Buckeye Gathering 2012

Most of the Riekes Nature staff, plus many Riekes families, had the pleasure and privilege of attending the Buckeye Gathering at Ya-Ka-Ama last week. I attended as an instructor (Scott Davidson and I led tracking outings all week), and the rest of the Riekes crew enjoyed the camp.

The first thing we saw when we got out of the cars to set up camp was the wildflowes. Lupins, poppies, vetches, blue-eyed grass, flax, blue-dicks, larkspur, and others decorated the land around our tipis, tents and tarps.

The next thing we noticed were the goats. The organizers had brought in milking goats, which lounged around and munched the greenery, giving milk for our kitchen. Goat kids roamed freely and played with children. Other goats came as culls from local herds and the animal processing class learned to slaughter humanely to provide meat to the camp. The goat’s hides, hooves, bones, sinew, and all other parts went to the many primitive craft classes, and nothing was wasted. The food that the kitchen crafted from these animals, and from local organic produce and wild plants, was well worth the price of attendance.

Some other prominent features of camp were the arbor, where meetings and many classes took place. On opposite edges of the main camp, there were also a Women’s Lodge and a Men’s lodge. Each held ceremonies, discussions, and space for contemplation specially for their gender.

I took off soon after arriving, to scout the land and find the really fun tracking stories. The rest of the Riekes crew made camp, wandered around the central arbor talking to instructors, or went down to the river (the Russian River flows right past camp, and offers a great spot for a dip). The land around camp is not as wild as some, but still offers up coyote, bobcat and fox sign (as well as sign of many, many other animals), and the occasional wild pig or deer sighting.

The classes offered varied tremendously, as did the participants. Some spend their 5 days lounging by the river, watching ospreys fish. Others jumped from craft to craft, working intensively while they could. One of the Riekes boys worked for three days to make a deer skin into braintanned buckskin. He also got to attend a rite of passage ceremony at the Men’s Lodge soon after.

Some of the fire arts offered were hand drill, bow drill, and flint and steel (and it’s stone-age variations). The pottery makers, working with local wild clay, demonstrated a primitive 0pen-fire firing. Blacksmiths demonstrated smelting ore into iron, and taught classes on smithing. We witnessed a primitive charcoal burn, and a very simple but spectacular lime burn that took simple shells and transformed them into slaked lime.

Instructors showed us how to take the skins of rabbits, sheep, goats, deer, fish, and probably other animals and make them into furs, bark-tanned leather, brain-tanned buckskin, and rawhide. The leather workers showed us how to make containers out of rawhide, bags and clothing out of buckskin, shoes and hats from bark-tanned leather, and more. The animal processing instructors showed us how to kill an animal with the least suffering possible, and then process the whole creature so that nothing was wasted and everything could be used for some important purpose.

Herbalists and ethnobotanists led walks to ID and harvest local edible and useful plants, and showed many ways to prepare and use them. Julia and Lucy parker returned to teach about acorns as food.

Guatemalan back-strap weaving, basket weaving of many sorts, wool felting, net-making, cordage spinning, and hat weaving were some of the fiber arts on offer.

Flintknappers showed us how to get a cutting edge from a stone. Archers coached participants in shooting, and bowyers helped people build their own bows from simple sticks of wood. The night atlatl toss (with glow sticks) was a success, with something like 30 tosses and 15 hits of the target.

We also pushed our awareness edges. Instructors from the Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness program taught classes in Bird Language, and Scott and I brought people out to connect with the animals through track and sign. And movement artists of all sorts helped us move more naturally and comfortably through the week.

On the final day of classes, we ended early for a barter fair. The arbor was packed with shoes, clothes, knives, awls, food, containers, bows and decorative items, to name a few, in a celebration of the material culture we’d been making all week. The next day we ended with powerful words around the fire, and sent each other off, back to the modern world. But each of us carries crafts and experience to keep working with through the year, until the next Buckeye Gathering.

~ by birdlanguage on May 9, 2012.

One Response to “Buckeye Gathering 2012”

  1. Jenn,with the flavor of words and color, you’ve revivified the
    experience of the buckeye village!….

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