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.




So we’ve all heard “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” right?  My kitchen was overrun with fruit flies.  Like, Gregor Mendel would say, “dude, that is a LOT of fruit flies.”  So I decided to catch (which is to say, kill) them.  Ah, but how?  Given how intrigued they are by my kombucha, both vinegary and sweet might appeal.

Only one way to find out!  Science!  Bowl of vinegar, bowl of honey, bowl of wine (just in case.  And it’s pretty vinegary wine at that).  They sat out all day:


Honey. Note the zero flies within.

Flies strained from the two bowls of vinegar. Julianna: Why are you straining that, mom? Me: So we can reuse the vinegar. I’m not made of money.

Wine didn’t catch as many, but made for a satisfyingly grisly looking photo.

So the lesson is, feel free to be mean to people to get what you want.  Because that whole flies-with-honey thing is BUSTED.

So this is the year that I stop waiting to move and just move into the house I’m in.  Eight years we’ve lived here.  And for about seven, I’ve been planning where I’ll go next.  The gypsy blood runs in my veins, subdued wedding dress to the contrary. As in most places, the real estate market is in the toilet, half my neighborhood is for sale and has been for ages.  And most of those houses have been better maintained than mine.

No denying my house is cute.  And we have a heck of a view.  But I crave land, land where I can grow things (rocky, crappy soil here) and raise critters.  A couple of years ago, I got chickens.  I was quiet about it, since I didn’t know if they were even allowed.  But eventually I found that our “village” zoning meant, essentially, anything not forbidden was permitted.  So you have to have 3 acres for horses, pigs, cows and (until last week or so) bees.  Nothing about chickens.  So I stopped worrying about my wee flock.  I’d built them a tiny house out of salvaged materials. And I built a moveable pen out of PVC and bird net.

Dottie the chicken in the early days

Sage (neighbor), Ben, and Lily in the pen. The coop is off to the left. The gals are quite young here.

Ben and Norma

The chickens have been seriously fun.  Even though poor Norma up there had to go live with a family that only had crested chickens–the other chickens picked on her, and she couldn’t see them coming b/c of the feathers in her eyes.  Of course I tried putting her feathers in a ponytail, what am I, a monster?  But they pecked her anyway.  Polly turned out to be a Paul an got moved to a petting zoo.  when it started to get cold, I lined the “log room” under our house with straw bales and put net up under the porch, making them a winter coop.

We lost Dolly and Eleanor to the fox when they escaped.  Pearl succumbed to–I’m assuming–heat stroke.  But Blanche, Dottie, Fran, Edith, and Sylvia remain from the original cast of chickens.  We added Ruby, Alice, and Millicent (purchased from 4-H kids at the fair last fall) to bring youth to the ensemble.

But I really missed mammals.  Julianna’d been doing Packgoat with 4-H.  The kids train the goats to go on hiking trails and help carry some of the supplies.  She’d been using a friends goat for the last couple of years, but she wanted her own.  So…village zoning.  not forbidden. not moving…

Brian, who heads the Pack goat group, generously agreed to help us put in a fence.  If I’d had ANY idea how involved it was, I’d have been way too embarrassed to ask that much.  But I didn’t.  So he did.  We fenced in about 1/2 of the backyard.  Julianna bought two Nigerian Dwarf goats.  We named them Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr, after the goats that pull Thor’s chariot (you may want to read this.  It’s quite a tale). But we call them Tango and Jester.

At first, we had only one bottle nipple. That was difficult.

Jester. he’s the more outgoing goat

Tango, who is more laid-back


They’re so cute you could die.  Having critters makes me feel more settled (after 8 years).  Of course, I’d still load up my caravan and move to that property of rolling hills and flat meadows with the stream and the woods….but for now, this’ll do.

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…



As you sit on your no-doubt fabulous, crumb free couch, clutching one of your many cats and wondering where your time with your babies has gone, and waxing nostalgic about the whole nine yards, remember this day:

Took Ben and Lily to school.

Went to Home Depot to buy some cleaning supplies to tackle shameful bathroom.

Went to Costco for more cleaning supplies (vinegar and baking soda in bulk) to maintain semi-cleanliness of said bathroom.

Went home, scoured bathroom.  Ew.

At 1 pm, loaded recalcitrant goats into back of van to go to school.  Took goats to school for Lily to show them off as part of her science fair presentation.  As per school rules, did not let any one touch them.  That’s right, no one is allowed to touch the goats.  Because school has strip club rules.  Loaded over-excited goats into the van, went home.

Noted van is full of hay (and probably goat poop), recalled that next week is carpool week.  Took van to carwash and vac’d it out.

Got Julianna from where her weird car pool drops her off.

Tookher home.

Got Ben and Lily.

Brought them home, where Ben got his guitar and Lily got on her field hockey gear and they shoved some food in their faces.

Took Lily to field hockey.

Took Ben to guitar.

Went to bank to get money to pay for guitar lessons b/c checkbook is MIA.

Went back to get Ben.

Took Ben home.

Got Lily from field hockey.

Took her home.

She got out of the car and Julianna climbed into it and I took her to a high school performance of Little Shop of Horrors.

Went to store to get some provisions for tomorrow’s trip to the Fairie Festival.

Went home.

Went back out to get Julianna from play.

1/2 tank of gas. 175 miles.

So just enjoy sitting on that sofa with those cats.

Or maybe “Couched in terms of despair.”  We need a new sofa.  We’ve needed a new sofa for at least two years.  When we moved into this house, eight years ago, we declared that no longer would we slump on our horrid futon couch (an uncomfortable couch that can turn into an uncomfortable bed!).  No, we’d purchase a couch like adults (I’ll note that apparently, in some parts of the world, people do not use sofa, couch, or even divan interchangeably.  I’ve now used divan more times than previously in my whole life and I recognize no difference between sofa and couch.  I’ll reserve my weird category rules for things other than furniture).  Unfortunately, a lifetime of hand-me-downs, trash-picking, and Ikea have spoiled me for furniture pricing and no WAY was I spending serious money on something to be smeared with food, filled with crumbs, and used as a trampoline.  We had 3 kids under age 7 when we moved here.  I was, and remain, disinclined to monitor how people use the furniture.  I have enough to nag about already.  So.  We ended up buying a $300 couch from a place that was open for a few months in a run-down strip mall.


It met my criteria: no rolled arm, no loose pillow back, no skirt, no weird fat-man’s-belly-like folded back cushions, no microfiber, no leather.  And, cheap.  ish.  in the above photo, all the other furniture added together was far less than $300, but hey.

Now, eight years later, I cannot post a photo of the couch b/c the authorities would take away my children.  So just imagine the same one, arms crusty with god knows what, wooden slats under all the cushions to keep the springs from poking into your butt, flies buzzing around like in a neglected Sim house (I was never good at The Sims b/c I figured a house full of flies and people waving their arms around in the air is just normal).  Steve says “Get a couch.”  This is my mission.

I go to Value City Furniture first.  All rolled arms and loose pillow backs and fabrics that make my fingers very sad.  But for $400, maybe I can just deal. My favorite thing about Value city is that apparently all the sales staff are independently wealthy.  Most furniture stores, you come through that door smelling like fresh antelope on the savannah.  At VCF, a wall-eyed gent strolls up, says “Lemme know if you need help,” and wanders off again.  Which is okay by me.  Car lots, mattress stores, and furniture–I just assume I’m about to be taken advantage of.  And they don’t even buy me dinner first.

I wasn’t ready to commit to the VCF couch, so I put out a call to Facebook and get a few suggestions.  One of them points out that there’s an “outlet” of the local over-priced furniture chain so I head there.  As I walked through the door–all antelopey and lame–a guy a bit older than I swoops down and asks to help me.  Given the vast and confusing nature of the store, I decide to just go with it.  I tell him what I want–clean modern lines, as little cash as possible.  As we chit chat, I learn that Dave has been with the store only 4 mos.  I think “Ugh, mid-50s, had to pick up work at the furniture store.” He has 10 year old twins .  Later, he mentions that he played lacrosse for William and Mary.  He has an American History degree.  We bond over useless courses of study.  He mentions lacrosse a bit too much for a 57 year old man.

As we narrowed it down to three sofas, he said “To put it in car terms, the Klausner is a Chrysler, the La-z-boy is a Buick, and the Broyhill is a Cadillac.”

Me: So, you’re saying that no matter which I pick, it’s an overpriced piece of crap?


Me: and that I’ll look like an old lady sitting on them?


Dave: The Broyhill is the highest quality.

Chatting about colleges, I say that Julianna was pretty taken with W&M, but that we’d need to move in-state to afford it.  He says that when he went there, Glenn Close was just a few years ahead of him.  I say “Oh yeah, and Jon Stewart!”  He tells me they lived in the same dorm and tells some anecdote about how gross the dorm was.  Then says “I can’t believe people look to him for real news.  He had the President on and called him ‘dude’!”   I laughed and said “Yeah, I saw that!”

Dave: I mean, if I had him on, I’d have something to call him, but it wouldn’t be “dude.”

Me: you mean “Mr. President?” and fixed him with a mom-stare.  You know the one.  The one that says, ” I strongly advise you against pursuing this point.”  Apparently, he has a mom.

I know four months isn’t a long time on the job, but politics?  Really, Dave?  At least not until you’re better at judging people.  The chick in linen and Birkenstocks who told you she wrote her thesis on the Renaissance Festival is probably not a Fox News viewer.

I liked him, nonetheless.  He had the grace to concede the point when we argued about Maryland’s state sport.

Me: yeah, I know the powerful Lacrosse Lobby has tried to make lacrosse the state sport

Dave: several times, but why on earth should it bejousting?

Me: Are you kidding?  Jousting is COOL.  Who else has jousting?

Dave: no one, because no one jousts!

Me: and more’s the pity.  Should we change the state bird from the Baltimore Oriole to the blackbird just because who ever sees Orioles anymore?  Lose the crabcake in favor of a Big Mac?  And our flag!  It looks like a medieval pennant! It all fits together!

How could he not back down?  I mean really.  After narrowing my choices and looking at fabrics (blech.  Why can’t I just get a bright purple varigated fabric that hides stains?  Surely that’d be as big a seller as the country blue faux-velvet.  Also, I’m drawn to geometric prints like a magpie to shiny, but when I play with the on-line couch creator tools, they all end up looking like motel sofas), I headed home.

I post my decision to my online buddies who promptly inform me that “semi-attached” back cushions are just as bad, if not worse, than the loose ones.  Which puts me back at square one.  And the temptation to just throw a sheet over this couch and pretend I’m protecting a valuable antique.

I don’t post enough, I know.  So I’m always surprised to get a notice that someone has commented.  Especially when someone has commented on a post from 2009.  Especially when it’s a throw-away post about how Ben and the kid that lived next door fight all the time.  And then it’s extra awesome:

Excellent web site. Plenty of useful info here. I am sending it to a few pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks on your sweat!


And then, on a post about Julianna’s role in her school production of Into the Woods, I get this one:

I do accept as true with all the concepts you’ve offered to your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are too quick for beginners. May just you please prolong them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

It’s hard to know where I lost her.  Maybe in the short run-down of the plot?  I probably should have prolonged it by writing out the whole script.  Beginners at blog-reading my have been confused by my illustrating my points with photos.  It’s so hard to know what people need, you know?

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


ARGH!  I had a long and lovely post.  Went to publish it and WP hiccuped and away went everything I’d written that day.  So I still had a previously saved first half, but have to recreate the second half.  which I’ve put off and put off b/c I hate to write a thing twice.  I don’t even proofread, let alone rewrite.  So grr.  But here you go.

While we went to sleep Tuesday night to an impressive storm–tent walls heaving in and out, torrential rain–I was so tired I sacked out cold and woke around 11:30 to utter calm.  No wind, no rain, no waves.  Wednesday dawned bright and clear.

Frederick Joe came by for breakfast and we chatted about the places we go and things we do.  He turns out to live near where the kids went rock climbing with 4-H.  Really, how weird is it that two vans from Frederick drove to this tiny spot in Wisconsin?  150 people, and 6 of us are from the same town, two days’ drive away.

After breakfast, Emily, Grace, Julianna, and I did a porcupine quill jewelry class.  The instructor, Ginny, had no idea what she was in for, bless ‘er.  She’d placed no limits on age or number and just got flooded with folks.  She took kids first, and I helped out a bit since I have made jewelry in the past (albeit not with my Leatherman pliers).  Once we got the swarm of kids cleared away, I got to make my own earrings.  They were simple, but very pretty and surprisingly light.  Ginny had “harvested” the quills from the THREE roadkill porcupines she passed on the way to the Gathering.  (She says she came upon them.  I’ll just push that image of her swerving her car on a porcupine hunting expedition out of my mind…”I need more QUILLS!”)  Sadly, we did not get to eat roadkill porcupine.  PORCupine, the Other White meat.

Rockin' my earrings. Better photo to come

Shortly after starting my earrings, it became clear that we could use more scissors.  I volunteered to pop back to camp and get mine.  I returned minutes later to find Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl in my spot.  My spot that contained my stuff and my water bottle, wedged between two other people.  Emily assures me that she just plopped her skinny ass down with nary a “is this spot taken?” or “is this your stuff?”  Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl (HNDG) is half of a new couple at the Gathering.  Her beloved, Dreadlock Egg Sac Boy, has his enormous blonde dreadlocks pulled back in a manner that makes his head shaped like the Alien from Alien or like he has some manner of egg sac on the back of his head.  Also, pointy goatee, suggesting he’s an Evil Twin.  On the first day, she was cavorting topless in the waves.  Nudity is a no-no here, but we’ll give them a pass b/c they are new and we hadn’t had Opening Circle (it IS in the rules on-line though.  but I’m being all laid-back and chill).  After that first day, she had the grace to wear an open-weave crocheted bikini top all week (with an attractive tapestry vest over it if it got chilly).  I’ve said that there are no hippies at hippie camp, but these two have that vibe.  They were more Burning Man than Gathering.  Like a catalog-order version of a real attendee.  They irked me.  can you tell?  She showed up late for most of the classes I took and assumed she’d get immediate and personal attention.  She was never mean or anything, just entitled.  She had that Rich Girl obliviousness that can be rawther off-putting.  Trustafarians.

Lunch, then needlefelting.  I’d done it before a couple of times, but Lily wanted me to join her in it, so I did.  She was needlefelting a little cat, I decided to put a design on one of the sweaters I’d chopped up and re-made.  I adore the instructor, Maria, who I think started coming the same year we did.  She’s sweet and young and crafty.  Also has trouble telling kids “no.”  It’s okay to insist that your tools be used properly.  Really.  The kids will get over the trauma of not being allowed to do whatever they want.

Today’s swim was short, as I just couldn’t get into the groove needed to really enjoy that water.  The wind had a chill to it that kept me from relaxing.  So I just sat on the beach and read until it was time to make dinner.  The sun felt soooo good on my skin.  I turned part lizard and just basked.

After dinner, I knitted on the beach for a bit and then headed over to the trading blanket.  I thought I’d take a hat I’d made to trade in case I saw a knife for Ben.  I had avoided the trading blanket like the plague after that first year.  It seemed more laid back and less…mimey now.  A person puts out, say, a jar of preserves.  The people who would like that jar take up the things they are willing to trade for it and leave them on the blanket.  The owner of the preserves then looks over the offers and chooses one (or decides not to trade), and exchanges goods with the winning bidder.  Next person takes up something and so on.  Some of the antics of folks trying to “describe” their item w/o talking were funny and the small children who’d just run up and snag a thing they wanted were cracking me up.

There were lovely hides on display to sell or trade (they sell for over $100) and they’re soooo soft and I want them.  But 44 year old suburban white lady in a buckskin skirt?  I don’t think so.  74? no problem.  24? sure.  But I’m in that REI zone, I think.

Usual hunt for children at dusk.  That is a big part of what the Gathering is, for me.  It’s almost dark, I can’t see, I have no idea where at least one, usually two of my kids are.  I know they’re fine, but there’s always that part of your brain that says ‘what about the lake?” or ” what about those dense woods?”  I send out a thanks to all the parents and kid-friendly folk who so kindly took in my kids and kept an eye on them.  This freedom to meander is important enough to my kids for me to get past the lost-kid anxiety.

On Thursday, Steve, Ben, Julianna, and I were all signed up to take a spoon carving class with Yuri.  Lily went off to finish needle-felting her cat and to felt a gazillion other things (bless Maria’s patience and aforementioned disinclination to say No).  carving was both harder and more satisfying than I expected.  When Yuri showed us what to do, it looked like he was carving a bar of soap with a hot knife.  When went to do the same, it was like I was trying to carve the wood with a plastic spork.  But it was enjoyable.  I felt very butch to go to bed that night with a bruise on my chest, just like Yuri said he often got.

We took a lunch break, and while waiting for Yuri to come back again, I sat in on Joe’s botany class.  It’s the class I loved last year, using a botany key to identify plants.  It was still fun, and I was still able to Win at Plants so yay!  I was the only of our family to go back to carving that afternoon, but you don’t Win at Spoon by going swimming.  It was hard to tell how I was doing, as Yuri has that Scandinavian taciturn thing going on.  “‘S good.  Just take it down some more here.”  “‘S good.  You might want to take in the handle some.”  But when I declared it done and had him put it into the oil to soak, the other spoon-carving guy, Rod, said “Wow, who did that one?” so Win!  And on Saturday, when I went to pick up the spoons after their soak, even Yuri told me what a good job I’d done.  Gold star!  He also said that Julianna’s was really good and that Ben’s was impressive for his age.  Steve’s was coming along nicely, but he over-carved and ended up snapping it in two.  He’s game to try again, though, so I got some blanks to carve more.  But let’s be clear: I won.

Steve and Ben at their spoon carving

Julianna cuts off everything that isn't a spoon

After dinner, we went to square dancing.  it was humid and buggy again this year, but still so much fun.  I was inspired to maybe learn to call dances (and, you know, Win at Square Dance) just to be able to make that much happy happen.  Great music, dancing with rules, lots of silliness.  What’s better?

My camera doesn't like low light OR movement. But there are Steve and Lily

I bid Steve goodnight and walked down to the beach to fetch our teenagers.  They were all sitting around a fire and begged to stay until 10pm, quiet hours.  Making them swear to come back at 10, we left them.  It was such a good space of the teens, they have freedom, but lots of adults around.  They were constantly playing games together, the sorts of games that let them tussle a bit, have a safe physical outlet–capture the flag, red rover.  The first year that we were at the Gathering, there was this little group of teen girls who walked around dressed as if they were at the mall.  We noticed at the time that there were very few teens, it really went up to about 12 and then jumped to 20somethings.  Now those 12 year olds ARE the teens, and they fit in very nicely.  A lot of the teen boys were new this year, but I bet they come back. Wouldn’t you?

Even with her tongue out, Grace is cute

As we walked up the beach, I voiced regret at having to go back and face responsibilities, esp. the heavier 4-H load I’d agreed to take on.  Michael asked what the 4-H’s were, so I recited the “Head, Heart, Hands, Health” pledge.  Andrea, sitting near our camp as we arrived, asked “Do you know the Girl Scout pledge, too?”  So I told her that I was never a girl scout, but had been an Indian Princess.  She guffawed, “A what?”  And so I explained it to her and told her how I was in the Blacklick tribe (“the WHAT?”  No, really, it’s a real tribe.  I think.) and my dad was Big White Oak and I was Little White Oak (oh, I assure you, I lobbied HARD for a horse-related name), and my mom made me awesome pants with an orange fringe down the side and we had vinyl fringey vests and we could work to earn feathers for our headbands (“You did NOT!”) or wampum beads (“Nuh-UH!) or patches for our cool vests.  She declared “that is the most un-PC thing I have ever heard of.”  And yeah, pretty out of touch–and I’m stunned that it still seems to exist–but it was always respectful (albeit in its own anachronistic way) of Native American culture and it was father-daughter thing, which meant the world to me.  But man, did that ever make me feel like I was old enough to have seen a minstrel show.

Oh, and also on Thursday?  Half-Naked Dreadlock Girl and the beloved took their canoe out onto the lake…backwards.

Capture The Flag "jail"

Lily rocking the sandals she made

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


May 2018
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