18 – The Forest in Nivernais – Fern and broom harvest6 December 2018
The eighteenth postcard of the series “The Forest in Nivernais” depicts two men coming back from the forest with a bundle, one made of fern the other of broom, on their shoulder.
Forest had long played a substantive role in supplying of feedstocks the poorest people. The forest plants were mainly used to produce everyday objects and tools but also as fuel or as food. In lean times, acorn or fern rhizome were crushed to make flour.
Achille Millien complements the postcard with verses of poetry about fern and broom uses: “Les paysans vont chercher dans les bois / Fougère et genêt, quand viennent les froids / Sur un lit de fougère / Gît la pomme de terre / Bien à l’abri du gel. / – Le genêt en toiture / Garde de la froideur / La chèvre et le porcel.”
As specified by the poet, fern could be used to preserve potatoes. Broom was used for roof covering, as thatch, on a beech or hazel branches braid. This kind of roof covering was a good insulator and waterproof but required an annual review and to add a new broom layer each year.