Saturday, March 29, 2014

tanning: deer hide to buckskin

i have finally tanned my first buckskin. i've been slowly working on my hide-processing skills since 2007, but for the first few years faced setbacks like not being in my own place (read: having a say in whether smelly dead body parts could be on the kitchen table, etc), not having appropriate storage conditions, traveling, and foul weather. the Last few years my excuse has been that i'm building a homestead and thrift store clothes are SO cheap.

the upshot is that i've gotten very skilled at Salting hides well and keeping them protected from heat, bugs, and other critters. i have scraped some, and ended up with some stiff furs. but finally, over the past week or so, i started with a fur-on, salted and somewhat cured, deer hide, and have ended up with supple, deliciously soft buckskin that i am turning into shorts. here you go.

scraping the flesh side of the hide, with it staked to the ground. using the simple scraper that jon the blacksmith made for me back in 2012.

this is some of the fat and meat bits that i'm having to scrape off.

this is what it starts to look like when it's nicely scraped.

'graining' or scraping down through the grain layer on the fur side. shitty, impermanent setup. made my arms extra sore.

graining - slightly better setup. mostly done.

soaking the hide in a dressing of eggs and hot water.

wringing out the dressed hide before softening.

freshly wrung hide. looks very different.

sewing holes in the hide before softening so they won't pucker as it dries. this felt as creepy as it looks. like sewing flesh.

softening/stretching the hide over my knees and the back of a chair. also used a cable. very exciting.

fully softened/stretched and dry hide. it feels INCREDIBLE. seriously. softer than a bunny rabbit. i will never wear normal clothes again.

looks more like normal fabric-like substances now, too.

smoking the hide over a coals and punky wood fire. looks blurry, but it's actually just smoke seeping out of the tiny holes along the edges of the sewed up hide.

smoking continues. it was raining outside, so i set up in my outdoor kitchen area with friend Ashly helping out.

hide is officially done, smoked, dry, ready to be made into things. the next day i soaked it in water and laid it out flat to dry, which helps pull out a bit of the intense woodsmoke aroma. also trimmed the stiff bits off the edges, and started laying out pieces to make shorts out of it.

hooray! i'm not sure i had ever actually felt real buckskin before. it is incredible. and so worth the work. it was not as difficult as i thought - the main impediment for me is slight boredom during some of the steps, and the careful timing. long, complex processes offer me many chances for making mistakes. but at last i have my first buckskin, and now there is no turning back. i have a whole broken down cart full of salted hides just waiting to be processed. new wardrobe? yes. get the fuck rid of all the factory-made clothes i've been wearing? Hell yes.

Friday, March 21, 2014

dreadlocks, part 3

my posts about dreadlocks are still the most-viewed ones on my entire blog, and since my last update was only when my dreads were 6 months old, i figured i ought to share a bit more. especially given that google's 'stats' function seems to show me that most people are wanting to see what dreads look like at different 'ages' and in particular hair types.

recap: here's the original 'dreadlocks' post, with details about starting your own, methods, and maintenance. then the 'dreadlocks update' post at six months with more information. i left my dreads in for right around two years before cutting them off. i found that crocheting can be a helpful way to clean up messy dreads. i also found that i LOVE having wraps in as a way to bind up the ends of otherwise loose dreads (especially around the edges of my scalp). wraps (either of cotton thread or wool thread) are an excellent way to add fun things to your hair, too - like feathers.

dreads, 9 months old
here are my dreads at nine months. they look WAY more like dreads now, and less just like i have messy hair. nonetheless, i've left my 'tails' very long and wispy, mostly because i want them that way when my dreads are longer.

dread updo
from a similar time frame - around nine months - now that my dreads are finally long enough to put into an 'updo' or braid or tie up in various ways other than just a ponytail or kerchief.

dread updo
same time frame, just viewed from the front - here it's more obvious that my hair is dreaded, and you can see the nice thick locks and how much tighter they are than they used to be.

dread braid amalgam
a dread and braid amalgam. sometimes i would braid some of my front dreads to keep them off my face, and then just knot up hunks of dreads in the back. i also, for fancy times, would do two five-strand inside-out braids, which looked Way cool because they were 3-d looking and looked like celtic knotwork on my head. especially lovely when beads, wraps, and feathers show through.

my dreads after 5 days braided
this is what happened after my hair had been completely in braids for five days straight. as you can see, at this point my dreads create a lot of volume. this is why i initially chose to do smaller dreads this time around, though by the time they were two years old i felt pretty overwhelmed at their volume. in the future, i'd go with medium sized dreads and just wait it out, knowing that it would be an ideal volume by the time they were longer. as a side note, you can see in this picture that i prefer using large produce rubber bands as ponytails.

dreads and nose piercing
this was in the late winter of 2011-2012, so just under one year. dreads are well defined now, and feel kind of like a stuffed animal on my head. i love them. i was especially glad at the length they were finally reaching.

here's at around fifteen and seventeen months. they go really easily and nicely into a ponytail, look like dreads, and have cool stuff attached to them.

around a year and a half old. this is an okay idea of volume when they're not held back by something.

smoothing the floor
again, around a year and a half and up in a ponytail. very convenient.

francis and me
closer to two years. a few of my dreads got dyed teal and purple by my neighbor, while she was dying her hair. it looked pretty ridiculous.

aaand, right around two years, and mere days before cutting off most of my dreads. i loved the way they looked, but their weight and overall volume was getting too frustrating. for some weeks i did a pseudo jedi look, leaving around 8 dreads around my 'sideburns' area and where a rattail would be. eventually i cut them all off and started fresh.

overall, i enjoy having dreads. it can be frustrating for me, as someone with very un-knotty hair, to get them started. but i don't consider it any more frustrating than the challenge of growing hair out to ponytail length in general. i would do thicker dreads in the future. i love wraps as a way to secure loose ends, and i'm happy to know i don't have to buy anything to take care of my hair this way.

also, most of this time period i was (and still am) living on my rural homestead in an intentional community, where mainstream cleanliness norms do not stand. it was actually very rare for me to 'wash' my dreads with soap, though of course i did swim in ponds and take showers with some regularity, and i found the best way to maintain their cleanliness was simply to massage my scalp under the water and rub my dreads underwater vigorously, and allow them to dry pretty quickly. dreads have also been great insulation for my head and neck during cold, windy winters.

joan and esther

and, the dreads are gone. back to short for a while. now, after a year of short hair, i'm growing it out normally again. haven't done that since my teens.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

how i de-stink my armpits, pt. 2

back in 2010 i posted 'how i de-stink my armpits' and talked about a baking soda/cornstarch mix that worked quite well in lieu of aluminum-ridden commercial products and not-so-effective 'green' products that still came in too much packaging.

i haven't used that mix for quite a while. the main reasons are:

1. i don't have to work anywhere with such stringent cultural norms anymore, and
2. even baking soda and cornstarch are too 'manufactured' within my bottom-line ideals

this was my initial solar shower setup. the 'screen' was there already
i have worked as a waitress in a local cafe since ditching the powder, and there i would just make sure that i had 'showered' (using my solar shower or having gotten into a pond recently) or at least given myself a 'wipe down', which admittedly was common for many humans within our culture about a hundred years ago. a wipe down consists of using a small bowl/bucket of water, rag/cloth, and soap/cleanser of choice, and doing the soapy water scrub, rinsing out your cloth, and doing the rinse wipe afterward with clean water. it uses way less water, and can be focused on the most dirty/stinky areas, or the whole body.

ducks in the pond
swimming: it's how ducks stay clean, too
once i had done a 'wipe down' i'd also dash a bit of essential oil on - which, while i'm not producing it Yet, is a technology that is within my means and just involves building a press. i'd love to become more adept at making herbal spritzes or scented waters to use for this purpose as well.

and of course, the wipe down can be completely 'local' since i can make my own soap or buy/trade from neighbors. the rag/cloth still at most comes from an old piece of thrift store clothing. at best, i'll grow some luffa gourds like a neighbor and have excellent, home grown scrubbies well into the future.

Pond at Red Earth
go jump in a pond! this is my neighbors' - it is much nicer than mine
for what it's worth - the best part of this routine is that i don't have to do it that often. getting in ponds is fun (and 'scrubbing' for a few minutes with handfuls of sand is way easy), and even when it's not pond season, i Really appreciate living around people who are okay with humans who smell like humans. it becomes something you don't notice anymore after just a short while. now, walking down the detergent aisle in the store and smelling humans wearing cologne/perfume is almost unbearable, because of the chemical stink.

that's a pretty thorough update about the state of my stink (or lack thereof).

Friday, March 14, 2014

last winter moon

the chicken babies are two weeks old now, and have learned to roost. it is way cute.

proud roosting chicken baby

they also fly around like crazy, so i took out one of the oil lamp spots, including its hardware cloth shield, and made the other lamp's shield go all the way to the top of the brooder. no babies flying into the lamp. though sometimes they DO flap their wings hard enough to Extinguish the lamp.

new lamp shield

i worked on a spring spiral moon calendar the other day. this is a bit of a 'template' for one, since i'll add day lines based on what time zone it's made for so that whoever's using it can really see what time of day any given phase is occurring. this one was drawn on watercolor paper with home made walnut ink and a little 'pen' that i carved out of a piece of bamboo.

working on a spiral moon calendar

and, in weather news, it's been pretty balmy here. we had one night recently that dropped into the 20's and gave us some freezing rain and snow all blowing in from the north. then it warmed back up. but it did paint the north side of everything white for a day. very pretty. then snow started plopping down off all the trees for hours. it has been nice not to have to melt snow on the stove every day.

white trees? no. just north-blown snow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

willingness to sacrifice / endgame

squirrel roast
the roadkill squirrel, ready for stewing
yesterday i put a piece of a dead squirrel's rib bone into my eyebrow. it took the place of a lovely snake-shaped piece of hypoallergenic metal that was created somewhere else, by a stranger. my friend killed the squirrel by mistake with her truck, and we went back for the body. we ate it, tanned the hide, used the bones. like many humans, i want my existence to have meaning. and i want to choose that meaning. the bit of squirrel bone in my face means that i respect that ignoble death and honor what it left behind.

sittin in the truck. lookin like a human.
looking too normal
i refuse to allow others to choose what my life means. and i want my appearances to match reality. i wanted it when i was growing up abused and everyone thought i looked just fine. i wanted it when i realized that human culture had gone to shit and i should have been walking around in tatters. and i want it now, when i have spent the last seven years of my life very consciously choosing my path and in too many ways i still look like a somewhat average human.

wattle and cob infill
wall made of local willow, clay, grasses
i live in a mud hut. it has a metal roof and some metal on the walls, which i dislike, but most of the walls, floor, and roof covering is clay, soil, grasses, willow.

i harvest rainwater for drinking/cooking/laundry/livestock into salvaged plastic barrels and did not succumb to the desire to figure out plumbing so i could purchase an overpriced and sophisticated looking sink and faucet ensemble.

freshly plastered rocket stove
freshly made rocket stove. got a grill-like top shortly after
a large portion of the food i eat is grown on my land, including the animal products, and for some of the year i cook that food over tiny woodstoves, made either from recycled cans and clay, or scrap metal.

the clothes i wear, with very few exceptions, have been worn for nearly a decade, or came from thrift stores or other folks' giveaways. i have disavowed most of the products that others consider 'necessary' - deodorant, shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, glass cleaner, modern medication...

the list goes on. and so, in large part, my life is vastly more simple and direct (in terms of consumption of resources) than most in 'developed' countries.

creepy skinned rabbit face
processing mink-killed rabbit. rabbit skulls look crazy
it is not enough. i still use so much plastic, even salvaged. i still look so normal. i want it to show. i want my reality to wake people up out of their stupor. i want my appearance to back up my reality of respect for everything else that shares this world with us. i want my very presence to make the meaning of my life clear - that i am a human, as we were meant to be. that i live ensconced in the world, not in a technology-ridden escapist nightmare. that i am an animal who understands what overshoot looks like for my friends and family, that i am willing to sacrifice. that i am responsible to the communities i impact in gathering my needs, and that i respond with attentiveness, respect, awe, gratitude, and a willingness to sacrifice. to defend.

i want my existence to be an act of deference to the world and a challenge to other humans.

wolf gatekeeper
ritual prep, wearing skins and bones. i should look like this way more often.
in short, i want to be the best animal i can be. and i still look way too civilized for that. this year i will practice ritual sacrifice in a more focused manner. i will uncover and divest myself of even more of the trappings of civilization, going both for visual impact (to help bolster my sense of appearance reflecting reality) and for ecological impact. i'll seek to remove from my life the objects or habits that represent the strongest negative impact on anyone else's landbase and replace them with acceptable alternatives or let go of them completely.

i've been learning for years now to talk the talk - my generation is great at that. especially when it involves 'i want...' slowly, now, these past few years, i've been walking the walk. now is the time to run.

to the squirrel bone in my face: you are the humble beginning of my endgame.

transition to spring

it's coming. despite several weeks of below-freezing weather and more than one visit from the 'polar vortex', spring is on the way. i'm not sure what made this happen, but my pond recently re-froze in a spiral pattern:

frozen pond swirl

my chicks are Super cute and adventurous. i love when they stretch their necks out ALL the way when sleeping. and i've installed a roost for them, so they're checking that out in very unorthodox and hilarious ways. they've been climbing up their ramp, flying across the brooder, and generally providing great entertainment even as i lay in bed across the room. i can sometimes just see baby chickens arc through the top of the brooder space. they love jumping on their feeder to make the swivel-top spin, and i swear this morning i saw one of them trying to Scratch the feed out of the feeder. great instincts, babies.

chicks inspect new roost
sleep chicks

i also recently did a bit of farm sitting for my lovely neighbors at yarow hill farms. which means i got company while i used my computer:

lap cat
and got to pet cows every day. all the critters there agreed that my pants smell and taste delicious.

lovely cow lady
yesterday, i saw FOUR Different kinds of BUGS outside, Not counting flies and fleas, which unfortunately have (barely) stayed awake throughout winter. one was a tiny beetle, another looked vaguely like a stink bug (but i'm pretty certain it wasn't), another was a black spiky caterpillar of doom, and then i saw Honey Bees Multiple times!!! whoa.

i've responded by seeding and mulching the pond dam with a mix of older seeds (surprise garden! who knows what will come up), sticking cuttings of various thorny things (raspberry, wild rose, gooseberry) in the berm around the main living space to eventually keep chickens out, and starting cuttings of various hedge trees with rooting hormone in a huge cold frame i made last fall.

oh, and all the smaller critters are SUPER horny. the duck ladies spontaneously all go into the 'fuck me' dance until the drake comes running across the yard to please them, and the rabbit ladies have been making some really pathetic sounds. i was convinced one of them had had enough sex and wanted Away, but when i took a seat on a bucket for a few minutes to see what was happening, i realized she was actually still just Incredibly horny and was going to make those noises regardless. hah. good job, almost-spring. now if only my man would come home...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

i drink the rain - poetry

the past is disappearing from us
as if we're tumbling along
inside the power of a great wave
when most of our human history
spoke of mostly-calm rivers
and left the oceans to whales and vikings

the past has dropped out
from beneath our toes
like a deep spot on the beach
that led to a rip
toes from sand

some several generations past
our ancestors felt their roots through their soles
and saw their history in the river stones
and moved with the gentle tug
of the moon and far off ocean tide

but we of the mighty wave
we weren't raised for this
the ceaseless tumble
is unknown to our ancient cells
the wave leaves no time
for the building of a culture
of gentle shifts

tell the water
to let you go
fight back
hold your breath
tuck into yourself with the tumble
and surf when you can

because these waters are poison
not meant for us
our waters are poison
because we choose to buy cafo pork
our waters are poison
because we eat beef full of gmos
our waters our poison
because we spray our vegetables
with every chemical unknown
to our ancestors

and the ocean of the market aisles
of corporate monoculture
has subsumed us
and it's time to stop
tumbling about beyond control

catch the returning tide
with a death grip
because there's nothing out here
but death regardless
and if you can

struggle to shore
crawl back to the river
bury your arms in the pebbled sand
and then lie on your back-
even these waters are poisoned, now

take hold of what is left
of your roots
leave your face to the sky
rest with your mouth wide
and drink the rain