Drying the harvest

I choose wine by the quality (together with the price), but when the bottle comes in an organza bag, that’s an added bonus. I now have a sizeable collection and there’s always at least one hanging on the washing line at any time of the year. In summer there can be baga good half-dozen.

Leaves are generally tied in a bundle to hang off the laundry door for a week or so, but when flowers are plucked one or a small handful at a time, they go into the wine bags (gift bags, not goon bags) on the back wire of the clothes line where they get shade 24/7. This also goes for tagetes heads which would otherwise shed hundreds of seeds over the floor.

I originally spread some wire fencing over the “rafters” in the shed, placed flyscreen wire on top and spread dahlia flowers over that to dry. Now I find that if there are not too many in one golemon myrtle, they too can go into a wine bag. This is only practical in summer, where they can dry within a day; in winter the tree dahlia heads go mouldy when piled into a bag.

And avocado pits? When a colleague donates them on a daily basis, they stay on my desk shelf at work and dry well without going mouldy. Easy! At home they get put into a bag along with the skins – after going over both with a nail brush to get rid of any remaining flesh.

On the right: half-a-year’s harvest of lemon myrtle from the 50cm-high specimen in a pot. I remember buying 100g of these about 18 years ago when they were $50/kg! Although they’re not native to SA, they’re really easy to grow both in pot and in open ground.

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Walnut leaves

Juglans regia, feuilles de noyer, Walnussblätter, hojas de nogal, duilleoga gallchnó

It’s the time of year when I remind myself that if I don’t go and pick some green walnuts soon, they’ll be too hard to cut for nocino. Only last week we found two more “wild” trees while out walking doggie and another one on the way bacwalnutk from harvesting, so now that makes seven. Sounds like the making of a poem or song.

I also gathered enough leaves to experiment with dyeing. The results were interesting, even though at first I confused my mordanted with unmordanted samples. The unmordanted yarn was clearly “marked”, but produced slightly lighter shades. Ethel Mairet wrote that mordanted yarns produce a “brighter and richer colour”. I’ll definitely try again, and also with dried leaves.

From the top: unmordanted, mordanted, unmordanted + alkaline modifier, mordanted + alkaline modifier, unmordanted + acid modifier, mordanted + acid modifier.

The alkalinewalnuts2 (bicarb) brought out more brown, whereas the acid (vinegar) brought out a redder tone.

When the leaves were simmering, they smelled surprisingly like rhubarb leaves and did not take long to yield their colour into the water.

And the nuts? They’re already turning the vodka dark and bitter. After steeping for a month or so, the liquor will be strained and bottled and ready to drink this time next year. Well worth the wait!

Mixed bag

Foeiniculum vulgare et Verbascum thapsus, fennel and mullein, fenouil et molène, Fenchel und Pyramiden-Königskerze, hinojo y  gordolobo, finéal is coinnle Muire

Fennel is quite a weed in the Adelaide Hills, and every day on my way home I’ve eyed a large patch from the train window. Unfortunately it’s along the stretch of the line where mobile reception is bad, so I can never get an exact fix on its location. Still, there wamullein2s a smaller bunch growing near my local station, so a-harvesting I went.

The result was not good at all – maybe because I’d included stem instead of more leaves and flowers? I can try again next week. Rather than waste the yarn, I decided to overdye with mullein.

mulleinThe mordanted yarns came up more yellow, or rather a more intense (albeit slight) shade of the same mustardy-yellow. I wonder if the texture of the yarn had anything to do with refraction (the yarn is now at the end of the ball and is a lot more open, like singles rather than plied).

I first came across the German name for mullein in one of Horst Bienek’s novels; a boy collects the flowers and sells them to the local chemist. Interestingly, the name translates into English as King’s candle, whereas the Irish name is Mary’s candle. Other English names are Aaron’s rod and Adam’s rod… not to mention Cowboy’s toilet paper.