Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Category: How To

How To Make A Gourd Rattle

Our Native Americans have used rattles as instruments to call rainfall, to represent the heartbeat, and imitate the life process of breathing. IT is a way for them to connect with their spirit as is the pipe, tobacco and smoke.

To hear the pleasant sound of rattling is peaceful and settling. It allows us to travel into a meditative journey where the imagination and subconscious have a chance to become active. Why not make a rattle and try?

Small round gourds work well for rattles. To start, find the right gourd that you like. Thanksgiving is the time to have a large variety of gourds. When I find one I like, I visualize it as a rattle. What follows is a description, step by step, to make a rattle.

Collage – The How – To’s

Let’s try collage. Collage is a technique of art where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole. All sorts of things can be used to glue to paper, canvas, wood, metal, plastic, or fiber, separately or in combination. Some call collage a novelty. It was for me when I first started. I think by now it has evolved into art.

Here is a partial list of some materials that can be used:

Magazines; newspapers; construction paper; photographs; packaging; foil; corrugated packing material and other found objects. I’ve had this hobby for 40 years and am always looking for new material. I save it all. As you survey your materials, you’ll start to have ideas of matches and scenes to glue down.

The Physics of Tossing Horseshoes

The key is practice. The whole body is involved in a complex array of muscle memory. I know from experience. I make baskets, which requires all kinds of finger dexterity and strength. After years of making baskets, each of my fingers has their own brain. It’s the same for horseshoes. You have to keep tossing and concentrating on how the shoe landed and how to adjust from there. Eventually, your arm knows how much force to use, how to step, the angle of release, the way you hold the shoe. I have ultimate respect for champion “shoers”. They put in the time to get that way. Here’s my story.

There’s nothing quite like the sound of a ringer. The shoe hits the iron post and may spin. The shoe may hit another shoe that missed. The sounds of shoes in the pit is very enjoyable. You want more. It becomes an addiction.

I tossed for a weird reason. As a boy, I contracted polio in my right arm. With exercise and the Sister Kinney Treatment, and my mother, I regained the use of my arm. However, I did loose some muscle mass. I took to horseshoes to exercise my arm.

At the start, I had to decide which way to hold the shoe. The flip method means holding the shoe in the middle with both forks facing the pit. I would concentrate on the pole through the forks of the shoe to better air my shot. The other method is the Frisbee toss. Holding one of the forks, the shoe is released so that it sails in flat spiral. After many tries both ways, I chose the flip. The goal is to have the forks arrive at the pole at just the right time.

I built a horseshoe court in my Manorville backyard. The soil was so sandy, that I carried in buckets of clay soil and poured them into the pit so when the shoes landed, they didn’t disappear under loose sand. I practiced alone as a routine. With four shoes in a set, I’d toss 20 sets. Gradually I got better.

I set the stakes in concrete and built boxes on both sides. I loved to “ting” the dirt off a shoe to knock off the dirt, another great horseshoe sound.

As a retired science teacher, I admire the physics of force. The release of the shoe at the proper point of the arm swing is probably the most important skill to acquire.

When I toss shoes, I imagine being on a farm with other hands. We hear the dinner bell, and knock off work, wash our hands outside using the hand pump, and wait to be called to the dinner table. It was horseshoe time. The four of us would take our places and play a game of 21. Ringers are three points, leaners – 2 points, and one point scored for a shoe that is within the width of the forks.

For me, the sounds of shoes against shoe and shoe against pole harkened back to an older time when there were less distractions. Tossing shoes was relaxing, socializing, and competitive. And best of all, tossing shoes keeps me out of trouble.


Nancy, the wife, likes to make jam. I go along with this because of step one…collecting the fruit. This means going to our favorite, secret place.

We arrive with buckets and find bushes of beach plums on a sandy beach swale. Beach plum shrubs here have some of the largest fruit I’ve ever seen.

The shrub blooms in May at the same time that spring warblers arrive. The shrubs look like they are covered in white, dense foam. The warblers are feasting on ants that crawl up the trunk and branches to feed on the nectar. The small numerous flowers follow one of the laws of nature – over production. Many flowers are never pollinated. Sometimes a heavy rainfall just at blooming time results in less beach plums in the fall. The warblers in turn, feed on the ants. Having migrated thousands of miles from their winter quarters, they are famished. Presto, they find beach plum shrubs as their rest stop and feeding trough.

How To Make a Basket

The tuck is the secret to making a strong rattan basket. Tuck is the verb which means pushing the end of a rattan strip under another. This takes care of loose ends, and tightens the basket.

  1. Wet rattan strips for a half hour for flexibility
  2. Plan the basket by selecting a small oblong wood box
  3. Use this wood box form to set up strips that criss cross on the bottom
  4. Staple each strip and leave about 6 inches spare over the box edge
  5. These will become the tuck strips
  6. Weave strips criss-cross on the bottom
  7. Firm the bottom edge with a strip weaving in and out horizontally
  8. Weave the sides until you come to the edge.
  9. Create a rim using strips outside and in
  10. Cut off inside vertical strips and leave the outside strips
  11. Point the outside strips with scissor cut
  12. Bend outside strips over the rim and tuck using an awl
  13. Place rattan inside and outside the rim and use thin rattan

The last operation is to”sow” the in and out strips to the vertical

  1. The rim holds the whole basket together and provides a decorative edge
  2. Tools are a staple, awl and scissors and a wood box
  3. Making a basket strengthens fingers and prevents arthritis.

Each finger slowly learns until all fingers develop brains. See photos to accompany this instruction sheet. Contact me if you need help.


How To Make a Fish Print

  • Obtain a whole fish from 6 – 10 inches
  • Either freeze the fish for later or make the print right away
  • Thaw the fish, lay it on newspaper, wipe the slime off with a paper towel
  • Newsprint pads come in small, medium and large. Decide on the size you need beforehand. Newsprint is very absorbent.
  • Buy a jar of soluble block printers ink from an art store
  • Using a one inch brush, take a small amount of ink and dilute it with just a few drops of water. Mix with the brush.
  • Spread the ink on the fish backwards to insure that it seeps under the scales. Make sure you prop up the dorsal fin using a crumpled piece of paper towel. Stuff crumpled paper town in the mouth
  • Apply a light coat of ink EXCEPT the eye. Fill in the eye later.
  • The first print is a test to see how to make adjustments in the ink solution. It may take several tries to learn the skill of inking
  • Do not put thick ink on the fish. It must be thinned.
  • Number each test print and keep making prints, and reapplying ink until you see that you’re getting the details of the fish. The head is bony and ink doesn’t seep in so less is better.
  • After the paper has been laid on the inked fish, gently touch the paper with one hand and with the other make sure the paper doesn’t move.
  • Eventually, using fingers and thumb, make sure the entire fish has been touched. Apply gentle pressure. Make sure you get the dorsal and tail fins.

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