Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nature's Garden

I know, from the little time I have spent of this MooseBoots journey, that I have much to learn.  We have fallen short of our goal of increasing our foraging skills and knowledge.  We have probably missed blueberry season for the year.  Several years ago, we made an effort and picked 2 gallons of blueberries for the freezer.

So, I was excited to find that Samuel Thayer, author of The Forager's Harvest, has recently published a continuation entitled Nature's Garden.  The book has many more plants and descriptionsof harvesting and storage methods than its predecessor.  I have only just received my copy and perused the bit on Black Cherry trees, which I have.  Other plants of immediate interest are Black Nightshade, Solomon Seal, Wild Carrots, and Acorns.  Some of these I am familiar with ... I may have even eaten a few, but these plants are in my yard or nearby.  Wendy and I just recently discovered Black Nightshade growing in the yard and we are eager to use it.  Perhaps the season is not lost.

With renewed enthusiasm, I continue down this, my MoosBoots, path.  I encourage those follwoing along to get a copy of the Nature's Garden.  It has the same great format as The Forager's Harvest and much more information about new plants.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wasted Moose Hide?

While I travel this MooseBoots path, I sometimes get derailed.  It happens to all of us ... at least most of us.  I have a job that pays bills.  Therefore, the job takes a good deal of my time.  It follows then that I do not have the vast quantities of time I would like to be able to dedicate to this endeavor.  So, things slip through the cracks; nature takes its course.  I believe this, too, is a learning opportunity.

As I've stated previously,  I have been given some hides to work.  They are all in various staged of completion.  It has been nearly a year though.  When the snow started to fly last winter, I stored them in what I considered a safe way - salted those that were not completely tanned.  In spite of my efforts, I found that at least one of my hides, a moose, has been destroyed.  What use did serve for me?  What purpose did it have for the ecosystem at large?  Was it a waste?

For me, this was a fantastic learning tool.  It first gave me some experience in working large hides.  I spent at least 10 hours fleshing this hide.  The time working with this hide taught me how much pressure should be applied with the fleshing knife to properly remove the flesh.  It was a pleasure to share time with the spirit of this animal, to express my heart-felt gratitude for its gift.  It was definitely hard work - after working for several hours a day, it would take a few days to work out all of my stiffness.  I enjoyed the physicality as well as the spirituality of the work.  Obviously, I learned that I need to complete the job within as short a time as possible ... freezing did keep this hide intact through the winter.  Perhaps, these lessons could have been learned by reading Deerskin to Buckskin (which I would like to buy), but first-hand experience is always more instructive for me.

The critters in the yard have also benefited.  As we used the wood stores throughout the winter and spring, we found many nests made of moose and deer hair.  The squirrels and chipmunk had built nests in the stacks of wood.  The mice also played this game.  In fact, last week the girls were looking at this one, which was still occupied by a wee little mouse.

The hair that had been removed during the tanning process also went into the compost pile.  The compost has been used in all of the raised bed for growing our incredible garden.  The garden does not provide all of our food needs, but each year it provides a little more.

The hide has provided a home for a whole host of other beings - the flies, bacteria, molds, etc.  While these may not seem desirable, one must consider the benefit of providing habitat to increase the biodiversity in the area.  Surely some of the desirables befitted from the presence of those less-desirables.  I have noticed, which I have not before, that we have a few red squirrels around now.  Could this be some benefit from the rotting hide?  Who's to say?

Of course, the dogs has been entertaining themselves with the hide, too.  We use it as a training aid ... the beagle can come out, off leash, in the yard as long as he does not run off.  The hide has provided hours of entertainment.  This has trained him to listen better when we call him.

Am I sad about the loss of this hide?  Yes.  Has it provided new knowledge and wisdom?  Yes, just not in the intended way.  So, the question posed ... was this a waste?   Have my efforts with this hide, on this MooseBoots journey, been in vain?  No, it has provided many benefits for my little corner of the world.  It has shown me that I am an integral part of nature.  I can take the gifts offered to me, but the Mother has the ultimate power to take those gifts not accepted quickly enough and give them to other who need them.  Nature does not allow her children to waste, if we accept our role as a part of the natural world.  Thank you, Mother, for your gifts and your wisdom.  I will follow you lead and return the remaining part of the hide to the forest so that others may thrive.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Farewell - Aunt Tammy

Sometimes, I get reminders ...we all do, I suppose.  Some are like a swift kick in the pants.  Some are like a gentle nudge from a dog who is patiently waiting for a scratch behind the ear.  My MooseBoots journey provided one of the former category today.

I should have known from the start.  I have been tired, exhausted even.  The politics and stress of work are such drains.  This is something I am trying to address on this path.  This morning, however, I popped up out of bed and decided to go for a walk.  I have been talking, ad nauseum, about starting to exercise more often.  So, out the door I went with both dogs in tow.

It was nice being out.  We walked to one of my favorite spots ... I really haven't visited in such a long time.  Being under the canopy of leaves in the early morning light was refreshing, invigorating.  Of course, I needed to cut it short and walk back.  In total, the walk was about 45 minutes. 

As a result, everything else prior to walking out the door was out of order.  The dogs went out before they were fed, for instance.  I even opted for a simply bagel with peanut butter instead of one of Wendy's delicious breakfast sandwiches with our own eggs.  I was already anticipating the worse at work.

I walked in to find an unanounced meeting in process.  It was one I was supposed to be at, apparently.  I attended.  During the meeting, my phone rang ... it was Gar.  I let voice mail get it and returned the call afterwards.

My aunt has been ill.  Her health has never been great, but really took a turn a few years back with quadruple by-pass surgery.  Gar had called because the home health service had been in and said, "she has hours left."  She was only 48 years old.  I promptly called Wendy to share the news.  I was not sure if I would be leaving work or waiting until lunch.

Then ... I remembered that two years ago, I missed my grandfather's funeral because of this job.  I was torn ... my absence could jeopardize a multi-million dollar order that is already on shakey ground ... but, I feel like my family has suffered enough for this job and that the right thing was to leave immediately.  I waffled a bit and then did the right thing.  I told my boss that I was leaving and would likely be out the rest of the day.  That single act felt so good, and right, that I was instantly calm and collected about the quandry I was, only moments before, in.  Obviously, I knew what was right on some level.

I stopped by the house and picked everyone up.  We went to see her.  She was sleeping and remained that way all day.  It was incredible to see all of the family members by her side.  She had confided a few days ago that she was afraid that she would die alone.  We were not going to let that happen.  After several hours of talking with everyone and waiting, I decided to leave for a bit.

We came back home.  We checked all of the animals and gave them food and water.  Then, I worked on a basket that I have been making (my first).  Then, I retrieved my birch log to try to peel it.  I could not, but decided to split it to try to make a drum frame.  I worked for quite a time on that, thinking about my aunt.  At the exact moment that I decided to stop, thirty minutes before we had planned to go back, my aunt passed into the next world.  Wendy met me at the door with tears in her eyes and broke the news.

We went back to give our last good-byes and wish her well on her new adventure.The girls were brave and each said her own farewell.  We comforted each other and the other guests.  We shared stories about her, laughing and crying.  She was incredible ... Gar was incredible during this entire process, too.  We looked at pictures ... it was so natural.  We left shortly before the funeral home came to pick her up.

So, the reminder ... re-assess and stick to your personal priorities.  Very few people will offer that which is the right action for you without your suggestion.  Let all of the people in your life know how you feel, don't make them guess.  Life is short, you could be dancing today and gone tomorrow.  Enjoy what you are doing, or find something you can.  This is why I have chosen my MooseBoots path ... perhaps, there is more I can do to fully embrace it.

Farewell, Aunt Tammy.  We will meet again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Outdoor Skills Class - July 2010

During this MooseBoots journey, there have been plenty of hints and reminders ... be in the moment... be aware ...  be patient ... be still.  Yesterday, the message was take time and put forth your best effort ... neatness and beauty count.  With that in mind, we the girls completed our their birch bark baskets at our monthly class.

It has been hot lately.  The temperature nuzzled up near the 100 degree mark on the bank thermometers.  So, rather than hang out near the wigwam, we set up an impromptu "classroom" near the stream that runs through the property we are fortunate enough to use.  It is shaded and offered the opportunity to cool off as the urge need arises.

If you recall, we gathered roots and peeled bark at earlier classes.  We also had to make a piece of cordage, as homework, to use to decorate the rim of the basket.  We  used these materials, and some ash strips, to assemble our baskets. 
  1. First, we soaked everything in the stream - the bark, the roots, the ash strips, the kids (actually they soaked themselves).
  2. Next, we carefully folded the bark into a basket shape.  We use clothes pins to hold them in place.
  3. Then, we carefully measured and cut the ash strips for the rims.
  4. We then split the roots for sewing.  This is a very peaceful soothing activity that requires a bit of concentration, but allows you to fully be in the moment with all of the birds singing, brook babbling, kids laughing, and wind rustling the leaves.
  5. Finally, we sewed the rim while juggling both ash pieces, the cordage, the folds in the basket, the roots, and the awl to poke holes.  Who knew I could be so nimble?!

Each kid needed varying levels of assistance ... Precious made her basket vicariously through Wendy's and my hands ... Big Little Sister only wanted me to complete the sewing by tying off the roots ... Little Fire Faery was somewhere in between.

It was a beautiful day.  I learned that there really is a craftsman down deep inside of me ... I am not just a stuffy left-brained engineer?!  The baskets are fantastic and careful craftsmanship certainly produces its own reward.  My MooseBoots journey has involved learning so many unexpected things that I would never have thought important.  I guess it just shows that there is always something more to learn.