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: