Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tanning a Nutria - Part 1

My brother came over today and brought me a gift. A dead nutria. I've wanted to tan one for awhile. My first introduction to the nutria was when my SCA crew bought a tanned hide and sewed it into a pouch as a gift for our crew leader. She loves soft, cuddly animals.

Since moving to the Portland area, I've been able to see them alive in the wild. There are at least three that I see from time to time at work. I've often mentally hunted and trapped them. They are pretty trusting around humans. The Trackers Northwest group sometimes teaches classes where they trap Nutria so I've seen hides in the tanning process. In fact, I'm told this Nutria came by way of TrackersNW.

I laid it out on the stainless steel table my brother and I bought a year ago with butchering animals in mind. No worries with blood and guts soaking into wood. It also is a high table so it's comfortable to stand around when working. It's worked for bison, deer and now nutria. I digress.

The body wasn't stiff so that made it easy to work with. The smell was only mild. Not bad.

With the bison we cut a line down the center of the belly, cuffed the legs and the neck. With the nutria I "case" skinned it instead. I still cuffed the legs, but the only other cut was around the anus (and later the tail) and connecting that to the back leg cuffs as seen in the picture below. I used two flakes of obsidian for all the cutting. One flake is at the bottom right corner of the picture.

Once I got started it was relatively easy to pull the skin over the animal until I got to the head. The head took a lot of time because of the eyes, ears and mouth. The plan is to tan the full hide including the head. In the picture below you can see the skin rolled right over the animal and is hanging on only by the tail. I ended up cutting the tail skin off completely because it didn't want to come off the body.

The last step was to fashion a stretching board. I used an old shelf and shaped it to fit the animal. Now I will let it dry out. The next step after drying will be to scrape all the meat, skin and other parts off. Sitting by the wood stove this guy should dry out faster than the bison.

I decided that I wasn't going to eat the meat because I didn't know how long it had been dead and exactly where it came from. My brother wanted to keep the bones though so I did get some practice gutting. It was a piece of cake compared to a bison.

Read Part 2 here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Cauliflower Mushroom

Sunday I took a walk in the woods to find a spear shaft. It was one of those slow walks where I walked at the pace of nature stopping to identify trees with my field guide. In an hour's time I covered probably only half a mile. I was looking for young maple trees of a diameter suitable for a spear shaft, but had no luck. I got to know that area of the woods a lot better though.

As I approached a creek crossing I spotted this beautiful cauliflower mushroom below. It was growing at the base of a very large cedar stump.

I cut it from the ground leaving much of the root in place. Hopefully the mushroom will be back next year or the year after. When I got it home it weighted in at 6 lbs. One field guide I read said they grow up to 30 inches wide and 40 lbs.

I am a complete beginner when it comes to harvesting wild mushrooms so I'm pretty nervous about eating them. This one however is pretty easy to identify and is considered one of the best to eat. Tonight I tried a small portion fried up in butter. It was pretty good. My plan is to eat a little more each time to make sure my body is OK with it. In conclusion, free wild food is awesome!