Starting to Grow More Color…

March 26, 2010

Bolinas is a town set within in our Northern California coastal region that could never be summed up by one person, in one blog.  Yet, if I were to attempt to share with you the magic of this place I’d start with the mind blowing trails that hug the coast, and lead to among many things.. a clothing optional swimming lake that rests just above the Pacific Ocean.  It includes a human community of artists, poets, musicians, organic farmers, nationally renown gardeners, permaculturalists, thinkers, and philosophers, (and again these descriptions just skim the surface.)  This is also a community that was well-known in my childhood for taking out any and all sign posts leading to it.  The quieter, the better was the philosophy, and still is.  This entry, I realize is a virtual sign-post for a town that desires no publicity- and so I apologize in advance for any extra attention that may come its way.  However, exciting things are brewing in this gorgeous place.  Wild and cultivated dye colors are being discussed, and planned.

From the back of the farm the expansive view of the Pacific Ocean

The Regenerative Design Institute is a nonprofit educational organization with the vision that all people can live in a mutually enhancing relationship with the earth.  They’ve been teaching and practicing the ‘way’ for some time now.  Their farm currently supplies their partner organization the  Commonweal institute with clean, organic produce for those individuals recovering and surviving cancer.

European variety blue elderberry- great dye making species

The Regenerative Design Institute will be the site of a new breed of textile classes in the near future.  A place where cultivated species as well as tended natives will be used on an ongoing basis for color creation.  It will be a place for serious study and practice of this art form.  My visit to the gardens and surrounding wild lands imbued me with a feeling of complete serenity as well as delight– that yes, there will soon be the opportunity to chart and directly measure the effects of sustainable wild-lands harvesting.

For those coming to Berkeley this weekend, you’ll get a taste of the first harvest of the Bolinas horsetail.  The Regenerative Design Institute site is currently full with this 380 million year old species.  The early spring shoots are showing promise of a very soft pinkish tan, (as far as I can tell from the sweet smelling dye vat that boils away downstairs).  My experience of harvesting the shoots in the late spring has been that the color deepens as the soil dries out.

last year's late spring rose from horsetail-- on a Point Reyes wool

Of all the many native plants that we will have the opportunity to work with– horsetail is one of the unique color options that cannot be replicated by any other species that I’ve worked with.  Some come close, but none quite match this lovely soft shade of rose.

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2 Responses to “Starting to Grow More Color…”

  1. Lorena Says:

    Love your blog. I had a college friend from Berkely who always raved about the beauty of Bolinas, it was her ideal place to live. Thanks for highlighting the area, sounds wonderful, especially the school for the permaculture dyeing arts

  2. Helen Says:

    Hi I have just found your blog and it is lovely. The colours you have got are fabulous and I am very envious of the fabulous apricot colour your get form horsetail. A friend of mine Enys who is a co contributor to my blog and looks after my dye garden visited you recently and came back full of excitement about the botanic gardens so it is good to find the blog!


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