Monday, 17 July 2017

feeding the indigo vat

when Ma left us to go on her next big adventure, among the stuff she left behind was a modest esky (across the ditch you'd know that as a chilly bin, across the puddle it might be a cooler, and I've never encountered one in Old Blighty so I've no idea what you might call it there)

it's a well-insulated device made of plastic. Ma used hers for fish bait, possibly also for gin.

the extendable handle is a bit rusty (and cannot be removed for restoration by boiling in a eucalyptus bath) but inside it was squeaky clean. as I pondered it, I had an idea.

 


it's very cold here in winter. we don't get snow very often but it's pretty nippy. I decided to liberate the esky and give it new life as an indigo vat. the insulation helps keep the temperature up and it's quite easy to rewarm it when it does cool down (three days of neglect and it's down to lukewarm) by standing one or two old wines bottle full of hot water in it. (hot stones are good, too, but more difficult to handle.)

and while my favourite indigo vat is made with bananas, they're rather pricey right now (usually cheaper in school holidays, as less lunches are being packed!) and so I am nourishing the vat with other substances. I'm a bear who likes to make the most of local resources, so (thanks to a conversation I had with Charlotte Kwon a few months ago, when she said the vat would probably be just as happy eating compost) I've been experimenting by boiling up the vegetable trimmings and feeding the liquor to the vat.

the chickens are delighted because they're getting cooked scraps :: much easier to eat!


celery and sweet potato

beetroot and pineapple peels

pouring in the brew (better to hold it closer to the surface and thus introduce less air, but trickier to photograph if you happen to be doing it all yourself)

the main thing is to keep it warm, check the pH and, as Michel Garcia so charmingly says, remember to feed the donkey before you put it to bed.

what are you feeding yours? I'd be interested to know.

20 comments:

  1. This is exactly what Yoshiko Wada teaches for her indigo vats: boil up your peelings, parings, semi rotten fruits, etc and feed the vat! Beats fructose granules every time.

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    1. Well that was news to me, happy to have confirmation that it wasn't such a mad idea after all!

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    2. I have a friend who also learned to do this from Yoshiko Wada. I believe she said no citrus, because of the acid. She boils her scraps and feeds the vat once a week.

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  3. any fruit that's seen better days.

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  4. Have never done an indigo vat here at home (no space in house in which to keep it warm), but your *cooler* idea really has me thinking anew ... I could keep a vat in the greenhouse that way! Another thought - your opinion, plz - is that I've been wary of using this dye due to the amount of (my well) water needed to rinse the cloth after ... would it be an acceptable activity to take said cloth for a rinse in the sea instead??

    Lovely post. And I bet uisce beatha bottles would work as heaters as well ;>))

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    1. The rinsing is an issue here, too. So I'm playing with quite small pieces
      If you let the rinse water stand a while the oxidised indigo sinks to the bottom. Then you can pour off the top layer and water the garden. Indigo at bottom can be returned to vat.
      No idea what the salt of the sea will do to indigo. Cannot imagine that miniscule quantity of indigo washed into sea would be any worse than the other things already slipping around in it (polyester, poo, plastic bags etc)
      But
      You wouldn't want to do it on an industrial scale.
      Maybe you could rinse your (dyed) bits under your feet in the shower when washing your hair?
      (There's something not quite right about that last sentence...)

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    2. Thanks for the giggle
      and
      will explore this idea of sea-dunking a bit further. Could really live with that solution & I don't think the odd "bits" of clothing & other sundry objects would ever amount to anything close to industrial scale, even here on this tiny rock.
      Muchas gracias.

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  5. Oh yes, feed the donkey before you put it to bed and kick him in the morning......... Always remember that!

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  6. I reduce the amount of rinsing needed by spinning the textile in an old spin-dryer between dips (I save the liquid and it goes back into the vat at the end of the session - also my electricity is bought from a renewables provider) by the way Michel is working on a new vat starter using citrus peel - he demonstrated it last year at Newburgh and probably taught it this year - it has buffering qualities for protein fibre I think, but I may be mis-remembering.

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  7. Goodness! Most interesting. I have had better luck with honey than with bananas or fallen figs. So much to learn!

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    1. Much as I love banana And fondly remember a good one in New Orleans in 2012, the best vat so far was made in Oregon back in 2013, using sweet sweet windfall apples. Less syrupy than the banana (though the fragrance of the latter is rather seductive). They say you can't use sugar, either, but it works too - though it might be as unhealthy for the vat as it is for us.

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  8. your musings on indigo vats make me happy. for so long indigo remained a heavy mystery (at least to me), and now, well now you and other people are making vats and understanding how they work. thank you for your constant and continuing explorations. indigo is on my list for things to return to in 'retirement'.

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    1. We will have to think of a new word for the life-time we spend after being released from whatever professional treadmill we've been harnessed to.
      "Retirement " sounds far too depressing, given the possibilities

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  9. Thanks for an informative post and, by the way, over here in Blighty an eskie is prosaicly known as a cool box.

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    1. Yep, I know it as a cool-box here in the UK too. Fascinating article, especially as I have an old cool-box in the attic....Thanks for all the info!

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  10. I have a neighbor who has these tart tiny and wormy apples, perfect to try for the vat. Do you use Lime to reduce as in the 1-2-3 Vat. It gets very cold here in Utah and I love the idea of the Bottles or stones to heat. I may have to resort to the aquarium heater in the dead of winter but I will try the bottles and stones.

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