Wednesday, July 22, 2015

- Only in Texas

Texas is a land of superlatives and since moving here five years ago we've experienced the most triple-digit days in a summer (100 over 100), the coldest winter on record (complete with frozen pipes ... which didn't burst, fortunately), the highest flood stage ever on the Blanco River, and the wettest May on record (those last two weren't coincidental), and well, you get the idea.

Not that any of this was on my mind when I headed out to do some weeding, after donning proper attire to avoid any misencounters with cactus spines, spiders (tarantulas), snakes, or scorpions ...


Instead, I spent an hour or so pulling up Johnsongrass (an undesirable invasive) and selectively thinning out the  Prairie tea (aka One-seed croton) ... which is native, but competes with the grasses. We have noticed when we pull up the croton, the following year we see an increase in King Ranch bluestem (not the greatest either), which then yields to Little bluestem (highly desirable) and eventually Yellow Indiangrass (woo hoo!)

The Johsongrass ended up on the compost heap, but having read recently about Prairie Tea as a dyestuff, I brought it in for a trial (along with some turkey feathers that I'm gathering for our grandkids to take in to pre-school at Thanksgiving) ...


Since Saskia has been showing off some wonderful clothing dye trials lately, I was inspired to try dyeing this linen top (with the ulterior motive of covering up some stains) ...


Then seriously rolled the biggest tea bag ever and put it in a pot to simmer with some tap water and alum ...


I also decided to test a theory that has been growing in my mind since going through my cloth stash yesterday. When I encountered cloth dyed this spring, I had yet another allergic reaction, even though the cloth had been laundered. Curiously, I didn't have this problem with the dye trials last autumn ... and the chief difference is that I started using a copper pot this spring.

So, I gathered some more Prairie coneflowers (aka Thimble flowers), this time cutting off the entire flower head, not just the petals. Then I put some on a piece of white muslin ...



folded it over and added some more ...


and repeated a couple more times ...


Then rolled and tied it all into a bundle and put it in a (non-food) hot pot with tap water and alum ...


After an hour, color was happening ...


And the back porch smelled heavenly ... which reminds me, one of the things I most love about weeding croton is the wonderfully resinous fragrance akin to sages (aka salvias) that wafts up as you pull them out of the ground ... a fragrance that is definitely enhanced by steeping.

Fingers crossed that these lovelies do not induce an allergic reaction this time around.

Oh, one last thing. In the midst of writing this post, I got an email from a former colleague at the Texas State University library indicating that I might want to take a peek at the latest emergency alert with the tag line "only in Texas."

So I did ...





Superlative!

Update: A few hours later ...




13 comments:

Jeannie said...

Nice article about dyes, but the email clip about bull... priceless.

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

this post is a masterpiece. really....
and the first...the boots and pants...oh, eeeeee, i would die, as in wilt and dry up for the Wind...
i am as close to naked as i can be when OutSide....but then in this sandy river valley land, we
don't have those beings that you mention....up on the rocky side, sometimes less than a mile
away, but not right here....although people say there are scorpions, that i just don't see them...
???????
but all the rest your mention of plants i know and then the excellent photographs of your
process
this last addendum....
oh....this is so FINE, Liz

Liz Ackert said...

Welcome! So glad you stopped by and left a comment. Hope you'll come back to check out some of the recipes (we do seem to share that interest in addition to Erma Bombeck)

Liz Ackert said...

Well thanks, but I'm still kicking myself over those worn leather boots I left back in Virginia ...

And yes, the color is looking very promising ... I do like yellow, but I hope there are some leaf imprints, too

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

Bull touring campus...as it should be

Liz Ackert said...

Heh heh ... like I said, "only in Texas"

Dana said...

Oh this is fun! I love being in on your dye trials.

Mo Crow said...

love your artful arrangement of the coneflowers on the white cloth

Liz Ackert said...

Dana and Mo -

Well the good news is that avoiding the copper pot eliminated my allergic reaction. The bad news is that the purple and gold that resulted from the prairie coneflowers quickly faded to gray and brown. So it goes.

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

what to do when dye results disappoint? Over Dye!

so often the results are Disappointing, i.e. not what one was expecting, especially with leaf-imprints, or rather lack there of; first I swallow hard and then decide to over-dye a.s.a.p.

Liz Ackert said...

I'm with you there ... have finally realized that there is no "end" to dyeing. It's just a matter of where and when you choose to stop along the way.

ARTISUN said...

Those are some serious boots woman!! Love them LOL

Liz Ackert said...

Well, we've got some serious critters ... haven't seen a rattlesnake (yet), but we have a confirmed coral snake sighting in our front yard. Sadly, we've also had three dead deer over the course of five years here. Most likely they are hit by cars on the road, then limp into our yard to die. My chore for this morning is to bury a fawn that is in an advanced state of decomposition in the side yard.