Making Homemade Plant-Based Dyes

This is a story about how one thing led to another.

In April 2015, I wrote a post about using vegetables to make homemade dyes for Easter eggs. It seemed like everyone on Instagram was doing it and I wanted in on the action. You can read about it here. It was exciting to produce gorgeous colorful dyes from “scratch.”

These are the colors I made by boiling vegetables in water.
Red/Purple cabbage produced the blue color. That was a nice surprise!
Yellow onion skins made the orange.
Red onion skins made the brownish-red color.
Red beets made the deep fuschia.

One analogous cooking tip I was able to learn from this egg-dyeing project was that yellow-skinned onions impart a nicer golden color to a pot of chicken stock than red onions.

Over the years, I invited my nieces over to dye eggs and we added ground turmeric to the mix. It produced yellow eggs.

I used some of the eggs in these Italian Easter bread baskets, a recipe I need to post!

One year, I didn’t make vegetable dyes and instead used powdered indigo I had purchased for another project to over-dye already colored eggs. I loved the different shades of blue that resulted.

This past February, while touring a block-printing factory in Jaipur, India, I learned from a young man named Ali, that their factory printed with natural dyes made from plants like tomatoes, pomegranates, turmeric, sugar cane, and indigo.

My takeaway was that you could pretty much make fabric dyes from anything that ever stained your clothes, aprons, or dish towels while you cooked.

Two months later, Easter 2018, was the year I went a little cuckoo with the egg dyes. I poked through my kitchen spices, vegetable bins, backyard gardens (found daffodils and forsythia), and the grocery store, looking for foods and flowers I could potentially use to make dyes. In the end, I chose pomegranates, dark grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, cranberry juice, red cabbage, spinach, turmeric, yellow and red onion skins, paprika, apple skins, used coffee grounds, daffodils, forsythia, and tulips.

I was all in.

Crazy as this all seems, I got into the zone on this project. I laid down a long sheet of brown paper and filled fifteen bowls with food and flower samples, some of which I had pre-cooked.

I filled each bowl with boiling water and let the materials meld for a few hours. Afterward, I mashed the materials together in each bowl, heated them in the microwave, and strained out the pulp.
 

I added hot, medium-sized, hard-boiled, white eggs into the strained warm liquid and let them sit for a while longer.

The results were mixed. Some of the dyes produced rich dark colors, some were pale. My favorite new colors were a lovely chartreuse from the pomegranate, a golden yellow-brown from the daffodils and forsythia, a pretty mocha-brown from the coffee grounds, and a light orange from the paprika.

While I used the dyes for eggs, in my head I was thinking about how they might dye fabric. I could see how some of the colors in the swatch below could be created from all the colorful dyes I had made over the years.

 

Making Dye from Indigo Plants

In my garden, I am growing a patch of indigo and hoping that this will be the year I finally try my hand at making dye. There are many complicated steps involved, including a fermentation period, which have kept me from taking the time to focus on and learn how to do it.

Today, I signed up for a class at Hill & Hollow Farm in Breeding, KY, to learn how; how to harvest indigo leaves and create dye. When I went to sign up for the class, I realized I had bought my first indigo plants from Hill and Hollow at their booth at the Nashville Farmers Market. I started with four plants and those plants self-seeded to create the plot I have now. It was an omen. Stay tuned for that post.

Coincidently, in May, my artist friend, Tallu Quinn, showed me how to make patterned blue and white fabric squares using an ancient dyeing technique known as Shibori. That process will be described in another story. As a teaser, here is a photo of the squares we dyed, still wet with dye.

Working on this Shibori project with Tallu sealed the learning-how-to-make-indigo-dye deal for me. Once the fabric squares are sewn together for a quilt, a group wedding gift, I will write a post.

Like I wrote in the beginning, one thing led to another.

Related Posts
Learning How to Block Print in Jaipur (India, Part 2)
To Dye For: Making Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
Morning Rounds in the Garden, July
How to Tell If an Egg Is Fresh or Hard-Boiled

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

 

Morning Rounds in the Garden, July

The July edition of Morning Rounds should begin with a feature photo of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes piled high on a platter, the raison d’être of the Italian summer garden. But, there are no tomatoes this year. They have all been devoured by four-legged creatures with long tails. Instead of peaceful, meditative walkabouts in my vegetable gardens each morning, I begin my day with a quick check of catch and release traps. It’s like setting out baited hooks at dusk when we jugfish for catfish and checking them with bated breath the next morning. Only we eat the catfish.

That’s an opossum’s tail!

In past years, this photo of a squirrel eating a green tomato on the railing of the front garden was an anomaly; now it’s the norm. I considered it quaint; now it makes me growl.

This is a telltale sign that a squirrel is eating your garden produce.

The rabbits have a different modus operandi. They eat the leaves and leave the stems. Currently, they are loving on my peanut plants.

On a much happier note, I do welcome this type of wildlife in my garden. It equals POLLINATION which equals fruits and vegetables in the garden.

I’m very thankful for the bees. If it weren’t for their hind legs collecting and depositing yellow pollen grains as they fly from flower to flower looking for nectar, we would not have zucchini, or Patty Pan squashes, or pumpkins, all gourds in the cucurbit family. Vegetables in the cucurbit family have distinct male and female flowers growing on the same plant. The flower on the right is the male and the one on the left is the female. The bees unwittingly connect them.

Beneath the female flower of this Patty Pan squash is an immature fruit. If pollinated, the fruit will grow to maturity. If not, it will wither and die. I call that failure to launch. Blessed be the pollinators, for they will have honey in heaven.

One morning I shot this short video after I saw a bumblebee fly into a pumpkin flower poking through the fence surrounding the compost pile. Wait for it. Oh, the things you can observe in the garden.

 

 

The Front Garden: The Italian Vegetable Garden

Moving onto other vegetables growing in the front garden, there are the swoon-worthy Tri-Color string beans and Fairy Tale eggplants,.

and the sweet peppers.

In the photos below, you’ll see buds, flowers, and small fruit growing on the single stems of eggplants, string beans, and sweet peppers. While bees visit these plants, their male and female reproduction parts are within the same flower and gravity and wind often does the job of spreading the pollen.


Other News

I harvested the soft-neck garlic bulbs at the end of June. The bulb heads are small because they had a short growing season. I planted them in the spring. If they are planted in the fall and allowed to winter over, they should grow much larger bulbs.

Sadly, by mid-July, my raised bed of squash and cucumbers plants became so unruly, due to overcrowding, that I pulled all the plants. Plants need air circulation. They need room to grow. My problem is I have a hard time thinning plants. Lesson learned. I felt so relieved when I finally pulled them. I knew from the beginning I should have thinned the seedlings.

In other good news, the Brown Turkey fig tree is loaded with almost-ripe figs.

The fig tree is at at least twenty feet tall. I planted it in front of a southern-facing brick wall, and it has survived in this spot for over ten years. Every few years, I have to cut it back after we have a super cold winter. While I don’t have an irrigation system, the tree is watered by the steady drip of condensate from our air-conditioner. It remains lush all summer long.

The Muscadine grapes are looking great. I gave them lots of room to grow along a fence.

The Back Garden: Commercial Crops and their Flowers

I am growing a variety of commercial crops for the sheer joy of seeing how they grow.

Cotton

Sugar Cane

Peanuts

Corn

Tobacco (hasn’t flowered, yet)

Indigo (hasn’t flowered, yet)

Soybeans (missed a flowering photo)

Rice (this crop failed)

A morning haul of food. I look at this assortment of vegetables and wait for them to tell me what I should cook for dinner. I love the entire process of growing and cooking vegetables.

For ideas about how to prepare summer vegetables check out vegetable sides and pasta dishes on the blog Menu.

I’ll close with a video of my backyard composters eating their favorite food.

 

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Related Stories
Morning Rounds in the Garden, June
Morning Rounds in the Garden, May
Morning Rounds in the Garden, April
Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden
Fall Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Family Dirt

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

A Few Good Books

I am in a lively book club called The Book Hunters. We’ve been meeting the third Monday of every month since 1989. Most of us were new mothers when we started. Now, many of us are grandmothers. We used to meet in the morning and drink coffee. Now we gather in the evening and drink things other than coffee.

One of my favorite book club meetings happens in January when spouses or SO’s are invited to join us. We try to pick a book we think will generate a thoughtful and energetic discussion. Memorable books for this expanded gathering have been titles such as Endurance, Undaunted Courage, and The Road. Last year, we read The Sympathizer, a story about the Vietnam War as told by a Vietnamese counterspy. It was so informative, my husband and I went back and watched the Ken Burns Series, The Vietnam War to get more context. This year, we are reading A Murder in Music City.

Once a year,  the Book Hunters get together for a luncheon and instead of discussing one book we come prepared with suggestions for the next year’s list. Afterward, a group of us get together and attempt to whittle down the selection to eleven books. At that meeting, we assign books to each other to read so we can get more opinions about specific books. A month later, we get together again and hear each other’s thoughts on the assignments. We book-lovers long for superlatives like “I loved it” or “I couldn’t put it down” or ” I learned so much” or “It’s beautifully written.” If the readers have high praise for a book, it’s in.

Yesterday, we left that second meeting super excited about the reading list we had come up with. When my mother was alive, I would always send her a copy of the list after this meeting. These days I email it to my friend, Gayl, in Napier, NZ where she shares it with friends in her book club, Chooks & Books. Gayl also sends me book recs that the Chooks have enjoyed. One of them, On the Edge of the Orchard, was read by our book club last March. The discussion that ensued was one of the best. For me, that’s the beauty of reading, sharing, and discussing books together; you get a glimpse into the soul of others when you hear what moved them about a story.

Here’s our list.

September: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)

“Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!” —Reese Witherspoon

October: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)

“Beginning in 1910 during the time of Japanese colonialization and ending many decades later in 1989, Pachinko is the epic saga of a Korean family told over four generations. The family’s story starts with Hoonie, a young Korean man born with physical deformities, but whose destiny comes from his inner strength and kindness. His daughter, rather than bring shame on her family, leaves their homeland for Japan, where her children and grandchildren will be born and raised; yet prejudice against their Korean heritage will prevent them from ever feeling at home. In Pachinko, Min Jin Lee says much about success and suffering, prejudice, and tradition, but the novel never bogs down and only becomes richer, like a sauce left simmering hour after hour. Lee’s exceptional story of one family is the story of many of the world’s people. They ask only for the chance to belong somewhere—and to be judged by their hearts and actions rather than by ideas of blood traits and bad seeds.” –Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review

November: Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)

“A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess’s story that manages to be both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right.”―The New York Times

“An epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page-turner.” — Ann Patchett

December: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal (2015)

“I started this on Sunday and finished it on Monday. It was just one of those books that is filled with secrets of the past that you just have to know about and characters that you love as soon as you meet them and then you love them more as the author lets you see who they are.” Angela M for Goodreads. 

“A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets.” —Goodreads

January Couples Dinner: A Murder in Music City  by Michael Bishop (2017)

“Nashville 1964. Eighteen-year-old babysitter Paula Herring is murdered in her home. A few months later a judge’s son is convicted of the crime. Decades after the slaying, Michael Bishop, a private citizen, stumbles upon a secret file related to the case and with the help of some of the world’s top forensic experts–including forensic psychologist Richard Walter (aka “the living Sherlock Holmes”)–he uncovers the truth. What really happened is completely different from what the public was led to believe. In this true-crime page-turner, the author lays out compelling evidence that a circle of powerful citizens were key participants in the crime and the subsequent cover-up.” —Amazon

February: Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent (2008)

“A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it. It begins outside a burning plantation hut in Louisiana . . . and an East Texas honky-tonk . . . and, without a doubt, in the heart of God. It unfolds in a Hollywood hacienda . . . an upscale New York gallery . . . a downtown dumpster . . . a Texas ranch. Gritty with pain and betrayal and brutality, this true story also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.” –Amazon

March: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (2018)

“A general’s daughter…Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A Founding Father’s wife…But the union they create–in their marriage and the new nation–is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all–including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle–to understand the flawed man she married and the imperfect union he could never have created without her…”  –Amazon

April: A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee (2000)

“A Gesture Life is the story of a proper man, an upstanding citizen who has come to epitomize the decorous values of his New York suburban town. Courteous, honest, hardworking, and impenetrable, Franklin Hata, a Japanese man of Korean birth, is careful never to overstep his boundaries. Yet as his story unfolds, precipitated by the small events surrounding him, we see his life begin to unravel. Gradually we learn the mystery that has shaped the core of his being: his terrible, forbidden love for a young Korean Comfort Woman when he served as a medic in the Japanese army during World War II.” —Penguin Random House

May:  Known as our “Free Read” luncheon where everyone gives suggestions for the next year’s book list.

June: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (2017)

“Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.” —Penguin Random House

July: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Women by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2018)

“Nikki, a modern daughter of Indian immigrants, has spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.  The proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn English, not short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of erotica and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories that they’ve held in for far too long. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing the creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.  As the class grows, a group called the Brothers, who have appointed themselves Southall’s “moral police,” threaten to reveal the class’s scandalous stories and the mysterious secrets lurking beneath this seemingly sedate, tight-knit community.” —Harper Collins

August: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2018)

“With Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan—who dazzled readers with her Pulitzer Prize-winning, A Visit from the Goon Squad—spins a classic historical novel. Classic in the sense that it’s virtually impossible to put down. Classic in its sepia-toned portrait of New York: set on the Brooklyn docks during World War II, when mobsters ruled, the war loomed, and a young girl dove her way into becoming the first female diver on the squad. Classic in its quintessentially satisfying characters: crooked gangsters, disappearing fathers, gritty sailors, and an intrepid young woman equally at home in a 200-pound diving suit and a green silk dress who unites them all. Classic in its revelation of the dangerous, altruistic and nefarious choices people make to support their family, their country and themselves. Manhattan Beach is classic in all of its American glory. “—Al Woodworth, Amazon

Since writing this post, friends have sent the names of books they have read and loved, recently. I’m starting a running list.

Educated by Tara Westover.  I highly recommend it. (3 people!)
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. Quick and thought provoking.
The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan
4 3 2 1: A Novel, by Paul Auster

Related Stories:
WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
A Quick and Easy Baked Hummus and Feta Appetizer

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Homemade Artisan Bread the Easy Way

In this post, I am going to show you how to make a boule of bread as beautiful as this one

using just flour, yeast, salt, and water.

There will be no kneading, no proofing of yeast in a bowl to make sure it is active, and no punching down dough that has doubled in size. In fact, you will pretty much need to forget everything you ever learned about making bread from scratch and use the new and “revolutionary” methods developed by bakers Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis in their bestselling cookbook, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The authors even have a book on gluten-free bread.

Since reading their book and using their method for the last two months, I feel very comfortable making bread and have not needed to buy any.

This bread is wonderful toasted for breakfast,

lovely for sandwiches at lunch,

and chewy and tasty when served warm at dinner along with a stick of butter.

But, I haven’t told you the best part: you pre-make and store the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to shape and bake it. Yup, open our refrigerator door on any given day, and you will see a Cambro (a large, lidded, commercial grade food storage container) of dough, ready to be pulled out whenever we desire warm, crusty bread. The dough is good for up to two weeks and develops a mild sourdough flavor as it ages.

Let’s get started. Read over the entire post before you begin. It might sound complicated, but once you do it a few times, it will become second nature. Some tools that are helpful, but not required, are a digital scale, a round, 6-quart Cambro, a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and parchment paper. Know that the first few times I made this recipe I was in a beach house without any of the tools mentioned above, and I was able to make delicious bread.

Yield:  3 one-pound boules of bread
Preheat Oven: 450º, but not until you are ready to bake the bread.

About Flours:  This recipe calls for all-purpose (AP) unbleached flour.  The authors use Publix’s brand. I bake with King Arthur flours which have more protein than other AP flours and thus require an extra ¼ cup of water, per the authors. The authors suggest bumping up the water to 3⅓ cups if using bread flour. The authors suggest not using cake or pastry flours.

Measuring Flour — Weighing vs. Scooping:  For accurate and consistent results, use a digital kitchen scale. If you use a scale, zero out the weight of the empty container before adding flour. If using a measuring cup, do not pack the flour and be sure to level the cup with a knife.

Ingredients: this is the basic recipe
2 pounds (6½ cups) all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 tablespoon (fine) salt or 1½ tablespoons (course) kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated, active, dry yeast
3 cups lukewarm water (at 100º)

Ingredients: Below is my modification of the recipe. It still has 2 pounds of flour, but I’ve incorporated about 15% whole wheat flour without affecting the chemistry.

5 ounces King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour (a heaping cup)
1 pound, 11 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon (fine) sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated, active, dry yeast
3¼ cups lukewarm water (at 100º)

Instructions

Mix the Dough:
Weigh a 6-quart mixing container on a digital scale. Zero it out. Add in the flour(s), salt and yeast. Mix dry ingredients together with a wire whisk.

Add the warmed water. Mix the ingredients with a spatula, incorporating all of the flour from the bottom of the container. Put the lid on, but do not seal it so the gasses can escape. Allow dough to rest for two hours on the countertop. It won’t be resting though; the yeast will become activated by the water and the subsequent fermentation process that ensues will make the dough bubble and rise — and become delicious.

The dough will be wetter than what you may be used to.

After two hours, you could make your first loaf of bread, but I prefer to put the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Chilling it makes the dough easier to shape into a boule, and it gives time for the flavors to become more complex. Do not punch the dough down. Ever.

Shape the Dough
Before you get started, prep the workspace where the dough will rise. I shape the dough and let it rise over a parchment paper-lined pizza peel, but you could put the dough on a cornmeal-covered baking sheet if you don’t have a peel. Sprinkle flour on your hands and over the top of the dough in the Cambro before diving in to scoop out dough. This will help keep the tacky and moist dough from sticking to your hands. Pull out one pound of dough, about one-third of it.

Shape the dough into a ball. This next step is important: stretch the top surface of the ball around and tuck it into the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn at a time. Repeat this motion for about 30 seconds.  Here’s a video by one of the authors. Add just enough additional flour to keep your hands from sticking to the dough. The goal is to flour the “skin” or “cloak” of the boule and not to incorporate flour into the interior. Place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, uncovered, to rest and rise for 40 minutes.

The dough will spread out as it rises. It doesn’t get tall. That’s okay; the heat and steam in the oven will cause the dough to rise and round out as it bakes. The process is referred to as “oven-rise.” As proof, I once dropped a loaf of risen dough on the flour as I was putting it in the oven. I picked it up, quickly reshaped it, put it back on the peel, and slid it into the oven. The bread still rose — higher than ever. It’s a mystery. (PS: I swear the floor was spotless.)

Prepare the Oven:
While the dough is rising, prep the oven space. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, put it on the rack. On the rack beneath it, place an empty pan (that will be filled with water later) to create steam. The steam created by the addition of hot water once the bread is placed in the oven is the most crucial step in getting the bread to rise higher. Turn oven on to 450º. Here’s a photo of the set-up.

Back to the Rising Dough:
After the bread has risen for 40 minutes,

dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 slashes on top. Allow dough to rest for five more minutes after that.

Slide the dough onto the pizza stone if using one, or if not using a stone, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the dough for about 35 minutes. The bread will be browned and sound hollow when tapped when done.

Remove bread from oven and place on an open wire rack to cool so the bottom of the loaf can crisp up. Allow to cool completely before slicing, or the interior could become doughy.

The only times I skip the step of cooling bread completely is when I’m serving it hot for dinner. These three boules were still hot when I quickly sliced them for a tableful of waiting family members sitting around the dinner table.

(photo credit: Kristen Ivory)

The bread disappeared with lots of gushing going on by those who were slathering each slice with butter as they ate them. That’s always a sight to behold for a cook.

To have a continuous supply of dough in the fridge, make a new Cambro of dough whenever the last container is emptied.

Failures:
There haven’t been any failures in the taste department. Something magical happens while that moist dough ferments. Every loaf I’ve made has tasted extraordinary, even if it wasn’t always a pretty loaf.

My early failures were related to getting the dough to rise sufficiently so the bread wouldn’t be too dense. That problem went away when I started weighing the flour and added steam to the oven to encourage oven-rise.

I hope I’ve inspired you to give bread-making a try. It a very fulfilling experience. Please feel free to ask questions in the Comments section.

(photo credit: Andrew Wright)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.