Drought Wins Out Over Big Jar

26 Jul

We have major heat and drought here in Central Texas. I cannot justify running my Big Indigo Jar this year due to the looming water restraints. Although the 110 gallons lasts all summer there is also the rinsing with water. That’s water that is needed elsewhere. We are on well & rainwater, both are limited resources this year. I am sad to not be using this 100° heat this summer but it has been relentless, starting in early May and cranking up to 104°+ in June. Major heat that high usually does not start till July. Prep was physically uncomfortable without a rainy break to cool things down. Did I mention we are in an exceptional drought as opposed to an extreme drought? I can’t even remember how many days we’ve broken 100° but it has been at least more than 20, with no rain, Stupid Hot.

So, I have spent spring pulling my indigo mud out of my jar and vinegar washing it to clear the calcium carbonate. To add insult to injury we only had 3 days of 100+ temp last year. Last year’s clean mud was ready to mix with fresh indigo from Stony Creek Colors and Botanical colors. Fructose and Calcium Hydroxide were at the ready as well but will hold till next year. So, I am setting aside the store bought indigo and drying my mud for storage for next year. My Dudas filters work well for mud drying as well as washing with vinegar.

My alternative this year is to turn to wax batik and silk painting with pigments and dye. It will definitely be cooler and another skill to practice. I have different tools to use for wax application. I need the practice. And it will be indoors, with AC!

Persimmon Recap (Diospyros texana)

20 Jul

Enough folks have asked me about dyeing with our Texas persimmon that I gather up my random blog process posts from over the years and give you the steps first and then put in web links to my blog entries to give a bit of visual detail. The persimmons are green right now, get out there before the sun cranks up and pick them. You can hold them in the fridge until you gather enough for your holding vessel. About a pound of fruit gives you enough to experiment with.  I don’t bother with pulling the leaves on the top of the fruit, they are along for the ride until you strain. Enjoy!  Deb Mc

  1. Pick when green, green gives you the best yellow, if you want gold you can leave it in the sun.  Personally, to get gold I prefer to let the brew age (more below on that)
  2. Place unripe fruit to soak in a closed jar, be sure and release the lid to release the gas formed by fermenting.  If you don’t you will get bent lids or spewing when you open it.
  3. I usually soften for about a month.  I then squash and use 1st squeeze for yellow.  You will find out how good your sense of smell is.
  4. I do filter and just dye with the liquid, just submerge yard or fabric in and circulate.  You will see color strike.  It is like an indigo or walnut bath, a substantive bath so no prep necessary.  You can experiment with overdyeing, mordant or afterbaths for other color variation. At this point I discard the fruit.
  5. Once you squash and expose to a lot of air the oxidation kicks in and the brew starts to go gold rather than yellow.  I also explored working with ripe persimmons but the results were underwhelming for me.
  6. I set aside jars of filtered brew with year vintage marked.  As you go thru the years you will get browner colors.  I have yet to get to black.

Below are some visuals for you to follow…..

  1.  Pick when green, green gives you the best yellow, if you want gold you can leave it in the sun.  Personally, to get gold I prefer to let the brew age (more below on that) https://debmcclintock.me/2013/06/13/diospyros-texana-persimmon-smashing/
  2. Place unripe fruit to soak in a closed jar, be sure and release the lid to release the gas formed by fermenting.  If you don’t you will get bent lids or spewing when you open it.  https://debmcclintock.me/2012/07/09/persimmon-size-vintage/
  3. I usually soften for about a month.  I then squash and use 1st squeeze for yellow.  You will find out how good your sense of smell is.  https://debmcclintock.me/2013/08/06/meet-persi/
  4. I do filter and just dye with the liquid, just submerge yard or fabric in and circulate.  You will see color strike.  It is like an indigo or walnut bath, a substantive bath so no prep necessary.  You can experiment with overdyeing, mordant or afterbaths for other color variation. At this point I discard the fruit.  https://debmcclintock.me/2012/09/02/greens-over-or-under/  https://debmcclintock.me/2011/08/18/no-black-yet/
  5. Once you squash and expose to a lot of air the oxidation kicks in and the brew starts to go gold rather than yellow.   I also explored working with ripe persimmons but the results were underwhelming for me. https://debmcclintock.me/2012/07/30/persimmon-revisited-or-still-searching-for-black/
  6. I set aside jars of filtered brew with year vintage marked.  As you go thru the years you will get browner colors.  I have yet to get to black.  https://debmcclintock.me/2013/07/23/lichen-persimmon-vintages-and-fresh-weld-results/

Available! 2022 Indigofera Suffruticosa Seeds

11 Apr

Short and sweet, I just updated my Etsy shop with seeds for your 2022 growing pleasure. Reminder, all seeds have been harvested from the pod. I included a seed pod for you to see what they look like. Enjoy! Deb Mc PS, if I see you have an address out of the growing range I will message you to alert you before I ship to make sure you know IS is unhappy in cold climates.

Prepping Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds from my Garden to your Garden this spring

3 Mar

Many folks have written me to ask when the seeds will be posted up in my Etsy shop. I have heard a rumor of increased selling costs by Etsy so I am going to investigate other avenues of making seed available to you. Stay tuned. I will post here when I decide. Suggestions?

It is time to prep for the March winds to blow the chaff separate from the Suffruticosa seed. Let’s review what has happened up til now. Nov 2021 the weather cooled down and the seeds ripened. I took time to collect dried indigo leaves, gather the seed pods to dry and started shaping my bushes so they could be covered when the freezes swept in during Jan/Feb. It is all weather dependant. Will they survive or not? Each season that is the question. I am located in the far northern growing region of this plant in the Central Texas Hill country, similar to the olive tree growth area. When it freezes too much, our bushes are gone. But we have seed!

These seed branches were put aside in a wheelbarrow in a protected area and allowed to continue to ripen and finally to freeze/dry. The freezing took out the bugs and made the pods easier to snap off to dry further.

These guys sat outside till the Texas deep freezes of 20 degrees. I brought them in to protect them and allow them to continue to dry. The pods and seeds are so much easier to separate after a couple of months of drying undisturbed. The stems are pulled out and the pods separated. All this takes place during a spare moment when the sun is shining and you can grab a moment outside in the winter sun.

Gently the pods are broken open to allow the seeds to be shifted from the pods
A lot of shifting debris/hulls & seeds takes place during this point before and after breaking the pods.
The end goal is to filter the seeds and fine chaff from the pod shells.

A note for the gardeners, over the years I’ve tried starting Indigofera Suffruticosa as early as Japanese Indigo in cooler March/April temperatures. Not a good thing to do. One must wait for 80 and 90 degree consistent weather to ensure the seedlings are vigorous and strong. You can sneak start it with a heat pad BUT reports from growers who do so report weak plants. I prefer to start in seed trays and harden them off in the sun before I transplant them into the garden. In my area that also helps me protect the seedlings from spring crickets who are ravenously hungry in the early spring. I wait till the crickets clear. The heat takes them out.

Time to harvest Suffruticosa seeds & dry leaves

14 Nov

It’s November here in the Texas Hill Country. Temps are dropping and the days are shorter. My Indigofera Suffruticosa has bloomed and the seed pods are turning brown. Time for harvesting seed pods before the winds come.

Slowly they turn brown despite the grasshopper threat.

I trim the tops off that are heavy with seed. The leaves are dried in a herb dryer under shelter. The seed stalks are left in a wheelbarrow to ripen & dry.

Dried IS leaves
Drying on the stem after leaves harvested for drying

The seeds continue to ripen on the stalk until brown/black & the pods split until the seeds peak out at you.

Seed pods are dry & splitting

So now I wait and let the Indigofera Suffruticosa pods continue to dry. Jan/Feb I will have a grand seed stomp and separate chaff from seed for sale. These seed pods will continue to dry in their wheelbarrow. The seeds will be much easier to separate the more patient I am with the drying process.

Need to pull out stems

And now, back outside to continue the harvest before the wind & rains come. It is a different game once the weather shifts.

Indigo Yield Testing in Texas

5 Jul

Note, SORRY guys, I accidentally deleted my blog post, my bad, let’s try this again.The 2020 season was time for experimenting with wet extraction of my Indigofera Suffruticosa and my Japanese Indigo.  Prior years, due to our Texas heat and extreme weather, it was easier to pick the leaves and dry them for storage while I became acquainted with growing the plant itself in the Texas Hill country.  You gotta keep the plant alive to reach the indigo cycle.

Let me just say for the record that I am extremely glad that Stony Creek Colors and Botanical Colors are vendors for indigo pigment.  I enjoy growing the indigo varieties, but for my 110 gallon indigo vat I will never grow enough indigo to fill that vat adequately to obtain dark color for my paste resist work.  However, I do small batches with my home grown indigo when I do stitch shibori or just need to overdye yarn skeins for weaving.  Both methods, buying or growing are viable depending on your vat size or intent.

Below is my indigo pigment chart provided by Stony Creek Colors after analyzing my home grown pigment content, comparing vinegar wash versus no wash, and a comparison of Japanese Indigo versus Indigofera Suffruticosa.  I submitted a total of 13 one gram samples over the season to test for pigment content.  In other words, I process 13 batches over the growing season, kept notes on leaf weight, washing and kept them separate for testing.

Each test batch of dried pigment was 1 gram more or less. Summer Arrowood, Senior Research Chemist, was most patient in explaining their testing process. I had a question on the above chart on the last 2 columns on the right of the chart I received with my above testing. This is what I asked. “What is difference on your table between Indigo Content of Solids vs Overall % indigo of sample. Are you spinning out moisture from my sample or drying it further? Is the Overall % more indicative of indigo contained? I am having trouble differentiating between the phrases since they are referring to the same sample.”

Response from Summer Arrowood, Senior Research Chemist, “Your samples were quite moist, as much as 43% water in the case of #12.  In order for our analysis to work the samples must be very dry.  I dried the entire sample on a moisture balance and then took the dry material and analyzed it for indigo content.  The ‘Indigo content of solids’ refers to this analysis. To get the ‘overall % indigo’, I used the moisture content and the indigo purity to calculate the % indigo of the sample as you sent it, including the water mass.”

My big surprise was the LATER in the season that I harvested my Indigofera Suffruticosa the HIGHER my indigo content went.  I expected the indigo content to be much higher in July and August with the sun intensity, instead, October and November growth gave the greater yield in the Texas Hill country.  This was in two – four year old shrubs. My field notes chart combined with the Stony Creek pigment report sorted by yield is below. Of course there are other notes on leaf weight/sun/process but this is an abbreviated compilation. 

I’ve added my growing notes in the chart below in addition to the testing performed by Stony Creek Colors on my samples submitted. Chart is sorted by Indigo per Sample yield but I’ve included data to show you the seasonal cycle.    The late season results were surprising. I was happy with the seasonal yield although it does include 4 batches that did not get washed to remove the calcium carbonate. I included the weight of pigment before washing and after washing. Towards the end of the season I had committed to washing with vinegar on all my batches and felt what I had measured earlier in the season gave me info I needed to see the difference. I calculated the the reduction in volume stored was about 80-90%.

I feel that reduction in volume was sufficient to justify the extra time washing pigment.As indicated in the indigotin chart, my Japanese Indigo did not perform well at all.  I do not know why, but I suspect the intense sun here in central Texas had an impact on indigotin production.  Even though I use a sunshade that does not seem to help the indigo production in the Japanese Indigo.   Even looking at early season harvest my indigo levels were not high.

Details for those who want to know more….

In summary, I did only wet extraction in 2020, washed my pigment and compared seasonal extracts, washed vs not washed pigment %’s. Stony Creek Colors was very helpful in explaining their testing methods and indigo content % measurements to me.  Having been educated by the grower/dyers in the FaceBook Indigo Pigment Extraction group I made the plunge. I am a measuring person, the type that likes to have an idea of what effort I am putting in and what I am getting out of it.  My observation is that dried leaves were giving me good color on a small scale but exactly how much pigment are the dried leaves giving me?  Wet extraction seemed to be the best way to measure the picked leaves, render them down to pigment and get a measure from that effort.  I am a measuring person, so I have records of my leaf weight before I dry them to compare to the wet extraction results.  I am also a frugal and “older” indigo farmer.  I only want to pick as much as my limited equipment could handle and that I could lift.  I had a good idea what I could pick, strip and lift in the AM and set out in my 5 gallon buckets to soak in the sun for a couple of days for the wet extraction.

My bushes told me what I needed to cut as I could see the bluish tinge in the leaves.   I trimmed both varieties for shape and for the winds to avoid damage during storm seasons.  My Indigofera Suffruticosa shrubs can last for at least 4 or 5 seasons if I don’t have a killing frost or cold spell.  It is now game over due to our major freeze and power failure we had in February 2021. This 2021 spring I am back to restarting my plants from seedlings.  It will regrow! My plan was to double check my testing but with my bush loss this year, I had a test set back. 2022 will be the year to test the IS again in central Texas. I set aside growing Japanese Indigo as I am focusing on prepping the IS beds which had settled over 3-4 years as the shrubs grew and this is my time to reprep those beds for new plants. Heaving Texas soil takes time for a home farmer.

Washing Indigo Yield with 9% Vinegar

The kicker in the wet “measuring” process is the calcium hydroxide used to flocculate the indigo and get It to settle for filtration. Despite trying several methods of just using water settling the indigo, my observation is that this method takes way too long for the indigo to settle to a useable filtration state. Using the calcium hydroxide is much more efficient for me and enabled me to get on with the process and my life outside of indigo. But, the 4-6 tablespoons of calcium hydroxide added for flocculation adds weight and one cannot get a clean measurement of just pigment. So I investigated washing my pigment with 9% vinegar to cleanse it of the calcium carbonate which the calcium hydroxide inevitably becomes when mixed with water and oxygen. Leaving it as paste just adds to bulk and one must always add more slaked lime to reactivate the indigo chemistry to get the bonding. Plus washing reduces the sludge. I have heard mutterings that the vinegar washing impacts the indigo paste but I have not found anything in writing. Folks do wash only with water, next time I will try that against a vinegar wash and compare.

On a side note, I mixed ONLY calcium hydroxide and water and used my sump pump as if I were mixing a flocculation brew to create a test.  I washed it about four times and did see a major reduction in calcium carbonate volume. My observation is that I had the greatest reduction with the 9% vinegar after two washes.  Wash 3 & 4 worked but just seemed like extra effort just because I could. Unfortunately, at that time my mom was having a round of health problems, so I did well just to complete the vinegar washes and capture photos.  My intent to measure reduced volume each time was thwarted by real life outside the dye patio.  Sometimes I just had to walk away from the dye patio process and leave everything to wait for me until mom was cared for.  But visual observation of the process showed the reduction was substantial despite the lack of measurement of the process.

Watching the vinegar work on the calcium carbonate

 Two Looms was very generous with information as to how they clean their indigo with citric acid or hydrochloric acid.  However, we are on a well and septic system with direct discharge to the Pedernales River and I felt like that journey was beyond my chemical skill set, hence 9% vinegar. I haven’t tried 20% agricultural vinegar but it is definitely on my list.  I need to investigate safety measures needed for that level of acid and recommend that one check the MSDS data to understand the risks of 20% agricultural vinegar.  It is a chemical that can hurt you.  Nine percent works just fine for me.  We are sitting on alkaline limestone, so I don’t feel real bad about discarding vinegar dissolved calcium carbonate water into our natural system.

I found 5 gallon buckets and the Dudas 25 micron filter really useful for washing the pigment in manageable amounts.  I usually wash it with a 3:1 9% vinegar to water at least twice AFTER the normal filtration is done.  I found the wet paste mixed well with the vinegar brew.  One learns to mix the vinegar in slowly or you get the lava foam effect and can lose solution from an overflow accident.  Keep an eye on the foam reaction.  That is the vinegar hitting the calcium carbonate and dissolving it.  This is a good thing except when it overflows your filter.  This step takes time but if you’ve been extracting indigo from your leaves you aren’t in this for a quick process.  

The benefit of washing with vinegar means I am not storing wet paste and the dried and washed pigment is MUCH easier to grind.  The volume reduction is significant between wet paste and dried pigment and does not require a refrigerator or extra storage space.  If you do the math on my chart above you’l see that I had a 60 – 90% reduction in volume.   Here is a link to a YouTube video on my vinegar washing, you’ll bounce over to YouTube, sorry, WordPress changed some functionality and I could not get it directly into my blog. This gives you a view of how I wash my home grown indigo and ALSO how I wash the Big Jar at the end of the season to retrieve my indigo for the next solar season. I learned about storing mud from one season to the next from the indigo masters in Sapa, Vietnam who were very genorous with their knowledge. I met them thru Above The Fray – Textile Travel, a great journey with friends a couple of years ago.

I’m glad I went to the trouble and expense to separate out batches over the season and get the analysis of indigo content.  My next step is to compare my dried leaf output to the wet extraction to get a general idea of what 100 grams of dried leaf indigo gives me compared to my pigment. More math is in my future when I am in the mood.

This was an extremely long blog entry.  Any suggestions, questions or comments would be most welcome.  Deb Mc

Sold Out! Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale

23 Apr

(Sold out for 2021! See you next year!) The temps have finally cranked up in central Texas and I am finally confident I can keep my Indigofera Suffruticosa seedlings happy. You can join the seed planting party here at my Etsy shop. https://etsy.me/3tnpIAv As of early July seeds are still available in my shop. You’ll get a good start of growth still with the summer heat!

Seeds soaking in hot water overnight.

I’ve soaked my seeds overnight allow them to swell. They are labeled to keep my husband from “cleaning” the bowls. Imagine why….

Using a spoon I put them in the prepared seed trays. Hopefully the 80° F weather will feel better than the cooler temps. We gone thru worm season, now I need to watch for crickets. Weather is cranky this year and the insects are confused, as are the humans.

The bad news is that I believe I lost all my plants during the Texas deep freeze in mid-February. We covered the plants with frost cloth and had heat lamps in place but 6 days without power, freezing temps, ice & snow took out my plants despite our efforts to protect the plants. I lost 2, 3, & 4 year old plants. We are on the north range of the plants and usually can protect them. This weather was evil. Olive tree growers ride the same risk being located at the northern boundary of the grow zone. I am seeing reports of olive tree loss.

Fortunately I have seed and will grow again. We haven’t pull the plants yet, I keep hoping they will surprise me. The prairie larkspurs are giving them a send off.

Water Settle Versus Lime Flocculate, Lime for the WIN

6 Aug

Back on July 17th I put a pound of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves to soak. In the Texas heat it was ready to pull the leaves and move on to pull the pigment. I had time so I had used my well water (about 8-9ph) to soak the leaves and separate the pigment. And I waited for the pigment to settle.

Ready to give up the pigment!

And I waited. Little drained thru my Duda 25 micron filter, pigment was evident but the water was a beautiful blue and looked happy to wait for evaporation to happen.

Waiting for water extraction

Come August 3rd I was done waiting, I poured off the liquid into a holding bucket and stopped when pigment paste was evident in the pour. This went into my coffee filter system. It is not beautiful or useful for large quantities but works if you parse out your work.

Paste from 1# of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves by water extraction only

This paste is still wet and has a bit more drying to go before I measure.

Water extraction IS paste

But I still had half a bucket of dark blue water mocking me. So, I added 3 TBSP of calcium hydroxide and let fly with my paint mixer to aerate. The pigment/lime dropped like a rock and I could easily see the pigment ready to filter.

Pigment lurking in the bottom of the bucket

I poured the liquid off and captured the paste in my Duda filter again. I did have to clean my filters from the long wait for water pigment drop. The bottom side of the filter had molded from the heat and moisture. Ugly stuff. One day later my filtered paste volume had reduced enough for me to start my vinegar wash.

Capturing the paste for washing

Now, I am washing this paste because I want to see what my one pound of leaves yielded. Remember, I captured some of it with just a water drop but pigment remained to capture in order to get a full measurement.

I wash with 9% vinegar to dissolve the calcium carbonate that is formed during the aeration process. Others use a stronger chemical to wash but I will leave that process to them to explain. I am on a well and septic system so I prefer to keep my chemicals fairly intrusive.

CaCO3 + 2CH3COOH = Ca(CH3COO)2 + H2O + CO2. Limestone (CaCO3) combined with vinegar (2CH3COOH ) yields calcium acetate Ca(CH3COO)2, water (H20) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

One must always remember to leave room in your container when adding your acid to your brew. Remember the volcano science experiments as a child? Yea, you are gonna make foam. I always secure my jar in a laundry tub so if nature gets too explosive I can recommend my pigment.

So, I add more water to my paste, add vinegar and mix and watch the foam rise.

So now I have started the wash to remove the calcium carbonate. The water & dissolved goods will float above the paste & I will pour that off. I might repeat 3 times to get a good wash and then cycle thru my coffee filter setup again for the final paste.

Waiting for the dissolving to separate

At this point I’ll be able to compare the two pastes to see the color. More on that later. In the meantime I have 3# of processed leaf water that also never really dropped that I am going to lime tomorrow. And I need to harvest my Japanese Indigo for pigment extraction as well. The water extract was an adventure but did not work well under my working conditions. This is the year for extraction opposed to drying leaves. Definitely more work for extraction.

Washing the indigo paste

17 Jul

22 days leaf to paste, 3.5 # of leaf to 1.1 # of paste before washing. Indigofera Suffruticosa in Texas Hill Country. I opted to do nothing the 4 days it was 104-112 degrees outside. The pigment can settle without fiddling in that heat.

IS 1st harvest of season 6/26

26 Jun

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