Tuesday, September 30, 2008

National Public Lands Day 2008 -from bird blinds to burritos

An old Native American proverb says "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Perhaps this past Saturday, on National Public Lands Day, people around the country repaid a little of the interest on that loan. Here in Eugene, nearly 80 community members rolled up their sleeves to help clean-up and enhance the Stewart Pond Natural Area in the West Eugene Wetlands.

Volunteers began to gather shortly before 9 a.m. enjoying coffee and pastries and chatting.

Tania Siemens with the Nature Conservancy came out and informed participants about invasive species in the WEW and talked about the new Early Detection Volunteer Initiative.

The young ones checked out the animal pelts, tracks, and fake scat at WREN's table.

Full of hot beverages and pastry, the eager group assembled and listened to a welcome from Eugene BLM District Manager Ginnie Grilley.

Matt McRae with the City of Eugene Stream Team and Holly McRae with WREN then laid out directions for the work ahead. Raring to go, the volunteers split up into several groups to slice up the work load. There were the camas bulb planters and blackberry removers, the litter clean-up crew, shade cloth installers, and bird blind constructors and painters.

They huffed and puffed...

And dug...

and pounded...

and scraped...

and posed...

and yanked


And when we were all done, we had plenty to show for it! Here is what we accomplished:
The exisiting bird blind was revamped, and made more inviting for visitors.
Over three truck-loads of trash were removed from the site.
Over 300 camas bulbs were planted on the oak knoll.
Over 2400 sq.ft. of shade cloth were installed to attack reed canary grass.

A lot of litter cleaned out-satisfying!

Shade Cloth laid out and pounded in with stakes

Brand new Bird Blind after completion

Volunteers lunched on burritos and shared their successes.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out and made this day so successful. Congrats to all the partnering agencies who sponsored and individuals who came out from the BLM, City of Eugene Stream Team, WREN, Sierra Club Many Rivers Group, and REI, and Adam DeHeer on behalf of the Institute of Culture and Ecology, who led the camas bulb planting. We hope to see all you volunteers out in the wetlands again soon. Afterall, volunteering is contagious, and there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year. Come out to Stewart Pond Natural Area on October 14 at 9 a.m. for a Wetland Wander so we can admire all this hard work!

Flying things at Sandpiper/Grimes Ponds, Sept. 29,2008

Spotted Spreadwing mating pair

Striped Meadowhawk pair ovipositing. This species oviposits in tandom and often in groups within a small area.

A pair of Striped Meadowhawks ovipositing and a pair mating. They commonly oviposit in grassy areas that will later be flooded by winter rains.

Tule Bluet male

A solitary wasp (~3/4" long). This one, a Great Golden Digger Wasp, feeds on nector. The female digs burrows and provisions chambers with insects such as grasshopper and Katydids. Insects are stung and placed in chambers where a single egg is laid.

Our largest damselfly in Oregon, a male California Spreadwing.

A mating pair of California Spreadwings.

Its been a boom year in the Cascades for the California Tortoiseshell.

Greater Yellowlegs

Friday, September 19, 2008

West Eugene Wetlands Mural at Prairie Mountain School

The students at Prairie Mountain School, a Bethel school for grades K-8 on Royal Avenue, have brought what they learned from field trips in the West Eugene Wetlands into their school. A 7 by 12 foot mosaic of more than 700 fire blown ceramic tiles depicting wetland plant and animals now stands out in the elementary wing entrance hallway.

Students grades 1-5 contributed the unique drawings on the tiles. There are deer, herons, aquatic insects, upside-down bats, fish and flowers of every color imaginable and even a squirrel driving a four-wheeler!

The Prairie Mountain PTO funded artist-in-residence Kay Irish who helped the kids create the mural. Many of the tiles were fired in the school’s kiln before Kay put them all together over the summer.

Many generations of students will take pride in this mural that illustrates the wetlands around them that they explore and enjoy each year.

September 6 Native American Wetland Cultures Day

On Saturday Sept. 6 the wetlands where humming with fall pollinators and high spirits. The first annual Native American Wetland Culture Day drew a crowd of more than 150 attendees who enjoyed actives such as basket weaving, presentation of a traditional Kalapuya canoe and traditional camas bake and tasting, information on native plants utilized by the Kalapuya for thousands of years, and a family activity of cattail boat making and floating.

Many excited attendees joined Adam DeHeer on a walk through the history of the local wetlands. As part of the day’s activities he led an interpretive walk down the Tsanchiffin trial starting 12,000 years in past, traveling through time past the eruption of Mt. Mazama, all the way back the present Willamette Valley and its current wet prairie. Adam focused on the way the Kalapuya participated in the Willamette Valley over this 12,000-year history and how their participation in Willamette Valley has helped shape the wetlands of today. It was a whirlwind tour of 12,000 years crammed into an hour, but participants must have lingered just long enough in the past, for there were a few attendees seen returning from the walk with a light dusting of Mt. Mazama ash on their shoulders. They made it back in time to think about what the next 12,000 years in the wetlands may be like and how people living here today might choose to interact with this habitat rich in Ecological relationships and cultural inspirations.

Sitting on the dried grass, sun warming our shoulders, a story transported each of us, young and old, to a time when Coyote had beautiful blue eyes. We were mesmerized as Esther described how those beautiful eyes were lost, and how Coyote now has yellow eyes. Esther is a storyteller and history keeper. She tells only Coos and Kalapuya stories. Her grandmother told her that it was bad luck to tell other people or other tribes' stories. Stories are regarded as private property, as are songs. She has thirteen stories she shares with the public. We all felt so lucky to hear a few of those stories on this beautiful day!-Holly McRae

In the early afternoon, everyone was gathered around the stage listening to the final singing and drumming for the day. I remember it gave me chills to listen to. I had my eyes closed and felt the warm September wind blowing and the drumming throughout my whole body. It really takes your mind back to imagine historical sights and sounds of this area. Afterwards, Esther and Eric Jones thanked everyone for coming out. When Eric said there was talk about repeating this event next year, there was a huge applause! The whole day was just amazing.-Windy Hovey

Thank you to Matt McRae for all the photos of the day.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Home Economics, Kalapuya Style

Home Economics, Kalapuya Style

Tim: Like all other junior high school boys at the time, I was required to take Woodshop class. I used saws and chisels and drills and clamps and glue but it just didn’t stick. The best I could do was “C” work. While the junior-high schoolboys were constructing bookshelves, the girls were in Home Economics class. In her Home Ec class, Ann was taught to sew and to cook. She tells me that students were tested on their ability to choose the right-sized mixing bowl for preparing cake batter. Ann had a passion for sailing, not cooking. She couldn’t get a handle on it.

Ann: Fast forward from the 1960s to last week. On Friday Tim and I joined in with several other WREN team members and Eric Jones of The Institute for Culture and Ecology for a lesson in Home Economics, Kalapuya style. For the first-annual Native American Wetlands Culture Day, Kalapuya elder and storyteller Esther Stutzman was gracious enough to direct all of us in the art of roasting camas bulbs. And nobody graded us on proper bowl selection!

Esther Stutzman, Kalapuya elder and storyteller

The camas is a plant in the lily family, with a lovely blue flower.

Common Camas

Tim: The camas plant stores energy underground in a bulb, similar to the way a potato plant stores energy in a potato.

Camas bulbs

When properly prepared, the camas bulb is mighty tasty, and was a staple in the diet of the ancient Kalapuya of the Willamette Valley. You must know what you are doing, though, because uncooked camas bulb tastes yucky. Also, eating the bulb of a similar relative, death camas, will result in just what its name implies.

Ann: Here is the recipe for yummy roasted camas bulbs:

Dig a pit about 2 feet deep. This will be the oven. If it’s late in the dry season, you’ll probably need to use a pick to penetrate the clay layer.

Tim digs his work . . .

You can always call in your buddy to finish the job with a shovel:

. . . Ann does too

Spread the piles of dirt that came out of the pit all around it, to keep any stray sparks off the grass.

Holly and Ann spread soil around the hole

Also, be sure to water down the surrounding grass really well. Keep hoses and buckets of water handy, plus some nice wet burlap bags. Just in case!

Holly soaks the ground for fire safety

Clean the camas bulbs. Elder Esther Stutzman demonstrates the proper technique.

Cleaning camas bulbs

Get some friends to help clean, especially if you have 5 gallons of bulbs to clean!

Adam and Jules help Esther clean the bulbs

Get some more friends to help.

Ann joins the fun

Get lots more friends to help!

It's a party!


Since our bulbs were on the small side for camas bulbs, Esther had us leave the skins on to protect the bulbs from overcooking.

Before cleaning

After cleaning

Now you’re ready to line the bottom of the pit with dry river rocks. They must be very dry, or they might explode when they are heated.

Cobble in the oven

Now light a fire in the pit, right on top of the rocks:

Eric ignites

Keep adding wood until you’ve got some nice coals going:

Hot stuff!

Once you’ve got a nice bed of coals, start layering:

First some fern fronds:

Esther places fern fronds onto the coals

Then pour in the cleaned camas bulbs:

Bulbs away!

Add another layer of fronds, and water it really well:

Esther adds lots of water to create steam

And another layer of greenery to fill up the hole (we used blackberry branches), which you will tamp down nice and firmly and water again:

Even more water!

Cover the whole layer cake with wet woven mats (We didn’t have any mats, so Esther said wet burlap bags would work)

Tim adds the final burlap "mat"

STEP 10:
Add more fern fronds:

The final layer

STEP 11:
Now shovel dirt all over the whole thing:

The frosting on the cake

STEP 12:
Have an all-night slumber party around the pit, to make sure that the fire stays put.

(We don't have any pictures--we were too busy strumming guitars and singing. Calling the sounds Tim was making "singing" is giving him the benefit of the doubt.)

STEP 13:
The next day, ENJOY!

(Once again, no pictures. We were too busy stuffing our faces. Check back later for an update of this post. Someone out there will have some photos. For now, just imagine smiling faces and "Ooh, these are good!" The camas bulbs were sweet and tangy with the consistency of a boiled potato.)

Tim: As Ann and I munched on the roasted bulbs, along with lots of other folks at the first-annual Native American Wetland Cultures Day, we thought about people long ago doing this very same thing perhaps at this very spot. We are told that ancient pits lined with rocks, presumed to be camas ovens, have been found in the West Eugene Wetlands. Evidence from those old ovens tells scientists that people were roasting camas bulbs here long, long ago--long before the Egyptian pyramids at Giza were built!

Ann: Our thanks to Esther Stutzman for the Kalapuya Home Economics class and for keeping the Kalapuya traditions alive. See Esther at: