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Janel

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How lovely! Our sense of history in Minnesota is skewed differently. We were watching a public television program on the movement west of the pioneers and settlers, when Will remarked about the date of some events. He said that his grandfather was alive at that time, in the last half of the 1800's, and he knew his grandfather, who lived and farmed about 40 miles from here. Here in Sunrise, Minnesota, the history of the town goes back to the mid 1800's when it was for a short while the location of one of the first four land offices, where settlers would go to register claims on land they hoped to farm and live upon. There is history here, but the old history is claimed by the original people, the native Americans, who lived here for thousands of years. Their story is not easy to learn, much lays hidden, nor is it pleasant to learn about as this land was being claimed by the Europeans.

 

Thank you for the photos Freda. I wish that I were there!

 

Janel

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Durham's a lovely city, Janel; one of my favourites. We came back laden with wild rabbit, venison, local cheeses and some butcher-made sausages from Hexham (a smaller market town not far from Hadrian's Wall). Here's one of the old town gate, bordering the market square and the abbey. It's basically Norman with some Early English and later additions:

 

post-1947-1255705859.jpg

 

Nice to hear about Minnesota. I expect archaeology in the area would turn up some interesting pre-European artifacts/settlements. Has much been done in that way?

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Yes, a little archaeology was done about 40 miles north at a fur trading post on the Snake River, which is a tributary to the Saint Croix River. This is upriver from the confluence of the Sunrise River and the Saint Croix River. My location, the small town of Sunrise is on the Sunrise River, about a mile and a quarter upriver from the confluence.

 

Around 30 years ago, a fur trade post reenactment director/historian brought me along when he visited a site in Wisconsin due north and a bit east from home, to see the initial excavations of a dig at the site of an Indian village, along a small river or stream. I have lot track of any further development of the site, but the visit was memorable.

 

I have only unearthed artifacts from the old hotel and barn (~1850's) site that exited on my property. The government road, first roadway between the confluence of the Saint Croix River and the Mississippi, and Superior, Wisconsin/Duluth, Minnesota, passed through Sunrise which was a stage coach stop in those days.

 

When I moved here, the children of the settlers were aging, and spoke with distinct Swedish accents, having lived with their parents' home country language as children. They are all gone now. The flavor of and connection to the past is now only a recollection by those of us who are old enough to remember them.

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Interesting, Janel, and many thanks. Places always hold more history than appears at first glance.

 

My house was built on the site of a piggery (not much in the way of artifacts found!) on the banks of a canal, itself built in the 18thC, that runs from Glasgow to Edinburgh. It's only in the last few years that Glasgow City Council has decided it has a treasure and a resource on its hands. When I first moved here, the canal, its locks, tow paths and grass borders, cottages and factories were neglected and crumbling. Now there's a massive renovation and conservation programme under way, which means more people are using it - in summer, at least - instead of the one intrepid old man and his dog, out in all weathers, as was the case. Part of it has meant that we are seeing more and different water birds on the canal, including herons and the lone cormorant, and a greater variety of other birds and fish in the area, as well as foxes, squirrels, field mice, coypus and the usual frogs and toads. The Council's also been (for once!) wise enough to leave certain bits wild, which means we, personally, won't be deprived of free blackberries, wild raspberries, sloes and crab apples over the garden wall. There's not much in the way of good wood to cull, though, more's the pity, but I keep looking.

 

This is about half a mile from where I live:

 

http://tinyurl.com/yfpypzj

 

And these, a quarter of a mile in the other direction:

 

http://tinyurl.com/yl9dsam

 

http://tinyurl.com/yjzyugj

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Thank you for the links to the location photos. What a combination of picturesque and mundane. The contemporary buildings are certainly not picturesque up against the historic buildings and water craft. It is good to know that the Glasgow City Council has been taking action towards conservation, and that the canal appears to be a healthier ecosystem nowadays.

 

It is very interesting that your home is on the site of a piggery. Is the main house of that earlier property still in existence? How very interesting to have such deep history of thousands of years habitation surrounding you, evident in traces of structures and division of lands.

 

Such a contrast to where I live, where the prehistory is just a couple centuries back, with scant noticeable evidence, with written records only from the fur trade and logging companies that were active here when the first Europeans explored the Woodland Indian lands.

 

Here is a link to the archaeological site that I visited. It has become a public open museum: Forts Folle Avoine Historical Park. I recall now that when our son was young we visited during a summer rendezvous. It was quite changed from the time that I saw it in the late 1970's.

 

I also recall that the same historian brought me to visit an (amateur?) archaeologist, nearer the Pine City Fur Post, who had a collection of pottery shards from early Woodland Indian habitation around his land and farm, and perhaps the fur post site. It is a very vague memory now. It was interesting to see the hand marks from the hand-formed, curved shards and to hold the historic artifacts. Textured by finger and tool, the local tight clays opened up with clam shell bits and perhaps some grass, to help the clay hold together while forming and firing. Having been a potter in those days, the visit was quite humbling. I believe that I have an archaeologist's book about the early native pottery from the region.

 

During those early years here, I did experiment with our own dense red clay deposits, adding local sand and other ingredients to see how the clay responded. This particular clay was very pure and seemed greasy, so much care was needed to produce a workable clay. Needless to say, it was not easy to prepare the clay, and never became a part of my production of pottery for sale.

 

What a tangent to go off on! I could pull it back to small sculpture by mentioning the small clay figures found along a stream called Hay Creek that flows through fields into the Sunrise about a mile upriver. I learned about them from the children (old folks in the late 70's) of the settlers here who played along this stream and found the clay figures, likely made by the earlier inhabitants of this region. It is oral history, I never did see the artifacts.

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What a combination of picturesque and mundane

 

It is. It and the quietness are why I like it here. One minute you think you're in the depths of the country; next, you're in the midst of urban grot; after that, you're seeing either historic walls and small houses/derelict workshops or 30's-style factories. Added to that, it takes us five minutes to escape Glasgow altogether and to be out where the cows are. There wasn't a house with the piggery. Evidently, it was a commercial concern and the owner lived elsewhere in the area.

 

Thank you for the link to the dig (I'll read it in depth after posting this) and your experience of local clay and artifacts. My garden was also mostly grey clay when I moved here, though full of tile shards from the piggery and bits of brick and mortar crumbling from the original canal wall which serves as my back garden wall. I did the same as you did; watered it, sieved it and mixed it with some sand. It had a very clogged feeling and wouldn't have worked up well, though I could have taken it into the local community pottery and done something with it, out of curiosity. Sometimes, life is just too short!

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Rather than kiln testing to the limited range the local potters would normally fire to*, you could do a primitive firing as the earliest people did. The South West native cultures use dung to fire the pots, other cultures use sticks and twigs... and so on. I've tried it, and had fun with it. Important preparation, make sure the piece is not thick in any part, and warm up the clay fairly slowly, then add fuel to bring the inside of the fire to a red orange heat. You can smother the flames under a can which might produce a darkening of the results, or you may let the fuel be consumed for a oxidized clay color. It can be very interesting to play with.

 

*the local clay may melt at one or the other of their usual temperatures... not a good thing to do to the kiln shelves...

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Um, the clay's now been broken up with sand, humous and compost, Janel. It was too heavy to dig and grow a variety of plants in as it was.

 

On building kilns, I had a go many years ago, using the old method of putting the pots on logs, surrounding them with a wall and roof of logs, leaving a flue and a couple of stuffable smoke holes, and then covering them with layers of soil and turf, dug carefully from the area where the logs were laid, then lighting the logs using lots of burning straw and an old bellows. It took about a day, then another few hours of careful raking away little by little, so that the pots didn't explode on cooling. The results were interesting - from misshapen pots to many-hued pots, mostly red to black, or grey to black, and a few perfectly fired. It got me interested in raku firing, but I never got round to building a kiln and sawdust burner for that.

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:blink: I like your firing story! There are so many different things one could try, but as time passes we narrow down what to focus on.

 

Your description of breaking the clay up rings a familiar chord with us here, well done. We use loads of rabbit manure and compost now, but in the first decade, I used rotten hay and straw (acquired for a cheap price) to mulch the plants and rows between. The worms and insects did the work of mixing the organic materials into the soil. Now we just top-dress with rabbit manure in the spring before much growth has occurred, and watch the lovelies grow. Weeding is also easier too, the material acts as a mulch as well as a soil amendment.

 

What hard work it must have been to break into the heavy soil at first. Now it must be more pleasant gardening work for you.

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