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