Thursday, December 20, 2007

Aboriginal Teachings

I was at a church meeting with Ashley's family last night, and there was a 3 month old there crying. I had learnt a technique from Prof. Gary Kerr at University of Montana that is used by aboriginal men in Australia. It's essentially whistling and humming simultaneously. It's also only done by men, and is very difficult for women to do. The idea is that the sound sooths children, and stops them from crying, and in some cases puts them to sleep. I tried it and was met with success. It seems to me that it works best when the cause of the crying is from general distress or discomfort, as opposed to crying for food.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More hide work

I went back to WolfKeep with Jared today to soften hides. We softened up 2 hides, but didn't get to finish the elk hide, it was simply too big to deal with at that moment.

The hides were brained then smoked in a tipi, then we took them out and dried them by some heaters (its very cold here so thy were frozen), then worked them over a piece of lumber in a vice.

Carl, the guardian of WolfKeep, also gifted me a wetscraper/flesher that he made. Its got some different features than the one I was using before, and therefore works differently. Instead of using the sharp 45 degree edge for scraping, you use the 90 degree edge on the other side. I haven't used it yet, so I cant report on how it works out, but I'm anxious to use it.

Theres also a groove on one side which helps give the hide room to lift up, thus making it easier to remove membrane and grain.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dinner with Wolves

The other night I went to a Wolf sanctuary called WolfKeep. Its an amazeing place, and if you're ever in the area of Missoula, Montana (about 30 or so miles from where), make a point to stop and visit.
We also worked on finishing the elk hide we've been trying to finish for months. Hopefully it's all done by now.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Snow Shoes

Kind of a delayed post. Over Thanksgiving Break I was in Helena, Montana. I finished my show shoes there, except for the rawhide lacing's.

The first snow shoe is Dogwood from Missoula, but I didn't have another piece of Dogwood, so I had to use willow from where I was at the time. I cut a flexible willow branch with my chert knife, and removed any sticks or switches so I had a nice clean loop. I also cut two cross braces.

Here is the materials I used and one semi-completed snow shoe. I used mule deer buckskin and dogbane cordage to lash the framework together. This particular style can be seen in Man Vs. Wild. I haven't had the chance to test these out, since we haven't had snow deep enough to warrant them.

First, tie the ends together.

Then place the rear cross-brace. I fitted this one to sit in front of my heel. I fitted them to be used with my boots.

Then place the front cross-brace. I positioned these to be below the ball of my foot.

Here are the completed shoes as I'd wear them in use. You can see I haven't laced them with babiche (the rawhide lacing's of a snow shoe). When I encounter deep enough show, I'll demonstrate their use.

I found an interesting video about snow shoes here

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oetzi's Knife sheath

Last night I stripped some basswood (American Linden) fibers from some basswood branches I scavenged, and made a replica of Oetzi's lime bast knife sheath. Its holding up well, and looks nice. I simply made a ring of basswood, then looped vertical strips on the ring, then twined it together and tied off the end. Fairly simple and easy to make.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Snow in Missoula (gathing wood broken by snow)

Last night we got about a foot of snow. This is the first real snow we've had in Missoula this year. This also made for great snowball fights, but when morning came it also brought many broken and downed trees. Some of these trees were Basswood (American Linden). I've been waiting for a sizable branch from one of these trees to come down so I can get some new parts for my bow drill set. There's good trees around here for bow drill, but I like using Basswood for my set, and teaching others.

Here's a juniper that fell completely over from the weight of the snow.

When I got to the center of campus, there were stacks of branches piled up next to their respective trees (some had been but up into convenient pieces).

I cut several branches with my flint knife. The key to cutting with a knife like this is sawing around the stick to form a weak point, then snapping it in half. Continue sawing if the branch doesn't snap.

I'm also working on a pair of snow shoes. I have the frame of one completed, but I'll save picture from that for another post.

UPDATE: Its about 6 months from when I constructed my flint knife (box elder handle with raw Texas chert blade), and I compared it with a picture from when I posted about it in July (here)it is still going strong, with virtually no change, with the exception of a few flakes, but even those are minimal. Its been used extensively for cutting wood, boring holes, and various other tasks, and is still holding strong. I started out hafted with commercial tanned leather, but now sports brain tanned antelope hide bindings.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Processing fiber

My friends and I processed dogbane tonight, as well as elk and deer sinew.
I now have 3 bundles of sinew and 2 baskets of dogbane, so I should be set for fiber for awhile.

I quite like processing fibers with friends, its a nice community activity.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Antelope and Elk hides

We (Jared and I) worked on finishing the antelope hide and wrung out one of our elk hides. Jared blogged on it so you can find some great pictures and details here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Camping the Rattlesnake

Jared, Mariah, and I camped up in the Rattlesnake Wilderness last night. We brought some elk meat, sweet potatoes, dough, onions, and a few other food stuffs for dinner and breakfast. We found that the bears are indeed still moving around. When we arrived at the Rattlesnake creek and got out of the car, we saw a bear cub (probably Black Bear), on the other side of the road. It apparently didn't like us much, because it started to climb a nearby tree.
We used the handrill to make the fire, since my bow drill wasn't working well. I'll be collecting new parts for it soon.
Dinner was excellent, of course, and we all slept well.
The next morning we explored the surroundings a bit, and I gathered some Kinnikinik berries and leaves. I plan to dry the leaves, and use the berries to make pemmican. The berries are very starchy and tend to keep rather well, not unlike a potato. It's also a medicinal plant, used in many places to treat or cure a variety of illnesses. It grows as a groundcover in patches.

Here are the berries, which I gathered using my new elk ear pouch, as well as the branches with leaves.

There are also these green fungi type things? It grows on dead pondarosa pine branches in the rattlesnake and its bright green. If anyone knows what this is, send me an email.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Elk Ear Pouch

I sewed up the tear in the elk ear. I had to do it carefully and precisely, so I used a very small splinter of chert and a little stick to poke through the ear and push the buckskin through with the stick. Its very thin, so you have to be careful not to tear it. Its works and holds together though. I left the buckskin long so it can be wrapped and tied to hold the pouch closed.

I tried skinning a Mule Deer ear tonight, however the inside part of the ear stuck firmly to the cartilage and it tore easily. I also noticed the hair to be very different from the elk, far longer and thicker. The inside of the deer ear was almost bare.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Elk in Montana

I was invited to Jared's fathers house to help butcher an elk that was shot on the plateau near his house. The area is an amazing play, and I'm told the plateau is a viciously cold place, which makes it all the more interesting. We made a nice handdrill fire (yucca on cottonwood root) and slept by it. It turned out to be very nice night, considering it had been 18 degrees the morning before.
Anyway, the elk was a beautiful cow. It was an all day job, but very interesting. I'd never done any butchering, or skinned something that large. I used a chert blade of course to do all the cutting. We got the hide, many bones, tendons, leg skins, and even made a pouch from the ear (inspired from Torgus' blog post here). We also got some meat of course.

We had a couple of dogs who did their best to take advantage of my generosity with the scraps. Elk meat is very good, so I can't blame them.

Some of the things we wanted were cannon bones, scapulas, ribs (good for bow drill bows and scrapeing tools) as well as an ulna bone. I'll post pictures of that particular bone when we start to work on it. Also the leg skins were saved (much to the dismay of the dogs who happen to like to eat that part). The ear pouch idea was very interesting, so I'll focus on that.

I started by cutting the ear from the head. I didnt cut all the way to the base, though I wish I did. I didnt use any tools, except my fingernails to seperate the skin from the cartilage. The trick, I found, was to use your fingernail to pick at the skin until it seperates. Its very thin on the inside of the ear, so I took my time and tried not to rush, but I accidently tore it slightly (nothing major, I'll sew it up later). I found the edges of the ear to be a bit tricky, but not impossible. One thing I found was that skinning an ear isnt difficult, just requires patience.

Once I got to the end, its a bit tricky to remove the cartilage, but you just pull it away from the skin. I was worried I'd tear open the bottom of the pouch, but it turned out alright.

Finally, you have your ear pouch. You can see the tear, which luckily doesn't go too far down. I left it inside out to dry, and worked it with my hands until it was no long stiff. I suppose you could brain it, but I'm not sure it would actualy penetrate the hide, because there seemed to be some membrane that would be hard to remove without tearing the ear. I agree with Torgus that this is a resource that has been overlooked, and I plan to make many of these pouches (a few friends have already asked for one). I like that I can get more than just a brain from the deer heads we pick up from the butchers.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Squrriels on campus

We have alot of fox squirrels on campus here at University Of Montana. They're non-native species, the native squirrels are much smaller and darker in colour. This one is in a hole in trunk of a Mountain Ash tree. I've seen them here for past year, so it appears to be a favoured nesting site. I didn't have time to get closer (on my way to class) so I could only snap a quick picture. There's also a very large polypore on the left side of the tree too.

Hunting the Antelope

This post it long overdue, but thats ok. A few weeks ago I was invited by my friend Jared to go hunting with his father and friends. We set out on Friday, left a little later then we would have liked but it was a good drive anyway. Montana looks amazing this time of year with the few deciduous trees standing out against the pines on the mountains.

We arrived after dark at the camp. We exchanged greetings with Jared's father and friends and then turned in (I think it about about 10:00 by that point, or slightly later). I made a willow deer effigy before going to bed, hoping it might help with the hunt the following morning.
We woke around 5, before dawn. When we had arrived the evening before it was hard to see the surrounding area, but now with the sun coming up, we could see that we were surrounded by dense willow and open plains with mountains in the distance. It's quite an amazing place. I haven't spent much time out on the plains before, or in this section of the Rockies. It's quite a place.

The ranch we would first hunt on was several miles down the road, so we drove to the ranch just as the sun was beginning to warm the earth. Its easy for your eyes to deceive you in this terrain, to call it expansive would be an understatement. Antelope are a light tan with white, and blend in very well with the surrounding grass. They also have excellent eyesight and stand in the open, which means they see you long before you see them. In almost every instance of seeing one, it was either a mile or more off running in the opposite direction, or looking directly at us. They are truly amazing animals.
I didn't get any pictures while hunting, because I left my camera at camp, and I don't photograph animals that have been recently killed (personal thing). I really wish I had brought the camera to try to capture the terrain.
Back to your eyes deceiving you in this land, while on a hill we tried to estimate how far the next hill over was. I guessed 200 yards. Other guesses were 375 yards. When we used the range-finder, we found it to be 600 yards from us at the base of the hill. Its so difficult to accurately judge terrain and distance, your eyes and brain arn't used to seeing that kind of distance.
We were able to get one young female and a buck. Jared and I helped skin and process them and in exchange got some meat, hides, and head of one.

Jared and I cook wild meat over coals often, so we put some antelope meat and ribs on. The ribs were a bit scarce in terms of meat, but the meat chunks we put on were good. We also put some onions and potato's on too.
We were able to brain the female antelope hide that night after fleshing and graining. Antelope hair pulls right out after it dies, so no soaking or bucking was needed. The hide softened nicely, but we're going to re-brain it to make it as soft as we can.
Here is our fleshing/graining set up.

The following morning we tried using atlatl darts without fletching. We had seen aboriginal people in Australia, as well as numerous anthropology textbooks demonstrating the atlatl being used without fletching. Our conclusion is that if you don't use fletching, there must be some kind of traditional techniques used to make it work, because our darts didn't fly straight.

The dart is lashed with sinew, dogbane cordage, and buckskin. It's tipped with an obsidian point, the shaft and atlatl is of willow.

There is a lot of game in the area. I heard beaver slapping their tails on the water in the nearby stream, an owl flew over me while collecting wood, you can hunt and trap various waterfowl, rabbits, beaver, elk, whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, and many other species. Its quite an amazing place.

Before we left Jared took some pictures of me. I brought all my primitive tools, and used stone for cutting and helping with the butchering. I also worn my buckskin shirt, wore my Hudson Bay capote, and slept with my Hudson Bay blanket and elk hide. I enjoyed having these things with me and using them for what they are meant to be used for.

The blue coloured pouch hanging from my satchel is a beadworked pouch. It's a design of my own creation, done in lazy-stitch.

I have many more pictures of brain tanning, so I'll put them up in another post. I have an elk hide which I'll be working to completion which will hopefully be soon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pine Pitch

Pine pitch is a rather useful tool when it comes to making things in the woods, or even around the house. Its been used all over the globe for things from binding to water proofing. From hafting blades to sealing canoes. For such an important material, its something that many (myself included) don't or didn't know how to make for some time. I'll try to shed some light on this in this post.

What you'll need:
1. Pine sap. Main ingredient to this. You'll have to collect this from some variety of pine tree. I've collected them from all kinds, pretty much I'm on the lookout for pine sap whenever I come across a stand of pine. Sometimes it hardens and gets a coating that makes it look like bark. You might want to experiment with different consistencies. Even the really hard stuff will soften though.

2. Charcoal. Not those briquette things, I mean real wood charcoal. Make a fire, collect a few pieces. You take the little black chunks and grind it into a powder. As fine as you can. You'll mix about this with the sap, about 50-50. But it can vary, sometimes I add less, sometimes more. It depends on how it looks to me.

3. Dung. Most likely deer, though I like to use elk. You want them dried out, because what you're looking for is the fine grass fibers. It seems to add some extra strength to it. This isn't an essential ingredient, but I add it when available.

You want to warm the pitch, not boil it though. In this picture, I have it in a large scallop shell I bought from Michaels Craft store (chain store, find it in the section with sea shells). You can use pottery too. I've tried using oyster shells, but it fractured and exploded. The reason I settled on a scallop shell was it stands up to heat well.
After the sap is liquid, add the ground up charcoal. Mix it together. Get some sticks and get some on the stick, then form it into little globs on the end. I usualy carry quite a few with me at any given point, so make a few of these. Be careful, pitch hurts like mad if it drips on you, but it should be ok to lightly touch it and form it into the glob shape.

You should have some pitch sticks now :-) Enjoy!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Old pictures

Still haven't bee able to upload my pictures yet, but I did come across an old album of mine that has some pictures from way back before I knew much at all (i.e. debris hut, tracking, etc.) Theres also some old MAPS Meet 2005 pictures in there among others.

This is me circa senior year of high school. I can remember walking down the road dressed like this to get to some woods that are pretty far from my house. Alot of strange looks. Anyway I have a whitetail deer hide cape with rabbit pelts lashed to my arms and hide wrapped around my legs to keep the snow out with buckskin moccasins. I have an Osage Orange sapling bow with arrow wood arrows (stone tipped), as well as my satchel and quiver behind me under the hide. Even though I have a shirt on I was quite warm and comfortable.

This is a debris hut I made also during my senior year. It's mostly pine boughs from discarded Christmas trees and branches from the surrounding area. Key things that are wrong with this shelter (yes, I froze in this shelter), too many open areas to let heat escape, too big, no leaves. If I had made it smaller and used more leaves, I would have been warmer I'm sure. I did have a small fire in there, but it was placed off to the side and provided little to no heat.

Fast forward to this past winter break. This is me approaching a debris hut made by my brother and I the previous summer. I had been told they had severe flooding in the area while I was away, but surprisingly it was relatively intact and required only minimal repair to be usable. It showed no sign of other human habitation, everything was as we had left it 5 months or so earlier. This means to me that the area is relatively safe from most flooding in the area, and not many people go here. The cool thing about this shelter is that one side of it is a large boulder. I plan to rebuild it, possibly take advantage of the boulder to use it as a heat reflector (possible lean-to style shelter?)

Close view of the shelter showing the framework, severe lack of leaves and me removing various gear. Theres also an Ironwood sapling in the foreground, theres quite a few of them around.

This is from the very first summer camp I taught. It was one I ran where I taught my mums friends children. Pretty basic stuff, some primitive bows, tracking, moving through the woods, making things out of tulip poplar, etc. Just a cool picture from the past.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Facts about fire

Since learning friction fire methods, I've been very interested in fire. Always amazed by its impact on us. I found some interesting facts about fire that I thought would be interesting to any readers of this blog. You can find them here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Crow Tribe teachings

I visited the archives today to do some work for a class and decided to look into a collection they have on campus by Fred W. Voget. He studied both the River and Mountain Crow tribe during the late 1930's. There is a lot of notes and information there, so I focused on teachings and how they raised their children. Here are some interesting things I found:

Some advice given to a man named Ball by his clan brother after his father died:
-Whenever you have a horse of your own, do not starve it, keep it fat.
-When you marry, never hit your wife, nor become jealous of her [this advice attributed to Ball's clan brother]
-His friends fathers would tell him never be lazy, but tend to the horses, and when he had a wife of his own, to provide for her and her family.
-They advised him when on a warparty, to have his gun at hand all the time, he should have it at his side while sleeping.

It's also noted that children who failed at one lesson, only got more lessons and care, until he learned the lesson. It seems rare that they gave up on children who failed to learn a lesson.

"Pretty-shield reports that when she was seven years old she dug roots"
"The Crow are not in the habit of punishing children by beating them. When a child is crying for a long time, the parents put it on its back and pour water down its nose. If at some later time the child begins to cry, the parents merely say "Bring the water!". Then the child generally stops."

In some of the notes, some men reported that when they were seven they recieved a "genuine bow". It also states that they were made of cedar and backed with sinew. The arrows were short and blunt.

"In the night the boys sometimes stole the two outside lodge poles. Then the owners would chase them and the thieves had to run for if they were caught their blankets would be taken away from them. They took the poles form the sheer mischief in order to be chased."

There was also information regarding names and naming practiced.
"It was bad luck for the natural parents to give a name to his or her own child. This service was performed by a special friend, upon request or a name came spontaneously by reason of some situation connected with the life of the named one."
"Medicine-woman possess the right to name their own children as well as their grandchildren."

I went on an antelope hunt with my friend, his father, and their friends. I took some pictures so I'll post those and detail the weekend soon.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mark of a good day

My day started fairly late yesterday, around 12 or so. My friend Jared and I were planning on getting some hides from the local butcher shop to do some hide tanning. So we got our tools together and drove out to the shop. However, when we got there, we found that our local source for hides was now keeping them all, because Pacific Hide and Fur buys all their hides at the end of the year. But I think we'll be able to negotiate some hides, since they probably pay the shop a flat rate for all of their hides at the end of the year, as opposed to a per hide basis.
We did get a head and several legs out of the visit though, so we cut open the skull and removed the brain to freeze it. We're considering re-braining out elk leg hides to make them just a bit soften. I remember a time when removing brains was a task I didn't really look forward to. But now its something I don't mind. I suppose its the appreciation for what the animals brain can lend us, the ability to turn a hide or a pelt into something usable, and even desirable.
Having taken care of the brains and legs, Jared wanted to try out his hand drill set. We tried yucca on yucca, but it just seemed to burnish. I'm not sure what was going on with that set, I've used yucca sets before with success. I get the feeling there was still moisture trapped in it. Next we tried the same hand drill, though on a cottonwood root fire board. After a short while we had an ember, which we promptly put into a cedar bark tinder bundle and rushed it outside to blow it into a flame. Theres something about making a hand drill fire with friends, everyone should experience it.

It was quite a nice day so a trip to the Bitterroot river near Blue Mountain was planned. It's an amazing place with alot of plant diversity and wildlife. To name a few there were Blue Heron, lots of Robin, Mule Deer, Whitetail, bear (their scat was everywhere), lots of fish, tule growing in the swampy areas, as well as extensive grasslands and willow stands. Another feature was that there is actual fine grained sand in areas (especially around the willow) with many insect and bird tracks, as well as what appear to be coyote tracks. The whole area is quite amazing. After crossing the river, we began making out way up river to a large stand of willow. On our way Jared spotted a fawn grazing in a dried up channel. We stalked up to it for the next 10 minutes (it was quite unaware of our proximity, and even laid down in the grass to rest). I was reminded of what Joey Murray had said about the first day of hunting season, that most of the deer brought in were very young. I could clearly see that even though we were stalking through very dry grass, this fawn (who was on his own) was not picking up on us at all. Eventually he must have heard something because he stiffened up and looked right at us, then got up and ran off.
We proceeded up the river, noteing the bear scat all the way along the path. We arrived at the willow, where there was also a marsh. There were alot of deer tracks here too, as well as patches of Tule. I had never seen tule in person before, it is not common in this area. I ended up collecting a bundle of it to work with it and see what could be made. We spent the rest of the day exploring the river. Shortly after leaving, we passed a flock of about 10 turkeys as well as a doe and fawn crossing the road. A fitting farewell to a great day at the river.
Our evening was occupied going from back alley to back alley collecting various fruits that grow in the alleyways in Missoula. We found salmonberries, raspberries, apples, grapes, and tomatoes. We often find and gather other fruits like plums, pears, apricots, and peaches. That's one thing I really like about Missoula is the abundance of these fruits that no one really picks.
Later last night I used some of the tule to make a Paiute Tule Duck Decoy. It turned out fairly well, thought I want to use more tule to fatten it up a bit. I used instructions from Primitive Ways. They can be found here. I'll put some pictures up of the decoys soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Skills in Montana

I'm in Missoula now, so I've been doing skills out here.
I don't have any pictures right now (two reasons, 1. I don't have my connection cable and 2 haven't really taken any.)

I'll summarize a few things I've done so far:

-Taught a few friends how to skin and elk leg and remove the sinew, as well as tan the hide from the leg.
-Knapped a few arrow points and spear points
-Taught some friends how to make willow baskets
-Taught several people I didn't know how to make willow deer effigy's
-Explored the Blackfoot river, found some interesting knappable stone
-Stalked a doe and two fawns on campus for a couple of nights

This picture shows the bone and sinew from the elk leg, raisins made from grapes found locally, a squirrel pelt from a dead squirrel on campus, obsidian projectile points, and a deer hide tanned early in the season.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Busy Weeks

Well the last few weeks have been pretty busy with teaching at Ancestral Knowledge and Living Earth School. Both are great organisations and I recomend you check out their websites. ( Ancestral Knowledge, Living Earth School)
He are a couple of pictures from the camps.