What Minnesotans do in winter

Or what crazy writers and their equally crazy photographer sisters do. The difference isn’t really that much.

On Saturday afternoon Olivia and I were going to do something together, something outside. But she wanted to take pictures of me, which I don’t find enjoyable at all, and the same thought occurred to us both at the same time: “Let’s do pictures for a new cover photo for Of the North!”

I got dressed in record time (she didn’t want to waste any light, as it was after four o’clock when we were free) and she got her camera, and we went out. The road was slushy and slippery, so I held my skirts up because I didn’t fancy having to wash mud out of them.

These first two pictures have something of the mood of Of the North in them, though the exact picture Olivia’s using for the new cover will not yet be revealed.


(I was smart this time and pinned the end of my veil so it wouldn’t go flying all over the place.)


We watched the sun go down, and after it was at a certain point, though still above the horizon, the air started to get cold. We had to take a break because of course neither of us had mittens — I haven’t yet done much research on period mittens, and she as the photographer had to have free fingers. Except for our hands we were pretty warm, as she was bundled up in warm modern snow clothes, and I was wearing wool. In this picture you can see how purple my hands are (and yes, it looks like I’m praying, but I’m really not).


The sun went down a little more, and Olivia started to be in a hurry to take some pictures of me from a distance, which meant I had to run. Along a no-maintenance road with holes in it. In the snow. In garb. So I did the practical (though far from ladylike) thing, and gathered my skirts up into my belt. There’s evidence for that in medieval art, I believe, though not for the Anglo-Saxon era in particular. I mention this mainly because the lighting was so pretty right about now, only unfortunately the pictures Olivia got weren’t quite right for formal cover art.


(You get a good view of my very out-of-period boots.)


After Olivia’d taken enough pictures, and a couple of girls went down the road in a truck and embarrassed us (and how they did stare) the sun was down and our hands were freezing. Olivia’s cat came out to us because his Mom (my sister) was going on an adventure without him, but for some reason girls in skirts terrify him, so he was walking in front of us with his tail all poofed out the way it gets when he sees a hawk.


And then my cat, having lost his brother, joined us too on our way back.


At some point we’ll work on the new cover, and I’ll show it off when it’s done, assuming the quality is better than the last one, which is not hard to achieve.


About Nolie Alcarturiel

Creative Writing major and Philosophy minor, contemplating a Master's degree in Medieval History. I enjoy practically anything to do with medieval history, including the domestic arts, with an especial emphasis on the Anglo-Saxon Era. In my spare time I read endlessly, do medieval living-history, hold philosophical debates at the drop of a hat, and write books on even slighter provocation.
This entry was posted in Of the North and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What Minnesotans do in winter

  1. thegermangolux says:

    I beg to differ. Minnesotans rarely spend their winter taking pictures, especially of themselves and their sisters dressed in 11th-century clothing.

    But the pictures are cool, regardless of whether they fit into the textbook of standard Minnesotan winter activities. You’re only considering the first two, right? ‘Cause I see marks of 21st century civilization in all the others.
    Also, I have to wonder. The condition of the snow on the ground is just what I imagine for southern England, not that I have any authority whatsoever on the matter. Any idea what their winters were like?


    • noliealcarturiel says:

      The post said, and I quote, “the exact picture Olivia’s using for the new cover will not yet be revealed.” Which means I didn’t post it. So it’s not even the first two that I’m considering. I said they had something of the mood of Of the North in them. And where’s the mark of 21st-century civilization in the one of my cold hands?
      Some people say winters were warmer in England, though I haven’t done enough research to know for sure. There wasn’t as much smog trapping heat, because the Industrial Revolution didn’t come around for a few more centuries, but that doesn’t mean it was a Minnesotan winter (did you know Minnesota is technically in the Temperate Zone? Whoever decided that obviously never spent a season here). However, the coldest winter on record was in 1047, when rivers froze and animals died — and lots of people died too, both from exposure and lack of food. There’s some days here that I imagine to be like an English winter, today for example (just cold enough for snow, but warm enough you can take your mittens off outside), but short of experiencing one I don’t know for sure. It also depends on where you are. Farther from the sea it’s going to be colder, but in the mountains you’ll have less wind.


  2. parkhurstj says:

    I think, perhaps, I may need to commission your photographer for another garb day. I have several covers in need of creation 🙂 What a wonderful use of your lovely fields though- I’m glad the wool is keeping you plenty toasty! I would also strongly suspect you’ll be looking at simple mittens for hand-covers should you decide to take that research-rabbit trail.


    • noliealcarturiel says:

      Olivia likes the idea of doing another photoshoot with you, only of course it depends on the timing. Have you any particular books in mind? One of the nice things about doing our own pictures, though we have to have the same model for all of them, is not having to worry about other people’s copyright.
      There were several pictures I didn’t post, taken when the sun was almost gone, where I blend into the road pretty well — green and white on green and white. But the purpose of a cover photo isn’t a “hunt the slipper” game, so we’re not using those.
      I have come across mentions of mittens in Beowulf, where they’re called handscoh or handscioh (lit. hand-shoes), and Owen-Crocker has a little bit on them (and the word glofa). From the little evidence we have they seem to have been sort of like bags to put your hands in, sometimes fur-lined, with no thumb. I’m not sure what the cuff is like, though you’d have to have something to keep them from falling off. The really fancy embroidered ones, and gloves with slits so your rings show, come in quite a bit later, well after Wynnie’s time I think. Her Grace Petranella would know — she seems to know about every kind of fancy garb.


      • parkhurstj says:

        I’m thinking The Honorable Mrs. Teacher Lady could be a fun one, as it’s a blend of modern and SCA. Getting into my classroom after hours would be no challenge on my end, but perhaps more so on yours. Then, of course, the Ice saga, though I’m not entirely sure the period is quite close enough. Doesn’t hurt to try, though?
        And yes, Her Grace Petranella would certainly be a good resource for late period gloves and such!


  3. Christine says:

    Oh my gracious, that photography! Your sister is so talented. That second one, with you looking at the sunset…breathtaking! And YOU are an amazing model. You’re so pretty!

    Also, is that where you LIVE??? All that wide green land. How gorgeous!

    Also, also, your cats are adorable. ^_^

    Thanks for sharing with us, I love these! Can’t wait to see what the new book cover looks like. 😀


    • noliealcarturiel says:

      Thank you, and thanks on behalf of my sister. Photography is one of her hobbies, along with music and cooking and babies and people generally, and all the things I’m not good at. She’s done all of my covers so far. She’s pretty good at it.
      And yes, that’s where we live. We can see three miles of land in most directions, and when there’s fireworks on the fourth of July, we can see them from towns more than ten miles away. It’s not quite as flat as Iowa, but close.
      Tommy, the black one, is a six-year-old kitten, which is to say he’s lived for six years and accumulated the maturity of a six-month-old. He’s very attached to his Mom (both of the boys are rescues), and though unlike most cats he lacks a sense of humour, he is a joke. We never need a court jester when he’s around. Johnny was abused as a kitten, and from the specific things he’s scared of we’re pretty sure the person who did it was a guy with a deep voice and boots, who seems to have thrown things. But he’s gotten to the point where he goes up to my father to be petted, although no stranger ever sees more of him than a yellow streak flying for the grove. They’re outside cats, which we got to keep down the mouse population (which Olivia feeds), and they do a pretty good job of that. They’re not related as far as we know, but they bonded pretty quickly. Johnny was sort of born grown up, so he takes care of Tommy and keeps him clean and disciplines him when necessary and all that, and Tommy keeps him company and eats his food, like good siblings.


  4. Your sister feed’s mice.?


    • noliealcarturiel says:

      She does in winter. Last year there was one in the garage, and she put corn out for it until one day the corn remained uneaten, and we concluded the cats had got it. This winter there’s one in the horses’ shed, as well as a pigeon, so she’s been feeding them leftovers of Lia’s grain. As far as we know they both appreciate it, though the pigeon is more forthcoming than the mouse.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s