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!