August 14, 2004 - Today I harvested an armload of both green and last year's Flag Iris leaves. I didn't harvest any of the stems as they still are setting seed and this is not yet considered a weed in Oregon. If you would like to see a thorough pictorial record of the plant, please go to my Scientific Name index and click on Iris Pseudacorus.
Iris leaves make lovely paper. Like grass, the fiber runs along the length of the leaf (see picture to left) and processing is really simple. There is no bast to remove, no steaming, no nuthin!! Just chop it up and drop it in the pot! As I harvested the leaves, I found the bases to have more porous qualities than most of the leaves so I figure these will probably float once I get them into some water for cooking.
September 13, 2004 - I pulled some of the green leaves out of the pile I stored them in, dropped them onto the table in my Studio O and pulled out my trusty old butcher knife. Over the last 30 days they have dried nicely, even wrapped in the bedsheet I stored them in. They weigh much less when they're dry and skitter off the table in the slightest breeze. Also, when chopping with the butcher knife, the pieces have a tendency to fly everywhere and I have been letting them do so in the past and then just sweeping them up off the floor. We used roof tiles to create the floor surface so I also sweep up some gravel with the pieces. That adds the extra step of dropping them into the spaghetti strainer and winnowing out the gravel. Not too terribly efficient as I still get some in the bottom of my pot. So I thought I'd improvise. I'm right handed and the prevailing wind, lucky for me, comes from my left. So I put a large trash bag on the table, placed my chopping board inside the lip of the bag to hold it down, and my pot inside the bag at the end of the board to hold the bag open when the wind didn't blow. Worked like a charm. So now when I chop and the pieces fly, they hit the interior of the bag and pot! No sweeping and no gravel. *big smile*
I dumped all the cuttings into a large enamel pot and poured hot tap water over them, mixing in one tablespoon of Arm & HammerŪ washing soda per quart. I was surprised they did not float as much as I thought they would! In fact, they settled in quite nicely. I placed this on the stove and will leave it to soak until tomorrow night.
September 14, 2004 - I set the pot to just below the boil. I put too much fiber in the pot, so I had to keep stirring it every 20 minutes or so. Because I was unable to boil it, the fiber took almost five hours before the pieces would pass the finger test where I grip each end of a piece of the plant with my index fingers and thumbs and pull gently, but firmly across the grain to see if it breaks. When I dipped a paper towel in the pot, I discovered it yielded a gloriously deep, rich, dark sunflower yellow tea; but in the pot, with the high concentration of dye, the fiber looked sable brown. I thought to myself, "Oh no. *sigh* Another dark brown fiber."
So I topped the pot with a paint straining bag and up ended it all into the kitchen sink. This is a stubborn and wonderful dye as this time I was not able to get the pot to return to its original color. Oh well. *crooked smile* It IS a most lovely yellow. I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and finally, after about 30 minutes, was able to get clear water. When I pressed out the excess water and pulled back the paint straining bag, I was delighted to see the wet pulp was a lovely olive green. This bodes well for my plans.
I pulled two thirds of the patty out and dropped it into my bleach bucket and we'll see what turns up. I can hardly wait to blender this and see what it looks like dry!
Meanwhile, as the pot was cooking the fresh iris, I stepped out into Studio O and grabbed the pile of over-winter retted old iris leaves. They were delightful shades of tans with a hint of russett in them. These were easily torn with fingertips, but it would take entirely too long and my fingers would be way too sore by the time I shredded this modest pile of leaves. So I set up my bucket and chopping board inside a plastic bag to windward again and smacked away. They were all cut into pieces an inch or less within just a few minutes. Of course, there were some pieces that were quite a bit longer, so I poured everything from the bag into the bucket and pulled the bits I missed with the butcher knife apart while watching a couple hours of television. I am off to do some research on retted fibers before I go any further. I can't remember if they need to be cooked first or if they can just be soaked before they're blendered. They are already alkaline naturally, so that's not a concern, but I'm wondering if the lignin is what is broken down with over-wintering.
March 28, 2005 - Dunno what I did with the chopped overwintered flag iris from the last posting. *scratching head* Last month I went to the pile of iris leaves I gathered last fall. Some were green when I gathered and some were overwintered from the year(s) before. I pulled a bunch from the overwintered pile and chopped them up into small pieces. The leaves had been kept under a cotton sheet to separate them from another harvest and, when I pulled back the sheet, they had rotted some. I was pleased with this. After chopping, I put them all into an empty five gallon bucket, slapped on the lid and put them indoors, meaning to get them cooking within the next few days. That didn't happen and a month or so passed. When I popped the lid today, the chopped plants had rotted further and had that wonderful smell of compost. Rich and loamy. I was even more pleased!!
After cooking briefly, I blendered the fiber and pulled several sheets of wonderful paper.
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Last revised: November 14 2008