As I’ve explained before, since we have only six hens, we don’t get a slew of eggs. Especially now that the heat has set in. Not only do hens slow down on egg production during the dog days of summer, but they also have an affinity for laying what eggs they do manage to squeeze out almost anywhere on the farm except in their nest boxes.

Fortunately, we’ve found some of their hiding places, one of which is under the big rosemary bush at our front porch.

Buff Orpington hen Lylie was the first to utilize the bush as a nesting spot, but it didn’t remain exclusively hers for long. Once Marty the Ameraucana noticed Lylie there, she decided to join in the fun and occasionally laid her blue-green egg beside Lylie’s brown one.

Hens tend to do this in nest boxes, as well, when they don’t have the choice of hiding their freshly laid eggs somewhere else. I don’t know if it’s a safety in numbers issue, an instinct perhaps going back to prehistoric times – because surely there was some form of chicken roaming with the dinosaurs – or whether they simply assume the hen who laid before them used the “best” box. Whatever the reason, it’s common to see one hen impatiently prancing around (and on top of) another hen in the process of laying, vying for her spot.

It certainly makes our lives easier when more than one hen lays in the same place. Yet we’re not the only ones who hit the jackpot by discovering multiple eggs in one location. A few days ago, after I heard Lylie clucking proudly about the egg she’d just deposited under the rosemary, I pushed the branches aside to see if I might be lucky enough to find Marty’s egg under there too. Instead, I was greeted with this.

A rat snake had beaten me to it. The snake wasn’t happy to see me (the feeling was mutual) but because it was busy swallowing Marty’s blue-green egg,

it wasn’t quite ready to snatch up the brown one. I grabbed the only stick I could find – a short one, probably only about six inches long – and poked at the snake as I reached under the bush, all the while admonishing the creature as it held its ground and continued eyeing that brown egg.

“You already have one egg, bucko!” I shouted. “This one’s MINE.”

My mother, rest her gentle soul, would have been mortified to see me jabbing at a five-foot snake with a stick. She brought me up in a more civilized fashion, one in which a lady backs away from the likes of snakes or spiders, her hand raised to her brow until a nearby gentleman rushes over to smash the offending critter to smithereens.

Even Pablo, though fascinated by the snake, kept his distance.

He’s smart. My mom was smart. I don’t claim it was a wise decision to wrestle a snake, even an innocuous rat snake, for one measly egg. (And I had no intention of killing it – with a stubby stick?? – since I recognize that most snakes are good guys.) Yet this is what becomes of a person when she’s lived on a farm for almost 12 years. Snakes, poisonous spiders, scorpions…they’re just a way of life after a while. Nuisances, all of them, and none a welcome sight, but I’ve learned that often a six inch stick is all you need.

Particularly when you really want that egg.

* * *

Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand Wednesday (rain or shine!):

LOTS of MELONS! (cantaloupes, Mideast melons and two kinds of icebox watermelons) tomatoes (**see note, below); three varieties of cherry tomatoes (pink ‘grape’ tomatoes, red ‘grape’ tomatoes, and golden Sun Sugar); two varieties of Asian cucumbers; LOTS of summer squash – yellow squash, Zephyr, zucchini and pattypan; three varieties of eggplant; Red Lasoda potatoes; bunches of basil; green bell peppers; white bell peppers; Cubanelle frying peppers; jalapenos; red onions; Delicata squash (like an acorn squash, with a nutty sweet flavor); and some of this and that.

**Our tomatoes will be in shorter supply this week. We had a couple cold nights in mid-May (as hard as that is to imagine now!) that caused widespread blossom drop on our tomato plants. Those flowers would have produced ripe tomatoes at this time…but because we lost them, we’re having to wait until the next round ripens up. Still, we WILL have some crates of tomatoes at market this week – with larger quantities coming soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the melons — we’ll have PLENTY!

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Asian American Center on Jollyville Road in NW Austin;
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the blinking yellow light on FM 1431 in Jonestown