What did you do on Saturday?

We had a few friends over. Activities ensued, including:

Three men walking around with rifles looking for bunnies, one dude with a chainsaw merrily chopping down a cherry tree, multiple decapitations, a flaming forge furnace and the clash of hammers on hot steel, gardening, archery, a cute little girl walking around with a petting a severed head, a bowl of fresh blood being briskly whisked, spoon carving, goose herding, and MIG welding.

Nobody got hurt. And alcohol was not even involved until after everyone was done.

All in all, a successful day. But rather tiring.

Which llama will be king?

The first weekend in May ended up being double booked. So while Tam went off to the SCA Crown Tourney (where the best warriors in the land to see who will be the next King of Australia and New Zealand), I was off to Christchurch for the Llama Association AGM (annual general meeting).

I know Tam had fun at Crown Tourney. I know Martin came within a whisker of winning (which makes me feel better that I have a hard time beating him at fight practice since he is one of the best in Australasia). But I will leave it to Tam to tell any details.

I was down at Llama Lookout (http://www.llama.co.nz/), a place with million dollar views, about 45 very-friendly llamas, and some very friendly hosts. I gave a talk titled “science worms, and poo”. There was a great demonstration from Keith about packing/treking with your llamas, where he talked about what physiology was best suited for pack llamas, and how to fit a pack safely and comfortably. Good stuff. There was also some llama fiber-fashion on display that could rival any alpaca-based product I have seen (while there are not as many fiber llamas as alpacas, very good llama fiber is equivalent to very good alpaca fiber).

I was nice to meet lots of llama enthusiasts. I also expanded our network of friends around the country- I don’t expect we will need to book hotels that often any more- as we get to know more and more friendly breeders the offers for accommodation keep stacking up. Very cool!

A vacation

So, while Tizona was in the vet hospital, we got to go on our planned vacation to Canterbury Faire. This is the largest SCA event held in NZ, and is quite fun. This is only the 3rd we have made since moving to NZ, we have missed 3 others due to “agriculture” getting in the way. We are hopeful that by trying to schedule all alpaca births well away from the first week in February we should be able to continue making it to future events.

This year they moved to a new, longer format for the event, with it running a full 7 days. It was quite nice, as there was plenty of time for everything, and you could sit back and relax. There were  a few scheduling SNAFUs, as far as I was concerned, as too often heavy fighting and rapier and archery would be scheduled simultaneously. I guess they don’t expect people to do more than one combat form.

The size of the event, above 240 people, is really close to perfect. It is big enough for lots of fun events, but small enough to have that “village” feel where you can get to know everyone at least by face. The rudeness that arises from anonymity at the really big events was lacking, and when everyone is friendly it improves the overall atmosphere immensely.

The meal program was struggling to feed everyone who signed up, but they managed. We have to be sure to sign up for that early in future years, I would not want to have to provide food for myself at the event, it would suck up way to much of my time.

I also discovered that being able to give good back rubs (with strong farmer hands) makes you a lot of friends. At one point I had a queue of 14 people waiting their turn. It has been suggested that I actually take some classes, and I might just this winter. It was also pointed out that if I put out a tip jar I could probably pay for my event fees that way. A definite possibility…

Updating them internets

Yes, we have been slack about updating the blog lately. So what have we been doing lately?

We have been wet. Often. It has rained every day for the last 20 days, with a total accumulation of about 210 mm (8 inches). Thankfully the rain has never been too instense for too long, but even so everything has gotten very soggy. (And my plans for building a few new fences are on hold until the ground dries out a bit.) The sun does peek out on occasion. If it would stay out for a few days running the grass would start growing, and everyone (well, all the farmers at least) would be happier.

This last weekend we flew down to Christchurch for a party. This was the 9th (?) annual “Winter Weekend”, where a group of people (amny of whom we know from SCA events) head out to the My Hutt Retreat, and commence 4 days of lazing about which involved sitting in a spa pool, watching movies and playing board games. This was my first time off the farm (except an alpaca-related trip to Auckland back in May) in 8 months. It took me a few days just to relax a bit and stop fretting about the ‘paca.

Did you know that a llama appears in Conan the Barbarian? I didn’t, ’till I rewatched it Friday night.

It is also amazing what people will sit and listen to. One of the many games on hand was a set of steel balls and many magnet-ended plastic tubes of various lengths and curvatures. These could be used to assemble a wide variety of 3-dimensional shapes. It also turns out that they make fairly effective teching tools for organic chemistry. Yes, I spent about 45 minutes before breakfast Friday morning giving an impromptu lesson on basic O-chem/Biochem (focusing on the role of sterics and electrostatics in binding site recognition) to a half dozen people. At the end of it more than one person stated (clearly in amazement) how interesting that all was. I guess any subject can be made fun with a sufficiently spaztic lecturer.

On Saturday we did some hiking in the morning, trying to get up to the snow line. The ridge we were hiking along was not quite high enough, we could see snow only about 50 meters up on the adjacent ridge, but we had largely run out of “up” when we decided to turn around.

We tried fossiking in some of the streams near the farm where Zane grew up for agate and petrified wood, but without success (heading out with a geologist with local knowledge ensures you look in the streams that have potential for good finds). It was distressing to see how the nutrient runoff from all the dairy farms they are putting in had affected the streams. What should have been clear-channeled gravel-bedded streams where now choked with growth due to the excessive nitrates. Bleah.

Zane also took us down to his family farm, which is an experience in itself with all the old vehicles, tractors, and bren-gun carriers scattered among the paddocks. We hiked up the old tram way at the back of the farm towards the abandoned coal mines (dating from the 1880’s). Amazingly the wooden rails of the old tram were still there, barely rotted even though they had been sitting on the floor of a rain forest for 130 years. Australian hard wood- nothing in NZ eats it! Zane did fine one nice chunk of petrified wood for Tam in the stream up near the coal mines.

Zane had also brought along a nifty .58 caliber black-powder muzzle-loading rifle on the trek, in case we came across any deer. We saw lots of deer-sign, but the living deer remained hidden. I am kind of glad for that, as otherwise we would have had to carry the carcass out of that rather challenging terrain. He ended up discharging the weapon into a clay bank (can’t unlaod a muzzle-loader!), and the report was quite impressive. A powerful low roar, very different from modern rifles. We may do a black-powder day some time up at our farm, that should make the neighbors curious!

On the way out we visited Z’s brothers place, which also had an impressive (if somewhat smaller) collection of vehicles. The collection included an operational 77mm field gun! (Which every farm needs, clearly.) I have to see when we can get one for our farm!

Fighting! Feasting! Kidnapping! Rescue!

It was another, average dull weekend here in Wellington. Except for the crown tournament, of course. This has been the albatross hanging about the necks of the Shire for the last few months as they prepared furiously for the big event, and it went very well.

At the event Tam and I met this American couple now living in Australia. In the “small world” department Siobhan was from York PA (which I have visited many times in the past), and her best friend lives in Wilmington DE! Small world indeed! Her partner, Siridean (pronounced “Sheriden” — these are their SCA names), ended up winning the tourney the next day, so he will be the next king of Lochac (Australia/New Zealand).

The Kidnapping occured after the event. Siridean and Siobhan dropped by to see the alpaca. They were just getting ready to leave when Vanessa arrived the with horse truck (we provide crash spaces for both people and equines, which is really convenient). At the top curve of the driveway the back wheels came off the concrete, and promply slipped backwards in the mud (it has been raining quite a bit the last 2 weeks) and into the drain. Stuck! Against the bank! And of course that blocked the ramp, so we had two horses stuck on board too.

Seeing how the truck was completely blocking the drive, we now had the Crown Prince and his Princess captive! Held up by the calvary no less!

We tried pulling them out with our neighbor Steve’s old powerpul Land Cruiser, to no avail. Eventually we managed to get Stuart, and with his mighty big tractor [a Sami –T.] we pulled them clear! Huzzah! The horses were fine after their hours standing at an angle, and the rest of us could start de-stressing about the whole thing. Oh yeah, Siridean and Siobhan could get away too, which was good as they had a rental car to return!

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

So what have I been doing while Stephen is swanning around the East Coast ?

Er, playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, mostly. After playing a bunch of games at Alan’s B-day party, I gave in to temptaion and bought a used X-Box off TradeMe. The PS2 is great for RPGs, which is what I mostly play, but Stephen and I really like playing games *together*, and there’s only so many times you can replay Neverwinter Nights before the entertainment value palls. (Yes, I know, KotOR is *also* an RPG, but Stephen’s away, remember ?) So the X-Box came with a bunch of games, plus Kerry has loaned us some of theirs, plus now I can actually look at the cheap used games in EB or Gamesman, because I have something to play them on. I anticipate getting nothing useful done this winter. :^)

The long holiday weekend was spent at the first ever Darton Collegium — a “collegium” being an SCA event comprised mostly of classes. I learned all kinds of cool things about Medieval leatherworking techniques, what sorts of modernly-available thread is most appropriate for handsewing various types of garments, etc. I missed the bookbinding class, but I suspect it will be reprised. There were people from some of the other local Medievalist groups there, too, so it was good to meet them and share perspectives.

This past weekend, Kerry and I grabbed some alpaca fleece and went up to a felting workshop at Dianne’s place up in Judgeford. Man, felting is hard work ! Definitely need to arrange some kind of mechanical aid for this kind of thing. We made “cria covers” — although they might be better suited to pillow covers or something. We learned why it’s important to card or comb the fleece first, or be very assiduous about pulling apart the staples: anything that still thinks it’s part of a lock will bind back into the lock when you felt, making little loops and warts on the finished surface. So our pieces came out a bit goofy-looking. But we had fun & got to chat with alpaca people (okay, well *I* had fun and chatted to alpaca people — I’m not sure what Kerry got out of it, apart from maybe sore shoulders…). It was a good day for it, too — sunny and not too cold.

In place of our usual Friday-night gaming slot we’ve been playing other games. We played a four-board game of Robo Rally, and not only did we *finish* at a reasonable time, I actually *won*. I don’t think *either* of those two things has happened before… And Geoff took away our little robot figures and painted them for us. Thanks, Geoff !

I haven’t been doing much with the week-nights (apart from A&S and KotOR), mostly because I’m still (yes STILL) getting over the Dunedin Death-Grip. After a couple of false starts where I’d think I was doing better and go to dance class or something, and then fall over for the next two days, I’ve been deliberately taking it very easy. I *think* I’m now over the hump, and am just dealing with the lingering cough. I haven’t had to take a day off work in a couple weeks now, I’ve been going back out for walks at lunchtime, and this week I’ve gone back to getting up at the usual time. I’m now horribly out of shape, though, which is annoying, and missing dancing is a bugger. Oh well, it beats gallstones, right ? Meanwhile, Stephen, convinced that my ability to feed myself properly has atrophied since I’ve been living with him, carefully stuffed the fridge with leftovers for me to eat while he’s away. Hee. I’ve mastered the one-match fire, too, so I’ve been keeping cosy.

The alpacas are fine. (Metservice keeps pushing back the days when the bad weather is supposed to finally get us, so while it’s been chilly, it hasn’t been *bitter*, or too wet or windy.) I’m sure the cats think I am *slack*, though, as I’ve occasionally let the food bowls get empty before remembering to refill them. On the other hand, I think *they’re* pretty slack, too — we had *two* mice in the the house Saturday, and Kerry and I had to catch both of them. *tsk*

Only a few more days to go til Stephen gets back !

Crazy September

The mad month continues to march forward.

On Saturday we spent all day in a dress rehersal for the Two Sisters, which plays next Saturday. The day was chaotic and noisy, but I think good progress was made. The technical/stage directions were finalized, so that can now get passed onto the sound and light people.

Sunday we had a SCA day-o-fun. This had been scheduled some months ago, before we realized what a madhouse September would be. The weather was perfect, and about 18 people attended. While no heavy list fighting happened (few people brought armor), there was archery, some test combat archery, and fencing. We also played with a sword. Steve had discovered the joy of doing test-cuts with a sharp steel sword on plastic coke and milk bottles full of water. I am very glad I had not taken away the recycling for many weeks. I dug out my steel katana, and the fun began. When we were done 10 bags of plastic bottle had been choped into small pieces, small enough that the “corpses” could be repacked into 5 plastic bags. Almost everyone got a chance to take a swing, it was very fun. You learn a great deal more about technique when using a real sword. I will have to start accumulating more bottles in time for our next event.

Now a new week begins. More rhododendrons to move, more gorse to spray. And in the evenings more rehersals for the Two Sisters, of course. We will be very glad to get through the play and get some free time back.

More on DA

So, as you can see from the menu, the food at DA was plentiful and wonderful. We all ate way too much. But we did more than just eat. There were tournaments (heavy, rapier, arhcery). There were Arts and Sciences classes. And of course there was time to chat with friends from Auckland and Christchurch who had come down for the event.

Saturday morning we have the heavy-fighter championship. This involved 5 local fighters, and one visitor from Hamilton. While I did not win (the weapons I use certainly don’t help my chances), I had fun. Lief’s shield broke part way through the tourney, so when the time came for us to fight, I decided to do the fun and honroable thing, and fight him one-handed as well. The battles were a best-of-three contest, but with both of us weilding single swords, we kept simultaneously killing each other. I don’t know how many rounds that went, but we kept pitching over dead in unison, to the great amusement of the crowd. That evening the Baron of Southern Gaard gave us some small awards for our most amusing antics.

Only one small problem marred the event. Sunday I came down with a killer headache (migrane). In retrospect I know exactly what the cause was- feasting late into the night. I have found a strong correlation between going to bed with a full stomach (especially full of “heavy” food like meat) and a subsequent headache the next day. Usually this vulnerability is not a problem, as we eat early, but feasts like this one start later, and run into the evening with course after course. Sure, I could in theory abstain after the first course, but that is really hard when presented with steaming trays of yummy food!

My head exploding did not help my archery skills Sunday morning, so the championship slipped from my fingers. I knew it would, because the night before I was finally presented with Yanulf’s Arrow, the prize for winning the contest. I had won the previous two years, but nobody knew where the arrow was! The finally found it, presented it to me, and then I lost it 12 hours later! Hopefully next year I can win it back.

Posted in SCA

Food for Days

Stephen has promised to do at least a short write-up of this year’s Darton Anniversary event, but I wanted to take a minute to post the MENU. If you have been laboring under the notion that SCA “feasts” tend to consist of indifferently roast beast, some kind of bland chicken-and-starch dish, leeks, maybe some mushrooms and a lot of bread, have a look at the menu Master Stefano put together for the weekend:

Friday Night: Tapas (because people would be dribbling in all evening)

blanched almonds
sheep feta in olive oil
blue cheese in olive oil
apple fritters in the Italian manner
egg tortillas
egg tortillas with spinach
egg tortillas and bacon
�pain and destruction� (egg tortillas with lambs brains)
fried oysters with spices and orange juice
fried clams (scallops) with spices and orange juice
fried sardines with spices and orange juice
fried bream (snapper) with spices and orange juice
fried salmon with spices and orange juice
fried squid with spices and orange juice
stewed tuna with spices, nuts and dried fruit
stewed pork loin
cured ham
cured sausage
fried gourd (zucchini) with fennel seeds in the Italian manner
fried mushrooms with garlic and parsley
pickled asparagus with white garlic sauce
pickled onions
stewed eggplant stewed figs in the French manner

Saturday And Sunday Breakfast:

bread, egg tortillas, bacon
oatmeal gruel, figs, oranges, apples
tea, coffee, cordial
butter, jam, milk, sugar

Saturday and Sunday Lunch:

empanadillas (filled bread) — the cheese and mustard ones had more of that scrummy sheep’s feta. YUM.
–Castilian hornazos (ham, pork, salami, egg)
–meat pastry (lamb, spices, egg)
–cheese, mustard
–chickpeas, hummus, herbs
pottage of noodles and vegetables
figs, oranges, apples
butter, jam, milk, sugar
tea, coffee, cordial

Saturday Night: A feast, a service followed by three courses.

bread, blanched almonds, olives, boiled eggs

First Course
stewed figs in the French manner
roast chicken with green sauce
roast lamb with white garlic sauce
roast pork with apple sauce
leek pottage

Second Course
migraust casserole of chicken, almond, cinnamon, sugar
meat casserole of beef, mild spices
�vin alho� spicy pork casserole in the Portuguese manner
with wine, garlic, spices, plenty of pepper
moji casserole of carrots with oil, spices, bread, egg, cheese, honey
rice casserole with saffron and vegetables

Third Course
�angel food� of ricotta cheese, honey, rosewater
stewed peaches with sugar and ginger
stewed cherries with sugar

Wow, that was a lot of food. Most SCA meals, I sort of pick around a lot of things not really to my liking (on account of my meat fussiness) and fill up on some inoffensive side dish or other. This one I had a choice of things I actively WANTED to stuff in my face.


I meant to post these a while ago, but here are some photos of the two banners I did the artwork for. This is at an event back in the summer, in Australia. We didn’t go, but the banners did. :^) The black one with the yellow hunting horn is the banner for our local group, the Shire of Darton. The one with the two trees is the one we did as a gift to the barony that hosts this big event every year (each of the New Zealand groups did two banners: their own, and one other).

The trees were the big work — very fiddly. But I wanted a design that wasn’t too naturalistic, looked stylized enough to be medieval, without looking like a pair of fluffy green lollipops. I got the general pattern out of Victor Rolland’s _Illustrations to the Armorial General_, but I’ve no idea where he got it. Anyway, people like them, and I was asked for an electronic copy so the design could be reused. The Barony of Rowany even gave me and Robyn, who did the sewing, special little awards forthe work we did. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only photo there will ever be of the Darton horn banner looking that nice — it got rained on, and despite the dye claiming up and down to be washable — as in, you should be able to get it wet without it running all over the place — it ran all over the place. The black is now an interesting charcoal grey, and the gold is now mud. Ah well. It looks like a “relic” now, I guess.