The March Home

A challenge was given to write a on the topic of coming home from war. While we all know we mean Pennsic, I chose to take the perspective of a Roman legionary who is returning to his own lands, on the long march, seeming longer every day the closer he is to home, walking on the red roads home after brutal battles. The tune is inspired by an actual Roman melody, adapted for this use. The chords, played on harp, would have been appropriate.  The song from which my melody is culled is entitled XVIII and was preformed by Musica Romana.

This song is featured on the CD “I Am of the North” available for purchase online at:

Dum spiramus tuebimur (While we breathe, we shall defend.)
Long has the march on the red road gone.
When again, when shall I see my home?
Dum vivimus, vivamus. (While we live, let us live.)

I wear my tunica woven of wool
though blood and sweat
now stain it through
Filth, smoke and battle have colored its trim
Dulce bellum inexpertis (War is sweet for those who have not experienced it.)

Beneath my lorica, over my heart
is the palla that smelled
of my wife’s hair
I have carried her love with me over long roads
Hic habitat felicitas (Here lives happiness.)

Dum spiramus tuebimur
Long has the march on the red road gone.
When again, when shall I see my home?
Dum vivimus, vivamus.

I carry three fibulae on my best cloak
Bought from a place
I have long forgot
Two for my sons cast like lion’s claws
Natura, artis magistra (nature, the mistress of art)

My caligae ruined, my cingulum weighs
I desire my farm,
my bare feet in soil.
Soon I will leave my pilae for my plow
Nulla vit melior quan bona. (There is no life better than a good life.)

Dum spiramus tuebimur
Long has the march on the red road gone.
When again, when shall I see my home?
Dum vivimus, vivamus.

When shall I lay in my courtyard green?
I long to drink
my vinyard’s wine.
Wrest with my sons, make love to my wife
Et nos cedamus amori. (Let us too surrender to love.)

Dum spiramus tuebimur
Long has the march on the red road gone.
When again, when shall I see my home?
Dum vivimus, vivamus.

Cooking at Pembridge Manor

Pembridge Cooking
Pembridge Cooking
The Pembridge Fire Pit

The War of the Roses in Concordia is a three-day event in beautiful upstate New York.  We were hosted at the camp of Baron Master Angus Pembridge, at Pembridge Manor.  One of the best parts of the camp was the large fire box Angus had built, raised and made of wood, with a bottom consisting of 300lbs of masonry sand. While a lot of great things happened at the event, this post is just about the food and how we cooked it.

Dinner Saturday: Marigold, a lovely but (fatally) inappropriate farm cow, was the guest of honor.  Cooked in a large cast iron pan over a hot-coal fire by Angus as Katheryn, who actually asked Sir Walter Raleigh how to cook the new world vegetable BEFORE assuming we boil the tops, took the tuberous roots from the potatoes and boiled them to good effect.

Breakfast Sunday: fresh farm eggs and handmade home-cured bacon.  Eggs cooked in the standard fashion, but the bacon was fried over hot coals in a large cast-iron pan.  After eating that bacon, all other bacon in the world is almost an insult to it.  We reserved the grease, which would be important for everything else!

Lunch Sunday: Drew and I prepared Saturday’s lunch, which was onion cooked in bacon fat, and then we added two jars of moose meat which had been cooked with onion and canned (by Drew’s mother) after he got a moose a while back.  To this mix we added a generous pour of red wine, some black pepper and salt and what cooked potatoes had lasted from the night before. We also made ployes, a French-Acadian buckwheat and wheat pancake, which are traditionally served with stews.  We had maple syrup for dipping them as well, so they were both the starch for the meal and a light desert.

Dinner Sunday: Making this dinner was one of the best SCA experiences I have ever had.  The end result was Coneys Stewed with Wine and Herbes de Provence and Ginger Bourbon Coney, fresh green beans, and potatoes pan fried with onions and rosemary.

Angus provided three rabbits, which had been skinned and dressed, to a degree.  We chopped them (one by Angus, one by my own hand, and the third by Isabel Chamberlaine) into large pieces (about 6 pieces per rabbit) for cooking, which was entirely over the Pembridge Pit.  Our recipes are as follows, or are at least as good as I can remember them, because it was a fury of cookery going on:

Coneys Stewed with Wine and Herbes de Provence

2 onions, chopped small and sauteed to clear in bacon grease
1/4 cup maple syrup (roughly) added to onions
pepper and salt added to the onions
2 rabbits, cut to fit in the pot
2 cup Cotes du Rhone (or other red wine, we picked what tasted “right” from what was in stock at camp, a terrible process, of course….)
2-3 tbs blend of Herbes de Provence (ours included generous lavender…)
some water as needed

We let it boil merrily over the fire for a couple of hours, periodically opening the pot to exclaim and congratulate ourselves on how lovely it smelled.  We took all the rabbit out at one point to shift the top pieces and bottom pieces so everything would cook at about the same rate.

The resulting dish was intensely fragrant, causing a ruckus every time we opened the cauldron.  The meat was sweet, tender, and succulent.  The broth was a beautiful purple, appropriate for the lavender influence of the herbes de Provence. Everyone who tried this dish was greatly impressed with its flavor, and it is a true pity there was no way to make stew dumplings for it, because they would have been spectacular. (We boiled it again the next morning for lunch, and it was, remarkably, even better the next day!)

Ginger Bourbon Coney in Dutch Oven

1 onion clarified in bacon grease
a generous pour of Maker’s Mark Bourbon (add just when the onions are almost dry…)
1 rabbit, cut into about 6 pieces
salt, pepper, powdered ginger (to taste / by instinct)
a little water as needed

We heated the pan and onions up well, and there was a good amount of bacon grease added to this dish.  The bourbon caramelized the onions and the ginger gave the little flavor beyond pepper and salt that it needed.  As there was less liquid, the rabbit also got a caramel flavor and the skin seared where it touched the pan, which was close to low, hot coals.  The rabbit was turned half-way through the cooking, and water was added, which brought up a sizzling cloud of fragrant steam, which made us dance with anticipation.  The taste of this was less intense than the other dish, but I liked it a little better, maybe because of the sweetness of the bourbon and onions.

Monday Morning: Plain, slender, civilian bacon cooked on the cast iron skillet over the fire; French toast with potato bread and farm eggs, with maple and black pepper peaches on top (for those patient enough to wait), and fluffy scrambled eggs with the remainder of the eggs.  We used up a really good amount of food that morning, making the packing up a little better.

Monday Leaving Lunch: My last taste of the War of the Roses was of the Coneys Stewed with Wine and Herbes de Provence, which tasted even better after lying in the stew all night and being boiled up again.  It was like a sweet, sweet kiss of farewell to Pembridge Manor, and I savored the last moments before the long road back to home and daily life….





Feeling Betta – Commedia dell Arte outline

This commedia script is my first and only to date, it was rehearsed to great amusement by Gwillim as Arlecchino, Godric as Pantalone, Margaret as Betta and myself as Dottore and the Apothecary.  We never performed it, but maybe someday it will see the stage!

Betta (la servetta)
an Apothecary
Betta gives a speech to the audience about a few things: once was wealthy – but no more – she’s broke; her mother is ill and dying; she needs money; she will marry Pantalone for the money, the only other bonus is that Arlecchino, her secret love, will be near her if she marries the old man.

Pantalone enters and attempts to woo Betta from one knee – he falls over while trying to woo her and can’t get up

Betta  tells Pantalone that she has no use for a love who “can’t get up” to see her and storms off the stage

Pantalone, fallen down and unable to right himself, calls for Arlecchino who tried to help right him.

Dottore enters and seeing Arlecchino helping Pantalone up, surmises that that he has gallstones, is pregnant or must be dead.

Pantalone tells Dottore that the only problem is that he can’t get up to see Betta, who he is trying to woo.

Pantalone is sent away, assured that Dottore will have a solution.  Arlecchino is leftbehind to get orders from Dottore.

Dottore gives Arlecchino a list for wooing a lady – bread, wine, cheese and a prescription for “Consummation Powder” so he can get up to see Betta and sends him to the apothecary.  Dottore exits.

Arlecchino walks repeating his list, salivating over the food items and forgetting what kind of Powder (Consummation, …etc arriving at Constipation.)  He gets the food and the Constipation Powder for his master.

The Apothecary says that he hopes that Pantalone will soon be feeling Betta.
Arlecchino returns to Pantalone, repeating his list in reverse until he arrives again at Consummation Powder.

Arlecchino gives all the stuff to Pantalone, who enters Betta’s room and sets the stage for seduction.

Pantalone takes all of the powder.

Betta enters.  Pantalone begins to woo her – just as he gets close to her….
Arlecchino knocks on the room door, Pantalone answers (lazzo of the door locks / trip wire) to ask Pantalone how it is going; Betta leaves the room.

Pantalone, furious at the interruption, sends Arlecchino to go talk to someone in the street!  Arlecchino exits.

Pantalone resumes his seduction of Betta, who is disappointed that she missed Arlecchino.

Pantalone is enamored now – he chases Betta, catches her and there is a sudden loud rumbling – he looks astonished and agonized all at once he excuses himself loudly to the chamber pot.  Loud farting & other grotesque noises heard from off stage.

Betta leaves for another room – to get some air – in disgust.

Arlecchino goes to the street and talks to the audience about Betta & the mountain of food (lazzo of the fly or the eating of the hand)

Dottore enters in a temper – he has been to the apothecary and found out that Arlecchino gave Pantalone the wrong powder!  Dottore gives Arlecchino the correct powder and threatens to beat him with his own stick.

Arlecchino runs away, swearing that he will return after this errand!

Betta and Pantalone re-enter Betta’s room – they are just about getting amorous when Pantalone’s stomach gives another fierce rumble – this time he knows what is about to happen and he excuses himself loudly to the chamber pot.  Loud farting & other grotesque noises heard from off stage.

Arlecchino goes to Betta’s room and pounds on the door. (Lazzo of the door locks, again)

Betta allows Arlecchino in and Arlecchino blurts his story out and displays the correct powder.

Betta tells him that she will make it all Betta…and as Arlecchino, laments about the powder and all the food going to waste she very obviously covers the bread with the Consummation Powder.

Betta feigning innocence and sorrow tells Arlecchino that he can have the food, as it seems that his master won’t be needing it, but the he should go and eat it there in the back room.

Arlecchino looks delighted and bounds out merrily chewing on the bread while singing Betta’s praises, and the bread’s praises, for feeding him.

Betta begins to exit the same way as Arlecchino, but before leaving, turns to the audience and gives them a winning smile.  Arlecchino says that this bread is really something – he’s never felt this way about bread! (“Well, there was that nice rosemary olive bagette once, but that was ages ago…”)

A last loud fart is heard offstage.

The End

Flavian Roman Hair

recreated Flavian hairdo

My friend and fellow Endeweardian Lord Sprvivs Flavius asked me to be his consort in the fall Crown Tourney of AS45.  I agreed, but I’m not Roman, and didn’t know much about how to be Roman, especially in northern Vermont in late October.  (brrr!)

I managed Roman garb with a wool-blend underdress and a wool piece used as a peplos-like item, but decided that what I really wanted was ROMAN HAIR.  Like THIS:


Portrait Bust of a Flavian Woman
Portrait Bust of a Flavian Woman
Flavian woman, bust
Flavian bust from side.

So I practiced.  First attempt was hair, fake hair (well, the Romans used *real* fake hair) attached to a diadem-like thing.  Total disaster. There is just no way to make that look good.  My second attempt at attaching made me go for the glue gun in desperation.  That’s not good either.  The thing was weird, heavy, unwieldy and ugly as sin.

So, enter attempt two.  Back to the eighties!  The 1980s.  I pulled my hair up in a high ponytail and poofed it the way I did back in Jr. High. Lo!  It kind of worked!  Alessandra came over to supervise and entertain, and we came up with this:

recreated Flavian hairdo
The Flavian re-do, live, and on my head.

The morning of Crown, I got up, pulled the front part of my hair on top of my head and pinned it there.  Using a curling iron on damp hair (the Romans had curling irons! Seriously!) I put the top part into ringlets with very light spray, and then put a hair-ribbon in my hair, and braided and clipped the rest up. I added a large false braid in the back to be like the large bun I’d seen in the statuary.  We pinned in a veil because it looked more right, and more like the portraits of Roman women which were painted and not sculpted, and it worked remarkably well!

women standing near a lake
Flavian hair, blurry, but big!
SCA roman couple
Aneleda, her hairdo, and Sprivis process at the EK Crown Tourney.


Now, did I have a single photo of this hair? No. Of course not. Not a close shot, and the day was windy, so it looks wild in every photo.  But I did wear it and looked a reasonably decent Roman lady.  And I was toasty warm!  So it was a very Good Hair Day!

Italian Renn Hair

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1488.  I wanted Italian hair to go with my dress, this was the basic inspiration, though I’m still mystified a little at the crimping and style… I used pearl beads in mine, because I felt that way, and my curls were larger and less organized. However, I think the idea was there.

Photo of Aneleda Falconbridge by Anne Wilder, 2009.
Photo of Aneleda Falconbridge by Barbara Turner, 2009