Archive for the ‘History’ Category

America the Beaver

Posted by heidi08 On July - 4 - 2017Comments Off on America the Beaver

I can’t believe yet another fourth of July is here without us standing watch over kits on the footbridge where 1000 people cross on their way to the fireworks. Being without kits or beavers sure changes the entire feel of summer. But the good news is that  busy beaver author Ben Goldfarb is coming to talk Martinez today, after interviewing our beaver buddy Damion Ciotti in the foothills yesterday We’re making him brunch with decidedly immigrant themes, then Jon’s walking around the beaver ghost town, and I’ll try to tell the story and not to get sidetracked. Wish us luck.

Yesterday I heard from illustrator Deborah Hocking in Portland that the charming bookmark she is designing for the festival pro bono was completed. Feast your eyes on this little wonder made out of the talent of her fingers and the goodness of her heart. We’ll give them free at the event, kids can put them in their nature journals and adults in the books they buy at our silent auction, and we’ll have extra to tuck in any thank you note for years to come.

Martinez bookmark front

Bookmark Front

Martinz bookmark back

Bookmark Back

Thank you SO much Deborah! I love that little cycling beaver, and having a view of our creek on the back really reminds me of how lucky we once were, sigh.

Now I’m hoping this reminder of the respect your founding fathers had for beavers gets you started on your celebratory day. Wishing us all six dollar bills soon!americabeaversNot sure why the beaver is eating a palm tree, or where exactly in colonial america one was growing, but maybe he wasn’t as gifted an artist as he was a kite flyer?

Oh and just in case our current state of political affairs has you feeling particularly doomed, just remember this criticism by E.P. Whipple of our 17th president which will make you realize we’ve all been here before. He was describing Andrew Johnson in 1866. Pause at any sentence in this monumental paragraph and you will be stunned by the similarities.

“Insincere as well as stubborn, cunning as well as unreasonable, vain as well as ill-tempered, greedy of popularity as well as arbitrary in disposition, veering in his mind as well as fixed in his will, he unites in his character the seemingly opposite qualities of demagogue and autocrat, and converts the Presidential chair into a stump or a throne, according as the impulse seizes him to cajole or to command. Doubtless much of the evil developed in him is due to his misfortune in having been lifted by events to a position which he lacked the elevation and breadth of intelligence adequately to fill. He was cursed with the possession of a power and authority which no man of narrow mind, bitter prejudices, and inordinate self-estimation can exercise without depraving himself as well as injuring the nation. Egotistic to the point of mental disease, he resented the direct and manly opposition of statesmen to his opinions and moods as a personal affront, and descended to the last degree of littleness in a political leader, — that of betraying his party, in order to gratify his spite. He of course became the prey of intriguers and sycophants, — of persons who understand the art of managing minds which are at once arbitrary and weak, by allowing them to retain unity of will amid the most palpable inconsistencies of opinion, so that inconstancy to principle shall not weaken force of purpose, nor the emphasis be at all abated with which they may bless to-day what yesterday they cursed. Thus the abhorrer of traitors has now become their tool. Thus the denouncer of Copperheads has now sunk into dependence on their support. Thus the imposer of conditions of reconstruction has now become the fore- most friend of the unconditioned return of the Rebel States. Thus the furious Union Republican, whose harangues against his political opponents almost scared his political friends by their violence, has now become the shameless betrayer of the people who trusted him. And in all these changes of base he has appeared supremely conscious, in his own mind, of playing an independent, a consistent, and especially a conscientious part.”

It’s up to us now, let’s create a new Hope for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On June - 28 - 2017Comments Off on It’s up to us now, let’s create a new Hope for beavers

One of the things I’ve learned over the years about trying to change folk’s minds about beavers is that people don’t change their minds about beavers. All the science data from Michael Pollock or all the facts from Dietland Muller-Swarze doesn’t actually translate into policy changes regarding beavers unless another important organ is altered as well.


That’s why the intelligent, heartfelt, observant, tear-inducing writing of Hope Ryden’s Lily Pond was so powerful. She told a story as a compelling, factual and feeling woman who read her history and was gradually was touched by beavers. And I defy anyone who read through her book to ever disdainfully call them ‘rodents’  again.

Hope changed minds. True to her name. She gave beavers the best chance they ever had to survive in an indifferent and inconvenient world. Grey Owl may have softened things a little, Enos Mills got folks to listen, but Hope made people love them. And that was a game changer.

She was a naturalist of the highest order and wrote many wonderful books on many wonderful topics, but to my mind this was her crowing achievement. The introduction was written by Dr. Jane Goodall. For years Hope was an email buddy and would donate signed copies to the Silent Auction. She always said that the Martinez beaver story made her happy and made her feel as if new options were possible. She was friends with Sherri Tippie and knew the good folks at Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife.  She never stopped caring about beavers even after her amazing 4 years.

I put off reading Lily Pond because I didn’t want to save the Martinez beavers with sympathy in the beginning. I had the crazy idea that just explaining the science would make everyone understand.  Silly me! I read it in the winter the year after mom’s illness, and the passage when her matriarch died literally made me erupt in tears. We were driving back from the mountains and I could literally only read a 10 words at a time before I had to put the book down and weep. Her beautiful words were carved across my aching heart; “Oh, Lily! Is this how you leave us?” And I will thank her forever for saying how it felt to watch the beaver heroine you have sat with in the dark for years, suddenly leave the world where she brought so much life.

Hope told stories. And taught me that stories Save Beavers.

Beaver teeth carving: Shigir Idol

Posted by heidi08 On June - 17 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver teeth carving: Shigir Idol

Three times older than the pyramids and twice as old as Stonehenge, the statue was originally dug out of a peat bog by gold miners in the Ural Mountains in 1890. The remarkable seven-faced Idol was carved with a beaver jaw and is now on display in a glass sarcophagus in a museum in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Beaver’s teeth ‘used to carve the oldest wooden statue in the world’

New scientific findings suggest that images and hieroglyphics on the wooden statue were carved with the jaw of a beaver, its teeth intact. Two years ago German scientists dated the Idolas being 11,000 years old.

At a conference involving international experts held in the city this week, Professor Mikhail Zhilin said the wooden statue, originally 5.3 metres tall, was made of larch, with  the basement and head carved using silicon faceted tools.  ‘The surface was polished with a fine-grained abrasive, after which the ornament was carved with a chisel,’ said the expert. 

‘At least three [sets of teeth]  were used, and they had different blade widths.

The faces were ‘the last to be carved because apart from chisels,  some very interesting tools – made of halves of beaver lower jaws – were used’.

Zhilin, leading researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology, has spoken previously of his ‘feeling of awe’ when studying the Idol, more than twice as old as the Stonehenge monuments in England.

‘This is a masterpiece, carrying gigantic emotional value and force,’ he said. ‘It is a unique sculpture, there is nothing else in the world like this.  It is very alive, and very complicated at the same time. 

‘The ornament is covered with nothing but encrypted information. People were passing on knowledge with the help of the Idol.’ Only one of the seven faces is three dimensional. 

While the messages remain ‘an utter mystery to modern man’, it was clear that its creators ‘lived in total harmony with the world, had advanced intellectual development, and a complicated spiritual world’, he said.

The professor has found such a ‘tool’ made from beaver jaw at another archeological site – Beregovaya 2, dating to the same period. 

Studying the Idol, he believed the tool is consistent with its markings, ‘for example when making holes more circular’, said Svetlana Panina, head of the archaeology department at Sverdlovsk Regional Local History Museum.

The idol was put on a stone basement, not dug in the ground, said Zhilin. It stood lik

e this for around 50 years before falling into a pond, and was later covered in turf. The peat preserved it as if in a time capsule. 

I know I have very specific tastes in news, but that is sooo cool. Of course if there were ready made carving tools all around you would use them, rather than make your own. I’m assuming the fact that there were three sizes of tools means that they were three ages of beaver harvested?

crest boar-beaverRegular readers of this blog will know right away why it was the bottom mandible and not the top used for carving. I used to think this tusk-beaver from a bavarian crest was so silly -but it actually makes more sense than our modern bucktoothed cartoon.

Despite what the funny-papers tell us, lower teeth are much larger (which is why it’s so rare to get photos of the upper ones). One fine exception to that rule of castor is this wonderful photo taken by my facebook beaver buddy Sylvie Biber. That may not be her real name, considering, but I believe she’s eastern European,  living in Scotland, where she took this wonderful photo.

Top Teeth Sylvie

Beaver teeth: Sylvie Biber

You can bet I’d chose the bottom ones for my carving!
This also made me remember the research I did of the bay area tribes that lived near Brentwood and Antioch. In their burial grounds archeologists found beaver mandibles buried with the bodies and all their posessions. The paper I read said that no one knew why. Psychologist that I am, I always assumed it was because beaver teeth changed things and what do folks want to change more than death? But maybe they were precious tools, just being tucked away with the owner?