05 June, 2011

5 June 2011

While the plane gave no sign of returning, Einar kept a close watch throughout breakfast, sitting with his back to the door and listening intently even as he enjoyed Liz’s concoction of cold bear fat, pounded jerky, honey and berries, pemmican for breakfast once again, but neither of them was complaining. It was good just to be able to sit there in the wind-free shelter of the cabin and eat, and to eat as much as they wanted. Which in Einar’s case wasn’t much, between the hurt of his ribs and his intent listening for air activity, and Liz kept pressing additional portions on him, insisting he eat, until finally he gave in and did so, just to satisfy her. Had to admit he felt better afterwards, if a bit aggravated at her for pestering him so. Felt better for the good warm deer hide and fresh socks she had talked him into using in lieu of dry clothing, too, as it had grown rather cold there in the cabin overnight, leaving him, despite his warm hours of sleep beneath the bear hide, to grow rather quickly chilled in the damp cold of the snowy morning. They needed to finish drying their clothes, which had got a good start over the stove that past night but not quite finished, and Einar knew from past experience that they were probably going to have to complete the job themselves, using the one source of heat they did have available to them, in the absence of fire. Which, it appeared, was going to have to remain absent for the rest of the day, considering the possibility of additional air activity. Getting to his feet--better move, start getting things done, or she’ll just decide I have to eat some more of that pemmican, and I’ve really had more than enough, for now--he sorted through the half dry clothing strewn out on the rocks beside the stove, found his jeans and sweater and got into them, Liz protesting all the time that he’d freeze wearing wet clothes like that, had better just join her back under the bear hide until they dried.

“Won’t dry real fast at all, at these temperatures. Best way to dry them is to wear them. Ninety-some degrees of heat just ready and waiting to serve as a clothes dryer.”

“Ninety-eight degrees, or something pretty close to that, I would hope--though yours is probably a good bit lower right now, isn’t it?--and I don’t know about you, but I’d like mine to stay in that range, if at all possible! How about just hanging the clothes out in the sun to dry?”

“Can’t do that, because we still need to avoid leaving tracks out there! This’ll work. I’ve done it before. Just have to keep moving to generate a little extra heat until everything’s dry, and it’ll be fine.”

“If you say so…but now you’re going to burn up all the energy you got from that breakfast, and we’ll have to start all over again.”

“I’ll eat. This is gonna make me hungry!” Which, already shivering at the icy dampness of the offending garments--got to get moving, this isn’t gonna work if I keep standing still like this, not gonna work at all--Liz took to be rather an understatement.

She just rolled her eyes at him, better secured the ewe hide that was her own wrap for the morning, quite determined to let her clothes finish drying on their own, even if such drying did take a bit longer than Einar’s method.

The day warmed quickly as the sun climbed higher in the sky, snow losing its fresh whiteness as it began sinking, collapsing, turning slushy--a process Einar kept close tabs on, spending a good bit of time with his face plastered against the wall, peering out through the crack above the door until Liz began wishing very much that they had already filled the thing--and Einar estimated that it might be far enough gone for them to safely venture outside sometime that afternoon. Hoped so. They needed to get started on the elk hide--looked like it was going to be another bear fat and ashes tanning job, as this hide had not come with brains--needed also to pay a visit to some of the nearest chokecherry thickets to check on the condition of the berries, make sure they hadn’t ended up mashed to the ground by the weight of the snow, where they would be at risk of rotting instead of continuing to ripen. Not that they’d be likely to need too much more ripening; the snow itself ought to have finished the process, turned them sweet and black and ready to harvest. That harvest would, if they managed to gather a good quantity, keep them busy for a good three or four days between the picking, mashing and drying, and after that they would still need to construct baskets or some other container in which to store the bounty. A lot of work, especially considering all the hides they still needed to take, process and turn into clothing and footwear before the snow set in in earnest, but Einar knew it would be worth the trouble, as the cherries would provide them a valuable supply of sugar for the winter and, because they processed them with the pits in, a significant amount of fat and protein, as well. The cherry pits, like the leaves of the plants, contained enough of a cyanide compound to render them unwise to eat in any great quantity, in their fresh state, but when broken open and dried or cooked, the amount was significantly reduced.

Come on, sun, melt off this snow! I’m ready to get started with the harvest. And, though he wouldn’t have admitted to it, even to himself, he was ready to be out in that sun for a while, out of the dark, chilly shadows of the cabin that seemed to be holding the moisture in his clothes, holding it against his body and sucking the warmth and energy out of him at an alarming rate as he kept up his constant flurry of activity in an effort to produce more heat. A few minutes sitting in the sun would have greatly improved matters, just then. But the sun wasn’t cooperating terribly well, dodging occasionally behind the increasingly numerous clouds that were cropping up as the day wore on and not doing a particularly fast job of melting off the snow. Had it not been for the recent pass by that plane, Einar wouldn’t have been nearly so concerned about leaving tracks, would have been out there first thing in the morning exploring their newly snow covered world and carrying on with preparations for the winter, gathering firewood, searching out the hiding places of the elk and bears before they became inaccessible for the winter and probably starting the chokecherry harvest, but with no guarantee that it wasn’t coming back and only shadowy speculation as to its purpose in the area, he intended to sit tight. They could wait. Had all the basics there in the cabin, food, a water barrel that was nearly half full--and plenty of snow easily accessible outside the door, should they grow short on water--and enough hides to keep them warm even in the absence of fire. If--he laughed silently, shivered again, couldn’t seem to stop; better get yourself moving again, I know you’re tired, but sitting still in these wet things just isn’t a good plan at all--they had the sense to use them. Which Liz did, wrapped snugly in the ewe hide with a fold of bear fur tucked cozily over her crossed legs as she sat there adding another row to her blanket of woven rabbit skins, the weaving process appearing to him something like crocheting, but utilizing all the fingers of both hands, and no hook. It was a procedure she had worked out through much experimentation, and he wondered how similar it might be to that originally used by the Shoshone and others. Similar or not, it appeared to be working very well, the well-practiced motions of her hands producing a tight weave whose workings were almost entirely obscured by the furriness of the hide strips, until one got it in their hands, flexed it and peered between the clumps of fur. A wonderful, soft thing the likes of which he had certainly never handled before, and Einar lost himself for a minute in watching her work, remembering his recent dream and knowing that the child would be every bit as warm and well-protected in that blanket as he had appeared, then. Things were coming together, were going to work out alright, if only that snow would go ahead and melt so he could do something about their still inadequate supply of meat and hides, bring in the serviceberries, firewood…so many things still left to do.

Well. Patience. Today, you must have patience. And there was, he realized, something he could do even as he waited, something more than jog in place in an attempt to keep himself from freezing as he acted as a human clothes dryer, and--moving with some difficulty, for he had kept still too long watching Liz weave away at the blanket, found himself terribly stiff and cold--he got himself to his feet, unrolled the elk hide and placed it over one of the lengths of aspen trunk that had been stacked up near the stove, retrieving his knife and the various bone scrapers he had over the months carved and accumulated, and set to work fleshing out the hide. Might as well get that step out of the way while the thing was still fresh and pliable, end up that much farther ahead once the snow melted and they could move outside to begin the tanning process. If Liz didn’t object too strongly to his doing it in the house. Figured she’d let him know if she did. Seemed she’d been a good bit more outspoken and insistent lately about some things, which Einar actually preferred, as it left him with less guessing to do…

While she did not mind Einar fleshing the elk hide there in the cabin--knew he’d clean up after himself, and besides, where else was he supposed to work, with them confined indoors for the moment--Liz did get tired of watching him sit there with that poorly suppressed grimace of pain and exhaustion on his face during his breaks from the hard exercise by which he was trying to keep himself warm and dry the clothes--hide-fleshing, interspersed with furious bouts of running in place and swinging his arms when it proved inadequate to produce the necessary amount of heat--knew both the exercise and the shivering that grabbed hold of him when he stopped it had to be terribly hard on his ribs, and thought their forced confinement to the cabin would make a fine opportunity to wrap his ribs with the hound’s tongue poultice they had previously discussed, see if they could be started mending a bit more quickly. The poultice, she knew, would be best made by dehydrating and then slowly simmering the dried hound’s tongue leaves before plastering them over the injured area, and though simmering was not really an option, without a fire, it seemed a good idea to make use of a candle, at least, to warm the water in which the leaves would be soaked. Einar might have been curious about what she had planned, had he not been so thoroughly absorbed just then in removing the last remnants of membrane from that elk hide, already constructing in his mind the marten fur-lined parka that he hoped it might become.


  1. Good to see this new chapter.
    Being a knitter I can just see what Liz is going with those rabbit hides.
    Did ja do anything exciting yesterday?


  2. "Did ja do anything exciting yesterday?"

    Yeah...worked on my Jeep. Having some trouble with it.