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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fort Ross: Epic Peanuts, Ghosts, and Gardening... in 1812!

I spent last Monday and Tuesday with about 30 other homeschooled kids in the nineteenth century. Yes. The nineteenth century. Hickman organized a very cool trip to Fort Ross, where they have a historical re-enactment thing. During the overnight, we all played the roles of people who lived at Fort Ross when it was a Russian settlement in the nineteenth century. The group I was in, the Gardeners, planted lettuce and chard in the Fort Ross garden and wove baskets. Other groups did other things. The Cooks made the group's meals over an open fire. The Hunters fished and hiked. The Militia paraded around and learned to fire a cannon. The Artisans did craft projects. All the groups took hikes and wrote in journals from our characters' points of view. Both the Artisans and the Gardeners had a fair amount of free time around the fort, and since we were all friends the two groups naturally hung out.
Most of what we did when not busied by the planned activities was not very authentic.

I told ghost stories even though it was forbidden. "You'll scare the younger kids!" said the adults. Evelyn, Brigitte and I set out to convince people that there was something haunting Fort Ross. When people asked me how I knew, I said that my neighbor, who had been to Fort Ross, told me. Which was true.
Two twin boys who just joined Hickman Charter School in the eighth grade were quite intrigued, and in no time after I told them about the rumors of spirits who haunt the Kuskov House, they were giving me their own first-hand stories of how they had seen ghosts. Something invisible hitting Gabriel in the head. A rhythmic tapping on the second-floor window of Kuskov House. Shannon, being one of "the younger kids" was indeed terrified. When I found that she actually believed me, I made a point of telling her that the ghosts were usually perfectly safe to be around. In the evening there was time for music and storytelling, so I told the story I'd been planning. It was a Fort Ross version of a story I heard at the Trackers (outdoor education program) campout, a story about a madman with bright green eyes who had strangled people at various points in history. The best part was when my four accomplices in the audience grabbed the shoulders of whoever was in front of them, saying "Rarr!" Of course in the morning, the twins were telling me about the green eyes floating in the air outside the door.

The Gardeners tried to organize an Occupy Fort Ross movement. There was a Trade Store where after they've done their packing-up and chores, every kid can get a certain number of little trinkets (like candies or tea-paper). We were outraged that the kids in every group could get five items, except the Cooks, who got seven items. We rallied a few other groups into agreement and talked to the adults about it for some time. Our guide made several ridiculous arguments about why this was. First she told us that the cooks spent much more time cooking than any other group spent then any other group spent doing their work. I then made a speech about how this was morally arbitrary to Rawls; how the group we ended up in was not a result of our effort but of which group we were placed in based on our Top Three Choices.
The guide, though I heard her muttering about "homeschoolers, so precocious", tried to act grown-up and convincing. "It's not that we don't value your work as much, it's that the work you're doing isn't as hard." We all laughed at that one later. (In addition to being sort of paradoxical, it's such a different argument than her first one!)
We had no tents, but we tried to have a general strike. Then we realized that they wouldn't care at all if we did that, because they didn't actually need us. (In real Fort Ross it would've worked.) But we sold some sprigs of rosemary from the garden in the store. For some reason, people actually bought them, bringing our virtual money up to Cook level.

There was also something called the Peanut, which was the mascot of Gabriel's brand new secret cult "The Inner Shell". He, the twins, and several other artisans worshipped a sleeping bag with sunglasses on it, which they claimed resembled a peanut. They insisted that Xena, Brigitte and I see it too; eventually at least one person from each group at Fort Ross was part of the cult. Everyone else thought it was the dumbest thing ever. Xena tried to steal the Peanut, but she couldn't find it. Gabriel revealed the new location to Brigitte, who apparently caused a clamor by snatching it, running, and handing it to Clem.

I could tell you way more about any of these topics, but I fear if this post gets any longer I'll lose your attention. Fort Ross was awesome!!


  1. The Royal Peanut wasn't a sleeping bag! It was a... something.

  2. Hm, well it looked like a sleeping bag stuff sack with something in it.

  3. Worship the peanut...

    I doubt anyone really believed the ghost stories.