Basket Handles, Milk Paint and the Missing Smelt.

  It's mostly the same old, same old, when it comes down to what going on here. I wanted to do a post on catching Smelt with seine net. But the Smelt never really "ran". For those who do not know, Smelt are a small fish that "run" in the spring. Running means going close to shore and laying eggs. This happens at night, in the spring. We wade out with seine nets between 25-50 ft and walk the net back in and thus capture the fish. On a good night you can fill up a 5 gal. bucket in 20 minutes. There are a few folks that sell the smelt to the area's population. Many of these "professionals" pull in 1000's of pounds of smelt during the season, and make a good living doing it, although very seasonally. We freeze them and eat them though out the year. They are a good oily little fish, fish sticks in pure form. but alas the season was so unstable that they ran at very unpredictable times and days. No Smelt for us this year.

For the wood working part, April is preparing for a show at a local gallery/museum titled "No Reservations" It's a local Ojibwe themed event. She will have her Black Ash Baskets on display. As she weaves I make the handles for the baskets. This is the historic division of labor with this type of basketry for many years. The women weaving and the man making handles and pounding the log for materials, although not always the case.
After the wood splint baskets are woven to a certain point she sets them to dry. After the drying process she packs the weaving down and finishes the rim system. Before that if the basket is to get a handle, that is made and put in place, then with the rim lashings the basket is complete .  To make handles I use riven white ash, right now I have good supply of green material so all bending of handles are done "green" no steam or hot water needed. I split the stock down and use draw knife the rough shape then switch to the crooked knife for the fine work. The growth ring on outside of the handle must be intact then the handle will take the bend.

I've also been turning a bunch of bowls and purchased some new pigments for the home made milk paint I make. I've been curdling milk with vinegar, washing the curd and then adding hydrated lime, water and pigment. This makes a very durable paint for the bowls and spoons and whatever else I want some color on. The new colors are deeper than I've used in the past. I'll be slowly adding more colors to my collection of pigments. I think the added color is really nice.

I also went to sell my fur this year, as prices were very high. If the prices continue to stay the same next season I could actually come out ahead next year. I ran into a few folks I have not seen in a few years. One family who lives here in the Reservation spent a great deal of time trapping. Much of the money earned helps with day to day living. There was much talk among the trappers that have been at it for 40 years or more that they have not seen prices or this many folks at the fur buyers in years.

some stock and baskets waiting

splitting down to size

controlled splitting

roughing out with draw knife

crooked knife work

bending it green

small handle


April lashing the rim of a pack basket

a night at our kitchen table

dark orange

this blue is nice too

my new favorite color

beaver and other pelts

one guys catch from this spring
trappers waiting in line at the fur buyers truck