Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gothic Gardening Potpourri

Natural Black Dye for Hair and Clothing
Herbal Black Hair Dye
Here are two recipes I found in World of Herbs, by Lesley Bremness, which are natural formulations for darkening hair. I haven't tried these, so I can't vouch for their effectiveness or safety. I also suspect that these would only be useful if your hair is fairly dark anyway....

Dark Hair Rinse
For a gentle dark hair rinse, use a strong decoction of:
sage leaves
sage with rosemary leaves
sage and dried raspberry leaves
To make a decoction, take one ounce of the herb (chopped) and boil with a pint of water. After being brought to a boil, simmer for thirty minutes--the liquid should be halved. If more than half is evaporated, add enough water so the volume is one-half pint. Cool and then strain. The decoction should be stored in the refrigerator and used within three days.

Black Hair Dye
With a mortar and pestle, crush a handful of green outer shells of unripe walnuts. Leaves can also be added. After crushing, place in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt, cover with water, and soak for three days. After soaking, add three cups of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for five hours. Make sure that all the liquid doesn't boil away--add more water if necessary. Strain the mixture, and if the liquid is more than one cup, reduce by boiling. Cool this to body temperature. Pour the liquid through clean hair, catching it in a bowl. Keep repeating the rinse until the color fades from the liquid. Wear gloves while doing this; it will stain your hands. Pat the hair dry with an old towel, or a dark one, since the dye will also stain the towel. The color from this walnut is cumulative, so the more the rinse is used, the darker the hair will get.
That's it--Good Luck! Let me know if you use these recipes and have success with them.

Natural Black Clothing Dye
This isn't intended as a complete How-To on herbal dyeing. If you are serious about learning to dye wool and cotton, I suggest you get a book; there are lots of them out there. One of them that I found particularly helpful was Nature's Colors: Dyes from Plants by Ida Grae. However, these recipes are intended to give you some idea of the possibilities out there for natural dyes. And, of course, there is always the Dye-It-Black- FAQ, which discusses commercially available dyes.

Note: Mordants "fix" the color on the fiber, making it permanent (hopefully!). It also often makes the color richer or lightens or darkens it. When trying to dye fibers black, iron is the most common mordant.

Black Walnut Dye:
This dye is appropriate for wool fibers. Nuts are collected while the hulls are still green, remove the hulls (pound them with a hammer against a flat stone) cover them with water, store them in a dark place until ready to use. T o prepare the dye, take 6 quarts of hulls and soak overnight, then boil for hours. Strain. Dye the wool with indigo first to get a dark blue (of course, dyeing with indigo is a lesson unto itself). Rinse the wool thoroughly, then put it into the walnut dy e bath. Add a handful of sumac berries and simmer for an hour, then leave in the dyebath overnight. If it's not dark enough, add some more walnut dye and a pinch of copperas (iron mordant or ferrous sulfate). Heat it to boiling and simmer until the color is right. Rinse thoroughly and dry in the shade.

Black Tea Dye:
Thea sinensis, can be used to dye almost any natural fiber, including wool, silk, cotton, jute, or linen. For three ounces of fiber, use 1 1/2 ounces of tea. Soak tea in boiling water for several hours, then cool and add th e fiber. Simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool overnight in the dyebath. Add the tea mixture (not the fiber) to an iron pot the next day and add 2 cups of vinegar. Simmer for 1 hour, then cool and add the fiber. Make sure the water still covers the fiber. Simmer for thirty minutes again, stirring often. Cool overnight in the dyebath again, then rinse and dry in the shade. This color has good washfastness.

Logwood Dye:
Haematoxylon spp., found in Mexico and Honduras, is a cheap and effective black dye. It may still be being used commercially for dyeing silk and nylon. Use four ounces of logwood chips for ounces for 8 ounces of cotton. Cove r the chips with water and soak several hours. Stir in 1/4 ounce ferrous sulfate (dissolved in one cup hot water) and 1/2 ounce Cream of Tartar (also dissolved in one cup hot water). Add the cotton and slowly heat to 122 F (50 C) for fifteen minutes. Then take the cotton out, expose it to the air for a few minutes, rinse it, and dry in the shade.
There are lots of other recipes for natural black dyes, including yellow flag iris, pomegranates, alder, blackberry, bugleweed, sourwood, olives, and silk-tassel bush.

Black Dyes from Around the World
This is but a small sampling of the plants used in different countries for dyeing cloth black. All of the information was taken from Dye plants and Dyeing-A Handbook, by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


Persimmon--(Diospyros kaki) with iron mordant to get bluish black.
Walnut--(Juglans sieboldiana) with lime mordant produces red-purple-black
Japanese Sumac--dried red leaves are chopped and boiled. Mordanted with iron, it produces gray black. Dyeing the cloth first with Dyer's Knotweed (Polygonum tinctorium- japanese indigo) will produce true black.
Azalea--(Rhododendron japonicum) leaves are collected in fall. Mordanted with iron, it produces gray-black.

Diospyros ehretioides--fruit (a persimmon relative)
Elipta alba--leaves
Harrisonia perforata--fruit
Piper methysticum--root (kava)
Terminalia bellerica--fruit (myrobalan)

Sapium sebiferum--leaves (Chinese tallow-tree)
Psidium guajava--fruit and leaves (guava)

Fraxinus excelsior produces an excellent blue-black, but is rare and only in the mountains, and is sometimes substituted with F. ornus, the flowering ash.

Prunus domestica--bark (plum)
F.ornus, Alnus glutinosa--leaves and bark , with iron mordant (flowering ash and alder, respectively)

Meadowsweet roots-(Filipendula ulmaria) collect roots in July, wash and boil, strain. Boil wool in the dye until proper color.
Waterlily rhizomes-(Nympaea alba) clean roots, then pound until soft. Boil and strain. Put wool in and boil until dark brown, then add copperas and boil until black.
Dock roots-(Rumex crispus) wash roots, boil for 2 hours. Add chrome, boil wool for half an hour.
Oak-(Quercus robur) use bark and acorns
Iris-(Iris psuedacorus) rhizomes
Black Silk Reviver
We all know goths dress in the most sensuous of materials, including silk. So for all those black silk poet shirts, here's another quick recipe from World of Herbs by Leslie Bremness.

This is a natural rinse which will help keep black silk looking black. Boil ivy leaves, then mash until the water is dark. Strain the solution. Use this as a rinse for black silk items. (This is not a dye.)

And now that you have the black hair and black clothes, you need the pale skin.

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Gothic Gardening is copyright (c) 1995-2001 by Alice Day (mAlice).
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Crystal and Rock Polishing

I don't remeber where I found this, nor who Uncle Ross is.


Uncle Ross Wenger, the fellow who helped raise my father became my adopted grandfather, was a big time rock hound, surveyor, and miner, but his favorite was crystals. Not only was he the one to get me into crystals, he used to take me into some of the most incredible caves in the world with walls just made of crystals. He used to earn a little extra money by slicing up and polishing some of his rock finds, particularly petrified wood. He shared some of his skills with me, but I never achieved his speed in quickly achieving the same results. For my own crystals, I pick them out liking the way they feel, so let them be. Once in a while I will inherit a poor crystal that has been abused by being banged around. I do sometimes shape these and polish other stones for myself and friends just because I like the look and feel also!

Anyway, the first thing you need to do make a commitment to spend the time and money to do the job right. First, do just like the jewelry stores and all but soak your stone in thin super glue if there are any visible breaks. Otherwise your abrasives will gather in the cracks and make for a not very attractive result. If there is a bad end or chipped off point, you should find someone with a diamond saw and have that part cut flat. It just takes far too long and is too expensive in terms of abrasives to try and sand big areas flat. Trying to grind away with the wrong tool will almost always break your piece. You just have to have the right tool! Next, you have to buy a succession of ever finer abrasives including the right polish to be able to finish with a highly polished surface.

The first abrasives are the ones used to shape the stone. If it is already shaped, then you can skip this step. To do the shaping my grandfather used a diamond saw and a diamond flat table. His were electric but you can do the same thing by hand. Way back then, diamond based tools were terribly expensive. Today you can go to Harbor Freight and buy a three piece diamond sharpening stone set (Fine, medium & coarse) for $3 this month on sale or about $12 normally. Although you could do the same thing with wet sandpaper glued to a very flat surface such as steel or glass, these diamond surfaces will do a much faster job. You also can buy a Dremel or similar 1/8" shaft rotary tool and pick up from that same catalog order firm a real nice set of diamond points (also about $12) known as burrs for making shapes, cutting in letters, etc. I found that these stones and burrs are also available from Post tool at nice discount prices. Regular retail prices can quickly push you over $100 for just the shaping stones, so take your time and do some shopping.

Once the shape is good and the major scratches worked out with the diamond tools your next move for polishing crystals is to use "sandpaper" glued to glass to take care of all the rest of the easily visible scratches. (For rounded stones you can just hold the paper or glue it to a sponge.) For crystals you need a perfectly flat surface if you do not want to mess up the sides, so a piece of 1/4" tempered glass that is about 14" square is ideal. I use a 3M Scotch photo mount adhesive (about $8 a can) to stick the special sandpaper to the glass as it works quickly and will not be bothered by the water you need to constantly use. Actually it is not called sandpaper, but instead known as wet-dry emery cloth that is a dark green or almost black. You can get the coarser grits at a hardware store but have to go to an auto finishing or supply store to get the finer grits. Your fine diamond stone should have been about 200 grit meaning two hundred diamond particles per linear inch. You need to move upward from there buying 400 grit, 800 grit and at least 1000 grit emery cloth. I actually go to some 1800 or 2000 grit as it makes the polishing go much faster. (Sometimes the auto people call this grade of emery cloth as that stuff used for color sanding which will let you invisibly repair chips on solid color paint). While at the auto paint store you also should get your professional grade polish used to put the final high gloss polish on the piece. I have had very good luck with Ditzler brand extra fine rubbing compound that is used to final polish new paint. Caution! The every day kind of polishes and rougher grit polishes are far too rough to do a good job!

Now to actually do it, start with practicing on other rocks before you tackle your good stones. Use plenty of water on both the hand stones and powered diamond burrs. Be careful mixing water and any electric power tool.. I use a long flexible shaft on my rotary tool to make sure there is no problem. The water is critical as it keeps things cool and takes away the buildup of debris so your stones and burrs keep cutting cleanly and quickly. Do your rough shaping with the most coarse stones then work your way to the most fine. Take out all the major imperfections and scratches before moving on to the emery cloth. For crystals I use the glass with plenty of water (I have a little squeeze plastic mustard bottle and work in a large pizza pan!) Start with a grit about twice as fine as your last diamond tool and then work until all the deeper scratches are gone. Shift to the next finer emery cloth.. (Cheat and glue one grade on each side of your piece of glass. I have two pieces of glass and use four weights of emery cloth and rarely have to change paper as they do not wear much at all) Continue shifting until you have finished with the finest paper. Then shift to using the polish on a soft cotton flannel rag or lamb's wool buffing pad. It takes me about 4-5 hours to polish up a three inch point, but the result can be stunning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

History Reveals Hurricane Threat to New York City

History Forgotten

Last year, Florida took the brunt of nature's summer fury, when four hurricanes slammed into the state. While the four-part pummeling was unusual, Florida has been hit nearly twice as often as any other state as long as records have been kept.

Residents in Florida know what to do. You've seen the lines of traffic lumbering away from the coast hours and even days before a storm hits.

But what would happen if a major hurricane struck New York City?

Monday, October 17, 2005

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. The little girl said, 'When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah'. The teacher asked, 'What if Jonah went to hell?' The little girl replied, 'Then you ask him'.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Why I Fired My Secretary

Two weeks ago was my 35th birthday and I wasn't feeling too hot that morning anyway. I went to breakfast knowing my wife would be pleasant and say "Happy Birthday" and probably have a present for me. She didn't even say "Good Morning" let alone any "Happy Birthday." I thought, "Well, that's wives for you, the children will remember." The children came in to breakfast and didn't say a word. When I started to the office I was feeling pretty low and despondent.

As I walked into my office my secretary, Janet, said, "Good morning, boss. Happy Birthday."

And I felt a little better; someone had remembered. I worked until noon.

Then, Janet knocked on my door and said, "You know, it's such a beautiful day outside and it's your birthday, let's go to lunch, just you and me." I said, "By George, that's the greatest thing I've heard all day.

Let's go." We went to lunch. We didn't go where we normally go; we went out to the country to a little private place. We had two martinis and enjoyed lunch tremendously. On the way back to the office, she said, "You know, it's such a beautiful day. We don't need to go back to the office, do we?" I said, "No, I guess not." She said, "Let's go to my apartment."

After arriving at her apartment she said, "Boss, if you don't mind, I think I'll go change."

"Sure," I excitedly replied. She went into the bedroom and, in about six minutes, she came out carrying a big birthday cake, followed by my wife, children, and dozens of our friends, >all singing Happy Birthday.

And there I sat... on the couch... naked.