In this Yurts & Dirt video, learn how to create a basket using birch bark, sinew and a few simple tools. Bethany Garretson will walk you through several simple steps that end with a beautifully simple and hand-crafted basket made of sinew and birch bark.
Apples varying in shades of red and green sit in a basket next to a bouquet of sunflowers. Dishes of food are arranged in a buffet style line on the yurt deck and uncovered for consumption. Curt Stager brings pea soup and Deb Naybor supplies a vegan rice dish. My contribution on behalf of the Osgood Pond Community is a Pixie berry pie.
I picked my first pint of raspberries at the age of four under the tutelage of my mother and grandmother. Over the summer, I’ve picked pints upon pints and quarts upon quarts of wild strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and black berries in the wood lots surrounding our yurt community. The black berries continue to be phenomenal. I feel at home wherever berries grow.
Pixie Berry Pie
This is a family favorite recipe that was passed down from my great-grandmother Ada Loucks. It’s very simple to make and delicious to share. It’s a recipe I know by heart and melds the joy of berry picking and baking perfectly. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1 quart of berries
- Set the oven to 375
- Set the berries in one bowl and mix in ½ cup sugar. Stir and let set.
- Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl: ½ cup sugar, flour, baking powder and salt
- Add butter and milk to the dry ingredients and stir
- Pour batter into a medium sized cooking pan
- Spoon sugared berries on top
- Cook at 375 for 45 minutes
Coming soon… How to make a birch basket to pick berries! Stay tuned for the photo essay and video tutorial.
Dark skies and pink blooms
A painted turtle slides home
The calm of the storm
Today the world is alive with fragrance. Rains have soaked the sandy grounds and wild roses are in bloom. When the sun shines, blankets of pine needles emit a sweet candy-like smell. Now imagine walking along a gravel road with roses on one side and pines on the other… wonderful, huh? Here’s a simple plan for capturing that moment…
What you’ll need:
2 containers: one for rose petals and one for pine needles
2 cooking trays
A sunny deck or window sill
What to do
- Find a patch of wild roses. They love to grow along the roadsides! Collect a handful or two of pale pink petals that appear a bit wilted. Harvest from roses that are on their way out instead of from new blooms; the petals come more easily off the bush. Put the petals in a container or bag.
- Find a grove of pine trees. Look along the roadside for orange needles. Collect a handful or two of dry pine needles.
- In a shallow cooking pan, lay out the petals and needles. Put the pan in a sunny spot and allow your bounty to dry out for a day or two. Rotate the pan and fluff the contents.
- Once dry, layer the roses and needles in a small mason jar.
- Whenever you need a break or refresher—smell the roses and needles!
Use other natural materials as well. You can even add some sand or soil.
Rose and pine potpourri makes an excellent present for someone who loves the Adirondacks!
Studies have shown that the smell of earth makes us happier and healthier (certainly works for me).
If you can’t get outside as much as you’d like to, bring the outside inside. This is a great addition to an office desk.
My favorite tree is the white birch. The bark is striking and its properties are multidimensional. For example, you can use a piece to make a fire or a basket. Today I’ll explain how to make a bangle (a bracelet that slips over your hand) out of birch bark.
In the Adirondacks, you’ll see a lot of yellow and paper/white birch trees. They’re a deciduous hardwood, belong to the genus Betula, and are found in the Northern Hemisphere in temperate and boreal climates.
How to make a birch bangle
- Find a piece of properly harvested birch bark that is about 1’x1′.
- Test the piece for flexibility. You should be able to bend it in a circle without cracking it. Harness your inner Goldilocks—not too thick or too thin, but just right.
- Soak the birch for 2-3 hours, then dry it with a towel and lightly brush off any dirt.
- With a pair of scissors, cut the bark to a desired width. It’s important that you cut with the natural bend of the bark. Go with the grain.
- Wrap it around your wrist to measure for the final cut. The bangle should be loose enough to slip over your hand, and tight enough that it doesn’t fall off.
- Cut for length.
- If you want to decorate your bracelet, this is the perfect time. Pick your medium: acrylic paint, colored pencils, markers, crayons, pens or charcoal. Be creative!
- Line up the ends of the bark and overlap them by 1 inch.
- With a needle and sinew, make two or three X stitches where the bark overlaps.
- Enjoy your bracelet! And remember, it’s made of nature and might break. When it does, you can use it to make a fire. If you’re in a survival situation, it might save your life. Remember, your bracelet contains the power of fire!
Tips for finding a good piece of birch bark
Properly harvested bark is not peeled from a living tree or removed from public state land inside the park.
- Check the ground around a grove of birch trees after a good wind or rain storm.
- If you know someone who cuts wood, or if you discover a detached birch limb, peel the tree. Take a knife or hatchet and cut against the grain. Carefully peel the bark off. Sometimes it will catch and rip in areas where there might be a knot in the wood. This bark will work the best because it’s fresh and flexible.
- If all else fails, you can buy sheets of birch at rustic furniture shows.