Water for the Babies; Eggs for Everyone Else

Raise your own eggs, milk, meat! The Backyard Homestead is in stock now at Lehman's in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

Raise your own eggs, milk, meat! The Backyard Homestead is in stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

Around here, spring didn’t roar in: it arrived with oinks, peeps, baas and soft moos! The baby animals have arrived, and we are surrounded by their sweet sounds. Right now, they are all safely ensconced in whatever makeshift nursery we could come up with, but they’ll need permanent housing before long.

New fencing will be going up in the next week, at least for the pigs. The calves will end up in the pasture behind the house and will probably be staked until we get a fence up there too. Thank goodness for friends and neighbors. We are way too old to be tackling projects like fence building by ourselves.

Save rainwater easily! Rain Harvesting Starter Kit is now available at Lehmans.com.

The big problem is getting water to our menagerie. Our property is bordered by a spring, but it doesn’t always run year round and so far, this has been a dry spring. Odds are it will be little more than a trickle in the next week if we don’t get real rain. My husband, Bruce, does have a plan for harvesting rainwater that sounds as though it will work.

It starts with the fact that each of the critters will need some sort of shelter. Bruce plans to roof each shelter with metal roofing and attach gutters that drain into rain barrels.

We also have two sheds and two greenhouses, so the run off from the buildings at our place is quite substantial. I discovered how much we had when I got a rain barrel for my birthday last year and positioned it against the long, outside wall of my summer kitchen. It collected enough water to keep a good deal of my kitchen hydrated during a very dry summer.

With rain barrels at the other buildings, I hope we can collect enough to cut back on what we will otherwise have to haul for the animals. Hauling water is another thing I’m getting too old for!

Transport eggs safely--and wash them quickly too. At Lehman's in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

Transport eggs safely–and wash them quickly too. At Lehman’s in Kidron and Lehmans.com.

Along with dealing with baby animals and fencing, the other ritual of spring is finding ways of using up all the eggs we are getting. Spring eggs are a lot like summer zucchini. If you don’t lock your door, you’ll find random cartons dropped off by people who can’t sell them fast enough. It’s not just chicken eggs either.

Ducks and turkeys are producing as well. I like duck eggs but turkey eggs are a bit too strong for my palate. That means I’m searching for recipes to use them up. As we have a lot milk it made good sense to make something that uses both. Custard seems like a good bet. My mother’s recipe is a baked custard which requires a lot less babysitting that boiled custard does.

Baked Custard Recipe
4 eggs
1/3 cups sugar (heaping)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups very warm, rich milk

Prefer stovetop custards? Make them perfectly with this glass-lidded double boiler.

Prefer stovetop custards? Make them perfectly with this glass-lidded double boiler.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Check it first because if you leave a silicon cutting board in the oven, it will melt to the oven rack and you will never get if off. Plus, your kitchen will smell awful.

Set some water on to boil.

In a glass bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla and sugar with a wire whisk. Gradually add the warm milk. You don’t want the milk so warm that it cooks the eggs. This must be a very smooth mixture. This is a good job for your children to help with. Pouring the milk while whisking and holding the bowl requires one more hand than most of us have.

Pour the mixture into 6 custard dishes. Place the custard cups in a baking pan and put the pan in the oven. Now pour boiling water into the pan until it just about reaches the edge of the cups.

Bake for 45 minutes. And let cool. We like ours served with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a splash of maple syrup.

Kathy Harrison

About Kathy Harrison

Kathy Harrison is the author of Just in Case, Another Place at the Table, and One Small Boat. She is a national spokesperson for both foster parenting and family preparedness and has appeared on The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and National Public Radio. She lives with her family in western Massachusetts.