Monday, September 24, 2012

The Eggshell Sculptor

As a child, I always dreamed of crafting the perfect Ukrainian egg. Dying Easter eggs American-style had. . .well, it had no style. Throw a little dye into vinegar and water and dip the egg into the concoction and viola, you have a single colored egg. Sure, I got creative by dipping each end into different colors and creating stripes. I also used wax crayon to draw pictures on the eggs before dying them.  I even boiled down onion skins and beets until they were a soft yellow and purple for more natural-looking dyed eggs. They were pretty, but nothing awe inspiring. Dying Easter eggs was ho-hum boring.

That was until I got turned onto Ukrainian eggs. Now, those are beautiful eggs, with the artistry and the refined movements it takes to create them. I bought the "how-to" Ukrainian egg design kit, of course, with its myriad of implements and complicated directions. I spent a small fortune on it. The problem was that I never got around to using it. I only ever got around to blowing the eggs out of their shells, opening the implement box, reading the directions, and then tucking it all back inside and putting it back into the closet.  I kept that kit for years, trying to convince myself that I would create a Ukrainian egg. No such thing happened. One day I decided to throw out the kit--delusion over. I decided I needed to stick to visiting the Faberge egg collections at museums.

My interest in egg design was reignited when a person recently sent me the link to and photo of the Eggshell Sculptor, Gary LeMaster. Gary's a native New Zealander, now Iowa City resident, who has mastered the art of sculpting eggs. His art is so unique and interesting that it even earned him recognition and a short segment on the History Channel.

Through the use of dental tools for fine drilling, LeMaster crafts exquisite eggshell art.  Although his career started off in another direction, it was the success of his one-man art show at the University of Iowa's Hospitals and Clinics that proved to him he needed to stay focused on his eggshell art.

In an article written by Tony Leather on Environmental Graffiti, LeMaster is quoted as saying, "My goal was to create pieces that displayed artistic emotion and reflected my love of Oriental art with its delicate balance between the Yin and the Yang - the shell cut away and the shell that remained. During the many years of my journey, I relied on trial-and-error to learn how to carve, engrave, etch and sculpt eggshells." LeMaster uses real chicken, turkey, ostrich, emus, rheas, and other eggshells. 

On LeMaster's website, he states that he has slowly "built a small business providing other people around the world with supplies, an instructional magazine, classes, and soon - training videos." If you view his artist page, you can watch the You Tube video of the segment on the History Channel (it was unavailable for embedding).

A quick glance through LeMaster's website made me appreciate the intricate beauty of this very specialized and unique art form. It also as struck me as ironic that Gary's last name is LeMaster. In the world of eggshell sculpture, he's truly The Master.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Weekend's Over. . .

The weekend's over.  It's time to stop horsing around! Have a great week!

(Anyone remember how we used to spend all weekend getting ready for the week and now we spend all week getting ready for the weekend?)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicken Diapers--What???

What? A Chicken Diaper?         photo: Shobe Biz Communications

When you ask analytic chemist Ruth Haldeman why she invented her business Chicken Diapers in 2002, she said, "Necessity is the mother of invention. I had two 'little ones' in the house. They were making such a mess."

Haldeman works as a lab manager at Layne, a global water management, construction and drilling company, in Kansas during the weekday and sews chicken diapers on the weekend.  
It's an onerous task, the making of chicken diapers, and production is handled entirely by herself.

"It's difficult integrating the business with full-time work and family. I don't sleep much," confessed Haldeman, " But, my family understands how important it is to me and, for that, I am very thankful."

The chicken stories that really touch Haldeman's heart are those concerning injured chickens that need diapers so they can be kept inside for rehabilitation and therapy birds that need diapers in order to take them to hospitals. And, of course, there are those tales about nonprofit rescue birds that require diapers until they are adopted.

She also hears tales about people trying to beat oncoming bad weather by getting their chickens inside. "Those events are a major source of frustration for me," she admitted. "When a storm is coming, people really want to get their diapers. I can't always beat the weather."

If chicken diapers seem like somewhat of an oddity, perhaps Ruth's Chicken Diapers website says it best, "So, you are looking for something to catch the recycled food coming out of the backside of a chicken? You're afraid your friends and relatives think you have a screw loose? Well, fear no more! You are in the company of a steadily growing number of people who have discovered the joys of birdy companionship outside AND inside your home. With so many of us, we can't all be wrong."

Designing the diapers required a bit of trail and error for Haldeman.  "I had an idea and originally constructed the diapers that way. And, then, problems started popping up. I knew I had to re-design them to make them work," said Haldeman.

Haldeman points out that there are special requirements to be able to diaper a bird. A bird needs to have a tail knob and stiff tail feathers. Usually a bird doesn't acquire these until he or she is four weeks old.

She also talks about the Chicken Diaper design, how it helps keep the bird's feathers clean and channels droppings away from the bird with the diaper's containment pouch. She notes that the diapers don't bother the daily life of the chicken in any way. The chickens can still access their oil gland, sit and walk about. 

The mostly woven cotton-blend diapers come in a variety of colors. They are washable, quick drying, and have adjustable elastic straps that allow for the chicken comfort and movement. The diapers are also disposable if used without the plastic liner.

The design for the diapers was originally posted online but then Haldeman kept receiving requests for already sewn diapers. That was when her business was born.

Haldeman's brilliant invention has stiff competition from businesses like When asked about her competitors, Haldeman said, "I'm not concerned because I am not in it for the money. My prices are very low compared to other sites." In fact, Chicken Diapers sells their diapers in a variety of 18 colors ranging from $9 to $14 depending on the size of the birds. For birds over 16", a special price is given. Competitor diapers are available in five colors and sell for $28 per diaper.

"I don't do a big volume of business," said Haldeman, even though orders come in from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. "I did receive an order from Italy once. It was very complicated because they wrote it in Italian. I'm sure the instructions were all garbled because I used an online translator," she said with a laugh.

Haldeman's love for chickens is evident in the tone of her voice and the words she chooses. When asked about her company and its future growth she said, "It's not about the money. This company I am doing for my soul."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feeling Down or a Little Stuck? Saddle Up. . .

In riding a horse we borrow freedom.
-Helen Thomson

You don't have to literally ride a horse. 

But, if you're feeling stuck, saddle up and do something different. 

Haven't been on a vacation for awhile? What are you waiting for? 

Haven't been to your favorite movie? Time's a ticking--the next show's about to start. 

Haven't contacted a long lost friend? Chances are they're waiting by the phone.

Haven't realized one of your hoped-for goals? It could change your life.

Put your butt in the saddle, grab the reins, and start galloping toward YOUR freedom. 

You know what it is. You know what you're yearning for. 

As Winston Churchill once said,

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle."

So, saddle up! You can live your dream!

Be sure to Like Chicken Women on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Larger the Comb...

The bigger the comb, the better the layer.               c. Shobe Biz Communication

Did you know that the larger a hen's comb, the better a layer she is? Read about it on Phys Org.

Did you know that a hen will sometimes reject a socially subordinate rooster's sperm? Read about it on Phys Org.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kidnapped Rooster Gets Funeral

In Celebration of our Chickens          c. Shobe Biz Communications

In the article, A Beloved Kidnapped Chicken Gets Funeral in Brazilian TownStephen Messenger for Tree Hugger tells the story of Rafhina, the rooster, who was raised in Patos, Brazil by a retiree and her daughter. One night a perpetrator kidnapped Rafhina from his home to sell him in exchange for drugs. The retiree and her daughter were devastated because Rafhina was a beloved pet. So, what did they do? They hosted a funeral procession in which over 2,000 people came, including the Mayor. I wonder if they had an aerial salute?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Run, Forrest, Run: Eggs are Excellent for Runners

Chicken on the Run       c. Shobe Biz Communications

Today, I had my first day of Boot Camp. No, I'm not talking about military bootcamp. I'm talking about kick-your-butt, get-yourself-back-in-shape bootcamp.

Jenny, a seemingly Barbie doll princess of the party scene, runs the bootcamp.  At 8:30 a.m., she kicked off the morning's "festivities" with a run. I almost vacated on the spot.  No one told me about this part of the bootcamp. I've worked with trainers before and only had to shuffle my feet on a treadmill. Jenny wanted me to run on the streets?

Holy Toledo.

Am I the only one who dreads running, I thought? Granted. I was in the shuttle relay when I was in fifth grade and placed in the Junior Olympics. But, running as an adult? The minute I move my feet from a trot to a canter, my asthma kicks in and my mind starts ranting "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this" with ever step.

"Have a positive attitude," I heard Jenny yell. "You can do this." Thank goodness she was yelling it to everyone because for a moment I wondered if she could read my mind or at least the grimace on my face.

Hmmm, I thought. I could muster up a positive attitude. After all, I"m a Pollyanna of a million things--just not running. And, then, Forrest Gump popped into my head. "Run, Forrest, Run."  If Forrest could do it, I could. Who cares if Forrest was a fictional character?

I ran around the plaza and halfway down the street. Then, I fast walked a bit. And, then I began running again until I ran around the corner and realized that everyone was ahead of me and I was dead last.

Dead last -- a blow to my competitive spirit.

I looked down at the grass to avoid everyone's eyes and wove my way through the maze of sweaty bodies already working on the next exercise. Be nice to yourself, I thought. It's okay  because you're award-winning in other arenas, Some consolation, I thought. I settled down onto my mat to finish the class. And, as I was squatting and push-upping through the final exercise, I wracked my brain. Surely there was something I could do to prepare myself better for the next class? Perhaps eating breakfast before?

On Monday, before class, I decided that I will eat one of my delicious hen's eggs for breakfast. The latest research shows that eggs are the ideal food for runners. One egg meets 10%-13% of daily protein needs and 30% of Vitamin K needs. The April 2012 issue of Runners World reported that eggs are good for runners because they are supposed to:

1.  Help you slim down. Egg protein is easy for the body to absorb.
2.  Minimize heart attacks
3.  Fight inflammation because of their choline; which also helps with Alzheimer's and
4.  Help maintain bone strength because one egg provides 10% of necessary daily
     Vitamin D.
5.  Help prevent macular degeneration due to the lutein in yolks.
6.  Provide Omega 3's. One yolk equals the same amount of Omega-3s that are in one ounce
     of salmon.

According to the Lazy Runner (a magazine title that works for me), body builders eat up to 20 eggs a day without increasing their bad cholesterol count. And, a small egg has 37 calories and an extra large has 85--not bad for the protein they offer.

In the February 8, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research showed that eggs are lower in cholesterol and higher in vitamin D than previously believed. Reports showed that  "the average large egg contained 185 milligrams of cholesterol (14% less than prior measures) and 41 IU of vitamin D (64% more)" a difference believed to be due to the chicken feed.

I was thinking about downing two hard boiled for Monday's breakfast until I discovered yet one more article about eggs. (This is precisely what I hate about research.)  The Los Angeles Times reported in the August 14, 2012 issue that if you are over 40, eating the whole egg can be almost as dangerous to your arteries as smoking. What????

According to the article, "for those who did not smoke, or who rarely consumed egg yolks, carotid wall thickness increased after 40, but at a slow-steady rate. For those whose consumption of whole eggs was in the highest 20%, the narrowing of the carotid artery was on average about two-thirds that of the study's heaviest smokers."

The National Heart Blood and Lung Institute  guidelines recommend no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day (one egg yolk has 200 mg) and no more than four whole eggs weekly, including those in baked and other goods. For those who already have health problems, cholesterol intake should be less than 200 mg day.

Oh, my...what's a girl supposed to do with this conflicting research?

Stick to my plan, I decided.

Even though I raise 15 hens, I eat only about two to three hardboiled eggs a week, including their yolk interiors.  It's just enough to get the good benefits of the eggs without getting too much of the bad, I figure. I'll ask Jenny how she feels about eating eggs on Monday. In the meantime, it looks like I have two more days to boil some. Maybe I'll even sneak one in between--an egg that is, not a run!

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Be sure to "Like" Chicken Women on Facebook.