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Toy Soldiers and. . . Cross-Country Skiing??!!


Too much to do here in Stollen Centrale lately! We had a long weekend cross-country skiing up in the northern part of Lower Michigan last weekend, and the shortened week back has been busy.  Meetings (and related email) seem to multiply in one's absence.  But there has been one saving grace.  The snow and cold here has meant that skiing has continued along local trails whenever a free window has appeared.
Today (Saturday) will see me make some time to complete glossing on the last dozen or so of my version of Austria's Wied Infantry. I've also discovered a group of six that still need some of their brass buttons painted (Grrr. . .).  If all goes well, I might even be able to transfer the 60+ figures to their permanent 3mm ply bases tonight or Sunday.  
Watch this space for a few photographs of the completed unit.

Next in the queue, 15 Minden (or Fife & Drum) jaegers to paint as a generic unit although those of Ansbach-Bayreuth, in particular, will inform my brushwork to no small degree. These are the first of 100+ or so planned for this year's painting
(135-ish figures) .
The various pictoral references above, which include two or three Troiani illustrations, feature either Hessian, or Ansbach-Bayreuth troops of the AWI in North America among others plus a Knoetel print showing troops from the 1790s.  Because, you know, you just can't ignore a good ol' Knoetel reference even when falling slightly outside the parameters of the 1740s-1760s.  Not too terribly different though from many of the uniforms worn by other 'German' jaegers of the period, so I'm simply shooting (ha-ha) for a pleasant generic look for the figures that wait in the wings here at the moment.  
The completed unit, which will also include 15 generic 'Double Blue' frei-infanterie, will eventually replace a unit of 30 Holger Eriksson jagers, painted by John Preece, that featured in the Sittangbad refight way back in 2006.  I really like those figures, and am happy to have them in the overall collection, but they don't quite fit in with rest of my tabletop units given the lack of variation in poses that many of us prefer for our "light" units.  
John's jaegers will become display pieces above my painting desk to spur me forward through continued brushwork toward my self-imposed goal of painting and collecting two Grant-sized armies of about seven to 10 line infantry units each with supporting cavalry, infantry, artillery, and some skirmishers.  Whatever our stated aims, we're never really "done," are we?
But I am getting ahead of myself!

In the meantime, more family skiing planned for tomorrow (Sunday) at an area park about 25 minutes south of here, which has a more extensive network of (groomed) trails, which always means even more fun to be had. Breaking trail is fun too, and the Grand Duchess actually prefers that kind of skiing, but I like the speed offered by groomed snow.  As an aside, and you might never believe it, but with all of the bodily motion involved with cross-country skiing, one is not cold after the first five or 10 minutes.  It's right up there with swimming and cycling for full-body workouts.
Contrary to popular notion, cross-country skiing is anything but dull.  Schussing down hills at speed, navigating turns at the bottom, and achieving a fast glide on flats (or even uphill when conditions and stride are in synch) provide as much of a thrill as any downhill (Alpine) jaunt where skiers must depend on a lift or towline to get 'em to the top of a hill.  The Young Master, in particular, has become a speed demon the last two seasons.  It's really quite something to behold.

For my part, last weekend saw me wipe out several times atop a newly arrived (from Norway) pair of racing skis, which I ordered a year ago, my first equipment upgrade in 23 years.  Skinner, lighter, and faster waxable skis meant a learning curve, which included a spectacular face plant as I neared the bottom of one hill, much to the Young Master's amused delight.  It was like going from a 1970s-era Volvo station wagon to a Lamborghini!  But I got the hang of things by Day Two, and was handling descents with aplomb even achieving forward glide on climbs by the end of Day Three, which was something new. 
A charming side effect of these family ski trips is seeing my wife and child enjoy themselves.  The Grand Duchess has skied for over 40 years since she was a girl -- Our first true "date" was on skis outside of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota back in February 2001 -- and we have had the Young Master on skis since the winter after he turned five (2014-2015).  Watching the pair descend a wooded trail at speed and emerge from the treeline at the bottom, in particular, warmed my heart in a way that is difficult to describe.  I lack video footage sadly, but when tinkering with your phone or camera, you tend to miss a lot other special family moments.  I have that wonderful memory in my mind's eye nevertheless. 

But the absolute coolest aspect of our ski getaway last weekend was seeing and chatting with all of the ski enthusiasts in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, who are still zipping around on skate skis like they are teenagers.  Skate skiing, a slightly different cross-county technique than the classic skiing the Young Master and I do, is something that the Grand Duchess -- an accomplished cyclist, speed skater, and downhill skier who also does classic diagonal stride skiing -- is learning currently, and something I hope to take up myself in the next couple of years.  
In any case, discussion of the trails skied so far that day, kick waxes, technique, and equipment with these more seasoned and still very active skiers is a fascinating sideline of the activity.  Not unlike chatting about our preferred figures, paints, brushes, tabletop terrain, and planned games in the wargaming hobby.   In short, you cannot help but feel inspired and enthused.  

Clearly approaching old age needn't mean sitting in the shade beneath a tartan lap blanket tended by a buxom nurse ala Benny Hill or the Carry On films (I was always more a Bob Todd man myself).  Although the threat of that particular fate, on reflection, has its potential  charms. . .  But I digress! 

As for the Stollens, we're headed north again in two weeks to a new ski area on Saturday, Black Mountain Nordic Ski Trails (Cheboygan, Michigan) with lessons at our favorite place thus far, Forbush Corner Nordic Center (Frederic, MI) Sunday morning.  Because, you know, there is always room to improve one's technique.  Can't wait!  
In the meantime, I hope to make some headway on those 15 Fife & Drum jaegers, which were part of a Christmas gift from the Grand Duchess just last month.  Chaaaaarge!  
-- Stokes



Chris Kemp said…
Skiing ... I'm envious :-)

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