Posts Tagged ‘micmac’


Yellow and White Birch are common trees in this neck of the woods.  At this time of year, the winds have peeled some of the bark off the trees and what’s left has been frayed by birds looking for insects over the winter months.  Now that spring is here, it’s easily torn off  by small creatures to be used as a lining for nests. 


Birch bark has historically been used by humans to create canoes, containers and writing surfaces.  Russian birch scrolls, dated to the 1400s, were found in the 1950s, well preserved in waterlogged clay soil.  The surrounding clay prevented exposure to the decomposing effects of oxygen.  Considering the similar preservative effect of bog mud on organic materials, I wonder if any birch bark scrolls are buried out back.  

In North America, the preserved birch bark scrolls of the Ojibwa reveal complex documentation of mathematics, astronomy, animal migration routes, rituals, songs, ancestry and mapping.   Although today some Mi’kmaq artists still use birch bark as a surface for creating fine works of art, paper gradually superceded birch bark as a writing surface.  With the advent of the printing press, printers and publishing houses became middle men in the fabrication of texts.  But today, largely due to advances in digital technology, reproduction of images and texts is once again being put back into the hands of the writer.



Recently, two talented individuals whose blogs I visit frequently have published their own books:  Mark Whitney of upstate New York (Nameless) and Regine Lord of South Africa (Gold Mines, Elephants and Foefie Slides: an Adventurous Weekend on the Garden Route) .  Mark has thoroughly explained the process of publishing your own photo book at http://forestrat.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/publishing-your-own-photo-book/ while Regine has provided insights into her journey publishing a travel book at http://namibsands.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/my-book-is-at-the-printers/ .  Their experiences are very different with regards to how much they chose to include a printer and others in the process.

Although e-books are quite popular these days and despite the advent of  Kindle, human beings still like the feel of a real book in their hands.  I’m sure this is one reason why Leo Babauta of www.zenhabits.net, who had successfully published several e-books in recent years, had his latest book published in hard copy (The Power of Less:  The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life).

Nevertheless, what would have been done years ago exclusively by a publishing house dealing exclusively with paper, has now been rendered with greater autonomy by the writer using digital processes available on his or her own home computer.   My dad, who was a newspaper editor and publisher, would be amazed to see how much things have changed in such a relatively short amount of time. 

Publishing a book of one’s own might not be for everyone but it certainly is a marvelous option for writers in the 21st century.  As for me… it might be awhile before I can gather up enough birch bark to create even one copy of a scroll or book.  But, once the birds have taken their share, I’ll have a look to see what’s left on the trees.

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High vet bills for quill extraction were a huge incentive for me to learn how to spot porcupines before my dog did.  On walks in the woods, my eyes became extra keen at finding baby porcupines on the ground.  Their tiny quills are especially difficult to remove from a dog’s mouth.

porcupinetreeAs I no longer have a dog, I’m not on the lookout for porcupines as much as I used to be while walking in the woods.  However, it’s pretty hard to miss this fresh evidence of their activity just behind my home:  fresh bark chips on the ground  below a girdled trunk.  Unfortunately, the Balsam Fir at left will die because its bark has been nibbled all around the circumference.

Porcupines breed in autumn and give birth to one baby in the spring.  Within a week this little pincushion is already chewing on the inner bark of trees.  Favorites are softwood trees and the twigs on birch.  Tamarack trees are considered especially tasty. 

Porcupines are also attracted to the salt left on wooden tools that are handled by humans with sweaty hands.  The salt on roads also attracts them to highways, making them a frequent item on the roadkill menu.  They are slow movers and consequently an easy target on the ground.

The last time I saw a porcupine was last fall along the Salt Marsh Trail.  It was mid morning and three of them were dozing, each on separate limbs up in an apple tree, right next to the trail.  Mostly nocturnal creatures, they had probably snacked on apples the night before.

Porcupine and Birchbark Quill Box

Porcupine and Birchbark Quill Box

Before Europeans settled here in the 1700s, the Cow Bay area was considered a prime summer hunting and fishing spot for the Mi’kmaq tribe.  Considering the number of porcupines in this neck of the woods, it’s no surprise that the Mi’kmaq are a people known for their artistry with quills.





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