Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Buffalo tongue and ruined candles

I've acquired quite the number of new skills in the past few days. A smattering thereof:

Skill number one: cooking over an open fire. I cooked buffalo tongue (which I'm informed was actually buffalo liver) and onions over an open fire. It smelled rather nice, but bled every time I pressed it until it was pretty well charred. I'm also not at all convinced that it was cooked in a way that is safe to eat. No matter, the point is simply to have something period going on for the visitors to see, smell, and ask questions about. The funny thing about food at the Fort is that we are not allowed to offer food to any of the visitors and if they ask for a sample, the answer is no. If, however, they just take some without asking, we won't argue. And that's the exact spiel that we give visitors when they ask if they can have a bite. Gets the point across without any legal liability.

Skill number two: lighting fires. Previously I'd lit fires with a lighter and a bunch of newspapers. Now, however, I can light them with flint and steel. And I learned a new way to do it that involves making a little wind tunnel with two logs, lighting the char-cloth and kindling and sticking it in the middle, and then putting a third log on top. Wind or human breath through the tunnel helps the fire to grow and it burns hot, so it catches the logs pretty easily. I built a fire with this method without a problem, when I'd previously struggled to get one lit.

Skill number three: making candles. This one didn't go so well. I started out attempting to make dip candles by heating up a mix of tallow and beeswax over the fire I built, then dipping a string in (as one does). The strings refused to stay straight and the candles grew very very slowly. Since I was working in the hot sun I decided to switch to candles in a mold. Under instructions from one of the Fort bosses, I sprayed the molds with PAM (secretly, of course), mixed the tallow and beeswax, forced strings through tiny holes in the bottoms of the molds, and poured in the hot wax. I also poured the wax all over the ground until I found the little dip-cup used to make pouring easier. Then I moved a bench over to shade the molds and waited for several hours. At the end of those hours, the candles resembled a funnel - wax had leaked out the bottom where the wicks were drawn through and given them a collapsed center. Plus, though I sprayed the living daylights out of the molds, they apparently weren't non-stick enough and I only succeeded in snapping off several wicks. As this was happening at the end of the day, I tucked them inside and plan to ask someone what to do tomorrow.

Skill number four: cat wrangling. The Fort has two cats, as well as four oxen, two horses, three peacocks, three peahens, a dozen or so peachicks, and ten chickens. The cats are allowed to roam freely but have to be put in every night to keep them from being eaten by coyotes. I don't have any keys and can't help lock up, so while everyone else is closing down the fort, my job is to find the cats. They don't particularly like being shut away, though they tolerate it because food is there. So they don't fight me too much when I pick them up but they do hide themselves in various places around the fort as a matter of course. Today I found one sprawled out in the sun by the blacksmith's workshop, while the other was stalking some sort of creature in the woodpile out back. Turns out the creature was a bat, so I took the cat away. He promptly jumped out the window I'd forgotten to close and went straight back to the woodpile.

I'm hoping to churn butter tomorrow, and praying that turns out better than the candles.

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