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July is bark peeling season here in Southern New England. Tree bark is an important resource for anyone living close to the land as it supplies the raw materials for many things; coverings for dwellings and canoes, string and rope and containers of all kinds.

Many species of trees bark share exceptional properties that make it so useful.  Many become pliable when wet and ridged when dry. Many contain strong fibers and some oils that lend to flammability and rot resistance.

One of my favorite things to make during this time are bark berry buckets. This July I peeled some bark for this purpose.

Gabby making stiching holes in bark bucket

Here are some images of my daughter making a berry bucket. In the future I may do a full tutorial on how to do this. For now I will hit the high points.

The bark (in this case of tulip poplar) is folded in half at the bottom in a certain way to create an elliptical cross section. Then the edges are stitched together. Gabby used a bone awl to make the holes and then stitched with hickory bark. I prefer hickory bark taken from saplings or branches (any species of hickory seems to work similarly), it is very strong and drys to a wood-like hardness).

Stiching bark bucket sides

A rim is then stitched on, in this case Gabby wanted to leave one side of the bark proud above the rim for “style”.

Finished bark bucket

We had a fun time together working on this. My daughter went right out and picked blueberries with it, nearly filling it. This and other bark projects are great for kids and beginners to woodcrafting or wilderness skills.

When I first met my wife Deneen we were taking a workshop on how to put together an atlatl and dart kit.  A few weeks later when we where courting over email I told her I had already killed a mammoth with mine, how was hers coming along?

My attempt at charm aside, atlatls and darts (spears) were what ancient man used to hunt mammoths and other very large animals.  Australian Aboriginal people used them up into historical times.  Much simpler that bows, they are relatively easy to make and fun to use.

This is a video exploration of a couple sets I have made.

While visiting in Southern Maine a few weeks ago we encountered several songbird species that I was able to capture video of.  Included are some birds I don’t often get to see such as Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher and Prairie Warbler.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

As a kid I saw ant hills everywhere, even in cracks in pavement.  Since then my understanding of what a little hole in the sand could be made by has broadened tremendously.  Here are a few examples of different creatures that make holes in the sand.

Antlion Colony

Above are tiny pits in a protected spot under a shed roof.  Other than demonstrating how long ago the rototiller was used, these little pits can lead us to the amazing creature pictured below.

Antlion

Antlions dig their pits as a trap for ants.  They back down into the earth and flick sand up at any ant that enters the pit, making it impossible for the ant to do anything but fall deeper in.  The antlion, waiting at the bottom, then grabs them with those big mandibles and its all over for the ant.  Antlions are the larval form of what are known as lacewings, which somewhat resemble a dragonfly.

Solitary bee

While antions create an inverted version of an ant hill, these next examples do have somewhat of a mound around them. The biggest difference between this and the ants is a much bigger hole which is not always in the center.  Many species of solitary bees and wasps create these holes.  I find these in colonies in open sandy ground without any real protection from disturbance.

In the above picture you can see a bee coming out of the hole.  The below pictured holes are more indicative of the solitary wasps, with the sand pushed out in one direction.

solitary bee or wasp

In this picture a “pathway” was created in front of the hole.

testing depth

We tested the depth of a few of these holes and found them to be around 2 inches deep.  They could of course have changed angle and gone further down.

testing depth

Below is a closeup of one of the suspected wasp holes.

solitary bee or wasp burrow

 

Wolf spider burrow

Many kinds of wolf spiders burrow, some make these turreted holes, using twigs, pebbles and spider silk.  The wolf spider pictured below was walking amongst several of these spider holes which circumstantially indicates it may be of the borrowing wolf spiders (Geolycosa).  It is carrying its young on its back.

Wolf spider with young on it back

 

Tiger Beetle

This beauty is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.  Its larval form digs vertical shafted, very clean holes.  The adult form (pictured above) digs this hole below, more of a shallow slot really, as a shelter.

Possibly adult tiger beetle

As a kid I was not much interested in insects and spiders until I learned they could build things.  Turns out they build all sorts of thing including these burrows and tunnels and its was all right under my feet.

Phoebe nest

Earlier this Spring at one of my work locations I noticed Eastern Phoebes hanging around. Sure enough when we looked around for a nest it was tucked up under the deck. I used my camera to see inside and when we looked at the pictures saw something I had not seen before, though recognized right away.

One of the eggs is quite different, bigger, speckled and even a slightly different shape.

cow bird egg

Another bird I had noticed in the area was a singing Cowbird. Brown-Headed Cowbirds have an amazing song with more than one note produced at a time. Though a short song compared to many other birds theirs is quite complex. Look it up if you have a chance, or better yet find a Brown-Headed Cowbird near you and listen in person.

Another amazing thing about cowbirds is how they raise their young. They don’t. They leave it up to other birds by laying their eggs in other birds nests for them to raise. This is a great strategy for a species that once followed buffalo herds.

Often the cowbird baby out competes the host bird’s babies and they perish. So the question before me and my little comrades of the day was what to do about this invading egg. The cowbird baby’s presence might lead to the demise of our beloved Phoebe’s young.

What would you do?

Cowbird egg

Forgot to include this here.  Part 3 of the coiled basket tutorial.

 

Part two of three how to video on make a coiled basket out of grass.  I begin the sides, and even out the shape.  In the third part I will show several ways to make a handle depending on materials, tools and time available.

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