Walking in the woods a couple months ago, I noticed blue rabbit urine spots on the snow. To make a long story short, rabbits start eating buckthorn bark in late winter which makes their urine turn a pretty blue color.
The entire woods seemed to be dotted with blue. So like any good pigment nerd I wondered, "Can I extract the pigment from this?" And so I did.
I ran back to the house, grabbed a jar and a plastic spoon and simply collected spoonfuls of the blue snow into a jar. There is nothing weird about this, right?
I also noticed lots of dried, old berries still on the buckthorns so I collected a handful of those too, to compare pigments.
By the time I got the jar back into the house, the snow in the jar started to melt and the blue was already changing into green.
So I tossed the dried berries in a separate jar in a tiny bit of hot water and let those soak a bit to release their color before straining off and gathered stuff to make a lake pigment out of these with alum and washing soda. Tiny, tiny amounts of each since I had only an inch of liquid in the jar - it amounted to less than a 1/2 teaspoon of alum and basically a pinch of washing soda.
The rabbit filtered buckthorn (ha) was certainly a more bluish green, but a green nonetheless. Not the vibrant blue it appears to be on the snow. Course maybe some pH tweaking could have nudged this a bit but my sample was so tiny I didn't experiment further.
Still, a lovely green for a plant pigment. This extracting a pigment through the urine of an animal reminds me of Indian yellow, supposedly was once made from the urine of cows fed only mango leaves, which sounds like a bummer for those cows. (No rabbit harmed in the collecting of their urine!)
So the big question (for me) of course is, how lightfast is this pigment? Did filtering buckthorn through a rabbit somehow make it even more magically stable? I doubted it, since I haven't heard of anyone ever making rabbit urine pigment before.
People on the internet say buckthorn berry pigments are stable and they are a bit better than some other plant pigments. BUT, I have never found buckthorn to last past the 4 weeks in a sunny window amount of time without fade so I don't use it for my wooden work.
Once again, there are plenty of permanently lightfast rock and mineral based greens (as well as mixing maya blue indigo with yellow ochre) that I prefer to use instead. However, on wool yarn, I have had fairly decent results with buckthorn berry dyes.
I am not sure anyone else will want to dye yarn with blue rabbit urine snow, but hey, you never know. So let's see if it would be worth it...
Sadly, the results for the rabbit urine buckthorn are worse than the buckthorn berries. Pretty faded after 3 weeks. I mean, it's not too bad, I have certainly seen worse, but I didn't discover any hidden magic here either.
As always, a fun experiment.
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