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Lily’s birthday party was yesterday.  Once again, I was staggering through a kid party feeling like crap.  Frankly, I’m done with the not feeling well.  This time, I’m rocking the kidney pain and general trunk-centered ill-health.  Luckily, birthday parties for seven year olds are pretty easy to pull off on a nice day.

She went with a vaguely dog-related theme,  so I made a few goodie bags so that I could put the photos on the emergent Goodness Gracious website (I swear, we’re still working on that):

And I finished the girly-colored Happy Birthday banner (Janet has the more neutral one):

Once all the guests arrived, I had them color in a shrinky-dink tag to put on the dog collars I’d gotten them.  Of course, the test shrinky-dink worked perfectly and then when I baked the girls’, they came out…ruffly.

Then they decorated their “dog bowls”

Then cake–yes, purchased cake.   Between the kidneys and the gluten intolerance, I just wasn’t feeling the need to make a Super Mom cake this time.  Of course, she was more than happy to order an ice cream cake from Brusters:

Then pressies:

She got a LOT of art supplies, which is welcome as she does a LOT of art projects (i.e. strewing of art supplies around the dining room).

Then the pinata, which was a cereal box I’d cut the front and back panels from and covered in tissue paper and wrote “Puppy Chow” on.  No photos, but I assure you it was not exciting.  Of course, there were 8 party girls and 3 boy sibilings around, so after the mad scramble I had to say “Okay, everyone STOP!  Now put all the candy in the middle and I’ll divide it equally.”  In the end, each kid had a very reasonable 4 or 5 piece of candy.  Among those candies were “candy sticks,” otherwise known as “candy cigarettes that don’t have the red tip and don’t come in an overtly cigarette looking box, but which fool no one.”  That’s Ben’s favorite candy, of course, so I didn’t think twice when I saw them at the Dollar Store.  Then I saw the girl gang and thought, “Hm…it’s possible that not everyone will think this is hilarious…”  But really, look:

Smoking is so far outside the realm of what people are allowed to do that pretending to smoke is not much different than…well, the running around with Nerf guns that the boys were doing.

So, I get them some little fake liquor bottles and we’re all set, right?  Oh, how our standards fall as we age and our children become numerous…

Anyway.  I have a booth at the Middletown Heritage Days festival on Saturday.  I’m already behind on the number of bags I wanted to have done, thanks to my body’s utter betrayal.  I’m going to disappear into the sweatshop, though, and try to get some more done.  Of course, it’s also Fair Week, which means I’ll be obligated to take the kids one afternoon each.  I’m not feeling the fair this year, so you know I’m a mess.  Of course, I can’t eat any yummy fair food, so what’s the point?  WHAT IS THE POINT?  pity me, for I am pathetic.

I’m sure I’ll be back with fair photos at some point….


Lily is seven today.  Seven years ago, I started making some peach jam, in the hopes that starting a long project would bring on labor.  And it did!  Also, I missed the Sopranos season premiere.  AND it was the only year I didn’t make it to the county fair.  But worth it, really! I swear!  Just lookit:

(no particular order, as the photos are just all over the place on my computer…)

nursing her baby

nursing her baby

And Today!

So we got back from camp the night before school started.  Even so, I managed to find my camera and get the obligatory shot:

7th grade, 2nd grade, 4th grade

7th grade, 2nd grade, 4th grade

I once again have a kid on each floor of the school, as Julianna moved into the middle school and Ben moved up to the Upper Elementary.  You can see that First Day of School is a day to break out the finery around here…Of course, we’d just spent a week without bathing, so the fact that I got them clean the morning before at a hotel in Indiana really seemed like enough.  Ben changed, which is something.

Here is last year:

theyre totally going to kick your butt.

they're totally going to kick your butt.

and Lily’s first day of K!


Lily’s first day of school EVER, and look at tiny Ben!


2005, which seems like yesterday, but LOOK at them:

sorry they're sideways.  Too lazy to import to Flickr and then twist it.

sorry they're sideways. Too lazy to import to Flickr and then twist it.

That’s all I could find…enjoy.  I’ll be sitting here sobbing.

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?  Friday dawned cold and rainy again.  As I mentioned in the last post, it really didn’t matter, we just put on a fleece or wool outer layer and went about our business, but we were beginning to worry about having to break camp in the rain.  Packing up wet gear makes an unwelcome task all the more wearying.   By this point, I had clothes lines strung all over the place, including inside the tents, trying to get things dry-ish.  The view over the tarp, at the lake:

The sea was angry that day, my friends.  Like an old man at a deli trying to send back soup.

"The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man at a deli trying to send back soup."

You can see the clothes hanging, behind Lilys head

You can see the clothes hanging, behind Lily's head

The choppy waves called to the kids.  The temps has warmed a bit.   Still not warm enough that *I* was willing to get in, but it seems kids are okay with breaking a bit of ice to get wet, if need be.  Apparently Lily was running with a pack of boys by this point.  Emily took these photos and I didn’t even know about this until I saw her pictures.  That was the Very Best Thing at the Gathering–we were all free to come and go as we pleased and while I did still have to feed everyone, it’s really not that long until that’s not a problem, either.  The older girls cooked for themselves and the younger kids could get their own snacks.  But each person was responsible for his or her own entertainment.  And believe me, it is nice to get a break from having to be certain there is someone to talk to Lily every moment of the day.

And another set of wet clothes goes on the line.

Julianna and Grace got on their suits–because  they are GOOD girls– and pretended it was warmer than it was, if not completely successfully:

Grace is a full year older than Julianna.  Nature is weird.

Grace is a full year older than Julianna. Nature is weird.

Lily switched to a suit and joined in

I didn’t take these pictures, either, b/c I don’t do so well watching my kids in the waves.  I remember all too well that feeling of being knocked under and tossed around, not really knowing which way is up…shudder.  But Michael, in addition to being a nurse, has trained as a lifeguard.  Really, don’t go camping without him.

While this was going on, Emily and I headed over for “Amazon Archery.”  It was a time set aside for the womenfolk to come learn archery, if they were disinclined to play with the boys.  in our case, it was a time when we didn’t have another class in the way.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to remove a breast to be an Amazon archer.  I did, however, have to remove some layers.  I arrived wearing a sweatshirt over a tank and nylon pants over sweatpants.  That outer layer had to come off in the suddenly warm sunshine in the clearing.

Nan, one of the founders, I think, was instructing us.  She has that infectious enthusiasm that made all my instructors good, and this aMAZing laugh.  Think Tom Hulce in Amadeus.  It was like crack for me, I kept trying to make her laugh so I could hear it.  I hadn’t shot an arrow since high school gym class, but I remembered liking it and not totally sucking at it (which, in high school gym class, was a nice change for me.  Also, nice to have a weapon when stuck with a bunch of annoying jocks).  Here is Emily, me, The Lady Who Never Smiles or Gives Up her Spot, Heather who makes awesome raw food, and a girl who was QUITE smitten with archery and also was loathe to give others a turn (but it’s far less annoying in a child).

that’s Nan over Emily’s left shoulder.  My stance did improve shortly after that, but I’d lost my photographer (Julianna and Grace showed up after their swim.  But then THEY wanted to shoot, too).

There was but one person who annoyed me at the Gathering.  It was all my “stuff,” she was jut being herself…but I wasn’t fond of that self.  She was the only person wearing make-up.  Her homespun rough woven pullover said “Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas” on that back.  Really.  And, bless her, she opened all of her announcements at Circle with a poem.  Also, she does puppetry.  Further, she brought her guitar to the archery area and sang about whatever was happening or was said.  As if she were a character on Saturday Night Live.  And, seriously lady, put on a bra.  You make my shoulders hurt just looking at you.

Oh!  And as if that weren’t enough to make me cranky,  she also said, “Oh, are you Lily’s mom?”  Yes, and Julianna’s.  “Oh, I adore Julianna, [this woman taught a journaling class that Julianna loved], she’s a gifted writer.  I hope you are nurturing her gift [said with just a bit of accusation in the tone, like she suspected I’d stomped on all the pencils in the house to keep her from doing that brainy stuff].”  I assured her I am.  “That Lily is certainly spirited, in her own way.”  I’m used to people being amazed by Lily, so I just assumed she was another fan.  No.  “While I was teaching Earth Journaling, Lily came in and punched [my son] in the stomach and pulled [my daughter]’s hair because they wouldn’t come play with her.”  Yes, that certainly sounds like my little felon.  But whatever.  “As a parent I know that *I* would want to know so that I could address it.”  I think I managed a tight smile.  But mostly I went over to Emily and said “she is totally tattling on Lily.”  Emily agreed that that really didn’t much like Lily.  Grr.  But really that was the ONLY negative thing I heard from anyone about anything.  And it was from someone who was already annoying the crap outta me, so I let it go.

After Archery, back in the waves.  Julianna and Keelin, Grace is out of frame

here’s Grace, in maybe my favorite picture all week:

Shortly afterward, I sent Julianna to get some lake water so that I could wash dishes and she got completely drenched.  Again.  In that heavy sweatshirt.  Sigh.

That night we had a potluck.  Best. Potluck. Ever.  So much good food–and of course camping makes everything taste better anyway.  Michael made a wild rice and wild mushroom risotto that made everyone moan.  I made a tasty lentil salad.  The dishes were mostly either vegetarian or venison.  Lots of hand-harvested stuff.  Soooo good.  We joked that the Gathering was made up of hunters and gatherers.  Either vegetarians or hunters.But we all clearly loved food.  Mmmm.  Before we ate, one of the council members smudged the area–a Native American purification and blessing type thing–and made an offering plate.  She placed a teeny bit of each food onto a piece of birch bark (took forever b/c there were so many dishes) and placed it onto the ceremonial fire.  Once the gods were fed, the rest of us got to eat.

you see, Lily, Hershey bars are a very important part of the Traditional diet.

"you see, Lily, Hershey bars are a very important part of the Traditional diet."

Sure they LOOK like Oreos, but their made of deer scat and milkweed.

Sure they LOOK like Oreos, but their made of deer scat and milkweed.

It was hard to realize it was all coming to a close, so I ignored that part, as I do.  There was singing and dancing at the fire that night.  The 20 somethings were doing acrobatic stuff in the shadows (no, really, like balancing and two-person somersaults).  I saw all this when I did my nightly “where is Lily?” round up.  Where did she turn up this time?  At the tent of the Poetess.  I do hope she didn’t batter those poor children too terribly.

Next morning, I started breaking camp, grateful for the Friday afternoon sun.  I headed over to morning circle at 8, still in my jammies.  Emily captured our advanced level of dishevelment:

Emily and I

The closing circle involved each person getting to speak and I had work to do.  It was getting rather too close to the Poetess’ turn and lord knew I couldn’t stay for THAT. My eyes might roll clean out of my head and into the dirt and we didn’t have fresh water to wash them off.

So, a last look at camp:

and break it all down.

Steve showed up and we loaded up and were out by 11:30.  On the road and away.  This time, we went south through Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.  Things of note: the convenience stores in Illinois have sharps containers in the bathrooms, for the disposal of used needles.  I’m assuming diabetes and not heroin.  So widespread, there are sharps containers.  Damn.  Also, what is with all the toll booths Chicago?  Just hit us up for 10 bucks at once, please, instead of making us slow down ever 2 miles.

We needed to stop for the night around South Bend, IN.  Turned out to be moving-in day for Notre Dame and some other school that was there. St. Marys?  So we had to go a couple more exits.  We ate the next morning at a local place the hotel desk girl recommended.  Their gimmick?  FOUR egg omelets.  In fact, four eggs was the standard for all the dishes.  I got a “skillet” which was not unlike KFC’s Sadness Bowl,  and had FOUR eggs, a pound of cheese, a bag of potatoes and some other crap.  it easily could have fed two, if not three people.  Shocking no one, the clientele was…large.  hence, the sharps containers.  Lord.

We got home around 8 that night.  Everyone to bed for the first day of school the next day.  The trip was pretty easy, praise ipod and audio books.  I miss it all terribly and cannot wait to go back.

Brief break before the last Camp installment.  I wanted to update folks about my health or lack thereof.  In the week after returning from Camp Bliss, I found out that I was both gluten intolerant and packing kidney stones.  I’ve had ongoing GI issues which my doc’s office wanted to treat by giving me anti-acid drugs.  I’m funny about wanting to know WHY there’s a problem before conceding to take drugs to mask the symptoms.  Imaginary friends have been urging me to take a GI test from Diagnos-techs b/c it’s super complete and tests for everything from h. pylori to lactose intolerance to giardia.  However, doctors have to have an account with them to order the test, so I had to cheat on my office and take up with a new guy.  but I got my test, dammit.   I pooped on plastic wrap and I spat into a tube and I mailed it off (bad job: opening those boxes).

Turns out I am gluten intolerant.  And not just a little bit, like “hey, maybe cut down on the bread, dude.”  I am tin shack in the back swamps of Mississippi intolerant.  Deliverance intolerant.  Also, I have but the tattered remains of an immune system in my gut.  Whee!  So I’m on a super pro-biotic protocol and avoiding gluten like the poison it apparently is.  No bread, no pasta, no fun.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, I was up all night Wednesday night, moaning and shuffling from bed to toilet to couch to toilet.  Terrible back pain, constant need to pee.  Oh yes, kidney stone.  Trip to the ER on Thursday, blessed, blessed pain meds, and….nothing.  The scan showed that the stone causing the trouble is 6mm, which is like the Hope Diamond of kidney stones (I win at Calcium Deposits!) and that it was about 2/3 of the way down the ureter.  I was to expect some more “discomfort” (oh, is that what we’re calling it?), and was given some lovely percoset.  However, I was cured by diagnosis.  I took some ibuprofen at home and that was it. No pain.  Also: no stone.  I’ve been peeing into a bucket ever since and nothing.

Saw a urologist today.  When I said that maybe I’d missed it, he assured me that no, I’d know it if it passed and I’d “hear a ping.”  But he also said that the opening to the bladder is only 4mm and he doesn’t think it can get through.  So he started pressing on my back and my sides, clearly expecting me to wince b/c he said “doesn’t his hurt?”  no.  “Well, I don’t know WHAT is going on.” he says.  Love that.  Also, he said “how much soda do you drink?”  None, ever.  “iced tea?”  Nope.  I have one cup of coffee in the morning and a glass of wine some nights and other than that it’s water.  “Do you drink a lot of water?”  My pee looks much the same going out as it does going in.  loads.  “Then this should’t happen to you.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I told him about the gluten dx.  “Ooooohhh, ” he said, “then that’s it.”  The leaky gut, caused by the gluten, makes it so that my body does not absorb minerals correctly.  Calcium meant to go elsewhere ends up forming stones (so I can now expect all my teeth to fall out and my bones to break, I assume).

So he sent me away for a week.  Keep peeing.  then get another scan to see if it’s still there.  he doesn’t seem to think there’s any way it’s NOT there, but cannot figure out why I’m not all sore if it is.  I’m hoping God has called it home.  But if, when I go back, it’s still just squatting there, I will face a decision about whether to zap it and pass the bits or have him go in there and get the little devil (and its smaller friends).  The second option apparently involves leaving a stint in my ureter which “will cause some discomfort for a few days.”  Discomfort my hairy yellow butt.

so.  I’m glad that my falling apart bits all seem to have one cause.  And I’m annoyed that I didn’t get this test back in Feb when I first started noticing all the GI stuff.  And I’m irked that it was such work on my part to get it in the first place.  And I’m grateful for friends who told me what to do and pestered me until I did it.  And for modern medicine, however flawed, that has diagnosed and given me pain meds when I need them.

And then I stopped taking notes in my journal for two days…The next two nights were stormy and cold and we went to bed SO tired that I didn’t even write, so I’ll have to piece it together as best I can.

Wednesday morning, I took a botany class.  LOVED it.  Joe, the instructor, showed us how to use a botany key.  He had a piece of a black currant bush and taught us how to use the diagnostic key to identify the plant.  It was like a treasure hunt flow chart.  Are the leaves simple or lobed?  Simple.  Are they toothed or smooth?  Smooth.  Large or small?  and so on, narrowing down the possibilities of what the plant could be.  I found it exhilarating, oddly.  I like to know what things are called and I squirrel away bits of knowledge like a magpie with shiny.  What was funny to me was how some of the other women (it was all chicks for some reason) just couldn’t DO it.  To me, it was very cut and dried.  There are either 3 lobes or not.  It’s purple or it isn’t.  But they were clearly uncomfortable with making these judgements.  “Well, it could be purple, but it’s a bit blue, isn’t it?”  BLUE IS NOT AN OPTION!  PURPLE OR NOT PURPLE!  It was like they couldn’t close the door on a possibility.  I imagined being trapped in a board meeting with these women.  Women who can’t just say yes or no for fear of alienating someone.  Women who make the meeting go on and on and on….  Luckily, I was all blissed out so it was an amusing observation–“I think some of us are must more comfortable being judgemental!”–rather than a cause of rising blood pressure.  Eventually the Includers wandered away, but I stayed, trying to key out any plant I came across.  I have no idea how I’m going to scratch THAT itch in regular life.  Become a botanist groupie?  The important point here is that I was able to Win at Plants.

botany class.  Im in the stripey head thing

botany class. I'm in the stripey head thing

Thursday, on the other hand, I tried my hand (har) at Thai Massage.  I don’t especially enjoy a massage, but this sort looked to be lots of assisted yoga stretching and Steve had said, “Hey why don’t you take that?”  I was feeling awful that he was so miserable and thought it might get him something nice out of all this.  Apparently I had forgotten about how, when I was taking yoga, if I showed up and found that it was a partner class, I’d just leave.  When the instructor demonstrated, it looked easy enough and it looked like it would feel really good.  Then we partnered up.  Mark, the bow-making instructor, had the misfortune of ending up with me.  I was suddenly utterly unable to make my body do what I wanted it to, couldn’t duplicate the moves at ALL.  Frustration mounted.  About that time, Emily rounded the corner, realized what she was seeing, and burst out laughing.  She recovered enough to get her camera:

Shortly afterwards, a woman wandered up and wanted to join in.   I HAPPILY gave her my spot.  “I think I could serve better somewhere else.”  This was not a Win.

Wednesday night, a storm kicked up.  Word went around camp that “severe weather” was on the way from the north.  Our tents faced the north, the lake, so I turned them all around with a bit of help.  Then I panicked that I’d screwed up the footprint and that when the torrential rains came we’d all get soaked.  I packed an emergency bag, thinking that when Steve came to visit, maybe we’d go back into town with him.  He arrived, said he’d see if the B&B had an extra room.  Meanwhile, I polled the kids.  Julianna wanted to stay.  Ben and Lily wanted to go, but mostly it seemed to be to spend more time with Steve and to see the hotel.  I was of two minds.  On the one hand–being wet when you’re trying to sleep stinks.  On the other–adventure!  In the end, we decided to stick it out.  We headed to the roundhouse for square dancing (oh, how I love square dancing.  Rules!)  and went to sleep with the wind shaking the tents back and forth.

As it happened, there was little but wind.  A pittering rain, but nothing serious.  It did signal a weather change, though, and Thursday and half of Friday were wet and cold.

Wednesday photos:

impromptu game of some sort by the roundhouse.  Kids just coming together and playing.  Unaided.  Just like theyre supposed to.

impromptu game of some sort by the roundhouse. Kids just coming together and playing. Unaided. Just like they're supposed to.

I think that birchbark canoe was made in a previous year at the Gathering

I think that birchbark canoe was made in a previous year at the Gathering

Michael took out the canoe into the choppy pre-storm water

Michael took out the canoe into the choppy pre-storm water

While Michael was out at sea, Lily fell and hit her head on the concrete floor of the roundhouse.  Michael is an ER nurse at a children’s hospital, so we’d assure her that he’d be sure she was okay.  When she found that he was out in the canoe, she wailed “He’s never here when you NEED him!”  The Grace lost her mind worrying about him out in the stormy weather.  so we had both of them wailing and gnashing their teeth.  Emily and I practiced our simultaneous soothing tones and rolling eyes.  When Michael came back in, Lily said, “I don’t want him to look at my head, he’s CRAZY!”  But all was fine on all fronts and Grace and Lily played in those waves

the square dance musicians

the square dance musicians

I’m so glad I went to the square dancing.  The wind was howling outside, but we were snug and warm…okay, packed in and steaming.  It was ripe in there.  But one of the women knew how to call square dances and led us through a few.  I love it.  I do so love to move to the music, but I am deeply self-conscious and not a gifted dancer.  I still found myself apologizing to others dancers for trodding on their feet and for my inability to spin more than once w/o getting woozy, but of course no one cared and I should have just kept my mouth shut.  More opportunities, that’s what I need.  Of course, I need everyone else to be new to it too.  Can’t Lose at Dancing.

Thursday photos:

Lily, hair now French Braid Dirty, enjoys some hot cocoa

Lily, hair now French Braid Dirty, enjoys some hot cocoa

wool felting class

wool felting class

net making

net making

mud oven another class made.  The pottery was fired in here!

mud oven another class made. The pottery was fired in here!

impromptu cordage making.  I made about a gazillion bracelets out of basswood after I learned this.  Theres Emily!

impromptu cordage making. I made about a gazillion bracelets out of basswood after I learned this. There's Emily!

Ben has gone feral

Ben has gone feral

Lily with the beeswax candles she dipped

Lily with the beeswax candles she dipped

Thursday night, we went to the roundhouse to listen to Kenny Salwey tell stories about his life on the Mississippi.  He has written several books and had some some about him by the BBC.  He was a fantastic story teller.  His speech is slow and measured and he knows how to spin out a yarn.   I wish his books were on audio so I could hear him tell them all.

I went to bed that night reflecting that it is hard to choose to go out in the rain and work if you have another choice.  But if you don’t, really, you just deal.  It was surprising how the cold drizzle just wasn’t a big deal.  We just got to that place where it was the way it was and that was that.  Again, nice to be able to choose this.  Grateful to not have to sleep outside in the rain every day.  You may have noticed from the photos that there aren’t any black faces in there.  This is what Emily’s co-worker described as “crazy white people shit.”  You know you’re doing okay when you can choose to take a primitive vacation.

Rain had been threatening when we turned in Monday night, but it stayed dry.  The temperature, however, plummeted, and we woke to a chilly morning.  When I went down to the lake to rinse my Luggable Loo (perhaps the greatest camp invention EVER given that the sound of a tent zipper is, to me, the world’s strongest diuretic),  I saw a guy diving into the lake.  brr.  Fortunately, I love camping when it’s chilly and relished pulling out the fleece.

Morning circle, check the board, and sign on for a Plant Walk with Sam Thayer.

So much to DO!

So much to DO!

The plant walk was really fascinating, in no small part b/c Sam is such an engaging and charismatic guy.  He was full of knowledge and stories and clearly loves what he’s doing.  I don’t know how much of what he said actually made it into my head (and how much of it is at all relevant down here in Maryland), and I was covetous of the folks with journals.  The way they were taking notes and pressing plants into the pages looked so delightfully 18th Century.  It really does feel weird to forage.  Free food seems suspect somehow.  Partly, it’s like we’ve been trained that if it’s worth eating, we can just go buy it.  It’s hard to set your mind to eating what is around you, but I’d like to get better at it.  If you see me grazing out back, don’t panic.  I’m foraging.  I’ve ordered Sam’s book and can’t wait to learn more.  He introduced me to serviceberries, which I’d never heard of, but which he swears grow near me.  They were great!

Here he shows us evening primrose root and beach peas:

Side note, and to assure you that it really is me.  See that person hovering over Sam’s right?  With the armbands, white earrings,and sunglasses?  I called him the Indian Princess.  Yes, him.  He’s this tall, thin, multiple-tattooed dude (those armbands are tattoos) who is totally tough looking standing still.  But he has such a swish when he moves.  Totally light on his feet, he almost dances everywhere.  Of course, once I met him (real name: Eric), he’s funny and great and interesting.  And I felt bad for being judge-y.  Sigh, Wisconsin, what have you done to me?

And while we’re checking people out…I was really intrigued by what, for better term, I’ll call the beauty standard here.  I only saw one person wearing makeup. Not once–not ONCE–did I hear anyone complain about her weight or even mention it.  Even when an instructor gave an obvious set up like “put your weight behind it!” no one said “Well, I’ve got plenty of that.”  Lord, it was refreshing!  Obviously, the lack of bath house made for a grubby crew, but it never seemed….dirty, really.  The 20 somethings had kind of a Dickensian waif thing going on.  In the way that Steampunk is kind of a mash-up of futurism and Victorianism, the look here was kind of a mash of primitive/nativism and hippies. Firegranola?  Stonecrunch?  Threadbare sweaters with patches, hats so worn a sneeze could crumble them.  Frayed corduroy skirts made from frayed cord pants.  It’s clearly a fashion choice, as free clothes are not hard to come by.  Most white folks’ hair does not naturally go into dreds, it’s an intentional choice.  As it happens, when you’re 24 pretty much everything looks good on you and these folks were no exception.  I doubt it would have looked as interesting on the suburban middle-aged people (me).  But I was intrigued by this pared-down, 4 garments in a rucksack lifestyle.  There was a house on the grounds, a tiny thing with a lovely yard and great garden and chicken tractor.  It would be so easy to keep up a house that small.  There’d be so much more time to tend the garden (esp. if there was no wi fi…) and enjoy the surrounds.  I definitely felt a yearning each time I went to the artesian well on the property to fill my water jug.  I do love my creature comforts…but that looked nice too, you know?

Anyway, back to camp.  Ben had decided to make a bow, a project that kept him busy all week.

Ezra, Ben, and Ronin

Ezra, Ben, and Ronin

He didn’t finish by the end, but had worked so hard that Mark told him that he’d finish it up for him and ship it to us.  See?  The nicest people.  He really put in much more effort than I expected, and he really loved using the draw knife and the rasp and working with the wood.

Julianna met Keelin (Ronin’s sister) and they were fast friends.  I think it was a bit hard on Grace, who had known Keelin from home, but mostly they all got on.  Julianna and Keelin were joined at the hip, however.

Lily, Keelin, Julianna, and Grace, who is having none of this

Lily, Keelin, Julianna, and Grace, who is having none of this

Lily flitted from group to group and utterly reveled in having so many people to entertain her.  Bless them.

That afternoon, I returned to my wool dyeing.  It was time to add color, but our felting class had moved on, so Molly and I were on our own.  Pan, one of the lads, did pop in now and again to lug some water for us, but we had to do rather a lot of it too.  Heavy, cold, and awkward, but really very satisfying.  Not much in my life requires hard physical work and it was a nice change.  Made better by the fact that it was a choice.  If I don’t dye wool, it’s not like my children will be cold this winter.  If I don’t lug water from the lake, no one goes hungry.  It’s just a big, informative role play in many ways.  Oh right, the wool…The first color we made was with cochineal.   The ground-up shells of these wee buggies make for a red dye.  The plan was for us to put one chunk of each different mordanted wool into the red dye bath.  But we got muddled and put ALL of the alum mordant in.  We caught it fast, but even so the pink had seeped in, so that any other colors we wanted to use alum for would have a pink base.  After that, it went off without a hitch, though:

We put some of each fleece, white and grey, into the cochineal bath.  Clockwise from top left: copper, iron, tin, alum, chrome.

Then we gathered some goldenrod and cooked that up for a while (this is a seriously time-and-water consuming process.  Molly said it goes oh, so much faster in a bathtub at home) to create our yellows:

The order is the same as above, the lower right being the alum mordanted wool that had been tossed into the pink briefly. It made for a great flame color.

I can’t recall what we did on what day after this for the wool, so I’ll just sum it all up–it took three days to do the washing and dyeing.  In addition to the cochineal and goldenrod,  we tried some fern, tansy, black walnut,wild grape,  and speckled alder bark. Joe Rose, who owns the property, told us he thought the alder bark made for a purple, but it made an orangey brown.  We didn’t do the others in all the mordants b/c we had much less of those dyes.  We gathered the fern, tansy, and bark ourselves.  Molly had harvested the wild grape the year before and had brought a black walnut from home.  She had just a bit of black fleece (which is really dark brown), so we gave it an iron mordant (iron tends to make dark colors) and put it in the black walnut bath.  The drying result looks like we scalped a rasta:

wild grape in a tin mordant, the blue had added washing soda to brighten it

wild grape in a tin mordant, the blue had added washing soda to brighten it

(I think) alum/cochineal, iron/black walnut, copper/fern, alder/chrome, tansy/tin, mixed mordants/cochineal.  That little tuft is a mystery

(I think) alum/cochineal, iron/black walnut, copper/fern, alder/chrome, tansy/tin, mixed mordants/cochineal. That little tuft is a mystery

In the end, I came home with about a fleece of dyed wool.  What am I going to do with it?  EXcellent question.  I do not spin, knit, crochet, or felt.  But it looks like it’s time to learn, eh?  My goal is to make myself a colorful warm, water-resistant poncho to wear at the next Gathering. Or maybe a potholder.

After dinner that night was the Trading Blanket.  I’d prepared before leaving home, bringing a bunch of knit tubes to be worn like a Buff.  I’d envisioned an affair like a money-less yard sale where everyone would display his/her wares on blankets and we’d trade.  I knew it was all done silently, so I made a sign to explain what I had and headed for the roundhouse.  It was not what I thought.  Instead, it starts by one person putting an item for trade on the single blanket in the middle of the room.  Anyone who wants that item then brings forward something they’d be willing to swap for it.  The first person can signal that she wants more, or can just wait for a better offer, or withdraw.  It was very on-the-spot.  And slow.  And mime-y.  I decided I’d rather give my hats to folks that wanted a brightly colored hat and be done with it.  So I bailed.

Michael and I had matching hats

Ben wore his around his neck

Somehow I didn’t get a pic of it, but Keelin, Julianna, and Grace all had pink polka-dotted ones

Yes, it’s cold enough for a sweater and Grace is in a bathing suit.  As you can tell, she’s rigid with cold.  But that’s for another day…

We went to bed Tuesday night, exhausted and leaning toward a return next year.

Random photos from the day:

a happy stove

a happy stove

Brief disclaimer–my photos are a mix of those taken by me, Julianna, and Emily.  I’ve jumbled them so in my head I don’t know which is which.


September 2009
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