Early August had blasts of cold that reminded Tobal of the bitter winter months ahead. He needed to be thinking about his own permanent winter camp. During the winter travel and temporary camps were both dangerous. Winter clothing was essential and food critical to replace the heat given off by the body.
In addition the nights were longer and there was less sunlight. The chance of getting caught in mountain storms was very real and likely. Rafe had talked some about winter survival but there had not been any need to do much preparation then. Now it was time to do some serious thinking and integrate it into his training.
Tobal found himself with his third trainee. To his delight it was Sarah. He had forgotten she would be claiming sanctuary in the late summer. When she saw him, she raised a scene by running over and hugging him. She refused to go with anyone else and there were a few tense moments. Since there were enough newbies things were soon straightened out and everyone was happy.
The days were getting shorter and travel would soon be getting harder. The leaves were turning and there was not as much ready vegetation for fresh salads. They relied on dried fruit and meat. They scavanged for herbs and nuts that would be impossible to find after the snows came and began collecting and drying them. They stayed on the lookout for Hazelnuts, acorns, walnuts and chestnuts.
Acorns needed to be roasted but any nuts were good protein for the winter months and kept well in storage. Some tubers and inner bark of trees were collected to be made into flour later on. Tobal was hoping to make some bread this winter if he could figure out how to do it.
Trapping became the most important thing since they needed furs to make clothing for the coming winter. The easiest fur bearing animals were the beaver and muskrats. They spent much time near the streams during that first week living off fish and small animals they snared. They even tried eating beaver and muskrat. Tobal decided he could eat it if needed but used most of the meat for baiting traps and snares for more pleasant tasting game.
The skinned pelts needed to be fleshed by scraping off every bit of fat, flesh and membrane from the back of the hide and then stretching it on a stretching board with the fur on the inside leaving it to dry. It was hard nasty work that dulled knives and took up most of the day.
The muskrat pelts were stretched over specially whittled and sized boards but the beaver pelts were stretched in circular wood hoops and laced into place tightly. The wooden hoops were made by steaming the wood and gently bending it into the desired shape and then lashing the wood tightly into place. This was also the way snowshoes would be made later when they had more time.
After the pelts had dried a few days they were tanned with a cooked smelly mixture of brains, bone marrow, and liver spread liberally over the hides, worked into them and left for a few days. The foul mixture was then washed off and the process of "pulling" the leather began. Enzymes in the bad smelling mixture softened the leather enough to tan it.
Pulling the leather was a process of bending it sharply and making it pliable. This was done by pulling the pelt across the sharp edge of a stone or around a small smooth wooden pole set in the ground. After the pelt was soft and pliable the last step was for the tanned side to be smoked so the leather would not become stiff after it had gotten wet. It was only then the pelts could be cut and sewn into winter clothing.
Making the stretching boards and the stretching frames took several days and Tobal knew Sarah would not be ready to solo at the next circle. There was too much to be done. By the end of the 2nd week they had trapped enough beaver and muskrat for their own use and were busy tanning and smoking the pelts. What worried him was they hadn't had time to do much else and the weather was getting colder. They were running out of time.