Monthly Archives: September 2014

I Spy: Winding Brook Estate, A Lavender Farm

Baby with Lavender Goodies from Winding Brook Estate

Baby with Lavender Goodies from Winding Brook Estate

Winding Brook Estate is a 17 acre lavender farm in our area. They have thousands of lavender plants and make all the products from their own lavender. The products at the…

Lavender Shoppe...

Lavender Shoppe…

…are beautiful and all handmade. You can really feel the passion the owners have for growing and using lavender. Lavender chocolates, lavender teas, lavender wreaths; so many beautiful things!

The shop (shoppe!) is in a century-old farmhouse.

The shop (shoppe!) is in a century-old farmhouse.

The porch outside the shop.

The porch outside the shop.

You can see the lavender fields in the background of the above photo. The farm lost hundreds of plants this past winter, where we experienced weeks at a time of well-below freezing temperatures.

Beyond the porch. Love the rich purple umbrellas!

Beyond the porch. Love the rich purple umbrellas!

Survivors!

Survivors!

They hold events like luncheons, teas and happy hours. The menu on this bulletin board for the "Fall Tea" looked phenomenal.

They hold events like luncheons, teas and happy hours. The menu on this bulletin board for the “Fall Tea” looked phenomenal.

Lavender Tin Roof!

Lavender Tin Roof!

Click here for a list of fall events at the Lavender Farm.

The entrance of Winding Brook Estates

The entrance of Winding Brook Estate

If you don’t live in the St. Louis area, you can still support this wonderful business via their online shop! I was so inspired by all the lavender, I knew it was high time I harvest the lavender of Spy Garden! We have five “Provence” plants and one “Fringed Variegated.”

from left: Provence Lavender, Fringed Variegated Lavender

from left: Provence Lavender, Fringed Variegated Lavender

A close-up of the foliage of the "fringed-variegated"

A close-up of the foliage of the “fringed-variegated”

Baby's Painting Today, Inspired by Lavender!

Baby’s Painting today, inspired by lavender!

Our small, but fragrant, harvest

Our small, but fragrant, harvest

Enjoying our lavender goodies back at home (pictured with Spy Garden lavender;)…

Lavender Tincture

Lavender Tincture

Lavender Elephant!

Lavender Elephant!

The elephant has a removable pouch filled with lavender (pictured above) that can be warmed in the microwave. It smells divine! So far as I can tell the stuffed animals and sachets are all hand-made as well. I am certainly inspired by this lavender farm and think I will be digging up our lavender plants to rest safely in our Winter Cellar Garden of Dormancy (WCGD if you prefer;) in case of another frigid winter. And in the spring we will definitely visiting the lavender farm again, as they sell several varieties of potted lavender plants at that time.

How to Make Black Walnut Ink

I’ve always wanted to make ink from black walnuts. I got the idea from Xplor magazine, which is a free publication issued by Missouri Conservationist. It’s a magazine about outdoor pursuits in Missouri, for kids. If you live in Missouri go here to request it. The instructions were pretty simple:

Gather a dozen walnuts. Unless you want stained skin, put on rubber gloves. Remove the nuts from their husks. Place the husks in a pot, cover them with water, and simmer on the stove for several hours. The longer you simmer, the darker the ink will be. Pour the ink through an old t-shirt into a quart jar. Add a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to preserve the ink, and it’s ready to use. (source)

We often complete step one. We have lots of black walnut trees near our house…

Here's one

Here’s one

…and often collect them for fun/for fall decor.

Black Walnuts in Husks

Black Walnuts in Husks

Once I thought to make the ink for a little after-school rainy day activity. I googled the instructions to double check a few things. Can you boil them whole? How long do they need to boil? I found A LOT of information. Information that quickly made me second guess the ink-making.

In my research five minutes of googling I also found out that black walnut ink isn’t black. It’s brown. This was a big disappointment. I mean, brown is ok in nature. Wood’s great. But brown as a color? Just not my favorite.

You need that jet black for contrast. (Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm)

You need that jet black for contrast. (Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm)

Because sepia can just be so wrong.

Sepia can just be so wrong.

I had envisioned the striking contrast of deep black ink strokes (by the Spy and Baby) on some thick watercolor paper. Pollock for kids; a perfect lesson. Knowing those strokes would be (an unknown shade) of brown really took the wind out of my sails.

But I don’t want to discourage anyone from making ink: from walnuts or any other source. I love the idea of “the old way” of doing things. I use the phrase “in the old days” quite often.

However, I rarely commit to the labor intensive process of ye olde crafts. Usually imagining days of ole’ is enough for me. For the most part we stick to bottled paints and pens from a box. So I’ve decided I’m just going to write about making the ink. I’m feeling quite satisfied in this decision and I think the various fabrics around my house will benefit immensely.

It was an easy decision, made quickly after invoking one simple vision: Baby, with a jar of ink.

Jarfuls of ink aren’t the best thing to keep on hand for art-time with a three year old. Or even an eight year old. Or even myself. In my creative quests I am quite impatient. I get lost in the process and make a mess effectively without the aid of liquid ink. Photography is a good for me. Lots of room for error. Hundreds of blurry pictures aren’t hurting anyone. Handling hot, incredibly permanent pots and jars of ink may not be the best match for my creative talents.

Heavily pigmented acrylic paints do stain. But they’re thick. They can only travel so far.

But liquid ink?

So I’ve decided against the ink making. But I’m still providing the best of the best of what I found so that you can stain your fabrics and ruin your kitchen make ink from black walnuts. Please do tell me how it goes.

You can follow the simple instructions at the beginning of this post. Or tackle the craft via these much more specific (and humorous) instructions that follow. All of the indented italicized blocks below are from various sites I found (one of which was fountainpennetwork.com)…

DSC_1877 (700x519)

Step 1:  Collecting the Nuts

I grabbed my coat and a rucksack and headed for the woods to try to find some walnuts the squirrels had overlooked. (source)

If you’re going to commit to walnut ink making, you ought to have a rucksack. I do not have a rucksack. Another tally under the reasons why I should hold off on the ink making.

I simply put them into my large canning pot and covered them with our well water. I homeschool, so I couldn’t do anything more with them that day. They soaked for about 24 hours before I could get back to them again. (source)

Walnut ink making apparently can’t be part of the homeschooling curriculum. So make sure you’re doing it on your free time (if you do homeschool..and if you’re going to make walnut ink you probably should). Tap water is out. You need well water. Preferably from a well you dug yourself.

I wore rubber gloves while I de-husked the black walnuts… Dehusking was hard on the gloves and they kept tearing on me… which is why I still ended up with stained fingers! (Yes, this stuff will stain countertops and everything else it touches, including the pots, strainers and other equipment that you need to process it with, so just be forewarned if you plan to try this. It’s best to set aside equipment just for this purpose.) (source)

“It’s best” to designate pots and supplies (and by “supplies” I mean, an entire kitchen) for the sole purpose of ink making. If you’re making that much of commitment to ink-making you’re going to want to have a lot of ink-using activities planned. So you can pretty much kiss blogging goodbye. Or write all your blog posts with the ink and then just photograph or scan the pages and post those.

I actually took the time to pick out the worms. I’m vegetarian and couldn’t stand the thought of bugs in my ink… it would’ve been a lot simpler just to boil the husks whole, but I knew a lot of worms would’ve been inside them and that would’ve bothered me to kill them. (source)

If you truly want to connect to the essence of the ink, you need to rescue the husk maggots. Black walnuts support these nonviolent creatures. If you fail to support these writhing gems, the ink’s harmony will be all thrown out of whack. Be one with the walnuts.

OOOoooooommmmmmm

OOOoooooommmmmmm

Step 2: Soak the Walnut Husks/Separate the Husks from the Nuts

The easiest way to obtain the husk material is to strew the nuts in your driveway and drive over them a few times. The shells are so hard, the weight of the car won’t smash them.

Let me reiterate: Drive over them A FEW times.

Several years ago we lived in a different house that had a huge black walnut tree. I wanted to get the meat out of them and eat the walnuts. I collected a big bucket full of the nuts. And forgot about it. So the nuts in the bucket became covered with rainwater. Which became a black stew that smelled like the fresh rot of a wet forest. Then someone told me about the “just run them over” tip. So I dumped the black liquid with the nuts onto our driveway. Then forgot about them. So we drove over them. Again and again. And again. For several months. Until all the nuts were mashed up and black stains covered our driveway in a gruesome (and quite unappetizing) mess. I don’t believe the stains ever came out. In remembering my success at these stains I realize, I’ve already made ink from black walnuts once before. Using rainwater. Which I believe trumps well water.

Step 3: The Cooking

After they are black, put them in a large pot for which you don’t have any great affection. (source)

This is a problem. I only have five pots. And while I don’t necessarily feel “affectionate” towards these stainless steel staples of my kitchen, I do use them quite often.

(Another warning: The walnuts, water, and ink all have a high capacity for staining anything they come into contact with. This includes kitchen counters, fingernails, dishes, wooden spoons, and your clothing.) (source)

I think we’ve established that.

I refer to the walnuts in disgusting terms, and they are pretty gross. They get slimy and moldy, and you’ll probably find all kinds of strange little bugs living in them. Don’t worry. It all cooks down to the same brown sludge. Except for those little pale brown beetle larvae. They stayed shiny and intact even after hours and hours of boiling. If the ick factor is too high, just remember that you must suffer for your art. So must those with whom you share your kitchen. (source)

I would argue that I’ve actually never suffered much in my artistic endeavors. I find painting or sculpting to be quite pleasant pursuits. My “sculpting” in the dirt has resulted in the occasional callus on my palm.

But this is not the hand of anguish.

But this is not the hand of anguish.

I’ve felt the sorrow in accidentally slicing a worm in half with my spade. Really, I do. But suffer? I just don’t know if I agree that we must suffer for art. I do think this particular ink-maker is being a silly nut. At least I think he’s joking.

Step 3: Preservatives

When it was finished, I added 8% alcohol by volume for a preservative (80-proof vodka, to be exact). In later batches, I went with 10% alcohol and 100-proof vodka, which is easier to figure out mathmatically. (For a 10% concentration of alcohol with 100-proof vodka, take the number of ounces of ink you have and divide it by 4 to obtain the amount of alcohol to add. Ex. If you have 32 ounces of ink, divide that by 4 = 8 ounces of alcohol to add). My cooked-down black walnut batches have never molded over, and some of them are 2 years old now.  (source)

Ink making tip #759: Vodka makes you better at math.

Step 4: Using the Ink

This ink is meant for dip-pen use only, and not for fountain pens. It would likely ruin a fountain pen. It is especially well-suited to glass dip pens. I recommend gold-plated metal nibs to resist corrosion by the acidic ink.

Step 5: Regret

What’s not to like? Two things:

1. The ink has no lubricity. Zilch. It feels like you are writing with plain water. The nib just drags along.

2. The ink reacts with iron. This wears out a steel dip pen nib much faster than other inks. After writing about 20 pages, a regular pointed nib has sharp edges and needs to be touched up on a stone. (source)

So your kitchen is ruined, your hands are stained and crippled from hand-writing 20 (20?!) pages of goodness knows what (probably instructions of how to make ink). You’ve got an entire colony of husk maggots to support and a rucksack to wash. You’ve gained a gallon of distastefully brown ink that’s unpleasant to write with and will ruin your gold-plated nibs and your kitchen smells like vodka.

What’s not to like?

HAHAHAHAHAHhahahjajaha

Pumpkins and Reruns

Pumpkin Harvest!

Pumpkin Harvest!

Most of the pumpkins we grew this year are pictured above. The big light orange ones are called Atlantic Giant. I will definitely grow those again and try to get an even bigger one. The Atlantic Giant variety holds the world-record for largest pumpkin. Check out this link to see a TWO THOUSAND pound Atlantic Giant! Challenge accepted! hahaha The deeper orange pumpkins are a French variety called Rouge Vif d’Etampes. They did really well and set a lot of pumpkins on the vine so I will also seriously consider growing those again. I’ll pass on the Jarrahdales (the little grey ones) as they didn’t do too great. I’ll try a different blue variety next year.

Blackberries mmm!

Blackberries mmm!

Perfect fall butterfly!

Perfect fall butterfly!

A huge marigold-sized bumblebee

A huge marigold-sized bumblebee

Baby, as seen in her school newsletter

Baby, as seen in her school newsletter

Baby in the school newsletter, baking bread

Baby in the school newsletter, baking bread

Excerpt from the newsletter…

Every Thursday is Bread Day…During Bread Day, the children of the Nursery Collaborative work to count their ingredients, count their scoops, fill measuring cups to the brim, and use safe food handling practices. From chocolate bread to apple cinnamon bread, they’ve made it all. Thanks for the delicious snacks!

The kids at her school name their class each year. Baby’s classroom named themselves the “Cantaloupe Camels” hahaha Squirrely Garden is the name the kids chose for the school garden. They have “Ninja Rock” on the playground and name different areas of the school and woods. I think kids make up the best names. Which is why I had my son name this site “Spy Garden”!

I love yellow marigolds. Will be sure to save lots of these seeds (the flowers themselves are big clusters of seeds)

I love yellow marigolds. Will be sure to save lots of these seeds (the flowers themselves are big clusters of seeds)

Baby watching one of the Spy's baseball games.

Baby watching one of the Spy’s baseball games. The Spy plays first base and Smoochie (next to him) is a coach.

We prefer a blanket on the grassy hill to the bleachers.

We prefer a blanket on the grassy hill to the bleachers.

I love a good rerun. I can watch Seinfeld any time. I eat a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast pretty much every single day. I bake bread at least once a week. These things aren’t boring. Quite the opposite; they can be enjoyed over and over and over.
Our perspective is always changing (like the leaves! Sorry, terribly obvious analogy!)…I digress. But I do love fall. And fall (and other seasons) are sort of reruns in and of themselves. Our perspective is always changing, so really, we’re always looking at the same “old” things with fresh eyes. At least I try to do that. Which is why I enjoy reruns. Appreciate the same pieces of art I’ve enjoyed for years, repeat recipes, why my kids get multiple years use out of homemade Halloween costumes, etc., etc.
I’m grateful for the yearly rerun of autumn. I feel most inspired at this time of year and have been kicking around the idea of a new writing challenge. Around this time last year I wrote 100 essays in 100 days. 100 essays in 100 days seems a little extreme right now as I am gainfully employed as a nurse and value my beauty rest. So I thought I would sift through my favorites of the essays and spend a bit of time editing them. Refining them and taking out all the references to “I’m writing 100 essays in 100 days” and the fact that they were written for a blog. So that they can stand alone; as just essays. I think the best reruns do that. You don’t need to have seen the previous Seinfeld show to enjoy the one that follows. A good rerun can be enjoyed for a second, a third, a hundred times. Probably you don’t want to read my essays a hundred times. But maybe twice? Especially with my fancy new edits? If you’re new to Spy Garden, they’ll just seem like new posts so you won’t even know the difference. So I’m not going to advertise them as reruns. I’m just going to repost them. Exciting, I know. hahahhaha
So the pictures in this post are not reruns, but from the last week or so in and around Spy Garden. Because I’ve been too busy with my free time watching reruns to post anything. We’ve discovered Homeland and have already plowed through the first and most of the second season; it’s great show. It’s about spies…CIA spies. Obviously I can relate; having a secret identity and all. Hahahahahjaha
Happy Sunday friends, have a great week!