Tuesday, August 14, 2018


the season is going gold
and there are marvels in our sky
holy moly
scared off the neighbors
days shorter with nights crowding into them.
a neighbor pulled in and said
would you let me know if you see my bull.
he's really sweet, a black cross, but he jumps fences.
never seen anything like it,
he's after apples.
there are windfalls around the trees,
a wealth of good food and soon cider.
i said, of course!
living in the country...
then there's this stuff,
i've collected it before, 
but in the GREAT studio CLEAN of 2018
it resurfaced, like the madder and so much else.
and i've been focussed on flax paper 

fern dust.
after researching this is what i've found 
(botanists, can you add more?)
"there are thin, brown, paper-like scales covering the newly emerging fiddleheads. 
the scales fall off as the fiddlehead grows and elongates... 
the brown paper-like covering..."

a soft rosy tints the raw flax
with tiny dark bits
sheet formation is irregular because i was pouring the pulp
in my sink
in a modified method using rubber bands and one of Britt Quinlin's moulds
in the horrid humid heat
while outside the clothes hang no longer drying in the new rain.
it makes me irritable. 
here is a drying sheet with the last little bit of fern dust until next spring

2/3 raw flax beaten just over an hour

1/3 fiddlehead fern dust, blendered.
if it wasn't so hard to gather i'd make paper with just that dust.
the Maine Cooperative Extension online calls it 
"papery covering on the emerging fiddleheads"
i call it fern dust.
i've written my syllabus for my fall class. it looks like a hill with a few words and a star.
i have a bunch of nephews, one sends me wonderful stuff. 
like a red fox skin he prepped himself
or a walrus tusk chip.
my nephew gathered some earth for me many years ago.
it's from the hill behind his childhood house
and is typical for the Niagara Gorge.
i will make some colorant with it soon.
there's a wee class in soil painting this week at the VIC,
i'm going to go and be a student.
maybe soils will be a part of my fall class...
well, both of them are,
but the one i'm particularly revved about is her milkweed paper primer.
(the other one is more than amazing)
it's fantastic and affordable and you must order one. 
go for the deluxe!
while you're there, go looking around her site.
you will be amazed.


  1. Replies
    1. yep. been playing around with it for yesrs--finally decided to try it out.

  2. Wonder if you could use Mexican feathergrass seed ... I’d be happy to send some if you’re interested


  3. be cautious with fern dust Velma, I got some in my eyes removing some dead fronds on a Cyathea cooperi (Australian native tree fern) and it's sharp as glass

  4. mo--wow, i will be careful. interestingly enough it feels and behaves a wee bit like fiberglass insulation. but it broke right down in the vat with hydration. was the dust from the opening fiddleheads (fronds) your Cyathea cooperi in the spring or from a different season and with a differend purpose? (my guess is that this is an insulation, but i could be way off)

  5. it would have been mid summer when the fronds get burned by our very hot summers

  6. i'm thinking, mo, that it might be a different thing. this is not something that would be easily airborne, it seems to exfoliate and fall, and it's a bit sticky. but i will remember your caution, anyway.

  7. I’ve never seen “fern dust” although we surely have wild ferns all around us. Must look that one up and do a woodsy search. Is it anything like mature cat tails with fluff? I’ve harvested that fluff to make paper, very fine but somehow probably more manageable.


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