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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Basket Cases

The sweeping redwood roof of Ukiah's Grace Hudson Museum

After touring the Seabiscuit Ranch, our next stop was lunch at the Ukiah Brewing Company, and a trip to Ukiah’s Grace Hudson Museum. I heard about the museum when I was a Docent at the State Indian Museum but this was my first chance for a visit. The Museum’s current exhibit is...

Nice exhibits all about what California's first inhabitant's ate, and how they prepared it. We watched a video showing an old Indian woman preparing California Buckeye seeds for eating. I didn't realize the preparation for buckeye, but for a few details, is the same as the preparation of acorn mush. Anyway, by the time the patient old gal in the video split the pods, boiled them by putting them in a basket & rotating hot rocks in & out the basket, then pounded the seeds in to powder, lined a spot with sand and leaves, coated... (You tired yet? I'm exhausted AND hungry!) coated the leaves with the powdered seeds poured water over it until bitter tannins were leached out.... Whew! I were ready for a nap.

One nice touch for the exhibit on food preparation was pads of removable recipes so you could take home a little bit of California Indian cookery with you.

Yeah! I get to take home some recipes!
Now where can I find a Pinon Pine tree?

The other exhibits were the Grace Hudson family and the lady's paintings of the local Pomo Indians, or ...

Gallery of paintings at the Museum

Closer look at one of Hudson's famous Pomo Children Paintings

of more interesting to me; California Indian basketry. Below here, from the top clockwise, are skins from the breasts of Western Meadowlarks (yellow feathers), salmon pink Northern Flicker (woodpecker) feathers, a tiny red topknot from an Acorn Woodpecker, and a mallard duck drake's head feathers; all used for design in Pomo feathered baskets.

Feathers and feathery skins for Pomo Baskets

Even more exciting than the beautiful feathers were the raw materials used to weave the baskets - roots of the white sedge, bull rush and spruce, branches of California hazel, willow and redbud, and even stems of various ferns that were woven to make up the unique designs on Pomo baskets. I remember in school we used to derisively call an easy class "basket weaving". I got to try my hand at Karuk and Yukut basketry once, and now I know how stupid we were about basketry back in the day. Those Indian women must have had the brain circuitry of computers to keep the designs in mind while making weaving baskets!

Basketry materials: spruce roots, hazel sticks, etc.

Basket with Quail Topknots

Honestly, just look at the basket above with its woodpecker feathering and quail topknots - wouldn't you love to be able to create a thing of that much beauty? Basket weaving class indeed! Truth be told, it's a little closer to rocket science than we could have appreciated.

Ok, now the next basket is amazing - a Pomo basket with Meadowlark feathers, with dark stripes of irridescent Mallard drake head feathers and a trim of small, ground down clam shells.

When done checking out the exhibits we bee-lined it to the gift shop. There we got into an hour long conversation with a really neat lady clerk named Pat. I think we three were buddies in another life, because we hit it off right away discussing about a b'jillion urgent girlie issues. Great fun, although there was one ensie wiensie downside; by the time we shut up and left the gift shop and walked over to the Sun House - it was closed for the day. Bugger!
We had to be satisified checking out the outside of the unique, six room wooden house, that Hudson and her hubby lived in back in the 1900s. I've no clue what's inside of it, but I'll be back to explore it some other day.

Sunhouse Doorway


So done with touring the Seabiscuit Ranch, and perusing the Museum, Diane and I hit the safeway for savory & sweet goodies - ok, and some bitchin' local beers, and we headed back to the Spirit Ranch house where we spent a last evening, sitting on the back porch, watching the sun set over the vineyard and looking forward to tommorrow's drive.

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