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.
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.
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 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:
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:
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.