Friday, October 14, 2011

Acupuncture, Shearing and Spinning, Pokeberries, and my Dyer's Garden

Lots has happened in the month plus since I blogged last so I will make up for it with lots of pictures, okay?

The first thing to say is that for the last 7 months I have been in considerable pain from some mysterious thing happening to both my wrists and at times my thumbs. No, it is not carpel tunnel. No, I have not gone to a "real" doctor. Some may think this is foolish. I think it is wise at this point in time. I have my beloved Jerra who is way smarter than any "doctor". She is my compounding pharmacist. She has concocted a salve that only partially helps. I have concocted the other stuff that is just now starting to kick in to help a lot. It's herbal. It has an awful name that sounds like I am up to some sort of witchcraft- Cat's Claw or Una de Gato. It works. So for now, I do what I know to do which is herbs plus this, pictured above... and slow down on tennis and things that make my wrist and thumbs hurt.

Notice all the people flat out on their backs? This was a free clinic I went to to get in an extra session. I need to go and get into a routine until the inflammation and pain are completely gone. Needles are not just put into my wrists- they go in the tops of my feet, in the sides of my calves, and in both ears. It actually feels fabulous. No really. Try it sometime.

Okay- moving on.

Earlier this month was the annual "Hoes Down" celebration at Full Belly Farms in Esparto. The Yolo Wool Mill had a tent set up for teaching purposes and to show off their beautiful wool products. Here is my daughter on the right teaching an interested young woman how to spin.
At the beginning of the teaching loop, there was a shearing demonstration which I always love watching. The sheep think the shearers are predators so they go totally limp which is a good thing, eh?
Here are the results of about a minute or a minute and a half's shearing.

The kids or adults then take handfuls of the wool to the washing station where they get to do the first step in taking the wool from "Sheep to Shawl". After washing, they get to card the wool. Then from the carding station, they bring it to the spinning station where they are invited to try a drop spindle or the wheel.
I had to include a picture of this goat. I kept coming back to it to marvel at how bizarre this is! This is, to me, God's act of hilarity. It is The Triune Goat. Three in One. Holy, holy, holy! Brown, spotted, black. Different sections. Different functions. Different and yet all still goat. Glory to God.
Next, I want to show you the highlight of the magnificent new adventure I am on surrounding the glorious fun involving natural dyes. In our yard, a mysterious plant sprung up two seasons ago. At first we were horrified. It was something we had never seen before but that's not surprising really. It grew and grew and grew and soon made bright red berries that the mockingbirds devoured and then pooped out everywhere. My botanist brother did not know what it was and took a sample back to UC Berkeley where he teaches. I never heard back from him about "the mystery bush" as we named it.

The bush died back that winter only to reappear the next spring...along with about 20 friends. Yikes. It was getting totally out of control.

This spring after we did almost everything except set it on fire, it came back as did 100 of its pals.

One day, Marcail came running to me with her newest natural dye book- mystery solved! It's called POKEBERRY! Not only was the mystery solved, but we saw that it makes the most luscious berry colored dye EVER! Not brown, not beige, not yellow- RED! Where on earth did it come from and how can we get it to not be pissed off at us for the abuse we threw its way? Why did it chose OUR yard and how blessed we are to have it land here!

Now to the problem of apologizing to the bush and seeing how we can encourage it to get back to the enormous height and width it once was. Sorry pokeberry.
Here is what the berries looks like.Dyeing with the berries is tricky. Almost daunting actually but we decided to try it. The wool needs to be pre-mordanted which we did using vinegar and heat. Then the berries were squished up with our hands. It's okay to do that. It washes off skin. The book says its okay to do this but in the future I may use gloves just because.

Pokeberry has a very interesting history. The early Americans and colonists ate the "spring greens" but after some time the leaves become poisonous. The leaves actually could be bought canned in stores until the 50's when it fell out of fashion. Don't know about the berries. Don't want to try.
The last step was to fire up the BBQ and to heat the wool to the magical temperature of about 115 F. Lower than the usual simmer. This apparently is critical as the color can be temperamental with heat.
Here are the glorious results. We unfortunately did not have the requisite 25 to 1 ratio of berries to fiber. Next year we will. The color is lovely, don't you agree? There is enough left over for another run or two. Will post more results as they come in.
The last thing I want to show you is my backyard garden. This spring we rototilled up all the Bermuda grass and planted veggies. Huge success. One section pictured above is now being prepared for a Dyer's Garden.

My dear friend, Jill Plumb has invented a fantastic product called an "M Brace". You can see more of this on her web site: She has graciously given me sets to play with in my yard along with the lumber in exchange for photos of my progress.
Here is how it looks today with the plots in place waiting for the compost and dirt. Fabulous.

To be planted in the boxes will be Japanese indigo, yellow cosmos, dyer's coreopsis, purple basil, black eyed Susan, marjoram, orange cosmos, bronze fennel.

Outside of the boxes will be sunflowers, and hollyhocks.

I'm dreaming of spring already and it's not even fall yet!

Wish me blessings. I do for you.

Thanks for looking.

About Me

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Woodland, California, United States
I am a fiber artist. I am a teacher. I am a Reverend. I teach, I create, I counsel, I listen.

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