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I woke up at around 6:30 on our first full day. Emily was enormously amused by my hand-grinding my coffee every morning, but please. Just because one is traditional does not mean one is a savage. Even if one has multiple chins when not awake enough to pose properly.
At 7, someone walked through camp announcing the “7am wake-up call!” so that everyone could make morning circle–a time for general announcements and for instructors to describe their classes for the day and where they’ll meet. I had planned to take a food preservation class with Emily, but Lily reeaaaaallly wanted to take the pottery class and I had to be there for her to take it. Not without griping, I agreed and we joined Julianna and Grace under the pottery tent. Lily stayed interested just long enough for me to get too dirty to back out, then she flitted off. It was okay, though, I really enjoyed playing in the mud.
After I’d worked on the abandoned pinch bowl for something like 40 minutes, getting it just so, Lily came dancing back in and said, “Hey, is that the bowl I made?” She decorated it(AND mussed it up. hmpf) and I moved on to make a little oil lamp that would be my own, since she was clearly going to claim the bowl.
We headed back to our sites to have lunch. I spent a bit more time setting up. I am a genius, as we all know, and I came up with the best camp idea EVER. I have tons of those 12×12 metal grid panels that you use to make storage cubes. I have them for making guinea pig cages, but I swear use them for everything from garden trellises to drying racks. I brought a stack of grids and some cable ties and constructed kitchen shelves so that I didn’t have to live out of a tub all week. I even had enough to make cubes to stash our clothes in! I’m just that cool. Emily took a pic of Michael and I (her sister-wife) on the compound:
My tents are those green and orange ones and you can see my shelves on my side of the kitchen. Re: the kitchen: Next year, we’re bringing an EZ-Up shelter so that we don’t have to cook on our knees. AND more cube thingies.
Michael is wearing overalls because HE took a “braintanning” class. Now when I saw “Braintanning” on the course list, I figured it for some kind of New Age mumbo-jumbo about expanding consciousness and/or realizing one’s potential. I forgot where I was going. Like Tobias and the Blue Man Group. Turns out, it means tanning a deer hide with boiled deer brains. Who knew? Before the Gathering, the instructor buried the hides for a month or so, so that the hair would begin to rot off. That made it easier to scrape clean.
That’s not a pee stain, it’s “deer juice.” Oh my lord the smell. I must say, though, that after the several day process of skinning and tanning he had a butter soft hide. Now he has an eye out for road kill (since he’s an urban vegetarian). There was a lot of hide-based instruction going on. There was a fur-on class that was dealing in very wee pelts like chipmunk. I’m not particularly troubled by hunting, but it took some getting used to for my kids. The crowd there was hunters and gatherers. Either folks that killed their own meat or folks that didn’t eat meat at all. Honestly, if it wouldn’t utterly scandalize my kids, I’d be interested in some of the tanning myself. I could ROCK a chipmunk bikini.
That afternoon, I started my natural wool dyeing class. I was the only student. Luckily, we combined forces for wool-washing with the wool felting class. That class had several guys in it, which came in handy for the enormous amount of water schelpping that was needed. My instructor, Molly, had about two fleeces for us (one white, one grey) and Joe, the felting instructor, had a fleece. We had to get them clean, which involved heating great tubs of water over the fire. No running water, remember, so it had to be lugged up from the lake. It came in handy to have strapping lads to hand. And I am not above playing the crone card. Really, they were very nice boys and never once grumbled about hauling what was probably 40 gallons of water up from the lake. Dreadlocks, bone through the ear, tribal tattoos and scarring, bad teeth b/c there’s no dental care off the grid, but really the salt of the earth, kind and helpful, funny and smart. I hope their mommas are proud of them b/c they are lovely men. If stinky.
ANYway. Our wool was particularly dirty and required a hot water wash and two hot rinses to be clean-ish.
That first bucket has had a first wash, but will eventually get to look like that second bucket which has had a wash and two rinses. The third bucket is the grey, which has had a wash and one rinse. After getting it clean, we had to AGAIN heat up water and put one fifth of each fleece into one of five “mordants.” In brief, they are powdered metals that will allow the dyes to bond with the wool and not fade over time. We used alum, chrome, copper, iron, and tin. Traditionally, one could use a rusty nail or a tin can, but Molly wanted to be certain we got good results and used powders she’d gotten on-line. For my part, I tried not to think about the effort I’d expended getting heavy metals out of my son’s body and plunged in. At least it wasn’t mercury, right? Although it would probably make for lovely dyes….
The process took so long that we missed evening circle, so I didn’t get to hear everyone’s introductions. We were camped very near a group of young families that intrigued us. Most of their tents were homemade and their sons were wearing loin cloths. One of the dads we called Buckskin Brad b/c he wore a buckskin suit and looked like Brad Pitt.
It turns out that they live together in an “intentional community” (commune) and seldom come off their property. Again, you’d expect my snark to kick in, but again, lovely people. Great parents, amazing kids (you should see little Yarrow up there chop firewood with an axe!), not at all smug or judge-y. And if they aren’t judging me for being a resource consuming fatass, who am I to judge them? Oh, okay, I’d totally judge them anyway, but really? totally nice.
After putting the wool to bed, I headed back to camp and enjoyed the fire the kids had started. Totally Ben’s favorite part of the trip–starting fires. I finally let him have the knife that Uncle Bill gave him several years ago and let him get a flint and steel, so he was in full on Mountain Man mode. Steve brought marshmallows in from the Big City when he came to visit, so there were ‘shmallows all around. And the stars. Oh my word, the stars. never have I seen so MANY. How could one even spot a constellation in all those stars? We turned in around 9, tired, and feeling much better about the whole thing.
Random photos from Day Two:
In a nutshell–can’t wait to go back next year. I loved it, the kids loved it, Steve will learn to love it. Probably.
For those who weren’t paying attention, we went up the the Traditional Ways Gathering near Ashland, Wisconsin on the Bad River Indian Reservation. It is far away from here. Initially, we thought we’d split the trip more or less in half and crash with relatives in Ohio. In the end, though, we realized it would make more sense to drive as long as possible on the first day so that we didn’t arrive too tired to set up camp. Each kid had an ipod loaded with songs and books, Steve and I had a stack of Terry Pratchett books on CD and one actual book we had started on a previous trip. I read that until my voice gave out (didn’t talk normally for about 2 days) and then we switched to CDs. It makes the trip bearable, having funny books and silent children. We aren’t afraid to stop a lot to stretch legs, get drinks, etc, so it does add on some time, but well worth it in mood. Going in, we decided to go North at Michigan, cross the Upper Penninsula, and enter Wisconsin at the top. We arrived at the top of the MI mitten around dinner time. It was really nice to see the terrain change to Aspens, birch, and pine. We have the occasional sad, straggly birch in someone’s yard here, but they really are at their best in great numbers. So pretty.
I remembered the Mackinac bridge from a childhood trip as terrifying, but we crossed into the UP without terror. It is a seriously long bridge–the longest suspension bridge in the world, I think?–but I’ve become jaded crossing the Chesapeake to Delaware. St. Ignace, on the end of the UP is so cute you could die. It looks like time stopped in about 1964. There are very few chains of any sort. Most of the fast food appears to be something called “pasties.”
If we hadn’t just had a heavy and somewhat nasty meal down on the mainland, I’d have checked them out. Emily says I didn’t miss anything, that they’re just mediocre, poorly cooked dough w/vegetables (or meat) inside. But still, they were EVERYwhere, so I was curious. Note the great sign. Googie signs were the norm, with lettering of fake birch logs a close second. Lots of Native American kitsch, like gift shops with tipis on top. Sadly, it was late, so we didn’t stop in here:
Most interesting to me was that almost all the motels were the kind that drifters live in in these parts:
Look! It even has color TV!
I didn’t take these pics, as it was nightfall when we were coming through. Bless the internet. So we didn’t stay at THIS motel, but one that looked just like it (and really? It may have been this one, I don’t remember the name and they all looked much the same). By us, a motel that looks like this usually has a rusted out pick-up truck and a Nova with one red door parked in front. Here, it was just normal traveller cars. Steve was willing to push through until he dropped, but realized that we might not find an open motel office at 2 am, so we stopped around 11. The eNORmous guy in the office (so big he wheezed when he moved. And was surrounded by bags of snacks like he was Comic Book Guy) seemed happy to see us and when Steve asked how much a room was he said, “….50?” So Steve wisely asked to SEE said room, to make certain the blood stains were mostly scrubbed up. But they were perfectly clean, almost big enough to turn around in, and not so perfumey that I got a migraine. Just a wee headache. I left my pillow there by accident. grr. But in all, well worth 50 bucks.
Oh, the other thing they have on the UP? Bugs.
I still need to wash that off and give it back to Bev…
We ate at a little local place for breakfast, not particularly good, but the people were nice and had that cute accent. Then we set off across the rest of the UP. did you know that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is 900 miles long? Neither did I. But it totally is. And unless you are in one of the 5 cute little towns, it is nothing but trees. And if you miss your turn and head South instead of West, it is even longer. I swear the second day seemed twice as long as the first, but we finally made it to the camp around 2.
It looked like rain, and we still had to go check Steve into his bed and breakfast (he forgot his wallet at home, so I needed to come along and prove he wasn’t an axe-murdering identity thief who fancies small Northern Wisconsin towns) and buy some groceries. Emily showed us where they’d saved us a spot, and I slapped the tents up and shoved all of our crap into them in case it rained while Steve and I were out. Then I abandoned the children with people they barely know and went shopping.
Steve’s B&B was aDORable and I got to use a flush toilet one last time. Bye bye running water! We went in to the local co-op and got the eggs, milk, and cheese curds that are crucial to any camping trip. Ashland is a cute town, hard to tell if it’s coming or going, though. It has that poverty/hipster mix that can throw you. Pawn shops and art galleries.
We got back (where WERE you!?!) and I set about the odious task of setting up camp from chaos. it was hot and it made me cranky. Ben and Ezra (our camp mates were friends from Minneapolis [that I met on the interwebs], Emily, Michael, Grace,and Ezra) couldn’t get along for 5 minutes, everyone wanted me to tell them where something was, the kids were changing clothes to get in the lake and then again when out, giving me the wet sandy things…I felt like maybe I’d made a huge mistake.
Evening Circle made me feel a bit better, making it feel like I was really at this place I’d been looking at pictures of for months. I still felt a bit off, though. Steve took his leave after the circle and I tried to just enjoy the campfire on the beach. We turned in around 9:00 and I fell asleep to some podcast or other, still feeling like it was going to be a loooong week.
We’re headed off to hippie camp on Saturday morning. It will be about 18-19 hours of driving over two days, followed by 5 nights of sleeping on the ground, followed by two more days of driving. And then school starts on Monday. WHEE! In truth, I think the camping will be fun. We’re meeting friends there and I expect the kids will love the roaming about the beach and woods with a mob of kids. I plan to enjoy having the kids occupied.
But oh, the amount of crap we have to pack. And by “we,” I mean “I.” Steve is in a work frenzy (in fact, he’ll be working from a hotel room while we camp…or so he claims), and those who allow children to pack deserve what they get. Really, it isn’t a whole lot more stuff to pack for a week than it is to pack for a night, but the extra cooking stuff and food does add to the bulk. plus it will be chilly at night, so we need a bit more blanket. Yeah, we don’t have sleeping bags. I want down comforters and quilts when I sleep. We’re borrowing a “clamshell” to stick on top of our van and hold the overflow.
Oh, the van! I took it in for a massive overhaul on Tuesday. Over a thousand bucks in repairs. As I’m driving home, the brakes begin to make godawful noises. Which get worse. So back in it went this morning. 90 min later, they tell me it’s fixed, that the drum brakes on these 99-01 Odysseys are very hard to get back on “just so” so that the worn spots match up or some such. I leave, and half way home it starts again. I go back. They take it out at a fast clip and notice that one of the wheel bearings is going. So. New bearing. New brake drums and shoes. Seems like we just bought a beat-up old van for 1500 bucks. And it’s full of garbage.
When we get back, I have to start sewing non-stop b/c I have a booth at the Middletown Heritage Days. Seemed like a grand plan back in March or so. I have rather a lot of bags to make.
So, hopefully I’ll be back with good stories and pictures in a week or so…
I have a Nerf dart. Come get it because you are hungry. Look, it’s a dart. It’s made of Nerf and is delicious. I have it for you. Come quickly. I have a dart.
The food used to be in the room in the upstairs. It was with the water and the Shame Box. One day it was gone. Now there is food in the People Food Room. It is with the water. The Shame Box is in the room with the People Shame Bowl. The downstairs food is good. But my upstairs tummy is empty. so empty.
Will you sit down soon? I would sit on you if you did. Are you going to sit now? I’ll be right here. now? I will sit on you if you sit. So will you sit soon?
Would you like to smell my bottom?
Hi. My name is Maggie. I live here.
It’s getting too easy to not post. I blame Facebook. I get into this slump and it becomes hard to post at all. So I’ll just throw this out there…
We missed 2 of the 5 meets b/c of the play. Julianna really enjoyed swim team this year, Ben would enjoy it more if we had night swimming. He’s not a fan of the 8 am practice and the 7 am meet. Julianna’s practice isn’t until 9, so she does okay. For the last meet, we had to be up at 6 am after having had a play performance the night before and getting home at 11:30. They then had another performance that night. Ben says he fell asleep twice backstage, bless ‘im. When we came in to the Sunday matinee show, the stage crew all asked if he was better. Apparently the story had grown until he was throwing up and had to be helped to the bathroom. He was pretty amused to find this out. Anyway, a few pics:
Swim team really is the ideal sport for the sport-loathing parent. You only have to pay attention when your own kid is swimming and even then only for a minute at time. If only you didn’t have to wake at 6 am…