The class was taught by Linda Oakley. She works at OSV and other historical sites in MA, and she's a fantastic teacher. A few years back, I took a hearth cooking class from her, also at OSV, and she's teaching at least one more hearth cooking class at OSV this fall (which I'm seriously tempted to take).
The class was great, especially as there were only two of us - me and a lovely woman named Susan who was familiar with the SCA through some friends who used to play. Since we were only two, there was plenty of time to chat with Linda about whatever we wanted to know. The conversations were so interesting that we lost track of time at one point, and the sugar syrup we were supposed to be gently boiling down had turned into a burnt caramel mess. :)
So, we talked about various food preservation techniques, including salting, smoking / drying, pickling and fermenting, and preserving in syrups. We both came away with the following items, some of which need to "age" before they'll be ready:
--squash cooked in a lemon/sugar syrup (very yummy! I'll be making more for the Tahnskgiving table)
--strawberries in a sugar syrup
--pears cooked in a sugar/ginger syrup combo (they were supposed to be preserved in syrup, but as noted above, the syrup burnt, so we said the heck with it)
--fermented cabbage (ie., it will be sauerkraut (sp?) - just cabbage with layers of salt)
--fermented asparagus (asparagus packed with salt)
--fermented green beans (beans packed with salt)
--dried herbs (we used the tin kitchen for these - I have sage, savory, parsley, and spearmint)
Overall, it was a great day, and I'm looking forward to taking another class with Linda. She knows a lot of skills (including shoemaking, as her husband is the shoemaker for OSV). She's a lot of fun to talk with, and I recommend any of her classes.
So, here goes....
9/15, Thursday - 1.9 miles (30 minutes)
lauradi7 kindly provided me with a link to the YouTube clips for the entire show of Tales from the Green Valley. I watched the first episode last night and decided that I would pace myself - 1 30-minute episode per night - and use them as a treat after getting my chores done.
Well, guess what happened? They've been removed from YouTube because of copyright violations.
At any rate this book, written by Mr. Peachey, is about the 17-year long (out of a projected 40 years) project to purchase, restore, and run a 17th century farm. From reading the book, it’s obvious that this is a labor of love on the part of Mr. Peachey. That being said, I can’t help but get the impression that his numerous ex-girlfriends (several of which are mentioned in the book, including the mother of his 3 children) might perhaps describe it more as an obsession. The book is, of course, presented from his point of view, but it does seem like he was and still is the driving force behind the entire project. While the financial costs of the project have been remarkably low, the costs of human labor, time, and relationships, appear to have been considerable. And they would have to be in order to accomplish this remarkable feat. After reading this book, I can’t tell you how much I’d like to go there for one of their living history weeks. And I’d really like to see the BBC 2 television series that was filmed at the farm, but unfortunately, it’s not yet available in the North American DVD format.
The book describes the process of restoring the farm in great detail, including the four year legal battle which threatened to derail the entire thing. It can be a bit tedious at times, as Mr. Peachey is fairly meticulous in mentioning every working party, who came, and what was accomplished. My only other frustration (and it’s a small one) is that Mr. Peachey would often mention some aspect of the project, but wouldn’t necessarily go into detail as to how it was accomplished. Of course, if he’d done that, the book would have too big to publish. And there are so many fascinating aspects to read about – building and mortaring stone walls; the reintroduction of period fruit trees, crops, and livestock; historical agricultural and building techniques, the history of the farm, and even the modern political and legal hoops that Peachey and company had to jump through.
I didn’t come away from this book with a much greater understanding of 17th century history, but I had a lot of fun reading about the process behind this restoration and the amount of work involved. I started the book thinking “Wow, I’d love to do something like this!” and quickly progressed to “Wow, I don’t think I could ever accomplish something like this!” This was a fun and enjoyable read on many levels, and I recommend it for other late period personas or people who are interested in developing greater authenticity in their historical re-enactment groups. For more information on the farm or to purchase products and publications, see http://www.stuart-hmaltd.com/index.php.
I'm happy (and a bit surprised) to say that I think it was worth every penny. The book looks at the detailed accounts kept by a family of fairly wealthy landowners for a period of 80 years. While these records aren't perfect (and the author takes a lot of pains to discuss the gaps), they do provide an excellent look at how a large estate was run. The emphasis, of course, is on what was eaten and when, where it came from, how often things were purchased and what they cost. But the book also discusses the layouts of these large estates, the people in the household and what offices they performed (and how much they were paid), the functions of the various rooms in the manors, etc.. It's really an excellent book, and chock full of little details about the period. For example, while I knew that venison was eaten mostly by the wealthy, I hadn't known that it was illegal to sell venison in England.
I really enjoyed it, and I would recommend it for anyone who's interested in 16th century foodways or persona development.
Next up to finish: The Building of the Green Valley by Stuart Peachey. Boy, does he sound like quite a character....
I'm getting a bit tired of making scarves, but on the bright side, I've managed to produce a scarf for just about every female member of my family on my mom's side. Christmas presents for everyone!
Sunday was my "attempt to reorganize the sewing room / guest bedroom / SCa library room" day. Old shelving and bookcase came out, and new (and smaller) IKEA shelving was assembled and put in place. After that, it was just a matter of purging and finding a place for the things I want to keep. I still have three plastic bins in the room. One is full of velvets and stays because it helps the cats reach the cutting table, where they love to perch. The other two are devoted to linen fabric and patterns, and both are full. I might be able to transfer some of the linen to the new shelves, but not all of it, and there's simply no other place for me to put all the patterns. Must think about creative alternatives.... At any rate, by the time the purge was done, I'd brought out two garbage bags to the dumpster, and filled three more with fabric to donate to Goodwill. I was fairly ruthless this time - many of the survivors from my last purge 3 years or so ago didn't make the cut this time. It was a wrench to get rid of some of it, but alot was stuff I'll never miss, and not worth my time to try to sell it at an event.
I took a break in the middle of the day to go see Cowboys and Aliens with mom. It was a great summer movie - action, no thinking required, and it had one of my favorite actors, Harrison Ford. What more can you ask for?
Today's fun was my first trip to WEBS in Northampton, MA. Mom came along and ended up buying the wool to make a shawl that was displayed. Despite shopping in the sale warehouse portion, I came out with a much larger dent to the purse. I bought mostly yarns to use to make scarves on the rigid heddle loom, which means I need to weave them all by the end of the week, when the loom needs to go back. I wove one scarf today which was meant for my sister but will probably go to my niece, warped another scarf, and wove a bit. Tomorrow I hope to get two more done between other things. They do work up pretty fast.
i'm not sure yet what the rigid heddle loom can do. I know that working with one reed is the equivalent of two treddles, and basically means making plain weave fabrics. Evidently you can add a second reed and do more complicated weaves, but I can't picture it in my head yet. I also know that you can do special weaves if you're willing to go through the threads individually (rather than throwing the shuttle through). Maybe I'll explore that in the future. As for the fineness of the weave, while I'm not convinced that I could be producing linen fabric, and while I think that the rigid heddle probably works best with looser weaves, it looks like I could do many sorts of objects as long as I have the proper size reeds. When I told the instructor that I was interested in placemats, table runners, napkins, rugs, scarves, etc., she didn't blink.
So my class involved warping the loom and beginning weaving on my first project, which is a wool scarf. I made good progress during the class, and it only took me another 45 minutes of weaving at home to produce a 5-6 foot long scarf. I have the loom for a week, so now I'm thinking that I need to go out and buy more materials! I'm sure that I'll quickly become bored with scarves, but they are good learning pieces, and they'll make good Christmas gifts for family members who are forgiving of imperfect selvedges and tension. :)
This morning I decided to stain the suckers, as they're a cheap pine which 1) looks cheap and 2) is a light wood, and I prefer dark woods. I ran out to Home Depot, got my supplies, and came back home to get started. Because the pine is, well, pine, I decided that I needed to put the pre-stain stuff on that is supposed to make sure that you get a more even coat. Well, sanding, applying the pre-stain stuff, wiping off the excess, sanding, and wiping the wood once again, I was able to move onto the water-based stain (Minwax brand, and so easy to clean up after). I managed to get one coat on everything before stopping for lunch, and while I did a fairly crappy job, I justify it by remembering that it's crappy, cheap furniture, and it's going to be completely covered with fabric and boxes. Who will actually notice the crap stain job anyway?
After a quick bite to eat, I decided that I'd earned the fun part of the day, and I zipped up to Osgoods Textiles in West Springfield. I want to make a new outfit that I can wear to Crown Tournament in November, and I went to look for fabric for a kirtle / petticoat bodies, and an overgown. I couldn't find much that I liked in wool for the kirtle, but I did find a fairly pale pink linen which I'll use instead, and matched it up with some rusty brown fine wool for sleeves and trim. I picked up some remnants as well, but I didn't find anything for the overgown. Since the majority of gowns/coats/cloaks appeared to be black, I should probably make it that color. And by using black I'll be able to wear the gown with other stuff more easily. I haven't decided on the gown yet - loose gown (I have a few of these already) or a more fitted English gown or Flanders gown. I want to make that decision before picking up some fabric. Heck, I might have enough black wool or cotton velveteen already.
I'm back home now. Going to make some dinner and then try to work up the energy to put the first layer of the poly-acrylic overcoat on the IKEA shelves.
I have a list of things i'd like to do over the next 1.5 weeks. Some are visits to various places, and some are crafty projects or reading that will be done at home. Though I'm not much for blogging on a regular basis (as the patient readers of the LJ are aware), I will try to keep some sort of record about my activities.
So today's plans included two fun things, which was a good plan, because it was a little rough for me to unpack everything this morning while a little voice whispered in my head saying "It's not too late! You can still go to Pennsic! Just throw everything in the car and drive!" I resolutely ignored the little voice by unpacking all garb, accessories, and toiletries, and then left the house to check on our community garden plot and to give my mom's dog a walk.
After visiting with Buster the Boston terrier, I headed off to Torrington to visit a shop called In Sheep's Clothing. It's a knitting/spinning/weaving shop whose owner has looms set up in the store and offers weaving lessons. Ever since the fun time kls-eloise and I had at the Vavstuga weaving days, I wanted to do so more weaving, and I've been looking for learning opportunities. Wesleyan Potters is offering a class this fall that last 6 Saturdays, but I have conflicts against two of them, so that's out. Since I originally planned to talk to weavers at the Artisan's Row at Pennsic, I wanted to find some sort of replacement activity.
I'm so glad I went. Ginger, the owner of In Sheep's Clothing, was incredibly nice and welcoming. She took the time to discuss the basics of rigid heddle looms and why she uses them more often than other types of looms that she owns. We discussed heddle sizes, fibers, and the types of object that can be made on the looms, etc.. I ended up scheduling a two-hour class with her for this Saturday, and the rental of a small rigid heddle loom for a week. Her prices are very reasonable, and I'm looking forward to learning how to warp the loom and weaving a few small projects.
After Torrington, I zipped down Rt. 8 to the Oakville section of Waterbury, which is home to David Brown Books, the American branch of Oxbow Books. Since it's their American distribution warehouse, they're only open on weekdays, and that means that I can get to them maybe once a year, if I'm lucky. I'd looked at the online catalog last night and wrote down some options, but of course the best part of going to David Brown is looking at their damaged titles wall. Since their definition of "damaged" seems pretty broad to me, and since the discounts on these books are steep, it's well worth the time and strained eyes. Today's visit showed me a lot of things that my friends would be interested in, but nothing that really called out to me. Instead, I picked up full price copies (but without shipping costs!) of two books I've been eyeing for awhile: Plenti and Grase: Food and Drink in a Sixteenth-Century Household, and The Building of the Green Valley: A Reconstruction of an Early 17th-Century Rural Landscape. I've skimmed through them both, and they look like they're going to be well worth the money.
On the way home, I stopped by the library and picked up two more books, as well as Seasons One and Two of Jeeves and Wooster. I've read some of the Wodehouse stories, and I've seen a few episodes of the series, but now I have the time to watch as much of it as I can stand. :)
Tomorrow's plans will either be a trip to Mystick, or a trip to IKEA. I'm thinking IKEA would be best, as my sister wants to go, and she's the one with the SUV that I need in order to bring home some of the bigger items I want. It might sound like an odd option, but it'll be fun in it's own way.