Mildred’s Lane Dispatch


an indigo bunting ready for James Prosek’s taxidermy workshop

The artist/author James Prosek arrived yesterday morning and led the Mildred’s Lane Fellows in a taxidermy workshop while I surveyed the land for materials. I walked the perimeter of the property’s 90 acres and was pleased to find an abundance of beech and hickory saplings mixed in with mature white oak, pin oak, hemlock and white pine. I chose a site for my pole lathe/bodger’s shack project and recruited a few of the Fellows to begin foraging materials to begin construction.


view of the Delaware from a clearing adjacent to Mildred’s Lane


artist/author James Prosek leads a taxidermy workshop

By the late afternoon we had gathered a collection of Y-shaped branches from fallen white oak and transported them to the site. We felled a straight sapling of shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) about 24′ long, and peeled the bark with a drawknife. This will serve as the pole for the pole lathe, the springy core of the human-powered machine.


a feast of Delaware River eels and cheese smoked  by Ray Turner, the Eel Man

Some of the Fellows accompanied James to visit Ray Turner, the Eel Man, who traps and smokes eels from the Delaware upstream from Mildred’s Lane. The crew returned with smoked eels, cheese and mustard for dinner, an appropriate feast and prelude to James’ after dinner lecture entitled ‘Eels‘, the subject of his forthcoming book. The lecture/slide show was fascinating, and we learned that eels migrate from freshwater to saltwater to spawn, hundreds of miles offshore, the babies returning to their native rivers. The Delaware hosts an abundant eel population up its entire length, being one of the few remaining large rivers with no damns to hinder eel migration, enabling Ray Turner to trap the fish in his stone weirs hundreds of miles from the sea.

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