(Note-see 2018 update at end)
When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden. She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm. They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon. I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.
Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21, I found my mind turning back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.
Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.
Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm. But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?
I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.
But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.
What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study? Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”
Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.
So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere. The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)
I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.
In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience. My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful. I enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment. I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?
Sept 3 2018 UPDATE!
I never got around to posting results from the days of the eclipse. But this year, while ecoprinting the same leaves from the same plants (pecan, maple, rose, etc.) exactly one year later, there WAS a difference! Prints in 2017 were crsiper and clearer and expecially so with the pecan leaves. As soon as I find those photos (sorry in a rush here, I will share those. Below are a few as from that period as well! But I DO have better graphics-be patient 🙂