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Before I move forward on my timeline, I’ll fill in the photos that were on my actual camera and the details I forgot because I was jet lagged.  I’m now jet lagged in the other direction, but Steve helped jog my memory.

We had a layover in LA that was fairly long.  Steve’s cousin Arik came to meet us and took us to The Humble Potato, tagline “the Original Hambaga.”  It has American fare with a Japanese kick and was really good.  The french fries were outstanding.  Seriously, if you have a layover, taxi over there.  It’s near LAX and worth the trip.

More photos from our hotel.  I didn’t get any shots of the pool, but it was pretty impressive, too.  No lazy river, like in Aruba, but a very nice swimming space with FIVE hot tubs.

Seems you've gone well past "Wet" if there are fish swimming in it.

Seems you’ve gone well past “Wet” if there are fish swimming in it.

NeNe, the state bird of Hawaii.  It's been brought back from near extinction to endangered status.  Pretty cute for a goose.

NeNe, the state bird of Hawaii. It’s been brought back from near extinction to endangered status. Pretty cute for a goose.

Another shot of the...promenade?  Let's just say they clearly bought columns in bulk.

Another shot of the…promenade? Let’s just say they clearly bought columns in bulk.

That “Feral Moco” that Steve had for breakfast turns out to be a variation of a common Hawaiian dish–Loco Moco.  It seems to mean “rice topped with burger topped with egg topped with gravy.”  Hawaii is a place where “local delicacy” does not mean “yummy.”  Remember: Spam Sushi is a thing here.

On our way home from the rehearsal, we stopped at The Coconut Experience, a roadside stand run by a darling gal named Sativa (yes, like the strain of weed).  I forgot to take a photo, so I’ll just snag one from Yelp:

Nope don't know that guy.

Nope don’t know that guy.

She had her nearly one year old baby in a high chair, handing him coconuts and fruits to entertain him, slinging him onto her hip when needed.  She opened the coconuts by holding them in one hand and whacking them with a rusty machete.  It was pretty badass.  She had a table at the wedding and was providing the guests with coconut water with or without added booze.  more on that later.  Steve and I were in love with her.

After our coconut water, we went back to Lihue to change and then all the way back North to the rehearsal dinner.  It was as if the wedding activities were in DC and we were going back and forth from home.  Lotta driving.  But much prettier than the Beltway.

The dinner was at a restaurant called The Cafe at Common Grounds.  It’s a field-to-table restaurant on what was once the largest guava plantation in the world.  We didn’t get any guavas here, though.

Shot from Common Grounds toward road

Shot from Common Grounds toward road

The day of the wedding, we had to buy the coconut rum and vanilla vodka that the groom wanted for the coconuts.  Yuck.  But one cannot have 100% good taste, right?  We all have blind spots.  I like stale circus peanuts.  We stopped at one liquor store and it had the rum, but not the vodka.  Rather than drive all over looking, Steve used his new favorite toy–the credit card concierge.  He said ‘Find me a store near Lihue that has both of these liquors and is open now” and they called back with the info.

On the way, we stopped at Sweet Marie’s, a gluten free bakery.  Best cup of coffee on the island.  Kona, nice and strong.  AND really good gluten free food.  But even better, was the owner, who called us “the kids” and “bubbelehs” and was from Philadelphia.  She was in constant motion and was named businesswoman of the year.  We took to her instantly, realizing on the way out, when I saw her framed photos of her parrots, that she reminded me of Marlene Brown, Bubbe, Stacey’s mom.  Not physically, other than the red hair, but in spirit.  That “you are now part of my family” feeling that she conveyed immediately.  Go to Kauai just to eat here and hug her for us.

This is her.  Seriously, hug her.

This is her. Seriously, hug her.

Marie directed us to the liquor store where we got the booze.  I got to check out the cuttlefish-snack heavy rack by the register:

Hmmm...fried cuttlefish legs or gummy apples?

Hmmm…fried cuttlefish legs or gummy apples?

In the parking lot, a flock of gawky young chickens, still young enough to peep, came running up to us.  I resisted the urge to herd them into the car.  They look a little like gang in the photos, like they were roughing up tourists for scratch.  When you’re a hen, you’re a hen all the way, from each grain that you peck to each egg that you lay!

Nice car ya got there.  Shame if someone was to...oh, I dunno, poop on it.

Nice car ya got there. Shame if someone was to…oh, I dunno, poop on it.

We got there early, since Steve was officiating, so I took some photos of the plants and the grounds.  It never stopped amazing me that orchids just grew EVERYwhere.  They were so plentiful that everyone just used them as decor, common as baby’s breath.

pond near the ceremony

pond near the ceremony

orchid just growing out of some bush

orchid just growing out of some bush

The ride from the garden where the ceremony was held to the meadow where the reception was help was amazing.  It looked like a dinosaur might jump out and eat us at any moment. Unfortunately, it was dusk and we were moving, so I couldn’t take photos.  When I search for images of Na Aina Kai, I get lots of brides, the hedge “maze,” and the horrid bronze sculptures that are all over the park–you know, the ones of kids at play that always harken faintly to Pompeii.  So trust me–amazing.

Steve and I got a coconut from Sativa and headed down to the beach.

The path to the beach

The path to the beach

Can't you just feel that salt air?

Can’t you just feel that salt air?

I had no idea owning a vintage Hawaiian dress would come in handy!

I had no idea owning a vintage Hawaiian dress would come in handy!

When we heard the drumming we headed back to find the Taiko drummers:

I neeeeed to do this.

I neeeeed to do this.

The second one in is a kid, she appears about 10-12 years old.  They all have massive biceps.  The video, as promised.  I’ll spare you the one that includes digeridoo…

The cackle you hear in the background is Kevin’s son five year old son, Daniel.  Or maybe his daughter Hana. One of them.  Daniel was very taken with the fire dancers and kept practicing his routine using the little LED marbles.

When we walked to the beach the second time, it was dark.  We’d stopped for a smooch only to find that the flashlight valet was right behind us.  You heard me.  Flashlight valet.  There were dudes whose job it was to shine lights at our feet so we could make it to the beach.  And all this time I’d been doing it on my own.  Sucker.

tent at night.  You can see the cabana tents glowing in the background

tent at night. You can see the cabana tents glowing in the background

Dark fell earlier in Kauai prompting us to EVERY night, say “Really?  It’s only 7?  It feels like 10.”

I was seriously amused when the father/bride dance was to “Country Roads” by John Denver.  Hyun Joo leaned over and said “Koreans LOVE this song.  This and ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra.”  Well okay then.



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


…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

Wednesday was cold and rainy.  It was hard to believe that just the day before, I’d been sitting on the beach in a bathing suit top, feeling overheated.  I’d made wool mittens that day with little idea that I’d wear them the very next day.  I didn’t sleep well because I had a weather-ear open all night and awoke with each new thunder clap.   We weather-proofed a bit, hanging up old shower curtains as walls around the kitchen canopy.  It was allll class.  That morning at circle, a member of the local tribe’s Bear Clan spoke to us all, pointing out that folks weren’t really as respectful of the bear as they should have been.  She was clear that she wasn’t offended, but felt like the bear’s death and gift of meat weren’t taken as seriously as they might have and that we should be mindful of this.  It was good for all to hear,  and she asked us to be sure to offer up bear dishes at the potluck on Friday.

I spent the morning finishing up my mittens, huddled in my tent.  Sounds more depressing than it was, it was actually nice to spend some time by myself, stitching carefully, listening to the waves crash and the rain patter.  Also had to periodically push the water off the tent, EZ up, and tarp that Michael strung up to give us a dry place to sit other than our tents.  Those spaces, of course, were always full of chattering children, hence my being in the tent.  Also, no mosquitoes in the tent.  Last year, the skeeters hadn’t been that bad.  They were slow-moving and not particularly numerous.  I didn’t even bother with bug spray.  This year, there had been a lot of rain all summer and the mosquitoes were as big as sparrows, speedy, and great in number.  The upside to all of that was that there were also scads of dragonflies that were just gorgeous.  Huge with a blue tile-like pattern on their backs.  I had planned to take a fermented foods class in the afternoon, but it was called on account of skeeters.  That bad.

With no class to attend, I just hung out by last year’s cob oven.  It was fired up for people to cook in, so in this weather was a center for chatting and cooking and warming one’s tailfeathers.  While I was there, I got to taste bear cooked in woodchuck (groundhog to some of you) fat.  Roadkill bear in roadkill groundhog.  It’s a new day.  Bear, for those that have never had it, is beefy, but a bit sweeter.  The raw venison (meat laundry) was ready, so I tasted some of that.  No maggots that I could see.  I left those for Roach.  I wasn’t crazy about it raw, so I saved the rest to put in a stew.

We had more bear at dinner, this time cooked in regular old non-road-kill olive oil.  My kids were uninterested in trying it, but the other kids were excited.  Square dancing in the lane after dinner.  The ground was too boggy and since it wasn’t actually raining at the time, we didn’t go into the roundhouse like last year.  It was very fun, even though it was oppressively humid and buggy.  I realized I couldn’t recall a time that I camped and it didn’t rain.  Perhaps I could hire myself out.  If you need rain, I’ll come pitch a tent in your yard.  Just let me know. Anyway, Ben ditched dancing to play foot tag on the beach (I have no idea what it is, but the kids played almost every night and loved it).  Julianna and Lily danced with us.  Roach picked up Julianna’s sweatshirt from the side of the road and stuffed it in his shirt to serve as fake boobs (there was a blonde afro wig that was making the rounds in all manner of hijinks).  She seemed a bit scandalized and afraid that her shirt would get whiffy.  A reasonable concern, as by Wednesday, the under-the-arm moves of square dancing start to get a bit sketchy.  Once it was released, though, she was relieved to find it was fine.

After a while, it started to rain and we dispersed to our tents.  The tribal elders were somewhere on the property preparing for the next weekend’s pow-wow, so there was constant drumming to accompany the thunder.  It felt really sinister to my ears, untrained to the nuances of Native American drumming.  I read for a while and fell into a light sleep only to be awakened to the sound of our dishes crashing from the shelves.  The weight of the rain on the tarp and joined with the weight of the rain on the EZ up, causing it to collapse on one side.  It was VERY loud, which brought out our neighbors to help us rig it back up to get it through the night.  As we scurried through the puddles, rescuing our stuff and McGuyvering the canopy back up, the kids said “Well, at least the rain is letting up.”  Nicholas (Buckskin Brad) said “Or it’s just…well, we’ll just leave it at that” in this way that totally freaked me out.  So with my fear that we were just in the lull before a much worse storm, a worry that the canopy would go over completely, the thunder and the drumming…not much with the sleeping that night, either.

We woke to a lovely day, though, with the canopy still holding.  We spent some time getting things set to rights a bit, shoring up the broken spot, moving our shelf out of the puddle to higher ground.  I made bacon and both Ben and Lily tried it.  Lily declared “I like bacon!” and requested it in her lunch box every day.  She’s not eaten it since.  Ben, on the other hand, awakened to a love of cured and/or smoked meats and has since enjoyed summer sausage, hard salami, beef jerky, and ribs.

I spent Thursday in wet felting class with Julianna.  I’d wanted to take it last year, but the whole week was consumed with wool dying.  I made a point of getting in this time.  Julianna made a very cute felted hat, I made a bag.  Oklahoma Joe, the instructor, wouldn’t take any money, so I paid in pistachios.  Ben made a bone knife.  Lily ran around.  Steve walked on the beach.  Oh yeah, I didn’t mention Steve’s deerskin book–he made a really pretty notebook from a deerhide.  Johnny Rock tanned the hides and taught the class, apparently he’s really something in the world of the deerskin-clothed folk.  He makes gorgeous garments.  Steve said he read aloud to them from Women Who Run with the Wolves and discussed Jung and opera.

At night, in the roundhouse, a guy came to talk about his 1000 mile trip in a birchbark canoe.  I missed most of the talk as I was trying to figure out where all my kids were (they were in the roundhouse.  Which I never imagined).  While it was pretty interesting and looked amazing, it was, in the end, someone else’s vacation photos.  Oh look, it’s his dog again.  I did stand at the back, though, and think “I like these people.”

Went to bed to the sounds of ANOTHER thunderstorm.


It's all Class, baby.

Ezra, Ben, Finn, and Lily.

Before I gave up and went into the tent

Elsa and Lily

The cold did not keep the girls from hitting the waves

Square dancing in the mud

Julianna and Steve have a dance--that's Johnny Rock to Steve's left

P-U stinky.

The aftermath of the crash

Rustic Adirondack-style decor AND useful support


Eli and Ben

Eli and Ben

Steve in Julianna's hat

Julianna and Keelin

I’d planned to make mittens on this warm and sunny day, but Sam Thayer showed up!  yay!  So I went on his plant walk like the botany groupie I am.  I was all jazzed last year about the stuff I’d learned about plant ID and foraging.  I did precisely nothing about that once I was home.  I got a couple of books.  i have opened them.  I am lazy and I just want to download the info into my head.  The walk was much like last year’s, but still very cool and informative.  The whole time, Sam just plucks stuff and pops it in his mouth, just grazing constantly.  I suppose to forage, you have to do that, since you’re not likely to just find a meal’s worth of anything at one sitting.  I kept thinking “This is very cool. I hope I never need to use this knowledge.”  Sam is super-charismatic and has that charm of someone who really, really enjoys his job.  I planned to do his longer afternoon plant walk that would go down by the water, but I realized that even though he’s very interesting, I’m unlikely to be able to use plant lore from the arboreal forests and water sheds of Wisconsin here on the rocky mountains of central Maryland, so I opted to sit on the beach in the sun.

I read for a while until I was too hot (I should have treasured this moment…) and decided to wander in to the classes to check out the mitten making.  I called Zach, the instructor, by the wrong name and was tempted to say “Well you see, I have this gift…”  He helped us make a pattern from our hands to make mittens from felted wool sweaters–you know, those totally shrunken sweaters that turn up at Goodwill?  One of the other women in the class was also able to sew and we kept thinking how fast the process would be at home…But it was nice to just concentrate on stitching.  Funny to note the pride with which the other women claimed to be unable to sew.  “Can’t even sew on a button!” they’d say, and treat sewing like some sort of voodoo magic.  I kept saying “It’s just practice.  You don’t need a gift, it’s not like painting” but they were quite determined to be Non-Sewers.  But now they’re non-sewers with mittens.

After dinner, Emily and I headed out to buy more groceries.  Michael told us that someone had hit a young bear out on the road and brought it into the camp, where it was being field-dressed.  We walked past the site where they were dealing with the bear and Lily came dancing up, full of excitement to tell me she was watching.  Totally unskeeved, she was.  When we came back, she told me she’d touched the heart and that she’d seen the head with no skin on “and its eyes looked like THIS![makes big stare-y eyes]”  Ben was as far from all that as he could be, as was Julianna.  I guess if a critter had to be hit by a car, that was the place to do it, everyone was so excited.

Tuesday photos:

beach. sun. book to read. Ahhh.

Boys vs. Girls fire-making contest

And by "boys," I mean "Steve"

Ben could supervise

I was utterly uninvolved.

Grace, Julianna, and Keelin

Melinda's house

Emma and Lily and a beach baby

Sam Thayer and an American Highbush Cranberry. I think.

puddle dancers

Morning Circle--feel free to name anyone as you see fit.

A loincloth lad for Michelle. last year's loincloth family didn't show.

Squirrel pelt Ezra was tanning. We were all vegetarians last year...

The "Before" picture

That night, a thunderstorm rolled in, nothing too bad, but the ground was already wet from a very wet summer…

stay tuned…

As promised, we went back to the Traditional Ways Gathering last week.  This time we drove in through Wisconsin and back out through Michigan, reversing last year’s trip.  As always, the first stop is in Breezewood, Town of Motels (always say this in a 70s soap opera announcer voice).

More accurately, I suppose, it should be Breezewood, Town of Gas Stations and Truck Stops, but that’s less…romantic?  We always stopped there when I was a kid on family trips West to Ohio.  It has this status as a place you Must Stop, even though it’s only 90 min from home, now.  We went into one of the souvenir shops (because who doesn’t want a tschotchke to remember Breezewood, Town of Motels?) and it had all these mounted animal heads all over the place.  Very odd.  I imagine the cape buffalo would be very confused to find that its final resting place is off the Turnpike in South Central PA.

Back on the road.  We didn’t leave Frederick until 4 pm, b/c we were taking a rental van.  Our van is at about 198K and making some weird “your transmission is in its final days” noise, so we decided to just put the money into a rental rather than put the money into our van and still wind up stranded on the Upper Peninsula at 3 am.  We pushed through until just outside Toledo before calling it a night.  We crashed at the Perrysville (?) La Quinta at around 11 and were back up and out by 7:30.  Breakfast at a nice little restaurant that took far too long and on the road for the second day.

Wisconsin is large.  I’d forgotten to pack a sweater, a serious mistake for Lake Superior in late August.  Late August in Northern WI=Late October in Frederick, MD.  All hail the internets, as we neared Fond du Lac, I did a search for a Goodwill, followed Google Maps, and found a St. Vincent dePaul thrift instead.  “Google Maps: We might not get you where you want to go, but we might get you somewhere better.  Or not.”  I ran in, scored two sweaters (one Woolrich, one the ski brand Kuhl) for 4 bucks total (oh how it pained me to not spend two hours in there!) and hopped back in the car.  Fond du Lac is a hole.  We went to a gas station before we left and were less than charmed by the neck-tattooed population.  On the highway, most billboards were for either “adult” book and gift stores or were anti-abortion.  This amused me.  in fact, much of the midwest that we saw seems to be strip clubs and porn shops, according to the billboards.  Also, there are casinos.  But it’s the East Coast that’s the Liberal Devil’s playground, is it? Mmm-hmm.

Finally, very near sunset, we arrived at camp.  We’d mailed our tents ahead to Emily and Michael (thanks guys!) and they had them set up and ready.  I’d brought the EZ-up as our kitchen and we set it up between our tents.  I had my wire grids and cable ties to make our shelves, and I set to unpacking.  Once dark, Steve left to go check in to his hotel.  This time, he wasn’t on the company dime, so he didn’t have a reservation at the fancy-pants B&B.  Instead, he’d gotten a room in one of those cute little motels like we stayed in the previous year on the UP–wood paneling, bare bones, door to the outside.  Only, as it turns out, they didn’t have him checking in until Sunday.  So he had to drive around trying to find a room.  Of which there were none.  So he called the fancypants B&B and they had one spot left.  Meanwhile, back at camp, I’d decided I’d misunderstood and he wasn’t coming back, but had that niggling “but I’m pretty sure he was, so where IS he?” in the back of my head.  Bedtime comes around 9pm at camp.  When it gets dark, you go to sleep.  None of those super-bright LED camp lights and blaring boomboxes like you get at a state park.  Steve had left before it was fully dark and didn’t have a flashlight, so he’d used Ben’s ipod as a light to find his way back only to find the entire camp silent and black.  I heard him sigh outside and got up to hear his harrowing tale, felt bad that he’d had such a time, but relieved to have touched base (okay, it WOULD be nice to be able to text sometimes), and said good night.  Gave him a flashlight to get back out again.  Then I was able to sleep.  Zonk.

6:30 am, the sun comes in and up I get, grinding my coffee and getting breakfast.  Since we were getting in so late on Saturday, Emily and Michael offered to feed us all, since I hadn’t yet gone to the store.  Yummy pancakes with maple syrup Ezra and Michael tapped in the spring.  Emily and I went in to the co-op to shop for provisions.  Lord, it’s like shopping in Hawaii, with high prices and crappy produce.  Lots of decently priced local meat, at least.  Emily’s family took the plunge into omnivorism about the same time we did, so were equally flummoxed by how to cook meat, but also equally eager to eat great quantities of it.  SUCH good summer sausage and hard salami.  mm.

I spent most of Sunday setting up camp and then sitting in the sun on the beach with a book.  The kids ran wild.  It’s so beautiful there.

One of the cool little inlet rivers that intersect the beach

Ben and some other kids, playing in one of the streams

Lily joins them, after a swim in the lake

Last year, Julianna was half a head taller than Grace.

Sunday is a preview of the classes, so we walked around the class tents chatting with instructors and putting our names in for things we wanted.  Steve most wanted to make a deerskin book, I most wanted to do wet felting.  Other things were negotiable.

We cooked dinner and ate around 6.  It was really nice to have another cook–we’d decide on a sort of food, say Thai flavors or Italian, and then each cook a dish.  Twice as much to choose from with the same amount of effort.  And then?  Michael did dishes.  Woo!

Steve was a bit sad to not be going back to the B&B, as it is pretty swank, but he headed off to his motel and we all turned in.

Monday is the first official day.  It was nice to be back in morning circle, it hardly seemed like a year had gone by.  I have always liked the idea of having a vacation spot and time, where you go to the same place and see the same folks and so I was so happy to get to see the familiar faces.  New ones, too–on the other side of my tents,  more friends of Emily and Michael set up.  Suzanne and her daughter Emma (who was VERY kind to Lily), and in the middle of the night, Amanda arrived with her kids Finn and Elsa.  She showed up around midnight and had to meander until they found their tent where Michael had pitched it.  All they had to do was crawl into bed.  Emily gave her a cup of joe in the morning and she , was ready to go.  See?  it’s a magical place.

My morning class was a drop spindle spinning class.  Lily took it with me.  I was sad that Molly, my wool-dyeing instructor, wasn’t back this year.  I was not gifted at drop spindle, but it was nice to get some instruction as I’d had no luck figuring it out on my own.  One of the other women in the class was nursing a toddler and spinning at the same time and still doing better than I.  We all swapped our nursing stories and forged some connection among the middle aged ladies.

As I’ve said, everyone at the Gathering is welcoming and kind, but there are definitely groups.  The youngsters, in their 20s, are the scruffy Dickensian waifs in their holey wool sweaters and deerskin pants and skirts–all earth tones and actual earth.  They are bare foot or wearing hand-crafted sandals or moccasins.  Then we have the folks in their late 30s-late 40s with older children.  We are in the bright colors of synthetic fabrics from REI.  We wear Chacos on our feet.  Finally, we have the “elders” in their wolf sweatshirts, jeans, and sneakers.

I came back to camp and ate my lunch on the beach.  Ben came up and asked if there was any breakfast left.  When I told him no, he was mightily offended and we had the “But I didn’t get very much!”  “then you should have eaten it when it was available!” exchange.  One of the young buckskin moms was on the beach too and laughed.  After Ben stalked away, she said how nice it was to see that other families have the same exchanges.  I told her how relieved Emily and I were to hear her husband (Buckskin Brad from last year) say their trip in had been grueling with the kids all bickering.  The joy we take in the suffering of others.

My afternoon class was Venison Jerky 101.  It was one of those “Well THIS is a different place than last year” moments.  It was a lesson in drying raw meat.  Roach and Amelia brought in a roadkill deer from the previous winter.  They were telling us where it was from as apparently deer in some areas are more likely to carry the equivalent of mad cow disease.  He showed us how to slice it very thin and then hang it up on a line in the sun and wind.  I sat there on the ground, knife in hand, giant hunk of deer on my cutting board, listening to a man named Roach tell me not to worry about the maggots.  “By the time they hatch out, the meat is dry, so they die.”  I don’t think we’re in vegetarian land anymore.  That slab o’ critter was the most visceral thing I’ve faced since returning to meat, but I was determined to Win at Meat, so I dove in.  I had to tell them I’d been a 20 year vegetarian up until about a month ago to try to get a few extra credit points.  They didn’t declare me Champion of All Deer Slicing, but i think I did well.

That's Roach. He says it's okay to eat the maggots.

Meat laundry!

Class was short, so I read in the sun on the beach until time to make dinner.  Steve showed up with ice cream from a local dairy (Tetzners, so adorable and local that it operates on the honor system).  He’d brought a half gallon each of chocolate and vanilla, so there was plenty to share around to the kids around us.  AND it was at that perfect slightly melty on the edges stage. mmmm.  There was opening circle that evening, where everyone has a chance to speak and introduce him or herself.  It was really nice for about 2/3 of the way around, then I felt like “Okay, we’re all happy to be back, this place is like a family, look forward to it all year, can’t wait for the rest of the week, it’s magical here.  Noted.  Good night.”  The older gents tended to be seriously long winded.  I feel like if you have to start with “Well, people tell me I talk too much” you might need to re-evaluate.  Best part, though?  A woman who said “I have a gift for knowing your true name, so if I call you by a name that is not yours, it’s not just that I’m forgetful.”  I am TOTALLY stealing that.

Back to camp and to bed.  A gorgeous day.


May 2018
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