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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Katla's Blog of the trip

My Viking Travels

By Katla Þorgeirrsdottir
(But really Kate Burnham!)        

Hi! A short history lesson about myself: my dad is Þorgeirr Mikjállson.  He grew up on his family farm north of the Wirral in the Kingdom of Jórvík.  Until we had to leave, he, my mother, Jorrun Roidatter, and my siblings Eskil, Oli, and Gyða worked the farm with my uncles and their families and traded leatherwork, woodwork, cloth, and cheese in the city.  Last spring, we fled to Dublin and thence to Iceland in pursuit of a new land and a freer life.  When we arrived, my father said that there was no good land to be had and was persuaded that Greenland held greater promise. We were conned: Greenland is nothing but ice, grass and bugs. This is how I find myself in Vinland after we moved on, again, or so the story goes, and this is what happened when I got there.

Day 1 (Wednesday)

Today was very long and tiring. We were setting up camp at the L’Anse aux Meadows site. It was very rainy, so my mother, Jo, Kari, Paul and I went back to the cabins where we were dry. Since I didn’t really have anything to do, I went to the cabin next door to chill out with Elizabeth and Bronwyn. In the meantime, my dad didn’t know that I was at the cabins so he was looking frantically all over site for me. Eventually, when he came home, he found me in Elizabeth’s cabin. There’s not much else to say, so I’ll see you later!

Day 2 (Thursday)

Today was the first day of re-enactment. We spent the majority of the day entertaining the little boys playing things like “hunter and prey” (a form of tag: the hunter is something big like a bear that chases everyone, there is one that is both hunter and prey, like a fox and prey ,like a bunny)and “1 caribou” (like sardines or all-for-1 hide and seek). We climbed on the roof for a little bit, but then we got in trouble. We also went out to pick some bakeapples (cloudberries) and partridgeberries (lingonberries), but they weren’t ripe. Then we had lunch which was soup. The rest of the day was pretty much the same as the morning.

Day 3 (Friday)

Today I proved my literacy in runes by teaching them perfectly to some tourists. I wonder if I could be a skald one day. Of course, only if there are female ones. A skald is a singer of songs, a teller of tales, a reciter of poetry, etc. Rig is one. He sings a lot. I guess that’s part of being a skald. We had soup again for lunch today. Speaking of food, I’ve got to go to dinner now. See ya!

Day 4 (Saturday)

Today wasn’t much different from any other day. We got in trouble for climbing on the roofs again. I don’t know why we do: they’re 6 feet tall & 6 feet thick and so there’s this big flat bit, so it’s not like we’re on the actual roof or anything. I still don’t know why we get in trouble. We had soup again.

Day 5 (Sunday)

Today I was the only kid there. It was terrible. I had to help with the cooking, the story telling, the trading and the smithing. At least I got to make clay pots with Kadja. All of mine survived the fire: YAY!!!!!!! I made one coil pot that was the right size for a drinking cup, one coil pot that you can only fit your pinky finger into and a bead with various designs such as sea coral, seaweed, ring dots and leaves. Lunch today was soup. Again.

Day 6 (Monday)

I think lunch is getting a little too repetitive: soup yet again. I don’t know why mum hasn’t come up with anything better. Have you noticed yet? Day 1: soup. Day 2: soup. Day 3: soup. Day 4: soup. Day 5: soup. Day 6: soup. Days 7-10: most likely soup. SO REPETITIVE!!!!!!! If I were cook, I’d make something more interesting like roast Elche or flat cakes. I am so glad we get to escape to Northern Delight in the evening to eat mussels, home fries, and ice-cream floats. Hope you have something interesting.

Day 7 (Tuesday)

Today was the same thing but we went swimming in the ocean. It was so cold!!!! My dad practically dragged me out into the water. I wore my thick-ish linen tunic so my (modern) yellow panties wouldn’t show. After my very cold and salty swim, I rinsed myself off in the brook. After that, I got changed right there on the beach with my dad. Thankfully, no one was looking. If some one was, oh, I don’t even dare think about it! Bronwyn (i.e., Emma) and the little boys went too, but the boys didn’t actually swim. They just played with their little wooden boat. Lucky them.

Day 8 (Wednesday)

Today, like most days, my mum wanted me to sew. I was hiding all day to avoid it and other work. Eventually, they got some work out of me though. And by some, I mean lots. Their excuse is “you have to be a good housewife so that we can marry you off”. Huff.

Day 9 (Thursday)

Today was our day off. Totally unrelated to D.A.R.C., so tune in later.

Day 10 (Friday)

Today was so sad!!! I had to say goodbye. I am absolutely terrible with goodbyes, you should know. Although D.A.R.C. is amazing, I’ll still miss my friends and the people who work at the L.A.M. site.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thorgeir's Favorite Things

Turning a bowl from start to finish on a lathe that I had built - it was great being able to use Richard's lathe during the last trip, but nothing can compare to seeing the whole process through.  This applies equally to designing and building a new lathe, using my experiences with Richard's to guide my choices, as it does to starting with a tree trunk on Day 2 or 3 and turning it into a finished bowl by Day 6.  This bowl is also the largest piece that I have done on a pole lathe, giving me further satisfaction.

Discussing peat maturation with a gentleman from Ireland who remembers cutting it as a boy - although the fellow's ideas of how peat turns to coal were a little off, it was fantastic to talk to someone for whom peat cutting and use had been a way of life and who could look at the walls inside the furnace hut and describe exactly the depth from which the pieces had come and the strengths and weaknesses of the kind of peat that was used.

Wandering over to Norstead, the sister site to Parks Canada's, on the other side of L'Anse aux Meadows village, to see if I could help them to get their lathe working better - I arrived carrying a bundle of turning tools slung on a shoulder strap and felt like a true itinerant "journeyman" turner.  The day was spent doing what could best be described as "Norse junkyard wars in the boatshed", as the resident interpreter (Sveinn) and I sought out what we could from the various wood piles, pieces of antler hanging around, and odds and ends in my tool chest to build a new foot pedal, to support and stabilize one of the centres, and to move the lathe so that there was enough light and space for the public (and the turner) to see what was happening during use.  It was also a fantastic experience being up close to Snorri, the reproduction knarr that is now housed at Norstead, hearing the tales of its journey(s) to Vinland, and seeing how everything fits together.  Having failed to accompany my wife and daughter to the Ship's Museum in Roskilde a few years ago, this was my first opportunity to get a hands-on look at a full-sized Norse vessel.  The experience was enhanced the following day, when we returned as visitors and talked to Lambi, the other interpreter in that area.  I had many questions that needed further information that he willingly provided.

Moving my lathe to the beach side of the site, from where I could see and hear the sea - working in the area between the smithy and storage/slave's hut was great for meeting and interacting with people and for being out of the wind on the first couple of days, but it was out of the wind and disconnected from the ocean.  One of my best experiences during our previous visit was working by the ocean and coming to work each day to the view across Epaves Bay.  When the winds dropped on Day 3, I therefore moved over to the seaward side of the site to work on the lathe, initially working with my back to the sea so that I would be facing visitors, but eventually turning to face the water after I worked out that I could not work adequately with the pole coming over my shoulder.

Finally, daily swims (at 2 pm).  I must thank Audr for the loan of Norse "shorts" for the 2nd and 3rd times in water.  I got a few interesting comments after the first swim, when I went without them.  At all times, the North Atlantic was cold, but bearable and a great relief after being outside in the sun for much of the day.  The shallowness of the bay did allow the sun to warm the water a little, but trying to keep the whole of one's body within 2" of the surface was an interesting maneuver.

There were too many good experiences off site or on the way to or from LAM to go into details. The scenery of the drive up the west coast of Newfoundland, the copious quantities of excellent mussels consumed at Northern Delight, and seeing porpoises swimming past the ferry on the way home were great, but perhaps the best thing was the company of good friends on another foray to the start/end of the new world.   Thanks to everyone for making it fun.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Rig's Favorite Things

My French was really put to the test -- especially with all the technical terms that I never needed in school, but I got better at talking around the subject and waiting for the visitors to clue in and give me the word I needed.  Generally the visitors with the greatest interest had at least a smattering of English.  The one exception was a boy about 12 years old who stayed to learn how to play Hnefatafl with me while his parents went on to look at the weaving.  I explained the rules as best I could and I thought I had done fairly well.  He was playing the king, and although he lost men rapidly, he got his king out and moving and was doing well.  In fact, there were two points where he had me beat, but then didn't make the move to the corner to finish me off.  It wasn't until his mother returned that I found out that my instructions had lost something in translation -- instead of the king needing to move to the corner, he had thought the king was not allowed to move to the corner.  I have no idea what he thought the goal of the game was previously, but with the correct instructions, he did go on to win the game.

It was really great that we had so many children along this time. My four year old son Emundr spent most of his time running around with his cousin, but every day he would come over to where I was working on my shaving bench and ask for some songs and stories.  His favorite was "the Norse Kings sagas", my adaptation of chapters 16 to 25 of Snorre Sturlasson's Ynglinga Saga.  He'd curl up on my lap to listen and criticize me if I didn't sing the song or tell the accompanying stories in just the "right" way.

Before letting the younger visitors try using the drawknife on the shaving bench, they always got a quick lecture on how to handle knives so I could explain how a drawknife was different.  "Always cut away from you," I'd tell them, "and make sure the knife is pointed away from you palm when you pass a knife handle first to someone else."  On our second day, those instructions got a laugh from the parent -- the boy had spent the day before at the hospital having stabbed himself in the leg while whittling towards himself.  A few days later one of the fathers showed off an ugly scar on his hand from handing a knife to his brother the wrong way.  It's always great getting more anecdotes to add to my cautionary tool kit.

It was always interesting when I got challenging questions from visitors. Twice I had people come up to me and say, "Tell me what you know about norse music", and then actually stick around for the hour or more it took me to summarize my research from the last 15 years.  Last time out in 2010 I stuck to the 3-4 pieces of music that could be argued as being period;  this time I branched out to include a few of my own compositions that I had created based on texts from the sagas using melodies that closely resembled the old examples.  I'm still working on my pronunciation, but I had the one compliment of a Norweigian gentleman who said he actually understood some of what I was singing.