Sunday, July 15, 2012

Gathering Black Fern

Today I met my teacher and several other weavers at 9:00 in the morning at our designated meeting place along the Klamath River.  From there, we caravanned about an hour’s drive into the mountains. We went to a spot my teacher’s teacher first took her to gather black or five finger fern (ikritápkir). The terrain is very steep -- so steep, we needed a rope tied to a tree to help us shimmy down the top section of the slope and help us climb back out.   There is a beautiful waterfall streaming down a rock wall into a pond and then on down the mountainside.  Ferns love moisture.  Tall black fern and wild orange lilies cover the whole hillside.  We all felt we were in heaven, a Karuk basketweavers paradise. This is a place that basketweavers have been sharing with their students and other weavers for generations. I could almost feel the happiness of the weavers that have passed on, glad that there are still weavers gathering at this beautiful site, respecting it, taking care of it, and continuing our basketweaving traditions.

At the right time in the summer the stalks of the fern turn from solid red to half red, and half black.  That’s the time to gather, as we use the black half of the stem for overlay material in our basketry design. It is a beautiful shiny black, but very difficult to work with.  We only gather a few stalks from each plant and then move on, never cutting too many in one spot.  As we gather, we cut the upper fronds off and leave them on the ground, so the spores can reseed. In a later blog, I will describe the process of spitting the stalk, saving the black side and discarding the red side.

This week I will be spending my time processing the black fern and next week I will be back to weaving on my cap.

"Fern grotto"

Black fern hillside.

Beautiful, tall black fern.

Complete fern stalks after picking.

Fern stocks with the fronds cut off.

This is my pick from two hours of gathering.

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