Autumn is picking up speed here in the Northwoods and rice season is coming to an end. The various camps are slowly returning from the local rice lakes back to our main camp at Waabanong, each bringing many stories.
Ricing was one of the most looked forward to activities here by my family–surpassed, perhaps, only by fishing. We set out enthusiastically a half moon ago in search of Hiles Mill Pond, a couple of suns east of our Woodbury Lake.
We were 16: Dakota, Ishi, Canto, Zander, Susan, Diindiis, Sara, Geo, Elka, Baldur, Andrea, Alexandros, Fridolin, Rob, Wolfgang, and Jeff. Brum helped guide us the 1st sun.
It took us four suns to find the west side of the lake. During that time, Jeff challenged a hornet’s nest and came out looking like the loser in a prize fight (eye swollen shut and hand swollen to twice its normal size). He, with head and arm swathed in rags, might have been part of the reason we were mistaken the next morning for a band of Guerilla Mexican Pot growers…or it might have been Andrea darting of the road into the bushes, hair-feathers and cape flying, not quite in time to be unseen by a passing vehicle. Whatever the reason, we were met by 2 cops that morning as we started breakfast, armed to the hilt with automatic weapons and bulletproof vests. “Oh, it’s just campers,” they said.
It took us three suns to find a campsite with reasonable access to the lake. This is a particularly tricky lake to access (lots of sink-to-your-hip-in-muck bog) and we had a lot of group processing to do.
The process, the guides often remind us, is what this is all about. Good thing, too, because after another sun preparing our site and one sun ricing, a hailstorm took out the remainder of the rice crop and our camp was finished…but the processing goes on without end. What I learned by this experience was:
- When a group polarizes into mommy/daddy (criticism/avoidance) energy, I personify both in equal measure.
- If you want to find water, look down a drainage. If you want to find Hiles Mill Pond, go with someone who has been there before.
- Rice worms taste nutty and yummy but too many raw can give some people a stomachache.
- Trying to hide from motorists who have already spotted you inspires suspicion.
- No matter where you go, there you are.
- If one is truly choosing love over fear then it is easy (but surprising) to ask for help from the very person one is furious with.
We were told that wild harvesting rice is done like this: two people per canoe, one standing and slowly poling the canoe though the rice beds. The other uses 2 cedar sticks to whack the rice into the boat. The collected rice is then hauled across the bog and up to a clearing where it is laid out to dry.
I hear ricing is lots of fun. Some day, I hope to try it.
We canoed to the boat landing and picked up the boats. We brought a little food but by then it was getting dark so we couldn’t make it all the way back to camp. Instead, we canoed to a penninsula and camped there. We had no clothes on (they had been playing in the muck when this adventure began). We had a fire to keep warm. We had to cut the food with a tomahawk because we had no knife with us. The next morning we ate frogs, clams, and a few nuts for breakfast. Then we brought the canoes back to camp.
Hiles Millpond Ricing Camp didn’t get to do much ricing, but our Guardian Scott Lake Camp and Thoroughfare Camps did get to gather bags of it. Here are a few photos from their time out on the ricing lakes.