Harvesting the Heart of the Year

Golden Delicious Apple Tree

There is indeed a lot of trimming and shaping that has happened in my life this year.  Much like my apple tree, life was very fruitful this year. I spent a lot of time in contemplative practice reflecting on this. The reminders to be grateful for the abundance of the year were everywhere, from farmers out on the field pulling in the last of their harvests to stacked jars of all the things I made from my garden. I am very grateful for the richness of my life. In those ways, I have worked and toiled with earth all year fully embracing the beauty of living out in the country.

It has also been a year of deep ocean depths and the treasures there, symbolically speaking. I have gone diving in the ocean of my most true self to reclaim so many things that I had let loose their way from me. I let so many things go coming out of a major occurrence in my life. It felt a bit reckless and nerve biting back when I had decided to cast off the odds and bits and pieces; things that I questioned and doubted, things that I outgrew, things that I needed space from, things that had to rest.

Yet, I knew clearly that I could but reach out and pick them up again, just as the ring from the well. I have spent the year in great depth and well-purposed solitude and it has brought much content and peace.

Then there is air and all its symbolism. I would have to say the most challenging, invigorating, and demanding of all the labor of my year. Communication is not about making noise, after all, it is also about the right note landing the right way at the right time, which I can be rather clumsy about, truth be told.  Not that I would ever submit to the foolery of prostrating myself in attempt to pet everyone’s preferences; but rather that I want for my intentions to hit as true to the mark as possible.

Here are an assortment of jams from my harvests.

Then there is also expression, which is more for the self and having to really get clear and concise in that. Most of my creative expression has gone into engineering my life. The time arrived last fall to come out of the crucible, which I entered about 7 years ago, and begin forging. I have been hammering away and will be hammering away very intensely these next two years. The fire itself has a life it has never had before, fed by the Awen, Dharma, or if you prefer Holy Spirit.

Working on my writing, the coding to clean up the back end of the website, the creativity to rework the art and layout on the front end of the site, the embracing of my true names along with my forging my life moving forward, all of this has been my quiet expression over the year. My art time has suffered a bit as I built these new houses, as it were, to move into. The sacrifice was well worth it, as will be the sacrifices I am making now to move forward. I’m very much looking forward to the quiet and stillness of winter.

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Raven Knotwork for New Site

Today marks a significant turning point in the work I have been doing on the new blog website design. It has been in progress for a while and I have also been studying and working with Medeaval Illuminated Manuscripts. I have really filled my life full of my passions. It has been in progress for a while, and I have also been studying and working with Medeaval Illuminated Manuscripts. I have really filled my life full of wonder and work this last year. It has been an amazing pilgrimage. Now I am re-building my online houses.

To celebrate the milestone I reached today, I wanted to post the Raven Knotwork for the header of the new website. I loved working on this design so very much. I am have so much more design work to do both in coding and in knot work.

Raven Knotwork

Knotwork Raven for website header

Today I am actually working on touch and non touch favicons. Im not sure how much the web will change in the next six years, but I am hoping not to have to do anything too major before then.

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Illuminating Beginnings

Aleppo Galls

Aleppo Oak Galls

To begin learning the medieval techniques of illumination, I made a trek to Michigan to spend the day in a master’s studio. We started with an introduction to Iron Gall Ink. It was an instant formula, also referred to as a treatise or receipt depending on the era. The exercise was to learn more about the process. Sourcing good Oak Galls is an important first step, and often you will get better prices from herbal suppliers.

Aleppo Oak Gall

Aleppo Oak Gall Detail

Aleppo Oak Galls are a type of horned gall developed on the twigs and stems of some oaks. Aleppo Galls are considered the best for ink making and come from the Mediterranean and Asia. The name Aleppo comes from the name of a large trade city in Syria that has been around since antiquity. The gall on the right shows the hole from which the parasitic wasp emerged.

Crushed Aleppo Oak Galls

Crushed Aleppo Oak Galls

These are the very nutty inside of the Aleppo Gall. They will vary by a range in size and color, which will not affect your ink color. They are best crushed this size or slightly smaller, between chic pea and garden pea, but not like bread crumbs or powder.

Oak Apple Galls can be found on white oaks on the leaf itself. They are paper thin airy. Despite their large size, usually about 5cm, it would take a considerable amount of work to gather a sufficient amount for making a decent quantity of Iron Gall Ink.

Oak Apple Galls Outside

These are Oak Apple Galls which I gathered while in the mountains in Artemis PA. Below, you can see how gauzy they are inside, they have almost no weight. However, they will still make a good ink and are readily sourced for free.

Oak Apple Galls Inside

There are other Iron Gall Ink treatises which call for a longer fermentation of the oak apples, also referred to as oak galls, ahead of processing them. This was by far the messiest of all the projects I worked on today.

Amongst those, I   plan to try  Dr. James Stark’ Recipe next, as I suspect I will get a richer blue-black. I will follow up as they develop. Dr. Stark was a Scottish chemist.

Dr. James Stark’s “Stark’s Ink” receipt
3 parts blue aleppo galls
2 parts sulfate of indigo 
2 parts copperas 
1 to 1 1/2 parts powdered gum arabic 
A few whole cloves
30 parts distilled water

After that, I plan to try a very timeless and popular recipe by Sir Isaac Newton. It will be fun to compare them. He may be best remembered for his physics, but as you may know, his real passion was alchemy.

Newton’s Iron Gall Ink

Newton’s “Excellent Ink” Treatise
32 parts galls
16 parts gum arabic
128 parts strong beer or ale
4 to 6 parts copperas

There were many other lessons and exercises with treatises. I learned a lot of important guidelines for deciphering historic treatises from various periods, the extreme toxicity of many of the materials used in the medieval era, their safe handling, and the extent of the tools and materials I will need. I will post later on some of the medieval pigments we made.

In many ways, it feels like I have arrived full circle, coming back to begin what I have been wanting to do and essentially training to do for a very long time. I like that I can do things ultra-purist medieval era, or update materials for light fastness and safety depending on the purpose.

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