My resume includes years of wandering in the woods, the place I’m most comfortable in this world, as well as living in this old house of ours where I’m even more comfortable.
The occupation I had for the longest time was a Restorer of Antique Furniture - I “peeled back the years” of history to get to the original state of pieces of furniture. I’m applying the same techniques to this home of ours to do the same, keeping in mind that my limited budget allows me to keep intact some historic changes that are part of the house’s history.
This is a long story – I may have to return as a ghost to ever finish the project- and I don’t want to get distracted by going into it too much.
It’s all a part of an ability to see things as they were, a natural talent to which self education eventually added up to some sort of notoriety to be able to be considered quite good.
My wanderings sometimes led to puzzling bits of stonework and I relied a lot on the works of Eric Sloane to explain some puzzles to me. He even had a great explanation for Zigzag stonewalls. It’s the one almost everybody uses as they write about them.
Before I started this blog, I posted that explanation at my friend’s fine blog:
But I found another scan from an old floppy disc:
I accepted that explanation for the longest time until I read about Indian Fences here and there, including the first two before coming up with my own idea based on other rows nowhere near vast areas of floodplains where I live, much of it still cornfields and hayfields etc.
I developed a hunger for information and read local and not so local histories and journals and books and eventually found my sister Joan had a book she’d used as a student at UCONN.
"What most impressed English visitors was the Indians' burning of extensive sections of the surrounding forest once or twice a year. 'The Salvages,' wrote Thomas Morton, 'are accustomed to set fire of the Country in all places where they come, and to burne it twize a yeare, viz: at the Spring, and the fall of the leafe.'
"Here was the reason that the southern forests were so open and parklike; not because the trees naturally grew thus, but because the Indians preferred them so. As William Wood observed, the fire 'consumes all the underwood and rubbish which otherwise would overgrow the country, making it unpassable, and spoil their much affected hunting.' The result was a forest of large, widely spaced trees, few shrubs, and much grass and herbage. 'In these places where the Indians inhabit,' said Wood, 'there is scarce a bush or bramble or any cumbersome underwood to be seen in the more champion ground.'
"By removing underwood and fallen trees, the Indians reduced the total accumulated fuel at ground level. With only small nonwoody plants to consume, the annual fires moved quickly, burned with relatively low temperatures and soon extinguished themselves. They were more ground fires than forest fires, not usually involving larger trees, and so they rarely grew out of control. Fires of this kind could be used to drive game for hunting, to clear fields for planting, and, on at least one occasion, to fend off European invaders."
Elsewhere in the book, Cronon writes that this is a generalization and that such things are best studied at the local level. “Soon extinguished themselves” was an idea that seemed a little haphazard, and looking at distinct areas never cultivated around where I lived (and those Native People as well) led me to think about control of these fires. You wouldn't want to recklessly burn up everything around you:
Some more Cronan:
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England
by William CrononPaperback - 241 pages 1st Ed. edition (June 1984) Hill & Wang Pub; ISBN: 0809001586
From what looks like some sort of homework assignment I found “Things To think About…” where I like the last question best since I’d reply “Look at some stonework that might be ancient.”
(and a link to