Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Homeschool Bits: Quill and Ink
While we were in Missouri, we discovered the novelty of black walnuts. Being as we're Westerners, and they don't grow wild here, we'd never seen them before. Chloe had a great time collecting them at the park at Alley Spring.
We put them in a bag, brought them home with good intentions, and ended up leaving them in that bag on the front porch for six weeks. They were rotten and slimy and gross. I was ready to toss them. But when I was reading about how to make black walnut ink and dye, the first step is to... leave your black walnuts in a bag to rot. Heh! Awesome. On to Step 2, then!
We put the rotten walnuts (maggots and all. No joke*.) in my five quart soup pot.
(I thoroughly wanted to ruin the pot, so I'd have an excuse to get a new stainless steel one. It didn't work, the pot's just fine.) Clad in rubber gloves and craft aprons, in our very oldest of clothes, we stabbed the walnuts with steak knives repeatedly until they were fairly broken up.
Then we brought them inside, filled the pot with water, and boiled it for a few hours.
Now, they say to boil it for 8-24 hours. I was working with two impatient little girls, and a time span of one afternoon to finish this project. We boiled it for two and a half hours, and that was plenty.
I mashed the husks up a bit more as it boiled, and when we were satisfied with how dark it was, I strained out all the nasty sludge.
Then we made our quill, using a feather from the geese The Daddy shot this spring. I'm not going to go into detail here, because if you Google "how to make a quill" you'll find about forty five thousand how-to articles on the subject. Suffice it to say, it's not hard. We had the best luck with an Exacto knife.
We all took a try at writing with the quill.
It was surprisingly easy. Chloe wrote a letter to her great-grandma that we visited in Missouri. The downside was not being able to erase!
History, science, art, penmanship and grammar all rolled into one activity? Awesome. And the actual hands-on time was only about half an hour.
*Yes, maggots. Seriously nasty. If it wasn't mentioned specifically in the blog I used as my general instructions that there would be bugs and larvae of all sorts, I don't think I could have continued. But by the time they'd boiled for two and a half hours, we couldn't tell they were in there any more. Not sure if that's a good thing, or if it's even more disgusting...