Art Journal

Nature Ramblings ~ Past Times Time Travel ~ Romancing Daily Life

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Indian Summer at Edgewood (No. 2): Oak Apple

Edgewood Oak Apple
Please click on the illustration above to get the full picture 

Yesterday I wrote a journal entry about the beginning of a trip back 300 years in time,  to visit with a small group of Ohlone people in, what is today called, Edgewood Park. (Indian Summer at Edgewood (No. 1): Creekside.

Having slid through the time portal on the seat of my pants, I dusted the leaves off and greeted the small group working along the edge of the creek. Though busy fishing, foraging for late berries, and cutting sedge, they still seemed glad to have a visitor drop by.

Unfortunately, I'd forgotten my iPad with it's Rumsien dictionary pdf download at home. Luckily, I remembered how to say i (yes). We smiled a lot too.  

Though the creek is low it had produced a few steelhead trout. Have you  noticed that fish tastes better when somebody else cooks it? Somehow the berries tasted sweeter than the modern ones too. I'm pretty sure that if you add a beer that would be a nutritionally complete meal. 

Some of the women were gathering up oak apples( which you maybe call oak galls) and smashing them with pestles, using a big flat rock to pound them against. About the only thing I've ever seen anybody use oak apples for, was the time my friend Suzanne painted a bunch of them as ornaments for her holiday craft booth. She never made those again, after she hung the leftovers on her warmly lit Christmas tree and the gall wasps started hatching out of the little manager scenes. I don't think she ever went back to that particular craft fair to hear what happened to the ones she sold either.

Turns out the people by the creek weren't making manager scenes. They cooked the busted up oak galls in a very tightly woven basket of water and rocks made intensely hot from their fire. When I saw the clan grandmother begin to stuff dried sheaves of sedge into the deep black liquid that emerged from the galls, I finally understood how they were using the galls.

Grandmother saw me looking, smiled back, and pointed at the dark design on the container holding the last of the blackberries. She said something in Rumsien that was as clear to me now as English, even if I didn't understand the actual words she spoke. 

Did I think the gall dyed sedge make pretty baskets?

I grinned back.

I, absolutely i.

Indian Summer at Edgewood
Part 1: Creekside
Part 3: Rose Hips

* * *

There were other Ohlone langues in addition to Rumsien. They include Mutsun, and Chochenyo. There are people speaking these languages today.


  1. Wow, I didn't know that...or at least if I did know it at one time, I didn't remember. And you told the story in such an intriguing way! That's a real gift. :)

  2. The Simple Romantic admits to a LITTLE artistic license. She read that "native americans' used oak galls to make intense black dye. She knows that the Ohlone people lived in this area and made baskets, very few of which survive - none being known of in general circles from this particular small region (also there are people resurrecting the Ohlone basket making tradition nowadays). She knows there are many Live Oaks growing in the ares. But she doesn't actually know if THIS group of people made black dye from oak galls for their baskets. However, it would be not at all surprising.


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