Thursday, April 16, 2009

Colours of the Harvest

January and February are the months I harvest the willow, one of my favourite times. In our part of the world, it’s nice if the snow isn’t too deep so I recommend doing this job after leaf fall and before the snows come. But in this nearly perfect world, the snows came early and stayed most of the winter, so there’s been a bit of clearing involved.

I like to do the cutting with my secateurs usually as close as possible to the ground, using a straw cushion that is perfect for kneeling in the wet. Wear lots of clothes and keep working away at it until it’s done. The sound of the rods against each other as you cut is music, a rhythm develops. It’s exciting to see the colours of the different varieties - here are fresh rods of Chermesina, Brittany Green, Sangria, Lancashire Dicks and Dean Yellow. They dry to darker shades but are still beautiful.

Once the willow has been sorted, labelled and bundled, I lay it out on a rack in the darkened spare bedroom for drying. A fan keeps the air moving and it takes 6 weeks or so to dry down enough for storage. So for a couple of months a year, no house guests!


Salix said...

Hey Frances - they are so beautful. Looks like you had a good harvest this year? How do you find the quality - any pest damage, branching?


Hi Salix,

Yes, more branching than usual due to insect damage and quite a bit of rodent damage. Mice have invaded one of the beds and continued feeding on the bark on the stools even after harvest. I have set out feeding stations for them and hope it will help. I may try removing the mulch in the fall so there's no shelter for them over the winter.

Steve said...

Hi Frances.
I must admit I have never paid attention to the sound of the rods while harvesting. I wonder if the sound varies like the growth habit varies from place to place! I guess you are trying to maintain more vivid colors by drying them in the dark quickly? I have to ask whether the color then "holds" after the soaking, weaving, and the resulting basket ages in normal use.
I noticed a couple of photos of York baskets. How was the trip?
Kind regards,


Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comment. Watch for a post on the York Spring School.

About colour - they do seem to last longer if dried in the dark. I have a basket from Green Edna that is still green after about 7 years. It's been in a fairly bright room. I agree that nature will have her way and all fades in the end.

Anonymous said...

I have never bundled mine like you did. It looked so nice and orderly drying on your racks. What happens if the willow gets in the sun?

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