Gathering Bulrush And Leeches

The last time I cut bulrush where we went today to harvest was about 10 years ago. I never harvest much in any one spot. My goal is always that when I leave, my activity should be undetectable and not diminish the resource in any way. But today I took out more than my share — of leeches.

Bulrush harvested to dry for cordage.

In the past when the lake level was lower, Bill and I just waded in and cut here and there. With some heavy rains this summer, lake levels are higher.

Bulrush harvested for cordage is cut below the water line.

So today we took our sit-on-top kayak. I used it for holding my cut rushes. It’s also good to hold onto while I’m figuring out the footing.

Cutting bulrush for cordage, I move through the patch taking a bit here and there.

And I figure if there’s a quick drop-off I can hold onto it like a giant kickboard to get my harvest back to shore.

This is when I stirred up the leeches.

All went well (notice I didn’t say “swimingly”) until I stirred up some leeches. It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last time I tangle with leeches. But it’s been a while. So while I was deciding what to wear today, knowing Bill would take pictures for me, I chose a pair of board shorts. Bad idea.

Got more than bulrush on this outing, if you count the dozen leeches.

It never even occurred to me to grab the bike shorts that don’t let anything swim up to parts I wouldn’t let Bill photograph. It also never occurred to me to check the first aid kit in the truck for salt. Good thing there was no one else around while we got the three most adventurous swimmers detached. That would have been quite a show!

Leeches came along on my bulrush harvest.

The bloodsuckers all released from one leg without encouragement. Because of their location, I wasn’t willing to let the others release of their own accord. But release they did, and I managed to not bleed on the bulrush.

Bulrush for cordage spread to dry.

The rushes are spread to dry in my studio for a few days before I bundle them to finish drying. I probably have all I need for cordage for a few years. But next time I harvest, I’m definitely wearing long tights!

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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