The annual harvest of our woad patch is something I look forward to every year. While it seems that the weather rarely cooperates (at least it wasn’t snowing like last year …) I find it magical every time that profoundly deep blue appears.
We began our work out in the small field out behind our neighbour’s shop. Our woad plants have been growing since the early spring, and they had nice big leaves. All the children helped in our harvest in their own way—whether cutting a whole plant at once, or just one leaf at a time. Together we filled our buckets with leaves, and then washed them before depositing them into our vat.
This year we had more plants than ever before, so I had the opportunity to drag out of storage the large, stainless steel vat that I’ve been saving for years (something rescued from a defunct pharmaceutical company). And, I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed its emergence, as you can hear in the video …
As is often the case in life, the source of our excitement was also the source of this year’s problem … Getting boiling water for the process hasn’t been an issue in the past when we only needed 20 litre (~5 gallon), but getting 100 litres (~25 gallons) of water that hot was something I wasn’t prepared for. In the end, we tried to store our hot water in insulated buckets, but that only kept it so hot, and I’m afraid that our water being a little on the cool side may have affected how much pigment we got this year.
But, the aeration of our tincture still produced the beautiful blue bubbles that indicated indigo had been released from the woad plant’s leaves. And over the next day, by slowly filtering the water, a nice layer of pigment has been collected. Best of all, I think this year’s colour is quite exceptional, and I look forward to painting with it this winter.
What brings this all home for me is the smell. As I cross my studio’s threshold this morning the unmistakable stench of indigo now fills the space, and although I know it smells bad, I still enjoy it because of the enchantment woven into this blue.
Conestogo is a community in the Canadian province of Ontario, located in the township of Woolwich in Waterloo Region. The population in 2006 was 1,316 people. The community is located at the junction of the Grand and Conestogo Rivers. Business life in Conestogo has changed over the 20th century, as the feed mill closed its feed production operation in 2008. New retail stores such as the Conestogo Mercantile and Baby Charlotte do business alongside the antique store and the well-known restaurant and dinner theatre, the Blackforest Inn.