Friday, 15 May 2015

The Cro-Magnon Silkworm Invaders

Silk farming for all these years, you get used to normal caterpillar behaviour.

Something is weird with this current batch of silkworms. The eggs were in my walk-in closet and when I stepped in a few weeks back there were thousands of little black silkworms looking for mulberry amongst old watches, unused foreign currency, expired passports and some gift sake cups I'd forgotten to get in the mail.

I brushed them with a feather onto some white paper to keep an eye on them until I found some mulberry leaves. They all looked uniformly hungry and pleased to be off the shelf.

I had bred a dozen or so moths for this spring (2015) last summer before I left for New York. While I was away last summer Hiro found some silk moths walking around on some paper and laying eggs.

He was proud of his rescue mission and I put those eggs in with the ones I had carefully chosen from good cocoons and chrysalis and moths and bred under fairly perfect sterilised conditions.

The silkworms this time around are not all behaving as they should. I noticed a few kuwako, the wild silkworms that occasionally come in on the mulberry from the field.

Then I noticed a few more. They walk around and stand on their simpler brothers and sister's heads and behave in other cheeky ways.  Climbing up the walls and running across leaves.

Something the gentrified amongst them just throw shade at.

Now I can see a good portion of my silkworms this year are these slinky Cro-Magnon types.

I am guessing that a wild stealthy silkworm moth flew into the house through an open window last summer (The moths can fly, unlike their snooty homebody Bombyx Mori distant kinmoth.) and had a good hearty romp with a welcoming trophy moth.

I imagine a black-backed-wagtail swooping down and making dinner out of him as he was 'kiss-and-telling' to his buddies flitting around the light bulb.

Insect karma.

I wrote this related blog five years ago:

Silkworms have been bred for docility as well as the quality of the silk over thousands of years. The modern hybrids won't walk more than a few centimetres to find food. If the mulberry isn't directly overhead or right beside them they would starve before going foraging for themselves. It would be just to much trouble to raise a lot of wander lusting silkworms hiding in all corners of the house. They have to stay in place. Like foot-binding the ancient Chinese were very good with limiting mobility for convenience sake. The urge to walk was simply bred out.

There is still a variety of wild silkworm closely related to his/her contemporary cousins. They are called kuwako locally. They seem Cro-Magnon like. Stockier with a large brow. Slightly hairier.

Almost always found solitary, disinterestedly nibbling on leaf..... they seem to have been cast out from all the games the other reindeer play.

You can find them occasionally on the back of mulberry leaves brought home to feed their domesticated relatives . I've tried to keep the wild ones from straying, tempting them with the freshest choice mulberry I can find. Alas, they are a free spirited variety and need to roam. So they end up on the mulberryless ceiling or squashed on the floor. I found this sexy pre-historic one on the leaves last night and is now relocated to the dozens of saplings in front of the house. I hope it hangs around long enough to make a cocoon.

You can find their thin beige-coloured cocoons in the dead of winter clinging to the bare branches of the sleeping mulberry.  A small hole on the top of the cocoon to show that no one is home and the occupant flew off as a moth months before.

Just for reference here is a photo of his modern cousins.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Silkworms in the House for almost 20 Years

I moved in to this small mountain village over twenty years ago. There was unused dusty silk farming equipment in the rafters of this old house. I had no idea what the stuff was used for.

Actually I had no idea really what I was doing moving into an (then decrepit) old farmhouse in a place I knew no one and barley spoke the language. It seemed like an fun thing to do. The place was beautiful and the energy was good. If I had known how life was going to unfold would I have moved in here?

Twenty one springs later. I know every corner of the mountain and know the nuances of the changing seasons. I rescued a frog being eaten by a snake this afternoon. Gave the snake a little boot and the frog popped out of it's mouth and jumped in the pond and swam The snake slithered away and will probably have another frog for dinner. I just got in the bath and looked at the iris next to the pond and smiled.

Time flies.  There is barely enough mulberry right now as the eggs hatched a few weeks early and I'm up early to pick the freshest of the freshest in the silver morning light.

I found these old slides and scanned them onto my iPhoto. Trip down silkworm memory lane.

Now this is an old picture....the kitchen three incarnations ago. Two Scandinavian girls came to see how silk was reeled. I was surprised that anyone was actually interested in the whole thing. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Beautiful Faces. Spring Workshops.

Dear Heather,

Thank you for the wonderful picture. You all look so happy to be leaving. Is it because you can finally get away from me? ( I felt a bit like a textile nutcase this time around...)

It was a lovely ten days. We lucked out on the weather. We lucked out on a lot of laughter that was floating around in the universe looking for a dozen faces to manifest in. We lucked out on Hiro being in a cooking frenzy. Momo and The Geiger lucked out on the early risers who loved to walk them.

Best to you all,
Hugs from Hiro and Bryan,

Hannah, Susan, Frank, Leila, Annie,
Carol (no e) , Shirleybird, Lorraine, Cheryl and Heather. (pictured below.)

I will put together a collection of all the spring workshop photos in June. I am looking forward to one more workshop this spring. So far I've been blessed with wonderful people this year.

Best on your future back strap weaving Hannah.

The wedding went the power invested in me by the tennis court I pronounce the deed done....
Best on your lives together Shunji and Sophie.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Silkworms Hatched

I forgot to put the silkworm eggs I bred last August in the refrigerator. I left them in my closet and when I walked in yesterday I found three thousand baby silkworms on a shelf looking for food.

The mulberry is barely leafing and it is a bit cool to start silk farming, especially with guests at the house. But they hatched and I will look after them. Busy days ahead.

The indigo is already growing and there is a wonderful nest near the front door.

Beautiful days.