On a beautiful sunny autumn morning, we set out for the 2-acre pond on our homestead with a mission in mind: to sustainably harvest by hand organic cattail heads to make rare & unique heritage cattail down for our handmade Rawganique Atelier Organic Personal Pillow.
On our 2-acre main pond (we have 10 clay-bottom ponds in total: can you tell, we are nuts about water?), we have unlimited cattails to draw on. Cattails grow like weed, spreading vigorously via rhizomes. The cattail is super useful: we eat the rhizomes like potatoes in early spring, the young shoots like asparagus in late spring, the seed heads like mini corns-on-the-cob in late summer, and of course we harvest the fluff heads in late summer/fall for stuffing of our organic handmade pillow, made from start to finish right here on Denman Island. Plus, the stalks can be used to weave baskets and furniture! And to top it off, cattails help to purify the water by drawing excess nutrients / nitrogen from fish and birds from the water. Cattail doesn't need to be fertilized in anyway, as bird and fish wastes serve this purpose naturally.
This handmade life is all in keeping with our homesteading philosophy of waste not, want not. We are passionate about heritage methods of making things. Yes, it takes a lot of time and work to make one handmade atelier pillow, but to us it's worth it, as it demonstrates that local organic artisan workmanship is possible in this day and age of assembly-line production. We had a wonderful day handpicking select heads of cattails. It was all in all a wonderful experience worth repeating year after year. That was the original reason we left the city 20 years ago to come and homestead on this small island in the Strait of Georgia.
So once we harvest the cattail fluffheads, we dry them at our greenhouse, then put them through a hand-picker and hand-carder to get to roving / batting stage, which we then use to stuff into our organic cotton ticking. And voila, a sustainable, handmade local artisanal organic pillow for sleep, travel, or for kids.
Cattail down is totally amazing. It feels and behaves like kapok and cotton, and it's available right here with no cultivation necessary! We just can't believe our blessed we are to be able to work with non-toxic chemical-free natural materials that do not harm us, wildlife, nature, and our customers.
Cattail has a long illustrious history as food, shelter, and crafts for humans. Aboriginal peoples the world over have found sustenance in its nutritious roots and seed heads and shelter from the stalks, which can be used like reed for roofing and walls. And the cattail down has been used for bedding and pillows.
Our pond is completely natural and organic, full of wildlife, and fed by a year-round spring. No matter how much we eat and harvest of the cattail, there seems to be more the following year. It's a blessed arrangement with Mother Nature.