Publish a column about something important, like education or politics, and it can go out there and sink without a trace.
But write about the bamboo in your backyard …
Whether it has been folks approaching me at church or in a restaurant or in the office or via email, I can’t think of anything I have written in a long time that has prompted more reader response than the silly piece of two weeks ago. In it, I told of my annual spring combat to contain the spread of the horde of monster Asian invaders occupying the back of our large lot on Weymouth Road.
I had joked, sort of, that I was considering someday going into the business of making and marketing bamboo wind chimes from my limitless supply. Most of the response had to do with other possible things to do with this raw material instead of just cutting it up and piling it up out by the curb.
“When I grew up in Ellerbe,” Martha Parsons wrote, “I was aware that my father had planted some bamboo in a field in back of the house. Today, next door to what used to be my grandmother’s home, the bamboo has spread into a massive jungle and beyond.
“I think originally the bamboo was for fishing poles for my father and friends. Through the years, I have found quite a few uses for bamboo poles, including stakes for tomato vines and other plants and flowers, as well as supports for tarps. Bamboo can be made into beautiful walking sticks when stained. … What about whistles or flutes, and also skewers for kabobs?”
Martha also thoughtfully brought me one of those handsome walking sticks, which now has a new place of honor in my home office.
Trudy Koeze, of Pinehurst, offered this:
“My husband’s daughter had a huge backyard with bamboo running wild. She sold the sprouts to the local Asian restaurants. They picked and left.”
That rang a bell. Nineteen years ago, still new here, I came home one spring day to find several Asian women out in our bamboo forest, busily harvesting those tender new shoots as menu ingredients.
When I asked what they were doing, they said they had longstanding permission to conduct this annual harvest and didn’t know the property had changed hands. They left in embarrassment before I could get any contact info, but they would have been welcome to return. After all, every sprout lopped off is a stalk that won’t grow.
Clarence Cameron, retired extension agent and nursery owner from Carthage, came by to offer this practical advice: When the shoots are new, cut them off at the base and then quickly daub the open wound around the stump with full-strength Roundup weed killer.
He’s right. Fact is, I have used that tactic in some past years and found that it does help kill back the sneaky, invasive roots known as rhizomes.
Last but not least is an idea from local arborist Geoff Cutler, which he said would target the prodigious college-kid market. He explained that it involves a couple of 5-foot bamboo poles that are anchored in the ground as the goalposts for a game called “Beer Polski.”
“Four beer drinkers are needed, two per team,” he wrote. “Once the bamboo poles are anchored, about 25 feet apart, an empty beer bottle is positioned on each pole. Players stand to either side of their pole and must have in one hand a beer — or drink of choice. The offensive team will throw a Frisbee at the opponents’ bamboo pole, hoping to knock the empty bottle off. The defensive team will catch the Frisbee, whether it hits the pole or not.”
It gets complicated. A player who misses with the Frisbee, I gather, gives up a point. If the pole or bottle is hit, the defensive team must catch the Frisbee — and the falling bottle. Throws rotate through players. The offensive team gets two points for a missed bottle by the defense. One point is given to offense for a Frisbee missed by the defense, and so on. Whoever gets 21 points wins.
“I have played this game a number of times,” Geoff concluded. “It’s a blast, and since you work on a college campus, and already have an in with these beer drinkers, your golden parachute may have just landed. Start cutting!”
Hmm. Interesting. I’m sure I’ve got enough of the stuff to supply goal posts to every college in the Southeast. And I used to throw a pretty mean Frisbee. …