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I spent the long weekend (when I wasn’t snoozing in the sun under a downy layer of chickens) weeding the borders around the house. When you live in a four hundred year old cottage, the job ain’t so bad.

I always — I mean always — dig up interesting bits of junk. And by “dig up” I mean, more often than not, find lying on the surface, thanks to that curious process by which earth acts like water, drawing objects down and lifting them up again. Fluid but glacially slow.

Today, I dug up part of a tiny pelvis and several long bones. I’ve either exhumed someone’s beloved cat or secret lovechild. Um, oops?

Also, several small lengths of clay pipestem. I find a lot of that. I’ve only found one bowl so far (pictured above) and it’s a very early one. The small bowl and wide angle between it and the stem puts it around 1600-ish, the internet tells me. Maybe the very first owner of this house was the smoker.

Found them by the place where the front door used to be. Imagine the master of the house knocking out his pipe on the threshold before coming in of an evening, and “oh, bugger” it breaks. So he throws it…four centuries into the future.

I find dozens of pottery chips. Makes me laugh. Blue and white could be anything from Delft, 1580 to Woolworths, 1976. Same with the mysterious lumps of rust; they could be anything, any time.

One of these days, I’ll dig up a coin. I know it. I don’t care what it is; I just want some lunch money from the past.

I often think the saddest thing about living in a house this old is how haunted it isn’t; how many people have lived whole lives inside these four walls and left no trace on them. All I have to know them by is little busted up bits of junk they threw out in the yard.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. A really depressing metaphor.


Comment from jwpaine
Time: April 25, 2011, 11:27 pm

I recall a history teacher telling me that the clay pipes (like the long l-o-n-g stemmed ones leprechauns always seem to have) used in Ireland (and I would imagine in Jollye Olde, as well) were used in pubs, and when the mouth-end of it got too crappy or plague-ridden or simply too nasty for even a drunk to stick in his mouth, they simply snapped off a piece of the stem, and voila! Nasti-B-Gon!

So, if it’s mostly stem parts you be findin’, lassie, p’raps yer abode were once a public house. (pardon my sad-sad attempt at writing in a weird Irish-English-pirate brogue)

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: April 25, 2011, 11:42 pm

Look, SWeas, if you’re bemoaning the lack of haunting in that house, either you OR Uncle Badger could take care of that rather quickly.

Of course, you could also choose to make a pact as well, but then neither of you would get to enjoy the haunting…

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: April 26, 2011, 12:05 am

Neonate bones don’t look like much unless you know what you’re looking at, so if you see finished articulating ends to long bones it’s not a baby. It would be interesting to know how old they are, though!

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: April 26, 2011, 12:06 am

A haint caint haint a haint,
My good old man.
A haint caint haint a haint,
My honey. My lamb.

. . .

Comment from Joan of Argghh!
Time: April 26, 2011, 12:07 am

In St. Augustine FL, the city historians (hysterians) would go batshit crazy if you dug up something in your own yard. Your home would immediately become an historic dig, replete with official cordoning off of the property, forcing the homeowner to park elsewhere and said homeowner finding no “elsewhere” because their house has become a science project for the local universities.

So folks were careful to tell the landscapers not to dig too vigorously around the property. Many a landscaper, plumber, and renovator has received large monetary incentives to quietly keep doing their job without reporting anything to the homeowner or the city.

Pffft! As if 500 years is old!

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: April 26, 2011, 12:08 am

I smoked tobac for nigh’on forty years. Started with cheap briar pipes and cheaper cut tobacco. Graduated in later life to a few fine briars. When I smoked cigarettes, I tended to roll my own or smoke Players, English Ovals, Lucky Strike and Camels.

I had a treasure that me Granmum brought back from Williamsburg — a replica clay pipe made in the Dutch style. It took me a month or more to season it, smoking Barney’s “Punchbowle” and other heavy, hand pressed, rolled and cured like Ogden’s “Nut Gone Flake” …..
AND….That is not the vinyl rocker album by Rod Stewart and the Small Faces!

I quit over five years ago. Not easy, especially when a fine shotgun, 30 year old Scotch and the talk of grouse come to the fore…..or a fine split bamboo rod, hand tied leader and tippet, spey casting for Atlantic salmon, (and the same single malt, single cask Islay Scotch whiskey) come to mind.

Yeah I am a tobac, whiskey and fishing and firearm snob from the high and dry hinterlands of Colorado.

M’Daddy always taught me: “Buy (or build) the best tool for the job and you will keep it with ya’ all your life, or its life.

He was w

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 26, 2011, 1:15 am

Joan of Argghh! – over here it tends to be the wildlife zealots who get you. People go to amazing lengths not to notice a particular wild orchid or type of newt on ‘their’ property.

That said, a house I once looked at had a legal prohibition on digging in the garden below about a foot, because they knew there were archaeological remains there.

Not much use for a badger, of course.

Sven – Stoatie and I still lament the loss of smoking impedimenta, too. And that’s before either of us even gets to thinking about the gentle comfort of the wicked weed itself.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: April 26, 2011, 1:18 am

Back in Wisconsin, I new a guy who dug up a Mammoth he got a nice write-off from the museum.

Your chickens are very nice.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: April 26, 2011, 1:52 am

I’m sure that England is much Like California–you can’t dig anywhere without digging up something archeological.

Comment from Oh Hell
Time: April 26, 2011, 3:23 am

A local gentleman had property with some old dead trees on it by a creek. Said property was to be his retirement $$. Local Greenie/save the earth/screw the people types told him he couldn’t develop the property because the dead trees “might” be nesting sites for eagles. Chain saw meet dead tree. Problem solved.
I have nothing against eagles (or most other birds of prey) but people gotta live too…..

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: April 26, 2011, 4:59 am

Sven, firearms snobbery is to a large extent based on what use you put them to. A bird hunter would want a Purdy, a elk hunter a Wheatherby, rather than just a plain Remington 870, or 700. While I, a Badger, am considered a snob by other Piggy Wigs, because my sidearm is a Heckler & Koch, rather than a GLOCK, or a S&W.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 26, 2011, 9:55 am

Now that’s classy, cousin Scott!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 26, 2011, 10:07 am

Well, see what you think of it, Nina. I only see one epiphysis (or is a physis at that end?). Thumb is for scale (yes, I broke a nail):

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 26, 2011, 10:27 am

Heh. The cat’s in the flower bed, sunning herself. I reached over to give her a scratch, and there were two more fragments of clay pipe stem on the surface of the ground next to her.

That’s so spooky — they’re always clean and just lying there.

Comment from Oceania
Time: April 26, 2011, 12:13 pm

Maybe it is an ancient Indian burial ground?
It could be Cursed …

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 26, 2011, 2:10 pm

Not a whole lot of Indians in Sussex.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: April 26, 2011, 2:18 pm

Not anymore….

Comment from Mark Matis
Time: April 26, 2011, 2:18 pm

Not even India Indians? As opposed to the ‘merican Indians?

Comment from MikeW
Time: April 26, 2011, 2:36 pm

Hey Swease, you have given some thought to those who will come after you in the next few hundred years, have’t you?

I’d say it’d be a fine occasional hobby to bury things which future owners will find, clean off, and go “What the…?” Some replicas of ancient fertility artifacts, perhaps?

Comment from Oldcat
Time: April 26, 2011, 3:04 pm

Mike, I was thinking the same thing – Weasel industriously firing little clay tablets with weasels and the blog’s URL on them and burying them all over the county.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 26, 2011, 4:00 pm

I have enjoyed stuffing the odd cracks in the walls with pages from the Providence Journal circa 2008.

Anyhow, what can I do to top the machine gun that’s buried out there somewhere?

Comment from David Gillies
Time: April 26, 2011, 4:05 pm

Sven, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake was in the Steve Marriott era, before Stewart came along.

P. J. O’Rourke had a nice analogy to show how counter-productive the enforced conservation of the Greens is: imagine you find a Rembrandt in your attic. Bonanza, right? Now imagine you are forced, by the State, to conserve it, display it, to grant the general public unrestricted access to it and, above all, not to profit from it (‘cos it’s everyone’s resource, innit?) Rational response: burn it immediately and don’t tell anyone. Get a bunch of endangered moths on your land and you don’t even get treasure trove like when you dig up a hoard of Saxon coins. If I found newts in my well I’d tip ten gallons of bleach down there pronto, and I love amphibians.

Comment from Sven in Colorado
Time: April 26, 2011, 10:47 pm

David Gillies,
Thanks for the correction.

Badgers both,
Purdey, Holland and Holland — both fine English SXS doubles with a provenance to support their price. There are a pair of younger men who left the snooty Purdey stable and opened their own shop. Its been a few years, and I cannot recall the name….dammit! They tend toward O/U and not SXS. Brilliant craftsman, and prices that a well paid engineer or tradesman might afford.

I tend to like the American doubles: Baker, Fox, LeFever, Ithaca and Browning. I shoot a Browning O/U 12ga. Citori. I cannot count the number of dove, pheasant, chukar, grouse and waterfowl that old workhorse has brought to table. I have an old Baker standard that longs for a new stock. It is a box lock with a splinter front. 32″ barrels, 2 3/4 shells, choked Full/Full. It was my great uncle’s waterfowl piece. I have brought down a couple of doves using very light loads. The stock is so badly cracked, I dare not use a heavier load.

Weatherby be damned! — I would prefer a Dakota Arms or a well made custom rifle built on a strong Mauser 98 or pre- 1964 Winchester action. I shoot two Mausers. One is the venerable 7mm Mauser (7X57) and, my favorite chambered for .270 with a Shilen barrel and a Timney trigger.

(And yes, I have a friend who is a talented gunsmith and riflemaker! He built both for me.)

There is a part of me that longs to find a way to afford a trip to the Scottish Highlands and shoot grouse on the “Glorious 12th”…tweed and all.

Comment from JT2
Time: May 6, 2011, 5:17 pm

Get a metal detector, and have at it!!

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