Friday, June 02, 2006

do I hear thunder?

Long time no post. Life happens.

Tansy: a perennial aromatic herbacious plant with yellow umbel flowers; a dye plant yeilding greenish yellows combined with copper; a stimulant, a catalyst; warning Will Robinson.

We have a flower bed that is in dire need of something besides Tansy. I planted it there a few years ago because it was one thing that does well here. But I should know that anything that does well here does too well to the exclusion of all its neighbors. The tansy took over. All I needed was an excuse to dig it up and throw it in the dyepot.

So when I recently found myself beside an enormous pile of composted horse manure with a shovel, a tarp and a pickup truck, all I could think of was the tansy bed. I was going to dig that succer up and really make something good out of it. Little did I know I would awaken the jones.

As I started snipping the tansy a devil of a natural dyeing jones stirred from its rip van winkle, peeling back one murky eye. Slowly the beast arose. I chopped the tansy into a copper pot. All seemed right with the world. But meanwhile and inner eye began scanning the garden for other potential dyestuffs. I added water to the tansy pot, suddenly remembering the ripening mahonia berries in the University quad.

A woman on a mission wastes no time. Students and faculty will return in a couple days, but now the quad was a ghost town. If I went now I could deface public property undeterred. Cottage cheese container in hand, bucket in car for surreptitious emptyings, I strolled non chalantly into the quad (non chalantly like ^*&^...furtive was more like it) and started stripping berries. I wandered behind the Bishops mine. A full bucket later I returned home, itching, sweating, mildly poisoned and happy.

I set up my electric hotplate outside. I put the pots on the eyes...such a lovely sight. I try to imagine the colors that will emerge from the slowly simmered fruits and leaves. The dyebaths are beginning to move, a whiff of steam skittering over the surface, a stray bubble...then a rumble. The blazing sun dims. Another rumble...far away but formidable. and another and another. Unplug, bring everything in. Torrents streaming down the windowpanes. Dangit.

The next day the same thing. Bubbles appear in pots, distant rumbles begin. Have I discovered the ultimate raindance? Unplug, bring in, more torrents. Natural dyes like to sit and sit...a good thing.

Not to be undone, I started earlier the next day and just got it simmered to perfection when the booming began. The tansy gave a soft golden green with an elvish shimmer. The mahonia berries? Amethyst...pure radiant amethyst.

Hmmm...Queen Anne's Lace is coming on, mulberries aroung the corner, more mahonia. I wonder if mowed grass gives color. After all, it stains.