Locally Grown Sandpaper: The Horsetail
Suppose you're camping and need to scour the cookwear. There's no sand nearby, and you have no recourse to steel wool or 3M scrunges. What to do? A more common rough spot: you need a fine grade of sandpaper, picked fresh from nature's bounty. The solution to both dilemmas likely grows nearby. "The Water Horsetail has historically been used by both Europeans and Native Americans for scouring, sanding, and filing because of the high silica content in the stems". All you need to do is scrunch up a single, hollow horsetail shaft and sand away. We tried a fast, low-pressure rub on the surface of a weathered deck board and the results were quite favorable (photo). You can see the greenish-grey "sanding dust" piled up in the middle right center of the photo, to the right of the "sanded" area. A locally-grown, attractively-segmented Horsetail stem portion, about 1/4 inch in diameter, lies across the bottom of the frame. Because natural silica content is high in many Equisetum species, finding some to try should be easy. Kids notice it right away, sensing that the lack of leaves signifies something unusual. See if it works for you and let us know.