Weaving Willow Dreams 2017

1 Comment

Weaving Willow Dreams 2017

Sharing months of my journey this past summer recognizes the good spirit of all those who I worked with, learned from, and felt an important connection to.

I have to also recognize the good nature of the many folks who I spoke with to share the willow rods and willow sticks which we grow in willow groves on our farm. What a delight to provide natural willow materials for others to weave baskets, wattle fence, build living tunnels and erect living fences. Not to forget the sculptures which artists have used willow rods to make their creations. Thank you to our buyers who have helped to support our historic farm of willow in Appalachia ohio.

I found myself in very unexpected places this summer all which were remarkable, challenging, and creative. 

Early this summer I attended the Willow Gathering in Decorah Iowa. It was quite a unique venue, pairing talent learners with exceptionally talented teachers for the purpose of creating forms out of willow.

With teachers from Europe come the cultural language of basketmaking which was shared amongst those who attended. I took a daunting and challenging workshop with the Danish basket maker-scholar Steen Madsen. I made a rather large and traditional "fitch" basket. This was real work out on my hands, and a strain on my patience. Both good things!

Then I had the pleasure of working with the basket maker from Spain, Monica Guilera, who shared the traditional way to make Catalonia baskets. This was a super workshop with all kinds of new techniques from a traditional culture. 

Traveling from home permits the wandering about on the way back. Not too far from Decorah, I visited the Effigy National Park, where there are unique burial mounds of the indigenous peoples. Nearby was the property of  Roger Bollman, and while there where I was able to meditate at his medicine wheel. The You Tube Video of his place is worth the watch. 

Early in the summer I was contacted by Aid to Artisans about a potential project to weave in Guyana. I had several discussions with the founder of the project, Alice Layton, who has helped to create an outpost research center in Yapakuri. The project centered on various craftskills of the  Makushi people that are used for making needed objects to be used in farming, making food, and living. We developed traditional weaving-plaiting techniques to make woven decorative mats for inserting into kitchen cabinet frames made by Ikea.  It was a wonderful project and the Amerindians were beautiful, thoughtful, and industrious people. 

Later in the summer I traveled with my partner Maddy to Scotland and England to visit and work with a number of crafters engaged in the willow crafts. First up was a truly rewarding experience weaving a willow coffin with Karen Collins. She is a special soul who operates a collective workshop where she trains young local residents various skills making products which they collectively market and share. Willow coffins are part of a movement of green sustainable burials. Sharing time with Karen was enriching experience, and we certainly enjoyed learning some new dog tricks from her terrier, Sally. Thanks Karen!

Since the 1970’s I have wanted to visit the intentional community of Findhorn on the northern shores Moray Firth in Scotland. The collective spirit of caring, sharing folks who embrace the vision of living in harmony with nature and each other. What a great day. Thank you Findhorn.

On to work with basketmaker Eddie Glew in Stafordshire England! Eddie is a brilliant basket maker representing a wide range of traditional basket making skills. He is talented and remarkably grounded in his work and it was a pleasure i to share a week together working on weaving techniques. Great Britain's basket making future is in capable, talented, and generous hands. Check out his website, he is going to get Knighted from the King someday. Thank you Eddie!

Musgrove Willows, in the Somerset Flats, was an important opportunity to visit an industrial willow growing complex. Third generation grower Jack took us on a tour of their processing, harvesting, and producing departments. Thank you Jack!

And since we were in the neighborhood, we visited the ancient sites of Stonehenge and Glastonbury. It was a remarkable and humbling recognition life span.

Maddy had some side trips to visit a medieval tile maker, and to the historic potteries of Stoke on Trent. You may read about it on her blog!

I next met with Andrew Basham, who lives in Saffron Walden, England. Andy is a master hurdle maker, rustic hazel furniture maker, and care taker of an ancient Coppice forest. I spent a couple days with Andy making a rustic bench out of hazel rods and another day walking through the coppice forest. Andy is an all around nice guy. Thank you Andy for inviting us to have a "look in."

A visit to the echo craft center in Derbyshire England was a chance to view a working living center where traditional life skills are taught in a green sustainable structure. This a creative and learning center which conjoins artistic thinking and the craft of making with natural ecology.

Great experience, memory, and inspiration from talented and generous people who live in an incredible and responsibly cared for landscape. Can't wait to go back for more! We also sincerely hope that those who were so generous with time and home know that they are welcomed here on Rosehill Farm.

Returning home to our lovely willow farm in Ohio, I look for another round of basketmaking, farm work and plain simple living

IMG_1083.jpg

1 Comment

Spring Willow Harvest, 2017

Comment

Spring Willow Harvest, 2017

Before one can begin to share the 2017 spring harvest, it would only be fair to describe the 2016 spring cicada re-emergence. It was an interesting time line measure of our lives here on the farm, as it was our first summer here, seventeen years ago that we were aware of the cicada phenomena. 

While many of our friends and neighbors found their incessant whirring noise to be an irritant to the point of their not wanting to be outside, we found the swell of their love dance to be a wonder, and recognized that we would with good health be lucky enough to hear it again in another 17 years, when we are 77 years old. 

But when the branches where the cicadas had buried their eggs began to snap off in the early summer rains, it occurred to us that we should head down to the willow fields to see if they had made courtship amongst the whips too. They had. 

It would not be until late fall, when we could really see between the row, that we could ascertain how much damage they had done. Fortunately, the damage seemed to be concentrated on the outside rows, and as the inside rows have the highest concentration of living willow sticks, we knew that we would have an adequate, though somewhat diminished harvest. 

We were blessed to once again have our friends from Rural Action and AmeriCorp come up for a training day. With their help along with other friends we were able to cut down the crop, numbering at over 6000 willow sticks.

DSC08065.JPG

We have also been grateful to have our son Eli working with us on the farm, he is one of our three young "bucks" and his company and physical help have been a blessing to both Maddy and myself. Eli is even showing a growing interest in learning to weave...

This fall we added space to our garage for a walk in cooler to house the living willow rods. A big thank you to our friend Jeremiah for finding us used panels to make an affordable cooler. This will certainly make sending out the live willow orders in the next few months streamlined. 

Our local  handyman, Ernie was able to build a couple of new racks in the basement of the barn making plenty of room for the weaving sticks to dry. (And to store the coracles I have been making!)

With over 24 varieties of dry willow, from 3 foot to6 foot lengths in dry storage, we are set to deliver sticks for weaving, and sticks for live willow structures and willow starts safely in the cooler for your spring planting and weaving dreams!

Comment

Spring Delivery

1 Comment

Spring Delivery

We started the harvest earlier this year, so that we would be done in the fields before the buds of the second year growth started to emerge on the whips. The mild weather in January not only afforded us some lovely days to cut and sort, but not having to tromp through snow also made the coppicing go much quicker.

Booth at OEFFA

Booth at OEFFA

In February, I was a presenter at the OEFFA conference in Granville Ohio. My workshop, on coppicing and coppicing craft was well attended, and I was also able to display and sell baskets. I was especially proud that my son Eli, and his wife Alyssa, who have joined us here at the farm, were able to meet with the other young farmers in the area and network about beekeeping, farming practice, and small business development.

A great basket finds a new home

A great basket finds a new home

I am ready to ship live willow whips for transplanting, and have starters cut and sorted for those who would like to start their own willow patch. For basket makers and fence wattlers, my dry stock is bundled and sold by the pound. Best to reach me by phone, 740 697 0027, and do leave a message as I am often in the barn or nearby field. And spring, its delivery just a few weeks away. The peepers have come out of the mud, and make sweet evening music, forwarding the greening of the season.

Best wishes! Howard

 

1 Comment

Comment

2016, My Third Season

My wife Maddy and I , with the help of a few neighbors, planted the fields in the front of the farm property in the Spring of 2011. We started with 1ft. long propagation sticks of over 30 different varieties.

The first willow cuttings were completed by us in the spring of 2012, and it was a rather paltry harvest! But fortunately, with some willow sticks that I had been giving by my good friend Frank, I was able to continue to weave through the rest of the year.

The harvesting for the following three years, however provided enough dried willow (willow rods, sticks, or whips to use in weaving hand made baskets), willow propagation starts (shorter sticks, called willow starts, which can be planted to restore stream beds and wetlands, for controlling erosion, and for providing riparian habitat), and living willow rods. or cuttings (7 ft. willow whips used in garden structures of beanpoles, pea sticks, trellis, archway fencing, wattle work and border edging, and for making living willow structures), that I decided to offer my sticks for sale. You can find samples of these willow cuttings on my "Willow" page.

I currently offer or 20 different willow varieties which I use in all these coppicing crafts. The Propagation starts are available for you to plant your own stock in the early spring . The 7 ft. long living willow rods to be used for garden structures are shipped in a timely fashion for you to replant, also in early spring.  The dry willow rods are stored for two years before they are sold for your basket weaving needs, and are now available in many varieties, year round.

The locals know me as the Basket Farmer. It is indeed a blessing to be a working and living willow farmer. Please let us know if you are in the Southeastern Ohio area, to look at the stock and walk through our gardens and fields.

Willow Harvest, Fall 215

Willow Harvest, Fall 215

Inventory, 2016 season

Inventory, 2016 season




Comment

Comment

Willow

"I am a willow of the wilderness,

Loving the wind that bent me."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Comment

Comment

Tree Magic

“Your fertile inner strength, like that of the Willow,  is your inexhaustible flexibility to bend around obstacles.  Your desires can be woven into shape, as the Willow's pliable shoots are used to make baskets.  Magic wands are made from Willow, so what you have in mind has all the magical ingredients for success.  You can tell your secret to a Willow and make wishes.  The male and female catkins, which grow on separate trees, signify a lovers' meeting for you.  The bright-green leaves of Spring forecast celebrations, fresh opportunities, and speedy growth.  The honey-bearing catkins symbolize the wisdom of spiritual self-improvement, and sweet things for you.”

Tree Magick by Gillian Kemp

 

Comment

Comment

Story

A brief introduction to my current work involves sharing my central philosophy of growing what you can use to make-work from which to preserve the value of what you grow. Making and Living can sustain and enrich our life and in turn the environment which we share with others. 

My own interests in using natural materials which can be farmed locally was inspired through my human interests to work with and support agricultural artisans in Haiti, Jamaica and India. Learning to use your hands and simple tools to work with what grows locally is a very compelling and satisfying way of life. If only our economic models, value proposition and buying habits would embrace the values of truly made and grown.

My current work has been based in Ohio where I have planted and established a coppicing field of willows primarily for basket making an living willow structures. 

I studied last year in Germany with master basket weavers and at the school in Lichtenfels to train my hands on traditional techniques of making willow baskets and to get a feeling of how to work with willow materials.

My goal is to establish in our very rural and economically challenged region of southern Appalachia Ohio an outpost, learning center, and working farm to promote and develop the skills of growing, processing and making products based on the sustainable methods of coppicing crafts.

Comment