Thursday, August 16, 2012
During the last few weeks I have finished six of my treasure boxes, small keepsake boxes made of wood, covered with leather and trimmed with brass Upolstery nails. I am now working on some trim work for my buddy Brad McQueen at Hickory designs. I need to make some space in the shop for bittersweet. I will begin gathering bittersweet from remote roadsides in northeast Indiana. The shop will be filled with four or five van loads of bittersweet which will be trimmed into bundles which I will take to the country living show. I have been gathering and selling bittersweet for probably forty years. There is something greatly nostalgic about bittersweet and I am often told stories from patrons about their grandmothers gathering bittersweet when they were children. Please understand that this is American bittersweet from INDIANA, not the invasive oriental, round leaved bittersweet which has smaller berries and matures much later. My bittersweet bunches are the best found anywhere and the price is much less than anywhere.(CHECK THE INTERNET). In fact, few people are able to even find any bittersweet, due to the fact that during the last few decades farmers have increasingly sprayed herbicide on their fence rows. This has led to numerous ecological problems. At any rate, stop by my booth near the apple tree at the Country Living Fair and check it out.THE REAL THING. Do not buy the invasive oriental bittersweet which is rapidly speading and will be further spread by your purchase of this invasive plant. Bittersweet has no herbal uses, it is merely a pretty, colorful berry that adds a touch of autumn color to your home. It is displayed prominently during the harvest and Thanksgiving celebrations, often hung on walls or doors or above mantels or as centerpiece on the table. During my quest for bittersweet, I will travel nearly a thousand miles on the dusty backroads, revisiting places where I have gathered in previous years. Each year I am disappointed by the eradication of several reliable producers by farmers. I do sometimes find new spots, but the losses are more than the gains. People in Lapel have become accustomed to a crazy old guy dragging tons of vines and berries out of his van and into the shop. I have maps and I mark them as much as I can, but sometimes there is the joy of getting lost and just happening onto a new patch, or rediscovering an old one. I have pretty good navigational skills, and I know these rat land roads as well as anyone. The money I make is nice, but I enjoy the feeling of connectedness to the seasonal cycles of nature as much as anything.