Fashion student (now graduate) Sue Carley made me a pair of DIY jeans from unbleached cotton – Dye It Yourself. A small oak ‘bush’ beside the Egg (behind me in the photo) provided galls to create the dye and its individual leaves the templates for a pattern (drawn in hot wax then ironed out). An oak T shirt completed the ensemble. A full scale drawing of the trousers uses watercolour from the same source.
Stinging Nettles are growing in huge profusion beside the Bofors Gun emplacement, which is itself slowly disappearing behind their dense metre high growth. The leaves make a refreshing green tea.
The AquaCam will be set adrift on the river, recording those chance happenings instigated by the wind above water and by the current below.
Blackberries stored since last September were boiled to extract juices which, with the addition of alum and cream of tartar, infused cotton with their essential vibrant energy. The resulting T shirt is part of an evolving collection of ceremonial and practical Beadle wear. A test on paper produced a much flatter and cooler purple colour.
A cedar of Lebanon in Exbury Gardens gifted me the branch I needed for a ‘Christmas tree’ and has now laid a candelabrum at my feet. On a walk yesterday morning I found this weathered branch whose six eroded cones have become the spikes required to attach candles to illuminate the Egg.
A handful of gorse flowers were painfully picked from the parish bush, then washed and dried. Rehydrating a few flowers with boiling water made a tea for breakfast. It has a bitter aftertaste with some sweet notes, but I could not detect the accents of cocoanut that some have written about.
Yellow gorse flowers were a cheering splash of colour on a rare dry evening, given a warm tint by the setting sun as the moon rose up behind. Of course gorse is a common plant up on the heathland of the New Forest, but I had not expected to find it so close to the sodden marsh as it prefers well drained environments. It is a combustable plant and Furze (as locals know it) used to be collected for the domestic hearth. I shall be watching out for the many spiders and caterpillars that regard it as home and may pay my own homage by making wine from its flowers.
Following on from my previous posting, I can report that the search for orris root (an ingredient in the purification of Exbury Sea salt in the eighteenth century) has quickly proved fruitful. On a walk today with friends and with my neighbour’s dogs, I found the Iris Garden (in Exbury Gardens bordering my parish). However, I will remain on the look out for less cultivated evidence closer to home.
I realise I have encountered it already as a flavouring and aromatic in gin, and it is used mainly today in perfume. Its scent prevails over those of others in ‘Tumulte’ for example, a scent by Christian Lacroix or more obviously in ‘Infusion d’iris’ from Prada*. I may distill it as part of a unique essence of place for the Egg.
- Molly Exploring the Iris Garden
I am living on the edge of an eighteenth century salt making landscape. Its many parallel banks and channels are like the teeth of a marshy comb, protected by the curving contours of the Outer Bank which was raised by hand to help retain sun reduced brine, before it was drawn off for boiling into salt. Sluice gate timbers at either end, completely refurbished in 1815, now stand rotten and ruined.
In homage to this land use of yesterday, I made salt by boiling ten litres of Beaulieu River water until it began to form crystals and placed the concentrated solution in an oven for 72 hours at 11o degrees, until salt formed. My 251 gms of yellowish crystals would have originally been whitened by adding egg white, alum, white lead, wheaten flour, butter and orrisroot* to the boiling process.
*The fragrant rootstock of the Iris Germanica. I will keep an eye out for the flowers this summer in case they still appear near the river, as living evidence of past industry.
- The former salt making landscape of Exbury Farm and Stephen Turner’s ‘personal parish’.