Well hello there.
Before you go any further, this is going to get a bit sweary.
You might have noticed that I’ve been a bit sparse on posting this year. I’m still tending my bees but other things have taken priority.
Mum got diagnosed with cancer in March and before treatment even got sorted, she died. I’ve been spending a lot of time being upset and angry in that futile directionless way that happens when we know there’s absolutely nothing we can do about a shitty situation.
Turning into a foul tempered recluse is a perfectly normal human reaction when life gets this fucked up but it’s also self destructive and ultimately a downward spiral when you have a fine family tradition of clinical depression. Sooner or later you have give yourself a bloody good kick up the arse and do something about it.
So here I am.
The day after the funeral I was housebound as the boiler needed fixing, this is not helpful because my usual response to stress is to let Nigel take me for a very long walk.
Staring at the floor and sobbing was wearing a bit thin and making the gas bloke feel a bit uncomfortable, I needed something to do that didn’t involve thinking or being an angry ball of prickles and snarls. I’d just emptied the airing cupboard so repair guy could get to stuff and I found myself staring at a pile of “do we really need this”.
I’ve been meaning to put some honey into actual jars ( I’ve just been spooning it out of a 2 gal bucket all year.) so figured maybe be making honey labels might be a sensible use of my time.
Bear with me – this will all make sense ( eventually).
When I’m down I get a bit ‘self reliant’ or as my line manager put it “stubbornly and ferociously independent’ ( I still don’t know if she was complimenting me or warning me.). I could power up the pc, hit photoshop and print some labels, or I could go the long way round.
I stuck some Dylan on the stereo ( I wanted Rammstein but they frighten the dog), grabbed by best pair of fabric scissors and set to work.
Turning a slightly musty cotton pillowcase into confetti was therapeutic and only took twenty minutes. Trying out all the kitchen blenders I settled on the stick blender as the most efficient destroyer of bedding and made a bowl of cotton soup, for good measure a threw in a handful of cornflour ( more on that later) .
I happen to have a suitable frame for the next bit – I think it was from a kids screen printing set, it’s been in the shed for at least a decade. Saved me cutting up a net curtain.
Dipping it into my soup made me a soggy rectangle of pulp, I put a jeye cloth on top and squished it down a bit.
Repeating the process gave me four sheets, I stacked them up and assaulted the pile with a rolling pin. Discovering just how much water they held I paused to mop the floor.
This was starting look promising!
Next step was to weird out repair person even further and activate the cornflour – starch makes the paper hold together better and makes it less absorbent, without it you’ve basically got blotting paper. This was easy – set an iron to maximum hotness and press the hell out the pulp.
Once that was done my nearly labels were strong enough to lift off the cloth and put onto baking racks to dry in the sun. I gave them another ironing when they were almost dry just to smooth the surface a bit. The finished product came out quite nicely.
So that’s the paper but to make it into labels it needs marks making on it.
Lacking a graphite mine for pencils I went for ink – this is easy. As a keen brewer I have tannin powder and I know a bit of medieval chemistry. Tannin reacts with iron to make a blue-black pigment, original ink was made by boiling tannin with iron but scribes quickly realised that green vitriol was a better source of iron, I’m the kind of person that has green vitriol lying around – it’s iron sulphate ( No idea why I have it or when I got it but it’s been through several house moves, I knew it would come in handy. ). No real measuring here I just mixed them with water and hoped for the best.
So that’s paper and ink, pen is considerably easier. I’ve used quill pens before – awful scratchy things and since the parrot died there’s a distinct lack of feathers in the house but a bamboo skewer made a good stylus.
I figured before I actually tried to draw a label, I ought to try the whole lot out. But what to draw with my paper I’ve made myself, with my own ink and pen?
I thought about this for a while and settled on a symbol – one that crops up in the earliest rock art and is still in use today. Simple, instantly recognisable and cross cultural. The one image that pretty much sums up just how pissed off with the world I am at the moment, says a big “fuck you” to everything but also contains a glimmer of hope –
No matter how shitty the world is, regardless of how fucked off you are or how much you want to scream and rant and cry and smash things, nature has given us an amazing gift.
No matter how you look at it
Willies are funny
Mum would have liked that.