one imperfect egg
Today is my birthday. This morning, a hen settled into a nook behind the lilac tree, below the kitchen window, built a nest around her, and laid an egg into it. One perfect, milk chocolate-brown egg, with a fluorescent orange yolk.
I can't remember the last time I was so excited.
When I told my dad that we were getting chickens, he asked what our neighbors thought about that. The truth is that we didn't precisely tell our neighbors. We'd only moved in a week before and we didn't know anybody. It seemed like a bad idea to bring over a plate of cookies with the message that we're going to be housing animals whose shit is notoriously stinky and who may or may not be crowing at 4 am, hope you don't mind. Of course, it turns out their shit isn't so bad as long as you keep composting it, and the hens are quieter than a barking dog (we're surrounded on all sides by those) or even a meowing cat – certainly a horny cat is louder than our hens' irritable morning cooing.
At the time, my dad suggested that we promise eggs to our neighbors to placate their concerns. I thought that was a great idea, but he was joking. “Eggs are less than a dollar a dozen,” he laughed, “and they're all the same size and color. Plus, you don't have to worry about double yolks or blood spots.” His message was that our eggs are undesirable in comparison.
All the same size and color? I guess that's true. The backyard eggs we've been buying for a year come in all sizes, shapes, and colors – green, blue, a whole palette of brown, speckled. Some are almost round while others are elongated. Some are small, some are monsters. All of them have that incredibly bright orange yolk, several shades darker than anything I've seen from a grocery store. I have yet to see a blood spot, meat spot, or double yolk, but our eggs are different – that's for sure.
Eggs that are all the same size, color, texture, and shape look so weird to me now. And I have to believe that the eggs coming from my hens are what's actually normal – not neat rows of endless white that could be measured in sameness to the millimeter. A stem of tomatoes at various stages of ripeness is what's actually normal. When you garden, or have a strong focus on the food produced by small farmers, you come to realize what's sold as normal in a supermarket is really pretty bizarre. Like eggs in the winter. Blueberries in the autumn. Citrus in the spring. Acorn squash in the summer. Broccoli heads that are all the same density. Potatoes that never sprout. “Atlantic” salmon.