Tipis, wild foods, and new eyes

tree diagram showing inner outer barks cambium

This outerbark is growing vertically.

On most trees, the inner and outer barks grow in the same direction: vertically.  On a few trees (birches, cherries, and wild plums, for example), the outer bark grows horizontally around the tree, the same direction as if you went to give a tree a hug. This trait gives the bark an unusually high resistance to splitting as it dries, making cherry and plum branches fairly strong.

This bit of knowledge was (and is) known by the various Native American tribes that live(d) in tipis: the slender branches that serve to stitch the tipi front closed are generally cherry or plum.

Look over this young Ogallala girl's head: see the branch stitching on the tipi? (photo by John C.H. Grabill)

Now picture walking through a landscape with a head full of this kind of knowledge; the world becomes inhabited by usefulness, nutrition, tastiness.  This shifting of vision is part of the appeal of learning about wild foods.

I don’t ever have to make aronia candy myself, but knowing that it can be done, that I’ve had it and it’s good, I see the aronia berries differently.  The streets around my neighborhood and the paths I like to hike just outside of town are becoming a clutter of mental bookmarks- the grape vines are south of the duck pond, the elderberries are along the mulberry path where the lightening struck.

Maybe I will make aronia jam this fall, right after I experiment with white oak acorn flour.

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4 responses to “Tipis, wild foods, and new eyes

  1. We’ve been making acorn flour for the past couple of years. It’s not white oak, but it’s still good. I’ve heard that white oak has the least amount of tannins which should make it palatable faster.

  2. This might not be the ideal place to request this, but I’m trying to find a tipis online and have no method to find out which is the very best. I uncovered this website which is I find reliable and wanted to see if any person has any reviews on them.
    Please help me with this as my wife and I have been struggling to find a good/reliable site online.

    • We had a local farmer lend a tipi skin to our Occupy two years ago, provided we got new poles, and I know we got them a pretty (real, grounded, earthy, authentic… searching for the right descriptor here), I can ask around and see who’s still got the contact info.

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