Saturday, November 29, 2014

"In Readiness for the Expedition..." (...or a First Person Immersion Event- Preparation)

There is nothing like preparing for a first person immersion event which you will be attending stag (meaning without my usual group of folks with whom I camp) to illustrate what you are missing from your kit. I have been fairly lucky that the group with which I typically camp works cooperatively very well. Meaning I don't have tons of cookware- mainly because Mrs. Fox does the cooking and has tons of cookware. She enjoys it, I don't as much. Instead I sew her clothes. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Finished pomatum, almond cakes wrapped in linen, and my
jar of sugar.
I have many of these relationships with the folks in our group and it works to advantage for all of us. However, when it's time to attend an event out of our normal sphere where it's pretty much just me- well, those things are notably absent from my living history storage shelves. (Yes, these are a real thing- mostly in the basement but also in my sewing room and other random parts of my home. See below.)

One small section of my storage.
Don't judge.

Thankfully, the things which I knew I would need I was able to borrow from the fabulous folks I am blessed to call friends. For me, this included a brazier, extra blankets (Nat wasn't coming, and I get cold at night), tinder box, and (of course) food. My friend Stuart pretty much helped me out with everything but the food (including a lap writing desk and other neat things which he collects). The food was made possible by Alix helping me come up with things which I could make or collect in the rather short preparation time I had available (basically less than a week.) This along with coordinating with my housemates (who were the best housemates I could have wished! We made a lovely family!) made for plenty of food and none of us left hungry.

The rest of the things I needed, I prepared myself the week before the event. Many of these things were items I needed to make/remake anyhow, but I was a little anxious of time and getting them finished for the event.

I needed fresh powder, and I needed to make some more pomatum but put it into a pomatum pot this time, instead of my ball jar. I also needed to make some waxed linen (not enough time to get bladders) to cover my crocks.

Fresh jar of pomatum. Yum.
Measuring my starch and grinding up some cuttlefish.

Sifted and scented!

Almond cake... YUM. It actually turned out pretty nice.
The preparation for this event was cathartic in some ways, allowing me to finally get around to changing out some things I had been meaning to for some time. It also helped to point out some areas of need for us. For instance, I ran out of crocks for food storage. We definitely need more. However, I had plenty of pitchers and actually ended up using a pitcher as an impromptu storage crock because I needed the space.

As we were actually staying in an historic home, the other thing I realized was that I don't really need historical transportation storage for my clothes. Lugging trunks and whatnot isn't really necessary with an event like this. The young girl I was interpreting lived in the home and probably never really traveled outside of her town. All of her things would have fit nicely into the storage in her room and not in seven trunks and a portmanteau. This doesn't negate my still wanting some portmanteaus, mind you, but I don't think they are needed in this context. 

I packed my clothing into my (very modern and awesomely collapsible) Thirty One bags and you know what? It was pretty great. I was able to unpack and fold up my bags and leave them in the car/in the storage closet with no signs that I was not a native inhabitant of that house. In another context a portable chest of drawers or even a portmanteau would work, but for me this time it was nice to keep my furniture carrying weight down and still have wardrobe choices available. 

I would have liked some pegs, but we made do with
bed rails and drawers.
Aside from the physical prepping for the event, I don't want to forget to mention the mental preparation. The young girl whom I was portraying for this scenario had but a few lines which made mention of her in Mr. Martin's journal, leaving me to form deductions regarding her character from what few details I had. This led me to scouring other sources for mention of similar young ladies so that I might draw from them something to be known of her, but also drawing from the vast expanse of the human experience. Overall, she was a flighty thing with not too much deep thought of the troubles around her apart from the fact that they inhibited her own experience and desires. Which, I actually think is fair. 

Preparing for this experience really caused me to focus not on those items of fact from the period which "we should know" but rather the ones which we shouldn't. So many of us, even today, have but a vague understanding of the political atmosphere and a very narrow scope of fields in which we are truly knowledgeable. I think it is important that we do not forget that people of the past were probably much the same way. A young twenty-something in a small town with a mean education may not be particularly tuned in with why things are the way they are, only that she dislikes the effects of things as they are. Her personality might also change how she approaches the world around her. So much affects the people we are and to what we pay attention.

This can be liberating in first person. I don't have to know super important battle details by rote. I might have heard of such and such a battle or such and such a person- but perhaps not in detail. How much would I truly know of army life? Probably little, but I might be rather inquisitive of the soldiers to find out. I think sometimes we make first person more than it is by feeling the need to know too much. It is key to know what it is we do not know.

In all, I felt relatively well prepared for the event. I think everyone's hard work paid off and I can't wait to share with you the details of my weekend. Alas, as this post is much too long already I will save those for tomorrow.

To encourage you to read my forthcoming exploits, (or avoid them as you may choose) things will get rather *ahem* intimate in my next post as I delve into my day as an 18th century young lady in Milltown, PA and leave all modern amenities behind. 


  1. Thanks for the great post! I sometimes think the event preparation is more fun than the event itself! I also appreciate trying immersion in all your stuff as well as your persona. Did you make tooth powder? Did you use crockery for food storage, or any sacks and bags?

    1. I didn't actually get around to tooth powder since I ran out of time. Luckily the event was only two days so it wasn't too bad to go without brushing for the weekend.

      I used a combination of crocks, linen towels, and baskets for my food storage. We were lucky enough to have a back "cold room" that the site uses for storage where we were able to leave all of our meats and dairy without worrying about animals getting at them.

      The food kept really well and for the next go around I'd like to prepare even more seasonally appropriate varieties and menus for that time of year. =)


I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts on all this, so please feel welcome to comment here :-)