Each year, there's a rhythm to the work we need to do at Windmill, and at this time of year, it's all about willow. We have a living willow arch and a fedge (living willow fence / hedge), which both need to be harvested for willow poles and then to have the thinner branches woven into the structure to strengthen it and help it grow nice and thick. The harvested poles can be used as living willow, and also to weave edges for our herb beds. They also make good plant supports, as long as we let them dry enough not to grow roots!
This year, we had a good team of Matt, Ash, Dan, Saana, Greg and Matt P, so we managed to get the whole lot done in one go, and it's now looking very organised and healthy. The cut branches are waiting to be used and the pussy willow from the ends is cut and ready for a rather special role.
We've always had the aim to use our resources at Windmill to benefit the community, so when members of the Ukrainian Church asked if we had any pussy willow available some years ago, we said "Of course. Take what you need!" Since then, Maria and Gary have been coming along every year to harvest the pussy willow in the weeks before the Ukrainian Church celebrates Palm Sunday (a week later than the Church of England).
|Maria and Gary
This year, we asked if they could let us see how the willow is used, so they sent us some great photos to show us and the following explanation -
As you can see when the palms have been blessed, the people take them and it is tradition to put them over religious icons in the home.Palms were apparently hard to get in Ukraine in days of old, so willow branches were substituted, Pussy willows are the preferred branch, but ordinary willows will do in a pinch. Long branches are cut, and are blessed during the mass. They are then passed out, and people (mostly young ones) then go around hitting each other with them and saying:
Не я б’ю,
За тиждень Великдень
Не далеко червоне яєчко!
Which translates to
It’s not me hitting you,
It’s the willow hitting you,
In a week it will be Easter,
Soon you will have a red egg.
We love this tradition, and the tradition of the gathering that is has created in our Community Gardens, and our volunteers love the generous gifts of food and chocolates that we get in return!
We've also given willow for making willow domes and supplying a local willow worker with materials for weaving and live willow work.