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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

Continue reading

IS & JI planted, add water & wait for heat

5 Jun

This week we hit 100+. I’ve finished as much planting as I can in Fort Indigo. The fences have been newly painted and hopefully will withstand the armadillo and possum incursions for grubs. The indigo bed was enlarged at the expense of a madder bed. This year I am mixing Japanese Indigo and Indigofera Suffruticosa in the same bed. The IS will shade the JI and the two have played well together when I trim the IS limbs up. Plus I have the added bonus that the JI beta enzyme appears to work with the SI leaves when the two are crushed together. More on that later this season.

Smaller earlier planted IS compared to spoiled IS seedlings held in pots to grow.
Before the mulch the plants, both IS and JI, are placed by irrigation emitters to ensure water available in the hot season
Mulch in place, fence in place, now we wait for growth to kick in.
For comparison, two & three year IS bushes happily growing under the eaves facing East. Note the new seedlings for this year.

So, if all goes well I will continue to practice with my indigo extraction and blender vats this summer. And, even more importantly I will have an Indigofera Suffruticosa seed crop this fall.

Indigofera Suffruticosa Roots

18 May

I usually don’t pull up my precious Indigofera Suffruticosa until grudgingly certain the plant has given up the ghost. Last time I pulled up IS was about three years ago when I got hit by a hard freeze. I lost all of my plants and did have to pull everything up. I remember that was difficult but they’ve been in the ground for three or four years. So this past winter I did lose a two year old plant, but the same vintage plants around it survived. So, here is a replay of the pull..

Two year plant succumbed to winter 2019/20 freezes.

So, the plant broke at ground level, not surprising since I have been doing spring watering. Rot has set in with the irrigation moisture on deadwood. So here is our second try at pulling the root.

So, yes, after two years full growth, the roots are deep. I won’t take a shovel to it due to its proximity to other plants. That root will stay in place.

And for those who remember my sad plant ravaged by caterpillars, it lives. Transplanted to a pot and spoiled for a couple of weeks the leaves are making another appearance. This will go back into the ground soon. It still looks sad but with the increasing warm temps and a permanent home in the ground it will thrive.

Seasons of Indigofera Suffruticosa

3 May

The seasons move on and we decide how to spend them in the garden with what they have left us. I am working with my Indigofera Suffruticosa seedlings and getting them ready for the Texas Hill Country summer sun. I soaked the seeds in hot water overnight. The seeds were planted in seed trays about April 8th. The seedling pushed out in 80 degree F weather but slowed to a crawl with 60 degree F. The past week we’ve pushed the low 90’s so the seedlings are much happier and growing. As of May 2 I moved them from the seedling tray into larger pots and let the root system grow. It seems that with our hot dry weather this gives the plant the strength to grow and thrive thru the hot 100 degree F in the summer months when I put them in the ground.

Lower left seedling tray
Lower right combining seedlings
Top left larger pots

Over the winter my husband and I covered our plants twice to protect them from several early mornings of a hard freeze. Of all the plants that survived one succumbed in late April to caterpillars munching away on the leaves. I moved the plant to a pot to try and give it care but I think I’ve lost this second year indigo but I still hope. It is rather pathetic looking. Send healing thoughts please.

Finally, looking at my 1 & 2 year plants that we did successfully defend from hard freezes this past winter, the spring growth is pushing out from last year’s hard stems and is looking good. Sun and time will yield plenty of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves for processing and hopefully seeds at the end of the season.

Excuse the spring wind, here’s a clip of the growth pushing out. I usually leave my dead wood in place early in the season so the hummingbirds can perch. Once I harvest the leaves in the first harvest in late June I will trim it back. Some folks have asked me what a 2nd or 3rd bush looks like. Here ya go.

Example of spring growth on 2nd & 3rd year plants

SOLD OUT! Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds just hit my Etsy shop!

6 Apr

SOLD OUT! In a few hours, thank you to those who bought & my apologies to those who missed out.

Check Botanical Colors web site, it looks like they still have seed! Indigo Seeds from Madame Magar is what you are looking for. https://botanicalcolors.com/shop/indigo-varieties/new-indigo-seeds-from-madame-magar/

This is the first batch offered since my 2018/19 winter freeze destruction which took out my plants. But I’m baaaaack!

Madder Root Harvest 2020

26 Mar

It’s been 5 years since I dug my madder root bed. It is time. With the self isolation in the world today one has time to dig. This is day 3 of my digging. Since my back surgury I have learned to pace myself. I thought I would record the dig/clean steps for others.

Equipment is pitch fork, shovel, buckets(lots of buckets), wheelbarrow and screens for washing and drying. Below you see my equipment and this morning’s harvest before cleaning.

After the fun of digging and wrestling with the irrigation equipment you deal with dirt before it becomes mud. I move the roots from my wheelbarrow to a bucket, shaking out the dirt and trimming the green tips away. Shaking out the dirt means less mud to deal with later down the line.

I have some garden frames and screens I repurpose every couple of years when I harvest. Below is my frame set up by my water source. I set the sun screen fabric on my garden frames and use it to keep my madder in place as I rinse more dirt off. The madder is moved to another bucket for a 2nd rinse. Of course, these rinse waters are put on meadow plants and other areas outside the irrigation system.

After getting rid of the muck I rinse a final time and start sorting and final trimming. I end up with 3 buckets of goods. The greens get dumped back into the madder garden. As I trim, I separate out the large roots from the younger, more immature roots. My plan is to run comparison baths to show the depth of shade in the young versus the older roots.

Finally, I put the sorted roots out to dry. It is important to dry the roots with good circulation so mold does not set in. I do cover this screen and the harvest with another screen to protect it from winds and nibblers.

Finally, I post this older photo to remind me and you why I grow & dig this root.

Take care & wash your hands! Deb Mc

Indigofera Suffruticosa Seeds

24 Oct

Seed crop is looking good. I will know more if I have enough to sell in Jan/Feb 2020.

This picture gives you an idea of one year old plants versus two year old plants. This year I will definitely keep them safe from killing frosts. Leave room to grow. I have digging armadillos hence the Fort Indigo.

Elder care vs Dyepot

17 Sep

So many things on deck but I have to wait to finish them. Mom fractured her hip last Thursday and I have definitely been redirected in my explorations & write up of results. But as I sit here in the elder care eddy of life I thought I’d post pictures of what is in the pipeline and will get written about.

My effort for black without iron gave me some promising directions…the skeins wait patiently.

My time poring thru John Marshall’s library gave me more info on pulling the yellows early from a madder root bath. The roots & rice are having a party in my absence in the sun. Note my drawstring color.

My experiments at John’s indigo explorations with dried Japanese indigo leaves, fructose and lime gave me the green blue one gets from blender indigo.

Finally my pull from the Indigofera Suffruticosa waits patiently. Hopefully it is separating as we wait.

I am remembering why drying indigo leaves was so attractive to me. I pick, dry and hold them for when I have time to play.

Off to mom stuff.

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