Wednesday, March 3, 2010

White Earth

Gud Dag! I have internet after all in the wilderness, so I will now regale you with my harrowing tales of northern Minnesota! Disclaimer: Tales may not be harrowing.

I am now in White Earth, MN. Or very near there. I'm not sure where the boundary is. I have met some great people, and have learned A LOT for such a short time, but I have a few complaints of course. Mostly the messiness (which I cleaned up pretty well at the Intern House), and the smoking, and the general disorganization. Oh, and too much driving--everything is so far apart!

Right now we are preparing to collect sap from 500-600 maple trees. In past years they tell me they have done over 1,000, and I have seen the evaporator to prove it, but it wasn't cost effective to do so many and there are also less people either employed or volunteering to do the work necessary. We needed a smaller evaporator (it boils the sap into syrup--40 gallons of sap make 1 gallon of syrup!!), and so my first day was spent with 3 guys who work with the Sustainable Communities branch of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, taking apart, then moving, then putting back together the smaller (still very heavy) evaporator. I guess that was pretty harrowing!

Yesterday I helped out at the office, where I made random phone calls and did busy work. I am not so keen on office work...

Today and tomorrow we cut and will cut up more wood to burn in the evaporator. I used a chainsaw again! But this time was the first time, unlike MCC, that I felt like the people I worked with either didn't think I could use a chainsaw, or lift heavy things, or do much of anything men do. It's a bit of a struggle and I have to keep asking for tasks, which is frustrating. Plus, I have some criticisms of how they maintain their saws--they keep the chain insanely loose! I was taught to keep it at a certain tightness, and I fixed the saw I used, but it was all I could do not to say anything to the guy, kinda my boss, who's chain hung off the bar visibly. I did mention it, not to criticize, just ask why he keeps it that way. He said it was easier for cutting bigger pieces. In my head I was like "B*** s***!" I've cut with a somewhat loose chain before--his must be so sharp he doesn't notice. I should ask an expert.

I have a new friend who I live with--her name is Nikki and she is half Ojibway, and an ethnobotanist. We have had some great conversations and she has taught me a lot. I'm looking forward to the rest of my time here! Oh, and I'm still doing my Norsk lessons. Har deh bra!


  1. I'm glad to hear that it's going well. I'm looking forward to sampling some maple syrup and hearing the harrowing tales of the north.

  2. Sexism and paternalism.... a two headed dog that raises its ugly head again and again. Sorry. We tried to kill the beast, but it just won't die.

    Still, sounds like you're having some fun. Au voir.