Utilize Part 1

via flickr

Elissa and I have been working on a project for the last few weeks we’re just wrapping up now. We’re calling the project Utilize. Since I’m about to sum up the past 15 or so weeks, I’m going to have to do this in installments.

We were inspired by Kudzu, which is an invasive plant. It was brought to the US in 1876 to the Centennial Exposition at erosion cover and livestock fodder. In the 30’s it was being subsidized by the government, and planted all over. By the 70’s Kudzu had grown out of control and finally in 1997 put on the Noxious Weed list by Congress. So, needless to say, Kudzu is crazy and smothers anything in its path. It’s super prevalent in the South due to a “perfect storm” of growing conditions, no natural enemies and negligence. Kudzu requires constant harvesting to control its rapid spread.

However, Kudzu is a super awesome, beneficial plant too. Its edible (full of nutrients – something like 24% protein) and has uses medicinally. It can be processed into an ethanol, paper and even a fiber for weaving (which is why we love it). Kimonos in ancient Japan before they found Silk worms, were made of Kudzu.

We found this great book that has sort of been our bible for this project. Sadly its out of print but available on google books.

Any way, Liss and I found some really great people in the South to collaborate with and/or advise, befriend, inform, help, etc. us. Thanks to conversations with Crop Mob, Kudzu Kollege, Elsewhere Collaborative, Jay Gamble, Alix Bowman and her Goat Patrol ,Junco Sato Pollack (Kudzu/Fiber artist) and other various community organizations we met along the way, we have forged on to create something we’re both really happy with and can really apply and adapt to any invasive plant.

In a time of depleting natural resources, there are many under utilized and unwanted resources. By collaborating with available communities to utilize abundant “waste” materials (Kudzu in this case), we can help control devastating invasive plants while building a healthier relationship for the community and its local fauna.

We worked along side sustainable eradicators (controlling without chemicals) in North Carolina to eradicate and harvest the vine. We did this on Jay’s land, practicing surgical root crown removal. Strategic grazing would probably work just fine too. Basically, land is fenced off and goats roam and eat up the Kudzu to kill it. The last thing they go after is the vine itself which is the piece we need to make the fiber. If processed correctly, the length of the vine is the length of the fibers you get out of it. This is all I can handle right now. Stay tuned.

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