Sunday, 7 October 2012

Iron Woman

I have been busy today, helping to forge brass, feeding pigs and spinning wool.  I have been, in short, Iron Age Woman.

It is a very pleasant way to spend a late summer day, sitting outside a round house chatting, tasting Iron Age food (delicious vegetable soup with yoghurt), teasing wool into yarn and then operating the bellows in a forge.  In between all this, I tried out sling shots - a leather pocket on a long thong (not something in a glass).  I am not so good with the shot as I am with an atl atl, but maybe that was just beginner's luck.

The forge was amazing.  A basic timber building with an earth floor and a hole in the ground for the furnace which was edged with a few loose bricks around the top.  Two large foot operated bellows charged the flames with oxygen as the crucible was lowered, on long tongs, into the pit.  Sparks belched several feet into the air with each compression of the bellows, and wild flames escaped sideways between gaps in the bricks.  Things became more frantic as the copper started to boil and equipment was assembled to pour the molten metal into the moulds.  It suddenly became a bit too exciting when the glowing crucible fell out of its support and red hot globules scattered over the floor.

More relaxing was sampling the unleavened bread with tasty chutney, and the soup was wonderful.  Some people were busy in the same round house painting wood with paint made from elderberries and other fruit. Others were dying wool in beautiful, natural colours and could be seen unwinding long skeins between round houses at various intervals throughout the day.

The clothes are very comfy and warm too, woollen tunic dresses and blanket shawls.  It all seemed rather a wonderful way to live, gentle and sociable, but of course we were sampling it in warm weather, with no fear of failed crops or diseased animals.

The ones who managed that really were the Iron Women.