Paper, SCA Life

First Pages

*photos to come. They won’t load to the website for some reason.*

In preparation of Artisan’s Day, I knew I had to stop procrastinating and actually try to make some paper.

I made my first 6 sheets this week. And it was indeed lessons that needed to be learned.

First off, making paper is actually pretty easy. It is often taught to grade school children. Now they are given recycled modern paper but all of the important steps are the same. For the record the steps are:

  1. Process fibers into pulp
  2. mix pulp with water
  3. use a screen of some kind to lift out the pulp
  4. remove excess water

Pretty easy, right? As one video I watched on Chinese hand-made paper said, “there is a subtly”. Yes there is.

For my first 6 papers, I bought a papermaking kit last December and used the pressed cotton fiber that came with it. Rip up that fiber, add water, and mix with a paint mixer. So I did that.

Added that pulp to more water. I needed a better mould so I bought better moulds.

I pulled the sheets, couched them, made a post, and then pressed them in the press for ~24 hours.

I then took the sheets out of the press and brushed them onto boards to dry further.

Things don’t dry quickly in my basement.

Some lessons. How you process your fiber is critical. While I am sure these first 6 sheets are fine for art uses, they are not very smooth or regular. I have purchased some fiber that another place has beaten. In our period, fibers were beaten by hand or by trip hammers. By hand is possible for me but time consuming. So already beaten fiber is a good first step. We will see if this helps.

I may need to move to pour moulds. A pour mould is a like the mould and deckle in the photo above but it has a much deeper mould. The idea is that you pour the fiber for each sheet into this large mould. All of the fiber from that pour makes 1 sheet of paper. You have a lot more control per sheet this way. It is slower but makes a nice paper.

Drying. I don’t want to make a more “modern” drier. So I will have to figure out how to use heat or the sun to make this happen.

The inevitability of this is our technology is advanced much further than the medieval. It is actually harder to go back to what was before. If this was a 15 century paper mill, I would have a water wheel on a stream that drove my trip hammers. I would have a ready source of linen to be beaten. I would have a loft with built in fireplaces to hang the paper to dry. I could go back further. If this was a 10th century, Islamic paper mill, I would have slaves to beat the fibers into pulp by hand. I would have fires built behind a plaster wall to keep the wall warm to dry the paper. This just isn’t how the modern world works. I could buy an electric beater. That is about $5000. I can build a cheap drying box which is a box fan, and corrogated plastic sheets for probably less than $100. I could build my pour moulds with plastic window screening and cheap MFB frames.

To build a water wheel, trip hammers, a drying loft, and a source of linen is extremely expensive in the modern world.

I will take this back as far as I can. But first, I need to be able to make the product I am after. Then I can engineer or decide on the steps to make it more authentic. So mastery first then authenticity.

cider, SCA Life

This is going to take CONCENTRATION

In researching what it takes to make cider, I priced equipment and apples. A good commercial cider is ~ $10 per 6 pack. That is ~$90 for 5 gallons.

The apples I priced out the grocery store (~$2.00 per pound). That won’t work. That is nearly $200 per 5 gallons to make cider. Nope.

The local orchard (assuming I have equipment) anywhere from $60 to $160 per 5 gallons for the apples. Better, sometimes much better. But need the equipment to juice apples.

Store bought juice anywhere from $25 to $60 per 5 gallons. With frozen concentrate being the $25 option. It is a good and inexpensive place to start. I believe Conal (Jim Hart) made his Lemonade cider from frozen concentrate.

Planting my own trees and getting the equipment, I can get the price down to $20 per 5 gallons, once the equipment and trees are in, producing fruit, and that stuff paid for. Long term goals.

SCA Life, Vinegar

Bring me a Shrub (-ery)

One of the things I have discussed with my brewing mentor and the proprietress of The Drunken Duck is the need for non-alcoholic drinks. Elspeth often supplies with her very fine and delicious syrups. But there is often the need for outside water or some other mixer. Verena will sometimes make a root beer or something well.

I figured this is where my vinegar habit can help.

There is an old traditional drink called a shrub. Sekhangeben is a shrub. Lemonade is a shrub. So it is a very old drink.

I just did the calculations. Basically, when serving a shrub, it is about 1 Tbsp of shrub syrup per 6 to 8 ounces of water. Doing all of the calculations, basically a quart to a quart and a quarter per 5 gallon keg of water. I can do that! I can do that several times per year! I have an entire small refrigerator that I can fill with shrub syrups! Running it out of the keg means not needing outside water and the CO2 for the keg can provide some of the efforvence (msp).

If you go back in this blog, you will see I made about a new cordial per two weeks or so at one point. I make vinegar very often. It takes about 6 weeks to make a quart but I often run 4 to 6 at one time.

If I can get a keg or use one of Verena’s, I can make a keg-able shrub in time for Baroness Wars (or Duchess Wars). Let’s do it 🙂

cider, SCA Life

First Cider

I started my first cider this weekend. It was an easy recipe so I am confident it will come out okay. I bought a high-end apple juice and used a packet of what says it is cider yeast. A little pectin enzyme to clear things up and wine tannin and acid to balance things.

In the meantime, I had some very good ciders. The Blind Pig, a local brewery, has a cider that is a short term goal. They used the soft apple cider from the local orchard to make their cider. I want to do the same in the near future.

I had a blueberry cider that was just dreamy. I have read about peach ciders as well.

I foresee a small orchard in my backyard once I get good at this.

I also talked to several potential new members of my shire recently as well.

Slowly, the list is getting worked on.

Uncategorized

Still alive

It has been a while since I posted anything. June was extremely busy and so far July is starting to slow down but hasn’t come back to normal yet.

I will be making more posts, especially as I start making my own cider and start making my own paper.

Look for more updates in a week or two.

Persona, SCA Life

It’s what’s in CIDER you that counts

Last weekend with the Middle Kingdom’s 50th celebration. As usual, Verena ran the Drunken Duck and I, per usual, helped her run it. I am not sure what real relationship as it pertains to the bar is. It is HER bar. I run it when she is gone. Others brew way more than I do and that is what leads to this post.

A while ago, a good friend said of me that I was not a brewer. And to a large extent they were right. I don’t brew. I make cordials. Cordials are fun and easy and by and large not really period. Oh there were some cordials but for the most part it is guesswork on whether any particular one every existed. Oswyn of Baðon wouldn’t have a clue what a cordial was. Oswyn Swann might but since he is now a paper merchant, they aren’t his thing either.

And truthfully, cordials haven’t thrilled me in a while. I have made at least 50 different kinds of cordials in the last 5 years. I have made over 20 gallons of the stuff in that time. I make a pretty good cordial. I have taught about cordials. And I have watched my cordials mostly sit on the shelf in our tavern. By and large, people don’t want them. This weekend, it was mostly mead, ciders, and beers that people wanted. Maelcolm kicked 4 kegs to my knowledge. Dai about 3. Jhondo 2 and some. Bottles of meads were consumed. When people wanted a cordial, it was easier to steer them to Liaden’s very tasty but single flavored berry cordials than try to explain a blueberry lemongrass gin to them. So partly my own fault really.

I really don’t drink much at home. Especially given the amount of cordials I make. I still love my Grand Manier, St Germain, and a few beers and ciders.

So it hit me, why am I making cordials? Just because that is all that I have made? I made a wine to turn into vinegar (yeah I know. I am weird). Then it occurred to me, I could make my own cider. And then turn some of that into vinegar too. And it is something that Oswyn of Baðon might have made. Let me explain.

From one of the classes I teach, the Anglo Saxons knew of four alcoholic drinks, medu, ealu, win, and beor. Mead, Ale, wine, and we don’t know.

But Oswyn, that is obviously beer, you say. Nope. Pregnant women were advised to avoid beor but not ale. That suggests a drink higher in alcohol than ale. While hops were used occasionally in early period, this isn’t the time to distinguish beer from ale yet. There is this word in Old English, beordrunken . It means very drunk. There are several words about getting drunk from mead. None of them mean “very drunk”. So this also suggested beor is stronger than it seems. And in French, cider is bere. So beor might have been a cider, a super cider, or an freeze distilled applejack. And cider in particular is missing from our 4 drink list.

I want to make a cider. I want to make a signature cider for the Drunken Duck. And then I want to turn it into vinegar, because I am weird like that.

Yes another hobby but one that fits into the greater picture. I have been told I lack focus. That is only because you are standing too close to see the whole picture. Trust me, it is all related.

Cider fits in with my persona, fits in with one of the things I do on a regular basis, and helps to give back to those who gave to me. It is all there folks. Wish me well.

Uncategorized

The Point of Journey is not to Arrive

The title is part of the lyrics to one of my favorite Rush songs, Prime Mover.

One of my friends (several of you probably know her) is on an unexpected journey. But it is a journey we all should take, a journey of self-discovery. Finding out who we really are. And too often it is a traumatic event that starts these journeys. Some thing happens to make one wonder and doubt if you really are who you think you are.

I have often remarked that it sucks that life is lived in first person. I mean an omniscient narrator would be nice. You know exactly who you are, who those around you are, and when someone makes a dumb plan. It would be very neat and tidy if it was. But as it is first person, we rely on our own point of view (often the only one we have) and it is only when we go through self discovery that we learn who we truly are.

Most times, we are pretty close to who we think we are. There may be a small number of significant flaws that need correcting but the bigger part of who we are is the same. A good person might be arrogant about their abilities and learns humility. They are still that good person but now a bit better. Sometimes we discover a past event that is unduly coloring our behavior and learn to overcome it. Therapy is good. Rarely, we learn that we should be radically different or even worse than we were but that is rare.

So I said to my friend, ” maybe you will end up finding the person I believe you are.” Like I said, first person sucks. But what did I mean by that? Too often we think one thing about ourselves but others see something else. Others might see us as strong but they don’t see the self-doubt that nags us. I could go on but you probably understand. But I meant to my friend, “I hope you find in you what you unknowing offer the rest of us all the time.” Or rather, I hope she sees herself as we the third person observers see her. We often treat ourselves worse than we treat others.

As the song says, the point of the journey is not to arrive. It is to keep seeking. The answer is always slightly out of reach. It doesn’t finally resolve. That might sound scary. But as the song goes on to say “Anything can happen.” It is meant in wonder and awe, not in fear. And later, the song reminds us, “the point of departure is not to return.” This journey is to leave where you are now in your view of yourself, grow and change, and not be that same person again. Some times that change is only a small thing. But small things can be important things.

One last rambling thought. I have been reading a lot of Buddhist philosophy. If we are to treat all with compassion, then we too must treat ourselves with compassion. We must correct things when we make mistakes but we need to forgive ourselves for our mistakes. None are perfect. We are worthy of our own love.

Good luck and fair winds, my friend. I will be here when you figure it out.

Uncategorized

I need a Hero

Thanks to some SCA friends, I have discovered the secret rogue server for City of Heroes (CoH). It wasn’t a big secret and we will see if it is allowed to continue to exist.

I played CoH with my family many years ago. The boys were pretty little when we started. I am pretty sure it was the first MMO game that any of us had ever played. And we stopped for a variety of reasons. The constant spinning around and light show was painful for Gertie. The layouts were stale and predictable. By the mid-30s, the grind was exhausting. And we found other games more fun.

But I had always had a bit of nostalgia for it. Every now and again, I would want to go back. I did go back for a little while. It was F2P then. I made like 1,000,000,000 influence. It was boring by myself.

So why I am excited this time? There is a lot of good in CoH. The creation system is exceptional. And you feel powerful from level 1. At level 1, you look like a super hero. You have some of the powers of a superhero. You fight bad guys with guns. Compared to the first few levels of WoW, you are a poorly dressed humanoid with a crappy weapon fighting overgrown rats. That doesn’t not feel powerful.

I might still be playing alone. My kids might come back to play with me. And I did roll on a server that other scadians said they were on but I haven’t run into any of them yet.

But it is nice to see Atlas Park again. And to superjump my way across zones. Landing in a bunch of purples in Perez Park brought back painful memories 🙂

I play different games for different reasons. WoW was for the community. Lotro is for the story. CoH is to feel useful. I like feeling useful.

Paper, SCA Life

A Pressing Matter – finale

This weekend I finish the press.

After a few weeks and many coats of polyurethane, we get this.

Very shiny 🙂 In period, they would have waterproofed with linseed oil and I could have done that. My friend has poly so we used that.

Next we drive the stay for the press screw through the upper support. We did use a dremel to widen the hole a bit and I didn’t do as good of a job as I could have. There is a little bit of splintering but not too bad.

On the top side, we add the set screws.

Then we add some feet to the base plate.

Here is all the parts before we add the rods to make the frame. The foot of the press screw is just a set screw on the bottom.

We cut some PVC pipe that will provide some vertical support and protect the long screws.

The photo of the long screws inside of the PVC didn’t turn out. Here is the finished press.

SCA Life

A matter of Perspective

I have not been an apprentice very long but one of the first thing my Laurel said to me is “people think you lack focus.” My response was “then people aren’t paying attention.”
I wanted to lay out what I work on, why I work on it, and how they are interconnected.

Let’s start with my history studies. I decided on an Anglo-Saxon persona when I was listening to the History of England podcast and the British History podcast. The earlier podcast at started talking about Alfred the Great. And I was struck by, “why have I never heard of this guy before?” My wife and I loved our visit to Bath. So it was a natural to make my persona from there. At one of my first events, I asked my mentor why there are so many “make and take” classes but relatively few pure history classes? I don’t remember the answer but I then decided I wanted to deep dive into what the late Anglo Saxon world was like.

Before joining the SCA, I started learned to do stained glass. I then branched out into fused glass. As much as I love it, it is a modern art form that I am doing. Did Classical and Medieval people do fused glass? Yes. But I don’t have the means to do it the way they did it. I make plates, tokens, and medallions but they are very modern. So I looked for another art form I could do that was period.

At the first RUM I attended, I took some classes on cordials. It was just after our fire. Cordials didn’t take a lot of space or work. I leapt in. I made scores of cordials. Some of them got to be pretty good. But again, as easy as cordials are, most are not period. So the search continued.

I had all of these small bits of cordials around. What can I do with all of this alcohol? Vinegar! Few people were doing it and it was very important to all eras of civilization. You cooked with it. You preserved food with it. You drank it. You cleaned with it. To date, I have made vinegar out of meads, wines, cordials, beers, ales, and ciders. I have tried to make vinegar out of anything with alcohol in it.

It turns out there is not much depth to vinegar. It was important. There are whole industries that revolve around it. But the actual making of it isn’t too complex. But my vinegar obsession is directly related to my cordial making. And the next phase of my journey with this is directly related again. I want to make my own wine and turn that into vinegar. I will eventually grow my own grapes and turn that into wine then to vinegar. These things are related.

All along the path, I am looking at how does this fit with my persona? Is Oswyn of Baðon a historian? A vintner? A glazier? He was educated at Bath Abbey. He knows his history. I don’t think he was a glazier. But maybe a vintner and a vinegarie.

I was asked about a year ago if I would like to sell my glassware as part of the Starlight Syndicate. I was flattered. Several of my closest friends are part of that. But it was clear that I couldn’t do it. Glass, at least, what I do, is too expensive. I would have to sell for ~$100 or more and have $1000s in inventory. I couldn’t afford that. But it did get me thinking, what could I sell?

I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would take a lot of licensing and inspections. Then it hit me, paper. We make handpainted awards, so why not handmade paper? And it occurred to me that Oswyn Swann might be a stationer. So we are going down that road now.

All of this looks like a mess. To some extent, it is solving the maze of my personae. Sometimes you follow a promising path in a maze but it turns out it is a dead end. If you step back a bit, you will see it is all interrelated. It all goes towards, “what can I give back? What can I contribute?” I give away a lot of what I work on. Some have claimed or implied I only do it for some sort of fame or glory. Do I enjoy the whatever fame comes with it? Of course I do. Who doesn’t like acknowledgement for what they do? But I don’t do it for the fame or glory. I do it because when I needed it most, the SCA was there. The people in the SCA were there. What can I do to make it a better place? That is why I do what I do. That is what they have in common.