Greetings, friends of Feet on the Earth!
I haven’t posted an update about Raccoon Clan in a while, so I want to just go over some highlights of the last month or so of our Fall Season. This is by no means a comprehensive list–there have been so many great memories made, games played, and places explored this fall.
One of our Clan’s recent highlights was certainly setting up and monitoring a trail camera on the Land in Left Hand Canyon, which we did about half way through the Fall season. Trail cameras are used by wildlife biologists and hunters—this includes people who “hunt” with cameras ;)— to get to know who is in the area and to map their patterns of movement. Such cameras are motion-activated and utilize infrared technology so that they can take photos in the pitch dark (the flash is invisible to most animals). We had it set up in two different locations by the creek, and though we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the resident beavers, and maybe even a neighborhood mountain lion (whose tracks were seen three times this fall on the Land), what we got were some great photos of local deer. The first time we checked the camera all together and saw a photo of a buck, the kids were actually able to find some of the tracks in the sand that the big guy probably left several days before. That was a cool moment!
At least two bucks were seen on the camera, a younger 5-pointer (that means he had 5 tines, or “points,” on his antlers) and a much heftier one that is at least an 8-pointer.
We also noticed a lot of photos of other people from Village Day. At one point, we observed that a doe had wandered by an area only an hour after some Coyote clan boys had been there! Deer were certainly a theme in the photos from the trail camera. The bucks pictured above are mule deer, whose antler growth pattern differs from white-tails in that the tines grow in a geometric branching pattern. White tail bucks on the other hand grow single tines off a main beam.
Another highlight was certainly everything we did with fire and primitive fire making. We learned about how to build a good fire structure, how to make a tinder bundle out of inner cottonwood bark, and we investigated what materials on the land are the quickest to catch fire, meaning that they are useful for building the inside first layer of our fire teepee. One Village Day morning, Raccoon Clan was in charge of building the fire for the whole Village. We used a friction fire method called bow drill and some of the boys were interested in helping me move the bow, which is moved back and forth in a sawing motion and can be easier if done with two people (one on each end).
Our adventures with fire went beyond just making and tending fires though. We also learned about fire as a tool through a process called coal-burning, where very hot coals are carefully placed on a piece of wood in order to “carve” into the wood. It is a long process that requires patience and attention, as the coals have to be periodically removed and the charred wood scraped out with a sharp rock so that the coal burning can be resumed.
The beginning of coal-burning a bowl into a log: pressing hot coals onto the surface and blowing on them to ignite the wood below. the coals must only smolder, not combust into flame or else the wood can crack.
the coals are pressed down in place so that they do not blow away and so that they can make better contact with the wood surface underneath.
further along in the process.
how the “burn bowl” looked at the end of the day.
Coal-burning is a popular way to make hand-crafted spoons. Spoons are a relatively quick project compared to this bowl, which could be made much bigger if given the time. Coal-burning a large log like this is a way to make a vessel for holding water and cooking in during survival situations if there are no other available options for vessel-making (like certain tree barks).
That same day, Brady (one of the Raccoon Clan mentors) brought the materials for making char-cloth. Char-cloth is cloth that has been turned into almost pure carbon due to a process of being superheated in an oxygen-free environment. This process is also what happens in the creation of charcoal. To make char-cloth, people usually use a small tin that can close tightly, like an Altoid container. A small hole is made in the tin for fumes to escape, and strips of cloth like old jean or carharrt material are placed in the tin. The tin is then placed in a bed of hot coals and heated. The cloth has been completely transformed when a flame no longer shoots out of the small hole in the tin. For instructions and photos on making char-cloth, see here.
Char-cloth is an amazing addition to any outdoors person’s essential gear because it can ignite from a single spark, but is also very slow-burning. This makes it an excellent candidate for use with other tinder material used to start a fire. That day, we made several tinder bundles with some char-cloth inside them, and the Raccoons all took turns creating sparks with a flint and steel. The char-cloth did not fail!
We also had fun introducing the Raccoons to knife safety and doing some carving over the last couple of weeks. To be able to carve, each student has to be able to recite the rules of knife safety:
We have been carving a very soft wood, cedar, into utensils of various sorts like butter knives and spatulas. There have been no finished projects yet, but maybe there will be in the spring!
Until then and happy holidays!
Raccoon Clan Mentor
Raccoon Clan using our brand new bridge!