Harvesting, still

I am in the middle of my first kozo harvest!  There’s been quite a learning curve, good to have happen this first year while the harvest is small. It started spontaneously yesterday, to keep me from worrying about the Bro, who did not arrive Tuesday, and virtually disappeared for two days (he was taken with a nasty cold / mild flu, knocked out in bed, a situation I understand all too well lately! He’s improved enough to get in touch last night and this morning and will arrive tonight).

I was a bit squeamish about cutting at first, but equally eager for the fiber.

Our long shears need sharpening; I’d have liked cleaner cuts. I couldn’t resist leaving one long thinnish young stem; if I regret it next season, I’ll let you know!

Separated into fat (above) and lean (below).

I am used to working with slim stems from milkweed and dogbane and the like.

I decided to steam indoors, since we can always use humidity even in the early winter, and my outdoor hotplate is good for cooking fiber but I wasn’t sure about steaming.  Our kitchen is mired in the previous owners’ admiration for the 70s, and we have a horrid old microwave holder / hood built in above the stove (with a nonfunctional ‘venting’ fan that, if it worked, would simply blow the smoke / steam out into the kitchen, not outdoors). In order to fit between the burner and the hood, I had to cut everything down to 17” (a little over 43 cm). Unbelievably, the entire tree fit into my large enamel stockpot. The steaming kozo smells like an odd herb tea; not unpleasant.

I steamed for several hours last night, but way, way, way too gently: the bark didn’t ‘shrink back’ and there was still fiber left on the test stems (I scraped it away and saved it); it’s also probable that too much steam escaped the foil / towel lid as well.

So, this morning, I devised another solution, and now have the flame higher with more water. We shall see!

In other worlds, Diane Whitehead, a current Detroit / former NY artist I truly, truly enjoyed meeting and hanging out with in Vermont (who really, really needs a web site: hint), sent a gorgeous harvest of 16 photos of the Gihon River ear in situ, taken after I left. The snow hit Johnson too!

These are two of my favorites (as is the first photo). Thank you, Diane!

Other bits of abundance are rolling in as well, including a .pdf copy of (and permission to post) Richard Minsky’s Book Art column titled Without Words, from the lovely editor of Fine Books & Collections, Rebecca Rego Barry.  I am truly honored by Richard’s introduction to the Q&A; you can read it here -click the first link – if you’d like. Thank you, Richard and Ms. Barry!

(Just checked the kozo: the new steaming arrangement is working much better: stay tuned! Hopefully, tonight this bin /bath will be full of stripped fiber.  Then the bark-scraping fun begins…)