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Mordants and the legends

30 Sep

This is a well written blog post on mordants, thoughtful with lots of links. I highly recommend it as a background read for beginning natural dyers.

https://alpenglowyarn.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/mordants-and-natural-dyeing-the-great-debate/

Volunteer Indigo

25 Aug

Out inspecting the indigo status in my gardens. Marveling at the huge volunteer Indigo Suffrucitosa outside my dye patio that has defied the deer. I think I better trim it before Harvey's wind & rains arrive.

Fort Indigo, Armadillos & Failure

16 Aug

Sometimes life or armadillos get in the way of gardening.  Throw in seed misfires and you have to work on acceptance and rework with reality.

I am participating in an indigo study project (link) and was ready to start my spring garden.  http://johnmarshall.to/TSG/TadeaiStudyGroup.htm

So when I asked John Marshall, my group coordinator, for the test seeds I was very early as he was still suffering thru late frosts and had not thought about seedlings yet.  So my seeds would be in the mail soon but not yet.  No worries, I had my own seeds to prep.

Here in my part of the Hill Country starting a garden involves indigo seed pack trays in late March.  One cannot plant direct into the garden as we have crickets that are born hungry once they hatch when the earth gets warm.  So you hold your plants in a protected area until after the cricket hatchlings have grown up and moved on. No problem, I started my own seeds for both Japanese Indigo and Indigo Suffruticosa.  These grew happily in their bug safe area and I rotated them in the sun to harden them and strengthen the seeds.

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I plant both Japanese Indigo and Indigo Suffruticosa, just for info here is a comparison of those seedlings and why I label my trays.  Not much visual difference in the seedlings at the beginning.

My problems started when I prepped my indigo beds.  I broke the earth and worked in more soil.  By the end of the growing season the irrigation lines do a little dance and get out of line when they run so I always reset them in the soil and anchor them so they don’t dance early in the season.  As I let them run to check for leaks I mark where the drip hole is so that I can drop in my seedlings where they get the best water.  It’s not tough but is time consuming to turn the earth, place the markers and clean out the clay balls that turn up when you till.  Here you can also see my madder root at the top of the photo.  This has to be trimmed back and roots pulled to keep the madder root in its place.  Or attempt to keep the madder root in its place.

IMG_8496So you can imagine my muttering when I came out the next day ready to drop the plants in the prepared bed and either an armadillo, skunk or raccoon had come out to help me in my garden.  All the lines were pulled up and holes dug randomly thru the bed.  After serious grumbling I put out the live trap for a week and kept rotating my indigo seedlings in their safe room.  Note my white markers that I carefully put by my drip hose have been tossed around.  Plus holes dug everywhere, if I could only harness that energy.

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Well, the damn varmint just came coming back and digging and succeeding in tipping out the food without tripping the trap.  Yes, I know if we had dogs we would not have these critter issues.  I am just not a dog person.  I was running out of time due to some travel plans so I constructed Fort Indigo.  A combination of old lattice frames, gates and garden wire.   I reset the garden prep and watched it for another week to see if that would stop the digging.  Whoever did try to get in and wandered thru the outside madder root but my small fort seemed to hold them at bay.

So I dropped my seeds into place by the drip irrigation water outlets and moved forward.  Half of the Japanese Indigo bed was my indigo seed I receive about 5 years ago from Donna Hardy, Sea Island Indigo, in the southern part of the US that I have faithfully renewed my seeds each season.  Half of the bed was reserved for my project seeds that I received and started later in the month.  In keeping with the “it’s a bad year for gardening”, only 5 seeds germinated out of two 24 seed tray, so much for my project participation with this round of indigo seedlings.

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I have no explanation as to why these seeds did not germinate.  It is the same seed starter soil, the same environment and watering sequence.  Zip, nada but a few seedlings in the starter trays.  In addition, I direct sowed extra seeds to see if I could jumpstart the project.  Not one sprouted, either in the direct prepped bed or the starter trays.

The other item we considered is that I received older seeds from a prior year stock.  It happens to the best gardeners.  Japanese Indigo seeds are only viable for one year so it is entirely possible I got a batch from a prior year harvest since I started earlier than John  expected.  So….I am going to try again with what we know is this year’s seeds and do a late season harvest if I can get them up and going before an October freeze.  At a minimum I do have my own Japanese Indigo growing so I will have some to dry for use later in the season.

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One must have hope as a gardener.  And practice acceptance.  Blue will come again.

Proof of prior success, but failure in the garden happens.  If all else fails, there is always weeds to pull!

 

Dye Garden Storm casualties

24 Jul

Some walking wounded plants in the dye garden. We had a severe thunderstorm roll thru this afternoon. Fortunately no hail but wicked NW winds at about 40-50 mph. Hopefully the madder and Japanese indigo will raise their heads with the sun tomorrow. The indigo suffrucitosa did ok as it is sheltered from the winds. I Imagine I will be drying some Japanese indigo earlier than planned if the stems broke.

Madder root blow over, not bad grown for roots so just need to keep alive.

Sad Japanese Indigo, I hope it pulls thru as I don't have much.

Indigo Suffrucitosa still standing!

On the road teaching next week

25 May

Pulling together color props and reviewing lecture notes is always fun. One remembers past students’ questions and tries to answer the past while anticipating future questions. 

Below are my first pick of natural dye examples….fun to decide the color groupings.  Persimmon, indigo, madder & lichens are the colors from my Pedernales valley!

Below the photos is the Contemprary Handweavers of Texas conference link and the classes I will be teaching. Time to pull out more props!

https://www.weavetexas.org/conference/

And here are the class descriptions…


Another dye talk coming up 10/24/2016

19 Oct

This is a “dry” talk…lots of history, process techniques and samples. Take a drive to the Hill Country and put some color in your day.

2014 Agarita article I just found – guess who is mentioned?

5 Sep

2014 Texa Parks & Wildlife agarita article I just found – guess who is mentioned?  The root gives the best color when it is chopped or ground.  Lots of elbow grease, to get the root out of the ground and chop it!  Click here for the web article from Texas Parks and Wildlife!

PDF copy is here…. Flora Fact: Agarita|April 2014| TPW magazine  same as above

Photo below is various oak leaves, oak bark, acorns, persimmon and agarita.  Agarita is on the far right!

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My old blog post on agarita is here  and the photos are here  Sigh, sooner or later I WILL consolidate the two blogs!

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