This year, the lily stem pulp kicked my butt a bit, though I finally, stubbornly ended up with what I needed today, a few days under a month from the harvest.
There were three differing factors from last year: (1) Our circumstances (combined with weather) caused me to leave the cut harvested stems soaking for well over a week; they retted a bit before cooking (which usually helps the process). Last year I harvested, cooked and beat within two days. (2) There were some stems from a different type of daylily in this year’s batch. (3) There simply were more lilies this year, and I probably crammed too much into the biggest cooking pot, and underestimated the amount of soda ash needed. That, I think, was most likely. It probably didn’t help that I also stopped the cook for about 40 minutes in the middle due to a sudden fast little rainstorm, but I gave it an extra hour and let the stems sit in the cooking solution for another several days (that’s also something that usually helps). The fiber simply refused to circulate in the beater.
So, I did a second cook, this time in two batches and again, the fiber sat in the cooking solution for three days; that’s our life right now. I also hand-cut the still-tough stems down before beating. Success! All the extra re-processing took about 25 minutes off the beating time to get the exact same pulp as last year.
This lovely accidental 3D piece was made by forgetting to clean out a mesh bag after draining the beater the first time to re-cook. It’s a good illustration of why I kept at it: a tough pulp that connects tiny rough fibers (the ones that didn’t break down in the ‘piece’) that add bulk and a great deal of strength to cast works. It’s great for interior sketetal structures. (Plus, the house is surrounded by clouds of tall bright orange blooms for weeks before harvest).
During our unpredictable schedule for the next weeks, I’m hoping to use what studio time I have just testing some fibers, making sheets and small castings. There are some important harvests happening in that time frame, too, and today I was offered a second milkweed harvest, plus seeds to start in the yard for next year. Excellent. Hello, autumn.