Photos by Frankie Calland and close ups by Melanie Calland.RED BARN/ Eggscellent! (I know you will think of something better!)
Spring is a celebration of rebirth, daffodils are blooming and there’s a sense of a new fresh start around the corner. Grab the sun while you can, as it shows itself briefly between April showers. Eggs are a traditional sign of rebirth at this time of Year, wherever you are from.
I remember when we were young, Mam used to make what she called “Paste eggs” Chocolate eggs were way too expensive! I looked them up and it seems that it’s a North Eastern English term for them and they are more commonly known as “Pace” or “Peace” eggs. They seem to be traditional across Europe and as far as the Middle East. They are embraced by many cultures and faiths.
The process involved my mam wrapping things such as string around the eggs and boiling them in a pan of onion skins! She would also try bits of old cotton fabric, along with old tights in this mysterious concoction! She then entered them into competitions held at agricultural shows and village fairs in the summer and autumn. So of course, I had to have a go at creating some!
After looking up a few methods, I came to the conclusion that white eggs would work better for the effect, so we popped out to buy some. Well, easier said than done! We trailed 3 or 4 supermarkets, but there was none to be seen! We wondered what had happened to them and why you never see white ones anymore…Growing up in the 70s, they were the norm – in the shops at least. If you had your own hens, like we did, you only had brown eggs anyway. Eventually we found some white duck eggs in Tesco, along with some beautiful little blue eggs (Bluebell Araucana) which I also bought to experiment with!
We were on a mission to discover why they were so difficult to find, asking staff and other shoppers if they had a clue at all. I must admit, we did have a giggle thinking of all the reasons and chatting to folk! So when we arrived back home I looked for answers on the internet. It seems it’s all down to the breed of hens; white ones with white ears produce white eggs…Simple! Other breeds like the Rhode Island Reds we had, produced brown eggs.
So why were they hard to find? Well, that’s all down to fashion!
In the UK, in the late 1970s, wholefoods started to become popular and I remember my Mam doing high fibre diets like the F plan diet: white bread was frowned upon for being unhealthy, the same sadly happened to white eggs. Strange, as there is no difference at all in the nutritional value of them! You will still find they are the main colour of eggs in the USA and apparently some cultures/faiths prefer them – it’s multicultural areas where they are the easiest to find!
I discovered that different foods would colour the eggs, so I played with spinach, cabbage and turmeric, but they were pretty unsuccessful, so I used some blackberries from my freezer and did the rest with onion skins. Of course you could cheat and use food colourings!
I used several methods: wrapped wool around some, others I wrapped with leaves, then tied bits of old stockings around them.
The onions skins turn them a rich red brown with a marbled effect. These were the most effective! Big French onion skins work the best, just unpeel the dry skins and pop into the pan and boil with the eggs for as long as you fancy! Afterwards you can rub butter or oil onto the shells to give a lovely sheen to them. The only drawback is that the colour runs into the egg white inside if you want to eat them. A little off-putting, but they taste great!
I went up to the red barn to collect eggs, a nearby farm, which we pass each day on our way to work. I love seeing which way the fox weather vane is blowing! It has a traditional UK corrugated iron barn, painted a rich terracotta red, made by A J & Main in Glasgow. They started making barns and other prefabricated buildings such as Cricket pavilions, bus garages, shooting lodges and chapels in around 1870, but they closed in 1968.
Next to the barn, there is an amazing old bath to supply water for the cattle. This came from the local mine, before they installed the showers. Miners however are renowned for not washing their backs, as they feared it would take the strength out of them!
The farmers hens were very wary of me and didn’t want their photos taken, but we found a few eggs scattered around.
My wonderful rooster skirt is one I made from some vintage fabric I found in America. It features coffee pots, kettles and other kitchen items, in gorgeous earthy shades. I made my favourite 50s wrap top, also in some fabric I bought years ago, and my fabulous mid-century rooster copper brooch matched my copper pennies bracelet and ring featuring roadrunners and cactus that I bought in Las Vegas many years ago. Always buy timeless items, and things that will match together so you can wear them as a set. My tooled leather effect shoes from Rocket Originals are a godsend, they are so neutral, they seem to blend wonderfully with many of my outfits, and with this skirt, it’s the print that should stand out!
For more photos please check out my blog at retropoodles.wordpress.com