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The best laid eggs go astray
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Amazing the things people say when I try to give them eggs, fresh eggs laid hours - or days - earlier from chickens that I feed, that I know, that I trust; from chickens that eat every scrap of kitchen waste I give them, including orange rinds, coffee grounds, butternut squash skin, banana peels, and, yes, egg shells (although I try not to do that very often; wouldn’t want them to get the wrong idea and turn on their own), every weed I pull (and manage to save from the landfill), every last nutritional pellet I toss into their pen.

Some people only want the brown eggs. They’re best for baking, my neighbor across the street insists although I have yet to tell a difference between the white or the brown.

Some cringe when I offer my largess, afraid of the dreaded cholesterol.

Others visibly blanch at the idea.

“Uh, these came from chickens in your backyard?” said a plumber friend who had just for a very reasonable fee dismantled and cleared my bathroom traps of massive amounts of matted black dog hair. Here I was trying to be generous and he was clearly uncomfortable by the offer.

“Yep,” I said, trying not to appear too boastful. “Just plucked from the hen box this morning although I had to do a bit of hunting, a bit of groping. Seems they’ve changed their favorite nesting spot and this current one’s way in the back.”

I could tell I had crossed the line. I had offered too much information. And I was just starting.

I held back the part about sitting inside my house and hearing the excited staccato sounds a chicken makes when she’s laying an egg, like she knows she’s really pulling off a pretty major feat, which she is when you think about it.

Or what it’s like to forget to go out to get the booty for a day or two only to find as many as eight perfect eggs nestled together in one neat and sweet mound. Do you think that means that each of the hens, when her cycle begins and she’s ready to do her womanly thing, sits on top of her sister’s eggs to lay her own?

We don’t know. And she’s not telling.

“If they come from you backyard, then I have to decline,” my squeamish plumber friend said. “I’m kind of weird about things like that.”

He’ll eat eggs from the supermarket, no problem, white eggs from homogeneous, and prolific leghorns, factory hens with extracted beaks and, in some cases, contact lens to keep them from fighting, caged over chutes in pens that are lit 24 hours a day to simulate daylight.

But getting them from hens that you can see and hear and, if you’re brave, touch? A little too intimate, he allowed, a little too personal. At least, that’s all I can figure.

I tried telling him how much more fresh these were, how the brilliant and yellow eggs stand up when cracked into a hot frying pan instead of merging into one big blob. Then I started in on something I read.

“See, if an egg floats in water it means it has gases forming inside and it’s old and you shouldn’t eat it. But if it sinks and lies on its side it’s fresh,” I explained even though it’s been months since I’ve bought a store-bought egg so I can’t really say for sure since I haven’t experimented myself.

By that time, the plumber friend, finished with his good deed for the day, was gathering his tools, shoving them into his toolbox and scooting out the door wearing an expression that said something like, “No offense, but I have to leave. Right now.”

I’ve been asked more than once if I’ve ever had trouble with thievery, with people who think they can just tiptoe through the garden, dip into the coop and help themselves to the spoils. And the answer is no.

It’s not like the old days when people without two cents to rub together raid the fields for something to eat or hop a freight train for a ride somewhere.

Today, people don’t steal things like eggs or collards (maybe occasionally) or broccoli or lettuce or fennel. They like immediate things they can fence or smoke or plug into an electric socket or stick into a microwave.

They like bicycles and tires cut into the shape of a flowerpot. They like shiny new things, whether plastic or gold.

But the gold I like best comes from a hen after it’s been fried in a skillet.

That and the question - I kid you not - from a friend who is corny and/or nervy enough to call me up and ask, “Hey, I’ve just hatched a plan to serve omelets at brunch tomorrow. Got any fresh eggs?”

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