Chickie girl update!

Our baby chicks have been growing like weeds. They will be 6 weeks old soon and they just moved out into their own house… messy little ladies needed their own space.

They started out like this:IMG_7839

Just look at those adorable little faces! From left to right we have; Moonblack (a Black Australorp), Goldie (an Isa Brown), Donnie (a Buff Polish Laced), and Chippie (an Americana)… proudly named by the dear child. In our chicken catalog (everyone should have a chicken catalog- ours is from Hoover’s Hatchery), these breeds are supposed to be good egg layers and friendly with kids. Although to be honest we got Donnie mostly for her bouffant. Check out what she’ll look like when mature, and no prizes for guessing why Donnie is her name.

buff laced polish

They stayed in a toasty room in our house for a few weeks… starting to get their real feathers and imprinting on the dear child. She is 100% their mother now. They did a great job eating chick starter, but loved treats like grass, peas, and spaghetti. The spaghetti party got wild with yelling, running, and literally tug of warring over noodles.

They all have their own personalities. Chippie is a wild child. Donnie is fearless and inquisitive. Goldie is a good jumper. Moonblack is calm and snuggly. They are also all messy to heck. With warmer weather and the final coat of paint on our “Chateau Poulet” we were ready to move outside!

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The Chateau! Coop is on the right, garden shed on the left.

Now they have a light for warmth on chilly spring nights and they get to have outings in the garden during the day. Lucky chickies!

I’ll keep you posted on our grand chicken experiment… and I’ve been pulling some fun colors out of the dye pot I need to post about too. The weather has just been too gorgeous for sitting at the computer.

What about you? Have a small flock of chickens? What are your favorite breeds? Any burning chicken questions? I’ll do my best to answer!


Reading: Lately I’ve been rereading and referring to Michael Judd’s book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist. My parents have a plot that needs amending and we’ve been talking raised beds, lasagna gardening, and Hugelkultur – basically burying a bunch of wood in a super raised bed that will turn into rich soil! And the word is really fun to say…

Dye Project #2: Rhubarb Leaves (plus Rhubarb Crisp recipe!)

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Massive rhubarb leaves. 1lb ball of wool for comparison.

As any Midwesterner worth their salt knows, rhubarb is the true sign of spring. Specifically a pie, crisp, or other culinary delight. My family has been blessed by the rhubarb gods – our plants are prolific, massive, and darn near impossible to kill. They may or may not have even emigrated to Utah (shhhh).

farm rhubarb
Be afraid.

In the reading I’ve been doing recently about natural and plant based dyeing, rhubarb has come up more than once. I’ve read the roots offer orange colors while the leaves can be used as a mordant (seriously, gotta do that nomenclature post), and maybe some green/yellow color? I already knew what to do with the stems.

So. Since we had some company visiting I had to be a little sneaky with my dye obsession. I decided to make a rhubarb crisp (scroll down for my favorite recipe!)… and just happened to toss some leaves into the dye pot. Roots would wait for another day!

IMG_7941I ended up with 13 oz of rhubarb leaves completely effortlessly since they are massive. Remember that the leaves are poisonous if eaten due to their high oxalic acid content (nephrotoxic to people, dogs, etc), so usually these guys end up in the compost bin. Today my leaves got roughly chopped and tossed in the dedicated aluminum dye pot (don’t cook and dye in the same pots kids). I low simmered them for 1/2 hour down in the dye lab while I made crisp* in the kitchen (recipe at the end of the post).

It was a busy day and I didn’t get back to my leaves until the next morning. By that timeIMG_7945 they were a gloppy, gooey, fragrant mess and the water had taken on a golden glow. Because I am never patient enough, I hadn’t yet prepared a whole bunch of fiber. What I had scoured were 2 ounces of Romney/Blackface blend I’d purchased a pound of from eBay… purely for experimenting with in the dye pot and on the wheel. I’d spun 1 ounce into a 2 ply and the other oz was roving. In went the damp wool, simmered low for 30 minutes, then cooled about 4 hours and out.

I also used a 1/2 tsp of baking soda in about 1.5C of dye water to modify a wisp of roving.

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Left: Undyed roving, Top: Rhubarb yarn, Middle: Rhubarb Roving, Right: Baking Soa Dip

I have to say, the results were… underwhelming. Kind of a murky, dull yellow. And the fiber felt harsh and was well on its way to felting – maybe due to the rhubarb leaves, but more likely due to my beginner’s technique. Too much swishing.**

I may try rhubarb leaves again – more as a mordant/pre-dye before working with other dyes. I bet it would look stellar overdyed with indigo! In the meantime I think I’ll stick to alum.


*My Rhubarb Crisp Recipe:

Crust and Topping:
1 1/4 C oatmeal
1 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C flour (I use whole wheat)
2/3 C soft butter

Mix these 5 ingredients together until crumbly. Press 1/2 mixture into
9x13" pan

Mix in bowl and add to pan:
4-5 C rhubarb chopped into 1" pieces
1 1/4 C sugar
1/3 C water
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla

Press remaining 1/2 of topping over the filling.

Bake at 350 F for 1 hours or until golden and bubbling in the middle.

Best with ice cream!

**As an aside – several dye books I’ve read say to rotate your goods every 10 minutes in the dye bath. What??? How?? All I would have left would be dryer balls! Speaking of that, I know my next 2 steps: 1. Make dryer balls. 2. Buy some superwash wool!

pinterest rhubarb leaf post