Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another Post About Storage

The thing about acquiring historic stuff, is you then need historic methods of storage. I had started to gather historic storage methods before the Guild, I bought a wooden chest as a prop for faire one year, and my mother bought me a beautiful pack basket, and has been supplying me with various other baskets for years. The first year of Das Geld Fahnlein I used the wooden prop box and bought an unfinished simple toy chest as my period storage, everything else got hidden in the corner of our tent.

At the beginning of last year storage was even more on my mind as we tried to become even more historical and get rid of as many modern intrusions as we could. I made big canvas duffels for Stephen and I to hide our hiking backpacks. Now the packs go under the bed in their sacks and even the kids who crawl into our tent will not catch a glimpse of the modern stuff. During the first season my lovely prop box slid out of the back of our truck at an intersection and got pretty smashed up. It is not repairable since it is plasterboard and was not too durable to begin with. But Stephen had been inspired by the folks at Das TeufelsAlpdrücken Fähnlein  who sat down for dinner on chests and bundles (much more historical than chairs.) Stephen made me a beautiful wooden box where I store all my accessories: modern toiletries, historical sewing projects, playing cards, gloves etc. He also held a guild workshop to help people make their own boxes. Three more people in the guild got theirs completed, a few are still in progress, including the two Stephen started for himself! Fellow guild member Magda also got into the historical packing thing. She had already owned two wooden boxes, but she made canvas sacks for her bedding, plus sacks for other members of the guild who would arrive each morning with their things in plastic bags or backpacks. She also bought an unfinished toy chest like mine, and she bought a large beautiful pack basket to add to her impression.

I painted my toy chest in Reischach colors so we could tell mine apart from Magda’s, and filled it with tent accouterments like the rope bed tightener, our religious paintings, and our game boards. I dug out three big baskets that were also left over from my days as RenFaire Props Master to hold our clothing and some of our bedding plus all the random stuff that got thrown in at the last minute. We were given a chest as part of a wedding gift so Stephen used it for his accessories and personal items.

At the end of last year I started to seriously think about storage for our bedding. I get cold very easily, so we not only pack sheets and pillows for our bed, but we packed at least three wool blankets, a couple of fleece blankets, some linen blankets, an electric blanket, and a historical sort of coverlet to throw over the whole thing. Yes, this is probably excessive, but I hate being cold. In the spring I bought waterproof canvas to cut and sew into bundles and I bought cotton webbing to wrap around the bundles and make them into backpacks. Then I tried to figure out how to sew them together to make them look like historical bundles. I even got Stephen to help and we both decided that not only were the bundles probably not sewn together at all, but they were most likely made of tent canvas or bedding material with everything else bundled up inside it. Why carry more things than you absolutely need? But I was determined to have dry bedding that could be transported in the back of the truck, so Stephen and I wrapped our bedding up like burritos in a tortilla then wrapped the webbing around like ribbons on a gift package, and did manage to get it on people’s backs! This spring we had an in-period set-up day and marched in to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire with bundles on our backs.

The packs were not perfect, if you needed one thing from inside you had to take the whole thing apart. Also the webbing slipped around on the waterproof canvas. After the May show I stitched three of them into big "u" shapes with one end open, my next step is to sew two horizontal lines of webbing on to the sacks, leaving open spots through which to thread the vertical webbing. That will secure the sack and make it into a pack. I have not done this yet, but it is on my list before the end of September.

Meanwhile I am totally jealous of fellow guild member Magda, who proved at our last two events that she can unpack and pack up all her gear in a completely period way. Her boxes, baskets and bundles just sit on top of her little rug (that goes on the floor inside her tent) in a pile until the cars are allowed on site. Magda is the person that has the next largest amount of stuff next to Stephen and I, and keeps her tent open for the public during the day just like we do. She and I go back and forth in some very low-scale competition to up our historical game, though really we stay pretty well even, and the more historical we are, the entire guild benefits. In this case, Magda has reached the goal before me, but I hope I’m not too far behind. As of the spring my last major things in modern containers were the kitchen stuff and the tents.

Since our niece recently came to live with us, we had to clear out our spare bedroom, which was really the place for all of our LH supplies. A lot of them went into our bedroom and the sewing room, but I knew the 4 plastic bins of kitchen gear would never make it into either room. So one bin of barely used stuff went into the attic, some of the nicer looking stuff that I did not want to bring to every show went on shelves in the den. For the stuff that goes to every event where we are cooking, I bought another toy chest, but stained it this time. And put all of the cooking utensils in it. If I want to cook with it, it has to fit in the one box (or be a big cast iron pot, which does not belong in a box in the first place.) All of our historical eating gear has gone into a basket, so when the high table needs to be set for dinner, anyone can do it, and when the dishes are done, the stuff for Stephen, Alysa and myself can go right back in the basket. I even sewed little pouches for the plates and bowls out of scrap wool so they have padding in the box and basket. Which leaves only one kitchen item left, and that is the food itself. This fall I want to be much better about removing plastic bags before getting to camp if possible, and using plain canvas tote bags or baskets to carry groceries in. My newest purchase is a really cool cooler basket in which to hide our perishables. It holds 5 gallons, the basket supports 300 lbs if someone sits on it, and the cooler liner is removable when it needs to be washed. I can't wait to use it!
Brown box for cooking stuff, basket for eating gear, the basket is really a cooler.

We’ve still got to come up with historical methods for hauling around tents, ropes and stakes, but I’m feeling that finishing up the bedding bundles, plus urging Stephen to finish his two wooden chests are good steps to move us into the fall.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Hanne's Bibliography

As an American reenacting with a group doing 16th Century Central European history, we do not have a lot of good written resources, and what we do have has taken me quite a while to track down. So others do not have to search as hard as I have, and so I do not have to repeat myself quite as often I am adding a new bibliography here. I hope to put up book reviews too. Those of you who read my blog but reenact other time periods, I hope you’ll bear with me through these posts, I promise to keep writing on as many different time periods as I reenact, and  on Living History in general.

Hanne von Reischach, a Bibliography
I'm including books and articles that I have read in my quest to make the character I portray as part of Das Geld Fahnlein, Hanne von Reischach, as full a person as possible. I hope the list will be helpful for other folks who want to know more about life in 16th Century Germany, the Landsknecht, camp followers, the Reformation, and the Renaissance mindset.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Double Life, Professional Life

I recently decided to join LinkedIn for professional networking reasons. But as soon as I did I was up against one of the realities of my life. I have two different professions, two different networks, with two different job histories. I spend a lot of my effort on Living History ventures and I do make a little of my money that way, but most of the past 10 years I have also held down other jobs that pay the bills and spark my interests in different ways. They seem incredibly separate sometimes, but I am really a whole person, I have a lot of skills that I use in all aspects of my life, a lot of my interests in history overlap with my interests in working in the non-profit field. Right now my interests seem to be as close to overlapping as they have been in quite a while since I currently work at an educational institution (in fundraising) and a big driver of my involvement in Living History is education. So I've come up with a vague sort of statement that talks about education in the broadest sense, and hopefully covers as many of my bases as possible.

LinkedIn is also a place to put up your resume, so I've been updating that document (which always seems to me like a chore similar to doing one's taxes.) I don't want my resume to look too cluttered, but I've done a lot of very different things in the past ten years, especially if you count all the different LH things I've been paid for (or at least held responsibility for.) Lucky for me a lot of them were work done under the umbrella of Autumn Tree Productions and I always include that on a resume, I guess the other stuff will have to get lumped in under general LH pursuits.

The other big part of LinkedIn (like all social media) is connecting to to other people. I've been trying to locate past co-workers, former bosses, and professional connections, but it seems like most of my connections are with people in the RenFaire and LH world. Another mixing of my two sides. At first I was worried about mixing the two, but from the different types of people that have accepted my "connection request" I guess the practice is not all that uncommon.

Are many of you on LinkedIn? Do you include your LH stuff? How separate is the LH stuff from the rest of your life? Read this entry on entry page

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I have heard through the grapevine that many Civil War reenactment groups are having trouble recruiting new members. I have rather written off thier complaints as aging groups having trouble attracting a younger croud, but Das Geld Fahnlein is not growing like it needs to. And now I'm getting worried.

Our initial recruitment was a group of five friends getting together and talking about the fact that we still wanted to participte in the Renaissance Faire, but we were much more interested in the history than the entertainment, and wouldn't it be fun to start our own group? Once the planning was underway we notified all our friends, and asked the faire to put the word out along thier communication channels. Our first year group was just fantastic. Everyone was enthousiastic, fun, more than a little quirky and our first year was a rousing success. Last year most of the recruitment that happened were friends of friends. A current member would convice a friend to come to a workshop and they'd be hooked.

This year, we have not had as much luck with friends of friends, and although we have had some interested folks we've met at events or who have found our web page, none of them have stuck around for more than a single workshop. Now I'm wondering if we're too intimidating? Everyone says we look so good that they will have to wait to join us until they are up to our standards. But really, we're a relatively new group, and would rather loan people the gear they need, and steer them towards the best research materials, and have them join in as soon as possible and not three years from now.

Is it the economy? This is definitely not a cheap hobby. A few of my friends have asked how much it costs to make an outfit in order to join and the answer is around $300 if you shop around and do a lot of it yourself, but not much cheaper unless you are an incredible bargain hunter.

Do we need to do market research? Should we poll all the folks we know to see why they are not rushing to join the guild? Stephen and I ask all the LH folks we know about recruitment and we're getting the picture that maybe it is just a slow sort of thing. Maybe there are not more reenactors because it really is a very small proportion of the population that is interested in taking part.

We have so much fun though, I am hoping we can get more people to join so I have more cool friends to hang out with.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Family Changes

I'm getting a family! Yes, I've still got my childhood family that supports me in my Living History schemes, and Stephen and I have been partnering on LH stuff for years before we got married. But we're gaining a family member. Stephen's (and mine through marriage) niece is moving in with us and making our family of two into a fun new family of three. 

This will change every aspect of our lives. Our home life, work schedules, our diet, our interactions with friends and neighbors. The good thing about adopting someone who is older, and not bringing a baby into our family is that we can warn her about what she is getting into. But how much can you get across with conversations, or event event visits? I think that there is very little that can prepare someone for the exhaustion of a full day at an event. Or the amount of knowledge one needs to know in order to do this LH thing. She is a teenager, and like a lot of teenagers is sure she knows more than she does. Her grandmother has taught her a lot about sewing, but that does not mean she's ready to create historical outfits.

I think I'm ready for the learning curve, I am looking forward to learning and growing. I'm also extremely nervous about the changes to her life and our lives, but I'm hopeful that change will be good. Wish us luck with introducing a new person to our crazy world!
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Getting the Itch

I'm feeling like it has been too long since I last dressed up. It was July 9th in fact, more than a month ago. I have done LH work, I've done a lot of research, gardening, some construction. We've attended LH events as members of the public. All of that is good, but it is not the same as dressing up and doing it. Luckily we'll be attending an event in a little over a week. Actually, we could go in regular clothes, we're not required to dress up and take part, but since there are members of our group dressing up and taking part, I have a hard time imagining that I could go and not want to jump in. It is time to shake out the wrinkles from my dress and sew back together all the stuff that has come apart since the spring. Read this entry on entry page

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is the Magic "period" moment really all that important?

Since we just did a podcast on making evaluations I've been evaluating my own involvement in Living History. There are so many things that I hope to get out of any LH venture I undertake. Here are the 4 main ones I’ve come up with:
1. I want to learn,
2. I want to teach others,
3. I want to have meaningful social interactions (have fun with my friends),
4. I want to experience something real.
I am finding that though many folks may have similar entries on their lists, most do not list them in the order I have, nor do most people include all of those entries.

I’m reading a little book called “Seize the Day” and its purpose is to help Civil War reenactors achieve more moments when the reenactment “feels real.” Some people call these magic moments, or even a period-gasm. This is one of the main reasons why people get involved in Living History. It is the topic of an entire book (even if it is a little book.) The most interesting thing about reading this book at the time as I am making my own evaluations, and just after visiting a couple LH events as a member of the public (podcasted here) is that teaching others and expiring something “real” are often in direct conflict.

Let’s face it, having folks dresses in jeans and t-shirts, taking our pictures with digital cameras (or their phones) and asking us what year it is (or more intelligent questions) does ruin the period atmosphere. As close as we get in our surroundings and ourselves, as long as sneakered individuals expecting interaction are in the picture the picture is never going to be all that accurate. But I love the chance to interact with and educate the public! I know this make me very different from most reenactors, or at least most reenactors on Living History Worldwide click here for a summary. But I really do value the times I interact with others who might have some level of interest in history, and to widen a few world views. And no, I have no desire to teach the federally decided curriculum to a very small age demographic; I want to reach anyone who wants to learn, not just in the usual prescribed ways.

What if the public are just spectators?
I’ve seen this done in battle scenarios, where the public stays on the outside and the historical folks on the other. Some groups prefer to put up a rope line to keep members of the public a bit separate. But they’re still there. They are not hiding behind an invisible barrier, and to ignore them completely seems fairly rude to me if you are not doing a theatrical performance.

So how important is achieving those period moments?
Since it seems like on my list numbers 2 and 4 are fairly incompatible, does that mean I have to drop one or the other? I think not. Not every day, activity or event is going to fulfill all my wants (or even my needs) but going forward I’m going to try to evaluate my LH endeavors based on the 4 criteria and make sure I have a balance. Some events are geared mostly towards educating others, but I might learn something, or at least have some fun social interactions. And I might just be more inclined to put some events in my schedule that are not about educating the public, and are more about those magic “period” or “real” moments, as opposed to the magic teaching moments, the magic learning moments or the magic bonding moments shared with friends.

Since we’re talking about LH endeavors, there is one more kind I need to point out when talking about evaluations, and those are the endeavors we undertake for other people. Being kind, sharing, helping our friends and family are all very important. If I attend an event for the benefit of someone else and don’t actually achieve any of my goals for LH endeavors, it does not mean it was an unsuccessful event, just as long as someone got something out if it, then I’m ok with that too.

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