cider, Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinegerie – part 5 The mottos

When I was eligible for my arms, I really wanted mottos as well. So I have been paying attention to things I said often or things I wish I said and testing them out. I settled on three.

Raedas gewillum fiðraþ literally is “(Wise) Counsel gives feathers to my will/wish. In Old English, the word for feather and wings are the same, fithrath. What I am trying to say is “Plans gives wishes wings.” It was the closest I could get. I like to plan and by planning, I can make my wishes come true.

Sanguinum Facit Ars is Blood makes art. Again, what I say as a glass artist is “it isn’t art until you bleed on it.” Pithy in English; torturous in Latin. This is much more simple.

Lastly, I wanted a motto for my pub. When I was researching Medieval Guilds, I came across the Worshipful Company of Vinters.

This was perfect! They are responsible for the swan-upping so that fits. The Vinters are responsible for all wine and wine products so vinegar falls in that. They were formally established in 1363 and are among the 12 great liveried companies of London. Oswyn Swann surely was a member.

Above is the full coat of arms for the Company. Much of it was granted later than SCA period but it is perfect but I certainly didn’t want to steal it. Pay homage though, that I can do.

The motto of the Company is Vinum Exhilarat Animum – Wine Gladdens the Spirit.

Since my device is a swan already, I went with this.

The Azure Swan as the pub name and Swann’s Sundries for the store front.

The motto Vinum Exhilarat Amici – is in homage to the Worshipful Company. It is Wine Cheers (our) Friends!

The canvas banners will be finished this weekend and I will start on the silk banners shortly.

Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinegrier – Part 3, the WFH edition

It has been a while since I posted and Goddess help me, things got weird! But never fear, the project moves forward.

I ordered and got a new doublet. I got a new haversack. So I have the clothes for the persona!

A good friend is helping to make the wheelbarrow. With the shelter in place, he is mostly making it now. Red Oak. So that is moving forward.

My barrels arrived. The wood blanks arrived. I took David of Lochmorrow’s class on pokerwork. Here is what the barrel heads will look like

Designed the banners I need. Some will be in silk and some will be from Spoonflower

The 5 gallons of vinegar is moving along.

Next step: order wood burning supplies, order silk banner supplies. Do those things. Do enameling.

I also ordered a new outfit from Aveline. And working with Kitsune on a new outfit as well.

Big plans. It will come together eventually.

Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinaigrier – Part 2

In Pennsic Project, I started telling you about what I am going to do. Now to tell you about what I AM doing.

If I am going to portray a vinaigrier, I need a product to “sell”. I will be giving it away. So, step 1, make 5 gallons of vinegar.

I spoke to two woodworkers. If I end up with two wheelbarrows, great! But my local friend at least thinks he can do it. He found a nice piece of 14 ft, 2″ x 2″ red oak to make the frame of barrow out of. So that is coming along.

I started the wine. As Coresande asked, can’t you just go straight to vinegar? Alas no. There are inorganic ways of making acetic acid but the preferred way is changing alcohol to vinegar. Starting with a wine we will.

I purchased a wine kit box for ~$85. It makes 6 gallons of wine. That is almost 23 liters or 23000 ml. Or more to the point, ~30 750ml bottles of wine. On a good day, (no Trader Joe’s nearby), I can get Pinot Noir for $5.00 per bottle. More like $6 any more. That is ~$150 to $180 of wine. While the bottles are sometimes nice, it is about twice what the wine kit costs. When it is in season, I use Alexander’s Sun Country WIne Concentrate at ~$30 to make 2.5 gallons but it isn’t in season and I need to make this now. So you use what you can get.

Most of the stuff in the box is not useful to me. I am not going to “fake” oak my wine with chips. I don’t care if it is clear. And I am just turning it into vinegar anyway so potassium metasulfate isn’t needed either. But the juice. That is what we are after.

As with all brewing, sanitize your equipment. Pour the juice in the 6 gallon ale pail, add water, add yeast, add a little yeast nutrients, and it goes in a sort of warm corner for a few weeks. My starting SG was 1.1. In a few weeks, we will have wine. Then about a month after that, we will have vinegar. More of that when we get to that stage 🙂

Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Pennsic Project – Making a Vinaigrier

In The Short of History of Vinegar and Oswyn Swann , I start with the whys and wherefores of this. Here are the nuts and bolts.

To do this project, I need the following: a costume (garb), a wheelbarrow, a barrel, vinegar, and probably some way to tell people what I am doing.

I ordered a new doublet because I am like 30 lbs heavier than I was 20+ years ago when we all dressed in Ren Faire garb for a friends’ wedding. The old one is a little tight. But I have a flat cap, white shirt, venetian pants, tights, socks, and shoes. Garb is good enough.

I have ordered a 20L barrel and will learn to do some pyrography on the barrelhead. I just received the wine grape juice to make into wine to then make into ~5 gallons of vinegar. So that is done.

I have reached out to a few people about the wheelbarrow. That is moving forward.

I wrote this: What is going on here?

I will make a little carrier so people can pull the sheets out and learn what I am doing.

I need to make some banners. And if I am going to do it, I might as well make all the rest of the banners I need/want too.

The square is more representative for Oswyn of Baðon: Raedas Gewillum Fiðraþ – Plans Gives Wishes Wings. Literally, in Old English is says Counsel (Wise) gives feathers to (your) will. Close enough 🙂

Then Sanguinum Facit Ars. I really wanted it to say “It isn’t art until you bleed on it” but in Latin that is really awkward. So it literally says, Blood Makes Art. A bit vampiric but understandable. I do glass work. I cut myself frequently.

Lastly, Vinum Exhilarat Amici. The Worshipful Company of Vinters is a real thing. They are an old English “guild”. Their motto is Vinum Exhilarat Animum – Wine Cheers the Soul. Given that they are a real entity, I didn’t just want to “steal” or claim membership where I do not have it. That didn’t feel right. But I wanted something that echoes it. So Wine Cheers Friends. I like it.

The Azure Swan will be the name of my bar, an adjunct to Verena’s Drunken Duck. There may be times when I haul my own bar out but if the Duck is there, the Swan is part of the Duck.

Lastly, the tankards and tun are taken from the Wurmwald Brewers and Drinkers Guild.

I will post updates as they happen. I will likely start that wine next week 🙂

Persona, Vinegar

The Short of History of Vinegar and Oswyn Swann

I am excited. I have two personae. Oswyn of Baðon is who I am most of the time. He is a 10th century Englisc (Anglo-Saxon) from Bath. Through him, I do my service and Anglo-Saxon history. Oswyn Swann has been swimming (pun intended) around in my head but I couldn’t settle on who he was. Was he a wine merchant? That was my first thought. Was he a paper merchant? That didn’t work out. Was he a ciderman who runs a tavern? Maybe.

All this time, I am discovering what I love. I wanted to love paper but no. I love glass but I don’t do period glass and have no real desire to do so. I made cordials and had all of this leftover alcohol. What to do? I started making vinegar. And I resisted loving it, shamefully in darkened rooms grew to love it, and finally accepted my alcohol problem in the daylight. I do love it.

But let’s back up. I made a lot of cordials. For three straight years, I made every cordial I could think of. I have a four class series on making cordials. Most people were willing to take a cordial but occasionally, someone didn’t want one. They didn’t like sweet things. They didn’t drink. They preferred beer or wine. At one point, a good friend, somewhat joking (or maybe not) told me I wasn’t a brewer. And they were correct, I didn’t brew anything. And cordials, as we understand them, aren’t really period. Distilling is rare and difficult. There are few “period” cordials that aren’t medicines, etc. I needed to do something more period. I hit on vinegars. Then I decided that I would make my own wines and ciders to turn into vinegar. I had become a brewer and in my own terminology, an anti-brewer 🙂

In looking at into the history of vinegar, I learned it became “industrialized” in the 1380s in France. I then found an etching from the 1630s with a vinegar seller. I could do that. 1630 is just out of period but it is likely that this particular means of selling vinegar, door to door with a cask and wheelbarrow, had been true for a while. 1630 is close enough 🙂

Oswyn Swann is a vinaigrier (not sure the English had their own term). Swann is also a descendent of Baðons. Oswyn of Baðon starts a family somewhere around Bath. The first born male of each generation is named Oswyn for luck. There are about 600 years between the two Oswyns. The family maintains an estate in the countryside where their apple orchard is. So the Swanns grow apples on the estate, other family members make it into cider and Oswyn and his side of the family make it into vinegar. Now, French vinegar is all the rage as is French wine (had been for centuries and would continue to be for more centuries). Oswyn imports these things as well and sells them out of his shop on High Street in Bath. See map below. Some where near where the B is.

So I am excited that the persona is taking shape.

A brief history of vinegar

Vinegar probably existed nearly forever. Wild yeast turns sugar to alcohol; wild bacteria turns alcohol to vinegar. We have evidence of vinegar in Ancient China, Babylonia, and Egypt.

Helen of Troy is rumored to have bathed in vinegar to maintain her beauty. The Spartan made a blood soup made with vinegar. Hannibal supposedly broke rocks with heat and vinegar. Interestingly, Alexander is said to have done the same thing with heat and wine. Both stories are believed to be false because vinegar could only dissolve limestone and wine can’t dissolve anything. The doubters forgot about thermal shock. The liquid wasn’t important; only that it rapidly cooled the stones down and maybe got into cracks. But I digress.

Since Roman legionaires drank posca, a vinegar drink, and because this is Rome, there was probably a vinegar industry of some sort. We don’t know exactly. Agricultural manuals from Roman times tell us a little bit but we don’t have great information. We do know that the Romans valued the wine regions of Gaul. Burgundy becomes a major wine region from then on and where there is wine, there is vinegar.

Additionally, where this is wine, there is mustard. Mustard grows almost everywhere but it is purposely planted as a cover crop and as a companion crop to help reduce pests. To help protect their wine crops, mustard was also planted. This will be important in a moment.

Vinegar is also connected to alchemical practice.

Almost all alcohol can become vinegar so we get a lot of regional vinegars and it is easy to make at home. Whether it was another Roman industry collapse, we may never know. We do know around 1380, in Orleans France, they develop a process called the Orleans process to make vinegar on a large scale.

Again we back up a bit though. Prior to this, in Dijon, French wine becomes very popular and is a major export. They also start making mustard on a large scale. Orleans is on the Loire River which flows to Nantes on the coast. Orleans is also a little south of Paris with fairly flat terrain between the two. While it is certainly possible to go straight to Paris from Dijon, Orleans became a popular trading spot for both international shipping and for Paris. Land routes were favored until the early 1400s when Nantes was considered a favorable port. French wine would make its way to Orleans to be evaluated for where was the best place to ship it. Good wines might go on to Paris or to Nantes; lesser wines could be made into vinegar and then sent on those routes as well. Orleans became a center of vinegar manufacturing in Europe.

In 1394, the vinaigriers of Orleans form a guild which included mustard makers. The moutardiers of Dijon had their own guild by this point. By 1580, the vinaigriers of Orleans are allowed to form a corporation with a monopoly on vinegar. They are granted a coat of arms with a barrel, funnel, and cooper axes on it. Coopers were part of that corporation briefly until the next year when they are granted their own corporation. The vinaigriers were required to use barrels from the tonneliers (coopers corp).

By 1594, this corporation grew from 4 vinaigriers to 33. We get our first quality control law.

“if, the house of a master vinaigrier, are found barrels of vinegar which are slimy, rancid, or moldy, they will be seized and broken and the offender will pay a fine of one ecu (gold coin).” A jury of 4 members of the corporation were responsible for this inspection.

The inspections were needed because counterfeits were on the rise.

This is from 1630. This is how vinegar was sold to the public, door to door from a wheelbarrow and cask. Royalty would have contracts with the corporation for barrels delivered differently. As would large customers using vinegar on a “industrial” basis. But the average person in France, and presumably elsewhere in Europe, got their vinegar this way.

Swann is an English, not French, vinaigrier. His family makes vinegar but he imports wine for the Church and nobles and vinegar as well.

Things I need to make this work:

Wheelbarrow – working on it
20L barrels – have a source; just got to buy them
Pyrography for barrels – I know a guy 🙂
20 L of vinegar – I know a guy
a Shrub – I know a guy
A banner – just got to do it; I know some people
A Sign – just write on paper; explaining what I am doing
Costume – I have an inaccurate one I barely fit it; I will work on that.


Anglo Saxon Religion – random notes

This weekend I got to actually sit down and do some research. I have been wanting to do a class on Anglo Saxon religion for a while. One, we really don’t know much about Anglo Saxon paganism. Two, their view of what it meant to be Christian would be a giant shock to modern Christians.

Here are some notes – for thoughts and reference.

  • It is a big mistake to see words like Woden and Thunor and assume the Norse myths are the way the Anglo-Saxon’s saw these deities. It is like the similarity between Roman and Greek deities. The Romans may have taken the Greek myths and drew parallels between their gods and Greek gods (and pretty much any other culture they came in contact with) but Jupiter and Zeus fundamentally behave very differently. So to, is Woden (the Anglo Saxon deity) different from Odin (the Norse deity) and Wodan (the Germanic deity)
  • Most of what we do know about Anglo Saxon paganism is from Anglo Saxon poems, place names, and surviving words.
  • All of our English day names are derived from A-S paganism.
  • I have always been fascinated to learn what other cultures called the planets. In the West, they are all named for Roman Gods, except for the Earth in English. Nerthis was an Anglo-Saxon earth goddess and therefore the name of this planet.
  • There is some evidence that Anglo-Saxon paganism was heavily tied to places. This is one of the tactics early Christian converters used. Where A-S pagans would worship at sacred trees, outdoor crosses were erected. Saints performed miracles at certain locations or were buried in certain locations to co-opt sacred nature sites into Christian lore.
  • On a popular level, a blend of pagan and Christian religion survived all the way up to the Conquest. The various healing charms often contain both pagan and Christian imagery.
  • The image of Christ as Lord worked particularly well on the Anglo Saxons. The word Lord comes from hfalord – bread giver. Pagan Anglo Saxons were used to a lord/servant relationship where ones work was due to the Lord and the Lord then gave back to you housing, food, etc. Substituting Christ as Lord was an easy sell.
  • Baptism and conversion worked well in war for the Anglo-Saxons. By converting after defeat, you were a Christian brother and therefore it could help enforce the peace (Christians shouldn’t attack each other). It was not unusual for the victor to give gifts to the newly converted loser.
  • Especially with the Viking invasions, and Cnut and Swein’s conquests, new churches were often founded by the laity, not the established Christian hierarchy. There was a lot of variation therefore in how the common people interacted with Christianity. And the local church officials were not necessarily beholden to the hierarchy.
  • Part of the struggle between Church and State had to do with who was going to appoint bishops, abbots, etc. When the State could do so, those officials were less inclined to alter doctrine to be more “official.”
  • The Anglo-Saxons had a love-hate relationship with their pagan past, especially elves. Many noteable people have names that suggests a positive view of elves. Aelfred – elf council. Aelfric (famous churchman; common name too) – Elf Ruler. Aelfwyn – Elf Friend. But then many diseases are referred to as elf shot.
Paper, Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Post about Posters

At Duchess Wars, Hrefna held a class on SCA:iri and other ways to present information. She mentioned tri-fold posters are popular in the science community to give quick updates on research. And one of the things she stressed was develop your own “brand” or “theme” so people can readily identify your posters. I do have more current drafts; below are the images from before the more recent revisions.

I like the idea. Here are three mock-ups on posters I will put together for upcoming craftperson’s displays.

I have chosen to use my device colors to help brand them. On the more recent versions, I have included my name and contact information.

Here is a persona study poster. I talk about Bath, and the three Oswyns and where they are in development.

I think this is my favorite one. It is about vinegar and why I call it anti-brewing.

Then lastly one about paper. It is medieval recycling; especially compared to modern paper.

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.

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.

Glass, Persona, SCA Life

Making fused plates – abridged

I will have a more detailed post later about a different plate I did.  But here is a quick post about how I make my 12″ x 12″ fused glass plates.  This one is for my device as a sample plate for my display.

I had already cut the glass before I got to the shop.  My device isn’t that complex, other than the swan.

So first thing is again, glass likes to be ~1/4″ thick when it melts.  There are ways to force it.  But for my purposes, just use two sheets of 1/8″ thick glass.  I am spraying hairspray onto a clear piece to bulk out the plate.  I will then put the blue and green pieces on this clear piece.

Yep.  Just plain ole cheap hairspray.  I am told I use too much so I may need to cut back a bit on it.  It does burn off but on large pieces of glass, it has to get out somewhere. If it can’t, it makes bubbles.  So I will cut back a bit.

Adding the blue and green.  You can also see the swan on an irridescent white piece of glass.  I was normally use white for the swan but I had a scrap of irridescent.

The pieces of glass are supposed to be 12″ square but they rarely are.  And sometimes my cutting isn’t the best either.  This is just a hair off center (less than 1/8″).  It will have to be good enough.

Now for the tricky part.  I use a ring saw to cut out the swan.  Just Elmer’s paste glue to glue the paper to the glass.  The water in the ring saw quickly saturates the paper but it usually holds it in place long enough.

There are a few spots to be touched up.  Because the glass will melt in the kiln, most of the small imperfections will smooth out by themselves. I touch up the spots I can get to with the ring saw or a normal grinder.  But I am not too worried about it.

And there we go.  Ready for the kiln.

This will be part of my Artist’s Display.  I have been advised that I need to have examples of my own work.  Since I give so much away, I need to make a few pieces that I don’t give away.  Where we go.  My device is pretty simple.