Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2007

Brooms offer clean sweep

September 13, 2007

I love a broom because it is so technically correct. You can sweep out the car, reach the ceiling to get rid of cobwebs, clean the garage and sidewalks. Brooms are amazing. You can even get cake tester brooms.

I recently stopped at a broom-making shop in Amana, Iowa, and was totally fascinated by the sizes and types of brooms available. I decided to check out the broom- making in our own state of Kansas and found that in 1872 Liberal was the broom capital of the world.

At one time most of the Kansas counties raised broomcorn, and many cities made the same claim.

Broomcorn is believed to have originated in Africa hundreds of years ago and spread to Europe by 1500 AD. Ben Franklin brought it to America in the mid-1700s. While traveling in Europe, Franklin was impressed with a small broomcorn broom he used to clean his hat. He found a few seeds attached to the straw and took them with him to Philadelphia. He planted the seeds and initiated an industry.

Broomcorn is an upright grass of the species sorghum. Broom bristles are derived when the stiff tasseled branches that bear seeds on the ends are harvested and dried. The seeds are edible, starchy, and high in carbohydrates. They can be used for human consumption for cereals, or for animal feed.

The tasseled stocks, used in the manufacture of brooms, can grow from two to eight feet tall.

Sorghum is especially valued in hot climates due to its resistance to drought. The seeds are removed by pulling the tassels through a broomcorn comb. The color of the corn has a lot to do with the value.

Plastic brooms merely move dirt around, however broomcorn stocks actually absorbs dirt and dust, wear extremely well and are moisture resistant.

Even now brooms are mostly manufactured by a single operator, using one piece of machinery and making brooms by hand. Good brooms are quite expensive, but they are a precision instrument tool and should be taken very seriously.

Ada picked out one that seemed to fit her hands perfectly and she told me to keep my hands off. No problem.

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