Adventures in the woods

This past weekend we attended the First Annual Alewife Festival at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum in Bradley Maine. As my friend Andrea said, our lives would certainly be richer for having attended an Alewife Festival.

An Alewife is a fish, for those of you who are unaware. Alewives were very important to the Native Americans living in this area 200 to 400 years ago (maybe thousands of years ago). Smoked and dried fish could last for up to 6 months (according to the gentleman I talked to this weekend), therefore helping a person to survive through the winter months when fishing is difficult. Alewives were so important to the Native Americans that they often reflected that importance in the naming of places. I found this out one day when my boss asked me to go to the bookstore to find something of interest for some visitors that were new to Maine. The book I found listed all the names of Maine that were of Native origin and what they meant in English. So many of them mentioned the fish. For example, Mattamiscontis (as in the stream) means “where there has been plenty of alewives”, according to the author of Native American Place Names of Maine, New Hampshire, & Vermont, R.A. Douglas Lithgow.  The Alewife Festival, or as I kept calling it, the “Fish Fair” (which I compared, tongue-in-cheek-like, to the the Phish Concert of 1998 in Limestone, Maine. And by the way, the Phish concert had so many fans attend – approximately 60,000 – that for one August weekend in 1998, Limestone was the most populated town in the state.) seemed to be the place to be last weekend, so off we went.

First stop, the Bradley Fire Department Pancake Breakfast. Two pancakes, one regular and the other blueberry, two sausage links and a cup of coffee later, and we were at the Logging Museum, more affectionately known as Leonard’s Mills. I haven’t been there in eons, so I was kind of excited to see the place again.

First we stopped by the smokehouse and tried some nicely smoked fish. They told us that they had to tend to the fire every two hours for 2 days, so they were camping right next to the smoke house to attend it throughout the night. The smoke house itself could hold 1000 fish. Pretty impressive. It would take me awhile to eat 1000 fish….just sayin. The lady, Inez, told us how to squeeze the fish pieces to sort of pop the skin and then peel the meat out. Then she kept the skin and bones for fertilizer. Nothing wasted.

Fishway

The picture you see above is of the fishway that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service built in 2012. You can read about the project here http://www.fws.gov/northeast/PDF/ME/blackman.pdf. The alewives come up out of the Penobscot River and swim up stream on their way to Chemo Pond to spawn. I was told that there were two different types of alewives in the stream, one that would spawn in the stream and the other that would spawn only in the pond.

Blurry fish

That is a fish right there……really.

Fishway3

Bubbling brook

Fishway2

blackman stream

It was a lovely day and they have done such a wonderful job with the fishway and the grounds. They had just built a bridge over the stream and we stood on it for quite some time, leaning on the railing, warm sun on our backs, watching the little fishies try to leap up over the little stone walls, to reach the next level, one level closer to their goal. They rested by hiving up together in these little pools. It was really kind of amazing.

Having seen and eaten our fill of the little fish (about 6 inches to 8 inches long, by the way), we decided to explore the rest of the grounds. We happened upon a trail. It was a wide and level trail that enticed us into the woods.

The ancient trees were extremely tall, making me itch to climb them (I resisted).

Awesome tree, Leonard's Mills

tree with bird holes

And there were signs posted along the way, telling us about the trees, the canopy, the warblers and the wood ducks. We delighted in exploring the trail, each sign luring us to the next. Somewhere at the beginning of the trail we were informed that it was 1.5 miles long. We felt as though we were up to the challenge, especially with such lovely groomed trails to follow. trail bench

bog, Leonard's Mills

We found a nice little bench overlooking the bog (man made according to the sign). And we continued up the trail.

That is when things went a bit awry.

We came to the end of the well groomed trail. There was a sign that said Bridge Trail. Now who can resist a bridge, right? We marched on. The trail got less groomed, more thin….more like a cow path, really. And we marched. I started tripping over roots and rocks. We found a small steep hill. Down we went. Single file now, as the trail was no longer wide enough for two people to walk side by side. And we marched onward. Certainly this trail was going to come out back at Leonard’s Mills. But no. We found the bridge. It was about 2 feet wide with 3 inch spaces between each 2 to 3 inch board. My friend, Barbara, complained about having little feet and being in danger of slipping between the rungs. The bridge crossed over a boggy area. The bugs tried to help us out by attempting to fly us across, but being unable to do that, they decided to lighten our load by sucking some of the blood out of us. We got to the other side of the boggy area, which took surprisingly longer than I would have thought, and found the “Red Trail”. So called, because of the apparent red blotches of paint on the occasional tree. Okay, perhaps it was the other way around – but either way, we followed the red blotches. Now the cow path had turned into a deer path. It was about this time that I was starting to think that perhaps I should study the vegetation because, no doubt, I would have to forage something for supper for everyone, because we were probably never getting out of the woods again. But not finding any raspberry bushes or plantain, I was thinking I would have to resort to bark soup made with bog water. Just as I was about to give up and lay down on one of the comfortable piles of excrement left by a passing bear or deer, and wait for the coyotes to take me, we stepped into a magical place. It was the Penobscot Experimental Forest              (http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/ef/locations/me/penobscot/).  All the undergrowth was gone, and the tall straight trees seemingly held up the canopy 100 feet above our heads, like pillars holding up the roof of an enormous cathedral.

It was glorious and almost holy.

We walked on. By this time, I had dubbed my friend Barbara the “Wood Nymph”, as she blithely and nimbly lead us onward. I was so tired, and a bit frightened by our situation, that I neglected to take any pictures of this mystical place and I am kicking myself for it now. Just as I was opening my mouth to say to the others that perhaps we were lost, we found civilization in the form of a beer can tucked into the bark of a fallen tree and we found the trail out of there. But of course it did not lead us into Leonard’s Mills, it just brought us around in a circle to the bridge again. And so, no longer caring about the signs on the side of the trail that told us of birds and trees, we trudged back onto the well groomed trail that would lead us to our starting point. We stopped at the bench to take our rest, not saying much, although I think I was thanking God for not having to produce supper out of bark and bog water. Then we marched back to Leonard’s Mills. Had we taken the hint at the beginning of the trail from the wooden box on a post that housed ants and maps of the trails, we would have known that we should turn around at the end of the first trail and not gone to find the bridge. There was a couple that passed us on our way back, and I wondered if I should warn them to turn back, but I didn’t. I wonder if they are still out there?

Back at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum we discovered the settlement and explored the sawmill. The sawmill was very fascinating.

sawmill

sawmill side view

sawmill water wheel

waterwheel

sluice

My husband would ask me why I hadn’t taken pictures of the mechanism inside, the saw that the waterwheel powers. But as thrilling as that all was, it is the water wheel and the rock wall that thrills me. Inside the sawmill you could see how, as the wheel turns, it would also turn a series of gear wheels that would eventually move the saw blade up and down to saw through large logs. I wondered how fast it would be. Would it take 5 minutes or 20 minutes to saw through those logs?

rock wall
I love rocks. They are lucky I didn’t line my pockets with their wonderful rock walls.  There was a huge rock (think boulder) on the trail that made me go “oooh!”, to which my husband always responds with an instant and short “no!”.

covered bridge

The covered bridge was beautiful.

covered bridge close up

And the windows made interesting frames for photos.

view thru window and stream

view thru a window

through the window

view through the bridge

There is so much more to see and do at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum, than to watch the fish jump up the fishway, or walk the trail until you are exhausted and contemplating bog water for dinner. If you get the chance you should really have an adventure of your own here. Check it out at http://www.maineforestandloggingmuseum.org/

trail to foot bridge

P.S. there is a new museum store there. In it, we found a bumper sticker that says “Follow me to the Forest” and a pin/button that says “All who wander, are not lost”. Barbara, the Wood Nymph, ended up with those, as it should be.

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Kirtles continued

So I asked my friend Lady Agatha, who, by the way, is very good when it comes to sewing ALL-THE-THINGS in the SCA, how to go about creating those lacing holes for my kirtle. Blanket stitch what? She has the patience of a saint! So with much encouragement, thank god for instant messaging, she talked me through some strategies and then ta-da!  Here are some lacing holes!

1006.229.8
Lacing holes need to be staggered on the left and right sides of the garb (aka dress) front. That is why you see those Xs on the opposite side.

I think it took me two days and probably 5 or 6 hours to get it done. The dress looked much better. But as Lady Agatha noted when she saw me in it later, the dress seemed to twist to the side a bit. She said that when you add lacing holes after the dress has been made, it will often do that. Hmmmm…..that will be something I will have to experiment with later on.

Tired Leo

Please try to ignore how tired I look here. I had just spent hours in the kitchen working on a feast with my friend Baroness Margaret, sitting to my left here. Lady Isabella is sitting to my right. The picture was taken by Jenn Miller at the Celebration of King Richard III, a Feast and a Ball, commemorating his re-internment. It wasn’t Jenn’s fault that I look so awful. It had been a busy, busy day in the kitchen. But anyways, you can see the lacing in the front of the dress here! The lacing did make my dress fit a bit better, closer and more form fitting. And certainly it appears to be a bit more “period”. I may never be a Laurel for my sewing skills, but I can fake it well enough!

 

Kirtles

Wearing layered kirtles
This is me. Lady Leofwyn, wearing layered kirtles.

There is so much wrong here. Kirtles are generally more form fitting, laced up the front or the back of the dress. These dresses were made in a hurry, taking less than a day or two to complete. The seams aren’t finished on either dress. But they were and still are works in progress. The orange-y brown dress has a stripe around the bottom of the skirt (to hide a rip that happened during the rush of creating a feast at an event), and the front now has lacing holes! All hand done! Go me!

Only took me 3 or 4 years.

The turban like head thingy is extremely useful. Keeps my hair out of my face and out of feast food! Very important. Also, very stylish for the medieval woman.

I give credit to the photographer, Ed DuMont, who always seems to be able to make me look good when he takes my picture – one of the few that do!

 

Who am I and why am I here?

Wow, those two questions haunt all of us at one point in our lives, don’t they? I think I started asking myself those questions when I was a teenager, probably around the age of 14. I remember having long philosophical conversations with my mother and my friends on those two themes, many times throughout my life. But this blog isn’t meant to be deeply philosophical. At least not yet. This blog is about what makes me happy. And maybe making myself happy may help you, the reader, to be happy too. Just a little bit. And I like sharing. Sharing happiness is a good thing. Right?

Who am I? Well, in the real world, I am a 50 year old mother, grandmother, daughter, wife and friend, depending what role I am fulfilling. But that is all I am going to say about that, for now.

In my fantasy life, I am a 40-to-50-ish year old woman, living in early 11th century England. I, Lady Leofwyn, am of Anglo-Saxon decent, living in the town of Wytleseie. My lord and husband (Alan in both worlds), is an archer/farmer/merchant/jack-of-all-trades. We own a small estate or perhaps large farm, with a number of tenants for whom we are responsible.

Why am I here? I want to share my adventures. Mostly the medieval adventures, but perhaps some modern adventures too. I want to share my hobbies. I want to find inspiration and maybe inspire you in the process. And maybe, I will make both of us a little bit happier, for the moment that we are together. You are most welcome to join me.

Yours in service,

Lady Leofwyn of Wytleseie