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Although we’ve all read  “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout,” we tend to let the recycling pile waaaay up.  And then fall over.  And then pile on top of the fallen-over pile.  And then we miss recycling day because it’s every other week instead of every week and we can ever remember which one it is and the truck comes at the crack of dawn and…well, there’s always a pile of cans, paper, and Amazon boxes next to the back door.

Monday, I noticed that handwritten notes on wee scraps of paper had scattered across the kitchen.  I picked them up, unsure which kid they were from, since they have nearly identically dreadful handwriting.  I saw this:

Note to Yemen

As I gathered them, I saw that they were all little notes passed at the Model UN conference Julianna attended at Johns Hopkins a few weeks ago.  She was representing Yemen on a reproductive rights panel (not a nuanced position, to be sure).

The other side of the note from Italy

The other side of the note from Italy

...PS  Come alone.

…PS Come alone.

uh, Columbia?  You're coming off a little needy.

uh, Columbia? You’re coming off a little needy.

Evidence of the Middle Eastern conspiracy

Evidence of the Middle Eastern conspiracy

"Do you like Israel?  Check one:  yes    no"

“Do you like Israel? Check one: yes no”

I don't even know what's going on here, but I like this kid.

I don’t even know what’s going on here, but I like this kid.

The fact that most of the kids have the same handwriting they had in 3rd grade, makes these all the more hilarious to me.  If I’d been able to see an i dotted with a heart, it would have been perfect.

the full pile

the full pile

I’m pretty sure the floor of the actual UN is just littered with notes like these.  It explains a lot, really.


Just back in from the 2012 Ohio Regional Packgoat Rendezvous, this year held in Ohiopyle, PA, rather than in actual Ohio.  Turns out PA is a lot closer to Frederick, MD, where the bulk of us were from.  Our goats are still little enough to share a dog crate, so we loaded up the van and loaded up the boys, and headed West.

The trip should have been just under three hours.  Sadly, Pennsylvania’s budget does not allow for road signs at intersections, so none of the roads we needed had signs on them.  We had to take the “That LOOKS like it might be right, but lets drive a bit farther and see if a more likely candidate appears” approach.  It adds some time to your trip.  Seriously, Ohiopyle, a Sharpie and some coroplast will run you about $30.  Label your damned roads.

As we arrived, rain clouds were moving in quickly, so I hustled to get the tent up and the fly on while Brian–our fearless leader–“helped” Julianna rig a high-line and tarp shelter for Tango and Jester.  Which is to say, Julianna stood very near him while he did it and then said Thank You.


We got done in time and the rainshower was very short (phew).  The kids all loaded up and went to the river and the falls.  I stayed behind to read until I dozed, waking to hear the goats being ungrateful for shade:

Their leads are not long enough for this to be at all comfortable. But they do it anyway, and fight for space.

Our Frederick 4-H group was the bulk of the campers–8 kids and 5 adults.  There was also a couple from Indiana and their two goats and Donny from WV and his three goats and dog. Fifteen people, fourteen goats.  I think.

Back from the swim, the girls (all but one kid are girls) hung out with their goats

It’s like Pony Club. For weird girls.

The next day, after breakfast, we did a short geocaching hike.

Lily, looking for the cache

Brian holds aloft the geocache box

Lily has a look inside at the various “tradables” inside

As you can see, most of the goats are not even on leads. That’s LIly in the back.

Lyndsey and Julianna walking back.

We were all a bit warm after that hike, so we decided to go back to the river for a dip.  It was…as icy as a mountain stream.  Bracing.

Marauding gang of mermaids, or, “It’s too cold to put our arms in!”

It’s like Lake Superior!

They made it to the rock in the middle. That was their goal. After that, they were good to get out and go back to camp.

We went back for lunch and then headed to the park’s amphitheater to give a demonstration about pack goats.  Donny loaned us a couple of wee dog packs for our boys.  Cutest thing ever.

Everyone in their Sunday Best. On Saturday.

Heading down to the show. “Hello Cleveland!”

The traditional Goat Drag is taking place behind Lly and Tango

Waiting their turn to go on.

Uh, Mom? I don’t think we can get down from here…

Most of the crew

After the show, we all loaded back into our vehicles (no carpooling b/c most of us had taken out extra seats to fit more gear or goats) and headed to the Natural Waterslide.  Guess what ELSE Ohiopyle doesn’t have?  Adequate parking.  Gorgeous mid-afternoon in summer?  Good luck.  After much circling and cursing, we finally all got a place and headed down to the sort of fun I cannot BELIEVE is legal.  I was just as flummoxed the last time we were there.  I’m guessing it’s not nearly as deadly as it looks, since it’s still open.  Right?

Here comes Julianna…

“Whee! Ow! Whee! Ow!”


Lily’s turn!

In addition to the slide, there is the Jumping Off A Big Rock Into A Small Hole.  The water is alternately quite deep and rather shallow, so aim was…critical.  There was a kid of about 9 or 10 there, jumping over and over.  All the giggling girls in bikinis asked him for help and guidance and to show them what to do over and over.  I suspect he comes there every. single. day.  Julianna worked up the nerve to make the jump.  I worked up the nerve to not scream “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIIIIND?!?” and Lily, whose turn it is to break a bone this summer, thankfully abstained.  phew.

It’s that mermaid gang again.

I wish pictures did this place justice.  It’s preternaturally beautiful.  Like a Disney set, it’s just a little too perfect.  The light was just a little inside-for-outside.

And unlike last time?  I was unpacked in under an hour.  It’s good to have larger, more helpful children.



We first went to the Fairie Festival in 2004.  I found out about it late, and we just jaunted up for a few hours on a Sunday.  So this was our 8th year trekking up to Glen Rock, and–as in the past few years–staying for two days.  Our entourage is different each time.  For the first time since my first trip, Chris and her girls couldn’t make it (kid in a cast).  And for the first time, our neighbor Lisa and her daughter joined us.  They came over with the Donalds so that we could get our fairy make-up on.  It was forecast to be hot and humid, so I opted to go without, but I painted some swirls on the girls.

Bev asked if I wanted to lead on the way out.  Will we never learn?  She has a bad sense of direction.  I have a very bad sense of direction.  Together, we’d get lost in our own houses.  She called me, about 5 min. in…”You’re not taking 26?” (she’s very polite.  She didn’t say “Where on EARTH are you going?”)  I realized I’d read the Mapquest directions (it’s true.  I cannot remember how to get there from year to year.  And yet I was in the lead!) wrong, so I told her to just pass me and lead us on.  It went off without a hitch after that.  “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Buffy” Musical episode sing-along in the car.  We parked, covered ourselves with sunscreen and glitter and headed in.

We had enjoyed volunteering to earn our admission fee back last year, so Julianna and I signed up again.  But we’d missed the window for the craft tents.  I got assigned the Tot Lot (quiet spot for nursing mothers and wee ones), and Julianna decided to just hang out with Molly, since she was only going to be with us one day. We started with the opening ceremony, as usual, where the Greenman talked some kids through…watering the Maypole or something?  I was busy with the “I’ll be here at this time”s so the kids could find me if they wanted to.

A mason jar full of virgin’s tears must be poured on the ground to appease the angry grass gods.

It was a low-key sort of fest this time.  Hot, but not the hottest.  The music was better than last year.  Fewer vendors, both of food and of pretty things.  The crowd on Friday was pretty light, but that’s why we go on Friday.  We met Stacey and Annika there, and stayed at their house  that night.

Lily (in the dress Brooke wore last year) and Annika. Lily and Ben couldn’t start buying snacks fast enough.

Julianna and Molly cool their toes in the stream

None of us even wore wings this year.  I started to grab an old pair at the last minute, but couldn’t make them lay right.  Wings, when you’re not a real fairy, are kind of a hassle.  But I felt a bit off without them once I got there.

My stint in the Tot Lot was very uneventful, it was late-ish in the day, and no one came by.  I think the day’s highlight was when Otter, mud-covered leader of the River Tribe tried to give Lisa, who was wearing very tidy Normal Person clothes, a hug.  We had a bit of a Braddock Heights gathering once we found Lara with Wolfgang and August and another neighbor, Wendy, with her two girls.

I don’t tower over Bev quite so much when I’m not standing on a hillock.

I don’t know these people, but I was utterly charmed by the matching paint on her babies.

August was a werewolf…until the heat got to him. There’s a reason werewolves are not a Southern construct.

Drum circle. The woman with the antlers (there’s a phrase you don’t see much!) had the whitest skin I’ve ever seen. And so much of it!

Lily, drumming

August (skinned), Wolfgang, Julianna, and Molly, at the drum circle, not dancing.

Blair and her friend, Maggie. This picture just cracked me up.

Ben, in a rare not-eating-popcorn moment

My very tired fairies, invisible wings a-droop.

We drove 20 in to Hanover to stay with Stacey for the night.  She has 3 French Bulldogs.  They look like Stitch from Lilo and Stitch or, if you’re a Thomas Covenant fan, those black puppy things that were all teeth and dense energy.  Stacey knows the owner-of-exuberant-dogs trick of saying “Wow!  He really likes you!” so that you’re flattered by being covered in dog spit and hair instead of annoyed.  Very clever, Stace, but I’m on to you.

Lily decided she couldn’t sleep on the top bunk, so I said I would.  Tip to 44 year olds of non-pixie-ish size: the top bunk is not for you.  It was about 2 feet from the ceiling and full of stuffed animals, and as soon as I got up there, I thought “I sure hope I don’t have to pee in the middle of the night…I sure have to pee.”  I’d climb back up, doze off, awaken, and think, “I sure hope I don’t need to pee again…wow, I need to pee.”  Just like camping, but with a mountainous ascent each time!

So I was tired the next day.  We had a nice visit, though, and Stacey found a willing Disney-chat ear in Ben.  The kids are threatening to swipe a credit card and go with her next time.  I bid them good luck getting much farther than Georgia on that thing.

This time, Julianna and I asked for a volunteer job we could do first thing, so that by the time Bev and her girls got there, we’d be nearly done.  We got to be “Yellow Paiges” and stand at the front gate handing out programs.  It was excellent fun, as we got to see all the costumes as they came in, I got my favorite level of social interaction (“Hey, how ya doin’?  bye!”), AND I got to work on my carnival barker skills.

“Kubiando! If you become lost or confused during your day, look for the Yellow Paiges.  The Yellow Paiges are full of information!  If there’s something you don’t know, Yellow Paiges are the way to go!” And I had some other rhymes, but they’ve already left me.  it’s a fleeting skill.

We ended up serving more than our time, as communication and timely response don’t see highly valued in the Fairie-American community. But it was fun.  Ben came up to visit us and go read the protesters’ signs.  He was so happy they were there, but disappointed that the signs this year were of the boring “Wiccans are bad” variety (for the record, not a Wiccan festival, although I’m sure there are plenty in attendance).  Julianna was handed a flyer for a “clothing optional” fairy festival “Where you can wear your wings and nothing else” was the tagline.  There’s a fairy ball (snort.  I bet there is.  And I bet it hangs lower than you’d hope) and “spontaneous drum circles.”  Also, a firehoop dancer, whom I imagine is a devout body-waxer.  And just let me state for the record: clothing is never “optional.”  Either you should or should not be wearing it.  Also, do not hand my 15 year old an invitation to a nudist ball, you creepy old dude. sometimes Mama Fairies get judgey and indignant.

Bev showed up with Brooke, Blair,and a friend, so we joined them when we finally got sprung from service.

Blair and her friend, Maggie. This picture just cracked me up.

Julianna on the bridge

Bird mask magician dude, entertaining some fairies

A rare Actually Smiling photo of me.

that’s more like it.

Ben cornered the Kettle Corn market. he had three bags of it in his pack.

Kid with a skink in his pocket. there was also a bearded dragon wearing a wee pair of wings. I always wonder what the lizards think of this whole thing. if they think, that is.

Lily and Rachel the belly dancer. She’s danced with Brooke and Lily for years. But when I try to take pictures, she reacts kind of like a peacock and starts strutting and fanning out her scarves and carrying on. I’m not trying to get YOU, lady. I want the little girl.

Cooling off in the stream before heading home.  Lily and Skinkboy

Maggie, Lily, Blair, and Brooke

And so we headed home, tired and happy.  it was Cinco de Mayo, so we couldn’t eat at our usual Mexican place on the way home, but it was just as well.  I’d have likely gone face-down in my food.  As usual, we vowed to try to have a booth next year.  This time, we’ve added the vow to bring the goats, with little goat wings and strap on horns…



Let’s wrap this up, nearly a month later, shall we?

On Friday morning, I joined the adorable Zach to make a buckskin pouch.  I’d about convinced myself that I should totally get a hide and make a buckskin hoodie.  I could dye it and then it would be more wearable in the not-Gathering world…But it turns out buckskin is a pain in the butt to sew and even more expensive than I’d thought.  Also, once you’re away from this setting for awhile, it seems less reasonable to walk around in smoky buckskin.  Like at the Renfest, where you’re sure you’d wear that pirate shirt all the time! it’s okay that it’s $150 ’cause you’ll wear it!  A lot!  And then, you get back to the 21st century and realize what a silly idea it was.  So I’m just going to go with the pouch.  It came out well and it smells like camp.

After lunch, I went on a plant walk.  Every other year, Emily and I had trailed along after Sam Thayer who write The Forager’s Harvest books.  Sam couldn’t make it this year, but Joe (of my beloved botany classes) was there for us.  It was such a funny contrast between the two.  Sam just walks along, shoving crap in his mouth as he goes.  Down on the beach, Joe showed us the beach peas and said not to eat them.  Sam was suggesting we could eat them fresh or grind the dried ones to flour or whatever.  I said something about Sam eating them and Joe replied something along the lines of “Sam eats a lot of weird stuff.” (not a quote.  He was far more diplomatic than that).  Joe’s walk was more science-oriented, because, you know, that’s his job.  I felt like I crammed a few more plant names into my head.  I learned that the trees I’d thought were birch were mostly aspen.  The fantastic rustling is Aspen.  I think I’d just decided those were all in Colorado.  I really appreciated his helping us see the little differences in closely similar plants and wished I could have spent more time learning that stuff.

I spent the late afternoon trying to read the Dungeon Master’s Guide on the beach, as making a pouch made me remember that I was supposed to lead a D&D group once I got home…It quickly became clear that my ability to learn by reading (never my strongest pathway anyway) is eroding.  I need to find a group to watch.

Michael convinced the kids they needed to go to a presentation about a proposed mine that will likely quite wreck the ecosystem there.  He thought it would be short and energizing, but it was an hour long and PowerPointy.  Even he fell asleep.  The kids were outraged that they’d left their Capture the Flag game for it.  And when it was over?  The cute boys had already gone home!

That night was the potluck.  Wonderful as usual.  It’s so nice to have a full spread of food cooked the way I’d cook it, with ingredients I’d use.  Sadly, corned venison was the weirdest thing I got to eat.  I thought I had stumbled upon a real mystery meat for a while, though.  I’d gotten some kind of ricey stew.  It was slightly sweet, spiced with desserty spices–cinnamon, cloves.  the meat was of an odd texture–dense but soft.  As I was trying to figure it out, Emily said something about a rice dish with bananas in it and it clicked: Ah, it’s dried, stewed, banana.  Not meat at all.  Hey, I’ve only been back on the meat wagon for a year.

The sunset behind the roundhouse was amazing.  I was only able to not feel despondent about leaving b/c I knew we’d be back next year.

The girls decided to sleep on the beach that night, which seemed cute.  Ben went to sleep with Steve, so the second tent was empty.  Until there were fireworks in Ashland, which the girls thought was lightning, and they came scurrying up.  And my other-side neighbors seemed to be pulling an all-nighter, too.  I got a little cranky.  I’m a stickler for quiet hours.  I’d managed to doze off, thinking the neighbors were asleep.  But no, they just weren’t home.  They rolled in and started with the ZIIIIP! and the farging air mattress pump and the talking.  I seriously would have punched them all.  Even the cute little girl.  And then the teen gals came up of the beach and chattered.  I started muttering audibly.  I heard Grace go “Hi, Deana…” but my sleep-rage was directed mostly at the adults.  I realized that the Gathering cannot be more than a week b/c you cannot sleep right next to non-relatives any longer than that and not need to strangle them. My goodwill towards my fellow man was running out.  And it was time to go home.

Saturday dawned bright and clear.  We mailed some boxes of stuff home to make room in the car for the tents.  Zach came by to say good bye and amazed us all by eating a hardboiled egg whole, shell and all.  On our trip back, we ate our eggs Zach-style.  It’s crunchy.  And no mess!

Once again, it was move-in weekend at local colleges, so we had trouble finding a place to stay, but we made it nearly out of Michigan on Day one.  We’ll not go through the UP again, though.  It’s pretty, but if you get behind a slow driver, you’re just stuck.  And we were.  So next year, we’ll just come and go through WI.  Sorry MI.

School started later this year, so the kids had a whole week between arriving back from camp and going to school.  The weather stayed dry so I could air out all our stuff before putting it away until next year.

Picture time!


For the past two years, an artist has made these amazing scultures on the beach

Pictures just can't capture it, sadly. It's all found objects, arranged and woven together

This year, he led a class in fairy house-making, helping others make smaller-scale sculptures

I find them enchanting

I would totally live here, if I were a fairy.

Emily and I at the potluck. Note my cool pouch.

Ben and his buddy Zack

Sunset behind the roundhouse. In person, it looked like the woods were on fire.

Lily gazing at the amazing Letty

My grass mat, my spoon, my earrings, my pouch, and my needlefelting

home base

Eli, Ben, and Ezra. This probably ended badly.

Michael, in the cowboy hat, helping Roach with the bent sapling structure, which was really lovely when finished

The hide tanners

Hex weave baskets that made grown women cryRoaming packs of semi-feral children

Julianna, Ezra, and Grace


I awoke Monday morning vowing to get the Nobel prize for the person who invents a silent tent zipper.  I got very little sleep, between the constant zipping up and down of my neighbors and Ben’s frequent shouting in his sleep.   Usually, it wasn’t any sort of agitation he shouted about, mostly he was just loud.  Loudly declaiming about marshmallows.  At 2 am.  ZIIIIIIIP!

My first class of the Gathering was a grass mat-making class.  Lily took it with me.  Our instructor, Dan, was a good teacher and very funny.  He’s a tobacco chewer, however, and made me grateful this is not a vice I encounter in my everyday life.  At the outset, he said “Sorry, this is the only time all year I get to do this,” and shoved some chaw into his mouth.  And then, at short intervals, spat into a juice bottle.  A juice bottle that, increasingly, appeared to contain diarrhea.   I’m all for freedom to do with your body as you please.  And hey, it’s once a year, enjoy!  But please, please, wait for the 2 hours the class takes.  I had to keep averting my eyes and a Hermione like myself is compelled to make eye contact with a teacher, so that he or she knows I get it and I’m engaged (it’s how I mask having not done the reading).  Anyway.  Lily and I made a mat each. And by “Lily and I” I mean “I made a mat for me and one for Lily.”

Dan had said that he knew people who’d made sleeping bags of grasses using the technique we learned.  These people apparently have an exoskeleton, b/c I was covered in an itchy rash by lunch time.  I didn’t have an afternoon class, so Emily and I got into the lake.  The sun was nice and warm, in the low 80s (and no humidity!  I love this place!) but the water is c o l d.  Probably around 60, Emily said.  Emily and I hung out and chatted for quite awhile.  I went to make a “chattering mouth” motion with my hand, to illustrate someone or other who was talking too much and noticed that my hand didn’t quite work the way I wanted it too.  Noticed that my arms were kind of noodly.  We remembered Joe, at the morning circle, telling us about “cold shock” and how your blood all goes to your torso to keep your organs warm, leaving you with “noodle arms.”  Turns out he wasn’t kidding.  We were never in any sort of danger, of course, since we were standing on the ground, not floating way out from shore, but it was still kind of freaky.  An enjoyable “hey check this out” kind of freaky.  As we warmed on the beach, I could feel the warmth returning to my extremities.  Lake Superior isn’t messin’ around.

Felt good, though.  I really do love that lake.  There’s an interesting lack of life (and death) that I associate with the beach.  I’d see a hole in the sand and think “crab,” but there are no crabs or critters of any kind.  No washed up bits of sea creatures or aquatic plants.  Pretty round river rocks, not shells.  The seagulls are quiet.  The water is so clear that you can see your feet in water to your neck.  And because it’s fresh water, rather than salt, when you get out you feel tingly and clean, not sticky.

Steve, you may recall, does not camp with us.  He stays here:

See the cutey little donkeys hanging around outside?  They watched him jump rope in the morning.  He camped as a kid and is done.  Also, he likes to breathe at night and needs a bi-pap to do that properly.  And that requires electricity.  So he rises to a fresh omelet made from eggs from the backyard and comes in to camp in time for any classes he wants or just to hang out on the beach or in the lake.

On Monday, he showed fairly late and we hung out on the beach, reading, until Ben showed up.  He and Ezra (Michael and Emily’s son) get on like two cats in a bag, so we had to do a fair bit of refereeing.  It really is the only tough note in our time at camp.  We’re all hoping they grow out of it…

After dinner, we went to the welcome circle.  Everyone introduces themselves and says a bit–how many years they’ve come, how glad they are to be back.  That’s always the point at which I dispel all thoughts of not coming back and vow to return until I can no longer make the drive.  It has the feeling of a family reunion of sorts, catching up,  or even just seeing the familiar faces.  Remember Roach and Amelia, who taught the raw venison jerky class last year (Roach says the maggots are okay, remember?)?  They got married and Amelia’s pregnant!  They met at the Gathering 4 years ago.  We all got a little misty when Roach told their story.  And then, after the circle, a guy came up and said “Hey, are you from Maryland?”  And I said yes.  “Where?”  Frederick.  “Me too, I live out near Detrick!”  Yes, another guy from Frederick was there.  We have no overlap that I can discern, and yet we both made the journey.  Wild.

We had to break up the games of Foot tag and Red Rover that the kids were playing on the beach so that we could trundle off to bed.  Sundown means bedtime ’round here.  They all cried “No Fair!” but by the time our lot had brushed their teeth and gone into the tents I could hear that the games were over and everyone else had gone “home” too.  I fell asleep listening to a fiddle playing down the beach, serenading the 20somethings as they danced under the full moon.  I wondered if I could have enjoyed this as much at that age.  I’m not sure I was that girl, but I sure wish I was.

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send...Zac. WHAT is on your head?"

Ben is airborn for a Red Rover breakthrough attempt

There was a light rain in the night, but Tuesday dawned bright and cloudless.  I’d planned to go into town with Steve, so I didn’t sign up for a morning class.  After Joe hauled our van out of the ditch on the side of the road (it claims many vehicles every year), Ben joined us and we headed off to Bayfield for some smoked fish.  SUCH a cute town.  I was totally ready to move there.  I didn’t take my camera and I can’t find a shot on the web that really captures it, but it was a perfect little sea (okay, lake)-side village.  It’s a fishing town, so it even smelled right and the gulls were noisy b/c there were people to give them french fries.  It’s built on hills, so it looked like Cornwall, England (my newest obsession after seeing it in the show Doc Martin) and I want to live there.  Now.  Forever.  Apparently, and of course, it is expensive.

We were on Knife Quest 2011, trying to find Ben a fixed blade knife.  He was at his usual level of obsession.  We searched everywhere and came up empty.  We soothed the pain by stopping at Tetzner’s Dairy and getting ice cream to bring back.  I can’t believe we never got a shot of the ice cream gorge, since we did it 3 times, but we were “The camp with ice cream.”  Good ice cream.  Like you’d expect to get from a Wisconsin dairy where you drive to the farm and put your money in the envelope and take the ice cream.  good.

We swam again when we got in and then made dinner.  The kids got up a rollicking game of Capture the Flag, cutting up a yellow and a red Tshirt to give everyone an arm band.  The teens, in particular, really enjoyed these games and they were playing as often as not.  I know my kids got more exercise in that week than the rest of the summer–counting swim team!  It was good to see, but it made me a little sad that there are no neighborhood pick-up games like this.  Capture the Flag was elaborate and wide ranging, with “guards” in the water and up in the camp as well as on the beach.  Kids from 6 or 7 up into the 20s were playing.

Julianna and others "in jail" waiting to be freed

The first night of the trading blanket didn’t go well for Ben.  Last year, he’d made a wooden knife and traded it for a real (if rather crappy) folding knife.  He made another one this year, even less well-crafted, and was disappointed to get no more than a cigar box and a couple of turkey feathers (“From the guy that gives you something if no one else will!!”)  It was hard to see him so sad, so often, but hopefully the good times won out.  He seemed to settle in and find a way to get along as the week went on.

After Capture the Flag, Michael and Skogin (one of the “freegans”) were grappling on the beach.  in their drawers.  We’ve teased them (and they play along) about their “bromance” and much hilarity surrounded their lake-side wrasslin’.  One kid, though, thought Skogin was a girl and was utterly scandalized that anyone would get that close to a girl.   Ew.  Like turning a hose on the dogs, though, it started to rain and we headed back to batten down the hatches, expecting a doozy.

Where are our pancakes?

Grandfather stones

Ezra crafting armpit hair for Grace

Okay, we didn’t really search for Spock.  But it isn’t really Hippie Camp.  The name really doesn’t fit, as “hippie” suggests a sort of dirty, free-loading, space cadet.  These folks may be dirty (certainly at the end of the week), but everyone I’ve met in the last three years (with a few exceptions, of course) is hard-working and sharp.  The “camp” part, though, really does fit.  After 3 years, it feels like going back to summer camp, seeing our old camp friends, playing games, doing crafts, learning new things.  I always wished I could be a kid that went to camp every summer and as an adult, I came to long for a vacation spot we returned to at the same time each year.  Once I dreamed that would be Nantucket, but life didn’t turn out that way.  It’s okay, though, because I’m quite fond of my Lake Superior family, free of Topsiders though they may be.

We rented a van again, to save the mileage on our 2001 van (and to avoid being stranded in the Upper Peninsula at midnight).  This time, we picked it up on a Thursday, to have it loaded and ready to go Friday morning.  We’re not out-at-the-crack-of-dawn sorts of folks, but we did make it off by 8:30 am.  I’d packed some mini-quiches and hard boiled eggs and seasoned nuts and such and we didn’t need to eat at restaurants.  Steve isn’t one of those push-through-and-hold-your-pee guys, so we stop a lot to stretch legs, grab a snack from the cooler, compare the rest areas of various states (Ohio wins, a far cry from the odd hole-in-the-ground stable-themed toilets from when I was a child traveling the state).  Ipods make good travelers.  My kids bicker as much as most, but they are well behaved in their own cones of solitude.  Or when they nap inside sweater hoods:

We stopped in Rockford, Illinois for the night and had breakfast the next morning at “the Machine Shed”–the restaurant Cracker Barrel is trying to be.  Yummy, hearty food.  Unfortunate overalls for the wait staff, however.  I’d have to be making BIG tips to be willing to wear overalls.

We made it to Ashland around 3:30, stopped at the co-op for some provisions, and got to camp around 4.  Our tents were set up, thanks to Michael and Emily, in our usual area.  This year, Michael rigged a great tarp for our kitchen space instead of the EZ up/EZ down. Lily was off with friends before I was even out of the van.  Michael and Emily got a new tent this year when the zipper on the old one broke (REI just gave them a new one.  REI rocks).  We got another REI tented neighbor and ended up looking like a planned camping community:


The weather for unpacking was lovely, sunny and breezy, but the skeeters were BAD.  Big and slow, which is nice, but numerous, which is not.  This was the only year we’d really used bug spray and we went through several cans.  But I don’t use it at all the rest of the year, so I’ll push those DEET worries aside. (natural repellents, you say?  the mosquitoes think you are adorable.  And delicious)  We had a group dinner (that was really meant for instructors, but hey, there was plenty!) and then sat with the kids on the beach beside the fires they’d made.  perfectly idyllic.  Too nice to even go get my camera.

Sunday morning, I made bacon and eggs from home and Emily made pancakes.  perfect camp breakfast.  It got warm pretty quickly, so we went into the lake.  It’s cooooold.  Maybe 60 degrees?  But it is refreshing for sure.  So clean that you can see your feet in water to your neck and because it’s fresh water, you don’t feel all sticky when you get out.  Tingly and alive!  There were some nice little waves to jump and then we sat out in the sun to dry.

After lunch, I went into town with Michael, Grace, and Julianna.  Grace had music to share and she had that young teen earnestness about music that I remember with a bit of a cringe.  “You have to listen to the words!”  Some horrid R&Bish rappish thing about a guy apologizing for how he treated the subject of the song and how he thought he’d seen said person but then knew it couldn’t be so…because he was DEAD.  And was his DAD, not a girl at all.  Just like an O’Henry story.  for realz.  She was disappointed in my lack of enthusiasm and punished me by making us listen to another of this dude’s songs, about his home state of Minnesota.  It contained the line “And the women are beautiful (at least I think they are).” which totally cracked me up and made her angry again.  I made some crack along the lines of “Well, it’s just nice to know that you have black folk in Minnesota.”  To which she said “Oh, he’s white!”  Which explained a lot.  It was my punishment, really, for forcing people to seriously! listen! to Beatles songs long past when they stopped caring.

I met Steve in town and we got some groceries and a knife for Ben.  He wanted a fixed blade knife, but all I could find were big ol’ Bowie knife type things, so we got the recommended folding knife.  Turned out it was NOT what he wanted, and was hard to close.  And he’s not good at faking enthusiasm.

But he will totally cut you.

Buying the wrong knife eventually led to Knife Quest ’11, but more on that later.

We went to the “Open House” for the classes being offered.  There were a lot fewer folks there this year–150, rather than 250–and that meant fewer instructors, too.  There wasn’t much that really grabbed me.  I opted to do some spoon carving and asked about making some hurache sandals, but the instructor was cagey and borderline panicked about having more people than materials.  I did not drive 22 hours to be stressed about “getting in, ” so I let it go.  Instead, I knitted on the beach, made some dinner, and chilled.  There was a Women’s Sharing Circle, and as you can imagine, I opted out.  I wish I hadn’t, though.  My fear of people oversharing kind of gets in the way of my feeling included.  Next year.

The moon rose a gorgeous deep orange, so lovely we went after cameras, for all it was worth.  Hard to take a pic at night with a point and shoot.

Julianna has a fancy-pants camera, but she hasn’t really learned to use it.  It’s like she uses a Porsche to drive from one hole to another on the golf course.  She used me as a tripod, though

Accept my butt! Before it destroys you!

Hers came out even blurrier than mine, though.

The night was still, which unfortunately brought home how hard it is to have other people about 3 feet from your head when you’re trying to sleep.  Our neighbors (in the REI Kingdome, far left, above) were NOT the early-to-bedders that we are.  I was murderous by the end of the week.

Sunday pics:

Lily, Christy, and Zora in the ever-present mud puddle

Standard scene: Emily and I cooking, cloud of children drifting around underfoot

Julianna takes a break from wave jumping

More to come…

…DOS, get it?  Day two!  It was much warmer.  Still a bit of a chill, but I switched back to my standard long hippie fairy skirt and shoes with soles that kept me out of the mud.  Saturday is always more crowded than Friday and the weather was pretty close to perfect so it was packed.  Still lovely, though.  Still peaceful.  The mid-day drum circle was too crowded to really be fun, but the last one of the day was fantastic.

We’d tried to get there at opening to get our pick of volunteer jobs.  Breakfast in our hotel, however, was a languorous affair.  Even so, we got to go back to the arts and crafts table.  this time, we got to make a LOT more wings.  Julianna and Blair made fairy monocles.  The too-young-to-volunteer folk went out to buy junk food and check back in now and again.  As usual, I left scheming how I could stay longer next time.

Opening Maypole dance.

Lily, Anika, and Brooke

Julianna and I watching a show

Cindy-lou Who eats the chocolate off a pretzel

The wonderful Sheherezade the Gypsy, who remembers us each year and greets us at the gate with warm smiles and hugs.

Oops, had the pics set small.  too lazy to go back…

Look! It's Stacey! She met us there the second day, with Anika

Me 'n' Bev. I'm a delight to have as a friend.

Annika and Lily watching the dancing

Moss Man and entourage

Lily, Ben and I spent quite a while racing leaves in the creek. Like Poohsticks, but with leaves. And cheating.

Ben up a tree

Julianna and I "dancing"--in my case, stomping rhythmically and swishing my skirt.

i much prefer drumming to dancing.

This was Day One, but I forgot it. Molly and Julianna

I loved the drum I could straddle. I missed my calling. Instead of dating drummers, I should have BEEN a drummer.

I don’t really have anything for that title.  I’ve just been cracking myself up with the notion of a Kubiandos and -don’ts list for the Fairie Festival.  This was our 7th year back to Spoutwood Farm for the May Day Fairie Festival.  We look forward to it all year.  Ben went for the first time last year and has joined us in our love of the event.  And that speaks a lot to its charm.  Ben could not care less about being sparkly or about fairies.  He really doesn’t care that much about costumes.  He likes fantasy, but that’s not the draw.  It’s just…nice.  Only at the Traditional Ways Gathering (Hippie Camp) do the kids have this atmosphere of total freedom to roam around and meet new people and see new things on their own.  No one is trying to get anything done, there’s no computer or TV, all you have to do is Be.  It’s an excellent break and recharge.  Also, I give them 10 bucks a day to blow however they’d like.

So this year, I decided I was going to change up my look.  I’ve been a Sea-themed Fairy for several years now and I like keeping the same look so that the regulars recognize me as I do them.  So I kept my rather awesome crown and came up with a new costume.  Fail.  Not only was it the first cold Fest day in anyone’s recollection (and I was in a shorter skirt and a tank top), but the look just did not work.  Which was okay, b/c I spent the whole day wrapped in Bev’s car blanket.  For day 2, I went back to my usual.  Much better.

Eh,  the particulars don’t matter.  New this year: we volunteered 2 hours each day to get our admission cost back.  Made fairy wings for wee folk, it was fun.  Even though it was hard to make my frozen fingers tie knots.  Day one, the music was kinda lame.  Every band seemed to be dulcimer-heavy with wailing lady singers.  Day two brought back some of the awesome Celtic rock sounds.  Thank heavens.  One can only take so much duclimer and mournful wailing.  Drum circle remains my favorite.  I really, really like drumming.  We stayed the night at the Yorktowne Hotel in downtown York, PA.  It was charming and historic.  My kids thought it was the height of fancy, which was kind of funny.  Who am I to disavow them of that notion?  Everything’s gravy if your standards are low.

Let’s get to the pictures, shall we?

There just are no good pics of the new costume b/c it was not a good costume. Making a pixie skirt does not make one a pixie, it turns out. Who knew?

But look how good Julianna looks! Of course, it was warm in Frederick. We were in tank tops. Not so much once we got there...

Lily and Brooke, now wearing sweatshirts, get their gift from a Pocket Fairy

the Calling of the Tribes. River, Meadow, Woodland, and Mountain. River's coolest, of course.

Lily and Emma. Lily decided she was warm enough. Let's face it, the sweatshirt didn't match the costume.

Bitty wee fairy!

Opening greeting from The Greenman and his wife, who own the farm

Twig the Fairy does not talk, which, to be honest, annoys the crap out of me. But she does look like a Real Fairy and kids respond well to her.

Ten bucks a day to blow on chow! Woo!

Droppin' trou' at the Utilikilt booth. This sight never stopped being funny to me.

All the fashionable ogresses are carrying pouches made from hollowed out cane toads. Imagine: that is someone's JOB--hollowing out toads and putting zippers in them. Stay in school, kids!

Lily dancing at the drum circle

Ben wanted to get warm in my blanket.

...and then Lily showed up to share the space...

Ben banging the lollipop drum

Julianna doing her stint as a "Yellow Pages" volunteer (she had to be roaming Information)

The swanky lobby of the Yorktowne

with its super-swanky letter box and mail chute system...

...and dead goat in a box. All the best hotels, you know.

Okay, Day Two in the next post…

Julianna turned 14 last weekend AND played the Witch in the school production of Into the Woods, Jr. The Junior version, for you ITW fans, is just the first act, and even that is pared down quite a lot.   The original show, which Steve and I saw on Broadway in late 1988, is a retelling of fairytales–Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Ridinghood, Rapunzel, and a Baker and his Wife who wish to have a child–the first act ends Happily Ever After with “all that was wrong was now right and those who deserved to were happy to live a long an happy life.”  The second act explores the consequences of the first act actions and all but 4 characters end up dead.  Even the narrator is killed.  The second act is full of adultery, betrayal, lying, and murder.  So, yeah, that part is eliminated for the middle school production.  But it is, of course, the best part.  Nonetheless, it’s a fun show with great music.

As usual, Monday of show week, it seemed like there was no way it would all come together, and then it did.  Theater magic!  The shows at the school are usually double cast, so that most kids get a shot at a decent sized role.  The first night, Julianna was a Narrator, but for her birthday on Friday, she was The Witch.  I took her fancy pants camera to take photos, but as soon as I tried to use it, the battery died.  So pics are taken with my iPhone, a notoriously bad camera, but the only one I have.

She tells the Baker and his Wife about the curse.

Yes, college friends, that IS the cape I wore as a coat. Still warm, still awesome, still dorky (like me, only much warmer).

Milky White the cow stole the show, really.

The Witch is restored to her former youth and beauty, which is considerable.

Tired, happy, and too heavily made up.

Some video of the spell being broken:

Friday dawned cloudy and breezy, but was slated to be dry at least.  I packed two rubbermaid boxes of stuff for Steve to ship to Maryland to make more room in the van.  And really, how much fun is it to send yourself a present of damp dirty clothes?  yay!  Mildew and sand!

In reality, it rained a bit on and off and the temperature fluctuated wildly, so that we were always peeling off or piling on the layers.  I went to a talk about harvesting and using sumac.  It was pretty cool and I’ve even used that knowledge since coming home.   I pulled off to the side of the road and stepped into an unseen ditch and staggered up the other side and picked a whole bagful of heads.  I processed it while watching Project Runway, just like our Native American forbears.

It warmed up enough that I decided to brave the cold lake waters.  Emily had gone in once a couple of days ago.  The girls had gone in nearly every day.  but it was cooooold.  I went in slowly, exclaiming rather a lot, but I did it.  The Minnesotans mocked me.

Spot the mother-daughter pair that live below the Mason-Dixon Line...

I must admit, though, that once in, it felt good.  And getting out, I felt so CLEAN, like I sparkled (probably just the nerve endings waking up again).  Of course, that was all out the window as soon as I squelched back into Camp Soggy Bottom, but I at least got the street cred from going into the lake.

Then it was time to start cooking for the potluck.  I opted for chili- one pot vegetarian, one pot containing venison jerky.  Michael cooked some of the bear and some chanterelles that were harvested from the woods that morning.  Yes, we made him double check with several people that they were, in fact, edible.

Pretty! And not at all deadly!

The potluck was great, as usual.  Like last year,  most dishes were either vegetarian or wild game.  I even got to try woodchuck, which was identified by a ripped piece of paper with “wOodChuCK” scrawled on it with charred stick.  I am embarrassed to have not taken a photo.  For the record, it was meh, not something I’d request, but good to know I could eat one if I had to.  Lord knows we have plenty.  Lots of bear dishes, of course.  And, like last year, there was barely a groundnut left when it was over. Om nom nom!

Waitin' for the grub

Gotcher nose

Save me some wOodCHuCk!

I skipped the next morning’s closing circle.  It tends to be teary and long and I needed to get us packed up and out.  Hardening my heart for the trip back out to the World, you know.  Ben had finished his bow at last, so he and Steve and Michael went to the archery range to give it a work out.  The mosquitoes were apparently epic, so they weren’t there long.

We piled in and were on the road by 11. I had washed one pair of my nylon pants in the lake and wore themthem on Saturday for the drive out.  I was just off the property when it became clear that the pants were filthy by non-camp standards.  The kids were likewise nasty.  Luckily wie didn’t need to go into any restaurants.  Or gas stations.  We headed home via the Upper Peninsula.  I was, once again, staggered by how BIG Michigan is.  We didn’t even make it out before nightfall.  America is large and mostly empty.  Most of the UP is for sale.  Old Howard Johnsons that have become Knights Inns are a little creepy.  But cheap.

We got home at 8:30 on Sunday night and the kids were out the door for the first day of school at 8:30 Monday morning.

A few side notes, and then pictures:

–on the beach, you can find “grandfather stones” these really oddly beautiful rock formations.  I can only find this web entry about them, an excerpt from Weird Wisconsin.  They are sacred to the Bad River tribe, so they ask that you leave them there.  It’s hard to do b/c they are SUPER cool, but the thought of angry Native American spirits hanging around my house is a pretty good deterrent.  Even if they would be helpful to have around at sumac processing time.

Grandfather Stones

Grandfather stone in its natural habitat

–One of Buckskin Brad’s kids was peeing literally every time I saw him.  I came to suspect that he was not an actual child, but one of those weird “time out” dolls that were perversely popular a while back.

–There were 200 folks at the Gathering, and 70 of them were kids.  Or 60.  Can’t recall.  Loads.  Many of them in the one year-18 mos range.  Most of them bare bottomed and apple cheeked.  So. flippin’. cute.

Wagonload o' cute

Photo round-up:

One of Emily's photos

Soggy Bottom, final day

The list of classes


here comes Lily...

Skogan carving a spoon so that he can eat dinner. really.

Me and Emily

cool birch driftwood

Load 'em up and head 'em out!

First day of school and a lunch pail full of roadkill


July 2018
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