Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Home again! And after having travelled out of town two consecutive weekends, glad to be here. I'm not so much a traveller, having a deep taproot and a true love for my own little nest, my own biffy, my kitties, Daisy...&c &c. Which is NOT to say, however, that I don't have a terrific time when I *am* out and away.

After a nice ride back to the Twin Cities...in fact just a few miles PAST the MOA where Lovely Daughter and I were LAST weekend...we arrived at the Voyageur Ecology Camp/Boys' and Girls' Club camp. Mr Dearling drove so I could knit. THAT's the way to travel. I was working on my commissioned toque in Cascade 220 "Ruby".

After registering in at the Lodge and greeting lots of friends and colleagues, we went out and found our cabin, seen here. We were in "Screech Owl". It was nice, with the usual camp bunkbeds, a shower and toilet stall, double sink with mirrors - and the usual separate Counselor's Room, in which two of our best friends were tucked. Pretty fine accommodations for voyageurs and the likes thereof. (After the first night, most of the denizens residents of Screech Owl pulled our mattresses off onto the floor - those bunks are intended for people weighing about 50 lbs, and even at 4'11", I'm waaaaaay too heavy for that!)

We returned to the Lodge after settling in, and spent a pleasant evening in good company. I learned that my program was scheduled for Sunday morning, allowing me some time to reorganize my notes, which I appreciated. I was asked if I needed PowerPoint or slides - and I don't mind saying, my heart fell to the ground (Native American expression requiring no explanation). I realized that I had an opportunity for a very showy program with wonderful illustrations, &c, and all I had was my little dolls to show.

Each morning after breakfast, the day's workshop sign-up sheets were laid out so we could put our names in. After the first round, we could sign up for other workshops where space allowed. Now, some of them I really didn't care to take, including Muskrat Skinning. That was limited anyway, to six - anyone could watch :eeeewww: but there were only six opportunities for hands-on. (I repeat -- eeeeeeeeeeww.) I was NOT disappointed to learn that Mr Dearling was interested in silversmithing and so on; I can't imagine...easily...finding ourselves in a position where it would be advantageous to know how to skin a muskrat. Just sayin'.

And so the weekend progressed, with my spending time alone in our cabin trying to organize my notes to improve the program in between other activities.

I did sign up for one workshop on the preparation of wild rice by the native people in the 18th century. The leaders were Karl K. and Mary V. (If you're very quiet, you will here wild applause and shouted kudos, as if borne on the breezes -- these two people are paragons in our 18th century world, recognized as "the authority" because of their extensive and meticulous research...and I feel privileged that they both call me "friend".)

They had the raw rice, a fire for parching, a pit for "dancing the rice", and baskets for winnowing. Those birchbark baskets or dishes are called "makuks" in the Ojibway language, and served as baskets, dishes, storage and cooking vessels in their various shapes. (Yes, Virginia, you CAN cook in birchbark, provided the liquid in the makuk is higher than the flames.) NOTE: Mary V. makes beautiful makuks, and I am the proud owner of two of them. I'll put in pictures at some point - if they were bigger I'd keep yarn in them!

I have to admit, though, I got as far as dancing the rice and was chased back inside because, wimp that I am, I was COLD! In my defense - I did watch from the windows AND I was wearing my favorite (and first) moccasins, which have holes in them. I know that was stupid. Shut up.

I did attend one other workshop - "Beginning Knitting", led by my good friend Suzette. She asked if I'd sit in and help because they'd titled her workshop "History of Knitting", and she knew I'd done some reading on the history. So I sat in and gave as much a synopsis as I recalled from internet reading and "No Idle Hands". (I just got my copy of "Knitting America" the day we left, so I haven't had time to read it yet, unfortunately; I could have waxed much more eloquent!)

There were two young girls, two new knitting ladies, two knitter ladies (who, like myself, couldn't resist hanging around any group of knitters) and an earnest gentleman. As it turned out, we who DID sat with those who HADN'T, and a good time was had by all. And a few times during the weekend I found the gentleman sitting and plying his needles with ever-increasing ease. It was brilliant!

There was a program on an early Iroquois site in New York (WITH powerpoint, quite wonderful) given by a gentleman who had actually flown in for the occasion - his is also a name of great repute and respect in the Living History world!)

There was one about the religion of the voyageurs and other fur traders by our adopted "newphew" Isaac which was fascinating, too (also PowerPoint, brilliant!)

Now, lest you think that these events are dry, scholarly, academic, intense series of workshops about right-hand-left-twist linen thread used in ladies' stays...this is Patrick, the Site Director of Mr Sayers' Post at Pine City, Minnesota and as erudite and wise a person as you could hope to find. Well--the moose looked like it was about to sneeze....

NAVC - I love it!


dale-harriet said...

Yes - I KNOW I spelled "nephew" wrong. I just did it to see if you're paying attention.

kmkat said...

Re: muskrat skinning. My father was a mink rancher; every year in mid- to late November came pelting season, when he and his workers would kill and skin mink. You are totally right about the ewwww factor, although as I child I quickly became impervious to it. What was grosser than the skinning was the subsequent burning of the carcasses.

I knew you wanted to know :-)

MollyBeees said...

Wow! Sounds like you had a great time. There's nothing like wild rice and muskrat casserole on a chilly autumn day! LOL

Cindy G said...

But Dale-Harriet, I want to hear about your doll workshop.