Homestead Archaeologist: Unearthing History on a Rural Property


Welcome to the Boonies

The table on our front porch that greets you with the “Welcome to the Boonies” sign is also decorated with odds and ends showcasing items of interest that we’ve found over the years. There is something about making discoveries on the land, of finding artifacts both natural and human-made, that mimics the joy of what Buddhists call beginner’s sight or Christians observe in a child on Christmas morning. Such finds also often pave the way for unanticipated creative meanders and side projects.

Over the years of living on the farm, we’ve come across a number of ‘finds” that have brought about childlike wonder and/or adult reflection, reminding us of our place in the natural order and the history of this particular piece of land. It only seems fitting to display our found treasures for all to see as we foster a spirit of show-and-tell.

Clay, Hematite and Geodes, Oh My!

Clay pot  geode

Clay. For a gardener, clay can be a blessing or a curse. It didn’t take long to determine that we had the latter in our garden, but as we continued to investigate soil types around the farm, we found several types of clay, especially near a hillside spring which feeds our well. Like many before us, we dug and soaked the clay to purify it before trying our hand at sculpting. A small coil vessel resulted which led us to think about how we might fire our rudimentary creation into pottery. Before we knew it, we were well down the road much traveled by humans over the ages, down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. We nestled the coil vessel in a sand-filled cast iron pot and “fired” it in the heart of our burn pile. Intrigued by the results, we signed up for a pottery class at a local adult education program! Such are the journeys unleashed by the joy of discovery on the land; you never know where they will lead.

Hematite. Rock hounding or amateur geology is a common pastime at the farm. When even a walk down the quarter-mile driveway invariably yields some new treasure, it’s hard to resist learning about objects that sparkle or reveal unique colors, inclusions or patterns. One rock that we’ve found in abundance is hematite. A quick internet search on yielded the fact that hematite is one of the most abundant minerals on the Earth’s surface and the most important ore of iron. Next thing I know, we’re looking into methods of forging or smelting the raw material, investigating Celtic forges to extract the ore, newly cognizant of the bounty of the land.

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