Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Catching Up, February Edition

Let's see, when I last posted it was the week following Military History Fest.

The Saturday between MHF and Capricon we baked scones. A lot of scones. Scones for the Capricon Cafe. Scones scones scones scones.


Capricon weekend I stayed home with the dog-boys and worked on the floodplain managers' conference program book. As luck would have it, on the Thursday of Capricon (Cap runs Thursday-Sunday), which was also a holiday for me (Lincoln's Birthday), Linotype (.com) made me an offer I didn't refuse on a serif typeface, ITC New Veljovic. So Thursday afternoon/evening, after helping set up the Cafe, I came home and re-did my styles for the book to use the new font.

Slog slog slog slog slog. Slogging through the floodplain managers' conference book. 

Last week we got *three* orders from Etsy - two for pairs of skirt hikes, and one pouch. And on Sunday I finished and packaged up the pouch I got an order for at MHF, so it was a relatively busy week shipping-wise. 

Today was not a good day (details on my personal blog). 

After we got home from the vet's I kept busy by working on the program book and ranting at people that can't write in English. All the words are in English, but the sentences . . . not so much. I was hoping to get it ready to proofread today, but decided that it's not happening. Hopefully tomorrow. If not tomorrow then Friday, since the book goes to the printer a week from tomorrow.

A week from tomorrow we also set up for Geneva Steam. Robin forgot to request time off, so he and Pippin will be staying home.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Schedule Updates

As you may (or may not) note from the sidebar, I've updated the schedule.  This morning I dropped the balance of our vendor space payment for Geneva Steam Convention in the mail, and this afternoon I filled out the on-line application for Lake Count-I-Con.

Geneva Steam is a first-year steampunk convention, to be held in Lake Geneva. In the same time frame I was also looking at Kitsune Kon, a more established anime convention in Green Bay, but Kitsune Kon never answered the two inquiries I sent to them, and Lake Geneva is in commuting distance of Xap's, so we went with Geneva Steam.

Lake Count-I-Con is a second-year "Comics, Toy, Game, and Art" convention, at the Lake County Fairgrounds. The alternate there was Geek.Kon, a more established anime-ish and general geekery convention in Madison. Count-I-Con is more of an unknown, and has more expensive spaces, Geek.Kon is more confidently a good fit for us, and has cheaper spaces, but additional travel/lodging expenses. The thing that I think tipped it in Count-I-Con's favor is not needing to take Friday off for it, as its a 2-day event (with planned Friday night setup).

Edit:  Well, that was quick. I've now received (and paid) an invoice for space at Count-I-Con. So I'd say we're in.  

On the consideration list for the later in the year are:
Maneki Neko Con, 9-11 October, south 'burbs
Daisho Con, mid-late November, Wisconsin Dells
Midwest FurFest, usually early December, Rosemont

Windycon, in mid-November, seems like it would be a good choice on the surface, but has always been literary SF-oriented, and seems to be moving more that way. Wendy Z. runs a good costuming track for Windycon, but I don't think there's enough potential busines there. Teslacon is highly unlikely, but I should poke around and see if any new steampunk-ish events have cropped up for the later part of the year. Con-Alt-Delete is right out for reasons previously discussed (as is Anime Midwest). 

Anybody have any other convention-ish things to suggest for the last third or so of the year?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Military History Fest, the Shopping

 We didn't actually do much shopping. We looked around, but there wasn't much interesting. I didn't even find anything that grabbed me in the way of books.  

Notice that I said there much.  

Friday afternoon Ron and Xap came back from a wander, and Ron took me to see something he knew I'd be interested in.  

Two cavalry saddles. Kinda mangy, kinda decrepit. Chewed on by mice. They'd been sitting in a barn in Wisconsin.  I asked the price.

$50 for the top one, $10 for the worse one, or both for $50.  I looked at the bottom (worse) one. Oh my, the leather was completely split at the cantle, and coming off more elsewhere and may have a crack in the tree (frame). But . . . but . . . MCCLELLAN SADDLES I COULD AFFORD!  

I went back to our space, and Ron asked if I could get a McClellan (original or reproduction) tree. I googled. I found somebody selling trees for $150-ish, and the picture was a stack of saddles with the leather still on them - ie: what I was already looking at, albeit appearing to be in at least prettier condition.

Ron and Xap were off wandering the room some more (Fridays are slow). I grabbed cash out of the cash box, wantonly abandoned our booth, and bought the saddles.  

Ron met me coming back to the booth, and was unsurprised.

I'm told I was grinning like an idiot. I can't argue.

Here they are, in all their awful, mangy glory: 

I've started calling them Sad:

and Tragic:
as in "that dog is a sad and tragic creature", not so much that what has happened to them is sad/tragic.

They leave black smudges on your hands, and a pile of dust/hay/Ghu-knows-what where they were sitting (hopefully mostly detritus from the barn they were in), and the seller said they smell of tractor oil (I couldn't tell, with diesel fumes from moving the half-track in and out of the hall Friday and Sunday). Yes, I am . . . amused in a strange way by their condition. The good thing about is that I can't make the any worse.  

Saturday morning I grabbed a couple garbage bags to bring them home in. On Ron's advice I didn't put them in the bags until we were packing up so they wouldn't be mistaken for actual garbage (they were sitting in our booth, but only a few feet from a garbage Last night I took them to the storage locker, where they can stay until I can strip the leather off the trees - outdoors.  

My SWAG is that they're about WWI vintage, which means they're probably technically "Universal Pattern" saddles and not true McClellan saddles, but it isn't uncommon to call cavalry saddles in general McClellans. 

Once I strip the leather off, I'll see how bad the trees are, and possibly take them for diagnosis by the saddler at the local tack shop.  I don't expect them to be rideable, in part because vintage trees just don't fit modern horses.  But if one or both aren't hopeless, I might consider having tree repair done by an expert.  If I'm lucky, the mouse stopped after chewing through the leather and the rawhide the tree should be wrapped in, and didn't do much damage to the tree. But even if it did, wood filler/repair should be possible, as the edge of the cantle is not structurally critical. The possible crack in Tragic's tree is a bigger potential problem.   

My plan is to re-do them with completely new leather. Which means deciding on officer or trooper styling, color, hardware (for instance, one has metal stirrups, one has only one remaining wooden stirrup), etc. Some of which will depend on if I can figure out what they started out as. AFAIK trooper and officer saddles were built on the same trees, but I'm not sure.  I already know where to get most of the hardware (reproductions, which is fine with me), which is a plus.

I really really want to look at them closer, but I also don't want decaying leather and Ghu-knows-what else in the house. I will wait for warmer dry weather. I will wait for warmer dry weather. I will I will I will. Dammit. 

In the meantime, I can figure out how to identify the age, style, etc. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Military History Fest Report, With Snow

Thursday night was the usual night-before-an-event chaos of getting things packed, additions to the inventory database, etc.Robin had to work Thursday evening, so he and Ron planned to hook up the trailer and load everything Friday morning.

Which is what they did, or at least started, while I went out and procured breakfast. Xap arrived as they were finishing up, so we loaded ourselves into various vehicles and set off. Robin had Friday off, so he helped unload and set up, procured lunch for us, then went back home. 

There was some confusion on our part at first, as I mis-remembered and thought I'd reserved seven tables, but in actuality it was six, which was a whole island, as I intended. We actually only used 3 of the six convention center tables, replacing one with the two Things (as they could be fenced off for bottle containment), created a 6' table out of a piece of gridwall laying on one of our 4' tables and tied to other gridwall on each end (spoiler/note to self: next year bring at least one of our 6' tables) at one end of the island and went with just gridwall at the other end.

I hadn't gotten the yarn, etc. put away with my personal stash of stringy bits after Boar's Head, so I took it out for one more encore. And I decided to put the dozen and a half tails I had that needed swivels out as they were, with a sign that they were $5 off the marked price, thinking people doing fur-trade era impressions might go for them.  

Friday was, as usual, slow business-wise. We were open for business from noon until seven, and most of the afternoon evening it was retirees and kids (veterans get reduced admission Friday). Mostly I worked on pouches, Ron did some chainmail, and Xap did some MuseCon programming things.  Off and on Friday afternoon we were all lightheaded and off. Our suspicion was diesel fumes from vehicles they were bringing in to the back of the hall, and/or artificial smoke from one of the encampments, although that didn't bother us previous years.

Saturday we were open 9-6. In the morning I sewed the leather onto a half-dozen new purple ball bottles, then went back to pouches, when we weren't busy taking care of customers. Second verse same as the first for Ron and Xap and what they were doing. There was lots of discussion about the impending weather in the evening. 

Saturday night I was desperately in need of quiet and introvert time, so I stayed up until almost 11, by which time the snow had started, and there was a definite coating on the yards and street. And then I woke up at 4:30 am, and finally got up about 5 am.  And there was lots more snow. Lots and lots.

The good thing about not sleeping enough, is that Saturday night I got the dishes done (which also let me soak my complaining hands - I got a bunch of pouches finished); and in the morning I had plenty of time to start bacon for breakfast and chili for dinner. I'd chopped and was started to cook onions for the chili (I thought), and then decided to use them for a breakfast casserole (eggs, chopped-up bread, cheese, onions, buttermilk, seasoning, bake until done). Then I chopped up more onions for the chili and put that together (yay for crock pots - Saturday's dinner was corned beef).  

Robin had to be at work at 8:00 yesterday, so about 6:00 I went upstairs and woke him up so he'd have time to excavate the driveway. In a case of great minds thinking alike, Ron appeared a couple minutes later for the same reason.  

In a case of good timing, they finished the driveway (and porches and clearing off cars) about 5 minutes before breakfast was ready.  

By the time we left, an hour or hour and a half after they'd cleared the cars, the cars were coated with almost an inch of snow. The drive down wasn't too bad. The roads were pretty craptastic, but there wasn't much other traffic. We even had enough time to determine that the employee parking lot at my office at the state park was plowed, so we could leave the trailer there, about 6 miles from Pheasant Run, vs. 23 from home.

A good number of vendors had packed up and left Saturday night. Attendance was really weak, I don't think anybody not attending/working the convention came Sunday. Which is not a surprise, given the weather. We were supposed to be open 10-2, by noon everybody left was packing up, and the convention chair had officially blessed us to do so.  

Hauling stuff through the snow on the ground was Not Exactly Fun, nor was loading in the blowing and drifting snow. But it got done, and we pulled out at just about 2:00.  Ron decided not to drop the trailer at my office.  

There was a lot more traffic going home than I expected. The roads were still craptastic, snow was still blowing and drifting. I followed Ron at more or less distance most of the way home. At about I-90 he ended up behind a left-turning car, and I passed. I decided if I stayed ahead I'd be too distracted trying to keep an eye on the truck in the rear-view mirror, and pulled into a shopping center, and got a loaf of bread and muffins from a Panera Bread. Then I got delayed a short bit waiting to go around a police car checking on a car in a ditch,  so I got home about 20 minutes after Ron did. 

Ron and Xap were working on the driveway, and it was kind of hard to tell where the street was to park, and we only have one Yooper Scooper and one shovel, so Ron sent me to CVS to pick up prescriptions. When I came back the driveway was done, Xap was pulling out of the other end of the street to head home, a neighbor was stuck in their driveway, another neighbor with a plow was helping, and Ron was trying to get the trailer backed into our driveway.

I just sat in the car a couple houses down and waited.  The stuck neighbor was un-stuck fairly quickly, then neighbor-with-plow did that driveway. He noticed Ron having trouble backing in, and did the end of our driveway, and part of the street. The driveway doesn't normally seem steep, but the last few feet does pitch enough that it can get interesting with the trailer in the winter. Eventually Ron got the trailer in and reasonably positioned so we could get all our vehicles parked. There was more snow than Ron wanted to deal with to get the trailer into the side yard where it normally lives, so for now its in the driveway.  

Yesterday morning there was about a foot of snow in the driveway. When we got home, there was about a foot of snow in the driveway. When Ron and Robin went out to shovel this morning there was about a foot . . . in some areas where it had drifted, and down to nothing in others. Ron paid neighbor-with-plow to do the driveway again. Neighbor-with-plow is a good thing to have, and in this case, also a very nice guy.  

Even though yesterday was not much fun, sales were good Saturday. We sold a little bit of almost everything: belts; tails (but only ones with swivels, I had left the plain tails in the bags they come in, probably a mistake); pouches (sporrans and the little tabbed soft ones, and an order for one hard pouch); bottles and test tubes (test tubes to kids - there weren't many cheap/kid-friendly things for sale); yarn; books (the two middle-price music-themed booklets); and chainmail (a bracelet and a pendant); plus a couple leashes we made on-site. One of the belts I was worried about the price on because of the cost of the brass buckle I got from England, but the customer didn't even bat an eye at the price. As Xap pointed out, military reenacting is pretty much a rich white guy's hobby.  Everything is expensive, even more recent uniforms and other surplus. I was talking to one woman who was WWI or WWII German Red Cross - she picked it because it *was* something she could do on a budget - her outfit was a white pinafore apron and dress of blue and white pinstripes, which she could make herself, and she only had to buy a couple/few small accessories.