Fighting Inspirations

As you probably know from my various rantings, ravings, and ramblings here, I’m FtM transgender. I lived a good bulk of my life identifying as female and, despite identifying as male/masculine for a while, I still advocate for and understand the challenges of people who identify as female.

I also find it incredibly inspirational when there are badass female fighters who are highlighted in the SCA. Especially for heavy combat.

I’m lucky in that I personally know several female Knights and Masters of Defense in my Kingdom.

Our Queen currently has an all-female Shieldmaiden cadre of champions who stand with her in court and participate in battle with her, as well.

In fact, my most memorable thing from Pennsic this year was standing on the middle bridge waiting to advance with my unit as part of the shield wall, and looking to my right and seeing Her Majesty, the Dread Queen Katherine, take the field with her unit of heavy authorized shield maidens two bridges down from me. Knowing the ferocity of each fighter out there, that was a glorious thing. It was also incredible to have my girlfriend, Baronessa Petrona, on the shield wall with me. Like our Queen, she had authorized in heavy to take the field at Pennsic.

But, the point is, that representation matters. Especially in a game that is dominated by men, it’s always amazing to me to see any female-identified person match them and be their equal. Even more so for the young girls who are looking for their place in the world.

This hits me hard because I was, at one point, a little girl looking for their place in the world. I grew up in the era of Xena and Gabrielle, of watching old episodes of Wonder Woman, of playing Tomb Raider. All of these examples of strong, powerful female warriors. And I loved swords. Okay, any weapon, really, but really, really loved pointy-stabbies. I don’t think joining the SCA would have changed my desire to transition, but I have to admit that seeing such incredible living legends such as Countess Sir Fern and Duchess Sir Elina would have gestalted me into heavy fighting a lot sooner. They still serve as inspiration when I have moments of imposter syndrome, too. If they could put the time, energy, and effort in, so can I.

I’m hoping that these people serve as inspiration for the next generation of female fighters. That their stories and experiences perpetuate the magic that is embedded in the fabric of the Dream we weave. That we have a new generation of female SCAdians who know that they have an equal place at the table for whatever interests suit their fancy.

Sternfeld Shenanigans

As I mentioned in the last post, Monday and Tuesday of this week were spent assisting with various Simple Day Feast prep items. While I’m technically writing this on Friday morning, it won’t post until the wee hours of Sunday morning so that people have a chance to enjoy their dinner at Simple Day before seeing where parts of their dinner came from.

That said, if you are any bit squeamish or bothered by dead animals, this is not the post for you.


Monday

Monday morning, after I got off work at 6 CDT, I rolled out to Abbott Johan’s house in the Barony of Sternfeld since it was Duck Day. When I got there, he and Liadan were already elbow deep in duck processing since they had started in the wee hours of the morning. After plucking one of the ducks sufficiently, we removed the innards from it, then bagged it and put it in the freezer to hold until we left. From there, there was one duck left to process, so I got to watch Johan kill it, the work on it.

Killing the duck was, in my opinion, done in one of the most humane ways possible. Instead of shooting it or slicing its neck open, Johan grabbed the duck from its cage by its feet, then grabbed a length of 1/2″ round stock. The duck’s head was laid down on the ground, the round stock resting on its neck, and Johan stepped on the metal rod to hold it in place. A tug up to break the neck, and the duck died. We let the nerve endings fire out the last few flaps of the wings, and then I set to first removing the down for feathers to be made into pillows by a barony member, and, then removing the pin feathers.


As I’ve mentioned several times before, I really love the concept of “farm to table” and knowing where one’s food comes from, so it was a fantastic opportunity for me to directly take part in preparing the ducks for this weekend’s feast. While Liadan and I were working on the ducks, we talked with Johan about meat processing in period for us in the SCA, guilds in period and the agreements — spoken and unspoken — between them, and a bit about animal husbandry (drakes are ruthless when it comes to mating; they essentially rape their mates — that’s why the duck below has a patch of feathers missing).

After processing the ducks as best we could (and getting assaulted by flies in the process, Liadan and I left Johan’s and headed back across town to her house by way of a couple grocery stores to pick up more items that we’d need. At some point, we started working on various things. I shelled 14 lbs. of shrimp. At some point, Master Llewellyn (Llew) and Tualaith came over to help, so we did all the things then, including cooking the shrimp and lobster tails in a fair amount of butter.

We got to a stopping point in our work and went over to a local Asian restaurant for food. I ordered crab rangoons and some sort of pork noodle dish that was very tasty and ate. Then, I started falling asleep at the table despite my best intentions and efforts to stay awake. It was a rather long day for me since I’d been up well over 24 hours and had done travel and basically 2 shifts’ worth of work between actual work and cooking. At that point, I stumbled upstairs to the room I was staying in, shirked off my clothes, and promptly passed out.


Tuesday

After sleeping who-knows-how-many hours, I woke up, took a shower, and headed down to help with breakfast. Breakfast squared away, we started work on making the liver paté. We clarified 7.5 lbs of butter, and fresh herbs, onions, and garlic were chopped up while I made caramel sauce for later from scratch. Like ya do. Caramel sauce done, I turned my attention to helping with the paté.

…I lost track of how many pounds of livers — both chicken and duck — went into making the paté. Before I started cooking it, though, I cut out the fresh duck livers and cleaned them out from the fibrous muscle and gristle that surrounds them. And did so gleefully. I’m weird, I know. At some point, Johan showed up with more ducks for feast, and assisted with clearing out the store bought ones of their offal packets, then headed out not too long after. Livers separated and clean, I turned to helping cook down the aromatics in some of the melted, clarified butter. Aromatics cooked down, the livers were next.

Once the livers and aromatics were all cooked down, they were combined together and cooled. Add a bit of brandy, then blend them together into a puree with 7.5 MORE pounds of butter that were chilled and chunked. Did I mention that there’s a ton of butter? There is. And the paté was delicious right out of the food processor. I can only imagine that a couple of days hanging out in the fridge made it even better!

After finishing the paté, we basically got to a stopping point until the rest of the crew came over to help. So, we had caramel sundaes.

Our crew came over, and I was put to work taking a small torch to the ducks we’d butchered the previous day to remove some more of the lingering feathers outside while folks worked inside on making gluten free bread products and bread crumbs for another recipe.

Then, more caramel sundaes, caramel coffee, and socializing with the group that was over, including an impromptu bardic session.

Once it got to a reasonable hour, I wandered upstairs to pass out early (for me) since I’d be driving back home the next day.


Ultimately, while the work was exhausting (and my sleep cycle is still suffering for it), it was an incredible experience to be part of Sternfeld’s cooking team. There is a ridiculous amount of heart, soul, and love that went into Simple Day’s feast, and I’m hoping that each person who sat and ate felt that as they were taking part in the meal.

Sourcing SCA Feasts Locally

A few months ago, my friend Liadan Liathain asked me if I’d want to work on her crew for A Simple Day in the Country, which is this upcoming weekend. While I’m not able to because of work commitments and co-workers’ time off, I am able to head down in the morning after work for my weekend to help with prep.

“Why is this relevant?” I’m sure you’re wondering.

Well…

Liadan is doing something amazing (to me) in that she’s sourcing most of her feast from local partners. Fresh blackberries from a local farm where she got to pick them herself. Fresh ducks that will be slaughtered and processed this morning.

It’s that last bit, plus a bit more, that I’ll be assisting with over the next couple of days. I’m excited about it. Have been since I made plans to come down and assist, in fact.

And, then, I started watching Episode 4 of Season 2 of Parts Unknown, which focuses on Rene Redzepi‘s Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. Redzepi sources all of his ingredients from local-to-him sources, including going out and foraging for things to include on his menu. It’s a simple, yet complex way of staying in touch with where your ingredients come from. So many times, when we eat, we don’t consider where our food comes from.

I’ve long considered opening a restaurant where I could source from local farmers for my meats, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Running SCA feasts allows me to do that as much as my budget allows. I’m, in fact, looking forward to going to a local orchard and picking apples for the honey glazed roasted apples I’m making as part of Fox Hunt dessert. So, yeah. Sourcing local ingredients gives me great joy, especially when I have a hand in procuring them.

Compleat Anachronist – Phase I

So, because of a comment from Mistress Sofya Chyudskaya Smolyanina, I shot off an e-mail to the Editor of Compleat Anachronist on a lark.

Greetings!

I’m currently working on research of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the time period of the SCA, as well as conventions for interactions within the Society. Would this be of interest to you and your publishing team? I currently run a class primarily in the Midrealm and Pennsic called “Trans 101 for the SCA: A Primer” that my submission would be based on.

I’ve attached my class notes as they stand (I’m continuously working on research to increase my knowledge and class material) for your review.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration,
Lord Samson Muskovich (called Samii)
mka Milan Nelson

I figured they were going to say “nope, not in the realm of what we do”. But, they didn’t:

Greeting!

This proposal looks quite intriguing! I like it indeed. The biggest focus for CA, of course, is research, so I’d want the research section regarding historical transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be the largest section, followed, as you currently have it, by a smaller section on interactions/courts within the SCA today. I’d think that the basics could be an introduction, perhaps with a glossary to help define some terms.

But, yes, I’m interested!

You’re aware of CA’s requirements, yes? I need 50-60 pages of 10 point, double-spaced Times New Roman, including images, appendices, endnotes and bibliography. Yes, CA uses endnotes and follows University of Chicago Style, 16th edition.  See here for the submission guidelines. http://www.sca.org/ca/guidelines.html

I am looking forward to reading your manuscript!

In service,

Ariel/Ellen

I think this now qualifies pretty solidly as an A&S Project.  Or Service. Or, perhaps, both?

Either way, guess who now gets to recall the books they requested via InterLibrary Loan so they can properly document their research…

Stand Your Ground

A couple of weeks ago, Gareth (Devin) and I worked on polearm technique to help get me ready for my authorization test, and something he said clicked with me:

“You know Sir Ivan Shishov, right? You know he doesn’t move when fighting polearm? He just stands his ground.”

For me, that’s revolutionary. I’ve struggled with polearm auths because I was either too timid, couldn’t switch hands easily, or something else. This is a game-changer for me. That one bit of information changed how I think of my polearm fight (at least in tournament) and instilled a great deal of confidence in me for that weapons form. By standing my ground and only moving my feet when it’s completely necessary, I can control the fight in a much better way than trying to move around awkwardly with the polearm. I still need to practice with the polearm to ensure I can move it correctly when it comes time for my auth, but this is an improvement.

This is also proof that there are just as many ways to fight as there are people, and that someone else’s way may not be the best case for me. Only time, practice, and trial and error will let me know.

Ragnarok Stole Everyone’s Soul

… But the event’s feast gave EVERYONE life.


First, my thanks:
To Abbey May, Adeline, Adella, Astridr, Johara, and Sarafina — You all are amazing. Without you ladies, feast would have been a hot mess. Instead, we had an incredibly filling meal that really did make everyone’s day. Everyone poured a lot of love into making Feast, and, really, that’s what it’s all about. Sarafina, thank you so much for stepping in when Johara needed to get checked out. I truly appreciate it more than I can properly express.

To Nicolaa, Cartooth, Raja, Sierra, Avery, Ragnil, and Gillianne — Thank you for being incredible servers and putting up with my last minute changes to the order of the menu.

To Siobhan — You are an incredible feast herald, and your colorful words are certainly a boon to any meal! Thank you for being flexible and understanding when I needed to adjust the order of things that went out to ensure everything was properly cooked.

To Cella and Epona — Thank you for both trusting me and also encouraging me to do a feast that was anything but period. Ragnarok is, indeed, the event that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I’m glad that I was able to live up to that.

To Her Majesty, Katherine Vivian — My thanks is two-fold for you. First, for being the inspiration for this year’s Ragnarok feast. Second, for traveling across the kingdom to visit us in the back 40 of the Midrealm. You’re an incredible person with a lot of heart and soul, and I think I speak for many of us that we would be delighted to have both you and Alric back out here again if ever you feel up to the trip.

To those who attended Ragnarok’s feast — Thank you to everyone who came out and sat feast. Without you, there literally would be no feast. Thank you for the standing ovation for the kitchen crew. I know, for me, it spoke volumes and hit me to the core. It reminded me of why I volunteer to organize feasts.


The Feast Book


(Click the image above to download/read the recipe book.)


My Unabashed Event Report

As I’m sitting at work with a large iced coffee in-hand, I still feel delightfully overwhelmed by the event this weekend. There were so many good points to it, even with the challenges we faced in the final hours leading up to service.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the SCA is my extended family. I have lots of people in the Society that I love a great deal, but, more importantly to me as a Feast Steward, is that I love to cook for these people. My attitude is this towards food and hospitality: If you sit at my table, I want you to know and feel the love and care that goes into each dish. The bits of laughter, of the passion I feel for making sure people don’t leave my table hungry and that everyone is happy with what they’ve had. I mention all of this because it’s so crucial to this weekend’s feast. 64 people got to come in and sit at my table, and my crew and I made sure that everyone was fed until they couldn’t eat any further.

We received a standing ovation for feast. Before that happened, I snuck out of the kitchen, jug of cold water in hand, and sat off to the side, watching everyone chat amongst themselves and eat until they were happy and full. I saw lots of happy, smiling faces across the populace and head table. Lots of empty dishes come back to the kitchen. There is literally no better feeling than knowing you’ve made someone’s day with a good meal.

When the feast crew and the servers were called up, Her Majesty gifted me with a small first aid pouch and a paternoster made with her heraldic colors, and the crew and servers were all given pewter spoons for their service to the feast hall. For me, the first aid kit and paternoster were incredibly thoughtful gifts and definitely tongue-in-cheek, given the events of the day (which we’ll get to later), especially because I’m a first responder and 911 Dispatcher in my mundane life (though she knew neither of these things at the time).

Master Alexander de Seton also gifted me with a small token of an owl carved from rose quartz. I believe the owl is one of his personal symbols, but that it is made out of rose quartz is even more symbolic and special to me, for rose quartz is a stone that embodies love. For me, food is love made tangible.

Leading up to service, we had some things come up that led to some on-the-fly changes that kind of made things a bit more “fun”:
– Over the last year, the site renovated the space, meaning that where there were previously utensils, there were none. Lots of things that needed mixing on Friday night got mixed by hand: sweet potatoes, cornbread mix, chicken marinade, salad.
– The site’s convection oven is dead. As in wouldn’t heat… So, we used a lot of charcoal (8 large bags, to be specific) and 2 bottles of lighter fluid.
– Because we were using the big ass grill next to the hall, we couldn’t entirely control the temperature of it. The bottoms of the cornbread all got charred. Adella had the fantastic idea to ball them (because the cornbread was still moist) and serve them over a bowl of corn.
– Mom’s turkey fryer is woefully small. I could only fry 3-4 pieces of chicken at a time. Johara brought a huge ceramic-lined pot to use, so that got used on top of a portable burner. If this happens again where I need to deep fry things, I’m totally asking Godryck if I can borrow his burner and will be bringing my big 5 gallon stock pot out, too.
– While pulling chicken from the oil pot, Johara got splashed with hot oil on her left hand. We made her go to the ER to get it checked out, so I lost a person. Sarafina happened to be on site as part of Ayreton’s entourage and thankfully stepped in to help us finish the rest of feast before service.
– In the course of “oh shit, we have a lot of chicken to finish”, we ended up finishing the chicken with cooking it off on the grill just to make sure it was fully cooked all the way through. It was. And it was delicious and tender.
– We ran out of white sugar. I seriously underestimated how much sugar we would need for feast, so that was a thing. What ended up happening is that we had some brown sugar left over from making the sweet potatoes, so that went into the sweet tea. It worked.

After service was done and thanks given to the kitchen crew and servers, the kitchen crew went outside to have some of what was left over and, y’know, eat and have fellowship because, in the words of Astridr and Sarafina, this meal took them to church.

I love these people. They made this an amazing experience, even with all of the challenges. And, if that’s not what soul food is about, I don’t know what is.

The Chains That Bind — Part II

 

The other night, I finished the squire’s chain that I had been working on, made from the remnants of a spool of aluminum that I didn’t just want to get rid of, and posted this on Facebook as a comment to my Knight, Sabah:

Sabah, I’ll be handing this off to you at Ragnarok. Feel free to either give it to one of my house brothers who may not have a squire’s chain yet or keep it for whenever we formalize our mentor-dependent relationship.

In either case, it is made of imperfect rings to symbolize that we are all flawed in some way and will have many lessons to learn on the path of Chivalry.

The rings are all hand cut and formed by me, representative of the work and passion that goes into the path to becoming a fighter and person worth being recognized by the Chivalry.

The chain is light, but still bears weight to remind the bearer that one should be mindful of their deeds, words, and actions.

Sabah also requested that I make a segment for him to give to one of his Men-At-Arms who lost their chain on the first day it was given to them, which I have and is now sitting in a bag waiting to be given to him with the necklace.

The Chains That Bind

Sir Kith made a post the other day about a set of Knight’s chains that have imperfect links, symbolizing that those who have become members of the Chivalry still have flaws because they are human, not Gods, and still have opportunities to learn.

I’ve picked up chainmail as yet another skill in my lexicon of things I do in the SCA. As I’m making this chain, it is filled with little imperfections: links that may not close completely, some small burrs (that will eventually get filed or tumbled off), nicks and scrapes to the rings from me working them, imperfect cuts due to them being coiled and cut by hand.

This has become a personal project of passion for me. A squire’s chain that represents the lessons and reminders that the wearer (be it myself or another) will learn on the path to Knighthood.

A Year As A Willow

I wrote this post a year ago after an incredibly long, exhausting weekend. I should have probably posted this a year ago, but I didn’t think about it then.

I’ve also been somewhat inspired by Andreas/Drew at http://www.apapermuse.com and his SCA posts to start chronicling my more notable SCA experiences.


It never fails that I am called into court for whatever reason while I’m running around during feast prep. It’s becoming a “thing”.

Mid-stride, while returning to the kitchen from stirring carrots for feast, I hear my name called, so I drop the raised foot, pivot, and approach the dais and give proper respect to the assembled Baronages and kneel in front of Rachel, who is holding a Regency Court for Their Majesties William and Isolde. Cue Drew grinning with mischief and Aggie, Jeff, and Epona all looking at me. There is no doubt that I am loved and appreciated, and the feeling is reciprocated in spades.

I was inducted into the Order of the Willow, an armigerous award order for those who have “demonstrated proficiency, but not yet mastery of one of the peaceful arts” in the SCA, the medieval reenactment organization I spend most of my free time with.

I’m not sure if you can see it in the scan, but the open book says “We Love You” on it. When I finally got to thoroughly look at the scroll after feast was done and everything was being broken down, I about cried when I saw that. The SCA has been a ridiculously positive influence on my life, and I’m glad that I’m able to pay that back and forward.

I love you guys, too.

Words by THL Andreas Blacwode/ Drew Nicholson.
Calligraphy and Illumination by THL Gillianne/ Christine Wallrich

Letters to Pennsic – Aug 7 2017 (AS 52)

Dear Mistress Acelina,

I must confess that my heart is full of joy and pride at hearing of the chivalry and courtesy that the Dragon’s youngest warriors are displaying, possibly more so than our esteemed Crown. And even more so that you are once more being called to guide them on their journeys! These are exciting times, indeed!

I have been lucky thus far to work with Gareth on training some enthusiastic fighters in Carraig Ban who are slightly younger than myself. Their thirst for battle rivals my own, though I seek more now to temper mine with tenacity rather than simple prowess. I am hoping, too, that I can encourage Sirs Sabah and Robert Downey to come out and assist with their training, for I am certain that their experience will help hone both the blades and minds of those who wish to learn from them.

I visited with Baroness Epona today in her home, which is not far from my own, and she is alive and well. We spoke at length about her upcoming elevation to the Order of the Pelican and I gave her a small token to wear on her chains. I once more conveyed my regret at not being able to attend such a joyous occasion where I would see not only she, but Baron Gareth be recognized for their contributions, but they both understand — the Watch demands me to be present, and present I shall be. Lady Johara also visited during that time, so I was able to enjoy both of their company and see that they both are in relatively good health.

I admit that I was overjoyed to hear that our kingdom’s champions were victorious today in battle. I know that Brynn is excited at the opportunity to fight for the Midrealm as a newly minted Combat Archer, but please ensure that he is properly rested and healed from his injury before he fights. I do not wish for him to enter Valhalla before his time.

You mentioned in your last missive that you are planning on playing one of your instruments this week. Do you have a particular time that you will be performing, or just as the feeling moves you?

My turn on the watch is nearly through. After I sleep for a bit, I shall begin working on new garb for Johara and Sabah, and packing for my own journey later this week.

With all fondness,
Samii