Bubbling cauldrons is the theme for the week — not because of Halloween, but because we have a holiday studio sale coming up November 16. Those cauldrons are filled with natural materials I’m brewing so I can dye yarn for the sale.
This is mullein leaf chopped up and soaking, ready to simmer. I’m trying an experiment with a second batch: I chopped the leaves, added water, and set it outside to freeze and thaw a few times. I’m hoping that yields a greater color extraction. We’ll see.
I’m trying the freeze-thaw method with willow leaves, as well. My friend Jo Campbell-Amsler stopped here with a big bag of them on her way home from teaching the Willow Harvest Retreat at Sievers. The island’s fall temperatures are moderated by Lake Michigan, so the class needed to strip leaves had not yet dropped from the willow. I have a good supply of fresh-frozen willow leaves in the freezer already. With this bonus pile of leaves, I’ll be able to do some experimenting.
There’s something to keep in mind before transporting fresh materials like this: Invasive species and diseases can be accidentally dispersed to new areas this way. Talk about toil and trouble. Even the transport of hardwood firewood is restricted in our region. We have grave concerns about the emerald ash borer, gypsy moths and other pests. I certainly don’t want to introduce problems into my patch, or to help them spread. These are things you have to think about.
What elevates this bag of willow leaves into the “trusted ” category? The patch at Sievers, which is about 100 miles from me as the crow flies, is one I know well. I saw it myself just a couple of weeks ago, and saw no signs of problems. And if there were concerns, I know Jo would have taken immediate action to contain a problem. Most of what I know about willow cultivation, I learned from Jo. She’s a thoughtful, careful, knowledgeable steward of resources. And the kind of friend who will bring you a big bag of leaves — or tell you why she didn’t.
Either way, that’s a great gift.