Showing posts with label traditional knowledge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label traditional knowledge. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2017

What is a birch broom, and who makes them?

A birch broom was once a common sight in Newfoundland. They were cheap to make, and were used for a variety of purposes.  Here is what the Encyclopedia of NL said about this traditional craft in 1981:
BROOMS, BIRCH. Birch brooms are hand-made brooms which were the major sweeping utensil in many homes in Newfoundland during the time leading up to the introduction of mass produced straw and plastic brooms. They remain in use in many areas. There are two major types of birch broom. One is made from a single piece of black birch which has been debarked. One end of the piece of birch wood is stranded and peeled back to form the brush part. This is a tedious, time consuming project. The broom is soaked in water or brine to keep it supple. Two or three days is often needed to create one of these brooms which then can be used for cleaning sofas and fireplaces and even for brushing horses. 
The second type of birch broom can be made in about half an hour. Young birch twigs about .6 m (2 ft) long are cut and tied together in a bunch. The thicker end is laced tightly with cord and drawn together. A stick about 1.5 m (5 ft) long, usually spruce, is cut and trimmed and sharpened on one end. It is then driven into the middle of the tied twigs with a hammer which tightens the broom even more. The broom is then ready to use in such chores as cleaning out barns, back porches, and steps, and sweeping snow. A broom can last with normal use from three to six months and is often soaked in water to prolong life. Jacob Winsor (interview, Feb. 1981), The Rounder (Mar. 1978). 
Source: Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador

Mr. Joshua Young is a birch broom maker who we interviewed in 2015. You can read one of our old blog posts here or watch his broom-making skills in action in this YouTube video.

The man in the photo at the top of this article is identified as "Hebert Heffern" but I don't have more information than that. Do you know this man or have more information about him?

I'd love to track down more living broom makers, especially those who might be up for a chat! Do you know a broom maker in your community or family? Drop me a line at or call 1-888-739-1892 x2

- Dale Jarvis

Monday, February 22, 2016

As Good as New!

Last week, the darning workshop took place at the A.C. Hunter Children's Library at the Arts and Culture Centre! We had twenty-two eager and excited participants who learned to mend holes in knitted garments with Christine LeGrow. Shirley Scott was there and she gave some great tips to participants on how to knit and care for knitted socks so they are everlasting!

I was lucky enough to see some darning egg/mushrooms - and even a radiator knob - that have been used to darn socks:

             Left - Elizabeth's darning egg -
       a nice modern example
               Right - Rebecca Jeffery's darning egg which
          belongs to her father, Gary. c.1930 from
       Southern Ontario!
Glenna Jamieson-English's darning mushroom!
See the orange? We used them to darn!

After some show and tell, Christine got down to business and taught everyone how to darn. My favourite example was how she compared darning to weaving like some of us were taught in school. By the end of the workshop, everyone got the hang of it and holes began to be mended!

It was a fun filled, exciting, and educational evening. Everyone who attended will certainly be using their new skill to mend socks, hats, trigger mitts, and sweaters for years to come, keeping everything looking as good as new! **Stay tuned - I will be posting darning instructions from Christine for those who missed the workshop soon**

Thank you to everyone who attended, Christine LeGrow, Shirley Scott, the City of St. John's, Susan Prior, the NL Public Libraries, and all those who promoted this event making this workshop a great success!

Missed this workshop? We have a knit-along happening in March!
Eventbrite - Knit Some Socks Knit-a-Long

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Living Heritage Podcast Ep007 Food Knowledge and Skills with Sarah Ferber

Sarah Ferber is the Education Manager at Food Security Network NL. Their mission is to actively promote comprehensive, community-based solutions to ensure access to adequate and healthy food for all people in the province. Sarah works closely with community groups across NL to gather, share and preserve food skills and knowledge. In this podcast, folklorist Dale Jarvis talks with Sarah about the "All Around the Table" film series, creating food celebrations with seniors, traditional knowledge, food skills workshops, and advancing farm-to-school and school gardening initiatives.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Join us for "The Fishing Grounds of Cupids" sharing session

On Wednesday February 11th at 7 pm, the Cupids Legacy Centre will be hosting a sharing session on "The Fishing Grounds of Cupids". Please join us and bring along your stories and knowledge of traditional fishing in the Cupids area.

We look forward to seeing you and hearing about your fishing experiences!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Calling all iceberg experts - research help wanted!

Guest post by Alexa Kanbergs

Dr. Mark Carey of the Robert D. Clark Honors College in Eugene, Oregon has spent a great amount of time researching icebergs, specifically in the Northern Hemisphere and he now needs your help! In his most recent project he is trying to understand people's historical relations and interactions with icebergs. This could include: cultural importance of icebergs in songs, art, literature, etc.; traditional and/or local knowledge about icebergs; fishermen's interactions with icebergs.

In addition to cultural information, Dr. Carey is interested in learning more about major iceberg events; iceberg eradication; iceberg water harvesting; the International Ice Patrol; and other things related to icebergs over the last century or so.

He is hoping someone might be able to help identify any resources that might have information relating to these topics, specifically resources that are unique to your location and may not be available anywhere else. Also, if any one could suggest organizations or individuals that might be experts on the topics that would be incredibly helpful as well.

Please email information or suggestions to

For more information about Dr. Carey's work you can also visit his website:

Thank you for your help!

Photo: "Iceberg" by Brad Saunders (CC BY-ND 2.0)