Back Forty, More gardening, Permaculture, Reading, Slow Food, Western North Carolina

Sunday afternoon

It is such a relief to be at the end of spring semester. I still have a few things to do at work, but all of the time-sensitive stuff has been done. Last weekend we went to the St. Francis book sale, where I blew my “no more buying books” pledge out of the water. In my defense, it was fill a grocery bag for ten bucks day, and I found an old book on Cornwall and a 1925 “The Etude Music Magazine.” Not a bad haul for $12, and I’ll donate some to the little free library now and the rest later.

I have said this before, but I have enough books to read for the rest of my life. Seriously.

THEN, when we went to Black Mountain later that day, we found a sweet new bookstore where I bought two NEW books:

I have a problem, obviously. If you saw my house, you’d understand. However, this addiction might be why our house is nicely insulated.

OH YAY! I hear a good rain shower. I was hoping for at least one today, because I was out of rainwater. Our tap water smells so clorine-y that I don’t want to use it for natural dyeing or my seedlings. My buckets are out under the gutter downspouts.

Spinning Spider also brought baby goats and had a milking station for people to milk a goat.

I posted about the tapestry show earlier this week, but we also went to the WNC Cheese Trail Festival held at Highland Brewery in Asheville, and laid some money down for some excellent cheeses. Cheese, books, and good beer. Add coffee and chocolate, and you’ve got my version of heaven right there.

TIME FOR GARDEN PHOTOS!!! I had a lot of catch-up to do in the yard this week. As usual, my garden is way behind. I made it a priority to clean up the mess at the end of our driveway and in front of our front door because the house next door will be for sale soon and I want to attract someone who doesn’t mind hippies but is nice, sane, and fairly neat. At least to the point of not letting invasives crawl all over the yard like on my other side. Ha! They probably think that about me in the back yard.

Justin came over for four hours on Wednesday and helped with digging up some problem shrubs, cutting branches back to get more sun on the south front edge, and making a hugelkultur bed with some of the rotting firewood outside our front door. He dug down about a foot until he hit solid clay, filled about a 3×5 foot area with the wood, then shoveled the soil back onto the logs. I’m going to grow flowers in it first, since he says it will be a nitrogen suck for a couple of years. Maybe transfer some clover over to it and plant fava beans late this fall. We’ll see how the flowers do. I planted black hollyhocks, coreopsis, garden balsam, and transplanted a clump of daffodils around the edge. I tossed a few monarda seeds on top just for kicks. The birds are probably going to eat them all anyway.

When I planted the foxglove seedlings, I said that I hoped they would be purple. And I did get some purple ones. The one that is truly stunning is white, though.

This rose is on the other side of the property line, but last year it nearly died from being choked with vines. I pruned it and cleared out the vines, and this is my reward. It climbs up into my cherry tree too.

Yellow irises have outlasted the purple irises.

I’m amazed that this sage is so happy here. That’s one reason I am developing this side this year.

Welp, I’m pretty whipped with all this gardening, but I’m happy. I’m seeing a new chiropractor twice a week and I’m going to the Tapestry Weavers South retreat in a couple of weeks. I got into the workshop at John C. Campbell Folk School that I was on the wait list for a week later, but by that time I had paid and committed to the TWS retreat. I was going to run up the credit card and go anyway, but then I found out that the reason a seat opened for me was because the friend I wanted to take the class with had canceled. I was really disappointed at first but after I thought about it, it was just too much to do in one month, too much time in a car (it is painful for me to sit for long and the trips will take 5-6 hours each) and too much money to spend. So be it. They were kind enough to give me my deposit back.

AND, because I didn’t think I’d get into the JCCFS class, I also signed up for another weekend workshop at Topsail Beach in June, so there’s that to look forward to (and pay for) so it was for the best.

During all this, I have been experimenting a little with natural dyeing and taking India Flint’s Alchemist’s Apron online class. I’m going to re-dye my apron to try to get it darker, and I’m going to start over with the videos now that I have time not to half-ass it. Dyeing the silk threads has been really fun.

Oh yeah, I harvested my first homegrown mushrooms. Lion’s mane. Delicious sauteed in butter.

BYE, time for a nap.

Asheville, dyeing, Local food, Marvelous meals, Western North Carolina

Asheville/Black Mountain weekend

Continuing the tale of the past weekend:

Of course, we spent too much money, even though we spent two nights in the Super 8 motel in Black Mountain. It isn’t bad for the price. Our first stop was at Nice Threads Fiber Gallery on Cherry St. in Black Mountain, where I showed Leslie several of my small tapestries. She is taking them and two scarves on consignment through the end of August. At that point, I hope to figure out somewhere else to foster them, if they don’t sell.

We had drinks and ate at Black Mountain Ale House. I had an appetizer of fried eggplant sticks, mmmmm, and Sandy had shrimp and grits. Someone at the bar steered us to Pisgah Brewing Company that night to hear Hyrider, a Grateful Dead/Phish tribute band. They were really good, the beer was organic, and a cute guy with dreadlocks flirted with me. The cooks in Lovin’ Tenders, the food truck, let me sample a grilled turnip slice. It was pretty good! So that was a pleasant evening.

Sandy wandered around on his own while I was workshopping with Dede Styles. He bought a dulcimer kit in Black Mountain. We went to the Wedge Brewery after the workshop and enjoyed their craft IPA outside in the best weather possible.

One reason we love Asheville is that it was a Slow Food place before most places started paying attention to local food, so there are lots of places to get wonderful local meals.

We ate a marvelous meal at Chestnut on Biltmore Ave. near Pack Place. Again, I forgot to take photos. I’m such a bad food blogger these days. Sandy had molasses glazed pork loin and I had cream of broccoli soup and a salad with roasted beets and goat cheese.

This morning we had brunch at Louise’s Kitchen in Black Mountain, in an old house with a big wrap around porch, perfect for sipping coffee and easing into Sunday. They had a couple of rooms for rent upstairs for office space, and I actually took a semi-serious look, even though I knew I’d never make the three hour drive on most weekends to make it worth the cheap rent. I said to Sandy when he gave me that look (you know the look), “When opportunity knocks, you need to at least open the door to see who’s there.” That made him smile. We can’t afford it when you add in the gas and time, but it is fun to daydream about renting a room in the area.

Then we went to a street art/craft fair in Black Mountain where the artists were starting to pack up in anticipation of a line of thunderstorms heading east. I bought a pair of earrings from a young woman making very attractive jewelry with recycled magazine paper beads. Another mixed media artist used tubes wrapped with different papers and fibers in woven-like structures and collage. Resolved: will take an old National Geographic, some straws, and a tube of white glue to work for slow days.

Back to Asheville, where I abused my credit card at Earth Guild by buying a variety of mordants, along with madder root, cochineal beetles, and indigo. I ordered thiox (a color remover) and a digital scale from Amazon today, since I missed that I needed the thiox for indigo dyeing, and the scales at Earth Guild were more than I can afford right now. I’m quite tempted to buy a used turkey fryer with a propane kit to dye hot baths in, but I am a little bit afraid of cooking with gas. My first apartment had a gas stove and I called the gas company every time the pilot light went out. I’ll make do with an electric burner for now.

art, Asheville, dyeing, fiber art, Slow cloth, Western North Carolina

Natural Dyeing with Dede Styles, Part I – Identification

Dede ponders the answer to a question.

I couldn’t wait for the India Flint workshop so I signed up for a workshop with Dede Styles at Cloth Fiber Workshop on Saturday. I’m so glad that I did. She gave us a great lesson in identifying local wild dye plants, with information about when to harvest and what parts of the plants to use. It is much more helpful to me to have someone show me an actual plant rather than identify it from a photo in a book or on the Internet. I never trust the photos.

That being said, here are some photos for you not to trust. But they’ll help me remember, so there.

First we tore up the older rhodedendron leaves that Dede brought and started cooking them and mordanted our fibers while we went searching for dye plants in abandoned scrubby places under a nearby bridge.

Dede told us to look for dried broom sedge and remember where it was to harvest the green broom sedge around late August, when it yields the best yellow dye. You can dry it yourself to use later but the old stuff that has been outside over the winter doesn’t dye as well. It is one of the quickest natural dyes.

This is the goldenrod plant. Harvest the flowers in fall for a goldenrod color. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod pollen doesn’t cause allergies because it is not wind-driven. It blooms at the same time as ragweed, so it’s a scapegoat.

One major difference between sumac, which produces a brown dye, and tree of heaven, which does not produce dye, is that sumac (on left) leaves have serrated edges, and tree of heaven (on right) leaves have smooth edges.

Nettles produce a lot of good things, but they also produce major skin irritation and pain, so they’re identified here to help me avoid them.

Burr dock – use the big leaves, avoid the burrs like crazy. These plants here don’t have burrs yet. Other kinds of dock should produce dye also, but she had not tried them.

Use the leaves of blackberries or the whole canes of the shoots that come up. Below is mullein, which we collected by the roadside.

Other dye plants we found were grapes (leaves) and daisy fleabane (the whole plant). Daisy fleabane blooms in spring. A similar plant, the fall aster, blooms in fall. I have both in my back yard.

More from my notes:

Wear gloves when harvesting burr dock leaves. Harvest in late summer.

Queen Anne’s Lace – use whole plants.

Black walnut hulls – use the green hulls only for the best dye. You can crack the green hulls off with a hammer and dry them for future use, but the black ones already on the ground are not best for dye.

Black walnut leaves can be identified by their smell. You can get black by packing leaves with wool in layers with metal slivers, unpack and repack for three days.

The color from blackberry shoots turns from yellow to a dull gold after about two years.

Madder roots produce red/orange. Wait two years before digging the roots. (This is grown in gardens.)

Little bluestem grass will dye like broom sedge.

The inner bark from black oak is a great historical source of yellow dye. The color “Bancroft’s Aurora” is black oak bark and cochineal. Harvest fresh from windfalls April – early May.

Even though you usually see these plants along the roadside or along railroad tracks, it is best to find them elsewhere if you can because of chemical sprays. And never harvest all of a plant in one place. Always leave a few to reproduce.

Next post: The dye pots

Asheville, Western North Carolina

Our trip was nice but cut a bit short. It poured rain yesterday and we had had enough of shopping. I would have liked to do a bit of hiking but Sandy suddenly developed a painful knee. I got out into nature a little bit on Sunday morning and yesterday there was a short break in the rain as we went through Chimney Rock so I played a little bit in the Broad River at the Riverwalk there.

I spent a lot of money (for me) but I’m well pleased with my purchases: a pair of gorgeous Danskos, two shirts and a jacket by Sacred Threads, a small eggbeater drill for $12 at an antique store, a couple of books at Downtown Books in Asheville, bone buttons at Chevron Beads in Asheville and shell/seed beads at New Earth in Black Mountain, a ceramic pin for Mama’s Christmas present, Stayman apples, a huge $2 cabbage. I really could have gone wild in the craft galleries if I hadn’t bought the clothes and shoes first.

We generally ate well. We stayed at a Super 8 in Black Mountain and ate dinner at the Cellar Door and the way-off-the-beaten-path Straightaway Cafe, an ironic name for a Hungarian restaurant that was up five miles of hairpin curves. Didn’t work too well for me, the carsick queen. Lunched at an old German restaurant in Black Mountain – the name escapes me right now. The Cellar Door was great but I am disappointed that we didn’t eat in Asheville or Hendersonville. At least I did get to eat my obligatory mountain meal – trout, with a pecan crust. Yum.

Sandy is a little upset because he lost his wedding ring. At least I was with him during the time that he must have lost it, so I know it was not due to funny business.

I’ll upload photos later – my hand needs a break. Trying to decide whether to go to the doctor but I’m so sick of doctors and dentists. I get my permanent crown tomorrow, which is good since I broke my temporary crown into half-a-dozen pieces this weekend.