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At one time most farm families grew their own broomcorn for the specific purpose of making homemade brooms. Even though the growth of broomcorn is no longer a common sight, it can still be found growing in some parts of the country. This plant resembles a regular corn plant with the exception of the narrower leaves and bushy seed head clusters on top. Handcrafted brooms have again become popular but today are used more for decorative purposes than cleaning. Anyone who has ever used a homemade broom would quickly exchange their short bristled synthetic broom for this old style broom. This is because many today are learning that the homemade broom does a much better job of cleaning than the new types.

If you plan to grow your own broomcorn you will want to plant it well away from other plants to avoid cross pollination. The seeds should be planted about six inches apart in rows about 30 inches apart to give the plants enough room to grow. One ten foot row of broomcorn will supply enough for two brooms. Harvest the broomcorn when the seed heads are still green unless you plan to use them for decorative purposes only. To do this simply bend the stalks down about 3 feet below the seed heads and let them hang in the field for approximately four days to dry. Cut them off at the bend and strip off the leaves. Spread them on boards or a screen rack in the sun to dry. Take them inside every evening or during any rain since any moisture can cause them to mildew. When the tassels are completely dry they will spring back into shape when gently bent.

Broomcorn can also be purchased at hobby and craft stores, so it is not necessary to grow your own. But doing so will ensure you have a yearly supply for new brooms. Brooms can also be made out of yellow birch, oak, ash or maple saplings. These are called whittled brooms. To make a whittled broom simply cut straight, smooth saplings around the middle of spring, while the bark is soft and easy to remove. This is when the sap content will make it resilient and pliable. Trim the saplings into 5 foot poles and peel off the bark. Be sure they are approximately 2 inches in diameter. Make the bristles by marking at 12 inches, 14 inches and 29 inches from one end and then shaving the wood into fine splints with a sharp knife up to the 12 inch mark. Next shave down from the 29 inch mark to the 14 inch mark leaving a 2 inch center band. Keep shaving until the handle is approximately 1 inch thick and then fold the top splints down over the bottom splints. Gather all the splints just below the center band and bind the tightly with leather or a strong twine. Shave any excess wood from the handle and then sand it smooth with sandpaper. To finish the broom trim all the ends of the splints to make them even.

For a broomcorn broom select 30 equal size lengths and comb out the seeds with a curry comb. Shave the stalks to thin them down and then thread them on twine just above the tassels. Using two small nails hammer one 2 inches from the tip of the handle and another about 5 inches from the tip. These will be used to anchor the stalks. Tie twine to the lower nail and wrap the stalks snugly around the handle. Make sure the flat side of the stalks are against the handle. After tying the stalks temporarily in place, soften the tassels by pouring boiling water over them. Allow them to soak a few minutes and you are ready to bind your broom with a strong twine.