Monday, November 23, 2015

Starring milkweed

From one harvest to another! Here are Charity, Kyle, and Radha as they turn bundles upside down to retie to prevent mold. This was when there was a manageable amount of stripped kozo. Now the back of the studio looks like a kozo explosion and we just gave up on hanging things to dry. We haven't even finished stripping everything.
After a very long day of programming (kids, then open studio), Tony took me out for Korean food. This was what we were supposed to do late in August when I got hit by another car instead. Hoping to reset bad memories by making new, better ones.
Friday was devoted to prepping for my weekend milkweed class, which was a great success. I spent a while trying to figure out the studio setup because it was all conjecture as to how much fiber my students would actually prep. In a panic, I trimmed, steamed, and stripped some green stalks and soaked them in water and soda ash to have something to show in a later stage when students arrived the next morning. Here are Pam, Jacinta, and Linda as they dry strip milkweed bast. I think there were about five full buckets of these stalks standing when we started, and then at least three huge bundles laying on tables. There were still a bunch when we finished, but they processed a lot more than it seemed (two pots). We did trim and finish stripping all the green bast, though, and ended up with three pots of that.
Melanie, Jane, and Kyle are at the pod station where they open pods to access seeds and silks, and then carefully pull the seeds off of the silks to make beautiful coma paper (one pot). The fluff goes from white to yellow as soon as soda ash is added. They also hand beat some green bast, and I cooked a big pot of burst pods and messiness (aka pods I'd rather not deal with) to experiment. I usually don't use the pod husks themselves because they don't provide great fiber, but it was an excellent way to get a totally different pulp with less work, dark brown with lots of black seed bits. I deleted one step of classes that I always cover, which is introductions/class expectations, but it was out of worry that we had so little time—I wanted students to work, not sit and talk with idle hands. I figured they'd get to know each other as they sat and worked and talked.
I stayed an extra couple of hours to cook our bounty at the end of the first day, and came early on Sunday to rinse batches and start picking before we beat and beat and beat. THANK GOODNESS the Valley is back in commission! That made life a lot easier. We ended up with so much more pulp than imagined, with plenty left for people to take home and experiment with. It was a cold weekend, with our first snow of the season, but I was impressed by how well everyone braved the chill to get tons of paper made. It was such a good group: no stragglers or whiners; everyone worked hard. Pam shared ginger candy in the morning and Jane cooked a pot of black bean lentil soup with garnishes for everyone that we enjoyed on Sunday for lunch with baguettes from Linda and za'atar bread and date cookies from Melanie. It's unusual to have a group like this, and a joy amidst the physical strain of trying to squeeze so much into a brief weekend.
Melanie's post is on the left and Pam's on the right (the Morgan has started to sell pellons to people who want their own, finally!). There were six different vats going, all varied parts of the plant harvested at different stages of the plant's life cycle, and we had so much that we didn't need any of the buffer fibers that were on hand just in case. I can't wait to see them all emerge from the drybox! I also can't wait to get some of my own papermaking done this week now that my official teaching for the year is done. Hoping to do iris, dock, milkweed, and Amsonia this week (dogbane I'll save for later), and thankful for this year's harvests.

1 comment:

Velma Bolyard said...

now THIS is thanksgiving!