Saturday, June 18, 2005

Eggs and Cow Pies

This morning we headed on over to Brookview Farm to get some farm fresh eggs.

Normally I pick up their eggs at the 17th street Farmers Market, but I noticed from their flyer that the Brookview Farm’s store is now open on Saturdays. The farm is in a very pretty part of Virginia and is not a bad drive from our house. It would make for a nice family outing. We have been there before and our older two boys had fun collecting eggs.

After a leisurely breakfast and a few phone related delays on my part we headed out to Goochland County. The drive is on the long side, about 45 minutes. The kids were reasonably well behaved with only minor whining from the back row. For some reason Max and Rebecca were unduly excited by the vast quantities of rocks along the highway’s embankments and would excitedly cry out “Rocks!” whenever we passed some. The larger the area covered by rocks the greater the excitement.

There were numerous vehicles parked along the drive when we finally reached the farm. We pulled off onto the grass and parked our van next to a bright and shiny Jeep. I commented to Larry that our previous minivan had probably done more off-roading than the pristine Jeep next to us. We then all trooped to the outbuilding that served as the farm store. Along the path was a large orange colored water cooler. We stopped and filled some cups with some of the best well water around. Jake took a peak inside the cooler and declared it dirty, but the rest of us happily drank the water.

Inside the store were several upright freezers and refrigerators, all of which had glass doors. The freezers held their beef products, neatly labeled and ready to go. Inside the refrigerators were eggs, greens and whole wheat flower. I asked one of the farmhands where were the chickens located today and she went off to find out for us.

This is a very important question to ask if you want to gather your own eggs. The chickens live in very elaborate pens that are slowly moved across the fields. The pens are constructed with only sides and a top. The chickens are directly on the ground where they are free to scratch the dirt and eat bugs. There are trap doors on the topside of the pens directly over the nesting boxes and where the food and water is located. When you want to gather eggs all you have to do is lift the door over the nesting boxes and reach in. These pens allow the chickens freedom of movement and protection from predators.

After a bit of a wait we were waved in the general direction of where the chickens were located. We were warned ahead of time that eggs had been collected just before we arrived so there might not be any left. This information did not deter us. At the very least we would get to see the chickens and where they lay their eggs. She handed us some egg cartons and I grabbed a basket, because I knew at some point I would be stuck carrying the cartons and it would be easier to haul them around in a basket. Larry and I then herded our brood out the door to the fields.

By the gate we were greeted by some very interesting cattle that were in the adjoining field.

Picture from Brookview Farm Posted by Hello

Apparently they are crossing their beef cattle with Brahmans. I have never seen a Brahman in the flesh. They are large, with gentle expressions and impossibly long ears. As we looked through the gate we then noticed a very large bull enjoying a dust bath just a stone’s throw away. This presented quite a problem for us. He seemed to be docile, but there was no way I would walk my children by him. Then off in the distance we saw a pick up truck coming across the field towards us. After it passed through the gate the driver asked if we wanted to go see the chickens. He told us he would drop off his passengers and come back to take us down to the pens. As we waited I offered the cattle some tufts of grass which they gently accepted. Rebecca was eager to feed them, but the combination of large noses and a cloud of flies were too much for her.

Finally our ride reappeared. He pulled up his truck and realized we were not going to fit. His only passenger, a young boy who was a little older than Jake, hopped out and waited with us. As the driver went off the boy announced that he knew which car was going to be used and that it was full of equipment. When a white minivan pulled up he was very surprised. The van was empty. In fact even the rear seat had been pulled out. We piled in with the kids loose in the back. This was the first time that they had ever been allowed in a moving vehicle without being buckled in, much less without a seat. They bounced around enjoying their illicit freedom.

Now we were off to see the chickens and hopefully gather some eggs. The road to the chickens was deeply rutted, long and bumpy. This resulted in a great deal of flopping about and giggling in the back. When pulled up next to the pens a few calves were standing nearby, but they retreated to the shade.

As we walked to the pens one of the kids promptly stepped in a cow pie. Oh well, we were getting the full farm experience.

We carefully checked each of the pens and found 8 eggs! They couldn’t have been any fresher. Jake and Nate spotted most of the eggs. Rebecca collected one and I planted one for Max to find. I knew he would be devastated if he did not find at least one egg. After a few more near misses with cow pies we got back into the van. And yes, I got to carry all the egg cartons. During the ride back I consolidated our eggs into one carton.

Back in the farm store four more eggs were added to make it an even dozen. We paid for our eggs and headed outside. As the kids played we chatted with the farmer. He is a nice guy as are all of the people at Brookview. Larry went back inside and bought hats for Jake, Nate and himself.

The eggs are very good. But for me the main point of this outing is to show our children where their food comes from. I think it is important that they know that food just doesn’t come from a supermarket.

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