Farm eggs, dirty?!

beautiful fresh eggs

Lately, someone on social media commented that they can never use farm-fresh eggs, no matter how much they would like to, because they’re so dirty and full of gunk. As you may imagine, I couldn’t just scroll by. It seemed almost tragic to me that someone should miss out on the goodness of farm eggs because of an unfounded prejudice, or because they chanced to run into a dirty dozen.

My family has consumed mostly home-grown eggs for over ten years. For the most part, our eggs are absolutely pristine. The picture above shows the eggs as collected – I never wash eggs because the eggshell is porous, and washing can push any contaminants into the egg.

I often pull the eggs straight from under a hen and hold them against my cheek because they’re so nice and warm (yep. Really! It’s one of the weird things I never thought I’d admit). You can bet I wouldn’t do that with an egg that isn’t perfectly clean.

Of course, we do get the occasional dirty egg, especially on rainy days. But overall, our eggs are lovely and clean. There’s just absolutely no reason why farm or homegrown eggs should be dirtier than factory eggs.

In some cases, though, farm eggs may end up extra dirty because ofĂș:

a) A very crowded coop and not enough nesting boxes

b) not enough lining in the nesting boxes

c) letting eggs pile up

All of the above can lead to eggs breaking and making a mess over any other eggs next to them. I have one nesting box for 3-4 layers, I line the boxes with plenty of straw, and I collect eggs at least once a day. It makes for nice, fresh, clean, and healthy eggs.

Disclaimer: even clean eggs may carry contaminants. I advise only consuming thoroughly cooked eggs, regardless of their source.

Crochet simple ribbed hat in Malabrigo Rios: yarn review

Why would I make a winter hat when it’s April and the next cold day is months away around here? Simple: I finally got my hands on a beautiful hank of Malabrigo Rios, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Malabrigo refers to Rios, a worsted weight 100% superwash merino, as their “workhorse yarn”. Once I started my project, it was easy to see why. This is a smooth, even yarn that rolls easily into a ball, doesn’t tangle, has a marvelous stitch definition, and slides through your fingers nicely as you work with it. If you make a mistake and need to rip out a few rows, you can do that easily. And, of course, being a Malabrigo and superwash yarn to boot, it comes in a beautiful range of variegated and solid colors.

Now let’s talk a bit about the drawbacks – or, I should rather say, the specs that make a specific type of yarn more suited to one project than another.

I wanted to make a hat for my son. What I had in mind was an interesting cabled pattern with tons of texture. However, about midway through my project, I realized that, a) my chosen colorway, Playa, looked a tad too busy with cables, and b) the cables seemed a little flat. I wish I had taken pictures, but since I hadn’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I did not achieve the satisfying bouncy, squishy cables I got in my other hat projects.

It turned out I wasn’t alone. Another crafter who had made beautiful hats in Malabrigo Rios complained of the cables not holding up too well. Her project was knitted and mine was crochet, but it still prompted me to seek more feedback.

This was my first time working with superwash merino. After reading up a bit, I realized that superwash merino yarns have their strengths and weaknesses. In a nutshell: the superwash treatment removes some of the scales on the fiber surface. This results in a sleek, smooth yarn that offers more drape than body.

I switched gears and decided to rework my hat into the simplest pattern I could find. It’s literally nothing but a crochet rectangle, all worked in single crochet in the back loop and then seamed and cinched at the top. It came out very simple and neat, and the all-ribbing structure gives it a nice stretch.

So would I recommend Malabrigo Rios? Working with it was a treat. However, if I purchase more Rios (or Malabrigo Arroyo, its sport weight version), I will probably earmark it for a project where drape matters more than bounce, such as a cardigan or a shawl.

Happy Passover (my least favorite holiday)

Pure loveliness

At this time of the year, I always wish I had the means to reach whomever set up the counterproductive tradition of combining the Passover chametz hunt with spring cleaning. That, and the founders of the waaaaaay overboard chumrot (unnecessarily tricky practices) like covering all the kitchen surfaces. Hello, aluminum foil, how nice to see you – NOT.

I’d file a collective lawsuit against them or something. Because when I toll the accumulated stress, chaos, frustration, exhaustion, and pangs of hunger of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children unable to get a proper meal in a disordered pre-Passover home, the mental damage is just unimaginable.

Jezreel Valley in spring

If my children grow up and decide to part ways with Jewish tradition, I’m laying the charge at Passover’s door. Yes, it’s that bad. I envy the rich people with holiday homes they can use just during this week.

But, on the up side, this year I managed to lower the level of insanity a tiny bit. I left ALL the bookcases and closets alone (other people in this house who are unhappy about it can roll up their sleeves and get busy – I never told them not to), and in the week before the holiday, I peeled off my scrubbing gloves and went with the kids on a hike through the woods.

Such lovely weather. So many different kinds of vegetation, especially lush after a generously rainy winter. This most beautiful time of the year, totally wasted on cleaning.

Chickens on a stroll

And here is just a random pic of the backyard flock roaming while I was cleaning out their coop. The rooster just showed up out of the blue over a week ago. Isn’t he a handsome boy?

Crochet Nightfall Shawl and Malabrigo Silkpaca Yarn Review

Nightfall Shawl in Malabrigo Silkpaca

You would think that now, barely a week and a half before Passover, wouldn’t be a likely time for me to complete a crochet project. But the truth is, I’ve had this shawl at about 90% done for a while and decided to make an effort and complete it so I could wear it during the holiday.

And, of course, so I could get to talk about the absolutely delicious yarn I used for this project – Malabrigo Silkpaca.

Draped over the sofa

This was my first time working with Malabrigo. I’ve been ogling their yarns for a long time but balked at the price. However, eventually I decided that I can and should use nice yarn for two reasons.

One, I’m not a high-volume crocheter. Definitely not the type of crafter who completes a huge afghan in a couple of weeks. Working on this shawl took me around two months. Since it required two hanks of Silkpaca, that’s one hank a month – something even a budget crocheter like me can deal with. Also, if I invest so much time in a project, it makes sense to use the best yarn I can afford.

Two, I love thin yarns, so I get more bang for my buck, weight/price vs yardage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not immune to the allure of a chunky squishy worsted. But I live in a warm climate and therefore naturally gravitate towards lightweight, lacy, thin garments. Crochet creates a denser fabric than knitting, so a laceweight yarn like Silkpaca was just perfect for my project.

When I shared my plans for this project in my crochet group, someone doubted that two 50 gr hanks, a total of 100 gr, would be enough. As you can see, this is a nice-sized shawl – not a scarf or a little shawlette. That’s the advantage of working with lace and fingering weight yarns. You get a super nice yardage that really goes a long way.

What can I say about this treat of a yarn? It’s everything it promises to be. Nice to the touch, springy, slightly shiny, with a very very light fuzz. It’s 70% baby alpaca, which means it’s deliciously soft and 30% silk, which lends its strength and sheen to the yarn. Perfect for shawls, lacy scarves, and other diaphanous projects. And, of course, it comes in the gorgeous Malabrigo color palette.

I used Hollyhock, which is a solid color, but you don’t get really solid effects with Malabrigo, since it’s a kettle-dyed yarn. You get subtle variations, which are impossible to see in the photos. Personally, I think they add to the interest of the project.

Drawbacks? I can think of two. One, Silkpaca is a two-ply yarn, and it tends to split a bit. And two, because of the slight fuzz, this yarn is a pain to frog, so just pay extra attention when you work with it.

Pattern closeup

Finally, choosing the perfect pattern for this lovely yarn took me nearly as long as making the shawl. I wanted something lacy but not too busy, clean and crisp openwork that would showcase the beauty of the yarn. Then I came across the Nightfall Shawl pattern by Sylwia. It was made just for what I had – two hanks of Malabrigo Silkpaca. Bingo!

Sylwia offers a free version of the pattern, but being a girl who learned to crochet with vintage Soviet magazines, I had to have a chart, so I purchased the PDF pattern. Well worth the investment. I altered the border slightly and am extremely happy with the result.

I believe the future definitely holds more projects in Malabrigo Silkpaca for me. Also, once you try their yarns, you’re a fan. I purchased a few hanks of their other offerings to try them out, and once I do, I’ll review them here.

Happy hooking!

Why do chickens eat Styrofoam?

In a nutshell: I have no idea.

OK, here’s the long version. I’ve raised many chickens over about a dozen years now, and not one of them could resist a bit of Styrofoam packaging or a stray construction panel with Styrofoam insulation.

Chickens will go for Styrofoam even when they have fresh pasture

My chickens consume a diverse diet of layer feed, kitchen leftovers, and pasture. They choose Styrofoam over their feed, vegetable peels, fresh grass, and any food you can imagine. No, they won’t only eat Styrofoam, given the choice, but they’ll eat it before anything else.

It seems this isn’t an anomaly. Chicken owners all over the world report the same thing: their hens and roosters can’t resist Styrofoam. If I ever publish an updated edition of The Basic Guide to Backyard Livestock, I’ll be sure to include this phenomenon.

What do chickens find so appealing about Styrofoam? Its texture, I suppose. It’s easy to peck at, and when it scatters, it looks like crumbs. But surely when they taste it they should be disappointed?

Compared to humans, chickens have very few taste buds, so they don’t respond to taste the same way we do. However, they generally have an innate ability to choose nutritious foods. Styrofoam doesn’t quite fit the profile, though.

Will Styrofoam harm your chickens? I can only speak from experience. For years, I have tried to discourage my birds from eating Styrofoam. I offered distracting treats and shooed them away. I herded them out to patches of succulent fresh grass teeming with bugs. To no avail. If Styrofoam is available, they’ll come back to nibble on it. So far, my flock hasn’t sustained any visible damage.

Naturally, eating Styrofoam can’t be good for chickens. Theoretically, Styrofoam could impact a bird’s crop and cause suffocation. The only practical way to deal with this problem is to avoid leaving any Styrofoam lying around.

Do your chickens go crazy over Styrofoam too? Tell me in the comments.

Why burning bridges isn’t a good idea

Photo by Og Mpango on Pexels.com

Back in the day, when I was a starry-eyed young mom, I received an email from an equally young reader, a newlywed who wrote, “My husband landed an amazing position and I will never need to work again. Please give me suggestions on ways to fill my time until we have our first child.”

As far as I recall, I came up with various ideas for charity work, gardening, crafts, and housekeeping. Today, however, I would give that sweet lady – and my own daughters, when they reach the proper age -a completely different outlook.

I would say, Congratulations on your husband’s new position. I hope he will retain it throughout many years and provide the necessary financial stability for your family.

I also hope that your marriage remains healthy and happy, and that your spouse never makes you feel like ‘less than’ for not bringing in an income.

If you plan to stay home with your children, I applaud your choice. Children thrive when there’s a parent to be with them in their early years. Families thrive when one spouse has enough flexibility to keep the common ship sailing smoothly.

But no matter what, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’ve burned your bridges and locked yourself in. Keep something you can fall back on.

Whether it’s a flexible profession, a business you can upscale if necessary, or a degree that allows you to work from home, always have something to give you financial security in tough times.

This isn’t negativity or pessimism, any more than purchasing an insurance policy is. It’s just common sense.

We live in a hugely unpredictable world. Businesses fail. Wars rage. Global pandemics flare up. Economies flounder. People lose their health and earning capacity. And, sadly, sometimes marriages fail as well.

I have lived through this. I gave up on the ability to support myself, on the security of a husband’s good job and a house purchased outright. Then, when the job was lost and the house swallowed by a black financial abyss, I found myself in an isolated outpost, with no transportation, no stable internet access, and not even secure electricity or running water supply.

Eventually, I rallied and started fighting for financial independence (a process that’s still ongoing). But it was hard, and knowing that I put the torch to my own bridges didn’t make it easier.

You aren’t a less devoted wife and mother for having a plan B. Do what you must to protect yourself and your children. If you are lucky, you may never need it.

But if you do, you will be glad you prepared for every scenario.

Will switching to cash save us? Somehow, I doubt it

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As recent events have shown to all who still doubted it, government officials can seize private citizens’ money. They can do it quickly, unexpectedly, and for nearly any arbitrary reason. What is unthinkable today becomes acceptable tomorrow, or next week.

I have read messages on social media calling people to withdraw their savings, switch to cash, and invest in tangible assets like gold or real estate. While having some cash on hand is always a wise move, as is converting some money into hard assets, I doubt it will provide the common people with a real solution to universal corruption and ugly dictatorship.

First, if you have any substantial savings, withdrawing them all could be impractical. Second, a dictatorial government can limit the use of cash, as is already happening in Israel.

Third, paying cash for everything is hardly practical. I love how cash helps me limit spending at the grocery store, but when it comes to paying the utility bills, I do this online with my credit card rather than schlep to the local post office and stand in line with an envelope of cash.

I’m not sure I have an alternative solution. Like it or not, money is the cornerstone of our economy. For someone like me, who has fought tooth and nail for financial independence, money stands for security, comfort, capability, freedom, and so much more.

However, I am convinced that when the you-know-what hits the fan, money isn’t everything.

What if all our hard-earned savings disappear into a financial black hole tomorrow? What if money loses value, or even becomes temporarily unavailable? I am convinced that our survival will depend on our resilience, creativity, skill, and readiness to work as a community.

Bartering is not a universal remedy either, but it is an elegant solution that can bypass the money system in many cases. If you have skill, you can barter. If one person weeds another’s property in exchange for that other fixing their roof, and no money changes hands, it’s a small victory over a system based on dictatorship, surveillance, and control.

Above all, bartering is about human relationships. It is about mutual support. It is not so much about relying on “self” as trusting the small and local above the official and impersonal.

Call me an optimist, but I don’t anticipate total collapse. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think we can avoid difficult times. Cherish your community. It is just as important to survival as a wad of cash and a hefty stockpile.

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