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The Gnarly White Egg..

Updated: Jun 15

My mother keeps chooks. Always has. No doubt always will while she can live independently. Mum only keeps a few. No more than three or four usually. Ordinarily she will go with Lohmann brown chooks as these seem to be the most readily available in Northern NSW, though she has kept Orpington blacks and white Leghorns as well. Mum’s chooks are fed a grain-based meal and their water freshened daily. They also have full access to the kitchen scrap bucket where they can expect anything such as half a lettuce, vegetable skins, bread, scraps of meat and anything edible that was accidently dropped on the floor. Add to this diet free range foraging all day everyday around Mum’s half acre garden. The coop has a northeast aspect, it is well drained, secure and warm. As good a chooks existence that there ever was.

 

Mum has the chook keeping formula right and as a result the eggs flow. Every morning between seven and eight a chook on the lay will raise their voice announcing their little contribution to the world. It’s a complex call. A bit of pain. A bit of relief. All topped off with a whole lot of pride. A chook who has just laid an egg is the happiest creature on earth with their purpose complete and justification for their existence fulfilled. The rest of the day is theirs to be spent as they please. As a rule, one happy well-nourished chook equals one egg per day. And what eggs. If you haven’t enjoyed authentic backyard free range eggs fed on kitchen scraps well, I just feel sorry for you. Plump and firm. They sit watching you from the pan like deep orange eyes with sizzling translucent halos. Breakfast bliss. The right formula also means a lot of eggs. Four chooks equals four eggs a day on average. A dozen every three days. Over two dozen a week. You now have the capacity and privilege of being able to give eggs away.

 

I spent time at Mum’s recently while she recovered from a minor surgery. Currently she has three brown chooks and one very old white Leghorn. With the morning laying done, I headed out to collect the eggs and I noticed something odd. There in the nest was three perfect brown eggs and one overly large gnarly white egg. Mum had mentioned that old white chook wasn’t laying anymore, so why are there four eggs? And why three identical brown eggs and one massive white one? Interesting. I collected the eggs and headed back to the house to do some research. In the kitchen fridge were three cartons of eggs. The first carton contained six identical brown eggs. The second carton was full with a further dozen brown eggs. The third carton totalled eleven brown and one big gnarly white egg, identical to the one I had just collected. Doing the math, I figure that old white chook l is laying about once a month. I took Mum a cup of tea to explain what had happened. “You know that white chook laid an egg today” I said. “Wacko” exclaimed Mum disbelievingly as she switched on the morning news. No point in arguing with that.

 

Woodworkers can learn a lot from chooks. Chooks lay eggs well and often when the conditions are right. And so, woodworkers will also produce work well and often when everything is right. This is because woodworking, like tending chooks, is a process driven discipline. Great craftspeople don’t just appear out of thin air miraculously producing beautifully resolved pieces no. Such a craftsperson has refined every part of their process from selecting materials, through to machining, construction and finishing methods working to minimise risk and deliver the design intent of their work predictably and efficiently. Such craftspeople also tend to produce a limited range of products that reflects their subjective style. Limiting the range reduces creative pressure and assists the craftsperson to refine each product thoroughly producing a resolved design, one perfect egg per day so to speak. With the process and product resolved, the craftsperson may then work to achieve a level of production that can bring economic reward. This may take years even a lifetime to achieve.


Similar results may also be achieved by the enthusiast working at home. Good materials, tools and a refined process with plenty of self-discipline and time will allow any committed enthusiast to master the craft. One fact rings true for both, the ambitious craftsperson and committed enthusiast must be prepared to produce an awful lot of predictable brown eggs on their journey. Brown eggs will always be in demand as they suit the audiences need for economy, functionality and predictability. And brown eggs are as good as any egg at the end of the day. Sadly, there is a limited audience for the weird and wonderful gnarly white egg.

 

There is a catch. If you are the craftsperson who slips into the routine of producing nothing but brown eggs. Kitchens, office fit outs and batches of straightforward furniture pieces. You will no doubt enjoy the fruit of these popular products, yet one may get caught up in this routine and you soon discover that it becomes your entire existence. You need a bigger workspace. You need more sophisticated equipment. You need an offsider, then you need two. You need a better accountant as the tax man needs you to pay more. Unless this was your intention, you may lose sight of why you started with this work in the first place.

 

In her career, old white chook has laid plenty of predictable brown eggs, well predictable white eggs at least. Now in her twilight, age has limited her ability to produce predictably and regularly. She now does what she can possible via my Mum’s thorough tending process that supports her wellbeing. The good news for you is that you are not a chook. You are a human who can perceive and create your own reality. While you may need to produce predictable brown eggs to survive, you may also push yourself to create the gnarly white egg to stay sane. It's painful. It will need nurturing to ease out. It will take a lot more work and all your experience to make. Yet once it's laid, you can also lift your voice and call to the sky celebrating your authentic contribution to the great human conversation.

 

Yet no one will really care. The presses won’t be stopped. You won’t make the news. You may be lucky and sell the piece, but not for what it’s worth. More likely it will make its way into your permanent collection at home. But don’t despair, as this gnarly white egg has another purpose. Rather than being consumed by the mainstream like regular brown eggs, this is the egg that brings many opportunities. It is your opportunity to play. It creates and sets new directions in your work building originality. If you exhibit this piece, you may win a prize. You may be offered commissions that incorporate some of its design elements. Whatever the outcome, there will be an outcome that renews your passion for the craft and clears your pathway forward just a little. Your purpose renewed.

 

Mum has finished her tea, and it is now time to tend the dogs. I start breakfast and can hear a commotion coming from the garden. A brown chook has found something good to eat and a squabble has broken out as the others rush in for a share. Poor old white chook isn’t quite quick enough anymore and will probably miss out. She toils on, blissfully ignorant to the fact that without that gnarly egg she would have no purpose. For farm animals and craftspeople alike, life without purpose is a precarious situation. I crack the gnarly egg into the pan. It's a double yolker.

 


Eleven perfectly brown eggs and one gnarly white one

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