Desperate Measures (foraging grass for basketry)

011 resizedI’m standing in a large patch of shoulder-high wild grasses on the edge of a midsummer Sussex field. I’m here foraging grass for basketry. They’re in full flower, stashed full of pollen, and I’m a hay fever sufferer. Hmm…

To one side is a hazy view of the Sussex Downs, to the other, unmoving fields of wheat, still green. The air is unmoving and humid, thick with pollen. I’ve come to harvest these lovely tall grasses, perfect for basket making, and I need to cut them before they set seed.

012 (2) resizedDesperate times such as this call for desperate measures: I have Vaseline-covered cotton wool in each nostril. I don’t mind admitting that it’s not a particularly good look.

foraging grass for basketry

There are so many different types of grass growing in this area around an ancient oak tree, which the farmer has left uncultivated. It means it’s unusually species-rich, though which species, I can’t be sure, being no botanist. I’m interested in the ones with the longest stems and not too many nodes. They’re not quite as high as an elephant’s eye… but nearly.

Overhead are swallows, who’ve come from their roosts in a barn in the nearby farm. Otherwise it’s quiet and still, just some buzzing of insects and a few crickets.

Several large piles of grass later, job done… back at the car I realise I’ve dropped my keys. I spend what seems like ages rummaging in the thick, pollen-filled grassy undergrowth, trying to stay calm, wondering how long it would take to walk the few miles home and get the spare key (I do have one, don’t I?).

010 resizedHowever, I’m happy to report that vaseline and cotton wool are definitely an effective barrier against pollen getting up your nose.

And I did find the keys.

The grasses I cut will be for my upcoming grass basket-making course and for future making projects. 

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