by Torch Nebor
Chain explains to Bubba how to brew a nice cup of pineneedle tea.
|Late October seemed colder than usual, but Chain Golden didn't have a thermometer at Camp Sapphire to verify what she felt in her bones. A light frost on her tipi the day before confirmed what she had felt coming on for a couple of weeks though.
The wild animals were acting differently. Staying out later and eating more. One doe with a fawn several months old had crossed her camp while she sat at her worktable and sniffed at food scraps she had tossed out for possums. Nibbling the scraps of acorn bread, it chewed the hard bread with wide eyes looking at Chain fifty feet away and not moving a muscle.
"For global warming suppose to be affecting everything on the planet, we sure do have some cold and early winters sometimes." Chain commented as she threw her legs out of the warm and snug sleeping bag and squatted before the cold fire pit. Something under the covers awoke, stretched, and listened and considered leaving the dark folds of the warm blankets and then decided against it.
"Bubba, you still here, old man?" Chain reached for her fire and tinder pouch she kept beside the fire pit in a deer hide bag as she made herself. She ignored the coldness in her legs because she knew the tipi would be getting warm and soon.
Taking out a piece of red flint and char cloth from an Altoids tin, she put the flint in her left hand with a thumb-sized piece of char cloth on top of it. She took the small piece of sawed off high-carbon steel barn file from it's bag and held it in her right hand with the narrow edge towards the flint.
Bringing down the striker on to the flint as if to shave off pieces of the steel, tiny sparks flew from the impact point and danced across the char cloth and were snuffed out by the chilly air. Chain struck three more times before a tiny red spot began to grow from where a piece of shaved metal made contact perfectly with the blackened cotton.
"Matches are so overrated," said Chain smugly to the lump under the covers sleepily listening for the sounds of flames crackling.
She gave the spot life with gentle breaths and the red spot spread out quickly consuming the char cloth.
"Bubba?" Her tone was concern mixed with focusing on the char cloth. Dropping the flint and steel to the flat surface of a field stone around the fire pit, she pulled out a handful of dried tinder from a wide mouth soft leather pouch at her knee. Chain carefully tucked the burning char cloth into the center of the tinder bundle made of cedar shavings and dried grasses and cupped it in her hands.
She quickly glanced back at the lump in the sleeping bag against the far wall of the tipi as a pink light of sunrise began to rosy the eastern skyline. "Bubba," she said, not too concerned but wondering why he didn't respond. "It's your turn to make coffee, you know." Chain chuckled.
Keep dreaming, my human. Bubba waited for the sounds of the fire that warmed him on chilly mornings like today. His beloved human worked so hard at making his last years comfortable and, in his own way, he appreciated it.
She blew a thin line of breath into the cupped tinder bundle and directly onto the charred cloth. It glowed brightly with the breaths and white smoke began to pour from her fingers as the tinder smoked then caught fire.
Yellow flames danced around the top of the tinder bundle as she placed it in the middle of the stack of dried twigs shaped like a tipi she had arranged the night before in the cold fire pit. She fanned it lightly with her hand and added more bird leg thin twigs. Within a minute, the tipi walls were illuminated by the warm glow of a morning fire.
What Chain needed was a bed of coals to boil water and make breakfast, so she added larger dried twigs and sticks and waited as the fire engulfed them with a living light craving fuel.
Immediately, her hands and face warmed in the chilly tipi as she faced the growing fire. Smoke drifted through the smoke flaps and low over the brown fields of broom straw. Those animals hunting at that early hour knew Chain was awake and stole deeper into the forest. They knew her as a hunter and wanted nothing to do with her archery gear she made herself or her rifle.
"Bubba. Are you in there or did I sleep with another possum again." She smiled at the memory.
A rare snow and days of cold weather had sent a young and starving possum into her tipi as she slept. It ate scraps by the smouldering campfire saved for Bubba's midnight snack. Chain snored quietly, dreaming of happier times when Danger was alive and bossing all them around like children with his Danger look of authority.
Bubba had been awakened by the possum walking around the edge of their bed, but wasn't afraid. He remembered them from the days on the pallets before he met Chain and knew they were harmless. They had eaten scraps from the dumpster together shoulder to shoulder.
When the adolescent possum sensed the warm body of the sleeping woman and sleepy cat, it joined them under the thick blankets and slept away the night in peace curled up next to Chain's stomach. Then Chain woke up.
"What the ...! " remarked Chain leaping out of bed when she realized the small furry creature was not Bubba with a shock.
Chain smiled at the memory drifting to the back of her mind and added larger kindling to the growing fire. Hot coals were forming now and Chain was pleased.
"You remember that possum you invited for the sleepover, Bubba? Wonder where he is now?" She poked the burning wood allowing more air to consume the dried wood. "He didn't like it when I carried him outside by his smelly tail and hung him in the persimmon tree upside down. He was growling and fussin' like all get out."
Chain looked at the silent and still lump under the blankets and gently poked it with her finger. "Bubba." Another gentle poke to the lump under the covers did the trick.
Bubba rolled over onto his stomach when she pulled back the blankets. His sleepy eyes greeted hers and they gave each other a cat kiss. A gentle rubbing of foreheads was a sign of affection they had shared for years. Chain covered the old cat back up to let him go back to sleep.
Chain pulled a light blanket over her shoulders as she sat before the fire on a dried deerhide watching it turn into a bed of hot coals. Outside the dawn temperatures were at least twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit.
A hard frost bent the dead dog fennel over around fence lines and rusted metal gates. Frost lined the hibernating blackberry bushes like a delicate lace covering. The tips of the tipi poles glistened like jeweled scepters.
Down in the forest on the Big Rock creek, woodducks broke through thin sheets of ice along the sandy creek banks as they swam away from the sounds of an approaching fox. Life was an especially hard struggle for all now in the beginning of the winter season, but Chain was determined to do well and she was doing quite well when compared to others in similar situations.
Chain had made her firepit in the tipi in a key shape. As hot coals were born from dried oak and hickory branches consumed in flames of red and yellow, she pulled them into the narrow slot nearest her with a homemade fire poker. Taking out a small steel pot from her cooking gear, she filled it with cold water from her canteen to nearly full. Some of the water would be used for tea and some for oatmeal she had grown and harvested herself.
After placing the small steel pot carefully over the coals and letting the edges rest on the flat field stones, she knew she would have a rolling boil in a few minutes. She stood and pulled a foot long bough of pine needles from the wall of the tipi where she had tucked it in the night before.
Chain took her sharp knife from it's sheath she kept under her pillow and began to cut the pine needles into one inch long pieces and drop them into the pan of water. She would cut nearly a one quarter cup's worth before stopping.
In the few minutes of preparation, the water was starting to bubble, but not quite boil. Chain watched the pineneedles float in the shallow steel pot as they changed from a deep green to a paler shade within minutes. The vitamin C and A each needle contained was steeped into the hot water. "Takes about twenty minutes, you know, Bubbalicious."
Bubba heard his name, but didn't move. He had slept without pain last night not knowing Chain had put some willow wood bark into his drinking water. She knew he had arthritis and the willow wood water was like an aspirin for him.
Chain stood, put on her boots and coat and went outside after the moving the pot to a cooler side of the fire. She wanted the needles to simmer slowly and make the morning beverage worth the wait. The beautiful sight of the heavy frost in the early dawn light reminded her of a light snow she would rarely see in her southern life.
Her breath escaped her nostrils in a heavy smoke as she gathered wood from her woodpile near the smoker. The fallen red and gold sweet gum leaves were frosted and iced making their beauty even more breathtaking as the dawn's light grew brighter. Picking up a load of wood, she stood and listened to turkeys gobble to one another as they flew from their night perches to her oat patch.
"They'll pick it clean, but that's okay. I might do a little hunting this morning and will know exactly where to find them." Old bones in her knees popped as she turned to carry her load of wood back into the tipi.
The sun was barely peeking over the horizon and it was still and quiet as Chain quickly brought in three loads of wood to keep them warm that morning. The squirrels wouldn't stir till the sun warmed the tree tops sending the heavy frost down to the forest floor sounding like a light rain.
Chain sat on the edge of her raised bed as she swirled the pine needles around in the back sooted pot. Carefully pouring the brew into her large, blue metal cup, she took a sip and was satisfied with the flavor. She poured the needles out of the pan and into the hot fire. Listening to the hissing of the wet needles on hot coals, she took another careful drink. The rich mango like flavor swirled around her tongue and made her close her eyes with the pleasant taste. PIneneedle tea always reminded her of peaceful moments before the fire working on projects or simple enjoying the quiet.
Bubba felt the growing warmth of the tipi and stirred under the blankets and popped out his head with a soft meow of good morning. He stopped at the edge of the bed and let her pet him as he made for the door and a quick trip outside. Some cats were housebroken. He was tipi broken.
They sat together before the campfire in the warm tipi with Bubba in Chain's lap as she sipped her pine needle tea. They were wrapped up in a blanket as was their custom on cold mornings deciding what kind of day they would have on such a chilly morning. Would they stay under the covers and read books of identifying plants for food and medicine or would they bundle up and go hunting? At that moment, they were only concerned with enjoying the quiet moment together and not letting anything disturb them.
A quiet moment as the sun began to warm the edge of the world they shared and called home. A moment of tranquility they knew not to take for granted. Chain snuggled Bubba close as he watched the flames dance over the embers.
"I love you, Bubba."
I know, Chain. I'm a cat. You are suppose to love me. It's rule # 1. And I love you, Chain.
"I know, Bubba. You are my cat and I am your human. We are so blessed to have found each other to share moments like these."
Directions for brewing a cup of pineneedle tea: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/pine-needles-tea.html OR http://www.ehow.com/how_2181276_pine-needle-tea.html OR http://www.ruralvermont.com/vermontweathervane/issues/winter/97012/eatpine.shtml...