Monday, October 16, 2017

Fermented Pokeberry Ink

I have now successfully made ink from pokeberries, adapting a Fermented Pokeberry Ink recipe I found at Fountain Pen Network.

Here are the steps and my notes.

First and foremost, don't forget about it while it's fermenting! I left our first batch for a week (writing Pokeberry Ink every day on your to-do list and then still not doing anything about it doesn't really count as remembering it) and so it over-fermented. We had to throw it out and begin again. Luckily, this is a really quick process, as compared to the black walnut ink recipe we are also trying this fall.



Day One

Take several kids who are old enough to know that pokeberries are poisonous down to a patch of poke and let them pick the ripest blackest juiciest berries they can find. Fill a small plastic water bottle (just get a bottle of water from the grocery store... you'll need to throw away almost everything you use for this project) about 2/3 of the way full of berries.

Note: If you have them wash their hands with soap and hot water right away after picking the berries, they won't be stained as much.

Put the lid on tight and shake it really hard to mash the berries up. It will now be about 1/3 full, but you won't be able to tell because the whole bottle will be stained on the inside.

Add a packet of yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) and put the lid back on and shake it some more.

Then take your bottle of mashed pokeberries, juice, and yeast and pour the contents into a larger bottle. I used a large Bolthouse Farms smoothie bottle. Cover this bottle with a piece of fabric and fasten it tightly with a rubber band. The fabric will allow the contents to breathe while they are fermenting. I used an old birdseye weave cloth diaper doubled over.

Let the bottle ferment in a dark corner for 24 hours. I put it in my garage, out of direct sunlight.


Day Two

On the second day, turn the entire bottle/fabric/rubber band setup upside down and set it in a large plastic cup which you are also willing to throw away. Put on rubber gloves. I tried to let the liquid seep for a while out of the bottle and into the cup but it mostly just wicked around and stained all of the cloth diaper and didn't really go into the cup. So I ended up removing the rubber band and fabric and making a little pouch of the berries and juice and then squeezing it really hard to get all of the liquid out. Squeeze as much as you can into the cup, then throw your fabric and berries away.

This is your unfiltered ink.

Now the next step is to filter it. Take three glass bottles which are headed for the recycling bin and line them up. I used amber colored cider bottles. Put a coffee filter in each one. The directions say to use one bottle and wait a long long time for the ink to make its way through the filter, but using three bottles makes more sense. I also found that it wasn't necessary to rubber band the coffee filter in place. It's so crammed into that little bottle opening, it stays just fine on its own. Just fold it long and thin and put it in, then carefully open the folds of it out so that you have a long tube of coffee filter with a bit sticking out the top of the bottle like a flower. You should be able to get your eyedropper and your liquid into the filter easily. I put my finger down into the bottle to open the filter up, but you have to be careful not to break it by pushing your finger too far in and puncturing the bottom.

Take your eye dropper and label it ART ONLY with a fine point sharpie. Happily, we already had an ART ONLY eye dropper. The pharmacy usually gives these away for free.

Using the eye dropper, pick up your unfiltered ink from the cup a little at a time and place it in the filters in the bottles. Do not force it through. Be patient. This can take a few hours but you only have to wander over every ten minutes or so to put some more liquid in. And it's much faster if you've set up three bottles.


I did all of the second day activities in my laundry room utility sink, which doubles as our art sink. Pokeberry does stain!

When all of the ink has made it through the filtering step, pour it into your storage container. I reused a 3 oz vanilla extract bottle because it's the right size for my quantity of ink (which only filled it about half way) and it's already a pretty amber color.

Of course, if I really get into this writing with a real pen thing (or my students really do), I will have to splurge on a real inkwell!


Venetian Glass Dipping Pen with Colored Inkwell

100% all glass
handmade in Germany


This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Library Workshop: Montessori Second Great Lesson

I'm leading a workshop series at my local public library on progressive education. The sessions will take place on Tuesday evenings from October 3 to December 12 (not including Halloween).

Some of the sessions are on Montessori and some are on Waldorf. Here I will put a corresponding series of blog posts listing what materials I took with me, both to help out other people who may be leading similar workshops and to help me out if I do another set of workshops like these in the future!


Montessori Second Great Lesson

Five Great Lessons binder from NAMC teacher training course

materials for demonstrations:

    photo of Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park

    Montessori Services Timeline of Life Fossil Collection

    Montessori Services Geologic Periods Book Set

    collection of Micoene fossil shark teeth from Calvert Cliffs, Maryland

    small plastic animals (centipede, spider, bee)

    large deep bin of water & plastic newspaper sleeve

    Titanosaur 35 meter long ball of finger knitted yarn and fact card

    6 foot long canopy silk in blues and purples


supplies for algae mono printing activity, including art tray, 8 inch Gelli Printing Plate, green acrylic paint, 4.5 inch wide hard rubber brayer, cotton swabs, 12 x 12 inch patterned scrapbook paper in blues, and baby wipes


supplies for Timeline of Life Calendar activity, including blank 12 x 12 inch scrapbook calendar and assorted stencils (fern and ginkgo)


Pangea puzzle activity (PDF) from the American Museum of Natural History and the amazing paper map of This Dynamic Planet: World Map of Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Impact Craters, and Plate Tectonics from the USGS


bracelet classification activity, including sample classification question cards, pipe cleaners, and a wide variety of different colors of pony beads


recent newspaper article on new fossil species being discovered
(it is also nice to bring some golden Stockmar modeling beeswax and have people make models of your state fossil; ours in Illinois is the Tully monster)


the absolutely irresistible Tree of Life from Waseca Biomes and a small white blanket to serve as the background



Early Humans
(for Timeline of Life Calendar scale & where to place events)
by Michelle Breyer



From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story

by Jennifer Morgan



Life Story

by Virginia Lee Burton



Life: A Journey through Time

by Frans Lanting



The Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth

by Meredith Hooper



The Drop in my Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet

by Meredith Hooper


Why Frogs are Wet by Judy Hawes, illustrated by Don Madden



The Wonderful Egg

by Dahlov Ipcar


time travel story by geologist Dr. Peter Vogt, The Monster Shark's Tooth: Canoeing from the Chesapeake Bay Into the Ancient Miocene Sea


homeschool organization: Becca's plan book, my plan book, box of Lyra Waldorf Selection colored pencils, Prismacolor gold and silver pencils

business materials: business cards, book group flyers, attendance sheet, "From Lava to Life" 2017 summer camp Expo / Museum Walk flyer, Waseca Biomes catalogue, session topic handout


This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Library Workshop: Montessori First Great Lesson

I'm leading a workshop series at my local public library on progressive education. The sessions will take place on Tuesday evenings from October 3 to December 12 (not including Halloween).

Some of the sessions are on Montessori and some are on Waldorf. Here I will put a corresponding series of blog posts listing what materials I took with me, both to help out other people who may be leading similar workshops and to help me out if I do another set of workshops like these in the future!


Montessori First Great Lesson

Five Great Lessons binder from NAMC teacher training course

materials for demonstrations:

    candle & matches

    large clear bowl of water & silver star confetti

    cast iron panini press & spray bottle of water

    Montessori golden unit bead & red yoga ball

    Starry Night Silk Scape



Solar System: A Visual Exploration of All the Planets, Moons and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun

by Marcus Chown



Photographic Card Deck of the Solar System: 126 Cards Featuring Stories, Scientific Data, and Big Beautiful Photographs of All the Planets, Moons, and Other Heavenly Bodies That Orbit Our Sun

by Marcus Chown



Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

by Theodore Gray



Photographic Card Deck of The Elements: With Big Beautiful Photographs of All 118 Elements in the Periodic Table

by Theodore Gray



Theodore Gray's Elements Vault: Treasures of the Periodic Table with Removable Archival Documents and Real Element Samples - Including Pure Gold!

by Theodore Gray



Born With a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story

by Jennifer Morgan


the absolutely gorgeous Cosmic Story Mat from Waseca Biomes, which goes with Jennifer Morgan's story



Older Than the Stars

by Karen C. Fox



How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World

by Faith McNulty


homeschool organization: Becca's plan book, my plan book, box of Lyra Waldorf Selection colored pencils, Prismacolor gold and silver pencils

business materials: business cards, book group flyers, attendance sheet, session topic handout


This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!