Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Fermenting Indigo Leaves in the Snow

The sun is hitting my bedroom window again. This means the calendar has clicked ahead another notch. 52...full deck of cards.

The silence in the blog has not been caused by a lack of activities. There has been a lot going on. Leila and Frank wove their blue and red Christmas blankets and they have gone back to the UK to regular life. I feel sorry for them without having Hiro to cook for them every day.

The warp was dyed with madder and the weft with indigo. A regular herringbone. I ordered the wool from Nancy Zeller in New Hampshire. 10% silk blend gives it a slight lustre. We warped four blankets. I just finished up the third blanket. I used madder with a slightly higher pH for a slight contrast in the weft.

The third blanket is on the back of the chair. Geiger is celebrating today. (Remember he is a Fukushima refugee who spent 14 months abandoned and wandering around near the nuclear accident before he was rescued and brought to live here. ) He has had a few rough months. He had a cancerous tumour removed a few months back. Then on Christmas Eve he became really sick again. The vet discovered a huge tumour on his spleen. It took a few weeks of IV drips and love to get him healthy enough for the operation to remove his spleen. We found out on Monday that the tumour wasn't cancerous. Geiger is such a lovely dog the vet shed a few tears of happiness when he told me the good test results. 

Momo was upset and wouldn't eat while he was in the hospital. Hiro had to hand-feed her. They are happily together again, sleeping by the kerosene stove with their paws tangled up. 

Madder dyed wool/silk blanket fresh off the loom.

Yesterday it was minus 7 in the morning and cold enough to start fermenting last year's indigo leaves into indigo compost. The process takes three months in this cold. We knocked together a new wooden fermentation box and gathered some oak leaves in the crisp morning to line the box with. This keeps an even temperature in the box and the right amount of moisture. Mt Fuji was in the background keeping us company.

Henri's friend, Illka (Happy Birthday today Illka!) is here for two months from Finland to help and study. 

The leaves have been stored hanging from the rafters under the roof in net bags to keep them crisp. I harvested twice last summer. The indigo needs to be wet with stream/rain water before being stuffed into rice straw woven bags. The net bags made this easy. We just climbed over the snow and dunked them in the pond. There were fourteen of us suffering the bitter cold in good cheer to get the process done and back into the warmth of the house and some of Ogata san's (and friends) food. 

On top of the wet indigo leaves stuffed in the straw bags we placed another layer of oak leaves and then some straw and placed on some heavy old millstones as weights to keep the oxygen out so the leaves can compost and not rot.
By April first the indigo paste will be ready to use to ferment again in the vats and can be used to dye.

I figure we have about 15kg of indigo balls in the making. I have to think of something very precious to dye with the indigo that was so time consuming to make.

This is the indigo field last summer. The leaf quality was excellent because of a ton of good fertilizer and some good rain and then hot sun just before the harvests.  The indigo will be excellent this year. 

Our man Yumbo dressed in indigo gave me a helping hand with the harvest.