Friday, 31 May 2013

I am not a fish!

It's raining hereabouts, again. And while the willows in the garden do not mind (they like water and can't have too much), I think the other plants will soon develop fish scales. As will we! This is not a good spring, weather-wise.

After having the winter with the least sunshine for the last, oh, 40 or so years, spring was very late in coming, with snow into the month of March. Then, slowly, it got warmer and stuff started to grow. About a month late, but hey, at least there was green, and flowers. Both March and April were really dry, though - and now it's the end of May, and the month seems to try and get caught up on all the rain that was missing in the last two months.

So the last days (and it feels like weeks), we had a lot of rain. And, with the late start into spring, and the slightly-colder-and-a-lot-wetter-than-usual May, the tomatoes and chili and zucchini plants I put outside are just as small (but wetter-looking) than when I put them outside. Maybe also due to the fact that we're behind on sunshine hours...

At least the weather prognosis says it's going to be a bit better next week (after the weekend, mind you, when there will be... even more rain). And our garden is not looking like the sports playing field shown in this article! Hopefully the summer will not be as yucky and wet as this month was, though. I've had enough grey skies and rainy days for a while...

Thursday, 30 May 2013

It's a holiday!

You are not getting a proper blog post today - it's a holiday hereabouts.

I have, however, a link for you - which might be helpful, or interesting, or both in case you know somebody who is suffering from depression. It's hard to explain what depression is like to someone who never experienced it, and Hyperbole and a Half does it brilliantly here.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wooliness abounds!

After several days of greyish weather, with plenty of rain too, yesterday was actually nice and sunny (at least for most of the day) - so I set out to get some wool washed. The dirty fibre in question? Walliser Schwarznase - a beautiful, relatively long-staple wool, white and with a pleasing curliness at the tips. The fibre is smooth and silky and yields a strong, shiny thread. In short: lovely stuff.

I had two fleeces, and there are actually shearers who still know what to do for shearing a fleece for the wool. Both fleeces were still hanging together so it was possible to roll them out, look them over, and sort the wool (which, in this case, was mostly removing the really dirty and the few quite felted bits) before washing.

I also used the occasion to fluff up and re-pack some of the lovely Rhönschaf-Wolle. Now I'm richer in clean fleece - and I will soon be able to offer the Walliser Schwarznase in my little shop as well. Yay!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Women, wars, gender issues...

Gender issues are a thing - not just a modern thing, but also a big topic in history and archaeology. Textiles often touch on the gender issue - was textile work just women's work*, as one famous book about archaeological textiles is titled? Or was it split between men and women? These questions, unfortunately, are very hard to answer - not least because the gender ideals of the 18th and 19th century still colour our modern perceptions, and our view of history.

With textile archaeology as a focus topic, the gender issue, for me, is coming to the surface quite often. So I was quite delighted about this essay - it's not about women and textiles, but women in war and fighting troupes. The quintessence? Women have always fought, but that might not be visible in documentation, and it's often just overlooked. I tend to think the same applies to men in textile...

* There are areas (and times) when men dominate textile trade - male weavers, male (professional) knitters, male dyers are all very well traceable. I am thinking more about the "typically female" textile activities like spinning, and the times before we have documentation about these crafts.

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Internet - source of lovely stuff to read...

Just in case you would like to have even more archaeological on-line stuff to read: The archives of Fennoscandia from its first issue 1984 up to the 2011 issue are available online as .pdf.

Here's the link to the archive.


Friday, 24 May 2013

Friday! Yay!

It's finally Friday, and we're looking forward to a nice weekend (hopefully with okay weather too) for spending time with visiting friends and family. Bonus effect: The study is now much more orderly again. Added bonus effect: We will have yummy brownies. Next added bonus effect: We might be able to get some of the unknown plants in our garden identified by people who know them. (For the record, I have a very easy way to deal with unknown plants: I leave them in until they bloom, and then I decide whether I like them or not. I like them - they stay. I don't like them - they get ripped out, and off to the compost they go.)

And while I'm wondering over unknown plants here, I have a fitting link: A blog with medieval riddles, each one of them in the original Old English/Anglo-Saxon, then translated into modern English, and then the solution. There's also notes to each of the riddles. The blog is fittingly called The Riddle Ages.

I have never been good at solving riddles like these (probably partly because of little practice, riddles are just not so much en vogue hereabouts anymore), but for those of you who want to try their brains, beware of spoilers - the solution is directly below the last line of the translated riddle, and the comments or notes that are posted as blog entries after the riddles (so they turn up before on the blog) also mention the solution or possible solutions.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Is it Friday yet?

Somehow, the last few days, my schedule has been all over the place, and I'm not even sure why. I know that I slept way longer than usual today, and I all blame it on my furry biological alarm clock (aka the cat) - instead of insisting to get her morning treats, food, and being let outside, this morning she cuddled up to me for another almost two hours of sleep. No wonder this morning is so short, and this blog so late...

But on to things that might actually interest you. The first registrations for the Forum are in, and it looks like we'll have an in-detail look at some of the decorations on the Lengberg finds as well.Yay for decorated medieval bras!

Speaking of underwear, you are probably familiar with the Dove advertisements and their "real beauty" campaign? Here's an article about "the Problem with Dove". TL;DR: Dove is a part of Unilever, a company that is not about accepting different forms of beauty, and seen together with other stuff Unilever promotes, the campaign seems quite... weird.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Today: A poem.

Just in case it's raining where you are, too, maybe you are feeling like reading a nice poem from the 13th century... about Bèrenger of the Long Arse.

If you have not read any fabliaux before, let me recommend them to you - they are a very nice, and very funny genre. At least I think so... they are also, quite frequently, garnished with a little or a lot of sexual innuendos. Sometimes not so covert innuendos.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Aaah. The flood of email, it came with the rain.

It's absolutely amazing what a long weekend (extended by one puny little day!) can do to one's email inbox. Possibly the timing of the long weekend, just after the opening of the Forum registration, has a tiny little bit to do with that... but it's still amazing.

While I had hoped to get a lot more stuff done during the past three days, at least it was very nice and relaxing. Plus a good bit of gardening has been accomplished, including transplanting some green guys who were not doing well in the place they sat, and potting all the rest of the seedlings who needed potting. We now have a little chili plant parade, and I'm very curious to see what will grow out of the seeds of last year's odd chili with the black fruits. It should have been an "Ecuador Purple" just like the others, but it was definitely not.

If you are looking for a decorative chili, by the way, I can recommend that kind - they grow violet fruits that turn to yellow, orange, and finally red. And are quite spicy. (Full disclosure? We give most of the fruits away - they taste nice, especially the purple stage, but I grow them mostly for their looks since we don't eat very spicy foods.)

Our willow fence is also coming along nicely these days, and I hope we'll have the full height that we want (and thus finished the pattern of the fence/hedge) by the end of the summer. The way the shoots are growing, we will definitely have a harvest of basket-making material in winter!

Friday, 17 May 2013

European Textile Forum: Registration is open!

After a long chain of delays, finally everything is figured out and the registration for the Textile Forum is now open. My testing of the submission/registration form works, so I hope it will also work for everybody else (in my next life, I will learn how to do proper php and pearl programming!)

The Forum will take place September 2 to September 8 in Mayen, Germany, with the focus topic "Decorative Elements in Textiles". We have changed our concept slightly and moved the paper session to the morning hours, when everyone will be more awake - and after each paper session, we plan to have an afternoon workshop, demonstration, or other practically oriented afternoon session about the same item or topic.

Sabine and I are very excited about this, and we hope it will be a roaring success. If you would like to take part in the Forum, you can register here - we'd be very happy to see you in September!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Wasting time...

Did you ever feel as if the internet was sucking lots and lots of time out of your day? I know that I did, more than once. However, getting rid of the internet is not necessarily a solution to procrastinating or dawdling around, as this guy's report shows.

Paul Miller went offline for a full year, trying to find out whether not having the internet would help him achieve more and be more efficient. The bottom line? If you are prone to procrastination, you will find something to do it with no matter whether that is electronic and virtual or real-life stuff. And the internet is about social interaction as well.

I really liked this article - there are plenty of guys around who say the internet can be evil for work morale (and I think we all know about the endless possibilities to check just one more website before...) but then, in our era and society, not having the connection will also be a definite drawback.

So, procrastinate however you like - it's not worse doing it virtually!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Still catching up.

I'm still catching up on the interesting (or possibly interesting) articles that appeared during the last two weeks or so, and accordingly, here's another list of possibly interesting stuff for you as well. First of all, a German-language one:

HistoFakt is blogging about the Middle Ages in German television, and it's not really pretty.

There's a blog about making historical shoes, with some very nice in-detail documentation and project lessons about shoes with raised heels from about 1500 to 1800: Chopine, Zoccolo, and Other Raised and High Heel Construction (h/t cathyscostumeblog)

And finally, Maney Publishing has a Journal of the Month special again: You can access the last three years of the journal The Historic Environment: Policy and Practice for free (only requires filling out a form that gets you their newsletter). The offer is valid until June 15.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Who stole my morning?

Somehow, these last few hours of the morning have slipped by without me really noticing it. If you saw the person who stole them, please let me know so I can get them back!

And now for your more-or-less random news: The cat is lying right beside me, sleeping. She has a slighly higher need for cuddles and closeness to her humans since we spent the last weekend away, so she wanted her nap close to me.

The garden is exploding into spring growth, with the roses sprouting stems and leaves. The tulips are nearing the end of their bloom cycle, but the lily-of-the-valley is taking up the baton, joining the forget-me-nots and strawberries. The pansies have been blooming for ages anyways, as have the dead-nettles... so the garden is looking quite full of flowers. So full, in fact, that I had to clear space to plant the tomatoes that I set out yesterday!

The internet has also been exploding into spring growth, or so it seems to me. There's lots of stuff to spend some time watching or reading, for example this:

Or, if you prefer reading, Sarah Goslee of the stringpage blogged a link to out-of-print publications put online by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, freely available to read and download. There's 371 publications available as of today, and Sarah has picked out a few of interest already, so visit her place for direct links.

And finally, if you are tired after all this reading and watching, here is something guaranteed to shock you awake: Google Earth pictures used to record looting at Apamaea, Syria, over the course of less than one year. Looting, my friends, is evil. EVIL.

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Mat Thing.

Back in March, I posted about videos with yoga exercises to help relax tense neck and shoulders. I did actually manage to keep doing good things like that for my shoulders - and not only them. These and related videos have resulted in my personal discovery of yoga.

Which has led to the inevitable: a yoga mat.

Yoga mats, essentially, are a non-slip surface with a little cushioning effect thrown in for good measure. Their main job, physically, is to keep hands and feet from slipping (thus making some poses much easier). In addition, they usually provide a bit of insulation against cold and said cushioning effect. The desired amount of non-slip, cushioning and insulation varies depending on the form of practice, the surroundings and personal preferences.

Yoga is not just about the physical, though - it also means going for a certain state of mind, awareness, however you would like to call it, with the practice. And entering any special state of mind tied to any activity is always made easier by using certain rituals - such as putting on special dress, or unrolling a mat - and ritual props tied by association to the procedure and the mind-set. Which is another (though less discussed) function of the yoga mat.

And finally, there is also the eco conundrum thingie - since many of those practicing yoga are inclined to be of the greenish persuasion (at least slightly greenish). And as you might know, I am fitting in right well with that.

There's gazillions of mats out there, from many different companies, manufactured in different places and from a multitude of materials. There is also quite a few these days that label themselves "eco" or "green". Well. To put it very bluntly, and going just for the most environmentally friendly, the best yoga mat? No mat at all. Nothing made, transported, and sold. No materials and no energy used. Second best is something serving as a mat that does not fuel the industry and incite them to make more mats (because they are obviously getting bought). That could be a rug or other substitute, or an old mat that is not used by its original owner anymore. (Not buying a new mat if the old one still serves, but continuing to use the old one, would also fall into that category.)

Buying a new mat, even if made from natural materials and produced (and transported) in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, preferably also with fair prices and wages paid for every one and every thing involved in the whole production process? That is third-best. At best. Because every thing that is produced... has an impact.

(Now is the point where I could ramble on about the "no-impact" and "no harm" thingie. There is no such thing as no impact, we each of us live and breathe and that alone makes a difference and an impact on the world. Not regarding that we eat, too.)

You can do worse by the environment, however: There's enough choices out there that use PVC or processes involving toxins, made in factories with not very good conditions. Those are usually cheap mats - which is not saying that pricier is always better in that respect.

I did, by the way, buy a new mat. One of those labelled "eco". Which smells, strongly, of rubber (dissipating only very slowly - it smells less than at the beginning now, though); which is very nicely non-slip, a pleasing colour, and gives me the feeling that I did something to treat myself to a little luxury...

Friday, 10 May 2013


Crafting is a thing very dear to me (as you all probably know) - and I am undecided whether an appreciation for crafts is coming back or not. Here, in any case, is a link to a BBC programme where they had unskilled newbies go into training with a craftsperson to learn the trade - in this case: weaving.

It's the first of the four parts that make up the whole episode, but the other three are also out on the Ytube, so you can enjoy all of them. And in case you want to know more about the backgrounds, here is what the BBC writes about this episode.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

German Childhood.

When I was a child, my TV consume was not very great - but there were a few shows I enjoyed a lot, and watched quite often. One of them was "Die Sendung mit der Maus". The show is still running (the Mouse has turned 40 in 2011) and is still loved and appreciated by children... and adults.

Here is a snippet of it where they explain why the city Mannheim is called Mannheim. In German, of course... but very nicely.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


A heap of conference announcements and Call for Papers are hanging out in the Internet at the moment - so for all of you looking for places to go to in the next months, here's a few of them:

There will be a RE-ARC conference in the US 18 October, 2013 to , 20 October, 2013: The Reconstructive & Experimental Archaeology conference, with this years' theme: "Education & RE-Arc". Papers are welcome, deadline is May 31. More info here.

The same deadline is valid for submissions regarding the next NESAT which will take place in 2014, by the way - and thus approaching fast.

Also running their CfP: The 32nd Dyes in History and Archaeology conference (3-4 October 2013 in La Rochelle, France). This is the conference regarding historical dyeing, much like NESAT is the conference regarding archaeological textiles.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Moar links.

From my large-ish stack of tabs open to remind me of interesting things to blog about, here are some more links:

A study shows that the global cooling trend reversed in the 19th century. Industrial revolution, anyone? The NY Times/dotearth also covers this topic. With colourful charts.

There is a conference "Archäologie und Paläogenetik" in Erlangen, starting the day after tomorrow (May 9 - May 13), for those of you German speaking and in the region (or willing to travel). There's also an open evening lecture on May 10. More info? Go to the DGUF website.

I have been telling people about the job offers board at H-Soz-u-Kult for ages - and now there seems to be another board posting job offers for academics, including archaeologists and historians.
There's also a job offer for a textile conservator open in South Central Pennsylvania, just north of Gettysburg, about 1.5 - 2 hours from DC, 1.5 hours from Baltimore, and 2 hours from Center City Philadelphia. The job seems to be work as a conservator for an antiques dealer specialising in flags - if you are interested, email me and I will pass on the mail.

And finally, if all this has made you hungry: A 12th century manuscript including recipes has been found.  Isn't that nice?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Viking sails

While I was away, stuff has accumulated - so here is one of the linky lists again.

There seems to be a dispute about Viking sails and their reconstruction, as this article indicates. With my previous experiences regarding pictures as sources, I'd say it would be worth a try with the broad sail version that is depicted.

And here's a nice appeal to "stop dissing the humanities" - it's relating to US politics and financing, but much the same is true for other places, too.

Finally, in case you have heard about the "Paleolithic Diet" and wondered about how much it really has to do with food in the Stone Age, here is a very interesting video of an archaeologist explaining about... everything.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Back from Freienfels.

I'm back, the car is (mostly) unpacked, and we even managed to get everything loaded into the car dry(ish) so there's little residual work apart from the usual checking, cleaning, and storing away again.

This year's event was sort of a mixed bag, weather-wise: rain when we set up, rain on the first days, then sunshine mixed with bouts of rain again. At least it got dry and sunny enough to dry everything that had gotten wet during the first days, and that the ground reverted from muddy to firm yet bouncy again. Otherwise, it was a mixed bag as well: I enjoyed meeting with all the friends and old acquaintances once more during the event. The last years, however, have seen a trend in more and more market stalls that sell stuff I would not expect on a medieval market, ranging from cheap mass-produced spoons and wood implements for the kitchen to colourful wax candles to all kinds of jewellery (modern or fantasy) and garishly brightly coloured clothes that have as much to do with medieval clothing as I have with driving race cars. Plus there are more and more stalls serving food and drink - it's a small wonder if each of them will make profit enough to keep coming.

All this together is a development into a rather unexpected direction, seeing that Freienfels is one of the really big markets for Living History folks, and had the reputation of being one of the one-stop-shops for medieval gear. If the development continues like that, I think it will only be a few more years until it will become less and less attractive for the LH folks - I've heard from a lot of them that they are only coming to meet old acquaintances these days, because the event has changed so much. A pity, really!