Waking up this morning, I felt as if I had been pounded all over by a baseball bat. I was aware of most every muscle, including those in my fingers and feet. George’s elbows were trashed. The aches and stiffness were brought on by age and our previous day’s activity–splitting our winter wood supply. As we hobbled about today, we were mocked by images our younger selves, splitting all of our winter fire wood with an ax (mostly George), with no discernible physical after-effects. Not any more. Yesterday we rented an industrial strength log splitter. Even with the splitter doing most of the work, after five hours of heaving logs about, it was a good workout.
We are fortunate to have about five acres of woodland, with some aging trees that need to be culled. A wood stove supplies most of our heat and our smoke this winter will be a fragrant combination of cherry, apple, poplar, and oak. The cherry and apple wood was so beautiful when we split it, it seems a shame to burn it.
We did have boards cut from one cherry tree to use eventually for new kitchen cabinets. The beauty of the wood is a constant. But you also never know what you will find when you split wood. Colors, insects, rot, fungus–all exposed.
George had been felling trees and chainsawing them into stove lengths over the previous months and, to give the wood enough time to season before winter, we needed to get it split. It was an enjoyable, rewarding job on a gorgeous cool day. There’s a hypnotic rhythm to working the splitter and the smell of the split wood–especially the cherry–was almost intoxicating. It was a good day.
Earlier this week, I had another good day that also involved harvested tree and plant products, but in a very different way. Last fall, at the Common Ground Fair, I was gobsmacked by a booth selling fabric imprinted with the shapes, shadows, and colors of real plant parts–leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds.
I had never seen anything like it. The incredible fabrics were created by a Maine textile artist, Amelia Poole, who graciously explained the process for imbuing the fabric with the patterns of living plant parts and allowed me to paw through her wares.
I had a hard time choosing, but eventually brought home four fabric pieces, two of which I made into a dress yoke.
Happily for me, Amelia gave a presentation this week at a local nature center on her eco-textiles. Her process is called eco-printing, or botanical contact printing, and involves first treating unprocessed natural fabrics with alum, ferrous sulfate, and copper sulfate–a process called mordanting. Then fresh botanicals are arranged on the fabric, wrapped up, and steamed to fix the colors and patterns on the fabric. Amelia brought recently steamed fabrics for us to unroll.
Because the colors, clarity, and design are all affected by the particular qualities of the plants when harvested, the colors and shapes transferred have endless permutations. So there is an anticipatory wonder in what will unfold with each piece. Seeing the imprint of the plants to fabric felt a bit magical. And it evoked a sort of timeless, ancient feel, perhaps because the ephemeral plants will be long imprinted in the fabric in a fossil-like way. Amelia’s website link is at: Ecouture Textile.
As someone long in love with plants and fabric both, I’m hoping to take one of her workshops. I don’t really need more interests, but this is one that I cannot resist.
Finally, in all our spring activity, we have had some watery relaxing downtime. We wanted in retirement to spend time on the water messing about in boats. So, for starters, we bought a lightweight kayak this spring. I can easily lift and carry it and it’s short enough to fit on our truck bed with just a strap to hold it.
We have a lake below our home that is about an eight minute drive to the boat ramp.
That lake is part of the St. George River system, allowing us to paddle upstream to another lake and then slow-moving, meandering river. Eagles, beavers, loons, and lots that escaped my camera. The current, you know, really.
I did fry my cell phone after several hours in the greenhouse-like waterproof pouch. It died. Stupid. But, nevertheless, our new boat has been a sweet diversion, with much more kayaking to come.