Monday, July 13, 2009

I am so....

I am so sorry for not posting anything in such a longtime. I have been very busy with several things at once. So I’ve worked on getting some things posted which are below. As the rest of the summer gets here I will try to post more things thru out the season.

I have explained in the other posts what’s been going on except for this part which I’m going to try to post about more formally. In June we started selling produce and that has taken up a lot of our time. I will explain that in a later post.

So I do hope you will all forgive me in not posting for such a long time and please enjoy the new posts below.

Fig Tree

Back in May at the herb sale I picked up a bay laurel and turkey fig tree. Transplanted them both in new clay pots and have been keeping them in full sun on my front porch. (The front of the house is a southern exposure.) It has been eight and a half weeks since all of that has taken place when I purchased them both they were the same size.

Now the fig is about four times the size of the bay, Truth be told the bay laurel is a very slow growing plant. So it is going to take the bay several years to catch up. But how cool is that the fig is growing quit nicely and some one told me I wasn’t going to get figs for thirty or more years. What do they know?

Front Yard Garden

This growing season as not been a real good one here in eastern PA for much of the year thus far it has been cool and raining. So a lot of what I have planted is taking for ever to grow or not at all. I planted a large veggie garden which I will talk about later. What I wanted to talk about was the small garden in my front yard.

I planted the entire front garden the weekend of the 15th of May which is the last frost date for this area. Except this year we had two frost warnings later that month I was lucky I didn’t lose anything, not even my basil which is very tender.

For the entire month of June everything was growing very slowly if at all until the last week of June going into the Fourth of July weekend. Then we had success with growth and fi

nally some warmer days with out any rain for some of them.

Now that it’s the middle of July we have some nice growth and very pretty results. My cotton is starting to come along quite nicely after such a horrible start. So I hope to see flower buds on it soon. With in the next week or so, cotton is new for me to grow so I’m not sure when the proper time for flowering is in my area. A guess says end of the month early next month so we will see.

The Amaranth is doing nicely also soon I would like to make some dye from that and see what I can get. What has been weird is the new growth of leaves has been green then turning red. Yet when I started it in March it came up red and staid red until now with the new growth. This is another plant that is the first year for me so I will see how it goes and show you the yarn that I dyed with it when I get that far.

The rest of the front yard is zinnias, herbs, veggies and some other little flowers. They have started doing well and I’m finally pleased with how it looks. When I planted they garden the first thing I did was to trim back the azalea bushes to a quarter of there size. With all of the rain they have grown back to half there size of when I cut them back.

We all so have three roses bushes that I just cut back to allow new growth in and with the flowers and herbs that I planted they have become the focal point instead of the rose bushes. So all in all everything has worked out and I hope to have a good rest of the season weather wise. Only time will tell.


One of my dye herbs that I planted at the house was woad. Unfortunately I was only able to have one plant growing at the house. All the rest never came up from the seeds that I started, you will have this and I hope for better luck next year in that department.

Any way I got some leaves from the plant to make a vat of dye. Before anyone says anything I know that one plant is not enough to dye large patches at once so I’m only going to do small ones and keep over dyeing to see how dark I can get the samples.

I used Rita Buchanan’s book A Weavers Garden, to help me with creating the vat since I’ve never worked with fresh woad or any woad come to think of it before. The first step was of course to pick the leaves. Which I did and placed them in a clear quart jar, then the book says to bring water just up to the boil and pour it over the leaves I did this as well.

The next step was to leave it alone for about an hour till you have a tan red color liquid. I didn’t do that part, what I did was to leave it set for twenty four hours in full sun. I used the hot water to get the process started and left the sun do the work of keeping it warm for the rest of the time. I left the leaves in for this long to get as much of the blue out as possible. With such small amounts of woad at one time I want to get as much out of it as I can.

The next step is to remove the leaves then add some sodium carbonate also known as washing soda and a lot of air or oxygen into liquid to turn it blue. I will say that mine never turned blue when I added air with a whisk for ten minutes no less. No instead mine was a muddy swamp water color and at that point I was hoping I had the right plant. So I moved on to the next step.

For this step I could have chosen several methods to remove the oxygen from the vat to render it usably. Since I really didn’t have a lot of success with some of those options in the past with indigo vats I went the easy way out and used Spectralite also known as sodium hydrosulphite and left it sit for about an hour. As the oxygen is removed from the vat the vat will turn a yellow tan green color.

Of course mine is neon yellow, so here the moment of truth has arrived, is this a woad vat or did I pick a foreign weed thinking it was woad. I am happy to report as I removed my neon yellow yarn from the vat it started to turn green and then blue. So yes it was woad and I did every thing correctly and I got cool results. I was never expecting a dark color, there wasn’t enough leaves for that but I did get blue on the first try too.

For any one new to woad or indigo dyeing I want to recommend that you use the power of the sun to keep your vat at the correct temperature. Also if you use a clear jar you will be able to see the changes in the vat and learn from them. Last year I had a hard time with my indigo vats trying to figure out which step I was at. This way I can see the different stages as they happen. Or you can wow all the kids in the neighbor hood with this fun experiment or project.