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Let's Celebrate Spring
by Susan J. Wittrup
February 3, 2008

February always signals to me that it won't be long now until there is soil to dig in and flowers to grow. I like to celebrate the return of good weather by decorating eggs and making an egg tree.

Almost everyone has decorated eggs using markers or food colouring so let's try something a little different--let's use plant dyes. Since there is likely still snow covering your garden, we will have to be a little inventive in what to use. First stop--the yard. Gather some of those little bits of evergreen that always seem to fall on the ground and some birch twigs. Any leaves that have an interesting shape and aren't too big will also be useful.

Now, back indoors to the kitchen. Sometimes eggs bought at the store have a waxy coating on them which makes it difficult for the dye to "take." To remove this, wash your eggs very carefully in soap and water with a bit of vinegar to rinse.

If you want solid colours on your eggs, place them in a small pot of water with your dye material such as purple cabbage (blue), mint (yellow and green), chamomile (pale yellow), onion skins (a rich brown), tea (brown--or try some red herbal teas), coffee (dark brown), turmeric (bright yellow), beets (red). Bring the water to the boil and let simmer until you get the colour you like. If you add a little vinegar to the water, it will change the colour of some of the dyes--purple cabbage will give you red!

Should you prefer a design on your eggs, there are lots of ways of doing that. One way is to take the leaves, birch twigs or evergreen needles you gathered and tightly wrap them around your egg with a piece of pantyhose. When you boil these with the dye materials, the area under the leaves will stay white.

You can also dye the egg, then add the design material and re-dye it in another colour. The area under your design will be the original colour.

Another fun way to decorate is to glue berries, seeds, small leaves, or even flowers such as African violets on the dyed eggs. Experiment and use your imagination!

When your eggs are all dyed, decorated and have cooled, glue gun a strip of ribbon to one end of each egg. Now, go for a walk in your neighbourhood. Someone is likely to be pruning their apple trees and may give you a branch to bring home to tie your eggs onto. I usually set my egg tree into a pail of sand or potting soil to keep it steady.

Have a great spring and don't forget to plan your garden!

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