Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Raising Backyard Chickens - Exactly How to Use All Those Fresh Eggs

black chicken roosting on the edge of a chicken pen

Fresh eggs can pile up quickly with a set of chickens in your backyard. How will you consume them? Exactly how do I store eggs? How Do I know the egg is fresh? What can I do with the shells? 


Collecting eggs each day from hens that are actively laying creates a pleasant dilemma. The pile of eggs grows unless they are consumed within a few days or weeks or given away. Do you wash them when they are brought into the home for storage? 

Eggs are already coated with a substance created by the chicken called a bloom. It is a sealer the hen's body makes. It covers the egg shell when the egg is dropped into the nesting area. There is nothing else to do but set it aside for later. Washing the egg would make it vulnerable to spoiling quickly. 

Egg Dispensers
Friends from outside the US tell me that eggs are stored on the counter in other countries such as Europe and the Islands. Here, they are placed in handy containers meant to distribute the eggs in a first in first out pattern. Placing the freshest eggs in the back insures that the eggs are rotated properly. Egg dispensers are handy items and a great conversation piece. 

I, personally, keep my eggs in the refrigerator. I saved and collected egg cartons previous to the hens laying performance to keep up with the growing pile of hard shelled gems. The cartons are rotated in the cooler so that I can maintain fresh stock and quickly give a dozen to family or friends when the occasion arises. 

Try to gather at least four dozen egg cartons so that storing the eggs is easy.

I keep a plastic egg container handy to pack eggs for camping trips. There is nothing like a fresh fried or scrambled egg cooked over an open fire in a cast iron dutch oven or frying pan. It is simply something that must be done when rising in the morning on a nature outing. Knowing that these were collected in my own yard makes them even more tasty!

Egg Holder
How To Tell If An Egg Is Fresh
I mark my eggs with a permanent ink marker so that I can track its freshness. The eggs I give away are alway less than ten days old. 

Drop an egg into a deep bowl of water and if it floats it is to be discarded. Eggs build up a space of oxygen as they age. A fresh egg will sink right to the bottom of the container. Dry the shell before cracking so as not to drop the exterior matter into your cooking project. 

Should You Sell The Extra Eggs? 
That question is explored in this very entertaining video. There are quite a few things to know about fresh farm eggs. The condition of the yolk is generally brighter than store bought eggs. The shells are slightly different and of course, there may be details present in a fresh egg that are not found in eggs produced in high quantity farms. 

People that are used to the bleached white shells and light-yellow yolks may not be comfortable with a fresh, grass fed chicken egg. 

Egg Recipes
Eggs are fairly easy to prepare, A list of ways to use up your egg stock is a great way to rotated the gathered goods and keep the menu fresh, too. This might read like the shrimp list from Bubba's dialog in the movie Forest Gump. If you find there is something left out of the list, be sure to add it in the comments area below.

  • Fried 
  • Scrambled 
  • Boiled 
  • Poached 
  • Egg Sandwiches
  • Breakfast Burritos
  • Omelets
  • Quiche
  • Stir Fry
  • Egg Pancakes
  • French Toast
  • Baked Goods
  • Egg Drop Soup

While I am sure there are more recipes for eggs, this is a hefty list and should help with the egg rotation. 

What To Do With All Those Egg Shells
Egg shells are high in calcium and are easily ground into a meal that can be placed in the backyard garden area for soil additive. The shells can be processed through a grinder or hand crushed for easy distribution. It is a great way to add this vital mineral when planting new tomatoes or peppers and various other plants. Just add a few sprinklings of the shells when setting the roots. 

Word has it that they can also be given back to the chickens for assistance in their egg production. I have been told this by several chicken farmers. Simply sprinkle the small pieces around their scratch area. While I do not care for this use, I can see the reasoning. To me it is like eating one's own fingernails. Its kinda gross, but some things about keeping chickens are a bit distasteful.

Set the shells aside so that they may dry completely. I do not rinse them out. When they are set, I bag them up and wait for a day when I have the time to do the crushing and then add them to a glass jar to keep them for later use. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Echo Canyon - Camping with a Dog and A Dutch Oven - Part Three

sky, clouds, tent, and trees with a view of the water in Echo Canyon Nevada
Campsite View Echo Canyon, Nevada

Echo Canyon sneaks up on you in the lovely Spring Valley Recreation Area. Unless you know exactly where it is, you might drive right by the tiny sign that says Echo and not even give it a second glance. 


While the camping is excellent and the views fabulous, the lake is better for bird watching not fishing at this late in the season. I enjoyed a weekend here on my fourth trip in as many weeks camping out in areas around Southern Nevada.

The Echo Canyon Campground is under 200 miles from the city of Las Vegas along the North 93 highway on the 322. It is on the Scenic Route Tours of Nevada and it does not disappoint. The scenery is amazing in this area sandwiched between the desert floor and mountain terrain. Scenes of cattle and horses grazing along the roadside in pastures and alfalfa fields intermix with the beautiful hills, trees, brush and flowers.

Echo Canyon Landscapes

The stark hills offer polka dot markings along the surface with small trees and shrubs. All along the trails and roads are beautiful yellow-gold flowers and touches of deep red on occasion. The rock formations change up every twenty miles or so and there are marshes in sections and farmlands in others. It is really a dreamy kind of adventure. It is a photographer's paradise.

There were thick, puffy clouds over the tiny reservoir of Echo Canyon the day I pulled into the campground. The scene was surreal, like something out of a movie or a dream. I said to my friend that this must be what heaven was like. Perfect views. Just beautiful. They made your heart ache to see such loveliness. I did not want to come home, but duty calls. I had to be to work at six Sunday evening. These small excursions have been a peaceful time out to an otherwise hectic schedule.

yellow flowery shrubs, tree dotted hills, and pasture lands around the Echo Canyon and Pioche, Nevada
Hills, fields, with cattle grazing,  and flowery brush around Pioche, Nevada
The odd shaped rocks and hills made for a dazzling day of sightseeing. My friend Sharon led me to the campground then showed me a back road that wound through a tiny community of pastures and hilly areas. The view was breathtaking in every corner and turn.

Odd shaped rock formations and yellow flowery shrubs in Echo Canyon / eagle Valley, Pioche, Nevada
These jagged rock formations add to the already stunning landscape
in the Eagle Valley / Echo Canyon area
There were horses and old cottages, fields, and light forests. The area is also alive with deer and other hunting game. We saw quail and rabbits, and even a doe grazing along the roadway.

mule deer doe
Mule deer doe grazing along roadside 
Recovery of Mind, Body, and Spirit

How often do we add a great time out to our lives? Stress from constant activity can wear on the body, spirit, and the mind. By allowing a day or so of rest and relaxation, the body allows itself to settle and heal, the spirit is refreshed, the mind calms, the blood pressure and body aches diminish.

Camping can be a little bit of work in the beginning, but the results are worth the efforts. If planned correctly, the expense is minimal. The campground is generally under $20 a night and the basic costs are food and fuel for traveling. Once the fishing license and gear are purchased, the yearly cost is small compared to a four star vacation destination with airfare and hotel accommodations. A great dinner at a fancy restaurant can cost as much as a camping trip in one sitting! Create your own gourmet meal outdoors over an open fire.

Taking a couple of days to relax in an area like this refreshes my senses. The scenery is amazing at every turn and vista. The fresh air revitalizes a weary mind and heart and aligns my spirit with more important things like just enjoying life. Traveling has never been on my schedule unless it was for work, but visiting this area changed all of that. I intend to move here eventually, when my life turns to retirement age. Life in a bustling city has me craving a simpler lifestyle, one I can indulge in here in a valley of this nature. It is important to me that I unplug from modern culture and technology at times to realign my true priorities. 

rustic building scene with brush, grasses, and trees near Pioche, Nevada
Rustic building - Pioche, Echo Canyon, Nevada

tent, charcoal grill and water area, dutch oven, and coffee pot
Basic camping necessities: Water, charcoal grill,
Dutch Oven, Water spigot, and a tent
The Campsite Set Up

The basic set up in each camp includes a water spigot, a fire ring, a covered table area, and a fire pit ring with a grill. Cooking over an open fire helps keep outdoor skills sharp. One must know how to prepare meals on other sources and the firepit and charcoal grill offer a splendid opportunity to create a nice menu.

I caught no fish when I want to the side of the water area, but no worries, I did bring enough food for a week as I usually do when leaving home. I do not like to be without on any outing. It is for the purpose of cooking in the wild that I pack my ice chest. I am creating a Dutch Oven Cookbook that I will release, eventually. Should the occasion arise where I had caught fish, I had packed an onion, garlic, a lemon, and a few herbs in my cooler for use in the outdoor kitchen set up.

The fire pit ring is not shown here, but there is a grill at each site and a water pump connected to a well. A dutch oven serves many purposes in over the fire cooking and can be used as a skillet, a small oven to bake in, and a stew pot if necessary. The coffee pot I use for hot water only and it is set on the corner of my firepit grill so I may have water ready for washing or an occasional cup of tea or hot cocoa.

Be aware that there are no showers here at the campsite. There are bathrooms only, so you will have to bathe in warm water and a washcloth. One may travel to the Horsethief Gulch Campground to shower if necessary.

Look for the recipe page to be added soon! 

Take Time Out

If you do not live in the Nevada area, I challenge you to explore the areas within 200 miles of your home. Seek the solace of the wilderness if only for a weekend or a single evening. Explore the world around you. Test out your camping equipment. Learn how to cook using several different heat sources. The time you spend enjoying the fresh air and scenery will be triple the cost of a therapist, I guarantee it.

There is so much hustle and bustle going on in our modern world that we often forget to look at the skies, breathe, and thank the universe we are alive. Survival Recovery is based on the concept that you can get through disasters with your spirit and mind in tact IF you take the time to heal, recover, and rebuild your life a bit at a time after a crisis by adding certain healthy activities to your lifestyle before disaster.