nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

glimpses of country life – drying day

with 2 comments

For the last two weeks, I have continued on my stationary bike, touring (virtually) through the Cornwall countryside.  Since I last reported, I have gone from Rinsey Croft to the coastal town of Prussia Cove.  Since the road does not run along the coast, I have spent most of my biking miles travelling on short roads from the highway to various coastal towns.  In this stretch, I biked for 150 minutes, and saw about 9 km of the Cornwall countryside.

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Rinsey to Prussia Cove

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As I bike, I love seeing the vignettes of country life captured by Street View.  Gates, of course, and stone walls.  Cows and horses grazing in the meadows.  People hiking along the roads and working in their gardens.  And a line of washing, hung out on the line to dry.

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September 7, 2014  'drying day'  acrylic 20 X 24  Jane Tims

September 7, 2014 ‘drying day’ acrylic 20 X 24 Jane Tims

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Reminds me of home.

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IMG346_crop

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

harvesting colour – oak and iron

with 4 comments

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As autumn approaches, I intend to shift my ‘harvesting colour’ experiments to ‘fall themes’.  I want to colour wool with ripe berries, autumn leaves and acorns.  I decided to begin with oak leaves.  They are still green here in New Brunswick, but I associate the oak tree, strong and ‘knowing’, with the maturity of fall.  I picked leaves from the Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) by our garage, a tree begun naturally, probably from an acorn buried by our squirrel population.

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DSCF3970_crop

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The dye in the pot was pale brown … I was certain the wool would be another shade of brown.  Hoping for variety, I added a liter of my iron acetate (horseshoe, nail and vinegar mix) and left the wool to simmer.  I forgot it on the stove, running to save it after a couple of hours.  And what I pulled from the dye water was amazing, a dark brown, almost black, length of wool roving.

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dark brown, almost black, wool, alum treated and simmered with oak leaf dye and iron acetate

dark brown, almost black, wool, alum treated and simmered with oak leaf dye and iron acetate

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Spun, it makes a lovely counterpoint to my yellow and light brown wools.

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spun wool, dyed with Goldenrod (yellow), Meadowsweet (peach) and Oak leaves/iron modifier (dark brown)

spun wool, dyed with Goldenrod (yellow), Meadowsweet (peach) and Oak leaves/iron modifier (dark brown)

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I am almost ready for my weaving project.  I have decided to arrange the bands of colour in alphabetical order so, in future, I will be able to better recall the plants used to make the dye.   When I look at the woven runner, I will remember harvesting the oak leaves from our tree and the excitement of seeing the dark wool lift from the pot.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

September 10, 2014 at 7:03 am

dry gourds

with 4 comments

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string of dried gourds

string of dried gourds

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dry gourds

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shake

bottle and swan

goblin egg and warted

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absorb the rhythm

the rattle of seeds

in their shells

varnished, on a chord

between cupboards

strand of amber

hardened with hanging

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a nudge in humidity, the least

damp, breath

or sigh, softens

vibration, appreciation

of percussion

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August 31, 2013  'squash on the vine #3'   Jane Tims

August 31, 2013 ‘squash on the vine #3′ Jane Tims

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Copyright 2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

September 8, 2014 at 7:20 am

harvesting colour – saddening the colour

with 2 comments

Most of my experiments with natural dyes have been straightforward – collect the dyestuff, extract the dye with heat and water, and simmer the fibres in the dye.  I have used alum as a mordent to make the dye more permanent, but until now,  I have not used modifiers to change the colour of the dye.  Modifiers include various substances added to modify the chemistry of the dye solution and change the colours obtained.  Iron is one of the most commonly used modifiers.

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To modify colour with iron, the dyer can use ferrous sulfate as a powder.  Or rusty iron can be used to make an iron acetate solution.  To make my iron modifier, I put an old horseshoe, a square nail and a rail spike in a pot, added some vinegar, and soaked the metal in rainwater for a month.

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bits of iron to make an iron modifier

bits of iron to make an iron modifier

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Simmering the wool roving with water and dyestuff of Meadowsweet gave the wool an apricot colour.  Then I added a couple of liters of my iron mixture to the dye pot and a new length of wool roving.  The second lot of wool turned out darker than the first.  Dyers refer to this as ‘saddening’ the colour.  The wool was also more coarse and after I had spun the wool, my hands were stained with a reddish rust.

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saddening the colour: on the left, alum-treated wool dyed with Meadowsweet; on the right, the same with added iron

saddening the colour: on the left, alum-treated wool dyed with Meadowsweet; on the right, the same with added iron

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Next post, I will show you the surprising results when I add my iron modifier to dyestuff of oak leaves!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

September 3, 2014 at 7:13 am

harvesting colour – Meadowsweet

with 4 comments

Last week, we finished installing the new gate at our cabin.  To make our leveling easier, we had to cut some of the Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) growing in profusion along the road.   And into the dye pot it went!

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Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet

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My botany skills are showing their age.  When I learned my plants, we called Meadowsweet Spirea ulmaria.  But times have changed and so has the name for the genus (it will take me a while to get used to Filipendula!).  Other common names for Meadowsweet are Queen of the Meadow, Lady of the Meadow, Mead Wort, and Brideswort.

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Meadowsweet is a fragrant plant.  The scent of its flowers is reminiscent of roses – it belongs to the same family as the rose.  But the stem has a faint smell of wintergreen or almonds.

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Meadowsweet has a long history of use.  The chemical in Aspirin was first discovered in its leaves and named from the old generic name Spirea.  In past centuries, Meadowsweet was used as a ‘strewing herb’ to cover floors because its fragrance underfoot disguised less pleasant smells.  The Druids considered it sacred, along with Watermint and Vervain.  Across the internet, Meadowsweet is famed for being included as one of many ingredients in ‘save’, a medieval drink mentioned in Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale.   I have taken the time to read The Knight’s Tale and found the reference is not to Meadowsweet but Sage:

line 2713:  ‘Fermacies of herbes, and eek save’ (middle English)

‘Medicines made of herbs, and also of sage’  (modern English translation)  (see http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/teachslf/kt-par0.htm )

I will continue to look for an ingredient list for this mysterious drink.

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The obsolete name for Meadowsweet (Mead Wort) is mentioned in Book II, Canto viii of Spenser’s Faerie Queen, referring to the making of Merlin’s sword:

‘The metall first he mixt with Medawart,   That no enchauntment from his dint might saue;’  (see http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/queene2.html#Cant.%20VIII. )

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Boiling the chopped leaves and flowers in water for one hour gave me an amber dye.

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amber dye from Meadowsweet

amber dye from Meadowsweet

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Wool roving, treated with alum and simmered in the dye for an hour turned pale yellow-brown, almost apricot in some light.

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wool roving dyed with Meadowsweet

wool roving dyed with Meadowsweet

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

 

Written by jane tims

September 1, 2014 at 7:02 am

harvesting yellow … yes, yellow!

with 6 comments

After so many lovely browns in my palette of natural dyes, I have despaired of seeing anything but brown when I lift my wool roving from the dye pot.   A friend suggested I try Goldenrod (Solidago sp.).   Goldenrod, in a variety of species, is plentiful along the roads this time of year.  So, this week, on a drive to see our newly opened section of Route 8, we stopped long enough to collect a bag of Goldenrod.

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Goldenrod along the new highway

Goldenrod along the new highway

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Collecting Goldenrod is new to me.  I am always worried it may cause hay-fever, but I learned during my fact-finding – Goldenrod is rarely responsible for triggering allergies.  Its pollen is large and heavy and transported by insects and not the wind.  Ragweed is the real culprit, according to my reading.

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a glory of Solidago

a glory of Solidago

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I also took a crash course in Goldenrod identification – Goldenrods have always stayed on my ‘refuse to identify’ list.  They are actually quite easy to distinguish in our area.  There are only 14 common species in New Brunswick and identification points include the size and number of basal leaves, leaf venation, the degree of stem hairiness and the general shape of the inflorescence.  It was easy to discover the name of the species I collected – Downy Goldenrod (Solidago puberula Nutt.)

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a bag of Goldenrod took no time at all to collect

a bag of Goldenrod took no time at all to collect

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The collecting experience?  Bright and very aromatic.  Smelling Goldenrod is like stuffing your nose in a dandelion.

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I had lots of material to work with, so preparing the pot of dyestuff was enjoyable too.  And the smell as it boiled – very sweet.  Most of the plants I’ve used for dyestuff have an unpleasant smell like boiling cabbage.

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Goldenrod added to the dyepot

Goldenrod added to the dye pot

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The result was a yellow dye.

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the yellow dye of Solidago

the yellow dye of Solidago

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But since the colour of the dye seems unrelated to the resulting colour of the wool, my expectations were low.  Imagine my joy when the wool emerged from the dye-bath a beautiful lemony yellow!

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wool roving, treated with alum and simmered for an hour in Goldenrod dye

wool roving, treated with alum and simmered for an hour in Goldenrod dye

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Yellow!  Sigh.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2014 at 7:08 am

fortification against the sea

with 6 comments

On the second day of my virtual biking last week, I toured Porthleven, a large town along the Cornwall coast.  Street View had done its image-taking on a clear day, but the steep cliffs along the ocean made me ponder what it might be like to stand on this exposed coast in a storm.

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I wondered why so many foundations along the cliff side of the street were abandoned.  One of the foundations enclosed what might be a giant chess board!

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abandoned foundations along the coast at Porthleven (image from Street View)

abandoned foundations along the coast at Porthleven (image from Street View)

 

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Then I had a first glimpse of the seawall and signs warning sightseers to beware …

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seawall and clock tower at Porthleven (image from Street View)

seawall and clock tower at Porthleven (image from Street View)

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The harbour itself is a maze of thick, high walls and the piers of a now absent bridge …

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the fortified harbour of Porthleven (image from Street View)

the fortified harbour of Porthleven (image from Street View)

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A little searching on the internet found a dramatic photo (credit: Annabel May Oakley-Watson/REX)  of the clock tower in the first image above, during a coastal storm … (‘Should Coastal Britain Surrender to the Tides?’,  Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, February 7, 2014).  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/07/should-coastal-britain-surrender-to-tide

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(photo credit: Annabel May Oakley-Watson/REX)

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

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