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Ellen McCallie's Diary

Day 15: Waterproof Tent

We got a double reminder today that we are in a small town. First, Ricky, the chef who cooks for us each evening, asked how we liked Blackball and if we got to Punakaiki. He had seen us drive off the day before yesterday in the afternoon. Friends of Ricky's "up north" had seen us in Blackball and mentioned it to him yesterday evening. Others had heard we were heading to Punakaiki. Word travels fast in a small town.

It turns out that my challenge is more to help the others in doing their challenges. Kathy and Jonathan are making a seismograph to measure earthquake activity or the like. Mike and Mike are to spend tomorrow night on a mountain and then look for nuggets of gold on day 3 of this program. I was to help waterproof the tent Mike and Mike will sleep in.

Photo: Kate and Ellen search for flaxIn addition, it makes sense that the guys have something to sleep on — flax mats will do the trick here. Plus, Mike B. wanted flax twine. So Kate and I headed out to collect flax. That went beautifully. We may also get some waterproofing jelly out of the flax.

Flax is a really cool plant. It was/is the Maori's "tree of life"; it's not a tree, but an herbaceous plant. In any case, the leaves and/or fiber from flax have been used for rope, baskets, clothing, raincoats and all sorts of weaving. The Maori also would drink the flower nectar — it's a bird-pollinated plant that makes a lot of sweet nectar to "reward" the birds for visiting.

Photo: Ellen with flax matMaking the mats was like going back in time. First to my childhood as a Girl Scout, making placemats and potholders. Second, to previous lives of generations of people since humans started using fibers. The "basket-weave" of over-under-over-under has been used for millennia. This is how our ancestors made their lives easier. They also wove in such ways as to make beautiful things.

The first mat I made was much cruder than the second. Yes, I learn from experience.

Tomorrow, I will volunteer to pan for more gold. This way I will be adding to the gold stash.

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Photo: Ellen McCallie
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