Sunday, November 2, 2014

Foraging Into Fall

Today, the snow has returned for a brief visit.  Daily temperatures have been in the 50's during the past few weeks, so the snow will be gone shortly.  In fact, the snow did not even stick to the ground.  There is still plenty to be done before the snow stays for the long winter months.

I started to ponder today.  What would the natives in this area be harvesting?  Most of the plants have begun to die back.  Berry season has passed.  There are a few apples remaining on the trees, but the only native apples in this area were crabapples.  The nuts are gone from the trees.  The People here would have gathered, and stored, what they needed for plant-based food sources, except those gathered from evergreen trees and such.

I imagine they would have turned to hunting, like we do in modern Maine.  Many animal-based foods are still plentiful ... deer, rabbits, squirrel, moose, migratory birds, raccoon, porcupine, and turkey are all still active.

In modern times, we also have access to some non-native plants that are producing.  A week or so ago, I found and identified (with some help from a Facebook group and local botanist) nearly a dozen Autumn Olive bushes no more than a mile from home.  They are loaded with berries, ripe for picking. 
And, there are a number of non-native apple species that still cling to the fruit high in their branches.

I, like my ancestors before me, have set aside my gathering basket for a bow in search of  meat.  I'll admit that I am not a very successful hunter.  In the five years or so that I have been hunting, I have been blessed with only two turkeys.  One was taken this fall.  However, I do still have time to be in the woods before expanded archery (deer) season finishes for the year.

After I shot the turkey, I took her to the tagging station.  When I pulled up, there was a moose in the process of being skinned.  I quipped that my bird would not fill the freezer nearly as well as the moose.  It brought a chuckle.  Afterwards, I asked what happened to the moose hides.  I figured that most people kept them, but guessed that it didn't hurt to ask.  "I throw them in the garbage ... people don't want them and leather brokers don't either." was the reply.

My jaw nearly hit the floor.  I believe that using as much of the animal is the proper way to honor the animal for the gift it has given.  Of course, thanking them directly is important, too.  I told the man that I would love to get my hands on one, if one were available.  My phone rang just shy of a week later.

I do not have a whole lot of free time.  Modern life keeps my family on the run a good deal of time.  But, I have managed to find enough time over the last two weekends to scrape the flesh and fat off of the hide, and to de-hair most of the other side.  The hide, which is lovely if a little smelly, is very nearly ready for tanning, in spite of the fact that I spent a good chunk of the day, today, in the snow/rain that fell, while the wind howled through the trees.  As I worked, it occurred to me that the rawhide would make several very nice drums.

Regardless, I consider myself very fortunate to have been given such abundance and so many opportunities to learn and grow.  I am that much closer to my moose boots.  Actually, I have orders for  three pairs for my family.  Of course, standing here on the cusp of actually making the boots, I realize that my journey has only just begun.