Paper making 101

Phred asked me to tell you a bit about paper making and the problems I've been having. I have been learning from scratch, pulling my whiskers out with worry - why wont it work?

I guess I better start at the beginning.

Paper is made of fibers, and being on a high fiber diet we have lots of fibers in all the warrens, the fine linen Linum usitatissimum the ladies have been weaving has wonderful long fibers, but it is way to valuable to experiment with. Carrot tops are OK but there is a lot of work and little paper making usable fiber. One thing that is in abundance is corn husks, guess humans and bunnies alike don't eat the husks of corn.

So following the directions from one of our tomes I found I had a lot of steps to go through to get usable paper making fiber from corn husks.

First you have to cook the husks, 12 hours later they were still too tough to do much with. Well back to burrowing through the library. Ah, you need an alkali to speed up the process. Soda ash from burnt wood ashes works and Farmer Jones heats his house with wood and has this big pile of ash...

I won't go into all the detail on how we finally made the stuff except to say it was a long hot day.

Cook the husks in soda ash and water, 3 hours later the the husk fibers are soft and pull apart.

The liquid went from being crystal clear to dark brown and smelt a little sweet, but what to do with it?

Well that started a long discussion among the brew bunnies, the baker bunnies and Aunt Aretha, our resident canning and pickling maven. It ended up we neutralized the alkali with acid - vinegar to be precise - if we keep this up Farmer Jones and his wife are going to wonder where all the pickling juice went, Aunt Aretha warned me she'd be making more than paper outta my hide if the pickling storehouse ended up getting a lock down right before cucumber harvest!

After you cook the fiber you have to rinse, then rinse again until the water runs clear, the underground stream the washer bunnies use was excellent for this step - those bunnies are pretty smart too, they had little grove shelves all worked into the stream bed and bank for sitting and holding pots and even a spot to keep their "refreshments" cool. I think I have to come back down here sometime and see just what those bunnies have found to need cooling.

After rinsing you have to beat the fibers, with all the energy the youngsters have you would think that was an easy thing to do. It took a little creative thinking but we put the fiber between some plastic and had them youngsters run and jump and hop 'til it was beaten to a pulp.

Then take the pulp and suspend it in water and use an old window screen to make sheets. Getting the thickness right took a little practice.

After forming the sheets they had to be pressed to get the water out and then dried. Took some thinking here too to get the pressing figured out, but the carpenter crew had an extra couple of barn boards and there was a rock or two we rolled on top and then the whole thing kind'a blended into Farmer Jones ol' "someday might be useful pile" out behind the machine shed and the sun did our work of drying.

From 1 pound of corn husks I got 12 thin sheets of paper.

I'll get Colin to take a picture and post here this afternoon. Not sure what we're going to do with the paper yet. Seems like it would make a great painting surface, or maybe note cards. Real pretty gold color and nice texture. Boy, it all makes me hungry for some of Juanita's tamales, maybe I'll hop over to the cooks den and see what's on the stove.........