The Chicken and The Egg

By Lilly M - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1544626
By Lilly M – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1544626

Eggs, the perfect food in the perfect package. People have been eating eggs; chicken, duck, fish, turtle, and quail to mention a few, for thousands of years. This week I am thinking about chicken eggs. As I researched this topic I learned of many cruelties involved in the modern industry of supplying eggs. I do no want to speak of these…it is just too hard.

Living in an agricultural area allows me the opportunity to buy eggs laid by free range chickens. Yes, truly free range chickens, I see them everywhere even crossing the road, and they always make me smile. There is just something about a chicken, a yard bird as my Aunt Lily called them. They strut regally, always appear to be making grand decisions, and have not a worry in the world.

When it comes to chickens I am still very much a city girl. Eggs, always white, came from the market, the chicken was never to be seen.  I am a bit like my Uncle Lester.  The story of Lester and his chickens  was always repeated at family gatherings.  Lester had bought chickens for meat and eggs during WWII, however the chickens became pets that he fed  during the war and for the rest of their natural lives. Works for me.

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

I am fascinated by the eggs I buy at the small farm stands sporting mini refrigerators. Opening the carton I find a palette of  speckled red -brown, green, pink, blue, cream and yes shades of white and light brown eggs. Say what? Eggs are white or brown. Delightfully wrong. The color of a hen’s egg can be determined by the looking at its earlobe.  Chicken’s ears are internal so this takes some doing. The color of the flesh will tell you the color of the egg. The intensity of the color will vary from egg to egg. Why are these eggs ignored by supermarkets as they are beautiful? Each time I buy a dozen I love being surprised by what will be inside.

Purchasing eggs at these stands gives me real farm fresh eggs. Mass egg producers often store eggs for long periods of time, thirty days or more, before they hit the stores. There really is a difference between a farm fresh egg and what I call industry produced egg. When an egg is laid  a very small air cell is created as it cools. With time air will pass into the pores of the  shell and the cell will increase.  The smaller the air cell the fresher the egg. Eggs will also lose water as they age. Very old eggs will actually float and should never be eaten.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121103
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=121103

Freshly laid eggs will have firm round yolks. With age the yolk will absorb water from the albumin and become flat and enlarged. As for the color of the yolks, that is triggered by what the chicken eats. It is illegal in the United States to use artificial color so hens are sometimes fed corn or  marigold petals to enhance the yellow.

Each time I set out to learn more about nature I am amazed at how it all works together for success. When eggs are collected the shells have a nature coating called a bloom. This coating protects bacteria from entering the egg. Prior to using a farm fresh egg the bloom must be removed. To remove the bloom rub with a dry rough cloth. You can use water but it is not suggested. If there is a bit of manure on the eggs use a damp cloth to remove it. If the egg is really dirty wash with warm water and dry with a  rough cloth. Using cold water will allow bacteria to enter the egg.  Eggs should be kept in the refrigerator where they will last up to a month but not in the door where they will bounce around.

By Thegreenj - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2877208
By Thegreenj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2877208

A hen will lay eggs for several years then stop. It is now time to thank her by allowing her to live out her life on the farm and not land in the cook pot.

If you have access to ‘real’ farm fresh eggs…..from the farmer, please take advantage of it. They may cost a bit more but there is a lot more work raising animals humanely and I am willing and able to pay for it. If you have a city friend with chickens see if you can help him or her by buying their extras. Perhaps you want a backyard hen house for yourself, there are classes. I have also read you can rent backyard chickens that will be picked up and cared for during the winter. Explore.

 

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Fire

By Awesomoman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Awesomoman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“The most tangible of all visible mysteries – fire.”  Leigh Hunt. For early man the use of fire is considered to be a huge step in human evolution. It is said that humans learned to control fire over 400,000 years ago.  I disagree, humans have never had control of fire, fire still controls us. I agree fire has contributed to many positive aspects to our lives, warmth, cooking, renewal of nature, etc. but fire has also been a violent oppressor.

I am writing this blog with some confusion, some celebration, and a great deal of relief.   I have written many times of my love of living in Traverse City on Old Mission Peninsula. Just yesterday my husband and I commented yet again about the fabulous people we have met or are acquainted with. These are people we work with, volunteer with, live near, shop with or just pass by every now and then. I had no idea of the value of these words until Monday morning.

It is my custom to read my e-mail and facebook as I enjoy the latte my husband makes me each morning  as I slowly wake up. Last Monday was far from enjoyable as I learned of a nearby house fire. The late night fire had burned the house to the ground, destroyed the occupants vehicles, and all their belonging.  All family members and dog survived. Shaking my head I looked at the photo of the surviving family…they were not occupants of the house they were my friends. My chest tightened and jaw dropped.

A little over a year ago this family made their trip from Alaska to Traverse City, Michigan. Dad is an Aviation Survival Technician which means he with a rescue swimmer for the Coast Guard.  I know Mom through my substitute teaching. We have worked together, I have worked for her and I have worked with each of her children as I substitute in other classes. I respect this dear family.  It saddens me that they have had to experience such an event.

As with most life experiences it is not all bad…hard to believe. The saying, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ seems to based in reality. What could the silver lining be here?  The silver lining, the community, especially Old Mission Peninsula School and its employees and families.  Immediately a Go Fund Me site was set up. Monetary contributions have been amazing. Clothing, toys, bicycles, vehicles, etc have been donated. As I visited a used clothing store the owner volunteered to put several adult outfits together for the family. The school is storing everything so the family can come as needed until they find a more formal storage area.

I have been so impressed with the random acts of kindness that seem to have had a domino effect through out this community. Individuals, whether they know this family or not, are willing to share what they have. I am most impressed however with the emotional understanding of this event. I personally have never suffered such a hardship and am learning from others how to approach such a situation. Some of the things I have come to realize:

  1. I will never truly understand what total loss is.
  2. Don’t overwhelm the family with donations…allow them to come and search through items as they feel they can.
  3. I was told that once the family works through the process of re-establishing itself they will have a unique sense of clarity. I like this idea best.
  4. It will take time for the children to realize that everything important was saved that night….right now they are just scared. Mom wrote that no family should ever have to be that scared.
  5. It is not time for me to step in….I  am eager to be helpful but I should allow things to happen naturally.
  6. There is more kindness in this world than it sometimes appears.

As I sit at the table writing I am grateful this family has and will survive, I share a community with thoughtful people, and that my loved ones are safe. These are the important aspects of life.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Bees Are Back

http://mirrorofisis.freeyellow.com/id576.html
http://mirrorofisis.freeyellow.com/id576.html

The importance of the honey bee was realized by many ancient civilizations. The Greeks, Egyptians, Western Europeans, East Indians, among others have mystical stories of the Bee Goddesses.

One of the Greek versions tells of a group of three nymphs (also the name for the bee larva), a group called Melissae, who taught Apollo to see the future and interpret signs and omens given by Nature and the Earth.  Melissae began as three but eventually the story says she became the one who served The Great Mother. Melissae is translated to ‘the Queen Bee”. There are many many stories involving Melissae all of which speak of her great importance to The Great Mother.

My daughter and traveling companion, Melissa, accompanied me to Greece where we saw the mural pictured above. I very much wanted to purchase a honey bee necklace for her. As we spoke with the vendor he referred to the honey bee as the plankton of the Earth. I just love the idea. Plankton supports life in the oceans as the bee supports life on land.

The honey-carrying bee or Apis Mellifera is indeed a very important member of the Earthly population. This 120 milligram insect holds the power of  Earthly life or death in its fragile body .

If  the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”    Albert Einstein   (http://www. benefits-of-honey.com/albert-einstein.html)

This amazing creature, the bee, originated in Asia over a million years ago. There are over 20,000 bee species seven of which are honey bees. Bees are found on every continent with the exception of present day Antarctica. Today we are interested in the European Honey Bee brought to the western world by Europeans.

Life is not an easy one for the bee. A complete metamorphosis is required before the bee can get down to the business of making honey. This fragile creature comes into the world as an egg laid in a wax cell. From the egg comes a legless larva, molting several times before becoming a pupa and then an adult. As for the gender of the bee the queen makes this decision. She knows what her hive requires. She uses the sperm stored in her body to fertilize eggs which become female, unfertilized eggs will be males. The newborns will become a queen or egg layer, a nurse bee to clean the hive and feed the larva, a worker, always female, to locate food or a drone, always male, to mate with the queen ( not as great as it sounds for he drops dead afterwards).

By Jankula00 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47562366
By Jankula00Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47562366

The bee as an insect requires a head, thorax, and abdomen.  Along for the ride are six legs,  two sets of wings, two compound eyes housing thousands of lenses, three simple eyes and a nectar pouch. The bee sports two antenna which enable it to distinguish between varieties of flowers and whether they have pollen or nectar from meters away. Its abdomen and legs are covered with hairs called scopal hairs that collect pollen. Mites live on these hairs that eat a fungi that attacks the pollen. Only the worker bee has a stinger and dies at the time of the sting.

The food the bee produces is the only insect manufactured food eaten by humans.  We use, some say exploit, bees for their honey and wax. The wax is actually part of the hive and the honey the bee’s winter food.

We enjoy honey for its taste, energy boost and much more.

“Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; and it’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.” (http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/honey-bee-facts.html)

Bees wax is used to make candles, for beauty products, sealing envelopes, waterproofing, for gum, in cooking, for pain relief and as an anti itching product just to name a few.

 bee carrying pollen back to the hive. wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee
bee carrying pollen back to the hive. wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee

This is all very nice but is NOT the purpose of the bee.  POLLINATION done by bees is what life on Earth is all about. Nourishment for all creatures begins with plants  and the bee sustains much of the plant life.  As the bee visits flowers for nectar to feed on and pollen for the larva it also moves pollen from the flower’s male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs making it possible for plants to produce seeds. Seeds are enclosed within the fruits and vegetables that nourish all  Earth’s creatures. Seeds produce more flora allowing the cycle to continue.  It sounds so simple but is in fact incredibly delicate and complicated. Today we are dealing with a decline of what is called the feral bee, the bee in nature. Beekeepers are also having  problems with unexpected die-offs in the hives they maintain. For this reason entomologists, scientists that study insects and Melittologists, those who specifically study bees are researching bees with great urgency. It is hypothesized that much of the problem has been caused by what scientists have named Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD.

For years humans have tried to manipulate nature striving to produce the perfect fruits and vegetables in great quantities on the smallest piece of earth possible. To do so we have created pesticides only being concerned with their effect on humans. It appears we did not learn from Rachel Carson’s research on the effects of pesticides on birds and their eggs. We have also altered farming practices and have had extremely unpredictable weather patterns caused by what I believe is global warming. It is thought that a combination of these concerns is causing CCD and the general loss of bees.

Figure 1: Summary of the total overwinter colony losses (October 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States across nine annual national surveys. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each year of the survey.

 

Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser

In response to the decline of bees beekeeping has become big business. Pollination Services are now available to farmers. Beehives are rented through a broker. Brett Adee is the largest broker in the United States with 60,000 hives in its apiary. Generally each hive has one queen and 10,000 to 30,000 workers. The number of workers increases as the summer goes on and there may be as many as 50,000 to 60,000 worker bees per hive. The number of hives and length of stay depends on the crop and the number of blossoms per acre. The average stay is between three and five weeks.

Semi trucks carry the bee hives to their destination.  To keep the bees calm and in their hives the trucks are loaded at night and the hives are covered with nets. Each truck can move between 400 and 500 hives. The bees move with the season all over the country most of the year. The rental cost depends on the crop.

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Last weeks arrivals. Photo by Karen Rieser
Last week’s arrivals.
Photo by Karen Rieser

I remember the first time I saw the bee truck come into the neighborhood. A flatbed full of  white box like hives.  A few hives were dropped off and the truck was on its way up the peninsula. The apple blossoms were not yet open but the yard of our rented house was full of dandelions. I opened the door to the yard and heard a great buzzing sound. In the yard were  hundreds of bees tending to the dandelions. I walked among them without incident. Once the apple blossoms appeared the bees were busy elsewhere. The hives were later collected. Over time the trees became heavy with fruit.

Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

Here the bees are working with cherry blossoms. Cherries are a huge part of Michigan’s economy. Without these little creatures the crop would not be realized. For me the entire process is nothing less than a miracle….a grand plan of sorts. Scientists continue studying the bee both for its survival and continued success with pollination. The Traverse City Record-Eagle, Saturday, May 14, 2016 Business/Farm Focus section includes an article, “Grant Funds Pollination Study by Nikki Rothwell discussing a current pollination study being done by MSU students. It is worth a read.

 

The next time you see a bee think of its amazing purpose and let it go on about its business. Bees in every sense of the word are our future. I want the Earth’s beauty to be available for my family as it continues.

Aiden eating an apple fresh from the tree. Photo by Chris Rieser
Aiden eating an apple fresh from the tree. Photo by Chris Rieser

Unique among all God’s creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species.”

                               Royden Brown

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Bee renting tips

Nation’s Beekeepers Lost 44 Percent of Bees in 2015-16

17 Cool and Unusual Uses for Beeswax

http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1679173/special-article-september_-pollinator-service-market-4-.pdf

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Mother’s Day The Bigger Picture

Great Aunt Lily Referred to as a spinster. A great nurturer.
Great Aunt Lily
Referred to as a spinster.
A great nurturer.

Mother, Ma, Mommy, Mama, Mami,  Aama, Mata, Inay, Nanay, Momo, Mum, Mummy, Mass, Emm, Eomma are but a few words that refer to one’s mother. We all have one, a mother. What exactly is a mother? Today we find the need for a very broad, politically correct, and complicated definition.

Mothers are females who inhabit or perform the role of bearing some relation to their children, who may or may not be their biological offspring. Thus, dependent on the context, females can be considered mothers by virtue of having given birth, by raising their child(ren), supplying their ovum for fertilisation, or some combination thereof. ”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother

Really….that sounds rather stuffy and a little creepy to me. A mother is so much more than a body that has the parts to reproduce.  The definition mentions ‘bearing some relation to their children’ a rather vague suggestion of something.

Mother’s Day, a special day to pay our respects to our mother. The day draws big money suggesting properly treated mothers receive a card, be taken to dinner and or presented with a gift. Very lucky mothers, such as myself, spend quality time with their family as a gift. Over time, however, the concept of Mother’s Day has become increasingly uncomfortable for me.  In my mind there are way too many people left out.  I am more comfortable thinking of Mother’s Day as Mothering Day. As a female I have experienced the drive to nurture or mother…the vast majority of women do. What makes us different from one another is who or what we nurture or mother. For some it is our children,  students, neighbors, or elderly parents. For others it may be their dog, cat, bird, horse, nature, etc. It is the act of nurturing not a position I want to celebrate.

Mothering or nurturing may be done by females, males or all living creatures.  For me the act of nurturing is caring for  someone or something outside yourself in an exceptionally positive manner. A nurturer encourages both physical and emotional well being. Nurturing is a very big job, one that the success of the world depends on. Over time I have come across some pictures and videos that have dearly touched me. This is what I like to think about on Mother’s Day.

This Brave Police Dog That Was Shot In The Line Of Duty. Now Watch Him Get Reunited With His Partner…

 

Photo by Sue Derhammer
Photo by Sue Derhammer
Woman's best friend.
Woman’s best friend.
Best Friends
Best Friends

 

 

 

Always have their backs.
Always have their backs.

 

Grandmother and Grandson.
Grandmother and Grandson.
Mother and Son.
Mother and Son.

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Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Chris Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser
Photo by Karen Rieser

I could go on and on…there is a lot of nurturing being done. I personally found joy in nurturing my twins, my students, my pets and my parents. Buy a Mother’s Day card to send to a friend from their pet. I did that one year, the recipients were elated. Think of all those  you have nurtured and those who have nurtured you. Say thank you either to them directly or spiritually. Happy Mothering Day.

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