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

Whilst the winds blow…


Planning a vegetable garden,a flower garden, perhaps an herb garden? If you have fiber animals, or are a fiber fanatic like me; your thoughts may also lead you to planning a garden for color…fiber color. There is no need to have an entire garden devoted to natural dyes…just add some plants that will grow in your area (zone); take rhubarb for instance, anyone can grow rhubarb- heck you may already have some in your yard. A much unappreciated plant, (unless you make rhubarb jelly, crumble or pie) It thrives in almost any garden. The tuberous, fibrous tissue at the base of the leaf-stalks feels sticky and soapy when skinned and sliced, but when boiled for an hour so, and strained, yields a lovely color – a serious pastel-yellow. Approximately 90% of all plants yield some shade of yellow…

Dye plants may interest the gardener who is also a spinner or fiber artist. Nature has its own palette of colors with dozens of dye possibilities, which even include some nuts, fruits, vegetables and other common foods and fungus (yup, fungus).Natural dyes are everywhere, colors can even come from tree leaves ; berries ; herbs, nuts and shells,and barks.

Growing the dye plants is easy, and can be fun project. But getting the most vivid colors from plant pigments and making more permanent dyes involves mordanting, or treating the fiber before you dye it with a metallic compound, such as alum.
Mordanting is a process..so more on that in another post. I will also post on needed equipment.

Different parts of the plants yield different colors…

Plants yield these colors most commonly, yellows and tans, blues, and reds; believe it or not, green is the most difficult color to achieve – seems odd doesn’t it.
Some plants you might consider:
Woad for true blues(a very, very invasive weed-take good care with this one)
Madder for intense orange, scarlet and plum
Saint John’s wort for gold, maroon and green
Sunflowers for deep olive greens
Hollyhocks for yellow, mahogany and reddish black
Purple loose strife for gold, brown and black (another invasive plant)
Weld for strong clear yellow
Coreopsis for deep yellows, oranges, browns and maroon
Lady’s bedstraw for orange, gold and pinky red

Well, I have to get back to ordering seeds and chicks…I will try not to be too over-zealous in my pursuit of both…

Speaking of pursuits, pictures from our December barn rescue(partial rescue):
winter weeds

barn old

winter barn

winter closed

winter doors

barn 029.1

winter saving

Be Well,
Jess

Rhinebeck in Pictures


To say this fairgrounds is gorgeous is an understatement.

I had a blast! I met so many nice people. People who genuinely care about animals and where the products (think fiber, lots of fiber and yarn) the adore come from. People from the city, the country, farms, wonderful people from; Great Britain, Austria, Germany, Canada, France, Switzerland…my gosh, I was smiling so hard.

Andy did so well I was so proud of him, with KatDoll looking after him every moment, she literally didn’t want him out of her sight. She is the sweetest.

Rather than blather on…a slide show just for you.

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Hang on…I’ll tell you the “real”(and why it took me this long to post pictures) story tomorrow.

Be Well,
Jess

Blow outs and pedicures…


Part of caring for and sharing your life with animals involves some rather, well, distasteful chores..other than the obvious scooping of the poop(we’ve already talked about that,haven’t we) We must also, trim the llamas nails. Yup, nails; they don’t have hoofs, camelids ( llamas, alpacas,vicunas, camels) have two toes and soft pads ~ as you’ll see in the photos to follow. My husband is quite expeditious in completing this chore…3 snips per foot; once across each side, then one last clip across the top of the nail. Voila llama pedicure; do you think the girl llamas would look cute with pink polish? Me too! Though, I don’t think they would enjoy that much.

On our farm we shear once (at least) each year. We try to give them a good shampooing the day before, the fiber is cleaner for harvesting, and it’s easier on the clippers. Less grime and grit. To obtain the best fiber, your llama should be as clean as you can possibly get them.

Blow outs! Ah yes, first we blow the llama out. They have so much dirt and hay particles in there! You see llamas LOVE to roll in the sand or just plain old dirt; they think it adds to their beauty. Then I brush them out a bit while using a de-tangling spray. The brushing sometimes takes hours to days depending on the animal and density of the fiber. The llama in my last photo “Bandit” took several days to complete.

After all of this, at long last, it’s time to shampoo! I try to pick a warm sunny day. A quick blow out and a good scrub. Any type of shampoo will work, though there are “special” shampoos just for llamas. For my white llamas I use a whitening shampoo (with blueing). For most others I use a conditioning shampoo (the inexpensive kind). Next step, I apply a conditioner and just sort of rake it through the fiber…rinse! (thoroughly rinse -not always as easier as it sounds) Almost done (unless there is a show) they are set free to dry naturally in the sun.

Oh Yes, one more thing….they will immediately upon returning to the pasture, seek out their favorite place to roll; look up at me, bat their long lashes and smile…as if to say, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”

No worries, all the newly deposited dirt comes out fairly easily.

If the animal is fairly light wooled and depending on the temps, sun, and time of day…you can clip them the same day.
Most of the time, we wait until the next day.
Wow, I’m tuckered; good thing this only happens once a year!


Little Andy showing off his lustrous waves. :)


My Kromsky Minstel Wheel…((love))


Bea-u-ti-ful!


trimmings…


Camille won’t mind if I show you her un-manicured feet…( I hope)


A little snip here, a little snip there..


Andrew…Why? “Jecasa”


He is just too sweet for words…really, I have none.


Ah, Andrew…because; that’s why.


Here is the first llama , I delivered…he was such a big cria…his Mom is the “foot model” above. :)

Are you as tired as I am? Ok, let’s do this again next year, shall we?
Be Well,
Jess

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

As time goes by…my list gets longer


Do you have one of those lists, I guess they call them bucket lists now. Well, apparently I have two.
One short term and one a life long list. Dreams I have ,things I want to achieve, do, see…time goes by so fast it is easy to lose sight of these things. My list(s) remind me of what I love and what I am passionate about doing, creates a whole new level of enthusiasm for what I set as my goals. Actually writing down these wishes and dreams became very insightful for me, a focus of sorts.
Here are my lists…
Short term:
learn to spin fiber (properly)
learn to weave what I have spun
create and maintain a color harvesting garden ( to dye the fiber before/after spinning, before I weave it)
master the art of portraiture
add sheep to my farm menagerie( I am beyond smitten with them)
finish a few watercolor works
build a studio ~ maybe this is long term?

Long term:
travel in Europe
visit as many of our United States as possible
teach my (not yet born) grand children anything
perfect my cottage garden
hike all of NH’s 4000 footers
Help homeless, orphaned children
meet Maya Angelou!!!
write a book
learn Italian

I am certain this will be edited as time goes by, but for now ~ this is it. What are your biggest goals and dreams?
These photos are of my “neighbor”, my animals, and a friend’s animals…all wonderful creatures! (and leaves)

last bloom

blue...

llama...

what a pair

fell in love...

wondering what they are thinking...

gives new meaning to bird bath...

country grls

looking from the hills of East Hoosick toward Vermont, you can see the Bennington Monument

What’s on your bucket list?

Be well,
Jessica

Keep your face to the sunshine…it’s delicious.


Keeping up with watering and weeds tops the to-do list for me this week; then there is the joy of harvesting, beans, radishes, some carrots, pickling cucumbers, crook neck and zucchini squash.

And our family favorite ~ it is the time the kids carve their names in to their chosen pumpkins!

About this time of year I like to take a good look at my garden beds to see what is thriving and and those “not so much”, plan for next season and make notes for transplants…better luck next year.

I think this weekend might be a great time to plant another round of lettuce and carrots…and turn the compost before it cooks!

Cukes will probably be ready to pickle too. Which recipe should I choose…dill or Bread and butter? I think…Bread and Butter!

I realized how grateful I am for my ducks and their wonderous appetites; they will dine on just about any pest. Grasshoppers,Japanese beetles, June bugs, grubs and even mice. Ducks will also chase and catch flies, and root their larvae out of fresh manure (perfect for a llama farm) and decaying vegetables.

Every duck is an individual, so it’s difficult to say if one will develop a taste for; though for the most part they happily snack on protein-rich insects, earthworms and other tiny inhabitants.

Easy peazy…Ducks are hardy, and they don’t require much more than sufficient nutrients, clean water to drink and a secure area to spend the night.

The eggs are delicious! Many domestic breeds will lay more than 200 eggs per year – these eggs are renowned for baking.

Dabble in ducks…for a perky companion that will entertain, feed and help take care of garden pests, ducks are a great choice. These hardy little creatures will eagerly convert small critters, weeds and grass into eggs and may well end up as the center of your summertime attention in the process. As soon as they hear my voice..I hear theirs…whaa..whaa..whaa…( or can we have some pellets please, Mom, huh? can I?)

time to gather some neighborhood children…and get pickin’


garden in July…


my ducks and my girls…


ooh boy…


…a blossom is hope


yummy!


happy flowers!


ahhh.


these will add nicely to a kitchen bouquet.


sweet


simply pretty


Mom, I’m hungry…


nice rest, now back to the cukes and pickles…

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Bread and Butter pickles:3 quarts

15 cups sliced pickling cucumbers
3 onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarse salt
4 cups cracked ice
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seeds

Directions:
Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
1 Combine cucumbers, onions, salt and ice in a large bowl.
2 Mix well.
3 Put a weight on and allow to stand 3 hours. (For a weight, I use a plate with a gallon bottle of vinegar or water on top of it).
4 Drain thoroughly.
5 Combine vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed in a large pot.
6 Add drained cucumbers.
7 Place pot on medium low heat.
8 Bring almost to a boil, but DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL.
9 Remove from heat.
10 Seal in sterilized jars, 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

***Easy way to sterilize jars:
Wash them well in hot soapy water.
Dry them off.
Put on a cookie sheet, right side up, at 225°F for 15 minutes.
Turn off oven and leave them in there until you need them.

Be Well! Savor summer…Oh, and my new book came…”Harvesting color”…can’t wait to read it!!!

Jessica

The animals teach me something every day…


Walk with me in my garden or pasture; I want to share with you…the love, peace and contentment I gain from caring for animals….the animals teach me everyday…they teach me as they contribute to my life by daily showing me joy, positivity, and hope. I appreciate every moment. I feel as though I can pass on that love and appreciation as I help young people become knowledgeable, in farming, in nature, in life.

I try to provide knowledge, and hands on experience to instill and create thoughtfulness and a love of agriculture and nature. I give kids the opportunity to get their hands dirty and see where their food and textiles comes from and establish better connections to the world around them…show them how we can live in better harmony with our environment.

Nearly every day, Misty Maples Farm has a few extra hands to help with farm chores. The hands are sometimes tiny,but they’re almost always dirty – and that’s a good thing.

Hands-on farm experiences— such as planting and harvesting vegetables,and taking scraps to the compost pile—children have opportunities to learn about healthy foods and build connections to the foods they eat. Most of the time they don’t even realize they are learning, they are simply having fun.

Helping the kids learn by touching, feeling, smelling…and the animals steal their hearts.

Living close to nature,is simply not a part of most of our lives anymore and we would like to help make it so!

Everyone should be able to feel the peacefulness of lying in the daybed on a maple shaded front porch hide away; reading, writing and listening to the sounds of the water, the birds, the chicks, or the gentle hum of the llamas.

If you feel like getting your hands dirty… Stop on by, we can harvest in the garden, feed ducks, chicks, or llamas…I could always use a little help.

Enjoy your time in the dirt! Be Well.
Jessica

>Farmer’s markets…a unique shopping experience


>

The atmosphere; casual, open air shopping …enticing; the goods: fresh…all in all, remarkable!
I love heading out to our local Farmer’s and Green Markets, to support and chat with local farmers and  artisans. Enjoy the sense of community. Soak up the entrepreneurial spirit, and  gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to bring their beautiful offerings to market. They’ll also offer information and inspiration on how to prepare, or use your fresh ingredients!  While you’re at it you’ll be reducing pollution, packaging, and pesticide use while encouraging diversification in farming and stimulating your local economy…yay!
Healthy , Entertaining, local, FUN!

Bring some sunshine to your table….

Most vendors are truly passionate about bringing their best, and each has  a unique story to tell…How much fun is this apron, if I were wearing this, I’d be dancing while I bake…just because!!!

Direct access to your local artisans…how cool is that!    Love, Love, Loved the blue pottery!
Simple! Beautiful! 
I hope you have time to spend at your local Farmer’s Market , the connections you’ll make are unlike any other, local , healthy, FUN!

I especially like the earth and pet friendly ,  pest remedies  ” By Erin”, Tick Flick’r…a great , effective, alternative solution for fleas and ticks than other noxious products we put on our pets…it smells nice too!!!!

Be Well, and maybe I’ll see you there!