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Category: animals (dýr)

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Just a little update, since I have a number of projects on the go but nothing really major to report about any of them at the moment.

On the Skyr front, my culture was indeed too old and had died.  I’ve ordered another one, and will be putting that one on to grow the minute it arrives in the mail.  I got the notification that it had been mailed today, so hopefully it won’t take too long.  I also recently talked with one of my Icelandic friends who mentioned that Skotidakis (the Greek Yogurt brand) is now making Skyr too, though it seems to only be available at Costco right now.  I did get to Costco on Saturday, though, and picked up a case.  Sadly it only comes flavoured, not in plain, otherwise I’d try using that as a culture and start a batch from that. Apparently the Skotidakis brand comes a lot closer to actual Icelandic Skyr than the President’s Choice brand does.

I’m close to being able to post another project I’ve been working on for a while, which is a translation of a 7 page article from an Icelandic journal on the origins of various domestic animals in Iceland.  The article itself is modern, and isn’t geared towards people focusing on the Viking era, as it talks about changes since then, but since Iceland as a country basically started during the Viking period, talking about where the various Icelandic breeds of animals came from is relevant to my interests here.  Getting this article in the first place originated from my work towards showing documentation that Icelandic Sheepdogs have been around in much the same form as they are in now since the Viking era.  I still have to go further in this research on the dogs, but the other information in this article is interesting as well.

Speaking of the Icelandic Sheepdog, this past weekend was Þórný’s first event, at Vinfest in Grande Prairie.  We were only there for a few hours for various reasons, but she got lots of attention and good socialization time, and I had my first experience helping to run the lists for a fighter tournament!  Here’s Thorny and I – she’s passed out on me from all the excitement, just like that picture of Ása passed out on me from Vinfest 2017.  We brought Ása as well, and she gets lots of attention to as she’s a sweet, friendly girl, but she was more interested in digging holes on Saturday.  Þórný’s more likely to become my eventing companion, because she likes car rides whereas Ása isn’t fond of them.

Finally, I am currently working on separating a big pile of fleece into two smaller piles.  As I mentioned in this entry (Íslenska Sauðkindin), Icelandic Sheep fleece has two different layers, the tog and the þel (thel).  The tog is a long, straighter part of the sheep’s fleece, and is more coarse.  The þel is the under-layer of their fleece, and is much softer.  For the purposes of my project, I pretty much want to use only þel, so I am separating the tog out and saving it for another project.  Once this process is done I will then be able to pretty much spin straight from the handfuls of þel I have, I won’t even really need to do any further preparing before spinning.  The portion of the fleece (it’s maybe 20-25% of one fleece, at the most) I’m working with has been washed, so it’s clean and has only a small amount of lanolin left in it. Once I pull the tog out (I’m just doing this by hand – no tools necessary), the þel pretty much comes away as a fluffy white cloud.  I’ve been doing some research on how the thread for weaving with was spun during the Viking era in Iceland, so there will be a post about that soon too.

Another upcoming sub-project for the sheep to dress project is going to be making my own drop spindles.  I managed to find my larger pieces of soapstone this past Friday while I was looking for something else, so I can finally get started on carving some spindle whorls.  Then I’ll just need to take Ása and Þórný for a walk in the woods to look for some appropriately sized and shaped spindle shafts, since if I’m putting the time and effort into carving the whorls myself, I am certainly not going to use a commercial dowel for the shaft.  I’ve been also making some spindles out of commercial dowels, toy wheels, and cup hooks lately, but that’s not exactly appropriate for period.

 

Baaaa!

Baaaa!

The Northern Women Arts Collective is a treasure trove of fascinating, valuable and useful information, and a few of the folks over there have done a project very similar to the apron dress project I’m (very slowly) working on.  This is the Lady in Blue project – they researched and reproduced the apron dress from a grave find near Ketilsstaðir in Iceland.  I’m doing something similar, with the main differences being that I’m not necessarily basing mine on that exact find – though that’s likely the one with the most information available about it, and the parameters I had planned out in my head basically match that one anyways, theirs was a group project, and they used pre-prepared rovings and modern tools to do their spinning and weaving.  I’m planning to do my entire project solo, and I’m also making replica tools and using them for the fibre processing, spinning and weaving, so don’t be surprised if it’s the early 2020s before the dress is wearable.

Yesterday I received a comment on an earlier post where I talked about Icelandic sheep from Marled Mader, one of the ladies involved in the recreation of the Lady in Blue dress.  She is from Germany, but keeps a flock of Icelandic sheep, and she offered me the use of some pictures of her flock. (correction: these aren’t her flock, they’re pictures she took while she was in Iceland).  I had previously been using photos I’d found by searching Flickr (though I am using them legitimately, as I’ve only chosen ones listed as being available under a Creative Commons license), and have plans in the future to get some of my own photos – some when I visit Iceland next year, but I’ve also met a few people recently that live relatively close to me who keep Icelandic sheep – but to have these photos to use in the meantime is wonderful.  So I thought I would show you some of the photos (and I’ve kept back some to use in future blog posts as well).  If historical textiles are your thing, you should also go visit Marled’s blog at Archaeotechnics – Textile Flache – I’ve only had a chance to skim a few posts, but it looks like she’s got lots of great info there and I will definitely be back in the future to read in more depth, as I suspect there will be useful info there for me when I’m working out more specific parts of my apron dress project.

So without further adieu, here are some great photos of some beautiful Icelandic sheep that Marled took in Iceland!

Velkomin Þórný! Íslenskur Fjarhundur

Velkomin Þórný! Íslenskur Fjarhundur

I don’t have a cute story for you this time, but it is definitely time for me to introduce to you the newest member of my family, and piece of my persona development puzzle. Please welcome Audurs Sumarsól (Audurs is the kennel name, Sumarsól is Icelandic for Summer Sun), known around here as Þórný.  Her name, just like Ása’s, is a documentable female name from the Viking era in Iceland.  The anglicization and pronunciation of that is “Thorny”.  That character at the start of her name is the Icelandic Thorn, which makes a hard Th sound, like in Thor, Thorn, and Thunder.  She came to us from Biggs Ranch, a farm in central Alberta that raises not only Icelandic Sheepdogs, but also Icelandic Sheep, Icelandic Horses and Icelandic Chickens.  (And Angus cattle, but those aren’t Icelandic.)  As you might guess, one of the owners of the ranch is Icelandic.  They’re both lovely people who raise amazing dogs.

Icelandic Sheepdogs are another northern/Spitz breed, just like the Norwegian Elkhound.  This means they will have pointy ears, a curly tail, and a double coat.  They’re also smart as a whip, and have a bit of attitude, though Icies are supposed to be a bit more eager to please than Elkhounds are. They’re known for being very happy, smiley dogs, and that’s definitely Thorny.   As you may guess from the name of the breed, they were bred to herd sheep in Iceland – and they have been in Iceland since it was settled in the 800s. Most of the Icies (a nickname for the breed, just like Elkhounds are nicknamed Elkies) you will see have a long-haired coat, but Thorny is going to be a short coat – though it’s still not super short like you would see in a smooth coated breed like a Boxer or Bulldog.  She’s still got plenty of snuggly fluff.  She’s what is called a “black tri” – they’re born looking black and white but a third colour starts coming in pretty quickly, and in Thorny’s case, that third colour is tan.  It’s hard to see in the pictures I’ve taken so far, but she has tan eyebrows and patches on her cheeks, and on her hind legs.  She’s got one double dewclaw on a hind foot – double dewclaws are a thing that is common on Icies – and desirable.  There’s even a name for a dog with a double dewclaw on all four feet – alspori.  These are pretty rare though.  Icelandic sheepdogs aren’t the only breed that can have double dewclaws, but in the case of this breed, it’s actually right in the breed standard that they have them, and they shouldn’t be removed.  Iceland is a very rocky, mountainous island and I’m sure the extra digit came in handy when the dogs were climbing hills to go after sheep, or walking on snow.  I’ve read that the extra toe can even help the dogs walk on snow better, acting somewhat like a snowshoe.

 

No pictures of her with me in my Viking-era clothing yet, but her first event is coming up next weekend, so hopefully I’ll get some then!