Harvesting Juncus

In Roubo’s description of the finishing processes and materials included in L’art du Menuisier (and thus our To Make As Perfectly As Possible translation) he used the word “juncus” when referring to the fibrous plant from which the polissoirs were made.  At the time we had competing dictionary definitions and identifiers, “rush,” “grass,” and “straw” all showed up in one dictionary or another, and in the end I decided to simply use the word “grass” if I recall correctly.

Yannick Chastang, like my Roubo Project collaborator Philippe Lafargue, was trained in the full multi-year program at Ecole Boulle in Paris, chided me that Roubo chose the word “juncus” on purpose and I should have as well, at least in concert with the word “rush.”  Fair enough, but in retrospect since the word Juncus refers to a genus with over 300 species of grassy rushes I cannot beat myself up too much for that editorial decision.

I was talking about this to Mrs. Barn one day, she being a botanist/mycologist by training, and she said something like, “Well, you are in luck since we have Juncus effusus growing around the pond.”  She took me outside and sure enough, we have a number of fairly immature clumps at the shore of our pond.  When Daniel the stonemason was here building the hand-knapped dry-stack wall a few months ago he mentioned that he had loads of juncus growing around his pound and I was welcome to harvest as much as I wanted.

As a break from our activities during ManWeek John and I took the morning an went to Daniel’s place to harvest soft rush, or juncus.  We first spent a minute ogling his greenhouse.  Mrs. Barn will be most impressed with it when we visit again.

Then we headed to the pond and there was indeed a multitude of soft rushes ringing one end of it.  In less than an hour of harvesting we had the back seat of the Envoy completely filled.

Back at the barn we sorted and arranged the rushes to dry in the sun before moving them inside a few days later.

Yannick avers that polissoirs made from these fibers have a very different feel and performance than the ones I get made from sorghum broom straw.  After this material gets fully dry and I make some Juncus polissoirs I will be able to make my own determination on that.

Stay tuned.