A whole different bag of Huevos

We have kept egg laying chickens for a few years now. When we started, I did a little research on preserving eggs. Turns out there are ways to oil your clean, unwashed, whole fresh eggs and store them in a cool spot that will make them last 6 or 8 months. That’s pretty good I guess.

But, with a little practical experience, we learned that there is really no need to go to the bother. Unless you eat a hearty 3-egg country breakfast every morning you can’t possibly eat all the fresh whole eggs even a couple of good hens produce. In effect, your long-term storage IS your chickens.

Now, if you do some baking or enjoy a variety of recipes that need eggs, that’s a whole different bag of huevos.

Many years ago, I trained IHOP Store managers. IHOP uses A LOT of eggs, but fewer fresh ones than you might think compared to bulk scrambled eggs that go into omelets, pancakes, crepes, etc, and IHOP doesn’t even bake anything. They buy frozen scrambled eggs by the 5-gallon bucket.

So, if you’re interested in long-term egg storage, it’s really pretty simple. Keep a few chickens. Whenever you get to the point where there’s no room in the fridge for anything but eggs, and maybe the neighbors are crying “uncle”, just crack ’em all into a big bowl, scramble, and freezer bag ’em in handy portion sizes.

Quick easy to-die-for quicheBecky makes a to-die-for Quiche that takes only a few minutes to prepare from frozen scrambled packets. It’s her go-to recipe when we have guests and little time to prepare. That happens a lot with Village visitors.

The self-sufficient lifestyle doesn’t need to be about living out of covered wagons or the little house on the prairie. With a little experience and common sense, life is pretty sweet, simple and efficient. And that leaves more time for enjoying the other good things in life.

Preparedness Fair at the Village on Sewanee Creek

It’s official.  Our first annual preparedness fair will be held at the Village on Sewanee Creek Commons, villager homes and gardens and our nature preserve on July 23-24, 2010.  Call in advance to reserve a campsite or exhibitor space.

See the attached printable

flyer for details.  Preparedness Fair Flyer

See you here!

Learning from Chickens

A chicken may just be one of the dumbest animals on the planet. Yet, today I found that there is much to learn from them.

I spent a good part of my Sunday afternoon relaxing in a lounge chair just observing our new chicken yard. Here’s some background to my story.

About 6 weeks ago, we took delivery of 30 Guinea Hen Chicks. We nurtured them in a cardboard box on our back porch till they outgrew it. A couple weeks ago Joe and I built a chicken coop. As soon as it was ready we moved the Guineas to the new coop while we finished off the fence around the chicken yard.

Guineas are originally from Africa. They are self-sufficient, extremely hardy, voraciously eat bugs (particularly ticks) and are great watch “dogs”. Pretty good neighbors by all my criteria.

Joe has been raising some laying hens and a rooster that he offered to give us. A couple days after completing the fenced yard, we moved the chickens in after dark while they slept. That was Friday night. We put them on their roosts so that when they awoke the next morning they would find themselves in their new home. Joe even brought a box for a nest and a golf ball as a placebo egg. The ball is a cue to where they are supposed to lay. Sure enough, the next day we had 4 beautiful eggs next to the golf ball. That was Saturday and we had a repeat performance today. Nothing like truly fresh eggs.

The first day the chickens and guineas mostly ignored each other. Their second night together I found them snuggled up tightly on the roost. One chicken even had a guinea under her wing.

Today, I noticed that they had become much more segregated. One of the red hens has taken to intimidation, chasing the guineas all over the yard and out of the chicken house. But when it gets dark, they all end up in the house on the roost again, although this evening, at a greater distance. They seem to have noticed a difference. The guineas are about half the size of the chickens, but growing rapidly. When mature, they should be roughly the same size. It will be interesting to see who intimidates whom when size is no longer a differentiator, the chickens are outnumbered about six to one and the guineas have a tactical flight advantage.

The behavior I found most interesting today was guinean. Guinea hens are extremely social animals, running in a tightly packed flock. In this case, I thought they were acting quite human. I had laid out some straw in one corner of the yard. There was plenty there for all the guineas, but it was mostly ignored. One guinea chick randomly took an interest, plucked a single piece of straw from the pile and sprinted for the opposite end of the yard, shaking the straw violently in its beak. Suddenly, that piece of straw became highly desirable to the whole flock, improved as it was in form and function by the shaking. As many chicks as could get near the first guinea began trying to take it away, while continuing to ignore the straw pile. There ensued a mighty chase until the first guinea finally dropped the straw. On the ground, it immediately lost its appeal and the flock’s attention returned to scratching randomly in the dirt.

How similar are people who must have the latest chic’ (pun intended) gadget just because someone else has it. How they scurry frantically about until it it is either acquired or becomes unfashionably passe’. How quickly the cycle spends itself and we rush off in hot pursuit of some new object in a different direction!

Aah, the vanity, avarice and covetousness of men, guineas and chickens. Also, like the red hen, how quickly we seek to intimidate or exercise authority over others just because we can.

Observing chickens may be at the peril of your pride in the human species. You might conclude that we aren’t much smarter than they. On the other hand, maybe we could all learn from watching chickens and stop running around like,  uhhhh……
a chicken with its head cut off?

Neighborhood Rules for a Sustainable Lifestyle

From time to time I receive an email with lots of great questions. This one needs to be shared.

Thanks for the information on the lots and prices. There are a lot of things we like about your development – it’s clear you’ve put a lot of time and thought into it.

We have in common some concerns about the economy and what will happen over the next few years, and we’re very interested in finding a community which has some of these concerns in common and a commitment to a degree of sustainability and self-reliance. Separately, I’ll email you a couple articles on the economy / future predictions which you may find interesting.

My wife and I have a few questions – I’ve numbered them for reference, the number does not signify a priority:

1. What is the threshold to quality for the “Green” discount?   That is, is there a list of specific things one must do to a home?
Currently there are three types of green installation that would qualify. They are Wind power, Solar power and Rain Water Collection System. One of my objectives in offering this rebate is that our efforts in this direction be very visible as an example to educate and encourage others. Hence the choice of these. From a quality perspective, they must function for their intended purpose. Proof that electricity is generated in the projected amounts and stored in a manner to provide a meaningful contribution to your sustainability. You may either contract with an approved professional for installation, in which case the rebate may be applied against the total installed cost or do the work yourself, in which case the rebate will apply only against materials. The project must be completed within one year of purchase.

2. Is there a build deadline – a date by which one must build, after you’ve purchased a lot?
There is no build deadline, only Green Rebate deadline.

3. I see there is a common garden area, but it appears that all forms of fencing is prohibited on an individual lot. We’d like a place where we can have our herb garden for the kitchen and a small vegetable garden on our own lot … and that would mean fencing of some type to keep the rabbits and deer out. Is that a possibility, or is the no-fencing rule absolute?
I need to clarify the covenants. The no-fence rule is meant to apply only to opaque privacy fences. We want to have an open community that invites interaction between neighbors and minimizes barriers. Fences for other purposes (pet or livestock containment, garden protection, etc) are fine.  You will find that anything that makes good common sense for the establishment of a sustainable lifestyle will be encouraged here. The primary principle that will govern all rules is the golden rule with an emphasis on personal liberty to use your land in the most productive manner for the pursuit of happiness and your well being.

4. Similar to fencing question above and related to the goals of sustainability and self-reliance, we’d also like a place that would allow a small chicken coop … I can understand that on lots of an acre or two, neighbors may object to a rooster – that’s the one that creates the early morning noise, but not so the hens. Recently, even large communities like Raleigh and Durham have affirmed that homes with small yards can have – in Durham up to 10 hens, but no rooster … I don’t recall for sure what the Raleigh rule was. What are your thoughts on this?
We encourage small-scale farm production of all types. I keep rabbits on my property. I intend to build a chicken coop as well. Just haven’t gotten to that project yet. There are many small farmers in the extended community who raise chickens, beef, pigs, bees, etc., so as yet, I have relied on my neighbors for these commodities. Personally, I have no problem with roosters either since I am usually up before the roosters are. I think we will leave that up to the vote of the community as to whether we should impose a rooster rule in the future.   At this point there is none.

5. Also, our southern woods are infested with ticks … we’d like to have the freedom to have a few guinea hens to run loose during the day and gobble up the ticks … they are far better at tick control than any other creature – – and that also fits with our mutual dislike of chemicals and sprays.
Guinea hens are not only great for controlling ticks, they are excellent watch “dogs” as well. Highly encouraged.

6. The annual HOA fee is set at $600 … what additional fees / assessment do you envision (i.e., amount and frequency)? From heading a couple HOAs in the past, I can understand that you can’t be precise about predicting the future, but what’s your best guess at this point in time?
We have actually reduced the HOA fee to $300 and as yet have not collected it from any homeowners. At this point, we do not maintain expensive improvements like a lodge or a pool, so our costs are minimal. The trails that connect each lot and the 500 acre nature preserve and the entry sign area do require maintenance, but so far I have carried those costs either from my own pocket or my own labor. The future will be, as you say, difficult to predict. However, I believe there will be sustainability projects that the HOA will want to take on where it will make sense to share the costs as opposed to tackling them as individual families. For example, it might make sense for the HOA to own a tractor to cultivate the community garden and to purchase fuel for it. Some of us have also talked about how much fun it might be to have a zip line system for access and enhanced appreciation of the canyon nature preserve. These commitments will be taken on by common vote of the community. I am careful not to impose costs that reduce sustainability or become a burden to Villagers.

7. How many total lots do you expect to put on the market (i.e., how many neighboring families will be in this community when fully populated)?
There are 30 lots in phase 1. Approximately the same in phase 2. Several families have purchased two adjoining lots. I encourage people to build multiple homes on their lots for extended family where they have enough land, as I plan to do for my children and aging mother. So the total population is difficult to predict. This said, we carefully chose this area for the quality of people who surround the village. They tend to be hard-working, resourceful, honest, open people. I view them as an extension and a vital part of our sustainable community.  We differ from many gated, closed communities in that we strive to maintain excellent, close relationships with our indigenous neighbors. We hope to be of great value to them as they are to us.