Gardener's Grapevine 2012.06.13

Written by David Green.

This week I’m going to stray a bit from the garden and talk about nature.

Have you ever given much thought to where things come from? I love old things such as furniture, clothing, jewelry, etc. 

When I was a small child I spent a lot of time with my great-grandmother. She was a wonderful woman and being a farm woman was very resourceful. I owe her a great deal of gratitude for the things she taught me like sewing, cooking and even some very minor gardening.

She had an old Lincoln rocker that sat in her living room and the back was towards town. When I would really get that chair rocking she’d say “you’re really going to town now.” When she passed, that chair came to me and I cherish it. I look at it and think of her. I keep it in our spare room as it’s extremely old.

Two years ago, Doris Allen who is a very nice lady in our church, asked my husband to fix her rocking chair as it had a broken side. He brought this chair home and it was an exact replica of my grandmother’s rocker, and boy was it broken.

Now the thing about these chairs that is so special is they are very comfortable for a tall person to sit in and they are caned back and bottom. It is a lot of caning, and very costly to pay someone to replace. The chair my husband fixed looked as though someone fell through the bottom. Well he fixed the splintered wood and left the caning part to me. Oh joy of joys! 

Cane is a natural product made from bamboo and used throughout the world. It began being used in chairs and settees in 17th century England. People would actually apprentice to become a caner a as a career.

Gradually over the years fewer and fewer pieces of furniture were caned. Now it is a lost art done by a select few. I always thought I wanted to learn to do this. But I have to admit I had no idea how hard it is. My friend Mary said she’d help me, but I didn’t want to impose. Well, after three tries all I had was a mess. Yes, bamboo is natural, and yes, it breaks, splinters and generally irritates you to the point of no return. Not to mention a book that tells you all wrong how to do this little project.

Cane is made by stripping the stalks of bamboo into whatever width is needed. The strips are very thin with the outer side slightly rounded. The only way to use this product is to keep it in warm water and very wet. This includes keeping  the area already worked wet, as it will snap if it dries out while you are working with it. Caning is a very natural way to cover a chair seat. It is also a very intricate process that, done right and treated with respect, will last for years.

Thank goodness Mary took pity on me and assisted me with caning the chair. All she asked for in payment was a few sugar snap peas. Since I can grow sugar snaps easily it seemed a fair exchange.

When the chair was done and returned to its owner, I felt as though it was not enough payment for the knowledge I’d gleaned. Natural is always better in most all ways and I plan to keep quite a few people stripping bamboo in the years to come. Nature gives us so much, not only in our own yards and communities, but all over the world.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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