Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Prickly Harvest

One of the jobs of summer is to harvest whatever I can from my small slice of property that might make an interesting dye experiment.  Every evening after work I go out with my basket and pull off any Coreopsis blooms that have opened.  No doubt my neighbors think I am nuts, since every time something blooms I snip it right off.  The lavender and the Perovskia are safe, since last summer's experiments proved them to be disappointing in the dye pot.  I am looking forward to the blooming of the 6-foot tall sunflower plant that volunteered in the back yard.  It is covered with big flower buds and I hope they open before I leave for my upcoming raft trip. One bloom is open, so the rest should be out soon.

Tonight, after denuding the Coreopsis and the Lingula in the front yard, I tackled the Mahonia in the back.  Let me be clear, I would never have planted the stuff.  It is a vigorous invader from next door.  Mahonia, also called Oregon grape is the plant equivalent of a rabid porcupine.  At first you think, "that's kinda cute" but approach it and you will soon learn it is well protected by painful prickliness.  Any attempt at removing the stuff requires massive gauntlets and high levels of determination.  Then it grows right back. 
Its nickname of Oregon grape is due to the purple berries it produces during midsummer.  Last year I missed harvesting them.  I am determined to try for the blue-violet dye they are purported to produce when used in an acid dye pot.  So I bravely tackled stripping the ripe berries from the plants that are taking over the east end of my backyard.  Garden gloves were too unwieldy - the small berries rolled right through my fingers.  I managed to collect a rollicking 8oz of berries, frequently interspersed with "Ow!", "Ooh!" and other unmentionable phrases.  For every 5 berries collected another 3 dropped down into the bushes.  I eventually gave up from too many punctures, but may attack it again tomorrow.  On the positive side, the purple stain on my hands is persistent, even after a vigorous scrubbing.

All of my harvested plant bits get put into plastic bags and stowed in the deep freeze, far from curious felines.

1 comment:

Beryl Moody said...

I think you will be well pleased with the Coreopsis. Don't have any experience with the Oregon Grape, but if it stains your hands, it will probably stain yarn too.