You had to haul the old moss mattress outside, rip out one side seam, turn it inside out to be able to remove all of the old dried moss, then proceed to hand pick little brittle pieces of moss from the ticking, so the ticking could be washed in order to be re-used.
The process began with gathering moss and setting it aside, for it to dry some and to rid it of all of the creatures that called it home. Ticking needed to be washed and would have taken days for the heavy cotton material to fully dry.
The mattress would be re-stuffed, sewed up and hauled back into the house. If you were lucky, you didn’t have to drag it all the way to an upstairs bedroom.
A pallet of dried corn shucks were used under the moss mattress as a bed spring, to keep it from flattening out too much.
Moss was also used in the building of walls in the home. Wood only lay flush in few areas, so a mixture of moss and mud called bousillage was applied to the cracks in the wall, to prevent cold winter air from seeping into the house.
A mud pit was dug in the yard, water added as needed, and it was true manual labor that gave you the finished product. Someone had to take off their shoes and get into the pit, knee deep and begin marching in place to get the mud and moss thoroughly mixed, much like the Italians did when they made wine and had to stomp the grapes to death.
In some instances, dried hay would’ve been added to the mix as a filler if needed.
At the turn of the last century (1899-1900) an article was published that stated less than 1 percent of the moss in the state was left on the trees. It had been picked by individuals for home use and by the furniture industry for the stuffing of furniture. Some was also harvested by the automobile makers for use in stuffing their car seats as well. Today, chemicals are about to do moss more damage. It is epiphytic, getting its nourishment from the air, and we all know, if air-quality alerts are issued for humans, plants are in the danger zone as well.
Rule of thumb is that if you want or need a small portion of moss, take only dried ones from fallen trees. It would be hard-pressed to continue growing on a dead tree. It grows on but does not choke trees. Nature sees to it that both survive by helping each other. Quaint balance, to say the least.
You never know where a nature lesson can come from. Whoda thunk, all this from mattress turning!