Vol. 28, December 2010 4 responses

Heartiest season’s greetings to all. I’m into recycling at the moment. I got this bug from another black-powder family who each year recycles the previous season’s greeting cards. Cut and paste sort of thing, like save a tree! Oh, yeah? I really doubt that, but it is good home-made Yule time fun, and it has some panache! The above greeting was emailed to me two years back by the Mitchell family; I had saved it in the ‘E’ fashion, only wishing I could credit the unknown original artist. I do know that Glen and Anthea won’t mind my recycling and sharing this fine greeting with you all.

But did you know that commercial Christmas cards were first produced in London in 1843, just three years outside our nominated re-enactment era? They featured a family scene with a small child, all drinking wine together, and were therefore somewhat controversial. It was another 30 years before cards were produced in America. Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious scenes according to Wikipedia.

“Since the 19th century, many families and individuals have chosen to make their own Christmas cards, either in response to monetary necessity, as an artistic endeavour, or in order to avoid the commercialism associated with Christmas cards. With a higher preference of handmade gifts during the 19th century over purchased or commercial items, homemade cards carried high sentimental value as gifts alone.” More interesting facts about recycling greeting cards for scrapbooking and children’s picture books etc. can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_card

A New Year barbecue will be held at the Pioneer Forge home of Glen and Anthea Mitchell. Saturday January 8th promises to be equally as enjoyable as last year’s gathering plus new air-con comforts if it gets too warm. A park-like camping area is available (modern or primitive). Bring some grub to share and your favourite booze. We’ll toast the health of all Buckskinners and drink to another year of Primitive fun.

In wine there is wisdom; in beer there is freedom; in water there is bacteria. Ben Franklin

Ronnie’s camp tools. Pencil drawing by Ian Convey.

Working bee:

Weather forecast – Scattered showers, cooler than yesterday! Undeterred by the bureau’s threat of rain, Ian Convey, Ron Davis, Bob Ellis and Jim Walker arrived at Bernard’s Cache well prepared to erect a permanent unisex toilet. Bob had prefabricated the unit at home; check assembled, refined, sanded, polished and petted the thing before disassembly for freighting onto site.

This exacting workmanship paid off handsomely, as the numbered parts were quickly re-erected in the field by the many helping hands. Around midday, Kevin and Chook arrived, after having picked up a huge load of pine flitches, hardwood posts, and sump oil and the long-drop septic drums all piled onto Kevin’s tray truck.

Owing to wonderful spring rains, both ground water and natural springs were turning the access track to a spongy quagmire in several gullies and slopes. As the tray truck was not designed to travel these conditions it was necessary to transfer the timbers to Bob’s trailer and ferry them across in several loads. Then Bob experienced a terrible sinking feeling as his new Jeep Cherokee broke through the surface crust and became hopelessly bogged to the floorboards. And the slogan on the rear windscreen “Only in a Jeep”.

After a slight delay, a little helpful advice, some spade work, more advice – mostly unhelpful and mostly ignored – a tow chain and some diesel grunt from Jim’s new u-beaut bits-R-missy Ute, the Jeep was hauled free and the ferrying task resumed. Nothing like a bit of unorganised fun!

The day’s achievements were – an outstanding toilet cabin erected on site; location selected for our open-faced shelter; lumber for same delivered and protective coatings applied; one Jeep mired and recovered; 4WD talk, gun talk, small talk and bullshit.

In Bob’s own words – “A magnificent erection” Photo by Bob

Special thanks to Bob Ellis for brilliant design, planning and building the toilet; to Kevin Norris for materials delivery using his business truck; to Dave Costa for supply and storing of pine flitches and hardwood posts; to Glen Mitchell for supply and welding of drums and to Ian, Jim and Ron for being there with tools, equipment and willing helping hands. A great Club effort – and the weather was cooler than yesterday!


All subscriptions fall due . As already announced at our AGM your Committee has increased the annual subscription rate for 2011-2012. Public Liability insurance remains the single largest component of our subs. The new subs to apply from 31st March 2011 will be $30 single member, $50 family member.

Working bee:

Weather fine and warm. Sometime after Kevin and Chook headed off home on Saturday arvo Bernie came out to check on proceedings. He was back again early Sunday morning with tractor and post-hole auger and cracking the whip for action among the overnight campers. Trees with suitable roof timbers were selected, felled and hauled, post holes dug deep and uprights sunk.

Meanwhile Bob had applied a protective coating of sump and linseed oils to the toilet external walls and Estapol white-washed the inside. Toilet complete!

The pine flitches for the shelter were all carefully sorted as to size and suitability and Bob soon had footings of the sturdiest planks fixed to the uprights. There was no stopping these Buckskinners now; those natural split log walls were going up so swiftly our open-faced shelter and one-time-dream was rapidly becoming a reality.

With the shelter now some three parts completed we were far advanced beyond expectations for our first working bee weekend. All in all it was a terrific team effort but particular thanks must go to Bernie on this day. Thanks again to Bob (I can’t stop for lunch) Ellis and to Ian, Jim and Ron. Jim was still chuffed that his 2WD Ute had strength to rescue the Jeep on Saturday and a hatless Ian got sunburnt on a Sunday.

Working Bee – day 2. Oct. 24th Trapper’s shelter under construction Photo by Jim.

Club Camping Calendar

April 22nd – 26th Easter/ANZAC day long weekend. ANZAC day 2011 coincides with Easter Monday creating opportunity for Ronda-voo-ers to rise early for a short dawn service at Bernard’s Cache, Caveat. Tuesday 26th is a public holiday! Come, see and share the results of our working bee labours.

June 11th – 13th. Queen’s birthday long weekend. Our 7th Annual Winter Quarters encampment in the central highlands – Bernard’s Cache, Caveat.

September 16th – 19th our traditional Spring Rendezvous weekend extended from Friday 16th through to Monday 19th. Arrive early to be assured of a place in the Mountain Man hunt. – Where? – Why, Beaver Creek at Whorouly, of course!

Junior Free Trappers – Nathaniel and Nicholas at Bernard’s Cache.

“The West” historian, Fred Gowans, commented “There was a common understanding in the fur trade – if you didn’t show up at a Rendezvous, you were considered dead.”
Remember the line from The Mountain Men? Bill Tyler! Bill Tyler! I thought you …..

Will your name be a prefix to “I thought you were dead” at Rendezvous this year? Check the above dates and put those holiday wagon wheels in motion. Plan early to secure those extra few days for an extended weekend camp. Why not do it right now?

Ian asks “What’s on yer feet, Pilgrim?”

It seems that very few pilgrims have problems procuring period clothing for re-enacting. Whether the choice is cloth or leather or a combination we all seem to be outfitted with correct and comfortable attire. But when it comes to footwear that’s when we seem to run into all kinds of problems.

At rendezvous I have seen some folks wearing period correct moccasins, shoe packs and even cobbled straight-last shoes, while others persist with elastic-sided boots, Kmart style moccasin slippers (not authentic), Crosby slip-ons shoes or slippers and even rubber Wellington boots. The oft used excuse given for these transgressions is that the correct footwear is “too cold” or “leaks water in” or similar.

With a little thought and minor effort these problems can be overcome and you will look the part for a modest outlay. If you wish to wear shoes or boots but find period correct custom made ones uncomfortably difficult to wear or just too expensive then you might consider modifying modern footwear to make them look about right.

A good place to start in this vein is to visit the Op shops for shoes that can be easily modified by adding a buckle and strap or by removing modern decoration or eyelet liners etc. Use a little imagination and you might get something that nearly passes. Old style Desert Boots or Rollers modify easily to look something like shoepacks.

Ian’s photo compares side seam with centre seam mocs, showing heel and sole stitching & two pairs with extra liners for warmth.

But if moccasins are your thing, (no self respecting Longhunter, Mountain Man, or Free Trapper would consider otherwise) your choices become very limited; especially if Dyer and the like are out of your price range and you have no-one to make you a pair. You will just have to make your own, but it’s not that hard to do. Here’s how!

First, you will need an appropriate pattern; either a centre-seam pattern for Longhunters / Woodsrunners or a side-seam pattern for Mountain Men / Trappers. There are other authentic styles, but these two are the easiest for a beginner to make and you will notice they are very similar in shape. Start by drawing an outline of your foot onto a piece of cardboard and use that to draw in the pattern scaled to your foot and as per our sketch.

Pin this pattern to a piece of old denim or similar cheap heavy material and cut around. Next staple or tack-stitch your cloth along the seams, modifying them by trying your foot in them as you go, so that they fit properly. It takes a little while but it is worth persevering to get it to feel and look just right. When comfortably snug, undo the trimmed and fitted denim moc and use it to transfer to your master pattern.

Now you are ready to go! I use second grade cowhide splits costing about $10 a piece from the Haddon tannery near Ballarat. You could use whatever leather is available but don’t make your very first pair from expensive leather in case of mishap or a need to further modify the pattern.

Cut your leather and sew from the toes back as per the pattern sketch. The heel can be a bit tricky, so put your foot in the moc and try various ways before you finally trim the leather. Use only lead pencil or chalk to mark your leather as biro/ink marks are permanent. Sew with waxed linen thread or artificial sinew and use an awl to make the holes. Do not use a punch as punched holes let in water – big time! The ankle flap can be sewn on once it all fits the foot.

To make your mocs more comfortable and last longer cut leather soles and sew on using a wide spaced running stitch. Cut the sole large enough to come up the side slightly. It can be replaced when worn out! For increased comfort you could add leather inner soles and even glue a ¼ inch thick heel inside the moc. If the moccasins stretch with use, just wear thicker socks or perhaps two pair of socks, or alternatively, use your pattern to make blanket liners for your mocs.

I grease my moccasins with a 50/50 mixture of beeswax and rendered mutton fat which helps keep my feet dry and warm most days. If conditions are such that my feet do get cold and damp I just change socks and mocs for dry ones – so make at least two pair. Happy sewing and watch yer top knot. Ian Convey

Working bee: 6th & 7th November

Forecast – warm days, cool nights; plus hard yakka and a bit of fun, in no particular order. Jim and I decided to arrive a day early for the fun bit. That being November 5th it was, of course, necessary to celebrate the 405th anniversary of Guy Fawkes with a blazing bon-fire and a fistful of firecrackers.

Jim notches a roof stringer.

But Jim had arrived hours earlier and was resting from a full day’s solo efforts when the Chook arrived around 5pm. Jim had the weekend’s work all mapped out so it only remained to roast some vegetables in the camp oven and grill the massive steaks. We ate well and drank our fill of red grape juice, then stoked up that bon-fire as befitted the tradition linked with those little red cracker gems and blue touch paper. Absolute fun!

Next morning we were well pleased when Bernie visited briefly, arriving with his tractor to lift the front stringer into place. Jim was then able to set up string lines and commence filling in the sides of our shelter. We kept at it all day and were quite stonkered by evening, although I did manage to keep Jim up for some hours after dark.

Long Drop Cabin dwarfed by 20 tonne Excavator

On Sunday, the promised 12 tonne excavator was apparently needed elsewhere, so Andrew and young Mick arrived with the 20 tonne version. Way to go! In less time than it takes to tell, the long drop hole was dug, liner drums inserted and backfilled. A few seconds more and the toilet was fully positioned over the drums and the soil tamped and levelled. Our stylish and permanent toilet cabin was now fully operational.

Jim demonstrates the new Mountain Man drum dance – the Long Drop Do Whop.

Andrew’s machine then supplied the necessary lift for the middle stringer to our open faced shelter and finally some soil to level the floor area. Jim was soon back into securing the last flitches, completing the end wall fills. There only remains the roofing to finalise the construction, then painting the pine flitches with protective coatings to fully complete our planned project. Bob has already delivered the required materials.

Special recognition must go to Jim who did all the hard yakka this weekend. Thanks also go to Bernie for tractor lifting of heavy stringers and particularly to Andrew, Sharyn and son Mick for bringing in the heavy equipment, its use and operating time. We could never have achieved so much without this greatly appreciated extra help.

Ready for the roofing.

Tattler recalls

Remember as a kid long ago when you could almost guarantee receiving a new pair of slippers from Grandma each Christmas; oh the disappointment, when all you really wanted was a Daisy airgun or a store-bought super dooper slingshot?

Well, here’s an idea! Now that you no longer need that slingshot so badly, think about those slippers, or better yet, think of moccasins! How about making some new moccasins for yourself and for your loved one for this festive season? Bring them along to Glen’s and Anthea’s for show and tell comparisons in January. Following Ian’s explicit instructions on moccasin making Tattler will be taking a close interest in footwear throughout the Rondyvoo year ahead.

Greetings from the Club president, Ian Convey

A safe and merry Christmas to Everyone, from Ian and the SCFT committee!

4 Responses feed

  1. Keith H. Burgess says:

    Excellent newsletter, thank you. Regards to all, Keith.

  2. Terry ( Red Dog) Weston says:

    Hi Guys,great to see such work being done and the enjoyment having been made doing it. we wish we could be with you over here across the big divide.
    Maureen is still busy working as usual at RPH, and I am a Justice in the District Court so pretty busy also and I am now a real deal Celebrant with several weddings under my belt.
    We recently had a ‘Past Times’ celebration with a group of people involved in living history, so I was able to get into my “Trapper garb” again, I even got a few rabbits and cooked them over an open fire, just like ‘Jeremiah Johnson’, everyone thought I was so authentic they wondered where the time portal was that I came through, a great time was had by all.
    Well guys I wish everyone a magic christmas and great New Year. Love to all Terry and Maureen Weston

  3. Graeme Forbes says:

    I was most impressed by the big primitive shovel!

  4. Chook says:

    Keith, Terry and Maureen, Graeme: Season’s Greetings all and thanks for your comments and the compliments. Red Dog – it’s great that you still get to don the Trapper clobber occasionally. If you’re planning any trips back east check our calendar for good times. Yes Graeme that shovel-nosed behemoth was indeed impressive – a wonderful bonanza to us weekend hobbyists.