Just where DO we get all of the resources for our medicine bags and feather fans?
Our medicine bags are constructed of buck and doe hides, cow leather and elk. What appears on our site will vary by the type of material Cece will have on hand at any given time. Over the past 15 years, sources of these hides include buying some retail from Tandy Leather; but predominantly they are obtained from our local, annual Black Powder Rendezvous and cannon shoot. We've found some great strands of trade beads, suede lacing, antler and items made from horn (not certain as to what kind of horn, actually - we expect it to be legally obtained!). The Rendezvous is similar to the kind of gathering for a Civil War Re-enactment; people wear period clothing and pitch tents with wood stakes and canvas and cook over wood fires, etc. The cannon shoot is more of an excuse for those of us spectators to consume a fair amount of beer in the Memorial Day Weekend sunshine while the guys from the PG&E welding shop launch bowling balls from their cannon. Some hide is even reclaimed - cut from things such a pig-leather jacket that got worn out or was donated to us. It may sound chintzy or cheap to think about cutting up used clothing, but we really do make every effort to prevent the waste of perfectly usable resources as well as see potential in the things discarded by others.
For the number of deer in our area we find surprisingly few drop-horns (the antlers shed annually during the 'Rut'). Our dogs tend to wander the woods and have occasionally brought one of these home. Most are purchased at the Rendezvous, so don't expect to find bite marks.
There really is no way to determine the age or origins of many of the trade beads purchased at the Rendezvous - considering the other black powder-era trinkets available in some of these tents and the layers of dust on everything I can assume that the chevrons, melon beads and the Buffalo Head nickels in adjoining boxes are roughly the same age. Chevron beads require several steps to create, some being made with more skill than others - you can tell by looking at the ends, noting air pockets or chips.
Feathers. Hm. It seems that for decades before Cece and I even met we both have shared that fascination with picking up feathers we find along our way. We live in an area abundant in wild turkey; when they molt, feathers are plentiful. While most people easily recognize the beautiful coppery shimmer in the tail feathers, turkeys have long, barred feathers in their wings that we also use in the making of our smudge fans. California game laws prevent us from making available for sale any feathers from game birds; and it's illegal to even possess feathers from any raptor or threatened or endangered species, as we've had the unfortunate opportunity to discover. We've had Rhode Island Red chickens on a few occasions that have supplied us with feathers. Peacock feathers are donated by friends who can put up with the birds - they are large, and tend to roost in lower branches of trees, or house framing - and scratch up cars in their hopping around to get places; as well as leaving deposits on everything. Cece and I have a couple of African Grey parrots who provide us with the red tail feathers. Macaw, cockatoo and cockatiel feathers have been given to us over the years by friends.
Driftwood pieces are definitely a hobby of ours to collect; including the occasional visit to the beach (which, in Northern California from Eureka to Big Lagoon is very plentiful - and often redwood). Most driftwood arrives to us from our own creek, wood can be Douglas fir, white fir, ponderosa pine, cedar, alder, willow, Pacific yew and manzanita. The winter of 1996-7 was exceptionally rainy, and the flooding caused hundreds of tons of wood to be washed into Shasta Lake. A single visit to the Centimudi boat ramp filled our car - an easily accessible part of the lake where winds slacked and driftwood (make that drift Trees) piled up in such amounts that the marina was closed for months to launching watercraft while an excavator and log chipper occupied the ramp in efforts to remove the majority of wood from the lake.
As for milled wood used in our products... No, of course I can't do that the easy way either! I am much more connected to the sources of our lumber - such as milling our own downed trees (the rains of New Year's Eve 1996/7 caused a large amount of damage to our property which took me the last ten years to restore - and in so doing has been a source of building material and projects). The ashiko drums I build have been composed of staves of walnut, which was milled on a portable Woodmizer sawmill from dead trees removed from Fall River High School in 1991, Amazon purpleheart flooring leftovers, and my favorite: wood from a douglas fir tree that toppled in the above-mentioned flood. It is an amazing tree, the top had long been broken out (which is why it hadn't been previously logged - an old-growth tree and tragedy to lose); two complete fir trees had grown from the remaining trunk - each about 24" diameter and at least 50' tall. My daughter and I counted the rings on the trunk back to 1613 - before the arrival of the Mayflower! This was up the trunk at least 25' from the root, so the tree is older than that, too. The entire tree was growing out of a hill at about a 60 degree angle, and the effect of the two limbs-turned-trunks growing off the main trunk created a thick layer of burled wood. This dense, wavy-grained wood highlights some of my drums.
Manzanita is a beautiful wood, with its rich auburn tone and almost hard-wax consistency. It takes a polish extremely well, leaving a satiny smooth finish with steel wool. The reason one doesn't see a lot of items made of manzanita besides bird perches where the wood is left in its natural state is due to the serious checking and cracking this wood undergoes as it dries. I find pieces of already-dried manzanita that contain enough wood mass that I can cut a solid chunk out of it that is not cracked. I've just completed a couple of doobie sticks made with a manzanita chunk that's probably been dead for more than 25 years - it's amazing how long it takes for this wood to decay - sanding off the grey, crusty surface reveals intact red wood only millimeters underneath. Pacific Yew is the tree from which the chemotherapy drug Taxol was originally derived - the ingredient in the wood that lends it it's deadly toxic quality. Yew is a fascinating wood - extremely strong and limber (the term Yeoman, referring to an archer is derived from Yew - the source of the wood for making the bow) - it's metaphysical and structural properties date back to at least Medieval England; it has been said that four ounces of the leaf brewed into a tea can kill a horse. Understand that if/when I make something from this wood, I work on it outside, and create an item that will not remotely be used in handling food. So far I've been reluctant to even offer yew items for sale.