Willow bark harvest has been on top of my to-do list since I got back from teaching in Kansas. Today should be my last day of harvest. The bark still slips easily on larger pieces, but it’s starting to tighten up on the smaller stuff. To every thing, there is a season.
Most of the peeled bark is bundled and hung to dry. That makes it easy to prepare for a large group of students in a natural dye class. But there’s a limit to how much space I have for hanging bundles. So I’ve also been rolling strips to store in bins once they’re dry.
Actually, it’s not just the bark I harvest at this time of year. I strip and freeze or dry the leaves for immersion dyebaths. The peeled wood goes into Bill’s rustic furniture, or we burn it to make artist charcoal. Whatever is left over goes on a brush pile that shelters wildlife.
There’s a gentle rhythm to the work: I cut what I can carry in one load and haul it to my studio. There, I strip leaves and bag them for the freezer, peel bark and bundle or roll it, and move the bark to an airy place to dry. The peeled wood goes into two stacks — saved for furniture, or saved for burning.
Today I’ll cut some of the burn pile into lengths and get it ready to become charcoal. And finish a great audiobook, The Boys In The Boat.