Conquests of Tankbird


MPSS Earth Living 5-Day: Part 2 of 2
July 14, 2009, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Please start with Part 1 if you haven’t read it already!

The next morning, we debriefed. Brad had gone back at about 10: he couldn’t deal with the bugs. Paul had gone back a little later (I’d heard him). I’d gone back at 2. John had slept fitfully, but his back started to really bother him in the night, so he went back at 4. Tim managed to roll over in his, after much wedging and kicking and digging, and fell right asleep. The verdict for me was that I needed to build mine a little higher than would be normally recommended, so I could roll over. We plannned to make adjustments later.

That morning was time to make spears for spear fishing. here I hold my finished spearhead while (in the background) Tim prepares the body of his spear.
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Later, we spent some time in the winter classroom, and Brad sharpened Bussey, his giant knife. This blog wouldn’t be complete without a shot of the knife that we spent the whole week teasing him about.
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While this was happening, we learned the “Big 4” of plants: pines, grases, cattails, and oaks. We went on a short plant walk and ate some cattails, had grass tea, pine needle tea, and learned about quite a few different plants.

After this, we studied traps and snares. We carved sticks for a Figure 4 deadfall trap.
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Here is my completed Figure 4 deadfall:
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Then we learned the Piute deadfall, which is about 1000x easier than a Figure 4, but we all had to get a Figure 4 set up before Mike would teach us a Piute.

Brad sets up a Piute deadfall:
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My completed Piute deadfall:
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Then we learned about rolling snares and practiced setting and triggering them. We didn’t trap anything.

Then we had a little time to work on things we hadn’t finished.
John worked on his spear:
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Tim worked on blowing a coal-burned spoon, which I hadn’t gotten to at this point. We made straws out of reed grass and used them to burn out spoons and (in some cases) bowls.
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Now it was time to learn field dressing. We had two donations of roadkill, a rabbit and a groundhog, on which to practice.
John and Paul worked on the groundhog.
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I chose the rabbit.
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Here, Mike sits next to our rabbit on its spit. (The groundhog was too far gone for us to eat more than the shoulder.)
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Then we had a little more down time to work on unfinished products again. Paul works on his coal-burned bowl.
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Brad serenades us on guitar:
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John and I work on our spoons:
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The rabbit and groundhog both turned out quite gamy, meaning they had suffered as they died, which is sad. But we couldn’t quite choke ’em down.

Later that night, Trey came back to visit. (He’d visited for a while Thursday night.) He worked with me on bow drill some more. Here’s a shot where you can see his beautifully carved bow drill.
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Now, we were supposed to go back to the shelters, but a few people were really, really wiped out (including Mike). Mike made the executive decision that we’d stay in. Trey ordered him to bed, as he was too exhausted, and Trey took over for the evening. We told stories and it was pretty amazing overall. That night, it poured, and we were happy to be inside.

The next morning, my fishing spear had accumulated about ten slugs. They like to eat the sweet cambium layer under the bark. If I had been setting traps, I could have used them for bait to catch chipmunks. Here is my stick o’slugs:
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It was mosquito-ey, so Brad lit a smudge fire.
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We were building up a bed of coals in our fire to cook on later, so Tim brought a dead punky tree in for fire wood. He jumped on it to break it. Action shot!
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Then we went out with Trey to gather grasses to make grass mats. I got to wade in the cool water, deciding that barefoot was better than soaking my shoes, and gathered up a large armful of quack grass. Here we weave grass mats out on the lawn:
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Around this time, Mike took a picture of his own face. Intense man is intense!
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Here I sit in the tracking box on my grass mat with my pine bark bowl and coal-burned spoon. Huzzah!
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New instructors started showing up at this point. Nick showed us how to use a hand drill and a strap drill.
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Then we all got to try it. I had a cut on my palm that didn’t take too well to this activity, so instead I focused on photography.
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Mike wrapped a salmon in clay to make a clay-baked salmon and laid it on the coals.
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Trey, talented fire-maker extraordinaire, decided to challenge himself to see if he could get a coal with a wet bow drill set. He couldn’t, but only because of how wet the wood was. Here’s a video of his amazing bow drill form:

Then he was kind enough to work with me on my bow drill form. Here, I got the closest I’d ever gotten to a coal. He drops the camera at the end, but you can hear us talking about it. If I’d had a little more arm strength, and if my handhold hand hadn’t been moving around so much, I’d probably have kept the coal. This is the closest I’ve gotten yet, but I’m still working on it.

Here, Mike taught us hot rock boiling in the pine bark bowls we’d made.
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Then Arthur Haines showed up from the Delta Institute. Arthur is the most amazing plant guy EVER. He knows over 2000 species off the top of his head. He made us a stew out of just wild plants growing around the site. (Arthur’s the shirtless man over the clay pot)
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Tim approves of the stew.
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A shot of some of the carrying containers the other instructors brought with them:
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Everyone gathers around the fire enjoying stew:
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Then Arthur gave us a brief plants class. Amazing! We started out on the grass under the Ash tree getting informed.
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He walked us around the area and taught us about some of the area’s plants and their edible and medicinal purposes.
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Cow Vetch… the purple flowers taste like romaine lettuce.
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Oxy Daisies. The flowers taste a little like carrot greens.
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Boneset: good for colds and flus.
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Milkweed: you can eat these flower buds (boil first, discard the water, then boil again to cook); they were in our stew. You can use the milky sap on warts.
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A gall: when insects lay their eggs/larvae inside a plant stem, the plant grows this cancerous growth in response:
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Then as a last thing, Mike took us tracking. He is an amazing tracker. He showed us a gray fox run near the main base.
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Here he points out the runs of shrews and moles beneath the grasses of a red fox run.
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Then we learned a little about rock tools and rock breaking, but it was time to go. We’d just plain run out of time. We had a closing ceremony, got our certificates, and posed for this group picture. Back row, L to R: Tim, John, Me, Brad. Front row: Mike and Paul.
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I can’t speak highly enough about this workshop. It was unbelievable. Now I want to take every course they offer. Chris has expressed interest in taking them with me, too. And once you take a course with them, you can come back as a volunteer as many times as you like for that course! I’d love to take Earth Living again… and again. But I think my next courses will be the Plant courses, and hopefully scout and tracking courses next year. This has definitely been the highlight of my summer, and I find it hard to believe that any other course can top this.

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1 Comment so far
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fantastic!

Comment by J. Higgins




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