Size Matters – Egg Size that is

With so many people raising their own hens or buying eggs directly from farmers, determining egg size is a handy skill. If you’re breaking a few into a frying pan for breakfast, it doesn’t really matter, but for cookies, cakes and other baked goods, it does. Eggs effect stucture, leavening, texture, taste and even shelf life. In recipes, assume eggs are large eggs unless otherwise noted.

Eggs are graded in two unrelated ways; by weight  (small, medium, large, extra-large and jumbo) and by quality (AA, A, B). Let’s start with weight. In the old days, lots of folks had egg scales on their farms or in their kitchens. Then along came supermarket eggs and lots of scales went off to Goodwill or wherever good little egg scales go when no one needs them anymore.  I use a small digital food scale in my kitchen but the old scales (like this one from Google Images) are very cool.

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Supermarket eggs are measured by the dozen. Each egg doesn’t need to be right on the money, the dozen just have to average out.  Likewise, when you’re weighing eggs at home for baking, just get as close as you can. For more egg information than you ever knew you wanted, look to the American Egg Board.  This link will get you to the section on weights and grades, egg parts, etc.  Here are the weights (in ounces) and size grade of single eggs as set by the USDA.

Small =  1.5     Medium = 1.75     Large = 2     Extra-Large = 2.25     Jumbo = 2.5

Large, medium and small eggs laid by Ruby, Mattie and Baby respectively.

Large, medium and small eggs laid by Ruby, Mattie and Baby respectively.

My chickens lay a variety of egg sizes but I’m proud to say their eggs are mostly AA (sometimes an A slips in).  Here are highlights from what the Egg Board says about an AA egg: It spreads a moderate amount when broken, has a reasonably thick white that stands fairly high, has a clean strong shell and finally, a yolk that is firm, round and stands high. They go on to describe lesser eggs and point out that while AAs are desirable for frying and poaching, AA, A and B are fine for baking and other cooking. They don’t even mention C, D or F eggs and I’m not sure I want to know.

So there you have it. Size does matter, and now you’ll know just how many eggs to use.  Happy baking!


Music, Barns and Mother’s Day

And what a musical weekend it was! Saturday night brought Balsam Range, a local bluegrass band made good (top of the national charts for months), to the wonderful Madison County Arts Council in Marshall.  Balsam Range’s  exceptional singing and picking brought down the house  at this fundraiser for the Appalachian Barn Alliance (ABA).  The Alliance works to document the historically significant barns of Madison County, NC where there are 21,000 people and more than 10,000 barns!

This shot from the ABA website is one of my favorites. Raising tobacco is pretty much a thing of the past around here, but as a child, I thought tobacco hanging to dry in the barns was a beautiful sight. It would light up like it was on fire when the sun hit it.

You can see more barn photos and see more of Tim Barnwell’s work at these sites.


The Meadows’ tobacco barn by Tim Barnwell, from the Barn Alliance’s website.


There is no end to the good music found in our area and Sunday night, we headed down to the big city of Asheville for a different kind of scene. After a fun family dinner in honor of Mom (she’s the best), we saw Frank Vignola and Vinnie Raniolo at the Altamont Theatre. This excellent listening room seats about 100 people so it was up close and personal as the world class jazz guitarists made our jaws drop. My hubby Paul is a perfectionist when it comes to music and he couldn’t get enough of those two.

Two nights of top-notch music. Who needs city life when we have entertainment like this? Seeing Balsam Range and then Frank and Vinnie in small venues was a real treat and it was a great family weekend with my sister and her husband as well as my parents along for the fun. In their mid-eighties, Mom and Dad would be happy checking out live music every night of the week. Remind me to act like them when I’m their age!





The Great Chicken Transfer

A couple of weeks ago, the chicks I raised were ready for life with the big chickens. There’s some timing involved with a new coop, transferring a flock and getting everyone settled.

The hand-raised chicks couldn’t move from their home in the garage to our small coop because it was already at capacity with 3 adult hens and three teenagers. We were waiting for our new, bigger coop to arrive so that two teenagers and two of the garage chicks could go with the little coop to said sister, Mary.

The new chicken palace framed by mountains in the distance and my straw bale garden. You'll hear more about that soon!

The new chicken palace framed by mountains in the distance and my straw bale garden. You’ll hear more about that soon!

While we waited those last few days for coop delivery, the garage became noisy; the gang of four was ready for new quarters. At my sister’s place, farther out in the country, they set up a pen that would attach to the small coop. The youngsters would spend days in the pen to allow them to settle in and get bigger while Mary’s cats adjusted to living with birds. The bigger the bird, the less interested the cats are.

Finally the day arrived. Our coop, complete with wheels and a pen, came rolling up the road on a flatbed truck. It was a sight to see and it is a palace! We positioned it in the yard, set up the pen and hid the old coop in the garage to avoid any confusion.

Ruby, our golden comet hen, circling the new coop.

Ruby, our golden comet hen, circling the new coop.

Using dried mealworms and lots of raisins, we lured all eleven chickens into the new coop. They inspected it thoroughly, clucking and cooing as they went in and out of the doors and  each of the six nest boxes. I put an egg in one of the boxes to let them know where to lay theirs. Chickens are very open to suggestion. The transition was smooth and just before dark, everybody lined up and walked up the ramp to their new home. I am always amazed that chickens put themselves to bed every night without being told.

photo-1The next morning they tumbled out of the coop door ready for breakfast. The three one-year olds visited the nest box with the decoy egg and one after the other, laid perfect eggs of their own. Mary’s husband, John, arrived with his trailer and we loaded the old coop and gear. That night, we plucked four young chickens from their perches while they slept and magically transported them to the old coop at its new location. They never knew what hit them.

So everybody is happy! To read more about how her flock is settling in, check out Mary’s blog at