“It’s what’s on this table” Mike said, as he scooped his hand through the soft brown pellets, lifting up a handful and letting it drop from his fingers like sand. It reminded me of rich chocolate Ovaltine, that drink we used to have as kids, only much darker.
“Black gold?” I said.
“Hey, have you been reading my notes?” Mike replied, laughing. He was getting ready to give a “market talk” about earthworm castings at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Some of the growers have been mentioning castings a lot recently, mostly in reference to how they make a casting tea to spread on their crops. This, they have found, gives them a better product.
“Castings”, it turns out, is just a fancy word for poop.
Poop tea.We joked around about earthworm castings for several moments, before the conversation turned to the mating habits of bees. It seemed a totally natural turn, considering the other half of the table contained a giant display of worker B products. Mike (pictured above) and Liesa (pictured below) are the worker bee’s of Worker B. “So I understand how bees mate, and it’s crazy, but I still don’t get the whole chicken egg fertilization thing.” Liesa said.
“Uhhh..” I said, trying to find a response that would make me seem knowledgeable, or at the very least, clever. I had nothing.
“yeeeaaaii don’t know about that one. I’ll find out for you though!” I said.
I took out my phone dove out of the conversation and into the chaos of shoppers zig-zagging through the aisles. With loose shoulders I dodged and shimmied my way through, narrowly avoiding many a fanny pack. Unruly green onions sprouted from shopping bags, whipping me as I passed. I had to tip-toe through buckets full of tulips, but nothing would stand in the way of my mission.
Destination: Blue Gentian.
Darryle, of Blue Gentian, farms chickens… and ducks, and turkeys. He also has sheep, pigs, goats, and cows. Here is what he had to say about chickens:
Chicken mating lasts less than 30 seconds, during which the rooster sperm enters the oviduct. The rooster sperm then travels through the hen’s reproductive organs to the infundibulum, which is downstream of the hen’s ovary. The journey to the infundibulum can take over a week, but once there, the sperm can remain for several days, ambushing eggs as they are released from the ovary. The unsuspecting chickens are used to laying eggs, fertilized or not, they do it almost daily.
“My chickens leave me 3-5 eggs every day” said one of the master gardeners at the market.
“Wait a minute, you have chickens? I thought you said you lived in Minneapolis?”
“Oh yes, I have 8! The city allows you to have them after your neighbors have signed off that it is okay and your coup has been inspected.” She replied.
Interesting. I don’t have a coup, and I am pretty sure my neighbors wouldn’t be too thrilled with me housing chickens in our apartment (not that it matters much, turns out Saint Paul is much more lenient than Minneapolis when it comes to owning poultry.) I wanted to stay and hear more about how to own chickens..but I was dying to get back to Liesa with my new found knowledge.
“Makes sense” Liesa said, shrugging. “Thanks!” She grinned.
“Thank YOU!” I replied. “This is totally interesting. Now I need to know your favorite egg recipes so that I can make a dish to go with this story. Any ideas?”
“I usually just make leftover omelettes.” Mike chimed in. “I’ll put anything leftover in an omelette. Even pizza!”
“Well, I do have some asparagus leftover from yesterday..”