freezing individual eggs in each cup of the silicone muffin pan enables me to place these frozen eggs in a plastic bag and freeze that. Then, when I need a single egg, or a certain number of eggs, I can just open the bag and count out how many eggs I need. And unless I let the eggs thaw a bit then re-freeze, they don't stick together.

Bag of individually frozen eggs

A single large egg, frozen and freshly popped out of the silicone muffin pan

The silicone muffin pan is wonderful for freezing eggs for several reasons. They're just the right size for large and jumbo-size eggs. I suppose one could use very large ice cube trays for smaller eggs; I seem to recall reading that someone had done this, but haven't tried it myself. Silicone is supposedly a food-safe material and won't leech dangerous chemicals into your food. Getting the eggs out of the muffin pan couldn't be simpler....just turn it inside-out and the eggs pop right out. Clean-up is easy.

I'm assuming my girls will slow down their egg production over the winter months, which is when I'll dive into the frozen eggs. These eggs won't be suitable for making fried eggs (sunny-side up type), but should be perfect for baking, scrambled eggs or omelets.

**NOTE. I hadn't used these frozen eggs at the time I wrote the above. Since someone had asked me how they were after being thawed, I thawed a couple to see what they would be like. Interestingly, the yolk becomes somewhat solid, so I'm thinking I'll try stirring the white and yolk together before freezing to see if that makes a difference. Taste is fine. More updates to come...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

They Stink. They Bite. They Swarm.

Close-up of a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle that landed on my jeans

And today is the day they invaded the earth...or so it seems. My sister-in-law in Indiana told me they saw their fist invaders today. People here in Central Pennsylvania have been telling me they've noticed the invasion today for the first time this fall.

What are they? They're often mistakenly called ladybugs, but these are no ordinary "ladybird beetles", though they do look similar. These are the "Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles", or Harmonia axyridis. H. axyridis was introduced to the United States in the late 1970's as a biological control agent, and feeds on such pests as aphids and scales. You can read more about these beetles here, or do an internet search and find a plethora of sites on the subject.

View of the house from our can see the air is filled with swarming beetles!

One article that I read dealing with these beetles stated that the beetles do not bite or sting. Huh? Either I've got a different kind of beetle swarming here, or the person writing that article hasn't been under siege by these beetles. If what I'm feeling isn't a bite, I'd sure like to know what on earth that sensation is!

Part of the garage being overrun by beetles

Today while doing chores, I felt like I was living in a horror film. The beetles were swarming all over the garage and chicken coop, and when I'd get near those areas, I'd be instantly covered with beetles. They have a peculiar smell, and they crawl all over the place, including under my clothes where I'd often be on the receiving end of a bite (or whatever that is!). The chickens didn't seem to be interested in ingesting any of these creatures, sadly.

I can only hope that they do indeed annihilate aphids, scales and psyllids, because anything this annoying certainly must have some special purpose in life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard

Welsummer egg in a hidden snow nest

It's been quite a long time since I've written anything much catching up to do!

Let me jump right into things, then play catch up later. My chickens began laying on August 20, first one egg and now we're up to well over a dozen eggs a day. The record so far is 20 eggs in one day from my 26 girls.

Harriet is one of my Welsummer girls, named after Harry Houdini because she constantly escapes from the chicken run. I discovered that, once Harriet started laying, she began laying in a hidden nest in a patch of beans that I'd been letting go to seed. She's laid an egg in there nearly every day since I discovered the nest a couple weeks ago. Her eggs are a nice dark brown, but not quite as dark as I'd expect from a Welsummer.

Harriet, my Welsummer hen named after Harry Houdini. She's a renegade chicken that marches to a different drummer.

Yesterday we got the first snow of the season, which is quite early for Pennsylvania. It's still snowing today. But, old habits die hard, and Harriet braved the snow and made her way to her "hidden" nest and promptly deposited a nice brown egg. I'd placed a golf ball in her nest to encourage her to return to the same spot rather than lay all over creation, which, of course, would mean I'd have to hunt and hunt and hunt to find eggs.

I'm not sure what goes on in a chicken's brain, but she prefers this spot out in the open to the nesting boxes I have set up in the chicken run. Silly girl.