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.


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.


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.

Paper, Uncategorized

A Pressing Matter – part 2

Last week, we cut and glued the boards. This week, we move along.

So I started by sanding the edges down. I didn’t take pictures of that. But basically a palm sander starting with 80 grit paper, then to 120, then to 220.

After the sanding, it is time to drill some holes.

The first hole to drill is where the press screw will go. So we center that in the upper plate.

Since we glued boards together, we have about 1.25″ of birch plywood to drill through.

Then we need to measure where the holes will go for the threaded rods.

A smaller drill to drill those holes.

The next big step will be the coats of polyurethane so we need to finish whatever other little steps before then.

The pressure plate will not be permanently attached. The video suggested a “target” on the pressure plate for the foot to go in.

Here is the press screw

And the foot (on the left) will go in this box on the pressure plate but not be attached.

We measured, cut, and glued some scrap plywood to make a box. It is about 1.5″ x 1.25″ as a rectangle. It doesn’t need to be exact and it defintely doesn’t need to be tight.

I also wanted the whole thing to be slightly off the ground so that the water has somewhere to run. So cut some legs and glue those on.

Part 3 will be the polyurethane and assembly. I probably won’t show the polyurethaning. It will take several coats.

Paper, Uncategorized

A Pressing Matter – Part 1

My quest to make hand-made medieval paper has led me to the part where, before you make the thing, you have to make the tools to make the thing. While it is perfectly fine not to use a press to make hand-made paper, most places had and have (depending on medieval or modern) one. This is the documentation of making my paper press.

I started with trying to figure out how to make one. This video was very helpful.

So this isn’t going to be a medieval style press but really who has access to that kind of wood and manpower? Here is what a medieval paper press might have looked like.

First step was to draft out what this thing might look like based on the video. I knew that the largest sheet I would make in the early part of doing this would be 11 x 14. The felts would be 13 x 16 then to have enough room to help wick the water away. The press plate would therefore be 14 x 17 so we didn’t have to be exactly center. Because of the rods supporting the press, those plates would need to be 17 x 20.

Off to the hardware store. I purchased two 48″ x 48″ birch plywood boards. I would have loved to get a 48″ x 96″ board but neither I or my friend could get that in our vehicles. We also got some 1″ PVC pipe for the supports. My friend had some threaded rods, wood glue, and all the tools. I also ordered a 12″ press screw.

I chose birch for a few reasons. It needed to be a hard wood to have some wear and water resistance. I had initially thought mahogany. The best I could find locally was 6″ boards. While I am told joinery is not a big deal, I just didn’t want to deal with that. So birch is somewhat water resistant and is pretty smooth. That was important too.

First we cut the 20″ lengths. We will need 2 of everything because this is 3/4″ plywood and we want to glue it together to make 1.5″ (or close to it) to ensure we withstand the pressures.

17 x 20

A few cuts later and we have our four 17 x 20 boards for the plates.

14 x 17

We then cut the 14″ length into two 14 x 17’s for the press plate.

Drying boards

This is what the second 48 x 48 was for. The paper needs something to dry on. In my model, the Europeans used drying lines in an attic. That isn’t very portable. Indian and Chinese papermakers brushed the pressed paper onto a flat, heated surface to dry. the smooth surface of the birch would be great for that. So we cut the other 48 x 48 board into 12 x 16 boards. One 11 x 14 sheet or two 8 x 10 (or slightly larger) could fit on each board to dry. Ideally, cuckling should be less by drying flat. We will see.

Then we sand the edges just to get the splinters from cutting off.

Then we glue. There was a slight bow to the plywood. So lots of glue. This thing is neat. I imagine you could use to to spread mayo on a big party sub.

Then we clamp it all down and let the glue dry. That is it for part 1. In a week or so, we take the clamps off. Then some polyurethane, drill some holes, etc.

Persona, SCA Life, Uncategorized

The Generations of Oswyn

I have been thinking about my personae lately. And I have figured out how they are connected.

If I did a Roman persona, the name would be Marcus Aemilius Vivianus. Mostly because I just like those names. Vivianus is in honor on my WoW character, Vivacity, a draenei restoration shaman. With a name like that, this would be a minor sub-family of the Aemilii. There is some evidence of a Vivianus in Roman Britain. I then envision that this Aemilius Vivianus was a Roman solider in Britain. Either he or one of his descendents or freed slaves took the additional cognomen of Cygnus. When the Roman troops were recalled from Britain, this Vivianus Cygnus remained in Britain.

So from that time to the time of Alfred the Great, this family lived in the Somerset area but I don’t know what they may have done. But the Swan as a symbol was adopted somewhere along the way. When Alfred issued the Charter establishing Bath as a burh, Oswyn’s family was one of founding families of the new port city of Bath.

From the 10th century on to the 16th century, the family took the last name Swann and the fortunes changed. Where they were once at least a lesser nobility (being reeves in Bath), they solidly landed in the raising middle class. I personally will blame the Normans and the drop off in prestige of Bath for that. It is in the early 1500’s that Bath sees a brief revival before the Dissolution of Monastries by Henry VIII. Then in 1590, Elizabeth grants a new charter to Bath and the spa recovers.

Oswyn Swann is probably a bit before Elizabeth. Part of that is I don’t particularly care for ruffs and such. There are some great artwork of Pieter Aertsen’s that I think captures the look I think Oswyn Swann has. So the main question is, does Dutch middle class fashion equal English middle class fashion? I don’t know the answer to that.

So around 1595, a technical school was established in Bristol which in time becomes the University of Bristol, and another branch, the University of Bath. It looks like papermaking was happened around London but certainly these nascent schools would need paper. Before there was a formal school, there would have been early education attempts. And Bristol being a major port, there would need for paper for charters, bills of sale, the churchs and such, etc. I am going to assume Oswyn Swann is active in the Somerset region as a paper merchant sometime between 1500 and 1560.

The last Oswyn is probably an offshoot of the main family around the time of the Conquest. As he is the least developed of the personae, I will just let him be for a while. The connection will come.


Where do all of these spoons come from?

I only have a few readers of this blog. So when one of them asks that I write about something, I guess I should listen. The post will wander a bit but it is all related. I promise.

A friend mentioned recently, ” The SCA takes spoons, being nice takes spoons, being in a hostile environment takes spoons . . . .” I will admit long events do wear on me but I don’t think they cost me spoons. I do often say my Baggins side is in the ascendant and Oswyn is an extrovert and Sean is not. At those times, I want to go home. But at the end of the day, I feel that I usually end up with more spoons after most events.

One of my favorite books to read is the Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. These two men, along with their supporters, spiritual siblings, and more, have seen the worst humanity has to offer and give wonderful advise on how to deal with it. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is not filled with anger, bile, and retaliation. It is filled with compassion, love, and joy. In one of the sections, called Generosity, Bishop Tutu speaks more than the Dalai Lama does. He says many meaningful things.

“We are fundamentally good. The aberration is the not good person; the aberration is the bad person. We are made for goodness.”

“I’ve sometimes joked and said God doesn’t know very much math, because when you give to others, it should be that you are subtracting from yourself. . . and it then seems like in fact you are making space for more to be given to you.”

“You can’t survive on your own. You need other people to be human. We speak of Ubuntu. A person is a person through other persons.”

And lastly, the Archbishop described generosity as “becoming an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples out to all around us.”

I could probably quote the whole book. There is some much good in here about the power of compassion and that the pursuit of happiness is rooted in knowing yourself and acknowledging the humanity in every one else.

So for me, giving, be it my time, my art, whatever, is a source of joy. It can be tiring but it is ultimately worth it.

Paper, SCA Life, Uncategorized

Then you need a partner and a plan

So in It starts with research, I showed the model I did of a 16th century European papermill. I put up that display at Dragonshire 12th Night / Festival of Maidens and I was honored to get Mistress Gianneta as my patron for this endeavor.

Let’s back up a bit. Why am I doing this? About 8 months ago, maybe close to a year but I don’t think so, Dr Best asked if I was interested in joining the Starlit Syndicate. I was flattered. Many of my close friends are part of it; Lucretia, Gunnar, Heather, and yes even Dr Best. He pointed out that the shop has generated several laurels which is indeed true. The issue? What should I sell? I guessed that he thought about my glass work. I declined. One I wasn’t going to Pennsic that year. Two I don’t have any inventory to sell. I did some number crunching and I just don’t think I can sell my glass. It costs between $50 to $75 for me to make a glass bowl. I would have to sell them for at least $100 and I just don’t think people will pay for that. Plus I would have to have many $100s to possibly $1000s of inventory to sell even a small number of bowls. I just can’t afford to do that.

So I looked at what could I sell? I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would require licensing and inspections and then to sell across state lines would require more regulations. That is not worth the hassle. I already decided glass was out. Plus, the glass I do is really not medieval. So if I wanted to sell something, it would have to be something new. I didn’t want to be full time merchant but it would work well for my Oswyn Swann persona. So I want to do something to give and something to sell. See Words on Paper for more.

The plan then. I got a papermaking kit for Yule. Most parts are there. I need to rig up a cheap press. Ideally, it should be a screw press. I also need a drying method. The papermill display used a drying loft. But that is not very portable and takes up more space than I have. But I do need to dry many sheets at one time. I could build a drying box. It is still not portable. But there is an older technique that would work well. I can get flat surfaces and either heat them or let the sun do the work. And I need to look into a glazing hammer. But I have everything I need to do a proof of concept.

The plan is to pull some sheets. There is a small amount of skill needed. Once that goes well, upgrade equipment. Then I will start with already beaten fiber with sizing. Then move back to already beaten fiber without sizing and adding it as I need to. I might on occasion create my own fiber but that requires even more equipment and time. Things would have to go very well for me to afford that.

Watermarking will be a thing and branding as well. I have brands already decided 🙂