Plastic-free and Low-plastic Products

Plastic-free July with Koofie's Natural Living photos of products

Plastic-free July is in full swing and for those of you looking to lower your plastic use, I’ve made a list of our nearly plastic-free and low-plastic products!

“Nearly plastic-free” products will generally only have a thin plastic film label, with no other plastic in the product packaging (or product!).

“Low plastic” products will have a glass container with a plastic top, or some other small use of plastic

Please also CONTACT US if you’re interested in other products in a low plastic or nearly plastic-free packaging; most of our products can be stored in different packaging. All of the plastic used in shipping has been re-used (except for tape) but we are happy to ship without the use of airbags or bubble wrap if you prefer.

Duck Eggs are IN!

It happened yet again this week; a customer came up and ask for a dozen eggs and I told them we are out of chicken eggs “but we have duck eggs available”. Sometimes they ask more about duck eggs. I tell them the nutritional benefits, that they taste similar, and how they’re great for baking. Sometimes they try a half-dozen, sometimes they go elsewhere for chicken eggs.

It may be the price that turns them away; at $10/dozen, my duck eggs are quite a bit more than my chicken eggs. But I think it is often the unfamiliarity and strangeness of duck eggs that causes people to stick with chicken eggs.

How are duck eggs different than chicken eggs? 

The quality of the egg is determined by the poultry who made it. Our chickens and ducks eat the same GMO- and soy-free fermented feed, but the ducks tend to forage more. This is apparent when my ducks eat less in the summer than the winter, while my chicken’s food consumption doesn’t change as much. The ducks also forage longer each day. Visit anytime in the evening and you’ll notice that the chickens head to their coop around dusk whereas the ducks stay out until twilight (which is after 9 pm now that it’s June)!!! Good foraging means a more diverse diet and thus a better nutrient profile for the eggs.

Duck eggs are generally bigger; the eggs I collected today from my ducks ranged from 62g to 80g, whereas the chicken eggs were 54g – 69g, and my chickens lay pretty big eggs compared to most store-bought eggs! Duck eggs have a deeper gold yolk and whiter whites (albumin). The yolks have a higher fat content than chicken eggs and the albumin has a higher protein content. The real benefit to duck eggs when looking at nutrition is the vitamin and mineral content. If a duck eggs is on average 140% larger than a chicken egg (70g vs 50 g), then to compare the two we should look at the amount of a vitamin or minerals of an egg and multiply it by 1.4. If you’d like to try it yourself, there are multiple sites available but I used nutritiondata.self.com to compare chicken vs. duck eggs. Across the board, duck eggs have more iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, vitamins A, E, B1, B2, B9, B12, B5, choline, Omega 3’s and total protein as the same amount by weight of chicken eggs.

Typical chicken eggs (large/extra large) with typical duck eggs (extra large/jumbo)

Duck eggs have a harder shell; once you get used to cracking duck eggs you will have a difficult time not smashing chicken eggs! A harder shell means the eggs may be able to stay “good” longer. Duck are messier than chickens and you will likely find some of them stained no matter how often we add more straw to the nesting boxes!

Duck eggs come in a variety of muted colors but most range from off-white to barely blue/green. The only exception I know of is Cayugas, whose bloom, or protective membrane that covers the shell when it’s laid, can be gray, even dark grey. The protective layer is easily marred when first laid so if the hen or another duck brushes it you will find lighter streaks and splotches.

Duck eggs… notice the two grey Cayuga eggs in the basket!

What about taste?

Most of my customers tell me they don’t taste any difference between my duck and my chicken eggs; I don’t either. I have had a few people describe duck eggs as “eggier” and one as “creamier”. 

Why are duck eggs called the “Baker’s Secret”?

Not only is a cracked duck egg more beautiful, but the yolk’s higher fat content creates a more rich pastry. The protein in the albumin causes the white to whip up higher, creating more loft when mixing and results in airier, higher cakes and baked goods. Since duck eggs are larger, if you have a recipe you are trying to perfect you can actually weigh your eggs to account for the size. a large egg is about 2 oz, so you can always weigh your eggs before adding them a account for the difference by removing some egg. I haven’t found it makes a difference; I just tend to use smaller duck eggs for baking and the larger ones for other cooking.

And if you are gluten-free, duck eggs will give you another advantage. According to Jamie Oliver “[duck eggs] are also a good addition to gluten free baking—what your baked good loses in structure by omitting gluten can be partially gained back with the denser albumen (egg white protein).” So if you’re gluten-free, give duck eggs a try in your next baked item!

What if I’m allergic to chicken eggs?

If you’re allergic to chicken eggs you may be in luck with duck eggs. Their protein is different than that of chicken eggs and some people have found they can eat duck eggs even when chicken eggs cause a reaction. Please check with your doctor before you give duck eggs a try, of course.

Why are duck eggs more expensive?

First and foremost it’s labor. Ducks require a lot more labor than chickens do. My chickens get a bit of straw every so often and a big coop clean out 1-2 times a year, plus daily feeding. Because ducks like everything wet, their coop needs more frequent cleanings and their nesting boxes need new straw every few days. Without it, the eggs would be dirtier and the ducks would be much less healthy. Secondly, ducks require more feed to produce each egg, even in the summer. And finally, duck eggs are larger so you’re getting more egg per carton; sometimes I have to rearrange eggs to get the carton closed! 

What makes your duck eggs different from eggs I might buy at a natural foods store or market?

Our ducks are truly free-ranged! Their days are spent in a pond, a creek, or in horse fields (or my front yard/garden). The have all day to forage and are also fed GMO- and soy-free feed that has been soaked at least 12 hours and is fermented. This is especially helpful for ducks, whose natural diet is more likely to include soaked seeds because of their habitat of choice. A healthy diet leads to healthier eggs! 

How/where can I buy duck eggs?

If you’re in or around the Frederick, MD area, stop by The Frederick City Market on Sunday from 9-1, from mid-May to mid-November. You can also contact me via email about the availability of eggs. There are usually copious amounts in spring and less during the remainder of the year.

Even better, I sell my eggs by the half-dozen also. It’s a great way to try a few!

If you live somewhere else, I recommend visiting your local farmer’s market. Even if none of the vendors sell eggs, they may be able to point you in the direction of another local farmer (we farmers are generally happy to share that sort of information)!

Ice

 

Rory and I took a long walk this morning.

 

Yesterday everything thawed when the high was over 50 degrees, only to refreeze as the temperature dropped nearly to the single digits.

 

The nearly snow-less ground today.
Nearly snow-less ground today
Snow on the ground two days ago.Two days ago.

 

It’s important to tell you about my walks. I don’t like traveling the same roads again and again. I love circular walks, new walks, walks filled with adventure and new sights. However, the neighborhood in which we live wasn’t made for circuitous rambles. So, I usually find myself trekking through the woods at some point rather than turn around and retrace my steps.

 

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I’ve never heard leaves crackle underfoot quite like this. The thaw yesterday left them damp and they refroze, so each step was like the breaking of a hundred tiny sticks.

 

Today I decided on a new journey I was hoping would work. Our neighborhood is bordered by a beach and I was fairly certain a new route would take me down to one part of the beach. That should  connect to the beach in my area thus I could probably walk from one part of the neighborhood to the other.

 

At the end of the road I stepped into the woods.

 

As I walked down through trees, I came upon this:

 

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With the choice to cross the river or walk back up through the woods and retrace my steps I, of course, decided to find a spot to cross the river.

 

Unfortunately it only widened itself to either side as far as I could travel. There were brambles that kept me from moving in either direction.

 

I nearly turned around.

 

And then Rory took a step.

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He didn’t fall in, so I investigated the ice (I have never claimed to make particularly good decisions). Luckily I am here to tell you about it instead of…  I don’t know what.

 

I crossed safely, and we found the river opened up into a tidal pond.

 

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We tramped through the woods and headed to the beach. On the way I found a bridge over the river beyond the brambles.

 

Oops.

 

At the beach, I saw a sight I’d never seen before. Ice, floating on the Chesapeake Bay.

 

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The Homeschool Review

My first homeschool review was scheduled in early January. For those of you who don’t know the homeschooling rules in Maryland, we have the choice of either being “reviewed” by someone from the county we reside in or we can join a homeschooling “umbrella group” where the group reviews the instruction of your children(there are various methods for this). Essentially it is like choosing public school over private school; you have more freedom in how you choose to school your children with the second option, but you pay for it and you need to research your umbrella group well to make sure they will be supportive of your methods.

 

I chose to complete my review through the county I am living in now. I believed I could demonstrate my methods were providing instruction as required by the state of Maryland, without compromising my own homeschooling goals.

 

The state requires parents to demonstrate instruction in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Health Education, Physical Education, Fine Arts (Art, Music) and Other (Technology, World Language). Parents can show the instruction through:

  • text(s) or equivalent
  • reading materials/list
  • writing samples
  • worksheets/workbooks
  • tests/quizzes
  • creative materials
  • field trips
  • other

 

I chose to create a document for each girl where I could enter in our activities to show our reviewer what we had done. Below you can see Ari’s and Abby’s charts.

A spreadsheet divided into subjects with activities Abby completed in each this semester  A spreadsheet divided into subjects with activities Ari completed in each this semester

I made a list of all of our field trips, the dates and which child participated.

 

I had pictures of many of our activities, assignments and field trips so I organized these into subject areas and also into Unit studies, as Ari has been completing most of her work through various units.

A screenshot of the albums I had prepared for the HS Review

A lot of Abby’s Language Arts work was done in a spiral 11×14 sketchbook, so I brought that along.

 

An example page from Abby's ELA "Good book" a spiral sketch book Abby used for writing/drawing

Finally, I had a 3-ring notebook for each girl. Abby’s was divided into subjects and assignments; she has a tab for math, letter practice, number practice, assessments and awards and one for writings and stories. Ari’s notebook is divided into math and then a tab for each unit.

All of this preparation not only made the review easy and a positive experience, but it really helped me to reflect on what we had done so far this year. I am happy with what we have accomplished and the learning and growth I have seen in both girls. We were given a paper that showed we had “Clear Evidence of instruction throughout” our portfolio and we will return again at the end of the year.

Abby's HS Portfolio Review Reflection Form
Abby’s HS Portfolio Review Reflection Form

Ari's HS Portfolio Review Reflection Form
Ari’s HS Portfolio Review Reflection Form

Homeschooling: Abby’s First Day

Today was Abby’s first day of First Grade.

Abby and Tigger, first day of school

She brought along a friend (that’s a cool part of homeschooling).

Abby’s school day started off with an Adventure Walk. Basically, we went on a walk while I made up a story that we acted out. Eventually I will have a repertoire of songs and actions I can do on an adventure walk, but for today I made it up as I went along. In the story the fictional characters got up and dressed, explored the woods, saw birds and trees, ran down hills and walked backwards up others, all of which we did together. It might seem like an odd thing to do, but we worked up a sweat (it was about 85 degrees out) and got a great workout. Abby loved it:)

Abby then began her “classwork”; we recalled the story I had told her yesterday, we spoke a verse (Abby knows a little of it) and we drew pictures from the story. My picture even had some hidden letters which we found! Abby then went off to play:

cat dojo house

She created a “Cat Dojo House”?!?

After lunch we had Quiet Time, which is a time of inner reflection or focus. Abby worked on her “cat dojo  house” as I looked through materials for Ari’s afternoon Math lesson, cleaned up a bit and made sure I was calm and centered for what would follow.

While Ari did math, Abby played with some math manipulatives. When she was done, she decided to do math “like Ari” and made herself some addition problems to complete. Once done, we all read a story about finger crocheting. Abby did a bit herself, and then begged me to do more. I held off and right at bedtime she decided to work on it herself using the nightlight we have for her. I don’t think she did many but she had completed a few more when she last told me where she was. For those of you who haven’t spent a few hours with Abby, you won’t know that she talks incessantly and loves to narrate what she is doing. I usually tune her out, which she says is fine with her!

Day one for Abby is finally done, Ari has started week two and our rhythm actually seems to be working out! I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings.