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.