hoopoe nursery


here I am back in extremadura, and with my winter’s experience of dyeing with plants in Norfolk, excited about trying and retrying things from our local flora. I’ve been back to the big eucalypts (species unknown) nearby and collected some windfalls, and (not really such a good thing) picked some leaves with pretty gumnuts, or flower buds, actually, attached …


here are the actual nuts in case anyone can identify this tree for me.


everywhere is smothered in corn marigolds which seemed a good prospect for colour, so I picked one here, one there on my return walk, and a few sprigs of spanish broom which is related to the dyers broom used widely in the british isles for yellows in the medieval period.


I made some test bundles, including cork and ilex oak sprigs with some catkins on, and boiled all in a bath of windfall ilex oak leaves, pretty dry and brown, with my usual selection of scrap iron. I used iron is some of the bundles too. this is the string end of a piece of wool gauze, which always takes colour very deeply. you can see a spring of ilex imprinted bottom left, and the yellowish colour is from corn marigold. nothing much from the broom though.


more corn marigold and a sort of negative print from olive twigs


the two pieces of wool gauze I dyed; the narrower one had a piece of iron sheeting with a leaf of villanosa wrapped round it, that’s the green on the dark blue. it’s a very ornate leaf, I must give it another go.

2linenflowerand leaf

this is a piece of old linen pillowcase with the same sorts of things, the marigold is quite definite on this


while this piece of cotton has the eucalyptus leaves doing interesting negative things around the iron. all worth pursuing.


following the instructions from a recent birthday present, Lichen Dyes by Karen Diadick Casselman, I tested some of the lichens around my finca. there those on the rocks and those on the trees. the only one which turned red on its cut edge with bleach was this lobate sooty edged one, I need a good lichen book to identify it. there is a lot on my finca and around on the sierra, and it’s easy to take part of each plant (if you can call it a plant) without having to do any scraping off. Casselman’s instruction with this type of lichen is to put it in a closed jar with half water and half domestic ammonia (I used window cleaner) and the jar one third empty, shaking it five or six times a day for three weeks (or fourteen weeks in the case of the North American varieties). the liquid immediately turned a gratifying rich brown, and should turn deep magenta in a few days; if so it will give substantive purple, on anything, natural, cellulose, protein, and synthetic fibres.


as for the hoopoes, they are nesting in the base of an olive tree right in front of the house, and I have been hosting the full force of british birding at its finest. a camera trap was installed, and a hide, and there will be some fantastic photos. the parents are feeding every few minutes, a selection of insect life, mostly caterpillars and big fat beetle larvae. I was a bit worried by the azure-winged magpies hanging around yesterday, but the hoopoes must have seen them off. occasionally a chick can be seen with its head in one of the entrance holes; sometimes the parents are obviously feeding chick with their heads near the entrance, other times they enter at the front and leave from the back.


here’s the tree, with the hide in the background on the left, and the artificial perch which they use all the time. waiting with great excitement for the fledging – I hope to catch it. I get a very good view from the kitchen window.




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