Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Stolen Photo



This photo was stolen from Elaine, from the Willits Daily Photo blog. She has a blog that I check on daily because I like her photography and meaningful commentary.

I stole her photo because the "Oak Ball" was my friend first, and I grew up with it. So thank-you Elaine, for the idea for this post. As usual, most of my ideas come from other bloggers. Her blog is a "Must Visit".


Elaine, you just took a photo of one of my favorite toys as a kid. We were allowed to have "Oak Ball Wars", because we could throw them at each other without being hurt because they are so light. "Apple Wars" were strongly discouraged, so we had to hide from the folks to have apple wars.

The oak balls are not so prevalent in our area up north in Garberville, but they are very prevalent in Willits and Laytonville, where the valley oaks grow, and I grew.

We used to chop them up and put them in steel coffee cans along with steel nails and a little water. We would stir them morning and evening. After a few days we would have “Indian Ink” (Not India Ink) as we called it. They we would make ourselves a few pens out of chicken feathers, and write “Pioneer letters” with the same ink that our pioneer folks used. Another thing that we used to do is make "birds" out of them, by using a nial to make holes in them to place oak leaves where the wings and tail feathers would go. Make two short toothpick or dowel legs, that they will balance on when you weight the front end with an acorn that you use the nail to poke a hole in at just the right spot to attach it as a head. Leave the cap on the acorn for that very cool fuzzy head look. If you are really talented, you can draw in the eyes and lips. Do birds have lips?


I’m in trouble with my wife for not gathering her any oak balls. She uses the Indian Ink formula to make wool dye, she dyes and spins her own wool yarn. She wastes her time spinning, while I accomplish much by blogging. Both are real time wasting, but very enjoyable hobbies.


Addendum: My mother corrected me, much like mothers are wont to do. She says that you have to use unripe Oak Balls to make ink. She’s probably right… again. I’ve never tried dried ones, so I don’t know. Maybe somebody can tell me. They must work a little bit.

Another thing that I should tell you, is not to use the ink any high quality pen, because it will probably ruin it, and the ink will fall off the paper after a while, but it is great for short term fun, or writing love letters that you want to disappear after a few years.

Some of the works of art that were done with oak gall ink in Leonardo DaVinci's day were lost to posterity due to their non permanence.

16 comments:

USelaine said...

I wonder. Is it really stealing if you give back more than you take?

Thanks Ernie. I wish I had known about the dye making uses when I blogged this in the first place.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I guess I should have told the folks that they can buy photos from you if they want to use them commercially.

It’s strange how many uses that the pioneers had for the things that were available. We also used an oak ball as a cork to plug the pipe on the spring water box when we needed to work on the pipe.

heraldo said...

Spinning ones own wool might be a more practical and useful skill than blogging. I'll withhold judgment, however.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Gee Heraldo, I was counting on you to be in favor of blogging.

The thing that amazes me is that my wife will spend hours and hours, washing a fleece, dyeing it, carding it, roving it, spinning it, plying it, until finally she has a little ball of fuzzy yarn that you can’t even wear. Then all of her “Spinny Weavey” friends ooh and aah over it, feel it, smell it, string it out and rave about what fine craftwomanship she has put into it. Okay, I’ll admit, I jealous, but I still don’t get it. I’m not going to start weaving, it looks like way too much work to me!

Anonymous said...

O I think there is some mighty fine yarn spinning going on on this blog. Your underestimate your abilities Ernie.
Those oak balls are a fun substitute for a badminton birdie

Kym said...

Ernie, I wish my memory was as good as yours. When I saw Elaine's post this morning I said, "cool, I remember those." But I had forgotten the "Indian Ink" and never knew of the rest (we never had enough to throw at each other around here though we did throw buckeyes).

Thanks for the reminder.

ross sherburn said...

if you are going to have"oak ball wars" ya gotta have forts!we made many forts out of hurlbutts fence posts!

Robin Shelley said...

I remember gathering up a big paper sack full of oak balls when I was a kid & dumping them into my toy box. A few days later, my toy box was crawling with hundreds of tiny spiders! Needless to say, my mom wasn't very happy.

Fred said...

There used to be a lot of orange groves back when I lived in Southern CA. We used to have orange fights. Wasted tons of oranges.

Eel River Ernie said...

Oak balls bounced off of tin hard hats made a distinct sound on the fireline - ERE

Fred said...

I got hit in the back of the head by an orange one time. It was thrown really hard and blew open. Stuck all my hair together. What a mess.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Eel River Ernie, We don't use tin hats anymore on the fire line. I wonder what they would sound like on a composition hat. Somehow it just doesn't sound like as much fun. By the way, I've never been hit with an oak ball unless someone threw it. Somebody must have been messin' with you... Or the other way around.

It's an honor to have you back. did you catch all the fish?

Eel River Ernie said...

Ernie, I date myself, we (CDF) stopped using tin hats in the mid 1960s. A carefully aimed Oak Ball would indeed make a distinct “ting” when coming in contact with an unsuspecting victim’s hard hat on a slow boring mop-up assignment.

I have done my best to decimate the steelhead and salmon populations of the Eel and Trinity rivers over the past four weeks. The good news is that all of the ones I hooked and landed, with the exception of a limit of trout from Ruth Lake, are still swimming in their respective rivers. Oh wait a minute; I did kill about a three pound squawfish on the Eel near the mouth of upper Twin Creek.

I have also caught up on most of my deferred maintenance (Honey-do’s) over the last couple of weeks and completed the wiring and installation of my wife’s Christmas Village, a three day job - ERE

Carol said...

We have oaks on the east coast and we call these things "puff balls", because if you stomp on them they made a puff of smoke.

ross sherburn said...

i've been called an "oak ball" a couple of times in my life!

ross sherburn said...

am i going loony??i thought there was another puff ball thread going on????