Monday, 16 August 2010

something in the air

the making of nine dresses in a hurry
[so much for working 'slow', sometimes you have to make do with
'mindful' and 'beavering' instead]
means collecting a lot of windfalls
and by extension
taking lots of walks

here are some of the plants that grow on our farm

this acacia is very pretty [similar to the Flinders Ranges Wattle, Acacia iteaphylla but not quite the same]
and makes a lovely print
i don't use it. why? because it smells like cockroaches when it's cooked
and leaves a permanent scent in the cloth

this plant, Callitris sp or Native Pine provides delightful seed heads that are useful in shibori work
and the timber has the most wonderful spicy aroma
you'd think the Three Kings were on the doorstep with a lovely selection of goodies
a few twigs from this plant placed on a fire creates the kind of smoke
that conjures enchantments and cures dragonbites

and finally, the Lemon-scented Gum. when i was a wee one it was called
Eucalyptus citriodora but the boffins have decided it should be called
Corymbia citriodora instead.

[note to boffins - refer to what Mr Shakespeare had to say about the naming of plants]

this tree offers an abundance to the dyer. leaves [fresh or dry, green or brown], bark and flower buds [and caps] all yield beautiful colour. it responds to metals [try iron or copper or zinc-plated scraps] and to different waters [try soaking your cloth in the sea before dyeing]

a pot of these lovely lemon-scented leaves simmering on the kitchen stove will spread fragrance throughout your house
and the dye cloth will retain the scent for years

when simmered in a still-shiny Milo tin in rainwater collected here on the farm
the leaves will produce a gentle purple on wool
[expect black once the Milo tin becomes too distressed]

what's Milo, i hear you cry?  it used to be a very delicious grainy chocolate/malt flavouring that could be added to milk. in the old days it would float on top and could be scooped from the glass with a teaspoon of cold cold milk, the perfect 3am snack when pulling an all-nighter as a student].
these days it's soluble. i suspect there may be detergent in it. but i still like the tins....


  1. Mmmm...lemon scented gum leaves. The most wonderful uplifting aroma, especially just after rain. I could do with some right now. And yes, good old still doesn't dissolve very well, my girls love a 'crunchy milo'...and, truth to be told, I still do too!

  2. i was grumbling that these days it dissolves TOO well
    i liked it best when it was big and lumpy!

  3. mindfully beavering? - i think you may be onto something there, and i've never cooked cockroaches, what do they smell/taste like ;> ??
    I have a callitris (from Tas) that i planted here in Bathurst, i must remember them next time one of my dragons bites, i have quite a few these days incl one that guards my blog. Good to know how variable E. citriodora is, i picked up a windfall branch just yesterday.
    I'm going off to wrap a few gum trees in the next couple of days after reading that article in HandEye, what a hoot. let the bark witches do all the work...k.

  4. Ah yes, Milo - should have bought a tin at Christmas when I was back in Australia, to go along with the Vita Weats and the proper Australian dried apricots.

    BTW - don't be too hard on the 'boffins', or at least not the taxonomists. It's important to have accurate names for living species that reflect in a systematic way their relationships with everything else. Many of the name changes today are the result of genetic research at a cellular level, only possible in the last +/- 15 years. Interestingly, in some well studied groups, where there have already been several previous name changes, the original relationships (and therefore names) have proved to be correct. Those 19thC clergymen had well honed skills of observation and intuition.

    And where a name change for a really big group is proposed, potentially costing herbariums and publishers thousands to re-label and in out-dated publications, it is possible to put a successful case for bending the rules, such as happened with Acacia.

  5. i look at your flora and i see marvels, here, in the rich northeastern forest all seems the same and dull...until i alter my point of view a smidge and it's wildly exotic. fact-i have tried only a few. and leaf season will soon be here.

  6. Do cockroaches smell?? Ew! Admiring the Callitris.

  7. that was the best part about milo - like the wagon wheel, they are now only memories and the real item

    is more a shade of its former self.

    I remember the native pines when growing up..gorgeous smell.

  8. Those Callitris see pods are amazing; such exotic flora you have on the other side of the world!

  9. well, you know what they say
    the grass is always more exotic
    on the other side of the border

  10. The boffins might be walking slow...their new name isn't appearing much over here...yet. And you know, I don't think there is a single euc on our entire, tiny island with the exception of the two I have in pots in the greenhouse (will be an experiment in overwintering). There are a few "hardy" eucs on the planet and I aim to make friends with them, over time. Someone far away says time is your friend :>]]

    I wonder if Milo is like something we have called Ovaltine? Chugged the stuff in former dayz.

    Like Kaite, I have my eye on a couple of tree trunks to wrap - another overwintering project (dry as a bone around here at the moment). Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and red alder (Alnus rubru) are abundant, the fir supposedly high in tannin. If the alder turns the cloth red-ish, I will be mightily pleased. That was such a fascinating article! There will be no disguising my current directional focus once my pals see my trees adorned in cloth skirts.

  11. milo and ovaltine quite similar
    the latter comes in a plastic thingy these days
    USELESS for our purposes!