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.