Dye Plant CSA

Lupine is a valued dye plant, producing yellows and pale greens

I am fortunate to live in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills, at 3000 feet in elevation, where I can both grow an abundance of plants and gather others from the rich diversity of this bioregion.  My husband and I own Slate Range Camp, a permaculture homestead that includes fruit and nut trees, wine vines and berries, perennial edibles, and our annual food gardens, as well as provides a home to chickens and donkeys.  The natural dye plant CSA is entering its fourth year, and apparently is the only one in the US!  You don’t need any experience to begin this wonderful journey into the natural world of color.  I will be preparing shipments of plants that work well when dried, and each shipment will include full instructions. In past seasons, I have included locally milled wool yarn, either unmordanted or premordanted with rhubarb from my garden, as well as various articles to help you in your exploration of natural dyes.

CSA share holders will become part of my small farm’s mission to help heal the planet through production and use of natural dye plants in a regional manner, both for clothing production and for artistic expression. This 2014 growing season starts with a shortage of water throughout California. The farm’s water district will not be able to support the type of water usage that has blessed the past several growing seasons. Nature’s Cauldron Farm will be planting far less and will offer a Drought Share instead, consisting of those abundant Sierra Nevada foothills plants that are less dependent upon water. Your support will allow the farm to make it through the drought and continue to offer dye plants in the future.

Depending upon the extent of the drought and the growing season, dye plants could include fennel, yarrow, osage orange, elder, oak galls and acorns, lodgepole pine bark, eucalyptus, black walnut, tansy, and various lichens. There will be one large mailing of dye plants at the end of the growing season, approximately late October. You will receive an array of color options and materials to dye either yarn, roving or fabric.

Instructions for mordanting and dyeing will be included with each shipment, as well as project suggestions for using your newly colored yarns. Last year’s shipments included local/regionally processed wool yarns and additional instructional materials. The coming year will offer similar surprises.

One CSA Drought Share costs $185 and must be purchased through the Fibershed Project’s online shopping interface. I do offer a discount for those able to come to the farm, here in Camptonville, California, to pick up their share; please email me for details. I am encouraging fiber guilds and knitting/sewing groups to consider purchasing a share as a group! I have chosen to collaborate with the Fibershed Project, tithing to help support their mission of localizing our clothing, and hope you will explore their website and mine to gain a better understanding of the benefits of rebuilding slow, local clothing resources.


I will be keeping you informed about the growing and harvesting season through the CSA website, www.naturescauldronfarm.com.  I will email each participant as I ship out your package, so you can be looking for your treasures in the mail.


Perhaps you are an artist, perhaps an ecologist, or something else entirely. Hopefully, you have been drawn to investigate my CSA because you understand and support the concept of community-supported agriculture, believe in sourcing what you need in your life from regional farmers, or because you believe in the process of Slow Cloth. Similar to the Slow Food Movement, Slow Cloth is a way of thinking and being with the various steps that lead to the garments we wear. A few centuries ago, and even today in other parts of the world, clothing was far more treasured because it was much more costly. All clothing was made by hand until the early 19th century and the age of industrialization. While I am not necessarily advocating that we go back to those days, I do believe we all need to become more deeply involved in reducing the carbon footprint of the clothing we wear, and in treasuring each piece rather than rapidly discarding it at the end of each season.

Here are some links to help you explore Slow Cloth further:
Jude Hill’s Spirit Cloth
Elaine Lipson’s definition at her blog, Red Thread Studio
India Flint and her pioneering dye work
The Fibershed Project, working in my home region
Sasha Duerr and the Permacouture Institute
Sustainable Cotton Project, where you will find the Fiber Footprint Calculator



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