Hi again, August 14, 2019
We’re Back! And we’re mostly recovered. Pennsic took a lot of work, but we think it was worth it.
The days leading up to leaving were brutal, as usual. We did our last dump run. Extra complication- the garb stored in my chest smelled like a bug bomb, and all had to be washed before I could repack it. I’m not sure why mine did when the girls didn’t- maybe their chests seal better than mine. That complication slowed down Willow packing the trailer. Once again I was busy finishing and printing out my class flyers while the girls were busy packing. I keep meaning to get it done early, and so far haven’t. I also had the last CTCW meeting before we left- all our schedule is filled now! We just have to pick the panels to run.
Finishing up hanging threads from two weeks ago, Liz wouldn’t let them discharge her until they looked at her Thyroid function. When the test came back they re-did it because her numbers are so off. Good for her for insisting on being paid attention to. Sadly, I left before I heard what happened, and haven’t talked to her yet.
Also, my dear friend Sue Arthen did die while we were at Pennsic. She was surrounded by friends and love, and had a good life, so I feel only warmth when I think of her. I will miss seeing her at Earthspirit events.
Friday we intended to get off “first thing”- just pack the cooler, electronics, toiletries ( and other things we use daily), and last minute stuff. Having stayed up late finishing things, we each separately fell back asleep and didn’t get off until 11:30. We have now learned that when pulling a trailer, we need to take the estimate that the GPS gives and add an extra half hour for every hour. So a “nine hour” drive is really twelve hours, and we didn’t get to the hotel until past midnight. We opted for “fast food” rather than real restaurants to make up the time, but sadly there was also a lot of traffic. Willow counted road-kill like the Sesame Street Count (with the laughing and thunder effects to amuse me). The room at the Grove City Comfort Inn was nice, I only wish we’d gotten in earlier. The highlight of the trip was that Kat found Willow a Toothless pillow pet in a gas station, and got it for her for her birthday. (Pennsic plays havoc with celebrating Willow’s Birthday.)
This is our symbolic picture of the trip- at the gas station at Port Jervis where we always stop because NJ gas is cheaper.
The next morning we fell asleep after the alarm, and didn’t get off until later than we hoped, but were at Pennsic by 9:30. Since we had missed the “landgrab” rush, we had almost no wait, and were in and setting up quickly. The first snafu we hit was that (sort of as usual) the tractors had placed our trailer wrong. Since we’ve had the house, we tell them to put it 25 feet from the road, and they always put it about 6-8 feet farther in. They can put it where they want. The tow ball was precisely over the paint spot someone had marked. On the other hand, Honour had mentioned that she wanted to put a ramp on the front of her house so she could drive her scooter up into it, and could they move it back a few feet? They moved it back 20. So our houses were almost lined up in back.
We asked Cindy if there was any chance they could move them, since several people weren’t there yet, and she said they’d try. How soon? “Not for at least a couple of hours.” So we said we’d go to town while they were doing what they had to do, and call us when they needed us. I will admit that Cindy was right- neither Honour nor I had mailed in our grid maps showing how and where the extensions come out (and in this case, overlap), and maybe she was picturing a standard wheelchair ramp. Since we couldn’t open our side flaps (where the tractor would have to sneak in), we figured the town run was something we could do. We emptied the car and trailer, dropped the trailer in the parking and sot the food, ant-traps, a new rose bush, etc, and when we got back, they’d moved Honour’s trailer. Sideways.
Four feet closer to the line. (So that if she opened her side extensions it would cover the drain hole we all use, and butt against her neighbors tent ropes.
I suppose they figured it was farther from our trailer. And if we’d hung around, we could have told them what the problem was. We asked again, but they said they’d moved it once, not again. So we put in the jacks, and put our sides out, and hoped that when Honour got there, she could convince them. With a couple weeks perspective, I think there was just miscommunication, and they thought that they were doing what we asked.
Willow decided to make pictures of our set up process. Perhaps this is a warning to anyone who thinks that one of these trailers is just a wooden RV, and all you have to do is move your food and garb in. (I’m afraid that’s sort of what Ælfwine and I thought when we designed it.) First, when we get there (and when we leave) all the exterior supports are inside, where they have been “shaken, not stirred” by the tractors taking them back and forth from the back fields for the 50 weeks of storage.
The next step is Kat climbs in the window and passes the jacks out, and Willow puts them under the corners to stabilize the building. Some years it’s better, some years it’s worse; we’re never quite sure where we’ll be, and there’s some variation on the ground. Then Kat passes all the two by fours out and we use them to support the hinged side roofs. When those are up we can open the side doors, pass out, and attach the stairs. The screws didn’t quite catch and a set rolled off under Willow as we were unpacking, but she stayed upright and didn’t get hurt. Then screwed it on VERY securely.
Then we take just about everything out of the trailer. A lot of it stays out, but mostly, we have to
clean. We have never had a year where little forest creatures didn’t make it their home. Last year we heard that peppermint repels mice, so we scattered about a half a pound in places they knew they liked. Nope, I think it attracts them. We ended up throwing out a lot of the cloths we’d wrapped the stoneware in; the rest had black flecks stuck to them. Yuck. They are particularly fond of the stored sheepskins which make great mouse-nests. This year they discovered the pool noodles we’d used to keep the roof of the screen house (class tent) from filling with rain, and shredded them. Also a foam mattress. It looked like Muppet-gedon, like Elmo had been drawn and quartered (or as Willow put it- muppets meet Final Fantasy). And we have to make sure nothing important is mixed in when we chuck it. Of course, it smells too. After sweeping we scrubbed (we leave a broom and mop for this) with water, vinegar (a medieval scent remover) and
rosemary oil (a medieval antiseptic). It worked rather well I must say. Once the floor was dry we could move our bedding and clothing chests in, and it looks lovely. Willow pointed out that the only thing she really cared about at that point was her lovely bed.
I’d gone to the market for something and saw them moving around cleaning and setting up in the dusk and thought how cozy it looked. Since we were still hoping at that point that they might move Honour’s house, we put up the class tent, and moved my bed into it for the night.
The next day we continued to set things up- leaving the side down so the tractor could get at Honour’s, but then her usual bad luck hit. She had three separate break-downs on the way to Pennsic. Eventually she sent Alex on ahead, with a chance-met SCAer. Another gave her crash-space, and she stayed with her van while it was was repaired. I think Kami may have helped with that.
We’d hoped to replace the canvas roofs on the front and back this year, but since we hadn’t gotten to it, and I did find a gallon of Thompson’s water seal, we got a sprayer and waterproofed them. Did it help? I assume so, but although the long range weather had predicted rain 10 out of 14 days, we got remarkably little.
Monday came and sales started, so we gave up and put up the west wing, set up the kitchen, the tables, the studios, dining area,and moved my bed into it’s spot. Around us other merchants came in and set up.
As usual, the chaos of set up meant that Willow’s birthday was totally set aside. This one was her fortieth. When I turned forty, I was so freaked about it I insisted that they throw me a surprise party. (So they had two, so that I’d be surprised by one. It was amazing.) Willow simply picked up a cake- no candles- and mostly it was to make Kat and me feel better about it. We did have a nice lunch at Eat and Park on Saturday, but mostly she celebrated with various friends during July.
I did get to chat with some friends during set up- Cariadoc and John of Three Bears, and ran into Mor across the street. I signed in for classes on Tuesday after I’d taught my first classes (at our class tent). This year I taught Anglo-Saxon Food, Witches and other Magick users in Period, Rune Interpretation, and Medieval Ghosts, and RúnValder (twice each, except RúnValdr thrice). The classes went well, but after getting I’m guessing 27 people for the Ghosts class at our tent, I got them to switch the Witches class to a tent down at the Pennsic University. Ours is lovely for small classes. We can seat a dozen people and have a table, but we had six sitting on the floor and four in our chairs, and more standing outside listening through the screens. Flattering, but not suitable. The tents down there can hold 30-60 depending on the tent. I don’t think I got over 30 at any of the other classes, but it seems rude to count when I should be teaching.
The one thing I wanted to get this year was a new pair of medieval shoes- most of mine are five to ten years old (and a comb). I found these and they fit beautifully. They are exactly what I’d been picturing, and are very comfortable. I showed them to everyone. I’m like a kid with her first set of shiny shoes! (Willow picked me up a comb on the last day, so I got that too.)
Kat had been looking at a lavender leather pouch for three years and it was still there, so we got it for her. She also got a lovely little bottle from Historic Glassworks- who are across from us again- to put powder into.Willow got a pair of used boots from Just Plain Plunder, next door, to replace her old boots she used to wear for setup. This year she never seemed to find anything she really wanted. Some years are like that. I came away from the war realizing how very little I actually want, since I’ve pretty much already got it all. Oh, sure, I was lusting over those Icelandic sheepskins that Owl at the Dancing Pig was selling, but I couldn’t convince myself that I really needed another sheepskin.
It doesn’t seem fair that we have so much and Honour has such bad luck! One of her friends came by (who does block printing (something I’ve always thought there should be more of in the SCA), to use her electricity to finish some sewing. Another lady dropped off a spinning wheel for her. This year she was selling assorted colors and staples of wool to spin, and with five spinning wheels on display, it looked rather good once she got set up.
Of course, at that point she wasn’t set up yet. Alex arrived Tuesday. I was a bit thrown off because he’s sporting a beard these days, but he’s still the same Alex. This year he was teaching D&D to teenagers. I keep thinking of him as a teenager himself. He was more interested in his classes than setting up his mother’s stall, but I can hardly fault him for that since it sounds like me dumping the selling work on the girls so I can teach.
One of the things we did to amuse ourselves this year was to collect signatures from Royals who visited our shop. A lot seem to do it, probably because we’re one of the few places you can get jewels to sew on your garb.
I had a lot of fun this year watching the weather app on my phone- storms come straight at Slippery Rock, then they slide north or south and around Coopers lake. One day we saw incredibly dark clouds to the north, and got nothing but a sprinkle. Another time I felt we’d been hit, but it was only a couple of half hour showers (pretty heavy, I’ll admit), and when I checked the radar, it was the edge of a HUGE front that stretched from u
s to the Great Lakes. We’d only been clipped by the edge of it. This is not to say that we didn’t get the usual “river runs through it”, coming off the barn (market now), past Maison Rive, and down into the Dancing Pig (where there’s a low spot that they call Swine Lake when it rains). Luckily, they sell ceramics, and the water sinks in after a few hours. Someone left a rubber ducky at our shop, and we let him swim. The next day I wondered where all the cigarette butts and trash in our yard came from, then I realized that they were carried down by the run-off. I have to say that our “cottage” feels quite cozy on a rainy evening.
Wednesday I took around the ballot boxes for Arastorm’s Pennsic Merchant Appreciation Awards, with ballots and posters. I also put ads in the paper every day to tell people about it. Considering there are over 10,000 people at Pennsic, and I’ve been doing this for so many years, it’s depressing how few people have heard of it. The folks at the paper said they’d run a story on it, but I didn’t see it. But then, we didn’t get every paper this year. (We always wait for an “urchin” who isn’t yelling.)
While doing that I chatted with the gentleman putting together the Viking Ship. That’s been going on for decades. I know we put Ælfwine’s shield on the ship the year he died, and sang for him. I sang for Aonghais, although perhaps not all who heard knew who I was mourning. People mourn their pets as the ship burns. This year it had a goose head because of a lady who’d made garb for dozens of coronations and was called Mother Goose died this year. Pennsic, like any city of over ten thousand souls, has many things going on, too many to participate in all of them.
Among other old friends, I bumped into Flieg- Fredrick of Holland, the first knight of the SCA, still coming to Pennsic. I’m not sure whether he’s still fighting or not. Whether one is coming from the west coast (as he does) or Lothac (Australia and New Zeland) as the charming folk I chatted with in the laundry room had done, Pennsic is like a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
It takes tons of planning, money, and you have experiences and get stories that your friends who didn’t come will find it hard to believe.
Willow started working on the doll medallions. She figured out that this was her tenth year making them when she put them on our dolls first. I tried to read the (162 page) program book to find any classes I really wanted to attend, but I couldn’t find the adult Doll Meet, only the Children’s. By chance Willow was getting ice one day and stopped to tie her shoe, and heard someone behind her talking about the doll meet. That was the only reason she heard about it. She did go to the adult one, but decided to blow off the Children’s since she has never enjoyed it. Also, it’s usually on the last Thursday (when she was leaving) and by that time, the people who have heard about the doll medallions have come to our shop to get them anyway.
We also put ads in for Mark’s war game miniatures that he was selling. A gentleman came by and put an offer on all of them- about a dollar apiece rather than the $2@ Mark had hoped for, but since he took them all, not leaving picked-over ones that we couldn’t sell, (and Mark agreed when I called him), I think it was good. I think Fitz painted them and they were about 30 years old. He was selling them because he doesn’t use them any more. I’m glad someone does.
A funny story from when I was dropping off the boxes, I noticed about halfway that I’d lost my veil, so I went back over my path, not finding it, then went down to the Lost and Found (a shadow of it’s former organization- now it is simply a rack of bins behind information point). In fact they told me to just go back and look in the bin marked ‘veils’, and as I walked around the table, I saw, trailing behind me, the veil, which I’d tucked into my belt, as Willow had suggested, and I’d dragged it all over while looking for it. Oh well.
One of the places I left ballots was Dragonscale- Maya Heath’s shop. She had on display two pieces of Opus Anglicanum- a type of embroidery where you lay down a solid background of gold thread. The key is to get it absolutely even, and one can make patterns with the tacking stitches. Someone described them as “Framed someone’s patience”. I know she does amazing tiny sculpture because we sell the silver and bronze jewelry she casts, so I can’t be surprised that she can make another type of art that requires hand-eye coordination and skill, but wow, they were amazing!
If I don’t go out shopping, at least distributing and collecting the ballot boxes allows me to see some amazing stuff. At the far end of New Market there was a place selling furs. They had “craft grade” arctic fox (meaning no tail) for $45 (the ones with tails cost $200. I should have bought one right then, but didn’t get out again until two days later by which time they were gone of course.
This is long, and I got used to going to bed earlier at Pennsic. That’s the first week, so I’ll do the second week in another letter. (Besides, there are a LOT of pictures, and that can clog your computers.)
Rule #9- Never go anywhere without a knife- Jethro Gibbs