crabgrass of Northern California.
The main weed I pull at this time of year is the crabgrass of the Bay Area, Oxalis pes-caprae. It has a lot of different names: Bermuda buttercup, Bermuda sorrel, African wood-sorrel, Cape sorrel, buttercup oxalis, sourgrass, English weed, and a bunch of names that can't be repeated. I've used a few of those, but around here it's usually referred to as "that damned oxalis."
This is not your average wood sorrel. I have clumps of wood sorrel in shady spots all over the yard and I like its tiny pink and white flowers and tidy behavior. I've grown up with wood sorrel (we always called it "shamrocks"), and I love to chew on the stems for their sour, lemony flavor.
|My yard is not this bad, but it's close.|
I do not like Bermuda buttercups. I can, however, tolerate plants that are useful, and it turns out "that damned oxalis" has a couple of uses. The first one is in salads. When the yard is full of plants, I'll pull a handful or two of leafy stems, give them a good rinse, and strip the leaves for the salad bowl. It adds a bright, lemony, note to the salad.
The second use is that it's a dye plant. Ida Grae, in her book Nature's Colors, described it as a dye plant, but a previous attempt didn't produce any results. I tried again last week: I don't know if earlier in the season is better, or the water pH was different, but this time, it worked. I mordanted 250g of yarns with 10% alum and 5% cream of tartar, then simmered the yarns for about 45 minutes in a dye liquor made of 250g of Bermuda buttercup flowers and a gallon of tap water. I got a cool yellow on some handspun llanwenog, and a brighter yellow on the wool/nylon sock yarn.
|Gold, yellow, and cool yellow--|
all from the same dye pot.
All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the results of my first experiments with Bermuda buttercups. I picked another 185g as I was pulling weeds: 100g are spread on a cookie sheet to dry, while the other 85g were packed into a ZipLoc bag and tossed in the freezer. I want to see if the color will still hold through being dried or frozen. If it does, I'll be able to pick, dry, and store the flowers until my regular dyeing sessions during the summer. Who knows? I might start to like Bermuda buttercups.
On the loom: Still threading heddles for the upholstery fabric.
On the needles: Bit of Magic scarf out of Plymouth Happy Feet; Number 27 socks, out of ice-dyed Valley Franklin sock yarn.