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What a way to get back into papermaking! St Patrickís Day and Iím working in
green stuff. Horse manure, to be specific. I wouldnít do this for just anyone,
but a friend, an agriculture journalist with a delightfully warped sense of
humor, has asked me to make 100 sheets of horse dung paper to use as her wedding
invitations. Love it! There was a bag of dried dung in the garage, and I
soaked that for half a day, then put it in an old pillowcase and rinsed it well
with a hose. Cooked the fiber with soda ash for 2.5 hours, then rinsed again.
It was too late by then to do anything with it, so thatís on the agenda for
tomorrow. **Absolutely gorgeous day! While I was wandering around the yard, I
found winter retted Tree of Heaven leaf stems, some of them nearly 3í long. I
did the stems once before, but those were fresh off the tree, and were difficult
to break down and didnít make the best of paper using a blender. The fibers on
the outside of the leaf stem were extremely fine, but I doubt that Iíll be able
to strip those to use without the stem. I put the whole leaf stems in to soak
and will try to strip them tomorrow. If I canít, then Iíll cook the whole stem
and process them in the beater this time.
Iíd forgotten the fresh
spring hay smell of the horse dung pulp. Honest. Once the dung is cooked, itís
nothing more than cooked plant fibers, and it smells for all the world like
fresh cut hay. Iíd also forgotten that the pulp varies from batch to batch,
depending on what grasses/hay the horses were eating at the time they produced
the...fiber source. (Why do I consistently type ďfibreĒ rather than ďfiberĒ?)
This particular batch proved to be a hassle and a half! After running the
cooked material through the blender (do I need to say ďdedicated blenderĒ?) for
30 seconds, I found myself with pulp that was so fine, the water took forever to
drain through the screen. Drain time was so slow that I had to balance the mold
on the corner of the vat and go do something else Ė dust the table, put dishes
in the dishwasher, dust the chairs, wash the sliding glass door -- while it
drained. Ended up with a very clean house by the end of the day. Slow draining
also meant that I only pulled 50 of the 100 sheets today. Those are pulled,
though, and dry. Iíll finish up tomorrow.
Took a different tack with the pulling today. Yesterday, I had added sizing as
I usually do when pulling sheets for stationery. This morning, I started with a
clean vat of water and added no sizing just to see how it would do. Drained
much, much faster! The sheets Iím pulling for the invitations will be cover
sheets for the printed invitation and really need no sizing, so I pulled the
last 50 without it. Went much faster. Took about half as long as it took to
pull the first 50. (Wish Iíd thought about checking this yesterday.) The
quality of horse dung paper varies somewhat, but so far, all the pulp that Iíve
fooled with has made decent paper. Itís
crisp and holds a fold well. I end up with some strange inclusions, though.
Most come, not from the dung, but from the ground where it lay Ė small twigs,
wild cherry seed stones and even small gravel. Most of this migrates to the
bottom of the vat and is never included in the paper, but occasionally some
will. Those, along with a few horse hairs, become...points of interest in the
paper? (Seems spending two days with hands in horse poop has affected my mind
as well as my hands.)
3-28-03 I'm slow getting
started papermaking this spring, not because of a lack of desire, but because of
the weather. I'm hoping that this weekend will be the last of the cold snaps.
We're in line for below freezing temperatures on Sunday night, then a slow
warming trend after that. It will seem strange after the 80 degrees of today.
The sun and warmth pulled me out of the house for a walk down along Sliver
Creek. No real purpose involved in the walk, just a ramblish time to see what
was and what wasn't. The Japanese knotweed is just breaking through with a few
shoots maybe six inches tall. I've read that it's eatable in the spring, much
like asparagus. Dunno. I'm temptedÖ. I love early spring poke, both the leaves
cooked up with hog jowl and the stems split and fried. And I'd give anything if
I knew a place around here where I could find dry land fish (morels). I did
gather a few dried Indian hemp stalks left from last year. No, not for
eating...for papermaking. Checked on the curly dock plants and they're thriving.
I'll gather the stalks for those before the seeds set. I found one thing that
disappointed me. The land across Silver Creek has been posted "no trespassing."
It's a wonderful blend of grassland and thickets, a delightful place to wander.
Sometime next week, I'll see if I can find out who owns it and get permission to
trample around over there. Most often, it's no problem, as long as the owner
knows who I am and why I want rambling rights.
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