Spring is such a lovely time, and Easter might just be my favorite holiday! This year has been so busy already, we missed out on a lot of our usual celebrations, like making an Easter tree. I felt downright unprepared for Easter just now, to be honest. We were so busy putting in an ambitious garden for the next season, that Ethan never went to the store to get the usual things we use for making natural egg dyes – red cabbage and beets.
Easter morning, I woke up early and made egg drop soup with some chicken broth – a good, nourishing and Eastery breakfast, I thought – to prepare the children for the “all natural fruit snacks” my mother had sent along as Easter morning presents. Then I arranged lovely baskets for the children to wake up to. My mom had lent us some plastic eggs and multi-colored Easter grass, but as we had beautiful long rye and wildflowers, I thought they would be a more interesting and pretty surprise for the children. They were just lovely (I couldn’t help admiring them), although the children seemed to take it in stride (they are used to stuff like that – I would have been in awe if my Easter basket had real grass and flowers in it). While I was picking primroses and lacy radish flowers, I noticed a wooly bear caterpillar that was in the process of eating my beautiful purple basil I had just planted! As a sort of punishment, I picked him off and put him in Clothilde’s Easter basket.
She was delighted to find him there, and played with him nonstop while Rose and I struggled to find something that would dye eggs. We got some blueberries and very old, freezer-burned mulberries out of the back of the freezer. I had turmeric on the spice shelf, and some dried beet powder and a packet of spirulina powder. We set to work boiling the ingredients to get the color out and adding vinegar to cups while Clothilde talked to the caterpillar and put him down in different places to see where he would crawl. He was released later, all in one piece, although slightly less wooly than he was originally.
We usually get lovely eggs from the natural dyes – more muted and soft than the bright artificial dyes, but so very pretty. Some years we have gotten by with mostly reds or mostly yellows, as the beets and turmeric seem to be idiot-proof. This year everything was blue. I poured the turmeric into the cup through a funnel that is now stained bright yellow, but for some reason it had very little dyeing effect on the eggshells. I think it was all used up on the funnel.
The beet powder did not work out at all, and the spirulina was SO gross, I thought I was going to throw up when I poured it into the bowl for dyeing. It smelled like a boiled algae pool. Mirin was the only one brave enough to try dyeing eggs with it – mostly because he wanted to make a “camo” egg, but it just got clumps of spirulina on the eggs and no color.
But the blueberries and mulberries made the prettiest blues and purples!
After the eggs were dyed, I added strips of cloth to soak up the rest of the dye – in hopes of having lovely naturally-dyed ribbons for a maypole. They turned out so pretty, I couldn’t believe it. I used just the turmeric, mulberries, and blueberries.
The turmeric was bright yellow, the mulberries were a bright cerise, and the blueberries turned purplish blue. I was worried about the vinegar and the fabric, and thought that after they had dried I would give them a rinse in water with baking soda to neutralize the acidity. This led to an amazing color-change discovery.
The yellow turned an intense orange-red, the blueberry and mulberry-dyed cloth became a beautiful blue. Inspired, I dipped a yellow strip into the blueberry dye to see what might happen, and it turned a greenish-gold, making the whole rainbow of colors – I did not expect it at all!
This weekend was also special, because a new calf was born – Lichen’s first calf. We hardly ever get to see a calf be born – they come so quickly, but Ethan and I were there when Lichen was born two years ago. And now her first calf is on the ground, and thriving. A beautiful, dark red girl calf, just as we were planting the Thai red roselle. So of course she is called Roselle. Welcome, sweet little Roselle!