I live with my husband and our little boy in the beautiful Upcountry of South Carolina, just a few miles from the farm where I grew up. My parents got me my first chickens (Lucy and Ethel) when I was in elementary school, and in junior high, I ran a small (but very fun) egg business with 45 black sexlinks, Warren Reds, and Rhode Islands. Chickens (and fresh eggs) really are addictive -- we recently bought our first house, and we've completely reconstructed and expanded the chicken coop we brought with us.

We have a great laying flock of seven Golden Comets, six White Leghorns, an OEGB hen, an EE bantam hen, and one very busy EE bantam rooster. We also have seven Buff Orps and six Easter Eggers in the brooder, with Partridge Rocks due to arrive next week and Silkies later in the spring. Fortunately, we also have tolerant neighbors who appreciate the occasional dozen eggs!

I raise my chicks the way my mom taught me, just like she learned on her grandparents' farm in 1940s Pennsylvania. It's not an overly scientific approach, but in twenty years, I've never lost a chick. Makes me think there's something to be said for the simple, old-fashioned method.

Besides our chickens, we also have two Great Pyrenees puppies, three saintly indoor cats who have yet to lose their patience with our son, a trio of meat rabbits, and assorted cichlids, as well as five horses still on my parents' farm.

I want my son to grow up loving animals as much as I did -- it wasn't unusual for me to have a bottle-raised baby goat running around the house in a diaper after being abandoned by his mama. My parents were very tolerant -- Mom was usually as eager to take in a new critter as I was, and my dad was a big softie, who always said "Absolutely not!", but could usually be found cuddling the animal in question within 48 hours (when he thought no one was looking, of course). Ironically, he was the one who decided to come home with 30 chicks instead of the half dozen or so we were sent to the feed store to pick up on the day my egg business got its start... For once, Mom was the one saying, "What were you thinking?"

Most of my chickens are nameless -- they're too hard to tell apart. But my dominant Golden Comet (and profile photo) is Esmerelda, in memory of my favorite hen ever, a Warren Red who had a weakness for freshly painted toenails and wanted to be wherever I was at all times. Even after the rest of the flock had to be confined to a large pen (after one too many conflicts with our nearest neighbor, who didn't appreciate our free-ranging hens aerating and fertilizing his flower beds for him...), Esmerelda simply let herself out of the pen every morning and went back in to roost with the others every night. Being the only chicken out in the open made her vulnerable, of course -- a hawk picked her up once and tried to fly away with her, but she wriggled her way free and fell about 75 feet, landing in a pile of tree limbs that were waiting to be burned. I had to cut several branches to get her loose, but she was fine. She stuck a little closer to the house after that, though. Our current Esmerelda could probably handle herself with a hawk, too.

Besides chickens, I love cooking, writing, reading, Scotland, photography, owls, fishing, and music ranging from country to Broadway to opera. I like to feed my family as locally and organically as possible, because I would rather pay a little more for real food that tastes better. As far as I'm concerned, breaking a fresh egg into a bowl beside a grocery store egg tells me all I need to know about the quality of most of the food we buy there. And as a Christian, I disagree strongly with the attitude that God gave us the earth to use however we want with no accountability. I believe that we are here as stewards, not just consumers, and that we should keep our agricultural practices as close to the way God created things as possible. To me, places like Polyface Farm and Happy Cow Creamery are evidence that those methods can be successful and profitable. I hope to have enough land someday to be able to provide most of our family's food ourselves.