A label embosser was gifted this Christmas, so now we are extra sure of our eggs.
Lum Farm ended the year with the installation of a miraculous new egg washing machine. It was a sizeable undertaking, and so to relish this growth spurt I'm going to take us on a little journey of Lum Farm Egg Washing Stations past.
The above photo is our egg station in 2020. We were washing 5-7 dozen eggs a day with a spray bottle and scrubby, selling them through our farmstand. (Yes, our egg washing station's first life was selling pots at the Orcas Store).
It became clear fairly quickly that if we wanted to meet demand, we were going to need more chickens. We put the task to Belle, who rounded up a sizeable addition to the flock.
Five months later, these little chicks had become laying hens. This bumped egg production up to about 12 dozen a day. Washing 100 eggs one by one was not anyone's idea of a good time, so we did some research and found a fit-in-your-sink machine called "the little scrubber".
We just happened to have a large utility sink and counter handy, so we moved the whole operation to our porch. Behold, the new and improved set up:
We had a hot water hose and a large counter for drying the eggs on towels laid across trays. For a few of us farmhands, it was a particularly pleasant space for a mug of hot cocoa, a podcast, and getting to zone out while also being productive.
Happily, we successfully tripled our egg washing efficiency. Because, as you see, we could now wash three eggs at a time.
It was perfect, unless it was rainy. Or windy. Or freezing. Or if you skipped a couple days and found yourself at the sink with 50+ dozen eggs to wash.
You may also have spied in the above video our adorable helper. Any writing about this phase of our egg washing would be remiss without a shout out to Inspector Frog. A tireless worker, he was always on the scene, making sure that our efficiency was up to snuff. And, he was extremely photogenic. While resisting calls to start his own social media account, here at least is a small photo gallery (click the arrow on the righthand photo to scroll through).
Inspector Frog especially liked to hang out in our "odd-bod and cracked" egg section, troubleshooting where he could to help minimize breakage. He also gave great pep talks to our egg washers. Here he is giving Greta a refresher on WSDA regulations for resale egg packaging.
Inspectors and efficiency aside, washing eggs was still a time-consuming daily chore. Over the next couple years we washed between 12 to 18 dozen eggs a day. If things got hectic and we missed a day or two, there were hours and hours of catching up. During a particularly hectic week, farmhand Maggie broke all the egg washing records and washed over 70 dozen eggs. It took her all day.
Here's Toby having an existential crisis over the tower of eggs in milk crates waiting by the Little Scrubber station. Each milk crate holds 10 dozen eggs.
Once again, it became clear that we had maxed our egg washing system. We'd burned through the first motor of the "Little Scrubber" (luckily within warranty) and weren't going to decrease the flock any time soon. With a few restaurants signed up for weekly eggs, our own ice cream production, and weekly egg subscribers, we still were selling out!
This was about the time that we were submitting an application for the WSDA food security grant. The grant was focused on Washington farms upgrading infrastructures that would aid food security. Our friends Pi and Darryl did a little research, and discovered the answer to all our egg washing needs (insert angel chorus):
Introducing the "Powerscrubb II". Apparently, this puppy can wash up to 3500 eggs in an hour! We enthusiastically added the Powerscrubber to our grant application (which also included a walk-in freezer, 30-gallon pasteurizer, and more). To our enormous delight and relief, we were granted enough funds to purchase a good percentage of our wish list.
Getting the new washer up and running was not an easy task. We needed to upgrade the shed that was to house our fancy new egg washer. We added insulation, a floor drain, lights, paint and plumbing for hot and cold water. Here's Rachel, remaining positive even as she digs ditches.
It became clear that we could run the Powerscrub for the first time on New Year's Eve. Yes, THAT's how we celebrated New Year's. We clearly know how to throw a party.
Here's how this heaven-sent contraption works: You start by placing eggs on a ramp that rolls them over a light to "candle" the eggs. The bright light illuminates the shell so that cracked eggs are easily spotted. Then, they roll onto a conveyer belt that sends the egg through two lengths of brushes. Once washed, they roll along another conveyer through two fans that dry the eggs, where they await cartoning. Here's some New Year's Party eggwashing in action.
I've turned off the sound in the video so you don't hear me singing the Indiana Jones theme song. But feel free to imagine.
The Powerscrubb's maiden New Year's voyage was to wash three day's worth of eggs in less than an hour. It felt like a miracle. Once everything was labelled and cartoned, we went back to the house and drank... you guessed it.... eggnog. With Brandy.
A week in, the new system just gets better and better. Faster, more sanitary (alas, no sign of Inspector Frog), and did we mention SO MUCH FASTER?
The conveyer belt has levels of speed, and so far we haven't gone past level two. Our eggs are muddy enough that they need a nice and slow journey through the brushes. However, Mandy, Amy and Crystal are threatening to don aprons and caps and recreate the chocolate factory scene from I Love Lucy. It's not hard to imagine, is it?
This project has been happening at the same time as another big undertaking -- rennovating our dairy! But that's another blog post! (Stay tuned.....)