Saturday, December 19, 2009

Washing the dirt

What a strange concept, huh? That you need to wash dirt. But the Sauvie Island soil has a lot of organic materials in it—bits of half composted leaves, needles, roots of weeds, etc. And remember those 2 worms I rescued out of the soil before I baked it?

So that's what you see floating on top there, all the half composted vegetation. As it turns out, I have a serendipitous tale here. When I went to the Vietnamese grocery to get a mortar and pestle set for grinding the soil, I also picked up a set of wire mesh sink drainers. Ours didn't work so well and the Good Prince's solution was simply to not use it. Which of course causes the sink to be all plugged up which then means I get to clean it out when I come along to use the sink next.

So I used the largest drainer in the sink and had 2 small drainers that I had no use for. And of course, today, they were just the perfect tools for scooping out the organic materials that floated to the top!

So here the vegetation had been scooped out. There were several iterations of stirring up the slurry, letting the vegetation and minerals separate, scooping, and repeat.

As it turns out, although I got a huge amount of the Sauvie Island soil, it was so rich in organic materials that, after washing and grinding (and removing small rocks), I only got a little more usable amount than the South Dakota soil, which surprisingly had little organic materials in it. Nor rocks. I wonder if the person who got me the South Dakota soil had already cleaned the soil?

The other surprising thing was how different the two soils feel—the South Dakota soil created a very creamy, very dark paste, rather like a dark chocolate sauce. The Sauvie Island soil resulted in a lighter and grittier paste, which I suppose makes sense, as there's probably a lot more sand in it.

And Helen Hiebert, the artist who's making the papers for me, sent this photo the other day. These are the Pacific Ocean sheets, made using water from the Pacific. Here it looks really bright—the sheets are wet. Once dry, they'll be a much paler blue.

1 comment:

gl. said...

you make dirt look good! i love the descriptions about the soil and the processing.