Withy rod harvesters required
With the weather vane now indicating chilly southeasterlies, Rangiwahia’s willow coppice beds show the effects of weather patterns over the last six months.
In the same way tree rings or ice cores record climate history, willow withies reflect in small scale, the climatic vagaries of last summer.
This year’s willow growth has been the slowest since the beds were established in 2007, resulting in the dramatically reduced length in most of our ossiers.
In previous years, the beds have required irrigation to aid growth during prolonged dry spells.
On one notable dry year, the application of water by a fire appliance during a practice night, resulted in a marked growth spurt, which put a kink in all the rods.
This year there has been no lack of water, however, the lack of sun and warmth has not been so easy to make up for.
Even the leaves have held on for much longer, perhaps hoping to finish their growth cycle, but frosts have put an end to that endeavour.
It means REACT (the Rangiwahia Environmental Arts Centre Trust) will have much shorter willow rods to create with in the coming year.
Now at harvest time, the willow stands are mostly bare awaiting harvest.
Willow withies can be harvested any time from leaf drop to bud formation, giving a couple of months window to secure these framing resources for projects that range from the annual lantern parade at the Palmerston North Festival of Cultures, to making Big Girls puppets for the International Women’s Day parade.
REACT is currently working toward planting a living tunnel for the Esplanade Scenic Railway, and selection of the two year rods and the infill year rods will be a priority.
Let’s hope the weather vane swings back, giving us a few warmer days to allow the gathering of the willow wands.
An invitation aboard our next REACT bus trip on Sunday, June 18, will show how it is done, and include a short trek in the nearby scenic reserve.
This is a free bus, thanks to PNCET and more details can be found on Eventfinda or our website rangienviroartscentre.org/whats-new.html
Jim Richards and Bridget Murphy in amongst the willow withies, with dog Marvin