The Rubber Egg and I

The egg is in the nest with one other.  It looks normal, perhaps a bit darker and duller, and then I touch it.  It’s soft like a water balloon.  There is no shell whatsoever, but the membrane is as tough as support hose.

The Bearded One pokes the rubber egg.

When I show the Bearded One, he doesn’t want to touch it.  He thinks it must be a practical joke — someone has sneaked onto the farmlet and up the hill into the aviary and planted this in the nest box.  That this is his only explanation gives insight into the absolute craziness of the day.

It started on the Bearded One’s morning walk when he and Ruby encountered a neighbor who had seen a cougar in his yard. The cougar was long and gaunt and had leapt maybe 30 feet into a tree.

The Bearded One told everyone he saw on his way home, including our closest neighbor with three small children (Hansel, Gretel and Batman).  Cougars are scary.  There have been many west coast attacks.  So he made a COUGAR NEARBY sign and I sent the information to the local newspaper which published a picture of the Bearded One’s sign on their site along with information about cougar precautions.  So the day was bizarre from the get-go.

Now it’s finally dusk and I carefully put the egg into a protective Tupperware in the fridge and head upstairs to research.  They’re called rubber eggs and they aren’t a joke, they really happen and are caused by low calcium diets, stress, or natural occasional weirdness.  One hen I read about has a rubber egg every week.  The farmer writes that she hard-boils them and they’re just fine. This has never happened here before.  And our hens’ feed has added calcium.  So, perhaps, I think, one of our hens saw the cougar and was stressed.  Something.

The next day I take the rubber egg with me to Port Townsend to show my friends.  It’s an hour and half drive, and I spot tons of deer.  I drive past the road called THE EGG AND I, named after the book by Betty MacDonald, who reluctantly lived on a chicken farm up that road back in the late 1920s.  The book is where the Ma & Pa Kettle movies came from.  I bet Betty saw a lot of rubber eggs.

My friends in Port Townsend are amazed.  They both agree to hold it.  The man likens it to a breast implant and my woman friend wants to know when he has ever handled a breast implant.

I bring it home with me in its little Tupperware and it sits in the fridge patiently waiting for its next showing which will be at the family party we are hosting here on Sunday.  The membrane is getting a bit looser, I notice, a tiny bit saggy.

And then there are ten people in my kitchen.  Everyone has commented on the cougar alert sign and how we live so close to the wild.  The Bearded One tells about the neighbor who offered to send her husband over with his rifle the next time it was spied.  She said they’ve got a cougar skin up on their wall from a cat that stalked her husband as he was deer hunting.

I am waiting for just the right moment to share my rubber egg.

The conversation shifts to the meat birds, how in some ways they seem to have all the wild chicken bred out of them.  They are awkward and easily confused, the Bearded One says.  He has called them beanbags.

6-week-old Cornish Rock meat chickens enjoying the sun together.

So what does “domesticated” really mean?  The question is asked and my sister says domesticated animals are dependent upon us.  Like Golden Retrievers, says the Bearded One.  Ruby couldn’t survive in the wild.  We humans have bred her to be a pet.  Most all the wolf has been bred out.  Everyone ponders this.  “Humans have bred these Cornish Rock broilers for their meat,” I say, “and these layers for their eggs and companionship.”  It’s been a nice surprise to us how much personality the layers have.

Eggs.  Here’s my chance to show-and-tell my rubber egg, but instead I’m possessed by another story, the story of how you can tell a domesticated chicken.  The Bearded One and I were in the hot tub one evening, I say, when we heard all kinds of ruckus up in the meat bird pen.  I worried that it was a predator.  The Bearded One cocked his head and listened carefully.  “No,” he said, “they’re saying, ‘We’re out of toilet paper!'”

Everyone laughs and I don’t tell the rubber egg story until the very end of the party.  Half of the guests don’t want to touch it.  Two look downright queasy.

The next morning, as the Bearded One heads out on his walk, I say, “If you see Hansel and Gretel, send them here to see the rubber egg.”

He grins.  “I don’t think I’ll be doing that,” he says.  “We want those children to grow up normal.”

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15 responses to “The Rubber Egg and I

  1. Turns out engineers at Boeing examined breast implants to understand the properties of the materials used.

  2. Christine Widman

    Wow. A cougar. My love has been photographing in the wilds of Canada, Washington State, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, & New Mexico. He has never seen a cougar…and he has looked for them.
    They (& bears) are at the top of the predator chain in the U.S. and Canada.
    I was ending an 8 mile hike once in the Rincons as the sun was beginning to set. Gold gilded the ground and the cactus and the air. I had reached the flat part of the trail so began to run. There was magic and silence all around me. And suddenly, my primitive human brain said, “STOP RUNNING!!!!!”
    And of course my very loud little voice was correct.
    Running triggers the chase response in mountain lions.
    I stopped running and kept an eye out every step on the last segment of my hike.
    The Rincons – as part of Saguaro National Park – have mountain lions.
    My love and I were hiking there last year and the trail we were going to take was closed with a “Mountain Lion Alert” sign.
    I hope your mountain lion leaves your area and goes back to the “wild things” to eat, leaving the domesticated chickens and goats and ducks (and cats and dogs) for humans to live with.
    C

  3. Christi,
    I have just recently happened upon your wonderful blog and have been working my way through your stories chronologically. I am still back in Oct 2011 at this point! Being a newbie in the farming/gardening world, I like to think that in 5 years, I will have learned as much as you have. I am grateful for the honesty and humour you put into your entries. I hope you don’t mind that I have put a link to your blog off of mine. I love every word and want to share.
    Many thanks
    Martha :o)

    • Thanks, Martha! And thanks also for linking Farmlet. I see you are in Vancouver, B.C. now, if I read your blog notice correctly. Similar climate! Good luck in your new path — I look forward to reading about it.:)

  4. Hi Christi…there are a lot of people having problems with their blogs at the moment and getting their posts posted to facebook so its not only you. We had a single speckled egg a while ago and none since and a weird looking egg with a most alarming bulge on the top of it (the hen must have gotten scared when she was laying and popped it out too soon lol)…hens are very charismatic but ours are downright sneaky at the moment. Yin is having his way with as many of them as he can and has been seen down the bottom of the property attempting to coax his lady friends into nesting as far away as he can from here….a COUGAR! The worst we get is the odd Tassie Devil but they never attack anyone. The biggest land preditor that we have in Australia is the dingo and they aren’t that bad (just wild dogs really). Rubber eggs are exciting. I think I might have a little chat to Pingu tomorrow and see if I can’t get her to give me one tomorrow…I have rubber egg envy! 😉

    • It’s still in the fridge, Fran. I can’t just throw it away yet. Besides, I have a friend coming to lunch tomorrow and I have to show her! Who knows what will be the fate of the rubber egg?! 🙂

      • Lol…”educational expense” on your taxes? :). Perhaps you could take it from school to school and say “this is what Monsanto want to do to our eggs so that we can minimise shelf space”? (naughty girl arn’t I 😉 )

  5. I love this, Christi! A rubber egg- classic! And your reference to Betty MacDonald brought me such joy- I was obsessed with reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle as a kid…which really has nothing to do with eggs other than she was genius and happened to write the memoir you refer to…thanks as always for your humor and your incredible ability to spin a farming yarn.

    • Thanks, Wendi, and yes, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is classic. I didn’t know she was the same author of The Egg and I until just a few years ago. A genius indeed. I love knowing that you are a Piggle Wiggle Fan.:)

  6. Pingback: Rubbery Egg

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