On the evening of May 13, the Oakland Standard hosted Hay Fever, an event about Californians' relationship with the land. The concept for the event, and most of the presenters, hailed from Nevada City, California, an old mining town in the Sierra Nevada foothills that many consider the heart of the contemporary back-to-the-land movement.
Like a growing number of urbanites, and like several generations before them, the back-to-the-landers in Nevada City are interested in crafting an alternative way of life by reclaiming the skills and traditions—pickling, building, sewing—associated with a bygone era.
The event announcement promised, "Learn (almost) everything you need to know to escape civilization." Not quite, but classes covered the construction of simple domes, how to make rope from twigs, and "wildcrafting," which is to forage from nature in a way that sustains local ecologies. Matt Berry demonstrated how to make a small fire in the palm of your hand, Starlight Compost explained how laborious it is to shave the fat off a buffalo's neck before tanning the hide, and Joe Meade raved about the wonders of lacto-fermentation. Other presenters discussed the history of mining in California, the real versus perceived dangers of wild animals, and the biography of John Olmsted, an impassioned California naturalist inspired by John Muir.
The event also included square-dancing lessons amid bales of hay, and a rousing set of music from the eleven-person Ethiopian jazz band Sun Hop Fat. After signing a skull-and-crossbones disclaimer, guests were allowed to sip illicit homebrew concoctions.
Hay Fever was organized in collaboration with students in the Curatorial Practice Program at California College of the Arts, and with support from the FOR-SITE Foundation.
Scroll down for a full schedule of the Hay Fever festivities and video documentation in mock Super 8.
As evidenced in these photos of the event, happenings were dispersed throughout the Museum.
7:00pm - 7:30pm
Rope Making & the Acorn Wonder
Separate wood to weave rope and learn the related techniques that are used to harvest acorns. Includes a sample of acorn bread.
Teacher: Matt Berry
Nature Isn’t Your Friend
Take stock of all the animal attacks that can happen in nature, and be assured that they probably won't.
Teacher: Douglas Long
Learn the philosophy and practice of wildcrafting. Includes instructions on creating an herbal apothecary with native plants and a skin cream demo.
Teacher: Rachel Berry
7:30pm - 8:00pm
The Whole Earth Catalog & Alternative Structures
Discuss the cultural tide epitomized in the popularity of the Whole Earth Catalog, first released in 1968, and contemporary interest in DIY architecture.
Teacher: Lloyd Kahn
Pan for gold and learn the history of various California gold mining techniques and their lasting impact on the land.
Teacher: Pete Barnett
Lacto-Fermentation with Cukes
Become expert at a traditional pickling technique that uses a brine solution (no vinegar!) and delivers a healthy dose of pro-biotic bacteria.
Teacher: Joe Meade
8:00pm - 8:30pm
A Story in Pictures by Hank Meals
In 1969, Hank Meals moved with his young family to the California San Juan Ridge. His photographs document their efforts, and those of his community, to create a self-reliant way of life from scratch.
Teacher: Hank Meals
Animal Hide Fashion
You've raised your livestock and butchered it, but there's more: tan the hides and stitch some clothes.
Teacher: Starlight Compost
A Couple of Johns
John Muir influenced generations of naturalists, including John Olmsted, an ecologist and conservationist who dedicated his life to protecting California land and building a trans-California hiking trail.
Teacher: Jason Rainey
MUSIC & DANCE
6:30pm - 7:00pm
7:00pm - 9:00pm
8:00pm - 9:00pm
Square Dancing Lessons with Jordan Ruyle and the Squirrelly Stringband