Willow Bark Harvest

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.

Willow bark harvested for natural dyeing by Donna Kallner.

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.

Willow bark, leaves and wood harvested for natural dye and willow charcoal.

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.

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

7 thoughts on “Willow Bark Harvest”

  1. loved reading about your care of the willow. I have been gathering and drying lavender – taking the blossoms off – stripping the leaves – bundling the stems for kindling in the winter. All parts to be used in future projects.

    1. I can just imagine the fragrance — what a lovely work environment! Do the stems have any of the characteristic lavender fragrance when they burn, Kathy?

      1. I just love sitting outside under the trees – stripping. So peaceful. and yes, the stems do have a great fragrance. We do the same with our rosemary stems. The oregano stems make the house smell like an Italian kitchen

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