Are you and Alchemist?


Well, never-mind; you don’t need to be. It is all quite simple once you know the basics…we MUST know the basics.

Let’s talk mordants (just for a moment). Mordants are what I call binders..sort of like an egg in baking (right?) it holds the whole wretched mess together… a cohesive whole…if you will. If care is not taken to do this correctly…precious fibers/yarn could be ruined – or your barn, studio, garage…an explosive ending is not what we are after here.

Most dyes require a mordant; the mordant allows them to chemically bond to the fiber. Without them,the dye would simply sit on top of the fiber, rinsing off with each wash. The mordant chemically prepares and opens up the fiber to bond with the dye.

If you’re going to take the time to learn the basics of natural dying; be aware – this is not a quick project. Don’t rush, take your time (dare I say, enjoy the process) Don’t skip steps, as tempting as this may be, we are after quality results here…when the basics are conquered, results become more predictable, and the final results; well worth your efforts.

This is not a process to be shared with children, (there are kool-aid dyes for that) oh, and they are fun too; just be sure to use the kool-aid packet with out sugar.(no need to attract unwanted guests to the party..insects)

madder-sage- Photo from [Fleece on the duck]
The green shade was achieved by simmering sage with red basil. The liquid in the pot was purplish-red yet produced a khaki colored fiber. When lime juice was added the fiber brightened and became a soft sage green.

Take care not to breaht in the mordants whilst adding them to your pots…and for heaven’s sake; don’t directly breathe in the steam as it is processes. A little common sense goes a long way; so, gather your gloves, and find a mask some where. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.

a llama run to CT

Toxicity vs. amount used = low ratio – for a pound of fiber, you’re going to want to dilute around only 1/2 an OUNCE of mordant (with the exception of alum, which you’re going to need around 1-2 ounces. (although, Alum isn’t toxic ) Once the mordant bath is used up or weakened, it is pretty harmless.

A list of commonly used mordants ( not exhaustive by any means):

Alum (Aluminum Potassium Sulfate): Pretty much, alum is the easiest to find and use, it is less toxic, and it gives what we will call the “base” color. It doesn’t change the base color of your fiber. You can find alum, made by McCormick, in the canning or spice section at most grocery stores.
THis is a good option if you are dyeing by solar power.
You want to dissolve your alum in lots of hot water, put it in your chosen vessel (pot,enamel is best), crock-pot, whatever, place your fiber in the pot*, simple- dimple.

Copper (Copper Sulfate): Copper will turn your fiber a light aqua-to-greenish color. That could be fun. It can be used with yellows to get soft greens, to make blues and greens more turquoise, and to make warm tones.

Iron (Ferrous Sulfate): Ehhhhh, some people class this as a “color modifier” not a true mordant. Makes stuff greyer/darker. Used with indigo or logwood, or even sometimes walnut, to get black. Known in medieval dyeing recipes as “copperas”, SO DON’T ASSUME COPPERAS MEANS COPPER. You can pre-mordant with this like you normally would, but a lot of folks just use it after dyeing to grey it up. Used alone, iron will darken your fiber. I don’t ever use it by itself as a pre-mordant. I only use it with something else, or afterwards to modify.

And some less common, but still widely used ones are:

Chrome (Potassium Dichromate): *TOXIC* I don’t use it; but some dyers love the effects it can cause…(color me chicken)

Tin (Stannous Chloride): Brightens colors. Tin does not change the base color of your fiber. Tin will give you the brightest, clearest reds/yellows/oranges, and can be used with cochineal to give hot pink. It’s my most favoritest mordant ever because I like the bright shinies, and it turns the mordant bath opalescent. Oooooohhhhh, pretty.

a shiny sheep

HOW TO MORDANT

ALWAYS! ALWAYS! – have dedicated mordanting pots. NEVER EVER USE them for cooking after! Nod, that you understand. Might I also recommend that you work outside. Most of the natural dyes, I’m not terribly concerned about allowing in my home, many of them are herbs and spices that we already have in our home. I will not allow mordant in the house.

The basic method is this:

Dissolve your mordant in a pot of warm water(think room temperature), LOTS of water, you need to let your fiber have plenty of space to move around, or the mordant can’t attach everywhere, Use a non-reactive pot—enamel, no chips please, or stainless steel. Keep in mind metals are mordants, so using a cast iron, copper, aluminum will alter your results…you understand the dilemma. Now, set it on the burner,( I have a burner on the side of my gas grill, but they do sell propane burners) and add (presoaked, wet)fiber. Turn the heat source to medium, and let it sit for about 1/2 hour, (if you are like me, you will find it hard to wait, I wanna see it now!) Stir occasionally; oh, so gently, with a non-metal utensil of course…don’t agitate..no felting allowed here. Let the pot cool. Ok, now you can remove the fiber and RINSE (keep rinsing til you are sick of it) rinse some more. Keep in mind, the mordant has made a chemical change,rinsing won’t hurt it. Having excess mordant will. Those pesky molecules of mordant will dance about, holding on in all the wrong places…causing havoc with your color and finished results. Rinse people. It is ready to be dyed or it may be stored wet or dry, for later dyeing – if yo can wait. If possible, let it sit over night.

onion-skins
Fleece on the Duck ~ onion skins to dye fiber.

***If you use crockpots. Allow them to preheat. Water should be good and hot BEFORE you add fiber, and then leave it on the high setting for 1/2 an hour, just like on the stove. Always, rinse out your crockpots well. You do not want to allow deposits of metal salts to build up. This can cause crockpot explosions. If a crack appears..ditch it. If mordants get into the metal base the pot may shatter. Kind of neat to explode a crockpot, but nonetheless, a bad idea.

PREPARATION OF DYE-BATH
Place dyes (what ever dye medium you have chosen) into cold water and heat slowly. the smaller the particles- the better results…so break things up as best you can.
Most dyes need to be brought to a boil before color is extracted. Dissolve powders. Heat till color is drawn out…cool.(both physically,and metaphorically).Strain twigs, bark or other matter;you probably don’t want all that in your finished project.

DYEING
Enter wet wool into a tepid bath. Heat slowly. Gradual temperature changes, and gentle stirring prevent shrinkage and felting. keep the fiber or yarn in the dye bath until you are happy with the color. Or until the dye bath is exhausted, ( and hopefully, you are not) Do remember;colors are darker on wet fiber. Decide accordingly.
Allow the dye bath to cool before removing the fiber you have just dyed beautifully. Use care to gently, , I say, gently,squeeze fiber to remove dye liquids. Let’s rinse yet again…til it runs clear. Allow the fiber or yarn to dry.
Behold your creation!

So, now you know!
Be well,
Jess

2013..plant the seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love.


You can choose to believe that anything is possible, choose to embrace your dreams, choose to follow your heart and choose not to give up in the New Year, 2013.

red bird

It is the beginning of a New Year! Today we can choose to become who you’ve always wanted to be – the somebody who is sometimes whispering and sometimes screaming – to be. Actually, we can do this with EVERY new day; but, I always feel so motivated at this time of year, refreshed and renewed…bursting with new energy and drive.Maybe too much energy… I had to stop myself from buying a Jersey calf last night (that was hard work), such restraint I have :)

What are your hopes and dreams, goals and passions for 2013? I would love to hear about them.

Be well,
Jess

Do you ever wonder…?


Do you ever wonder?

The morning’s hustle and bustle has come and gone, leaving the house quiet and warm. Warmth brought not only by the wood fire crackling but by the love shared, dreams chased, full with beautiful moments that make up our life.

Snow was falling, as the dogs and I set out for our morning ramble about this small farm…it is a wet snow and wont last long; just long enough to coat the llamas in a sparkling frosty icing. The snow is giving this grey gloomy November day just the boost it needed, I think.
Do you ever wonder what is really valuable to you, what is beautiful, what inspires you? What keeps you going?
I think, this question is why I blog..it helps me sort things out, to reminisce, to smile about the days, weeks, or even years past’s misadventures and sweet moments.

I look at my life differently, ordinary things take on a new meaning when looked at through the lens of my camera or the words of my blog. Snippets of life brought into focus more thoroughly enjoyed, moments not lost in the flurry of our lives, moments we can now go back to. Moments to smile, laugh, or let the tears fall.

It seems as though I have my camera in my hand no matter where I go; capturing moments, moments in nature, moments in our lives, moments of simple beauty.

I wonder… now, how I could have passed by so much inspiration, so much beauty and not capture it to be shared and enjoyed later, later, when we thought we had forgotten. Blogging affords me an outlet, a community of sharing – if you will – a wonderful place to connect with others. Others, from distant lands, different cultures, with different languages and different time.

Blogs.
Our visual journals, our creative outlets; joys shared, sorrows softened, inspiration found…feelings validated and kindness received; a beginning of something new and exciting. My blog, a place where I open up more than I ever thought possible.

I wonder.
I wonder where this journey will take me and where your journey will take you?
My blog has led me, with your compassion and support to reach for dreams that once felt impossible.

I wonder; I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Courtney is home; she and her Mom are staying with us, getting stronger and enjoying family while she awaits her transplant.
Be well,
Jess

A Painted Chevy, and a challenge for you…


I am sure this is exactly what Howie had in mind when thinking of his Rat Rod….(Oh, right I keep forgetting about the Rat part of that description). Well, anyway; I thought it would be great to use the truck in the new design for our [Misty Maples Farm]farm banner. What do you think?

I would like to paint something into the little trailer, only I am not sure what? After working on the painting for 6 hours yesterday; my creativity must have been spent. I thought of the folks who read this little blog, aha, moment! You should choose.
So, I leave it up to you to choose what should be in the trailer. If you would?
If I choose your idea, I will send you a dozen (yet to be designed)Christmas cards featuring the painting. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!


Not sure if this will be of any assistance, but, we have chickens, ducks, dogs, llamas, and soon Angora Goats here on our farm. I spin fiber, knit, and attempt to crochet the fiber.

Be well,
Jess

Some Late Spring Beauties and a “quick story”


Rural beauty and a dear friends garden.

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But hey, now that you’ve seen my lovely photos :)

Have you seen this! How much fun could this be? I know,like we don’t have enough social media frenzy. It just looks like too much fun to ignore.

A COLLABORATIVE STORY WRITING EXPERIENCE: http://www.qwikstory.com/

How Qwikstory.com Works
Qwikstory.com is a new social media site where people come together to create and write a story about a particular topic (or no topic at all). Here’s the catch – once you start a story, you have only 1,000 characters to tell your part of the story and you can’t continue the story…Cool right?
My children and I do this with songs sometimes…always silly, sometimes funny!

Let me know what you think! Please.

The perfect time…for a winsome journey.


Perfect time; is there ever a perfect time? Perfect time to start a family? Perfect time to buy a house? Perfect time to start a business? There is no perfect time, is there? If you wait for all things to come in line; you may be waiting for a very long time. That’s just how life is, a bit messy,a bit unpredictable, life just has a tendency of getting in the way of even the best laid plans.

I may have never been the type to be a rigid planner; much to my husband’s shagrin…though, I tend to be a list maker…and they tend to be long! Pages long! They never seem to become any shorter..where to find the time? Time to be Mom, wife, sister, neighbor; time to become a better photographer,(painter)illustrator, fiber artist, decorator, gardener, farmer, friend.

Time. A fleeting commodity.
I resolved this past year to make time time to enjoy, take in a beautiful and fleeting sunset, the first breathe of a new cria, the downy fluff on a days old duckling… I resolve to do to a lot of things.(do you notice a trend)

I have added to my list – Blog more consistently, take the time to share my thoughts, ideas, and creative endeavors with ~ you, the friends I have made through this blog. Yes, I do believe I can call some of you friends.
Celi ,http://thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com//
Shannon, http://dirtnkids.wordpress.com//
PW, http://prairiewisdom.wordpress.com//
and Renee, http://writingfeemail.wordpress.com// ~ to name a few. Relationships established in the blogosphere…I would love to sit around the kitchen table talking about this or that, sit on the front porch with a glass of tea..or wonder around the farm and gardens with any of these girls..I always look forward to reading about what is going on their lives.
As my life grows and changes I look forward to sharing with friends; friends I’ve made here on my blog, and friends I cherish close to home.

Keep it simple. I need to remind myself of this often; as my list of to-do’s grows exponentially with each day’s addition. I will strive to be in the moment, feel the moment,embrace the moment and collect inspiration along the way.


Mali and Phantom enjoy their new pasture…they were in their new diggs all of 5 minutes before they challenged each other to a game of “King of the Hill”.


Jubilee, wondering what to eat first…


Mali,thinking he won the game.


Hay! In Moses Country; no, not that Moses…Gramma Moses. She lived and painted just around the bend in Eagle Bridge, New York.(Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), better known as “Grandma Moses”, was a renowned American folk artist. In 1938 a New York engineer and art collector, Louis J. Caldor, who was driving through Hoosick Falls, saw some of her paintings displayed in a drug store window. They were priced from $3 to $5, depending on size. He bought them all, drove to the artist’s home at Eagle Bridge and bought ten others she had there. The next year, three Grandma Moses paintings were included in “Contemporary Unknown American Painters” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.) Ok, now back to the post…:)


I think this is what llamas dream’s look like…


Sun setting after a hard days work…


Sunset over Moses Country.


I just sat and watched…


I sat quietly in the grass…waited, watched, not really wanting the sun to completely set, yet anticipation was building for a grand finally.


so soft, and vibrant..


Sometimes you find beauty by sorting through the weeds…

We are our thoughts, hopes,and dreams…
Relax,enjoy life and your time.
Jess

Wordless Wednesday


Warm weather in New England, a slide show.

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Be well,
Jess

Delightful! Isn’t it Delightful!


I have been gifted an award that is bestowed to blogs which have a quality that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye.
They think “A Winsome Journey” is lovely; and I am just tickled pink!

Thank you so very much Genie http://geniespeaks.wordpress.com/

Also, a big thank you to http://faithrises.wordpress.com

Both of these girls have very inspiring blogs, one of which I have visited almost daily for a huge dose of faith inspired goodness, the other I have just recently discovered and I must say; I am a huge fan. Keep walking Genie! (but take good care).

I do have rules to follow, but first, an apology is in order. I was gifted the Sunshine Award early in the spring…thank you, thank you…http://makebelieveboutique.com/2012/03/23/sunshine-award-4/ and Steph, at Lost Up Above: http://wp.me/p1ZC80-JM.

Ok now to follow the rules.

7 things you’ll know about me.

1. I love James Taylor (well, his music anyway)
2. My favorite color is greenpinkblue. (yes it is!)
3. I have been working very hard to start a creative business on a shoestring…I mean dental floss thin…:)
4. I think I am more funny than I probably am (Lucille Ball, kinda silly)
5. I can usually be found in the pature or the garden on a nice day.
6. On a day of foul weather, I am either painting, editing photos, or quilting.
7. I don’t like ice cream, mayonnaise or onions…blech.

Now….drum roll please…the nominations.
Don’t feel green, maybe I just don’t know you yet! :)

A green fellow…A lil tree frog saved by my sister from the chlorine of the pool…he climbed up her neck then hopped on the dog’s head..wish I could have captured that on camera, but I was laughing too hard! Ok back to the nominations.

1. ah, I am stuck, I love you all, how can I choose? Some of you share incredibly touching stories,some share family adventures, the excitement of living with small children, garden tips and beauty, farm visits, visiting with you; I am able to view photos from around the world. Photos from different perspectives, beautiful photos taken by children in beautiful gardens. I get gardening tips and inspiration from folks approaching it from like minded organic, sustainable manner.

So, don’t be blue:

Check out these sites, I hope you enjoy them!
http://dirtnkids.wordpress.com/
http://prairiewisdom.wordpress.com/
http://thislittlelight516.wordpress.com/
http://writingfeemail.wordpress.com/
http://thekitchensgarden.wordpress.com/
http://ktbloom.wordpress.com/
http://anyluckypeny.wordpress.com/
http://reposed-ny-blog.com/
I am never certain how to create links..so if these are not direct links, please go the extra mile and paste these URL’s you won’t be disappointed.
I am certain, I am omitting some very dear blogs…I appreciate all the work, care, and joy that blogging brings to you all!

Be Well,
Jess

You need a strong foundation, and back, and arms, and a hammer.


The important thing is that you have a strong foundation…

I have always wanted a Arbor covered with sweet juicy grapes in my garden.
This past weekend we made it happen. Of course us being us; we used only up-cycled materials. The posts we purchased for a dollar a piece from a sheep farmer nearby, the bolts and such were salvaged from earlier dismantling projects, the top braces were with the fencing we picked up for a song… I love these types of projects; not very time consuming, nearly instant gratification, and every one likes to get involved. Well, except for Lexi, as you will see from the photos.

I planted Concord, and Niagra ( a white grape). Niagra grapes were created by cross breeding Concord grapes with a white grape the Cassidy variety; in the 1800′s. A sweet -tart, think Welch’s grape juice taste…mmmm mmmm I can hardly wait.

Concord grapes remind me of grapes picked as a child to be made into grape jelly.
The Concord grape is a robust and aromatic grape whose ancestors were wild native species found growing in the rugged New Hampshire soil. Being born in NH, something these grapes and I have in common. (just thought you’d wanna know)
Developed on a farm outside Concord,NH…down the road from the Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne and Alcott homesteads, can you ask for better company?
Early ripening, to escape the killing northern frosts, but with a rich, full-bodied flavor, the hardy Concord grape thrives where European cuttings had failed to survive. I am so happy they did!
Experts found that the antioxidants present in the skin and juice of the Concord grapes have brain boosting powers that helps in improving memory. Perhaps, if I eat enough of them I will remember what I am doing from one room to the next. Did you ever have one of “those” moments; you walk upstairs, or into the kitchen to retrieve something., then have absolutely no idea why you went there!? Grapes, I will eat many, many grapes.


Concord grapes…:)


NY Niagra Grapes…hopefully my Arbor will resemble this!

I tried to capture the steps we took in creating our Arbor…certainly their are many shapes and sizes of structures to be considered if you are to ever plant grapes. I wanted an arbor that would act as an entrance to the garden; i think it will do nicely.


The Arbor.


Daisy, taking in all of the happenings from a distance; she is healing quite nicely form her traumatic encounter with a predator…you can read about that here: http://awinsomejourney.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/tragedy-and-triumph/ ( hope I linked that correctly)


Does Andrew measure up? You betcha.


William, our neighbor giving my husband a hand…


Lexi calls it quits!

After completing the arbor,late on an 85 degree Sunday afternoon, my tireless husband turned to me and asked, “Are you ready to shear a few llamas?”
Me, “nope”.
I am ready for a nice glass of wine. ;)

Be well,
Jess

I dream in technicolor…


Grey, drippy, rainy, windy days. Days when I relax cozily snuggled up in a blanket and dream…dream of warm sunshine and lush gardens. Yes, I dream in Technicolor. Vibrant, vivid images that gladden my heart and sooth my soul.
On rainy, sloshy days, I plan and I design, everything from garden gates to furniture. I’ve drawn and re-drawn gazebos, arbors (for my new grapes) and barns for my husband to build, so far, he has yet to take my pencil from my unyielding grip.
On misty days,I wander through memories, memories past, mine, my children’s, my friend’s…sometimes I smile, sometimes I laugh out loud.
I don’t allow sad thoughts in on rainy days; they are banished and put out with the remains of altered designs.
I dream of summers to come; summers past. Spring plantings, autumn’s wealth.
I dream in technicolor.


summers of innocence, summers of abandon


gather summers gifts


Summers by a NH lake… for just a day picnic or a decade.
This photo reminds me of one of my sons..he fished in his canoe before school (we had to retrieve him), he fished after school, he still fishes every chance he gets.


My husband and I always love an evening stroll.


Bliss, just lying in the grass watching the clouds drift by.

Be well,
Jess