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If you're looking forward to Easter and its egg-inspired festivities, you'll appreciate a letter I received from a fellow farmgirl.

"I remember the excitement of dyeing eggs each Easter," she wrote. "We'd buy a supermarket dozen and a package of dye tablets, and I'd decorate until my fingers were as colorful as the egg shells. It never seemed like those 12 little canvases were enough —until it came time to actually eat them. All painted up, they just didn't seem like food. Now that I'm grown and have chickens of my own, I have a whole new respect for eggs. They're so much more to me than squeaky Styrofoam cartons of bland breakfast fare (or annual art projects). I know them intimately, recognizing them by textures, shapes and sizes. The aqua-green eggs are gifts from my hen Hazel, the small creamy ones are from Cleopatra, the big speckled browns from Goldie. I know how warm eggs feel when you gather them fresh from the nest, and how delicious they are when hens have been feasting freely in the fields. Inspired by this newfound reverence, I'm hoping that you might be able to share some of your eggs-pertise, MaryJane. I'm looking for a more natural method of dyeing eggs with my kids this Easter, and I'd also like to find a delicious recipe for preparing the precious food within. Any ideas?"

This letter set my wheels in motion. My granddaughters are big enough this year to become blossoming egg artists in their own right, and I'd love to see them doll up an array of eggs from my hens. Plus, what fun to host an Easter egg hunt right here on the farm! Without further ado, I came up with an Easter plan to please kids and adults alike, starting with two recipes: one for naturally "tie-dyeing" eggs and the other for a savory casserole that uses those hard-boiled Easter eggs.

No hens of your own? No problem. Be adventurous and find a local farm offering fabulously fresh eggs. A great place to locate a nearby farm is the Local Harvest website,

MaryJane Butters is the editor of MaryJanesFarm magazine. E-mail her at

Natural 'tie-dyed' eggs

Skins from 10 yellow onions

5 tablespoons turmeric

2 tablespoons white vinegar

12 fresh eggs

An assortment of pliable herbs, leaves, ferns and flower petals

Cheesecloth, lightweight muslin or a nylon stocking cut into 12 (5-inch) squares

Cotton string

Put the onion skins and turmeric in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cool and strain. Stir in white vinegar.

Place eggs in a separate saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to low and cover for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let eggs stand in hot water 10 minutes. Remove eggs and run under cold water.

To create patterns on the eggs, hold a leaf, fern or other plant material against an egg. Center a square of fabric against it. Gather the fabric around to the backside and tie with a string. An extra set of hands helps. Place eggs in colored water and soak until desired color.

Remove fabric and plant materials. Allow eggs to dry. Rub each with a light coating of vegetable oil. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Note • Do no tleave eggs unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.

Servings • 1 dozen

Source: MaryJane Butters —

Egg casserole

2 ½ cups diced potatoes

Olive oil

1 pound breakfast sausage

6 tablespoons butter, melted

6 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded cheese

12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Spread potatoes on greased baking sheet, drizzle with oil and bake 15 to 20 minutes until edges are brown and crispy. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Brown sausage in a large frying pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, mix the butter, flour, salt, milk and cheese.

Place 12 egg halves, yolk up, into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread half the potatoes and half the sausage over eggs. Cover with half the cheese mixture. Repeat layers in the same order.

Bake 30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Servings • 8

Source: Maryjane Butters