Hemlock and Crafting

by Liz

Today I journeyed to the forest to seek out some Eastern Hemlock (tsuga canadensis) in an absolutely breathtaking part of Northeast Ohio that’s only about a 15 minute’s drive from my front door. Here exists one of a few forests almost exclusively dominated by eastern hemlocks – a sight to behold at any time of the year.

Walking through the forest feels ancient, even though most of these trees are under 100 years old. Some old trees still stand, living reminders of how beautiful and aged hemlock can be, and remnants of ancient trees since removed linger on the forest floor.

It was chilly today, and rather overcast – overall, a good day for being out and about in the forest, it wasn’t too warm and the beautiful canopy of hemlock boughs above my head protected my from the light February drizzle.

Being in this area is really quite amazing, it’s botanically and geologically fascinating, and as I moved through the forest I was overcome with a feeling of respect for the trees (specifically the hemlocks). While I noticed that a good many people have carved their initials into trees in this place, the hemlocks remain untouched, as though they exude some kind of aura that keeps people from defacing them. (I always get upset when people carve their names into a tree… but that’s a rant for another day)

My intent was to harvest some hemlock boughs for smudge sticks, incense blends and medicines, but in coming to the forest there wasn’t really a need for me to harvest anything at all. A recent windstorm damaged some branches and downed a good number of beautiful full (and still very fresh) boughs, and I quickly gathered all that I needed. I was also quite pleased to find a bough with a few cones still intact! I then headed home and happily started sorting, separating and crafting.

I  believe I ended up with 9 large smudge bundles, 7 miniature (and we’re talking teeny tiny) bundles and a whole slew of leftovers for incense and other uses. Historically hemlock has been used medicinally, for food, as a natural dye material, and in the tanning of animal hides. Did I mention that it smells divine? After hours of wrapping and handling all that hemlock goodness my kitchen (and hands) smelled amazing!

So, now that I have a big pile of these smudge bundles, all that’s left to do is put them up to dry before sending them off to some of my witchy pals (with their long overdue letters we’ve been talking about for ages). Oh, and those cones? Well, they still had some seeds left in them, so perhaps there will be hemlock saplings in my future! I’d love to plant them somewhere, perhaps on my cousin’s property… he’d totally let me have my own trees.