06 July, 2011

6 July 2011

Finished with as much preliminary work as he could do on the bearfat barrel without the benefit of fire, Einar laid out the two bighorn sheep hides, the massive bull elk and the single deer that so far represented their entire stock of large, non-bear hides, studying them and trying to estimate how far they could be stretched when it came to garment making. Not too far. A single shirt could take anywhere from two to five of the deer-and-sheep sized hides, depending on its size and design, and he knew that between the two sheep and the deer, they barely had enough to make even the baby-carrying parka he was so set on producing for Liz. Which made it the first priority. Trouble was, as soon as he started cutting on the hides they would be unavailable for use as blankets, which had been their main purpose to date, and he knew Liz would miss having their added warmth in the bed, and as an easily portable source of additional protection to wrap around shoulders and drape over heads while working outside on cold mornings. Well, too bad. Time had come to get serious about the winter clothing projects, and it had, after all, been at Liz’s insistence that he’d gone about the matter with a renewed sense of urgency that day. At least they would still have the elk for warmth, until he started cutting it up for leggings… They’d just have to try for more sheep or deer, another elk, perhaps, if they wanted to replace the blanket-hides. Would have to do that anyway, if they wanted a second parka as well as the fur-insulated winter leggings Einar had intended to make for both of them from that elk before the snow fell, mukluks and mittens and…he shook his head.

Not as well prepared as I was letting myself think earlier, maybe. We do have plenty to eat, at least for a few months, but without a way to keep ourselves warm and out of the weather when we venture out in the snow to check traps and such, we’re gonna go through that food pretty fast. That, or end up burning more calories trying to stay warm than we gain through whatever we find in those traps. I’ve been in that situation before, and it can only go on so long before you end up in real trouble, sleepy and cold all the time and not really having the motivation to get out there and try anymore. Dangerous place to be, and something I really want us to avoid, especially since the little one will be depending on Liz for all his meals for a good year or so. She’s got to have plenty to eat if he’s to thrive and do well, which means it’s awfully important that we have the clothes we need to allow us to safely and effectively venture out after more food during the snowy months. There are just too many snowy months up here--over half the months we get--to stash food away for all of them. Got to be out in the world adding to our stores through the whole thing, trapping beaver and muskrat down in the valley. Well. Aside from hustling to try and get them another few hide-bearing hoofed critters, all he could do for the moment was to focus on starting Liz’s parka.

Searching through the hastily put-out remains of that morning’s fire until he found a stick with an appropriately charred end, Einar laid the larger of the sheep hides out flat on the cabin floor and began trying to picture how he needed to mark the skin for cutting, wracking his brain for any details he could remember of the Inuit baby-wearing amauti coats he’d seen in museums, and had once had the benefit of seeing in use. The coat’s most important feature was its oversized hood, which was designed to cover both the child and the mother’s head when up, and the pouch below the hood, in which the child sat and which allowed him to share the mother’s warmth. A wide belt was passed through loops beneath the pouch area to prevent the baby’s slipping down too far in the coat and allow the mother to adjust his position. When the baby was small, the belt could be tied up higher to keep him up near the mother’s neck, the design of the coat putting most of the child’s weight on her shoulders when small, but distributing it down to her waist as he grew. Einar seemed to remember that the hood and pouch were traditionally made from one piece of hide or cloth, while others were used for the front and sleeves of the coat.

Looks like I’d better get Liz in here for some measurements before I start cutting anything, doesn’t it? Wanted this thing to be a surprise for her, but there’s no sense in making a surprise that doesn’t fit right, and the distance between her waist and neck will be pretty critical to getting this coat to work right. Somewhat reluctant to go in search of Liz and inform her of his efforts as a tailor--knew he shouldn’t feel strange about doing the “women’s work” of sewing the baby coat, especially as he was the one amongst them who had the most experience working with buckskin, but couldn’t help himself--Einar sorted through the bags and pouches of tools and raw materials that hung well protected and even somewhat well organized from the rafter logs, coming up with a good-sized coil of pounded, prepared and stripped lengths of sinew thread and an assortment of bone needles that he figured ought to be up to the task. Buckskin, the way they had prepared it, was quite soft and easy to work with needles, unlike the much tougher commercially prepared leather with which he had been more familiar before getting into more primitive tanning methods. A definite advantage when it came to working with the stuff, but the leather’s softness also meant that it behaved more like cloth in other ways, too, absorbing water rather than shedding it as commercially tanned leather tended to do. Not too much of a problem during the often sub-zero temperatures of winter when snow could be effectively brushed off long before it began melting in, but it did mean that wearers of buckskin could expect to be wet at least some of the time during the rainy summer months.

Alright. Done as much preparation work as you can without troubling Liz for some measurements, so you’d better head out there and see where she is with the jerky, see if she can take a break, and he did, a bit alarmed at the difficulty posed him by the simple act of rising after having sat so long in contemplation of his sewing project. Ribs were inflamed, his entire left side bruised and swollen and stiff, and he could not help but think he would have been wise to accept Liz’s offer of salicin-rich willow solution the day before. Would have helped reduce the inflammation, some. Just too stubborn, aren’t you? Too busy looking for opportunities to prove yourself, to test yourself…got plenty of those without going looking, I’d think. And he ruefully eyed the jar of boiled down willow bark where Liz had left it sitting on a shelf-rock not far from the stove, calling to him, mocking his feeble efforts to go on resisting, it seemed--though Liz certainly wouldn’t have seen it that way at all--and he shook his head, looked away. Had to go on resisting. Sometimes, it was all he had, all that kept him going…

Now. On your feet. Ribs can hurt all they want, but they can’t stop you from getting up, now can they? Isn’t your leg that’s hurt, after all. Not this time. Liz was just finishing up her last batch of jerky when Einar reached her, last batch only because she’d finally filled all the drying racks and saw no purpose in building another that evening, not when they barely had room in the cabin for those she had so far constructed. Additional racks could, she supposed, be suspended from high branches for the night to keep them out of reach of scavengers, but that seemed to leave the drying jerky strips wide open to any bird who wanted to come along and pick at them, and besides, there really was no need to go to such lengths. The nights were cold, days cool and at their high, dry elevation, the large meat chunks from which she was working seemed to be developing a hard skin over them more quickly than the remaining flies of fall could find and infest them. There was no great hurry when it came to finishing the jerky. A good thing, for it appeared Einar was on a mission of some sort, one which, if she was not mistaken about that look in his eye, appeared to involve her. She was just glad to see him on his feet and appearing to be getting enough oxygen for a change, or close to it. The rest had done him good.


  1. Thanks FOTH. I hope you know how much we appreciate your stories.

  2. Well, I appreciate you reading, too. :)