I love how a person can take a humble leaf, or a handful of stems or grasses, and learn to manipulate them into vastly useful elements, or objects. Recently, when two beautiful, handmade cherry wood frames arrived from New York state, in a large box at my door, I had an opportunity to become what in the British Isles is termed a “rusher”.
A rusher knows how to fill in the open wood frame of a chair seat with twisted leaves of bulrush, cattail, or other stems, grasses or leaves. This is a fairly straight-forward skill that mostly involves twisting a number of material pieces to keep a constant size gauge , keeping tension, splicing or adding on new pieces, and stuffing the seat. But equally important is gathering the materials.
(I apolize for any pictures that make you twist your head to see them. Haven’t figured out how to fix the format problem yet.)
I’ve talked to a lot of plant fiber weavers over the years. One thing many of us have in common is our love of going out to beautiful places to gather materials.
Cattail is the material we are planning to gather. Today is the first week of July 2015.
My eldest grandson Camas is my gathering companion. Due to a shoulder injury, I literally couldn’t do my work this spring or summer if it weren’t for his strong, helping hands.
A dear friend, Linda Rose, generously leads us down a lovely forest trail through her property, then along a beach by the Salish Sea, to a gathering spot where fresh water is pooling to form a bog, just above the hightide line. We gathered enough cattail for rushing the two chairs, and enough bulrush for rushing a small stool.
We have quite a distance to hike back, and a bit uphill. We wrap the precious cargo tightly so the leaves won’t get folded check here. Folding often causes breakage later at the creases.
Thank you Linda, for helping us gather today, and taking these pictures of our fun gathering trip!
Oh my, am I ever grateful for this strong young man! But our day is not over yet. We have more work to do today.
Back at our house, we’ve unloaded the cattail and are spreading it out to dry.
Camas has helped me split all the cattail leaves apart so they can completely dry without getting moldy. While we are separating the cattail bundles, we size them. Because Camas is an inquistive young man, he asked me about the fleshy inner parts of some of the cattails we where splitting. I’ve always known that cattail is edible, but must confess I hadn’t ever experimented with eating it. Normally I have gathered cattail in September when this “fleshy” center part doesn’t exsist.
Yes, cattail is delicious. If the center stock easily breaks when you bend it 90 degrees, similar to breaking the stem of asparagus, then, it is likely an edible shoot. Because we knew there were no poisons being put on these cattails, we tasted it raw. It was crunchy, juicey, and had a melon-like, or cucumber-like after-taste.
WARNING: If you don’t know that the cattail you gather is grown in a place without pesticides, or other contaminents, DO NOT EAT IT!
Chopped cattail shoots ready for the saute pan!
My beautiful daughter-in-love brought us a batch of little-neck clams fresh off the beach. We sauted them with cattail, curry powder and cilantro, and served them on pasta. YUM!
Cherry chair frames arrive. Cattail is thoroughly dry after several weeks, and has been stored in the house out of direct sunlight. Must put them out on the lawn overnight under wet towels to soften them up, or mellow them, for weaving the next day.
The eagles have gone to the rivers to do their fishing now, so a young osprey is hanging out on the eagles’ perch watching my slow progress.
It has been record-breakingly hot and beautiful this summer. I have to work outside!
The Chickadees, and later, the Red Breasted Nuthatches, keep checking on my progress.
Fun job! Very grateful for the work from New York. Thank you to Dan Colen Studio!