I get by with a little help from my tribe

How I prepared: On roadkill, foraging by the season and the value of a “tribe”

If I had waited until this week to gather the food, I’d be in trouble. It took myself and a group of eight people at the wilderness skills school TrackersNW more than a day to turn a few buckets of acorns into flour in September. We had to crack the shells with a hammer, extract the nutmeat with our fingernails, grind it, boil it twice in a big vat to get the bitter astringent properties out, and then strain it and dry it. I am fortunate to have a container of the flour ready to use now — otherwise there’d be very little time to search for food, but lots of calories expended.

The other jar I’m excited about has deer fat, which is fantastically more caloric than any wild greens could offer. It comes from a beautiful roadkill doe I helped a butcher friend process in his backyard. It was an uncomfortable experience to be part of, but also an interesting one. Laid out on her side, the animal reminded me a bit of the family dog back home in New Jersey. I felt a mix of fondness and disgust as I wrapped my arms around its body and lifted it up for my friend to hang from a ceiling beam so the blood could drain out of the gutted abdominal cavity. I had my body pressed up against the deer’s back, my hands red and sticky. I felt the odd impulse to be gentle with it, as if careful handling would somehow matter to a deceased animal. Maybe it was part of honoring its body. I must admit that my stomach felt clenched and queasy at the thought of eating the doe. It’s certainly easier to see a jar of its fat on the shelf, because it resembles mayonnaise. Cooking with it is going to be an adventure — I just hope my enzymes cooperate, since I haven’t eaten a bird or a mammal in 11 years.

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4 thoughts on “I get by with a little help from my tribe

  1. Pingback: The Essence of Urban Foraging

  2. You need to be careful about admitting on the public internet that you helped butcher a “roadkill” doe deer. You should consult the Oregon Fish and Wildlife regarding picking up road killed animals. I believe it is unlawful to possess.

  3. yes rebecca, it is easier for a tribe to survive together with all the work needed to live comfortably. and the attitude to do something because it needs to be done for the good of all creatures and mother earth to keep the cycle of life continuing. nick has it right also, although i see you are teaching others right now, and those younger than you need to and can see that one closer to their age is following a good path that they may begin also.

  4. Hi – I just found out about you and what you intend to do this Thanksgiving at about 4:30 PM (20 NOV 09) on KPTC ch. 12 (a short news item). I started out doing what you’re doing now (learning about wild Pacific NW foods, Native American diets & methods, etc.) back in the late 1960’s/early 70’s. I’ve learned a lot since then… You’re on the right track – I’ve been a vegetarian since the mid-80s (mostly ABSOLUTELY no animal products). I will continue to follow your progress and submit some comments along the way. I have 2 booklets currently for sale on eBay (“Amaranth, Ancient Grain of the Aztecs… and Quinoa, Ancient Grain of the Incas…) which I wrote and self-published in the early 90’s (go to eBay and enter the titles in the search window) – you can look at the first few pages on the listings and find out a little about me. Of course you know about the wild pigweed and goosefoot (!!??) which are probably all done for this time of the year… but I noticed some other stuff still out there today that you’ll probably run across, so I’ll make a list (all wild stuff, just the way you like it) and get it to you tomorrow. I’ve lived for about 2 and a half years in a wilderness area near Gold Beach Oregon by myself, so I can tell you some marvelous tales about that, especially the wild foods that I gathered there (a true Garden of Eden). I have a daughter exactly your age, but unfortunately she’s not into the kind of stuff that you’re doing right now, although I taught her as much as possible when she was younger. Don’t give up your efforts – you will be able to teach others what you’ve learned some day. Earth Mother provides some plants especially for people (the “Real People”) – once she’s accepted you as one who truly needs them, or needs to know about them in order to teach others – she will show them to you: you will be able to recognize them instantly and know what to do, even if you have never seen, heard, or read about them before. Later > Nick

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