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2016: Annual Archive

2016 was a busy year for us.

2016 12 09: Stronghold Christmas Feast

posted Jan 9, 2017, 5:23 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir

Stronghold Christmas Feast (almost-incipient Stronghold of Ravensdale, Berwick, NS)
Friday, Dec. 9th, 2016, 7:00 pm - ??
369 Bentley Rd, Berwick, NS

The Stronghold's second annual Christmas feast, while chilly, was great fun!

It was held in the Great Gules Hall (aka the Big Red Barn). We had gotten the far wall insulated, vapour-barriered, covered, and primed, with curtains covering the closed doorway, and it made a distinct difference to the temperature up there, as did the addition of seven more hanging lanterns (there are now matching lanterns hanging down the centre as well as the rows on either side). We also ran as many heaters as we could without tripping breakers, which were life-savers for those without well-insulated garb.

Even so, though, with slightly lower numbers than usual due to the busy social Christmas season, and an outside temperature somewhere around -16c, it was still not quite comfortable upstairs. We plan to insulate the other wall before the next feast, though, and close off the doorway at the bottom of the stairs with a curtain, and that will make quite a difference as well. As will it (hopefully) not being quite so cold out!

The Baron and Baroness honoured us with their presence again this year, and even brought a guest, a friend from Drachenwald. We deliberately did not tell them anything about the GGH, nor posted anything about our hard work on it online publicly, so as to surprise them with the wonderful space. They were surprised, indeed, and much enjoyed it! A memorable moment was the sheep downstairs interjecting comments into a lull in the conversation. Very period!

We do hope to make or acquire some tables and chairs or benches of our own soon, ideally before the next feast, as bringing them in and returning them (especially in the snow) adds an unwanteded level of complication. Great thanks to Ulrich and Ibrahim for dealing with that, and everyone else who helped to load and unload them all, and set them up!

The evening ended around the wood stove inside, drinking tea and enjoying conversation, before Their Excellencies and their guest had to leave. A chilly but enjoyable night!

Sadly, not too many pics of it. If you have any more, pass them on to me and I'll add them in!

2016 10 14: Battle of Hastings Commemorative Feast

posted Dec 22, 2016, 5:29 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:45 PM by Mikhail H- ]

On the nine hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, and the death of the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, Ravensdale held our first feast in the Big Red Barn. Or the Big Red Hall, or the Gules Great Hall, if you prefer.

Ibrahim and Nesrin have a farm with a spare barn. Sheep were in it until recently but have since been moved over to the other, more modern barn, and with the help of a great many people over several days, the upstairs, which had once held hay, and was then held a kids' play area, and most recently was a home to a truly impressive collection of very large spiders, had the spiders evicted; their homes, dust, and stray piles of hay removed; everything swept down and vacuumed; and then the fun part began: decorating it.

A side-trip delivery of some mutton in Halifax by Freydis resulted in the chance acquisition of four area rugs (needing only to be cleaned, which a pressure washer, a rug cleaner, and Michel readily accomplished). The stairs were reinforced and new railings built by Mikhail and Ulrich. The large central hatch was reinforced. The railing across the opening at one end of the barn was replaced, and a matching one made for the other end.

Lanterns were found (cheaply at the dollar store), the glass removed and they repainted to something more suitable to the Medieval atmosphere, and quickly strung up as food was assembled, tables and chairs laid out, rugs placed. Candles were lit, and the lone electric light extinguished.

A lot of people worked very hard to get the place ready, and the results showed off their efforts beautifully. A double row of copper lanterns lit the upper reaches of the distant, arching ceiling as candles blazed on the tables below. Soft rugs underfoot muffled the sound of feet as we made our way to the groaning board, in position as the high table in front of a screen back-lit by another lantern. A harp played as we ate, officially making this feast the classiest I personally have ever attended.

Disregarding the Order of Precedence, instead, and entertainingly, which side of the hall should fill their plates first was decided with a trivia contest (run by Mikhail): Who knew who our reigning King and Queen were?

Oops. Me neither.

As bellies filled, songs were sung in what I hope becomes a local tradition. I was pleased at how many people now have the words to "A Lame Tame Crane" memorized; I think His Excellency will be pleasantly surprised!

And after, a campfire was lit in the paddock behind, and we talked beneath a bright full moon.

A fantastic feast in a fantastic site! I look forward to many more.

Karl Skullsplitter lights the hanging lanterns.

The view by electric light...

And by flame!

"So then I said to him--"


We are officially the classiest group now!

2016 09 12 & 13: Sheep Skins

posted Sep 14, 2016, 11:08 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:45 PM by Mikhail H- ]

On Monday evening Mór and I had the opportunity to head over to Cresent Moon Farms (Nesrin and Alman's place) to start in on the process of tanning sheep skins! We returned yesterday to try and finish all nine skins up.

It was an interesting experience, and by that I do not mean "interesting" in the way of politely saying, "Ugh, never again." It truly was an interesting experience, and I am looking forward to doing it again the next time sheep are butchered (although I will need to build up the muscles in my left arm more; my right arm is fine, thanks to manually turning my sewing machine's fly wheel so much; but my left is sooooore!).

First off, it was far, far less gross than one might expect. It only smelled of sheep, not blood or other grossness, and while the sheep fat we were removing from the undersides of the skins was undeniably greasy and slippery, it is also basically just lanolin, and felt a lot nicer on the skin than, say, chicken fat would have.

Second, while I was not surprised that the process is easiest while the skins still have some body heat in them (so typically for the first hour after the slaughter, about the same window for ease of plucking chickens), I was happily surprised to learn that it eases up again the second day, and at that point is possibly even easier, as the membranes that need to be separated from the skin dry out, and become tougher, allowing one to force ones' fingers into the space to separate them, rather than having to cut the two apart. That makes for far fewer nicks on the skins (which we did several times, being complete novices to the process)! And also fewer nicks on the fingers, although we mostly came out of it unscathed. Harder on the forearms, though!

We did not quite manage to get all the skins completed before we had to leave to get kids from school, but still, eight skins in one day and one (long) evening, for two complete beginners, is pretty good, I think! We got them mostly prepped, and salted (leading, of course, to all sorts of puns: "Mor assaulted me with a meat cleaver!--No, wait, she salted my meat cleaver," heh). They can now sit until we have a chance to mix up some tanning solution (we are going to try a few different kinds of tanning, including brain tanning, to see which process gives us the best results) for up to six months. We will probably pick it up again after Hallowe'en, the weekends between now and then being pretty full of SCA activities already!

Lessons learned:

1. Sheep skin is way, way tougher than I expected. Even my knife with which I have trimmed belt leather with ease had a hard time with it! A sharp knife is an absolute must (as is a way of sharpening it). Also, cutting it from the skin side when trimming off tails and other undesirable bits, rather than from the woollen side, helps; the wool dulls blades very quickly and is surprisingly tough to sever.

2. Hey, we remembered to bring water bottles! What we didn't bring was straws. Note for next time: either put a straw in it so one can simply lean over and sip, or wrap some paper towel around it so one can pick it up without getting sheep fat all over the bottle. Or, you know, have a water bottle with a built-in straw.

3. If texting, put the phone inside a Ziploc baggie first, even if the phone is washable.

4. Something to wipe ones' hands off on (a rag or some paper towel) before handling non-skinning-related tools etc (water bottles, cell phones, door knobs, eyeglasses) would be helpful. As it was, meh; the pants were going into the wash anyways.

5. Lever door knobs are the best. Round ones and lanolin-covered hands are not a practical combination.

I'd guess it was taking me about two hours per skin, more or less? A proper skinning knife would have helped, but perhaps not as much as one might have thought. Having a second person there to pull the skin taut while one is cutting helps a lot, though. On the second day, once things had dried out quite a bit, I was able to sort of (slowly) peel the membranes off the skin in much the same way one would peel a difficult orange; but for pulling the membranes and skin apart while slicing the connecting fibres, one needs at least three hands.

Mór found her hair was falling into her eyes a lot and giving her issues (we were seated on the ground doing it, and so bent over quite a bit), so if one has bits of hair that are long enough to get in the way but too short to stay in a ponytail or braid, something like  a hair band or hat to keep it back is very, very helpful, although I am sure that lanolin is an excellent conditioner.

Keep an eye on the "Tanning Sheepskins" thread in the forums to find out when we next are working on them if you want to lend a hand.

2016 09 10: Wing Welcome Demo at CFB Greenwood

posted Sep 11, 2016, 2:34 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:45 PM by Mikhail H- ]

That was a very successful demo! We took up lots of space and made lots of noise and attracted lots of attention and handed out lots of hand-outs!

Initially all we were going to have for demo space was one table inside. We were thinking that perhaps we could set up one of our sunshade tents over it, so as to concentrate the effect and have something to hang banners from; but there wouldn't have been room between our table and the next ones for it, and certainly no room for any fighting. In the end, though, after talking to the Wing coordinator, we ended up in the most prime location at the whole event: Outside, directly in front of the main doors!

So, bright and early, Almaric, joined shortly by Mikhail and Alvena, headed out to start setting up both Almaric's and our shade tents, with Karl and I following a short while later. Soon Chris and Jen arrived, with Ulrich, his daughters, and his exchange students, and Jen, Andrew, and Edward arriving later. With two tents (and three tables), we were able to have one table dedicated to a large screen playing SCA videos (our favourite of which, "Welcome Home", I've added below), and holding hand-outs (both an eight-page colour introduction to the SCA, "New Member's Guide to the SCA"--we handed out fifty-one of those over the course of the three-hour demo--and a simpler tri-fold brochure, "Forward into the Past", of which we handed out around eighty-seven). The two other tables held Arts and Sciences offerings: examples of feast gear, leatherwork, garb, embroidery, and luceting, as well as more hand-outs. Beside the TV, we had fighting demos, both heavy (with Mikhail and Almaric) and fencing (with Almaric, Jen, and, later, Andrew as well). Mikhail's chain mail and Norse helmet stood nearby, while at the other end, Chris dished knees literally until his fingers bled (he developed some nice blisters from it) and guided kids in knitting chain links, steel and brass, into things like chains and bracelets.

The two signs we made up to help label the tents (we printed several, and hung them on the tent eaves) with the hand-outs in behind.

We gathered a lot of attention, and had many photos taken of us, including several from the attending reporter from the Aurora, and another gentleman with a very professional-looking camera I would not be surprised to learn was from another local paper. We aren't in the newest Aurora that came out today, of course--I checked very carefully, heh--but I would not be surprised to see us there in the next edition, the moreso because the Aurora's reporter (who has seen us out and about before, and who once again requested that we let her know about any upcoming events we would like advertised; I invited her to attend the upcoming feast or camping event) carefully noted down the names of some of the people she photographed. Perhaps people who have access to other papers in the area could watch for the article on the Wing Welcome? I would love to clip any articles!

We had several people who definitely exhibited a high level of interest; I would not be surprised if we do not have at least one or two new people checking out our next Wednesday meeting (which will be at our house, 35 Elm Street in Greenwood--look for the green raven banner out front).

The demo officially ended at one o'clock, but we stuck with it for about twenty more minutes before finally calling it a day, so as to catch the exhibitors coming out after all was closed up inside. Packing up went quite quickly, for the SCA (yay pop-up tents!), and we, the last to leave, were nevertheless home around two. One gentleman who had been heavily involved out west in An Tir around the same time as us stayed to chat to us all for quite some time, even helping us pack and load up.

The next get-together will be our casual weekly meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 14th at our place, with the next one after that being the archery day this Saturday, Sept 17th, starting around noon at Ulrich's, at 168 Hamilton Road in Berwick, and of course the camping event there on the weekend starting Sept. 30th. And after that, we have our feast on October 14th, the next archery day the next day on the 15th, and the Baronial Investiture Anniversary feast in Halifax on Oct. 22nd. Look in our Calendar or under Events in the column on the left for all the details, and we'll see you in a few days!

YouTube Video

We had a whole bunch of different demo-appropriate demo videos cycling through a playlist, but we set up this one to be every other one, because it's very high quality, gives a good sense of the atmosphere of events, doesn't focus exclusively on fighting, and, with nice music but no talking, works well as a background video that doesn't interrupt any conversations we may be having with interested people.

2016 07 20: Camping Event Work Party/ Weekly Meeting

posted Jul 21, 2016, 6:30 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:45 PM by Mikhail H- ]

Five adults, four kids, a generator, an air compressor, and a nail gun made extremely short work of the rest of the outhouse siding!

Ulrich and Olivia, since the last work party on Saturday, got the roofs on, and put on the back walls of the two outhouses (using the OSB Wil donated), along with building the seats for both. Yesterday they, Valonia, Mikhail, and Freydis got the rest of the siding up on the one outhouse and all of it up on the other in record time!

Now all that remains to be done on them is to put on the doors and cut the holes, and Ulrich says he doesn't need extra help for that. The doors will be more OSB with some of the log off-cuts attached to help it match.

He also says he will be able to finish up the well; it's just a matter of running the pipe into it and hooking things up, and shouldn't require another work party.

No more work parties! Work party work is done! Woo! Thanks, everyone!

We also discussed plans for the event, and got some details with merchanting tables and such sorted out. Valonia showed us her really beautiful SCA signs she made to mark the route from the highway; and Freydis showed the tokens she's making, and ran the event handout past everyone. Only a couple of small edits to make there.

The kids mostly did their own thing, but did help gather up some of the leftover scrap and run it out to the fire pit for kindling.

Remember, while the site officially opens next Friday, if you helped out you get early access and can come out for Thursday! Plus, actually, you can come out earlier than that if you want to.

See you next weekend!

2016 07 16: Camping Event Work Party

posted Jul 16, 2016, 9:12 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:45 PM by Mikhail H- ]

Four adults; four kids.

A lovely, dry day, with some welcomed cloud later in the afternoon, made perfect weather for working on outhouses again. Valonia, Ulrich, and I got a large load of first cuts from logs loaded into the truck and offloaded at the site, and placed and levelled the two bases Ulrich and I constructed last time. We then got the frames attached and finished, with Olivia joining us after her weekly stint at the local Farmer's Market.

The second one went together particularly quickly, as of course after the first we were well-practised; and with the help of Mikhail's nail gun, the off-cuts, each piece custom-fitted to the sides, went up pretty quickly. We got the first one sheathed up to about shoulder height before calling it a day, having worked from a little past ten to dinner time (albeit with a break for some food and cold water in there, and a brief swim in the pond, which is lovely and warm; I'm looking forward to making good use of it during the event!).

Since we had the truck right there, though, and since we were getting low on the wood siding, Ulrich, Olivia, and I did another lumber run to gather more wood so next time we can start right in on the sheathing. Hopefully we now have enough to finish them both; but we can get more if we need to. But it's time-consuming, and time is the one thing we're running out of.

The kids (especially Shereen and Karl), meanwhile, helped out by working on running a bunch of older firewood that is no longer suitable for burning indoors from over by the house to out by the fire pit, in the wheelbarrow, stacking it neatly, and setting some appropriately-sized stumps around the pit for seating; and Karl dug a grey water pit next to one of the outhouses.

We only have one more weekend left before the event, and we would all very much like to be done with the site work before then, as we have other things that need to be done before the event, so it was suggested that the meeting this Wednesday be held at the site, so we can all hopefully finish up on the outhouses, and set the well pipe in place! All the parts we need should be there.

And if you haven't registered for the event yet, do remember to do so! The best way is to use the online form at the bottom of our event copy here.

The event officially opens on Friday, but remember, locals and volunteers get early access! We'll be camping out Thursday night; but we will probably set the tent up Wednesday.

See you all at the Wednesday meeting!

2016 07 10: Camping Event Work Party

posted Jul 10, 2016, 1:19 PM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:44 PM by Mikhail H- ]

Another work party today, constructing outhouses.

Two adults: Ulrich and me. We got the bases reinforced and sheathed for two outhouses; and side walls for both made.

Originally we were going to go with an A-frame design that should have been very quick to assemble (as well as looking suitably Norse); but unfortunately with the limited sheathing and supply of 12' 2x4s we had, we weren't able to get enough head room; they would have been uncomfortably cramped for anyone larger than Karl. So instead, we've gone with a more traditional upright design with a slightly sloped roof.

The rain started just as we were discussing the design change; but luckily Ulrich's sun room entry way was large enough that we could assemble the side walls in there, having cut the boards to length in the garage, so we were able to largely stay out of it. If the weather had been better, though, we would have been able to get the frames assembled on the bases. As it is, though, that will be pretty straightforward: the side pieces (which are done) will get screwed onto the bases, and joined with six four-foot 2x4s. They will then be sheathed, sides and back, with horizontally-overlapping first-cuts of lumber, which is that first slice of wood and bark taken off a log when turning it into boards. The roof with be some of the OSB that was donated, with lumber wrap for extra protection on top. I have to admit, I would like to add an inch of dirt and some grass seed on top of that for the look of the thing; but there won't be time for it to sprout before the event.

We were planning on completing construction up by the house (where we were working on the bases) and then moving them into position with the tractor; but instead they will be assembled in position.

This coming Saturday (July 16th), there will be another work party that we hope will allow the outhouses to be finished, along with the well; but that will only happen if we can get a good turn-out of bodies. Please come out if you can, even for part of the day, and we can get done! Huzzah!

2016 06 30: War Camp!

posted Jul 4, 2016, 8:29 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:43 PM by Mikhail H- ]

A bunch of us attended Ruantallan's annual Baronial War Camp in Lansdowne, NS at the LORDA camp this past weekend. What a lot of fun!

Sadly, not everyone who wanted (or was planning) to come was ale to make it, but we still had three households show up to fly the colours and attend eleven people all told: six adults and five kids, which is a pretty decent showing for something relatively far away.

Our event (hosted by "the Shire of Ravensdale" at "the Stronghold of Ulrich")  was announced during court--nice to get to skip being incipient, ha ha! We were all amused by the Baron's slip of the tongue.

Ulrich's bows went over very well; one good gentle who had a competition bow that had previously belonged to the barony's former baroness said he found Ulrich's bow shot much, much better for him; he went from a score of 16 with the manufactured bow (which he said was too finicky) to one of 31 just by switching to Ulrich's! He said it was far more forgiving and nicer to shoot, and that if he had been more familiar with it he could have done even better. I think he has several new customers in the wings.

In addition, I hear rumours that Ulrich's beautiful, effective, (and far cheaper than competition!) handmade bows may soon be involved in a package deal with handmade arrows from a fellow Ruantallaner! (Ruantallian? Ruantallanite? Fellow baronial citizen, anyway). That would be fantastic and a great opportunity for someone looking to get into archery.

Speaking of archery, after court we had several archery marshals come up to us saying, if their calendar was clear that weekend, that they would be available to marshal a range, so with a little luck (keep your fingers crossed!) we can have target archery at the event, too! And the gentle who said she was trying to get her thrown weapons marshal status transferred to East Kingdom has apparently succeeded and is still interested in attending; I have contact info to see if she can marshal a thrown weapons range as well, which would allow us to do spear chucking! Great fun.

In addition, both Almaric and Mikhail were able to get their East Kingdom heavy fighter's authorizations; Almaric in sword and shield; Mikhail in all heavy weapons forms. Well done!

Mikhail (left) and Almaric during Almaric's authorization

Mikhail and Luke during Mikhail's authorization.(Mikhail authorizing in Heavy Combat Staring)

Our Norse tent garnered a great deal of interest. I hope to soon see several more at nearby events.


And our Walmart kitchen tents worked great. The ground was too rocky to drive the stakes in (although it didn't stop the portable holes); but we secured them in the high winds by tying the guy lines to our water jugs, ha ha. They blend into the background pretty well, all things considered.

The kids had a great deal of fun, running "feral" (as several other parents called it) in a pack for most of the weekend, returning (reluctantly) to eat and sleep.

Karl and Shereen even got to be Baronial Pages, bringing in the colours to present the war party for GNEW (the upcoming Great Northeastern War) with the Baronial war banner, Seashire's sea serpent war banner, and the Baronial war sword for the Baron to present.

We set Astrid loose with a video camera. Results below, with her brother's retaliatory video linked below it.

If anyone wants to add their own thoughts on War Camp in the forums, I can post them up here for you!

2016 06 15: Weekly Meeting

posted Jun 27, 2016, 6:46 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:43 PM by Mikhail H- ]

If anyone can elaborate on this meeting, that would be great; I was sick so I didn't go, and while Mike and the kids did, they left early, as we're taking every spare minute to build stuff for War Camp.

But a meeting was had, at Almaric's. Sorry I don't have more info! :)

2016 06 26: Camping Event Work Party

posted Jun 27, 2016, 6:42 AM by Freydis Egilsdottir   [ updated Jan 8, 2017, 6:43 PM by Mikhail H- ]

A beautiful, sunny, and highly productive day at Ulrich's, with volunteers from Halifax!

Seven adults and four kids got the "well" at the end of the camping field filled in again and smoothed over; a new well dug near the pond across the driveway (and mostly completed; we just need to get a pipe for it but unfortunately all the nearby hardware stores were closed, it being a Sunday, and we hadn't wanted to buy any pipe until we were ready for it so we knew how much we needed); several smaller holes in the camping field filled in and smoothed over, a pathway across a small ditch to the other field across the driveway filled in and smoothed over; and the site for the fire pit cleared, and the fire pit built!

All that is left to do to prepare the site now is to finish the well (which won't take too much; we just need to insert the pipe and finish back-filling the hole, and attach the pump), and build the outhouses!

The kids were very helpful, finishing the watering in the garden and having a lot of fun helping us to mortar and line the fire pit with clay from the bottom of the new well; that was a very fun job! They also helped to set a few key pieces in place in the well itself.

They also had a chance to go swimming in the other pond, and catch some frogs. Remember to bring your swim suits for the event!

There won't be any meetings this week, what with it almost being War Camp, but I expect there will be in the first week in July. The precise date and location will be announced after War Camp this coming weekend, but I expect the weekly meeting next Wednesday (July 6) will be going ahead as usual.

See you at War Camp!

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