Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oil Lamps

My MooseBoots journey meanders in a very "native" way.  Of course, several of my guides are native (those in writing count as well ... Tamarack Song calls his reference books "elders" at the end of each chapter).  But ... there are those moments when my engineering side wrests control.

Wendy is in the process of finishing the manuscript for her first published book.  It is a hypothetical 21-day countdown to some apocalyptic event.  One of the sections is about light ... no cheating with that "new-fangled" electricity crap.  So, I decided to play and try to help her with her ideas ... what do we have around, Wendy? ... olive oil ... raccoon fat (not common in most households) ... basswood bark ... glass jar cover ...  string from feed bags ....

So, we've all seen oil lamps.  Hah!  Get that image out of your head. 
  1. First, you slosh carefully pour a bit of fuel, in this case raccoon fat or oil into the glass lid.  Try not to get it all over the table, counter, floor, etc. 
  2. The first thing she wanted to know was whether it was flammable in bulk ... aka drop the match into it and see what happens.  Stand back!  Fizzle...sputter...fade.  OK, neither is.
  3. Now, lets make some cordage.  Feed bag string first, then basswood bark, then ... hey, what is this?  It looks like paper towels, but we don't buy those.  Oh well, twist it up.
  4. Now, a a bunch of oil into the glass jar.  Install wick.  Wait!  How do we keep it upright?  Wendy?  Paperclips.  Cardboard.  (Fine engineering effort complete with pound nails with hammers through little bits of metal careful calculation) ... eureka!
  5. Light it.  No, really light it.  Did you light it?  Why didn't it burn?  Oh, the wick is too long and dry.
  6. Now what?  Let's ... lay the wick in the very shallow bit of oil in the lid.
  7. Light it!  Success!  I knew we were smarter than melted raccoon fat and squashed up olives could do it.

In the end, the lamps were a big success.  I was pleasantly surprised by the heat and light given off.  The best thing is that I expected the lamps to smoke and stink.  Nothing ... no smoke and no smell.  So, for the balance of my MooseBoots journey it looks like I will be able to make some form of light ... wait no match to light it ... I'd better keep working with that bow drill.  I can't wait to read the glitzy polished version to see how clever Wendy can make us look.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Respect - A Lost Value?

This MooseBoots journey of mine has been moving in spite of the lack of public record.  Sometimes, we learn best through quiet observation.  The last few weeks have been very busy with dance recital and all of the associated practices and photo sessions.

I ran the sound (CD player) for the show.  It was very simple because the young lady who recorded the CDs did an excellent job.  At the dress rehearsal, one of the songs was wrong, but she had a copy of the correct song on another CD.  In her haste to continue the rehearsal, she gave me the CD and quickly ran back on stage.  Her mother was standing there when it happened and said something to the effect that she would have to talk to her because she did not say please and thank you.  This young lady, one week after the recital, just turned twenty-one years old.  I was a bit embarassed ... I hadn't noticed and responded that she was busy and that I had not taken any offense.  Her mom looked at me and said that there is never a time that you are too busy to be polite.

I received a nice card the next day thanking me for doing such a great job and being so laid back about the frantic pace with which everything seemed to be moving.  This got me thinking ... I was volunteering my time to help out with the show.  My girls were all dancing in it.  Wendy was backstage frantically applying make-up to thirty girls' faces and winding their respective heads of hair into buns and high ponytails with the skill of  a rodeo cowboy.  I was simply doing my part ... the fact is that I have been on the sidelines for most of the nine years we have been dancing there.  I also participated in the Father / Daughter dance this year, but that is another story ....

It did start me thinking.  I put much more effort into other areas and receive little to no acknowledgement for my efforts.  Right now, those of you who read Wendy's blog and have been following along know we have house guests.  They have fallen on hard times and have been with us since March.  We have not asked for anything in return for giving them a place to live, food to eat, etc. besides a plan on how they are going to move back out and "take flight" again.  It is unspoken, perhaps that is my fault, that we expect some consideration ... in the winter, when the wood box is empty, fill it ... when you use dishes, wash them from time to time ... if the lawn needs to be mowed or wood needs to be split or stacked ... simply acknowledge that we exist in lieu of coming and going at all hours of the night/day and hiding out in a room avoiding us when we are all home ....

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  I like this definition - Willingness to show consideration or appreciation. 
C-O-N-S-I-D-E-R-A-T-I-O-N - thoughtful concern for others. 
A-P-P-R-E-C-I-A-T-I-O-N - recognition of the quality, value, or significance of people or things. 

So, together ... respect is a willingness to show thoughtful concern for, or recognition of the quality, value, or significance of, others.  The two previous examples provide a stark contrast that seems so common today.  The former owed me nothing and was completely grateful for the smallest thing.  The later example is the complete opposite.

Regardless, this message of respect has been coming from a number of directions. It was this message and my deep seated person values that put me squarely on this path some time ago.  We share this planet with so many plants, animals, and other people ... we need each other to survive. I try to live as well as I can with honor and respect to all of the other people (animal, plant, spirit, or otherwise) that share this path and whose paths cross mine.  This belief is what first started me down the path of exploring survival skills, hide tanning, and herbal medicines.  I still thank the chickens when I take them to the butcher, because I recognize that they are providing me life by sacrificing theirs.  I thank the hides when I work with them for their gift.

Respect can only come from being aware of your surroundings and interactions.  I have really begun to see that any skill can be learned, but real keen awareness is required to use it properly.  Perhaps, we as a society have it backwards ... we appreciate having a skill rather than developing a skill out of an appreciation for something or someone.  I know that I have a good life and I am grateful.

I hope that I always carry in my heart, on this MooseBoots journey, an appropriate level of respect and gratitude for all of the gifts I have been given and continue to receive everyday.  As Tamarack Song points out, "Patience and respect open all doors."  Thank you all for reading and allowing me to share what little I have to offer. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Outdoor Skills Class - June 2010

There are constant reminder on this, my MooseBoots journey.  Reminder to be thankful for the bounty of the Earth, for the kindness of others, and our our ability to work and play.  This month's class provided the opportunity to express gratitude in each of these areas.  We worked with Birch bark.  The time is right, for the next few months, to peel the bark from the trees to make baskets.  We will use the roots we harvested in May to finish the baskets.  The contribution this month was the bark itself.

For the first hour or so, we helped the people on the farm.  In gratitude for allowing us to use the land, we helped them mulch the potatoes and deal with the potato bugs.  For mulching, we re-used the straw we used last fall to protect the strawberry plants.  It had been gathered and piled near the field we were working.  Given that they are an organic farm, they can not simply spray for bugs and fertilize to optimize the yield.  Hence, the straw served two main purposes - bug control and to keep the ground moist in the dry weather.  We spread it to "confuse" the potato bugs.  First, we inspected for bugs.  If we found them, or eggs, we crushed them ... organic pest control.  Then, we spread the hay around the plants, creating islands of green leaves in the brown/tan colored sea of straw.  Those bugs are uuuuuugly!

Next, we gathered to peel the bark.  The trees were cleaned from an thick patch of birch and culled to allow for healthy growth of the surrounding trees - a caretaker's responsibility.  Each child got to peel a bit and then we headed off to the wigwam.  At the wigwam, we ate lunch and then squared the pieces of bark.  Like with paper airplanes, you want the edges to be as square as possible.  These were then stored at the site for next month.  We carefully stacked them to keep them from rolling into coiled, tangled heaps.

Later, at my apprenticeship weekend, while walking, I found a number of large birch logs that had been cut down to clear some land.  Not wanting to waste them, I decided to peel them.  It was quite a bit of work.  I was rewarded with two pieces of bark about 24" x 72", 0.6 m x 1.8 m (for those of the metric bent).  Of course, the large section broke into smaller pieces, but they are a better size for baskets now.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity, and willing teachers, to learn these skills and to be well enough to use them.  My MooseBoots journey has provided so many rich, rewarding experiences so far and I have just begun.  At some point, I hope to be able to pass these skills and beliefs/attitudes on to those of the next generation.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bee Check - 29 Days In Hive

This MooseBoots journey, my journey to my handcrafted, brain tanned moose hide moccasin boots, is full of interesting surprises and constant reminders that I am not always in control or all-knowing.  Simple reminders that we need to pay attention and be open to experiences provide unexpected learning opportunities, which we can choose to take or not.

The bees are a constant fascination - the way they move, the things they do, the amazing  way they build, and the incredible level with which they are attuned to nature and the weather.  Day 29 required another hive inspection.  I needed to check for larva, eggs, brood comb, etc..  It becomes easier to work with them with each inspection ... perhaps because I am calmer and more sure of myself.  No stings.  Every bar checked and photographed.  Here are some pictures.

I find it simply amazing that they have been able to build all of that comb, store all of the honey they have stored, and begun procreating in such a short time.  I find it intriguing watching their flight patterns and trying to figure out what they are foraging at any given time.  It is great watching how tuned in they are to weather patterns and how they deal with different temperature changes.  There is a lot to learn from these guys.  My MooseBoots journey is definitely enhanced by their presence.