Monday, October 13, 2014

Alchemy Follow-up, Packing List and what we forgot

For next year, and/or for Euphoria (another regional burn in May, which is smaller), we are looking at taking Damian and making a family-friendly camp. The current discussion is to camp with some friends from church who are going, and possibly combine with the camp who makes mead.
I adore my Team Bad Idea campmates, but I think that a burn would actually be a good environment for the Wolfcub to grow up seeing.
The 10 Principles are definitely things I want him to grow up understanding.

So here's what we took-


  • Tent (we took the REI Kingdom 6, which was fantastic for the 2nd room, but I think I like C's teepee tent better)
  • Open-sided pavilion
  • Camp chairs
  • Firepit that doubles as a grill
  • Firewood (bring more next year!)
  • Sleeping pad of some kind (we ended up taking a queen air mattress)
  • Sleeping bags (we always buy 2 of the same kind so we can zip them together, but REI has some double sleeping bags. We also took a third-extra- sleeping bag to layer UNDER the air mattress to help stay warmer, since air mattresses are giant heat sinks and will freeze you to death outside, especially when there's FROST on the ground Sunday)
  • Tarps (we used these to create walls int he pavilions for when the sun, wind, or rain got obnoxious- we need more caribiners next time to hang them more easily)
  • Pillows
  • Lamps of some kind that can be hung from the pavilion (we took some IKEA hanging solar patio lights, but I think next time we'll get some actual bright lanterns and hang them from the pavilion peaks)
  • TP & Wet wipes
  • MOOP (trash) bags 
  • Weather-appropriate clothing and comfy boots (I don't really dress up)


  • Cooler (we took dry ice, layered it in the bottom, then added food/drinks and regular ice)
  • Firepit grill (see above- this was important enough to get 2 entries)
  • Cast iron pans and Korean (ceramic) dutch oven
  • Bamboo cooking utensils
  • Camping plates, bowls, silverware, etc (next time we will bring reusable, this time we brought flammable paper to avoid moop or the need for doing dishes)
  • Trash bags
  • Some way to wash dishes- salt for cast iron, something to use as sink, biodegradable soap, scrubby of some kind
  • Cast iron teapot for large pots of tea
  • Corkscrew
  • Can opener (we didn't take cans, but someone else borrowed it)
  • Something for quick-lighting fires in the morning. We used quick-start charcoal and then added wood.
  • Our titanium sporks which can be clipped to belts


  • Water drops to make water palatable since I don't like it plain
  • 4 5gal containers of water- one per person per day, PLUS some for washing/dishwashing
  • Breakfast food
  • Lunch food 
  • Dinner food
  • Tea bags, instant coffee packets, sugar (in a small s'ch bag but next year a tupperware), small jug of milk
  • Snacks- you'll probably want them 


  • A mug that can be clipped to my belt (people will offer you drinks. Part of Radical Self-Reliance means being able to accept them without someone else having to scrounge up a cup or create MOOP with disposables. I have this one, which was great, but I also like this one that can be used to cook and has a lid you can get to go with it)
  • My belt first aid kit for Ranger shifts
  • Ear plugs
  • Ambien/benadryl because it gets LOUD
  • Method of lighting self up at night (el wire is very popular)
  • Burn belt (not necessary but awesomely useful. I clipped my camping spork, my mug, my first aid kit, to it, and then put little things of pepto, tylenol, etc in the pockets to give out. 
  • Usual first aid kit (includes sunscreen, bug spray, etc- you will want both)
  • A few lengths of rope/cord
  • Extra tent stakes

Notes for what worked and didn't this past year:
  • We need to camp farther from the sound camps. Ouch. 
  • Old bucket, plus 2 lids. One solid lid, one with a 'seat' cut out. Add ashes and water. Use as chamberpot for 2am potty runs. Add ashes from fire every morning and evening. Dump in a dumpster en route home. 
  • We need a better method for securing tarps to the pavilions. Caribiners and zip ties would likely be better (caribiner to pavilion top rail, zip tie up for breeze, cut tie to let down, then zip tie sides together along pavilion corners)
  • How the hell did I get through the weekend without a knife of multitool?!?!
  • Foam tiles for the tent floor. 
  • Something to create shelves for storing all the things, OTHER than the floor
  • Warmer sleeping bags if another night in the low 30's is predicted. YEESH THAT SUCKED!
  • Clippy-plate for food we kept being offered
  • Many camps serving alcohol or in the red light district (such as the sex dome) require ID. Rather than carry it around, we photocopied ours, then used packing tape to attach it to our cups. This awesome idea came courtesy of other burners, so don't credit it to me :)
  • Gifting is a thing. If you create anything, whether it's friendship bracelets, granola bars, or rides in a human pony cart, Gifting is a fantastic thing that people share. Find your expression of how to gift. In my case it was always having tea or coffee available for people coming by.

  • I am reminded by a loved one: pack the whimsical in favor of the practical any time that a choice must be made between the two. 

Alchemy OMG

Have you ever heard of Alchemy?
It's a regional version of Burning Man.
Never heard of Burning Man?
Clicky da HERE

TL;DR version? It's a huge tent city built in the desert full of art and expressions and amazingness, after which the main effigy is burned down in a symbolic rite (what exactly the symbolism is, depends on what you need it to be. I personally take it as, 'the impermanence of our efforts.'). It's a huge, week-long festival in which every single participant is expected to be utterly self-reliant (as there is NO buying/selling on site of anything), while caring for one another, expressing yourself, and leaving no trace when you leave.

Alchemy is a regional version. This year was my very first time attending any burn, so I was a little apprehensive about what to expect.
I'm normally almost an ultralight camper, but since one of the Principles is Radical Self-Reliance, I packed a LOT more than usual so that I wouldn't be That Guy who forgot something important. Thank Goddess for our truck, and the fact that Logan went up very early Thursday-day in the Ural with ours and M's tents and set them up for us, because M and I got there late Thursday night (9:30pm or so), I had to work until 3:30, and then wait for her to get off work. Thankfully, not onyl were our tents already set up, but our camp-mates had already made dinner so there was some for us. Pecan's hubby brought his Big Green Egg and a generator so he smoked amazing meats all weekend long, and my weekend started out with smoked pork butt and rum.
Yes, please!

I didn't wander as much as I probably should have, but I found myself getting overwhelmed a lot. I wandered during the day but stayed close to camp at night, except for the effigy burns. 3000 people got very overwhelming, even scattered across the whole farm (about 50 acres?).
Next year I plan on making myself venture out more at night. 

Our camp was wedged in between the sex tent (a big geodesic dome covered over and full of carpets, mattresses, benches, and baskets of condoms) and the BDSM dungeon tent, so there were some interesting views. My personal favorite was the guy in his late 50's, completely naked, who asked to use our firepit/grill to make sausages one morning. That man had bigger balls than me, to cook sausages in an open pan while naked. 
There was also a little brown-as-a-nut boy playing on the hill with a water fountain and moving rocks to cover the water, completely naked as well. He was adorable. A friend of mine set up their GIANT teepee tent on Silent Hill (no amplified sound or light), and I think i am going to camp there next year. Being just behind Circus Combustus (which is exactly what it sounds like) was rough. 

Friday I wandered a little with the MOOP Fairies I hooked up with- MOOP means Matter Out of Place and is what burners call litter and trash on the ground. (LNT- Leave No Trace- is taken very seriously. Theme camps get shamelessly trolled and lose out on placement options for next year if MOOP is found after they leave) MOOP Fairies are volunteers who walk around on what would be 'litter patrol' anywhere else. But instead of being PITAs like they are in 'default camp' (the real world), people all hugged the MOOP fairies, thanked them, and offered them drinks and food.

Friday night, Father Time (one of the effigys) burned, and there was a moment of hilarious irony as the arm holding the clock refused to burn through and fall like it was supposed to.

Saturday, I wandered a bit more. I saw where friend of mine set up drop boxes all over the farm where people could put in letters and packages to anyone else and he'd deliver them on his bicycle. He was also part of a huge theme camp called Brownie brothel that brought dozens and dozens of brownies and gave them away to people.

I cried hysterically on Saturday night when the main effigy burned- like, literally fell down I was crying so hard- and a random stranger came up and cuddled me and took care of me, and then when I was en route back to my camp, I was hailed by a group of people who cuddled me in front of their fire until I felt better. The best part? None of these people pushed their care-taking on me. The first man knelt down next to me, touched my shoulder gently, and asked if I needed cuddling or to be left alone. I couldn't speak at the time so just leaned into him and sobbed.
Rush, I miss you. You were supposed to be there. 

My friends from Knotley Crewe (A group who do shibari, the decorative rope bondage) suspended people from their geodesic dome and gave them their first experience 'flying', and 2 of them had their amazing steampunk pirate ship (a heavily modified golf cart) stolen by locals and trashed, and Logan and I are going to repair it while Lacey, the owner, is in Japan. 

I worked a shift as a Ranger and went 2 hours over my shift time directing traffic when the same assholes who broke Lacey's cart hit several vehicles in the parking lot and law enforcement had to come on-site to investigate. I had to tell people they couldn't go out to their cars yet, but most people thanked me for helping out even though I was giving them bad news, and offered me water and snacks.

Note: I didn't take any of these pictures. They came from a variety of albums on the Alchemy Facebook group
 Tent City

 Effigy burn, Saturday night

 Totally want this Vardo
 Pieces of the effigy- the entire thing is volunteer-built

 Main effigy burn

 Father Time
 Writing inside the effigy, hopes and wishes to be burned

 Random artwork people took for no reason other than to have it there

 Steampunk Pirate Ship!
 Effigy Build in process
 Father Time burning
 One of the temples set up
Logan on the Ural with a passenger,

I am still processing the whole thing, but it was seriously amazing. Pictures to follow in a minute :)