The Egg Skelter

I am the proud owner of an egg skelter.  Hens who lay more eggs than you can use each day or two are a good thing, but you need to use the oldest eggs first.  They keep on the countertop for a good while, but the first-in-first-out inventory method is definitely the way to go.

I try to remember to pencil dates on the eggs as they arrive, but sometimes I forget. Even if you remember, it seems that the oldest eggs will find the bottom of the bowl and stay there forever, covered up by new eggs.

My wedgewood blue egg skelter; all the way from the UK!

My wedgewood blue egg skelter; all the way from the UK!

Thank goodness some clever person in England invented the egg skelter.  You put the new eggs at the highest vacant spot on the spiral and pluck the oldest eggs from the bottom of the slide.  You can’t really roll them from the top and let them crash into each other unless you want scrambled eggs on the counter, but it’s still fun.  Great name and you get to show off your home-grown eggs!

I saw a picture of an egg skelter in a magazine recently and knew it would solve my inventory issues.  Web and Ebay searches only turned up egg skelters on UK sites so I sprang for the extra shipping.  It’s very British that the egg skelter comes in colors that match Agas, the venerable stove that warms many a cozy English country kitchen.  I guess people who have Agas have hens.  My skelter is wedgewood blue and I wouldn’t mind having a matching Aga next to it!


The helter skelter; a popular ride at British amusement parks.

The helter skelter; a popular ride at British amusement parks.

I am a word fanatic, so I had to know why the holder is called a skelter. It makes me think of helter skelter meaning a mess or chaos, but it also reminds me of the Beatle song on the White Album.

In case you don’t know, the helter skelter in the song is a ride that appeared in British amusement parks around 1906.  It’s a medieval castle tower with a spiral slide around the outside. The egg holder does follow the same design.

Take a look at those Beatle lyrics if didn’t know about the ride. You’ll find they have new meaning! There’s a link below.

History lesson over, the Aga wedgewood blue egg skelter sits on my kitchen counter now and prevents egg chaos beautifully!

P.S. I just did another search and see that Manna Pro (a farm supply site) now sells an egg skelter in the U.S.  Please note that it only comes in cream, silver and red.  If you’re trying to match your Aga, you will have to go international.


Morning Ruckus!

A big ruckus in the yard this morning brought me running.  I thought I heard a dog barking and that rarely bodes well for free range hens!  Boy, was I wrong.  The barking was coming from Ruby, our golden comet hen.  She was loudly defending her breakfast against attack by an aggressive crow.  I arrived just in time to see the crow back away and take off.  Three cheers for Ruby!

Meet Ruby the heart-breaker.
Meet Ruby the heart-breaker. She’s a great layer and was born with that crooked tail. She prides herself on being an individual. The flattened stokes asters in the background are a favorite spot for Ruby to take an afternoon nap in summer. 

Here’s another Ruby story.  We’d had her for a few months when we realized that one of our “hens” was a rooster.  Before the rooster matured, Ruby was all mine.  She hung out with me when I was in the garden and did a little subservience dance when she wanted me to pick her up.  She’d flatten herself a bit, lower her head and stomp her feet. I’d pick her up and we’d visit until she was ready to join the flock again.  Both of us enjoyed this daily ritual.

Then Big Bird, the rooster, grew up and started looking like a real man.  Right after that, Ruby dumped me.  She started dancing for Big Bird and I was persona non grata.  Our cuddling days were over.  If I needed to pick her up to check her for mites or anything else, I had to pluck her off her roost in the coop under cover of darkness.  I was broken-hearted but glad to see her so happy with her fellow.

Since Big Bird passed away a few weeks ago, Ruby has come back to me.  Sometimes she dances for me twice a day!  It’s like old times.  I guess some girls just need an alpha figure in their lives.  I’m enjoying our chat sessions, but I know they are fleeting.  We’ll get a new rooster this spring and once again Ruby will tolerate me only because I happen to show up each morning with the organic feed and dried mealworms that she loves.  She’ll eat out of my hand if I bring a special afternoon snack, like a banana or peach, but there won’t be any cuddles.

I am already steeling myself for the blow.  Maybe one of the chicks we are hand-raising will value me the way Ruby used to.  A girl can dream, can’t she?

The Good and the Bad…

Paul napping with the chicks.

Paul napping with the chicks.

One of the tough things about keeping free range chickens is that you lose one now and then.  It’s heartbreaking, but part of keeping a flock. For that matter, predators get to chickens in pens too.  Last week, a dog made away with our gorgeous rooster, Big Bird.  He was a handsome guy with an excellent disposition who took great care of his girls.  In fact, we think he lost his life trying to protect Mattie, our barred rock hen.  She lost a clump of tail feathers but is otherwise unharmed.  My husband Paul who once told me he might not really be a chicken person (I think the picture above dispels that myth), misses Big Bird’s crowing and wants another roo. I miss Big too. He was our first rooster so we will remember him fondly.

Click on this link to see Big Bird in action:  BigBirdCrows

We’ll need to find a new man for our hens soon.  We don’t want to hatch eggs, but the girls miss their protector. They mooned around the coop for a day or two but are out foraging again now. The pickings will be good this spring since about ten percent of the female chicks that chicken lovers are buying now will turn out to be roosters.

Now some good news.  Even if you’re not a chicken person, you may have noticed signs at hardware and feed stores recently saying CHICKS ARE HERE!  And so they are.  I was at Southern States Farm Co-op fetching supplies soon after we lost Big and there were 10 huge blue tubs, each containing hundreds of day old chicks.  I tried to resist, picked up one, put it back. Did it again.

Then I may have blacked out because the next thing I knew I was cruising home with chicks, a brooder lamp and a sack of starter feed in the back of the Subaru. I won’t believe you if you tell me you can resist these little puff-balls!iPhoto Library

They don’t live in the bowl.  I just wanted to contain them for the photo session since they can escape in a matter of seconds.  I think this lovely bowl, crafted by our friends at Mangum Pottery in Weaverville, shows the chicks off beautifully. They live in the laundry room in a plastic tub. There’s a brooder light to keep them warm since they don’t have mother hen to do the job. Paul built a wood framed screen that fits over the tub to keep our frustrated cat out of the picture.  Her name is Ceci (it’s Italian for chick pea).  She is a love, but instinct takes over when she sees little birds right in her own home. We’ll move them to the garage soon and once again, Ceci will rule the roost.

The princess on her throne.

The princess on her throne.







Adventure in Florence: Italy update #7

We arranged a guided walking tour of Florence this morning. It was cold but sunny so a nice day for walking. First stop was the renaissance Davanzati Palazzo. It was fascinating to learn how the 1% lived in the 16th Century. Our guide was a terrific art historian who grew up in Italy and the U.S. He gave us a new appreciation for the Renaissance period, the Medicis, Michelangelo’s David, Brunelleschi’s Dome and all things Florence. We are inspired to return.

As a chicken fan, I couldn't pass up a shot of this door knocker with roosters!

As a chicken fan, I couldn’t pass up a shot of these roosters in Florence!

I recommend the tour company, Walks of Italy. We signed up for a tour that could have been up to twelve people, but no one else reserved and we had a private  half-day tour. Walks of Italy never cancels, even if only one person reserves. That’s good service.

Our guide left us about 1:00 and we stayed at the Galleria dell’Accademia for a bit longer. We were in the gift shop perusing the David umbrellas and keychains when every traveler’s nightmare struck. Paolo realized his backpack was gone. He thought he’d left it on the airport style security belt at the entrance, but no luck. The security people at the museum were concerned and kind, doing a quick search of all possible places it could be and then worrying that someone had picked it up and walked out with it. One of the guards had P. mentally retrace his steps (this suggestion is more positively received when offered by a security guard rather than a spouse). Aha! The coffee shop where we had stopped with during our morning tour seemed the likely place to leave a backpack.

We quickly made our way back to the Duomo and circled the church square looking for the right cafe. We found it and were greeted enthusiastically at the door by the women who had made our cappuccini earlier. They produced the bag as soon as they saw us. One of them told Paolo he should be more careful or someday he would leave behind his head.  I agreed!  With mille grazies said, we ran back to the museum to let them know it was found. They were delighted when Paolo returned holding his pack in the air for all to see.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Walking back to the Duomo once more, we noticed people and their dogs. The dogs were often dressed at the height of fashion just like their human companions. We even saw a shop specializing in doggie wear. Fleece, down, cashmere and rhinestones; they had it all. Didn’t see many mutts either, only purebreds with outfits. Hardly a naked dog anywhere!

We lingered in the Duomo after lunch soaking it all in.  Late that afternoon we admitted to each other that it was time to go and joined a bus full of commuters headed to Lucca.  During the ride we realized that our faith in human nature had been taken up a few notches by the staff at the museum and our friends at the coffee shop. It was a nice feeling.

The one hour trip took 90 minutes due to rush hour and the bus was heated to about 90 degrees so we were really  happy to see the walls of Lucca. We rolled our suitcase across town in the refreshingly cold air, glad to be home. We put our feet up and watched Hillary Clinton’s great stateswomanship (is that a word?) as she testified on Benghazi before the Senate Committe. We consumed a bit of local fresh cheese and wine as we cheered her on and you guessed it, made a plan for dinner!IMG_1343

Antica Drogheria for the third time!  The food there is typical of the region, reasonably priced and delicious. When you stay in a town for two weeks, it’s nice to be a “regular” at a couple of places. I had local Tuscan steak sliced hot off the grill.  It was served on a bed of fresh arugula and topped with parmesan and olive oil. They even present the steak bone so you know exactly where your tagliatelle of beef comes from. We shared a side dish of Lucca red beans cooked with rosemary and sage.  The beans were some of the best I’ve had and I have eaten tons of beans.

The restaurant was packed and the people watching was excellent. We were the only Americans and loved guessing what the Italians around us were talking about. The crowd appeared all at once so the service was slower than usual. We noticed that the waitress never lost her cool and nobody got angry or impatient; just enjoyed friends, wine and the food as it came.  A good lesson for all of us.