I suppose its a sort of deconstructive personality trait that makes me want to know how to make every element of a book myself. On one level it's filling out another part of the survival skill-kit I want for after the complete collapse of civilization. I don't feel the need to live my life as though civilization is not still stumbling along providing me with affordable necessities and pleasures. And I don't feel the need to become a master of all the skills on my survival list. I just want to be confident that I wouldn't be helpless without Google to tell me what to do, let alone sell me whatever I want.
So haphazardly I work through my list as opportunities present themselves and my imagination demands manifestation. Grow, preserve and cook food, check. Weave and knit fabric and sew clothes, check. Print and bind books, check. Make paper, check. Make ink... checking it out.
A notice on Freecycle offering walnuts for collection from a neighbour's garden sent me cycling across town to fill my pannier bags with nuts. What I found was a pile of mossy grass clippings studded with tiny, black, mouldy little nuts. But I filled a bag anyway, as their slimy black husks inspired me to try making ink with whatever wasn't edible.
After a few days drying in the sun, the walnuts were less gross to handle and I sorted the biggest and healthiest looking nuts out to dry for a few months before eating. The rest, along with all the husks, and a few clinging strands of moss and grass, went into a big pot of water. As soon as they came to the boil, I knew the smell was something I didn't want in the house and I switched to the second method I'd read about: let them soak. So now there is a pot of walnut husks soaking on the back step. In a few weeks I will test the liquor and if it is dark enough I'll strain out all the bits and dip my quill in the ink. That simple apparently!
Unfortunately the ink won't be ready in time for the Rennaissance Fair at Waikato Museum in a couple of weeks. I will be there helping people to try their hands at mirror writing like Leonardo da Vinci's journals. Four hundred years ago he would have taken pleasure in the crisp contrast of black ink on white paper, but over time his notebooks have turned brown as the paper darkened and the ink faded. For an instantly-aged effect at the Fair, I have stained paper with tea. Here the sheets drying in the autumnal breeze of my backyard.