Six Oh Six

I’m not musical. Hence, this is the only choral arrangement that I could sing with you, any time, even a capella. Reason? I grew up Mennonite.

“606” – so called because for years it was hymn #606 in the Mennonite Hymnal — is an arrangement of the doxology. It is, or it used to be, sung often enough in Mennonite churches that it could be called the Mennonite national anthem. Which means it was sung often enough that I, who have to hear a song about 100 times before I catch on, actually had a chance to learn it. It wasn’t until years later, hearing it after a gap in time, that I realized how very German it sounds. The Mennonites are an Anabaptist sect founded by Menno Simons. He was actually a Freislander, but Mennonites are German enough in culture that it has influenced their music.

I was inspired to post this when Chris posted an arrangement of Nearer, My God, to Thee that reminded me very much of the music I grew up with.

A Decent Man Would Never Write “No Irish Need Apply”

Well, I couldn’t stand his nonsense, so aheld of him I took

and I gave him such a baetin’ as he’d get in Donnybrook.

He hollered me the murther, and to get away did try

and swore he’d nivver write again, “No Irish Need Apply.”

He made a big apology, and I bid him then goodbye,

sayin’, “When nixt you want a baetin’, write ‘No Irish Need Apply.'”

Well, some may think it a misfortune to be christened Patrick Dan,

but to me it is an honor to be born an Irishman.

Sure, I’ve heard that in America, it always is the plan

that an Irishman is just as good as any other man.

A home and hospitality they nivver will deny

to strangers here, or ever write, “No Irish Need Apply.”

Oh, but some black sheep are in the flock: “A drrty lot,” says I;

a daecent man would nivver say, “No Irish Need Apply.”

See below

Happy St. Patrick’s Day yesterday!

Coincidentally Thematic Book Haul

Notice how about half of them are about mountain men and the American West? And the other half are about: Scotland, gnomes, language, and “The All-Beef Cookbook.” Seems like a haul tailor-made for me, no?

Guess where this came from.

A friend, who works at the library, showed up with a pipe-smoke-scented box of books that were being thrown out.

That’s right.

This haul was selected for my reference library by God Himself.

Also, the photograph of a nameless old shack was in the box too.

Searching for Color Inspiration

casting on the yarn

This is going to be kind of a rambling post. It’s going to start with knitting.

Yes, I knit stuff sometimes.

I wouldn’t say I’m part of the “knitting community,” at least not the online one, because I don’t think they’d have me. Yet, I knit.

Recently, I knit my very first pair of socks.

the finished product

They are not quite as comfortable as store-bought socks, since the yarn I used doesn’t have any elastic in it, but they are perfectly serviceable, nice and warm. And, most importantly, they are in colors that I don’t mind showing off in my Minnetonka moccasins.

and again …

I’m not a huge fan of the fancy, picot-style top edge, but that’s how the pattern that I used was written, and I decided to follow it exactly before I branched out. I also learned to use the “kitchener stitch” to close the toe of this pair of socks.

Anyone who knits (or does any of a number of other handicrafts) will tell you that they are always looking for inspiration for new color schemes. Sure, it’s fun to stroll through the fabric store and take your inspiration from the yarns that are there, but I’ve found that the most fun colors to knit aren’t always the colors that you will end up wanting to wear. (Example: pink shades are really fun to knit, but I don’t gravitate towards fluffy pink items of clothing. Whenever I wear one, my kids tell me that I remind them of Dolores Umbridge. Not a good look.) (Another example: black knits are the coolest, very sophisticated, and you can often gift them to people who don’t want to look like they’re wearing a knitted item. However, pure black yarn is harder to work with because it’s harder to see what you’re doing, and it doesn’t show the stitch pattern as well when you’re finished, which might be a disadvantage or possibly an advantage if the piece didn’t go real well.)

All that to say, I have found my latest inspiration in the colors that seem to be signature of the Shoshone/Bannock Tribes.

The Shoshone/Bannock reservation (Fort Hall Reservation) is located in my neck of the woods. In fact, I drive through the rez whenever I go to town to get groceries. Fort Hall was a stop on the Oregon Trail, and there is a replica of it in Pocatello. Shoshone-Bannock type beadwork comes in all different color schemes (such as floral on a white or light blue background), but one very commonly seen type uses the primary colors. The blue is a light blue, the red is very vibrant, and the yellow can be used with white. It’s a little hard to find links to examples of this beadwork, but try looking here.

Now, if I was going to use primary colors in a design, I would probably make at least two of them very dark. Light blue would not be my first instinct, and it certainly wouldn’t occur to me to turn all three colors up to 11. But this color combination looks fantastic in Fort Hall. The beadwork looks especially good against shiny brown or black hair. Also, it is what you might call organic. If you click here, you will see that the three vivid colors are echoed in every Idaho sunset. Grounding them with a little black just adds to the sunsety impression.

Color inspiration. No, I am not just going to steal these colors willy-nilly. I am not going to dress head to toe in them or something like that. But I don’t think it will cause offense if I incorporate them in one or two knitted items. The Shoshone-Bannock folks I’ve rubbed shoulders with (figuratively, of course; Covid!) seem pretty friendly and chill. And they have the coolest cloth masks!

P.S. Naya Nuki was Shoshone. Click here for my review of her biography.

A New “Oldest” Found

I’ve mentioned before on this blog how archaeologists are constantly finding human cultural items that break records for “the oldest”: the oldest city, the oldest stone, temple, etc. Now here’s another one.

world’s oldest known cave painting (so far)

Two great things about this cave painting: it’s in Indonesia, and it’s of a pig.

“‘The people who made it were fully modern, they were just like us, they had all of the capacity and the tools to do any painting that they liked,’ [Aubert] added.”

Also, the painting is accompanied by stenciled hand prints that are made by placing your hand on the wall, filling your mouth with powdery dye, and blowing the dye onto your hand and the surrounding area. The last line of the article says that “the team are hoping to try to extract DNA samples from residual saliva.” Wouldn’t it be cool if they could do this and then sequence the DNA? And what if they were able to find a modern person who shares distinctive DNA with that unknown artist who made these hand stencils so many thousands of years ago? If they do, I think it’s a good guess they will find that person living right near the cave. That’s often how it works out. Modern-day relatives of the Ice Man were found living not far from where his body was discovered.

Cooking with Clay Beads

Clay “cooking balls” of the kind used in the Poverty Point culture in what in now Louisiana

Original title: “Cooking with Balls.” I didn’t have the … you know, courage … to go through with that one. But it’s not my fault! “Cooking Balls” is, I promise you, what they are called in the source material.

Although we know little about the Poverty Point people and their extraordinary center on Bayou Macon, we do know a great deal about their cooking habits. The most typical of all the artifacts is — surprisingly enough — a small baked clay ball, only one to two inches in diameter and two to three ounces in weight. The odd-looking balls, most often molded in melon, oblong, cylindrical, spiral, and biconical shapes, were used in cooking. Thousands of them have been unearthed so far. Indeed, so ubiquitous are these tiny finds that they are simply called Poverty Point objects.

The Poverty Point people used them not only more intensively than others [who cooked with heated stones], but also more innovatively, for a new style of cooking: pit-oven baking.

Mysteries of the Ancients Americas, The Reader’s Digest Asscn, Inc., pp. 113 – 114

The Poverty Point people, reconstructers think, would wrap fish, meat, or potatoes in wet leaves, place them on a bed of hot coals, and then cover them with a layer of hot clay balls. You know, they basically made what at camp we used to call a “hobo dinner.” Except we were always eating our hobo dinners half-raw, because we were not as patient as the people at Poverty Point.

In the Out of Babel blog tradition of writing about some ancient practice and then pretending that we are still doing it, I would like to show you my own cooking beads.

“Cooking balls” of the kind used by the modern mom

Not the greatest lighting on this photograph, but here they are, sitting in a nest of aluminum foil, on my ultramodern, convenient electric stove. The only modern use of clay cooking balls that I am aware of, is to make baked pie crust shells. If you bake the pie crust with nothing in it, it bubbles up, warps, and then it can’t hold the instant pudding later. You have to weight it down with something. You can use just two layers of aluminum foil, but heavier is better. For a while I was using uncooked lentils (per Martha Stewart). They worked OK, but they had a certain legume-y smell when baking and besides, clay cooking balls are so much cooler. I suppose that in a pinch, I could use them for pit cooking. Let’s hope it never comes to that.

According to archaeologists, the Poverty Point cooking balls “could be used about 10 times before they cracked apart.” And yet, they put so much effort into them, making pretty designs and everything! I can imagine that making these little items was a creative outlet as well as a chore. Whereas, my cooking beads are completely plain (and still look like they were a hassle to make in such quantity), and I expect them to last for years. Of course, I don’t use them daily, and certainly not for the two hours it apparently takes to pit-cook food.

A Very Exclusive Collection

The items in this picture come from around the world and from different aesthetic traditions, so it’s surprising that they look so good together. At least, I think they look good. You be the judge.

The prints on the quilt squares come from clothing items actually worn by my husband and me when we lived in Indonesia. Some of them are batik; others are more modern tropical prints. In Indonesia, formal dress for couples goes as follows. The man wears black slacks, a black pillbox type hat called a peci (peh-chee), and a shirt made of a batik print. (Batik can come in many different patterns and color schemes.) The woman wears a long, narrow skirt made of the same batik as her husband’s shirt, and this is topped with a lacy, fitted, tunic-length blouse called a kebaya. The kebaya can be black, white, or in a color that coordinates with the batik.

In a tropical country, you don’t wear your clothes seasonally. You wear them year-round, until they wear out. After several years in Indonesia, I had all these worn-out shirts and pants in unique prints that now had sentimental value. Now we come to the second aesthetic stream: #grandmacore. We happened to be living in a place where there was a sewing room, with a small army of volunteer grandmas who were happy to take on sewing projects to help stressed-out young families who had just landed from overseas or were planning to return there. I brought the batiks to the grandmas and asked whether they could make several small quilts, suitable to hanging on the wall, with them. They did a great job!

Our formula so far goes,

Batik + Grandma

The rest of the stuff on the table is more boring. It was all bought in the U.S.A., and what could be more American than Red Hots in a Mason jar? But put on the batik quilt, it suddenly looks planned.

The orange-and-white ramekin, though boringly bought in an American department store, brings another aesthetic stream into this murky pool. It’s from the collection sold by Pioneer Woman, who lives on a ranch in Texas and has monetized her lifestyle with cookbooks, children’s books, and now kitchenware. Most of the kitchenware is colorful and detailed, and would tend to dominate any table it was put on. This ramekin, though a little busy, appeals because the flowers on it look like folk art. And who knew that American-style folk art would play so well with batik? Or maybe it could, because if you look at folk art from around the world, there is a certain similarity.

Batik + Grandma + “Pioneer” + Folk Art = A table I love, and I hope you haven’t hated seeing

I Rejected Cottagecore Before You Even Heard of It

In case you’re not picking up that this is self-deprecating humor, this is my version of that popular meme where a bespectacled hipster claims that he or she (or ze) was into some obscure thing long before it became a trend.

I’m not really this big of a jerk in real life. Quite.

But I am half-serious.

Eustacia made a lovely post recently, and it was there that I (for the first time actually) heard the term #cottagecore. Here is a BBC article about it. Since the article is by a major news organization, we can assume that it is late to the trend and gets a few things wrong. Still, this will be my source.

Basically (per the article) “cottagecore” is a visual aesthetic that became popular during the pandemic. It involves pictures of cottages, mushrooms, billowy dresses, rustic picnics, maybe gingham, maybe a gnome here or a fairy there. “It is the equal and opposite reaction to the contamination, helplessness and incoherence of our contemporary mise en scène,” says someone in the article. In other words, it’s sort of the exact opposite of a gritty urban fantasy.

As a lifestyle, cottagecore seems to involve things like gardening, sewing, crafting. Practicing self-sufficiency.

Correction: pretending to practice self-sufficiency.

I love the aesthetic. I do. I also love the idea of living self-sufficient. But it’s not really possible to do that in any thorough way, and if you do, you will be working so hard, and suffering so many privations, that your life will not look like a billowy, gingham-clad escapist fantasy. Hence, I can’t help feeling that anyone who takes this cottagecore thing as more than an interior decorating theme — anyone who tries to pretend it is somehow their lifestyle — is actually a poser. Let’s not fool ourselves, friends. I like mushrooms and sparkles as much as the next person, but they are not going to save us in the apocalypse.

I said as much here. Technically, this post was published before the pandemic started, so before cottagecore became a really big thing on Instagram. However, the article notes that cottagecore (as well as “faeriecore,” “farmcore,” and “grandmacore”) have been around since 2018. So I can’t really pull the hipster I-was-into-it-before-you-were move. Not to mention the Amish. And, you know, real subsistence farmers. They beat me to it a long time ago.