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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

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.

Indigo Growth & Texas Temperatures

5 May

Short Summary for those of you up north planning to start your Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds – wait for warm sunny days or use a heat mat but don’t get cocky and plant outside too early. The Indigofera Suffruticosa is a southern hemisphere plant and demands those warmer growing conditions. It will reward you when those conditions are met. If after reading this you still want to buy some Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds pop over here for the shop link. SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Folks are surely aware of the long winter up north this year. In Texas, we had an early March warm up to 80 degrees and then a temperature dive to mock us. Now, a “temperature dive” here in the Texas Hill Country means 50-60 degrees as opposed to the 70-80 degrees that are usually present in April and May as Mother Nature reeves her engine up in preparation for the 90-100 degrees in late May and June. Different perspective on heat for growing temperature depends on where you live.

During the March/April early warmth of 80 degrees on March 17th I tucked in my Japanese Indigo seeds into their seed trays and started prepping my garden beds.

On April 1st, tempted by the warm temperatures, I planted my Indigofera Suffruticosa into their seed trays.

Both species sprouted willingly in the early warmth and sun and then the temperatures “dived” down to the 50’s and 60’s again.

The weather flipped back to consistently cool and overcast. The Japanese Indigo shook it off and continued to grow. The Japanese Indigo seedlings have now gone on to live in Fort Indigo (secured from digging armadillos) and are to the next phase of cricket and hail survival in anticipation of Texas summer heat. One works for one’s indigo blue here in the Hill Country. Note the madder root attempting to breach Fort Indigo.

The Indigo Suffruticosa (IS) took a stand and just stopped growing, repeat…..just stopped. It did not die, it maintained its tiny height and lingered waiting longly for the sun’s warmth.

It is now May 5th and the Indigo Suffruticosa seedlings have begun to grudgingly grow again with daytime temps of 80 degrees and sunlight. In fact, a IS seedling tray, which was not in the sun, during the early heat never sprouted. Same dirt, same treatment, only difference was the sun/warmth effect.

I’ve also added more IS seeds which sprouted quickly to reward me and am now watching over both sets of seedlings until they reach a height of about 5 inches and then they will be hardened and transplanted out to my garden beds. I do look forward to all the intrepid folks reports from up north that are poised to plant their seeds and see if they can get them to grow. Repeat after me, sun…..heat…..warmth…..place those plants carefully.

I should mention that weld seeds planted in the trays at the same time had the same growth behavior. Sprout, grow, stop and hold. The weld will be planted out this week as weld dies back when our region hits the 90’s. Their life cycle is fairly quick due to the heat. Early Texas spring (whenever it may be) is the weld’s favorite season. I have about decided that with easy access to the Texas Persimmon (diospyros texana) for my dye yellow I will let go of trying to grow weld here.

I have mentioned several times that I have been on bud watch on my older Indigo Suffruticosa shrubs. They typically live two to three years here depending on our winter freezes and their age. I am very sad to report that the “Winter 2018”, which consisted of a couple of weeks in January/February with lows below 15 degrees, in the Hill Country took ALL of my bushes. It also took out some hibiscus that had survived since 2014. Our local Texas Hill Country Olive Company confirmed also that they had bad freeze damage that took out some of their trees this winter.

I especially mourn the tall Indigofera Suffruticosa that was “outside” the deer fence and was my marker for the “do the deer eat it” experiment. The deer left this volunteer plant outside the fence alone all year, not a nibble. I was looking forward to observing the spring’s impact on that bush because we are entering a drought period. This would have been a great temptation test for the deer or the bush, depending on your viewpoint. That test is not to happen, I will have to plant out some seedlings and defend them from the deer and digging possums. We’ll see who wins “outside the fence line”.

I do have one survivor sprouting against the wall “outside the fence”. See behind the dead shrub? This is a good time to show the difference between the Lindheimer’s Senna that grows wild here and the Indigofera Suffruticosa. They look very much alike in the teenage stage but there is a small appearance difference. The Senna has double leaves on the stem tip. The Suffruticosa has a single leaf. Subtle but significant when you are making a decision on what to pull and what to leave in place. And no, the senna does not yield blue.

So, this week will consist of pulling the dead IS shrubs with proper ceremony, leaving a few for the hummingbirds to use as perches (at least someone is taking joy in those dead branches) and prepping the ground for the Indigofera Suffruticosa seedlings that are still in protective custody in a screen area on my porch.

I love gardening and the life cycle, but it is times like this that one thinks of buying the indigo pigment and moving on with one’s color life!

Remembering last year’s suffruticosa leaves…..never take them for granted.

10 day difference for Japanese Indigo seedlings

30 Mar

10 days & temperature increases and sunshine made a big difference. March 17th I planted my Japanese Indigo seeds, by the 27th I had sprouts! I ordered the wrong seed tray. Duh, but seeds planted in new tray sprouted sooner than my old method. I am smarter now despite myself. Next up I will plant my Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds. I’ll throw Cota and Hopi Sunflowers into the mix this year also. Maybe I can beat the birds to the seeds for dye this year.

I am still on bud watch on my older Suffruticosa plants. Will the 3 year old plants live longer? Did the freeze this January take the younger plants out? The drama of gardening continues.

Plus the Texas Persimmon is budding and blooming. Before I know it I will be out picking persimmons in July for the dye.

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