Blog Year in Review for 2016

2016 marked the posting of another 50 blogs on my site! That’s right, I missed exactly two weeks during the entire year, not bad, if I do say so myself! That brings the total number of blogs that are available on my site to 219. The topics vary from camping, to metal working, Medieval Cooking, and researching, and just about everything in between.

This year was the year of long blog series, with five of my series having five or more blog entries. A lot of times they didn’t start out that way, but there really was just too much to say! You can easily search my complete collection by either topic or by the year and month. Just go to and scroll down the page. The right hand column will have a list of the five most recent blogs, followed by a search box for viewing the blogs by month, a newsletter sign up (yes, I also do a weekly newsletter with relevant pre-1600 archaeological finds and news), two collections of links, and then a long list of the categories that the blogs are listed in. Just click on a category the list of blogs.

Choosing a favorite blog series is sort of like trying to decide which of my pets I like best, not an easy thing. But if I had to chose my favorite TWO long series, I would choose “Purses”, and “Vardos and Their Cousins”. Both of these series were a LOT of fun to write, and the Facebook commentary was fun and interesting to participate in for both of them.

Purses was the longest of my blog series this year, with a total of 12 blogs. It chronicled my experimentation with making a purse frame, from research and understanding how they worked and were worn, through actually making a frame myself. It was a very interesting journey, and I plan to do more work on purses frames again this year.

Purses Part 1    

Purses Part 2: My First Attempt At A Purse With A Frame

Purses Part 3: Understanding The Basics of a Purse Frame

Purses Part 4: What The Clues Tell Us and More About Purse Forms

Purses Part 5: What Other Forms of Purse Frames Do We Find?

Purses Part 6: The Tip Of The Iceberg

Purses Part 7: Back Down To Earth

Purses Part 8: Where Do We Go From Here

Purses Part 9: Time For Metal

Purses Part 10: Time For Purse Frame Rings

Purses Part 11: Finishing Up The Frame

Purses Part 12: How Were Purses Used Historically

Vardos and Their Cousins had a total of five blogs in the series. It really brought home the variety of Vardos and other trailer based constructs that there are in use in the SCA.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

And not to be outdone, this lonely little blog: All Rulers Are Not Created Equal, was probably the most relevant to all folks who do ANY sort of craft that ever uses a ruler.


Vardos and Their Cousins: Part Five

Living Quarters, kitchens, shower trucks… what else could Vardos and trailers possibly be used for? Well, during my tenure at Pennsic there have been a bunch of shops that used wagons as the basis for their set up. The first one that I was aware of was the Old Stave Church, which sadly is no more. It was built on a tall trailer, and was actually something of a pain to get in and out of, and for its height had relatively little floor space. It was used as a shop for many years and always contained an interesting collection of things that ranged from fossils, to bars of pure tin (I own several), and scribal supplies like gold and silver leaf (I own a bunch of those, too). I went looking for a picture of it in my photo stash, but I didn’t have one, but then I found this great picture on the web, that includes both the Stave Church and the wagon/building that is used by Laurel Cavanaugh Goldsmith.


The Stave Church is obviously on the right, and the wagon used by Laurel is in the middle. The two story building on the left side is actually assembled on site every year from bolt-together panels, and is home to five or six merchants, ranging from potters, to several jewelers, and Billy and Charley’s Pewter shop.

The newest wagon/shop to appear at Pennsic is owned by The Haunted Bookshop. They decided that having a permanent place to display all of their books was preferable to setting up a tent and dragging out tons of boxes of books at each event. There also used to be a fabric shop over near the barn that used a trailer for their shop, and Klaus the Toymaker, The Guild of Limners, and Heart of Oak Crafts have been in wagons for as long as I can remember. At other wars I know of a knife/sword merchant who works and lives in his wagon/shop for comfort and security. We have actually considered a Vardo for smaller events, with a quick set-up shop under an awning.

wagon-collage-2Heart of Oak on the left and Klaus the Toymaker on the right.

In closing I would like to add a few random thoughts, in no particular order, for those considering making their own Vardo.

Understanding what your state’s vehicle laws are for trailers, campers and RV’s would probably be a good idea. Some states are very lenient and some require multiple inspections. Generally people are not permitted to ride in any sort of RV or trailer during transport (except for Class A RV’s obviously), for safety reasons.

A friend who built a Vardo also mentioned that when you buy a trailer, be sure that the trailer uses tires that can be easily purchased. Some inexpensive utility trailers use odd sized tires that may have to be specially ordered, which could be a real problem if you needed to replace one or more while you are on the road.

If you want more information there are at least two active Vardo Groups on Facebook: SCA, Vardo Trails: Vardos, Roma ‘Gypsy Style’ Wagons and Camping and Gypsy Vardo- The Original Tiny House

Vardos and Their Cousins: Part 4

Last time we discussed several different approaches to building Vardos, but this time I want to talk about alternative uses for Vardos and Wagons.

One of the first years that I attended Pennsic, I remember seeing a trailer in someone’s camp. The trailer had been decorated to look sort of like a post and beam building. I eventually found someone to ask what it was used for. The answer? A kitchen. Since then I have run across several larger encampments that have a kitchen trailer. I was told that this wagon, at Pennsic this year, is a kitchen. Unfortunately, I was going somewhere at the time and didn’t have a chance to see if I could get a tour.


The second most common non-living quarters use for trailers that I have seen in Pennsic camps is shower trailers. I had seen this trailer from the road one day, and popped my head into the camp to see if anyone was home.


A gentleman there graciously invited me in, answered my questions about the trailer, and even allowed me to take pictures. Here is a picture of the trailer from inside of the camp.


The first section of the trailer is a washroom with a sink, counter and garbage can, and plenty of room to change clothes. The area behind the door is a shower.

Now for people that have never been to Pennsic this may all seem a bit confusing, or over the top. A friend who had never camped in a proper household at Pennsic went this year. He said on facebook that he was told that the camp had a shower. He expected what we call “bag o’ mud”. Water heated in a solar shower bag – i.e. a five gallon lukewarm shower. What he found instead was a real shower with a propane hot water heater, and a sump. Pennsic is one of those locations where it is permissible to dig a sump for kitchen and bath water. In the case of the shower trailer that I just mentioned, they simply run a pipe from the shower to the sump. In the case of our household, which is a much smaller camp, we share a shower with our neighbors. We give them a little land and they have the pop-up with custom walls, The young men dig a sump, we have a pallet that goes over the sump, they have a hot water heater, and we provide the propane for the heater. A hose runs from the water spigot to the hot water heater, the shower, and the kitchen sink, which is outside and is used for washing dishes. The sink drains into the shower sump.

One of the old households that we belonged to had four showers, with a sump and a kitchen sump with a sink. There were about 24 tents in that camp, and everyone was crazy busy teaching, and running the archery range. Remember, many of us are living at Pennsic for a full two weeks. Comfort and sanitation are a good thing.

Next Time: What else can Vardos and trailers be used for?