Lately, John has single-handedly managed the pre-dawn chores of feeding and watering the chickens at the farm. That's the harder work. The kids and I get to do the fun part once they get home from school. Here's a little peek into our afternoon . . .
Once the kids are home from school, we dash back to the house for after-school snacks and homework. I can usually multitask and do a little dinner prep during this time, too.
Then, at 4:30, an alarm on my phone sounds, and we all drop what we're doing and get ready to work! It's EGG time! If the weather has been mild, this is the only time of day we go to gather. The 3 kids and I pile into the van and head over to farm. On the way there, my co-captain Girl 1 preps the egg-gathering basket, lining it with towels to minimize breakage on the way home. Meanwhile, Girl 2 has everyone guess how many eggs they think we'll have when we get there. Everyone make their best guess. Girl 2 nearly always guesses 54 and has won a surprising number of times.
When we get there, the kids usually stay in the car because it's been so cold. They roll down the window, and blast their favorite song, which is "Overcomer" by Mandisa this week, while I go head toward the chicken wagon to gather the eggs. The chickens LOVE me. I usually bring them the heels of some bread or some other goody, so they get very excited when they see me. I've had to learn not to wear any shoes that tie, or they will certainly untie them as I make my way across the field toward the chicken wagon.
I greet Grey Chicken when I get into the chicken wagon. Does she look familiar? She's Maggie's sister. She's not really been picked on, but she does like to keep to herself. She's usually the only one who hangs out with me inside the wagon. Then, I proceed to gather/count the eggs. Meanwhile, the kids are singing/yelling out the car window, "How many eggs, Mom? Are there a bunch?" Once I've got them all collected, I close up the nesting boxes so that the ladies won't sleep in there and head back to the car.
Back in the van, I announce the daily egg count, and the child with the closest guess commences her victory dance. (I can safely use the female pronoun "her" because Little Boy has yet to win the egg guessing contest. When we're choosing numbers, I try to help him out by reminding him how many we had the day before. But, alas, his favorite numbers are zero and "five-hundid-thouzin.") Girl 1 balances the basket on her lap as we travel back to the house where the sorting, washing, packaging, weighing, labeling, and storing commence in the kitchen.
Sometimes the kids take off when we get back home, ready to play. But, often, Girl 2 will settle in on the stool and read to me as I handle the eggs at the sink. I'll interrupt her occasionally so that we can marvel together about the funny shapes of some eggs or the sheer size of eggs like this one. (In this case, she begged for eggs for dinner so that she could see whether this one was a double-yolker. . . . It was.)
As you can see, this is not a mechanized process. Our chickens are doted on. Our eggs are handled personally. Our entire family puts a little bit of themselves into each dozen.