As if we don’t have enough to do, I’ve been eyeing my grandmother’s rocking chair. It was that utility green that lawn furniture was painted once upon a time. Then it met a paint brush it couldn’t fend off. I think there were more paintings. Somewhere prior to the boy’s attack on the dignity of the chair, there had been a very sad re-caning. The rockers don’t rock as my grandmother rocked them down while snapping bushels and bushels of beans over the years.
When I was born, my grandmother was already in her 80’s. Visiting “home” was a tradition every summer. Rolling down the window when we crossed the NC line was something that my teen angst couldn’t suppress. She moved into my aunt’s home right next door to the house my father was man of as the oldest boy all through the depression. I only remember going over with her to walk through the rooms and look at the dust covered items sitting and waiting for the ravages of time to rot and decay them.
Of course it did.
When she died, all the children went under the now leaking roof and carefully tested the sagging floor to claim what they wanted of their childhood. I was too young at 15 to be omitted or considered a threat. I stood listening and occasionally whispering to my mom. I wanted Grandma’s rocker. Mom whispered to dad. He made it so.
DV and I have lugged it from place to place. I’ve stubbornly refused to give up the symbol of the resourceful, self-reliant woman who clung to her family when her husband died – feeding and clothing them through the great depression, the upheaval of war, and the reconstruction of played-out land.
We’ve begun to restore some dignity to the rocker. It will loose a bit of gritty self-reliance. I’m OK with that. Under my grandmother’s tough gritty exterior, was a practical, neat soul. That piece of her will be on display soon.
I was mulling over the proper grammar for that. Any guesses. Nouns. All. Anywho. We were out and about in the 80/80 zone today. Early morning temps are in the 80’s with 80% humidity. My brain is a bit soggy.
JV was photographing again. Here are his best.
We’ve been trekking back down the mountain every day so we had no ideas whether the camp our event is housed in actually has fireflies.
I know this because JV wanted to stay for trade blanket last night. JV brought some glass – a very mobile, traveling group of folk don’t have a high use for glass. Oh well. We also were able to listen to Doug Elliot’s stories. He is in a class by himself when it comes to story telling.
JV discussing his wares with a mom and child.
The view from main camp.
JV found a gourd on which a man has put all the months of the year. He is going to etch all the plantings which need to be done in the months.
Our friend Jimmy brought hides to trade. He tanned them in Live Oak and Sumac.
Slings for trade, barter, or sale.
One participant and her gourd. She was very proud of her acquisition.
We sewed and stapled two hides together and then put a chimney onto the bottom to aim the smoke up into the sealed hides.
The fires had to be tended - keeping the chimney damp, enough hot coals to keep the "punky" wood smoldering and smoking.
When your coals aren't hot enough, a blowing tube is employed to bring life to the coals.
JV tending his fire after his hide was turned inside out to be smoked on the other side. Not the difference in color between the two hides.
Today the transformation began to become real. Our horrid little hide that looked like an large rawhide chew toy that has been slobbered over far too long for its own good is now soft and smooth.
JV holding up his open hide. It sat all night in a plastic wrapper to distribute any remaining liquid evenly over its surface.
AV began to stretching his over a bar by putting ALL his weight on the pulling of the hide to soften it as it began to dry.
Any way you can stretch it is game - your knees, the post, multiple people playing tug of war, you name it.
AV pulling on his as he watched the instructor teaching how to tug it with another person.
After HOURS of work, JV's hide is nearly ready.
Taking it to the beam to stretch out the margins radially.
Working the margins vertically and horizontally on the rope.
JV's and AV's final hides. You can see how much smaller (and way softer) JV's is than AV's hide. They are so beautiful. There is one more step. More tomorrow.
While waiting for the brains to soak into the hides, AV went out photographing. Here is his top shots.
So, today is day two of the brain tanning class. We went in a little early to finish up on our hides.
JV needed to finish the margins and the neck. AV worked on his deer’s neck.
We were reminded of fact that this region is a temperate rain forest. As we climbed up the mountain today we entered a cloud bank. We burst through in the the valley that houses Hendersonville and Flat Rock and it was sunny. The rains came down for a visit in the afternoon. We drove down the mountain and back into the sunlight. It hadn’t rained in Greenville at all today.
Today is when we learned how to harvest brains. (You never thought you would hear that phrase did you?) What follows are a series of photos chronicling the process of making “Tannins.”
Pouring brains into mixing bucket. - 15 brains for us.
Add olive oil (or rendered bear fat) to the brains.
Using an hand blender to make brain slurry.
After one has prepared the mixture, it is time to prepare the hide to soak in the brains. Laying them out, wrapping them precisely, then putting all you weight behind the wringing out.
After the initial wringing, the hide goes in for a soak into the brains. Thirty minutes of down time. What is a guy to do? Here is what JV settled on. AV settled on photographing him.
After the 30 minutes. Wringing out the hide was in order. The soaking and wringing was repeated four times. Muscles will be sore tomorrow. But the hide is so transformed from the stinking, pre-decaying blob into a smooth, strong (all be it not yet supple) fabric.