Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 1 (Rabbit Rabbit)

So the answer to the mystery from last week is an opossum (our only native north american pouched friend) and a regular old domestic house cat.

 Our biggest smiles
What a remarkable difference the storm has made out at our camp. The wind seemed to take all of the leaves from the trees and the woods are about as naked as they'll be all year.

Seth and Lauren skinning the raccoon
Lauren found a road killed raccoon outside her door a few weeks ago so she, Chris, and Seth worked on skinning that today, with a lot of other folks jumping in to join them. For me, the process is always a mix of fascination and discomfort and respect for the amazing complexity of the animal.

Emmett with a keen eye for perfection
Poor Emmett's been reminding me for 3-weeks to bring gourds to Crow's Path. I finally remembered this week and we got to start the process of learning how to make bowls from gourds. Gourds, though entirely inedible, are thought to be the oldest cultivated plant in the world. Because of their thick, waterproof shells, they're perfect as bowls, canteens, containers, and cooking pots (we boiled water today by heating up soapstone in the fire and putting it into a bowl that had water in it).

 Emmett and SBHS Big Picture intern Ally working on bowls
 The process for making a bowl using a gourd is pretty straight forward.

1. Cut off the top part (this is where the stem is; the stem is porous and will leak unless sealed).
2. Clean out the insides. You can either dry scrape out the guts of the gourd (much like scraping a pumpkin clean) or soak it in water and then scrape out the guts. We used our fingernails, spoons, and hooknives to clean the insides.
3. Once it's mostly cleaned you can sand off the rest to make the inside smooth.
4. Since the gourd is inedible it gives food a bitter taste. To finish the bowl, I fill the bowl with boiling water, let it soak about 5 minutes, then dump the water out. I repeat this process until the water doesn't taste bitter (or is just slightly bitter).
5. Some people coat the inside with beeswax or another food safe finish. And that's it!

Sam proudly displaying future banjos
Sam is one of our interns from UVM. He's a fantastic musician and naturalist. Today he found a way to pursue both interests by cutting his gourd in half the opposite way to make a banjo-like instrument.

We've had a group from UVM's capstone course for seniors in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (RSENR) - NR 206 Environmental Problem Solving - working with us this semester. They redid the boardwalks through the alder swamp, built us a track box, and are working on an entrance shelter. At the end of the day we watched them chainsaw down a big white birch tree - after felling the tree we scoured it clean of birch bark for starting fires in the morning.

Fire challenge
The UVM students then helped us with a fire challenge. We set up a string about a foot and a half off the ground that the groups had to burn through by building up a fire. They started with a lit piece of birch bark. Their diligence was rewarded after about 10 minutes of retooling and reworking their strategies (it's a young group and they've got lots of practice ahead of them to really master fire building). Once the first group burned their string it was an exciting rush for the next group to get through another section. Anjay, Leo, and Tanner were particularly excited about this challenge!

And lots of gratitude to Magnus for closing our circle today with a beautiful story of his experience this summer getting to spend a few minutes watching a pair of red foxes in a moss-covered hollow.

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