Tuesday, July 19, 2011

making our own fun

Last weekend I helped build a clay oven, in hopes of using it during our upcoming Living History Week. We've had ovens from time to time, the first being built of broken bricks on site, covered over with clay and straw then disassembled with a hammer at event's end, the later one being built of clay over a tall basket and fired by burning the basket inside it. That one lasted a couple of years but was a bit delicate for moving back and forth to the site. Eventually its makers smashed it up cathartically.
After that we did without. But an oven is such a handy thing to have, and opens so many possibilities, that the idea was never quite given up. At last Joan bought clay and offered her patio as an assembly site, and Ina, fresh from a course on cob-building, offered her expertise.
I brought the basket.

Here Ina directs her two lovely assistants in preparing the sand-and-clay cob mix.

After the base has been covered in clay, the inner frame of the oven is established. Rowan is eagerly squishing clay into a sheet to begin covering it.

Halfway up with the first layer. Ina works up more clay and sand. We covered the frame with an inch-and-a-bit of cob mixture, then left it overnight. The next day we painted it with slip, then added a thinner layer of cob mixed with short-cut straw.

Some decoration to the top, as with some of the English examples, in a rope-twist pattern, and the youngsters could not be deterred from painting it over with slip once more.
It has to dry for a couple of weeks before we even think about firing it. We'd like to be able to put on a hand-cart and wheel it around, but we might have to settle for standing it on a couple of trestles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

mapping the coastline

I am learning that I am utter pants at estimating the wordage it will take to cover some chunk of plot. Pathetic is what. In April, when I was coming up on 105k, I thought I might be finished with another 10-15k. Now I'm nudging 140k, and losing hope that I'll be done at 150k. 160?

Griffin joining King Charles's ill-thought-out excursion of the second war against the Scots? I figured that would take up maybe 10k, a chapter and a half, maybe another 5k, tops, to get him back home.
What did it take? 30k, not counting the getting home part.

Lately I've been filling in Alice's storyline, and needed to set up the fellow she eventually marries, a thatcher. So I went back to the fenland riots and gave him the task of getting the sedge-loaded barge up to the sluice gates and burning them down. A couple of paragraphs should have done that, right?
But when I'm there with him, hearing the sedge burn, smelling the smoke and the wet wood of the gates, I realise that it couldn't have been that easy, and that the barge has to (magically) move to block his escape. He has to make it out of course, to marry Alice, but it couldn't have been that simple.
Ah, it's the coastline paradox in action. Beforehand, the distance to be traversed looks fairly smooth and simple. But when I'm on the ground, looking around, that wiggly-but-mostly-straight line turns out to be deep-cut zig-zags of little coves and beaches and ravines and inlets. How far inland should I follow an inlet before I decide that I've lost the coast? How far out should I follow a promontory before I risk getting cut off by the tide?
How closely should I follow the coast?

I imagine it as the coast one gets here in the Pacific Northwest, trees to the land's edge, crumbling rocks, crunching barnacles and slippery kelp, skimpy little beaches reachable only from the water. And somehow I have to traverse it before the end of the month, because in August I'm off to Pennsylvania for 3 weeks.
I wonder if there's a Search & Rescue operation for writers?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

happy thoughts

Because I am grumpy and achey and the deer ate the new little branch my cherry tree had grown, here are some pictures of cheerful things.

The first fresh pie of this year: rhubarb from our garden, and strawberries from a winery / berry farm up-island. There weren't quite enough strawberries for a second (frozen) pie, so I filled it in with brandy-soaked raisins that happened to be in the pantry. I have no idea how a rhubarb-strawberry-brandied-raisin pie will turn out, but I will report whenever we get around to it.
Is it just my frame of mind, or is there a goofily distressed face in this pie?

Dining al fresco in the back yard: a light salad, a jug of wine, and thou beside me. Not singing, though.

From the Vancouver trip a few weekends back. This is in one of the little ferries that go back and forth from Granville Island, Vanier Park, Science World, etc. Nostalgia time, as I used to take very-small-Chris on them when we attended the Children's Festival, usually with a firm handhold on the back of his shirt as he looked out the entry.
Now he is grown-up-Chris, and that's Shannon on the other side, and Mark taking the picture. We entertained ourself by seeing who could spot the silliest boat name as we rode by.

Friday, July 1, 2011

garden cat

photo credit: Mark Shier

The leafy things are tomatoes. Lucky this wasn't a soaker hose.

Happy Canada Day weekend to all to whom that is appropriate! I will be writing, so enjoy the fireworks for me.