first_ eggThe first egg.Photo: Nina LalliOn July 14, when my first backyard pullet became a hen — anonymously donating a perfect brown egg to the world — I lost my shit. Even though I had been checking the chicken coop every day with great anticipation, seeing the egg sitting there so nonchalantly, while the chickens milled around, blew me away. It’s a weird and miraculous thing, and I wished I’d known which of the ladies to congratulate and thank.

I scooped up the egg like a precious jewel, wrapped it carefully, and brought it to my sister’s house. Tei, my boyfriend, had left just the day before for two months of touring (he’s a sound designer), and I had to share the experience with someone other than my dogs, who are not great at savoring important moments. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew greeted the egg with appropriate awe and excitement. Leo, 7, did refuse to eat “something that came out of a chicken’s butt,” but he was nonetheless thrilled.

The next day, there was another egg, and eventually there were two a day. Seeing nature perform as it’s supposed to is amazing to this city girl. I sent Tei pictures. I felt bad that he was missing our monumental success, this magical functioning of the natural world.

Fast forward to mid-September. By the time Tei returned home there were about 30 eggs in the fridge and a half-eaten frittata on the kitchen counter. I was a tad frazzled. I waved a curtain of shampoo-commercial-worthy hair in his face. I had been putting yolks in my locks before showering, because that’s what the internet told me to do with excess eggs. “Isn’t it shiny?” I asked, planting the compliment in Tei’s mouth. His response: “Is it supposed to be shiny?”

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LeoNina’s nephew Leo making the universal “shocked for the camera” look with the first egg.Photo: Nina LalliNeedless to say, he wasn’t incredibly amazed by what the egg white-honey masks did to my pores, either. But I know I look at least two years less tired. The dogs are pretty shiny these days, too.

Within minutes, Tei finished the frittata I’d been slicing away at for three days. If you don’t have an endlessly hungry man around your house, six chickens is way too many. Actually, even if you do, you’re going to have to get creative. We now get five eggs almost every day, and his mother is concerned about cholesterol.

Recently, at brunch with a friend, an unexpected anxiety gripped me while perusing the menu. The eggs sounded good, but there was no way I could order them.  In fact, I should have brought some with me, I thought. Is there a name for this condition? It’s a kind of the flipside of hoarding. I feel great pressure to use up all the eggs!

The frittatas I make now have a dozen eggs in them. Eggs go in pasta dishes, salad dressing, stir-fried rice, soup. We make custard-based ice cream. Sometimes I suspect I’m clumsy on purpose when collecting the eggs from the coop so I’ll drop one and have an excuse to let one of the dogs eat it off the ground in the garden. I’ve given eggs to the neighbors who put up with the coop right outside their window, and to friends who have invited me over, or just friends who I meet at a bar for a beer. Here are some eggs to take home. Naturally.

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poached_eggThe first egg, poached.Photo: Nina LalliRemember the scene in the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There when barber Billy Bob Thornton tweaks out about hair that keeps growing, even after he cuts it off? Well, I’m starting to relate.

Luckily, homegrown and homemade foodstuffs are a valuable commodity, especially in artisan-obsessed Brooklyn. I may not have tons of money, but bartering is all the rage, and suddenly I’m doing alright for myself. First, we traded some eggs for our friends’ homemade kombucha (which I believe is curing all my ailments). Then I shyly asked my genius ricotta-making friend if she was interested in eggs. Boom! A sidewalk exchange later I had a tub of Salvatore Ricotta.   

Now I’m working on a fancy granola connection and maybe even a restaurant deal. Eggs for an occasional free meal? It could happen.

Just recently, we started to run out of the organic chicken feed I bought at a farm store upstate. (Having it shipped almost doubles the price). And, since we’re not in love with the idea of processed grains, organic or not, I started looking for alternatives. Tei had an idea: He occasionally brews beer at home, and a by-product of that process is the grain that has been boiled and strained. Rather than toss it, why not feed it to the chickens? My trusty old scavenging instinct kicked in, so I got in touch with the people at Brooklyn Homebrew, and they suggested posting something on their message board. Soon enough, I was picking up some spent grain from a handsome home-brewer in exchange for a dozen eggs! And the chickens were delighted, so it’s possible we will never have to spend another actual dollar on our eggs/kombucha/ricotta/granola again. Maybe bartering could even cover the occasional date night! A girl can dream.

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