Dyeing with Black Walnut Hulls
The by-product of black walnut harvesting is a lot of green hulls which quickly turn brown and then black as they sit. Walnut hulls have been used since ancient times to dye yarn, fabric, clothing, textiles, oriental rugs and many other things. Walnut husks were used in colonial times to create a variety of brown and black shade dyes. Using various mordants (like alum or cream of tartar) can help to deepen the color and vary the hue. We had a couple of pieces of old clothing which were stained or otherwise undesirable, which we have given new life by dyeing with the hulls from the walnuts we are processing. Work here restoring the buildings is hard and dirty and so clothes are quickly stained or worn out. Dyeing cloths is a good way to revive an old shirt, skirt or pair of pants. No need to throw away those old t-shirts or donate to the thrift store, and no need to buy something new. People are very wasteful today, but in older times people took advantage of the plants growing all around to reinvent old outfits and create a new look. We have used walnut for coloring Ayurvedic herbal oils also and believe it is a very useful substance. We are describing the process for those who are interested in natural dyeing and the use of native plants.
Black walnuts should be collected in the autumn as they fall from the trees. Quickly collecting the nuts is important to ensure that the nut meat will be fresh and the green hull free from worms and bugs. First the hulls must be removed from the walnuts. This can be done by hitting the nut with a hammer or a stone. Protective gloves should be worn and old clothing which you do not care about. All surfaces and materials used may get permanently stained. The black stain on the hands if glove are not worn may last for several weeks. The nuts in their shells are then rinsed of residual hull and dried for cracking or storing. Stored walnuts should be protected from squirrels who love walnuts and are often seen with black snouts in the autumn around here from their walnut foraging. For making dye, the hulls of about 12 to 16 black walnuts is needed.
Next, the hulls must be crushed or torn into small pieces, ideally the size of peas. These are then placed in a non-reactive pot (like stainless steel or enamel). To this a gallon of water is added and the hulls are boiled for an hour or two. If you do not want to use your walnut hulls immediately, the pieces may be dried and powdered for storing for later use. Remember the importance of wearing gloves or washing the hands frequently during all stages of this process.
Then the hulls are strained from the dark liquid and discarded. The liquid is returned to the pan for dyeing.
Then clothing, yarn or fabric is added to the pot with the liquid and simmered until the desired shade is attained. This may take one or two hours or more depending on the color desired and the fabric. Some fabrics will not readily absorb the dye. We will address this in a future post. Stir the fabrics occasionally as they simmer to help be sure that they stay submerged and that all parts are colored evenly. Simmer until the desired color is attained. It is necessary to color fabrics a little darker than you want the finished color to appear, since some color will be lost in the rinsing stage.
Remove the clothes from the dye liquid and rinse thoroughly in the sink, wringing out all excess liquid until the water runs clear. Then the fabric is hung to dry completely. If rinsing is not thorough enough, the clothes may stain the skin when worn or bleed and stain other clothes when washed.
Once dry, these clothes should be washed by themselves for the first time. After that, they can be washed with similar colored clothes as one normally does their wash.
We are sad to say that we have been a little too late separating our roosters from the chickens. Lack of funds has forced us to begin making the separate enclosure for the roosters later than planned. We have started to get eggs and because the roosters are with the chickens, there is a fair chance that many of them could be fertilized.
We considered the possibility of incubating the eggs and raising our chicken's babies, but because the eggs may remain fertile for many weeks and the great difficulty of raising chicks in the winter, we realized it is not possible. Our 13 chickens could literally make a hundred babies within a few weeks, so this is simply not an option. With limited time, space and money, it is unfortunately beyond the scope of our current ability to care for so many chickens. The egg industry generally kills most of the roosters to control population. With no other options we could figure, we have begun performing funerals for the eggs.
Following the Vedic tradition of burying still born children, we are burying the eggs after prayers to Lord Yama to help the souls of the chickens to ascend to the spiritual realm. We are offering prayers to ease pain and for speedy and prosperous reincarnation. Swamiji has offered many prayers to help the souls of aborted children to pass from the physical realm, so it is only natural to offer similar prayers for the unborn chicks. We are sad that it has come to this, but there has been no other option but to allow our baby's babies to perish and to pray for their poor souls. The good news is we have the rooster coop and run almost ready and should have our boys separated within a few days. We plan to continue regular funerals for several weeks until the chance of fertile eggs has past.
Then, we are back to the question of what to do with the unfertilized eggs. We do not want to eat the eggs, because they are from flesh which is tamasic (dulling to the mind). We find our meditations are deeper when we abstain from such foods. We also do not want to sell the eggs, because we do not want to make money off our chickens but to set the example of caring for these gentle birds rather than using them for our personal gains. Yet, we must dispose of the eggs somehow and do not want to waste them. We can bury some in the garden to fertilize plants and we could feed some to our puppy. We are still exploring other potential uses for the many eggs we will be getting. We welcome thoughts of uses for eggs, if people have them.
So we are on our third lawen mower since we moved. We performed vahana puja which purifies and blesses new vehicles and protects from accidents etc. Perhaps third time is a charm?
Homam in the Garden
Volunteers performing a small Homam in the garden. Homam purifies the atmosphere and helps to pacify negative energies. It aids peace and harmony between people, and increases happiness and prosperity for humanity. It helps to avert wars, famines, disease, and natural disasters. The high number of pests eating our vegetable garden shows us that homam is needed to purify the garden. Rudra Homam, Pancha Shiva Homam and Shakambhari Gayatri Homam was performed in the garden.
Visit to Tuckahoe Plantation
Business carried us to the West End yesterday, where we took a break to visit the Tuckahoe plantation. The grounds are open to visitors for a nominal cost. The old house and many historic out buildings are well maintained. The grounds include many formal and informal gardens landscaped with plants that would have been grown in the 18th century. Our efforts to restore our old colonial house keep leading us to beautiful and interesting places. It is always insightful and inspiring for us in our work now to visit historic sites like this.
As we have set out to restore the historic buildings on the new property, many questions have arisen about the older building techniques used in the past. Historical buildings present many unique construction challenges and special building materials and techniques are required to repair damage to historic buildings. Whenever design or building questions have arisen, we have visited Williamsburg and asked questions to the historic interpreters there. For answers about building materials and techniques, and for inspiration for finishing touches, decorating, and landscaping, they have provided a wealth of knowledge. Many thanks to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and their efforts to spread information about historic living. Without their efforts, our work here would not have been possible. Here are some photos taken during our most recent trip to study historic trim and moldings.
Vaastu and Colors for Decorating
Vaastu Shatra is the ancient science of space revealed by the Vedic Sages. Like Feng Shui, Vaast teaches us how to lay out buildings in harmony with nature and to enhance the flow of positive energy and to reduce negative energy effecting the people who inhabit that space. Vaastu teaches that each direction is governed by a certain element and that specific rooms and features of a property should be aligned with these elements. All planning and construction is done after proper consideration of the energy of the directions. The kitchen, for example, is ideally placed in the SE because this is the direction of the fire element which promotes cooking and digestion. The prayer room is ideally located in the NE, to take advantage of the positive energies flowing from that direction. When dealing with a property which is already constructed, it is not always possible to move a poorly placed room or well etc. Certain features like surrounding roads, buildings, power lines, water bodies, mountains and other things cannot be changed. So there are certain recommendations Vaastu prescribes which can help to counter the negative effects of improper construction or surrounding defects to the vaastu of a property.
Vaastu Directions and Colors
Vaastu recommends the careful selection of colors for decorating a space as one potential remedy for Vaastu defects. Vaastu teaches that each direction has a different energy. For the purposes of vaastu directions are determined according to the sun using a gnomon. The NE direction is related to the Water element. The SE relates to Fire. The SW relates to Earth. The NW relates to Air. And the central portion, called the Brahmasthana, relates to Space or Akaksha. Each direction has its own unique energy and is related to a Diety or Dikpala (Guardian of the Direction). From a profound understanding of the energy of the directions, Vaastu has prescribed specific colors for decorating each direction in order to suppress the potentially harmful effects of energies flowing from that direction and to enhance the beneficial effects. The illustration shows suggestions for colors for each direction. Note that different texts provide different recommendations of colors for the different directions and that there are various possible colors which can be used. A more extensive list is provided in the table below.
Dealing With Vaastu Defects with Color
When there are vaastu defects, the careful selection of color can help to hinder the harmful effects of improperly placed rooms and features while improving the positive flow of energy through the space. Positive energy is said to flow from the East and North and negative energy from the South and West. This is why vaastu recommends keeping the North and East sides of a property or room clear, open, light, and low - this enhances receptivity to the positive energy flowing from the North and East. Hills and walls, fences, trees and other obstructions in the North or East can substantially reduce the flow of energy effecting the health, wealth, and success of inhabitants. Of course, it is ideal whenever possible to remove obstructions from a property. When this is not possible (or affordable), a person can help to generate more positive energy in a direction by painting the room in that direction the corresponding color from the illustration above. Beneficial colors may also be introduced to a space through fabrics for curtains, upholstery, artwork, rugs, or other decorations. Colors may also be used to help counterbalance the effects of improperly placed elements in the vaastu. If water, a well, lake, river, shower, or faucet is located in the SE, this is considered bad, because water will weaken the fire element in that direction. This vaastu dosha can weaken the confidence, intellect, immunity, and digestion of the people in the home. It can cause anxiety and accidents. If it is not possible to move that water which is dampening the fire element, it can be beneficial to paint the room in the SE pink. If pink is brought into the SE to increase the fire energy and a candle or ghee lamp is offered to Lord Murugan in the SE regularly, this can be an effective remedy to help counteract the effects of improperly placed water. It is beyond the scope of this article to provide an exhaustive list of vaastu defects and their potential color related remedies. These examples should help a person to understand the basic principles of using colors as a remedial measure in vaastu.
Considering One's Astrology
The 8 directions may also be related to the Nine planets of Vedic astrology. Each planet is said to rule a different direction and the careful selection of colors can give strength to the planet ruling that direction. Colors may also be used to shield a person from the negative influence of the planets caused by their placement in the natal chart. According to vaastu, the Sun relates to the East; Venus to the SE; Mars to the South; Rahu to the SW; Saturn to the West; the Moon to the NW; Mercury to the North, and Jupiter and Ketu both to the NE. For example, painting the Southern room in a house a bold red would give strength to Mars and the Fire element. Using cooler colors like pink or green would ease an excess of fiery energy in that direction. See the list below of various colors suitable for each direction according to the consideration of the Planets, and Elements of each direction.
Giving Strength to Benefic Planets and Shielding from the Effects of Malefic Planets
When selecting colors for one's home, it is wise to consult an astrologer to seek advice on the types of colors most suitable to give strength to one's auspicious planets. According to astrology, each planet is capable of exerting benefic or malefic effects based upon its nature for the ascendance, its house and sign of placement, and its association with other planets in the chart etc. Determining which planets are most benefic and which are most malefic is a complex task best left to an experienced astrologer. If a person has a sense of which planets are the strongest benefics in the birth chart, they can give extra strength to that planet to increase their beneficial effects in life by favoring the colors relating to that planet whenever possible in decorating. Red, gold and dark orange will give strength to the Sun. White, silver and light blues will strengthen the Moon. Red, maroon, and bold colors will strengthen Mars. Green, tan, brown, and Earth tones will strengthen Mercury. Yellow, gold, and light oranges will strengthen Jupiter. White, light blue, light pink, and pastels will give strength to Venus. Dark blue, purple, or grey will strengthen Saturn. Grey, blue, maroon, brown or dark orange will strengthen Rahu. And light blue, light green, gold, or yellow can strengthen Ketu. These colors will be especially powerful to strengthen a Planet when they are used in the direction of the Planet, but they can be helpful when used in any suitable direction. The colors which give strength to malefic planets in one's chart should be avoided as much as possible, as their presence may increase the Planet's potential to cause trouble in life.
When the colors recommend by Vaastu risk giving unwanted power to malefic Planets, it is always possible to use complementary colors to help reduce the energy of the planet in question. Selecting colors from the table above which honor the direction in some way is ideal when substituting colors. The colors of neutral planets or those which have mixed results may be used as secondary colors for decorating, but are best avoided as primary colors throughout the home. However, if there is no other choice, the colors of neutral planets will cause much less trouble than those of malefics. When considering the astrology of a building which will be used by various different people, Vaastu would recommend basing color choices primarily upon the astrology of the owner of the property.
Considering one's Ayurvedic Constitution
Ayurveda teaches that health can be understood in terms of the balance of the three doshas: vaata, pitta, and kapha. Each of the doshas has a propensity to be increased or decreased by the colors a person is exposed to for long periods of time, like the walls in a home or office. One's doshic balance may be determined by a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner. Vata dosha benefits from warm, calming, grounding colors like reds, oranges, yellows, browns, tans, and Earth tones. Pitta benefits from cooling, calming colors like blues, white, greens, purples, Earth tones, and light colors. Kapha benefits from bold, stimulating or cleansing colors like red, purple, orange, and bright colors. It is useful when selecting colors for a building to consider the doshic balance of all the people who will be regularly using that space.
It is Not always Best to Choose One's Favorite Colors
It is worth mentioning that when people are out of balance, they tend to gravitate toward things which further increase their imbalance. Colors are no exception. Angry pitta types often favor red for clothing and decorations and avoid the cooling calming colors that balance their doshas. They feel uncomfortable with light blues, white, or other cool colors. Many depressed people wear a large amount of black which attracts negativity and promotes even more sadness. It is important when selecting colors to keep this principle in mind and not to select the colors which are a person's favorite, but to select those colors which are most beneficial. But it is useful if a person has some affinity for the colors selected for decorating, since they have to live with them and the colors should be beautiful to them so that they bring pleasure, comfort, and joy as they improve the energy of the space.
General Considerations for Color Selection
In general, lighter colors are a better choice for an uplifting surrounding. White is a pure color which is uplifting and which tends to deflect all negativity and shields a person from darkness. Black is a color which is depressing and which attracts all forms of negativity to a person. Any color can be softened by adding white and darkened by adding black. But white and the cooler shades which come from mixing white with other colors can be very cooling, so a delicate balance is required to create an uplifting effect without becoming too cool. This is especially important to consider for people with an excess of vata or kapha. Colors throughout a building should be selected to complement one another so that there is a harmonious effect when passing from room to room in the space. Colors that clash and dramatic contrasts of color can be overly stimulating and do not lead to an overall sense of peace for people using the space. When decorating a space, it is wise to create a balanced color pallet which creates a natural flow from room to room considering the astrology and doshic balance of the inhabitants of the space and the energy of the directions.
Color selection Considering the Intended Use of a Room
It is wise to select colors with not only the direction in mind but also the intended use for the space. The spiritual energy of a prayer room may be enhanced by using light yellows or light lavender shades. Coloring a kitchen or dining room with warm colors like yellow,pink, red, or orange helps promote proper digestion. An office or study may be colored yellow to promote intelligence. Bedrooms for individuals should be colored with particular attention to the astrology, Ayurvedic constitution and affinities of the person using that room. A bedroom is often a person's personal space in a house shared with the family. The needs of that individual can be fully addressed most effectively in their personal spaces within the common dwelling. Light green for showers can promote healing and cleansing. These are just a few examples of the possible use of color to enhance the qualities of a specific room in relation to its intended use. The possibilities are vast.
The nature of the Colors in General
In the aura, lighter shades indicate higher spiritual thoughts and feelings and darker colors indicate the base animal instincts and emotions like fear, anger, greed, jealousy, and confusion. Light reds stimulate vitality and romantic passion, but darker reds inflame hatred, rage, and violence. Light purple promotes spiritual vision. Light blues foster spiritual love, while dark blues and purples can create superstition and fear. Light greens inspire a love of nature while dark greens bring about anxiety and metal agitation. Light yellows induce spiritual intellect, while dark grayish yellow stimulate overactive mind and confusion. Light orange indicates spiritual intellect and dispassion, while dark oranges can bring about possessiveness and attachment. Colors can be bold and bright, especially when this is beneficial for one's Planets or Ayurvedic constitution. But very dark colors should be avoided, especially dark grayish, blackish, or brownish shades. It is clear to one who understands the psychological effects of the colors that lighter colors are more uplifting because they stimulate the higher spiritual emotions of peace, joy, love, and contentment. Dark colors attract dark thoughts and feelings to the mind.
It is not a simple task to select suitable colors for a space according to the principles of vaastu. For the best effects, many complex factors must be evaluated. But with knowledge and careful consideration, it is possible to improve the quality of life for people using a building and to help counter the effects of vaastu defects to enhance the flow of positive energy to a space by decorating with appropriate colors.
Shakambhari Devi Gayatri Mantra
ॐ ना॒रा॒यण्यै॑ च वि॒द्महे॑
om nā̱rā̱yaṇyai̍ ca vi̱dmahe̍
"Om. May we have knowledge of Goddess Nārāyaṇī, the Divine Self, the highest Realization, the supreme Wealth, and the Source of Repose for all seekers.
शाकम्भ॒र्यै च॑ धीमहि।
śākambha̱ryai ca̍ dhīmahi
May we perceive through our contemplation Goddess śākambhari, who dwells in the forest, the bearer of nourishment and vegetation, who is the power of the multitudes, who loves those who nourish and protect others, and who is the constant friend of those who praise Her.
तन्नो॑ देवीः प्रचो॒दयात्॥
tanno̍ devīḥ praco̱dayā̎t ||
May that Goddess of Radiant light, Queen of the Universe, impel our actions and our thoughts.
Benefits of Chanting:
Recitation of this sacred mantra brings peace and spiritual realization, it allows us to see the Goddess in all things; it empowers herbs, food, and water for healing; it brings nourishment and heals dis-ease, it grants protection from danger, wild animals, dark forces and negative thoughts, and provides safe passage through forests and remote areas; it inspires love and the motherly quality of nurturing in the chanter. It ends droughts, famine, and epidemics. Gives confidence, courage, and success. It lessens the ego and give strength to the spiritual qualities within people. The Goddess increases nourishment, wealth, and prosperity wherever this sacred mantra is chanted.
Specific Ayurvedic herbs can be offered with the Shakambhari Gayatri Mantra for specific results. The herbs can be offered into a homam for those who know how to perform such rituals, or a ghee lamp can be lit and the powdered herbs simply offered onto a copper plate while reciting the mantra. In either case the herbs that remain after offerings can be consumed as prasad for these benefits listed below, with the exception of kumkum, which is worn on the third eye point instead of consumed to bestow its results.
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