In addition to cats, a farm needs dogs. Especially in coyote/wolf/cougar/bear country. We saw a black bear in our backyard a couple of evenings ago. A little one, but that suggests there may be a Momma bear around.

These puppies are half German Shepherd, half Great Dane. So they should be about the right size to scare off animals and protect the kids.


The brown one is
Gertie, and the black one is Freya. Their Dad’s name is Odin, so we’re continuing the Norse mythology theme (Mom’s name is Isis, which is also cool, although not Norse).

Barn Painting and Scaffolding

Today we started the week with an early trip to town for building supplies. I got lumber, nails, and other hardware, and
Steph got white paint to brighten up the corner of the barn that’s going to house the animals we’re getting this week. After she had put a can of white stain on the bare walls, the kids came in and painted animals and flowers. It should be a nice bright spot for the new animals to live in -- at least it will make us happy when we visit them!

My task today was trying to figure out how to get the roof built on the henhouse. I thought I’d be able to use the extension ladder as a platform, and stand on 2x4s. But I’m not that sure-footed and I’m not that good with heights. I managed to get the 12 foot support for the back of the ridgepole set up, and the temporary front support (there’s no center support on the front because there’s going to be a door there). When I tried to get up on the horizontal ladder and nail the ridgepole to the temporary front support, I was forced to admit I needed scaffolding. There was no way I was going to be able to stand on three 2x4s at six feet and nail a 15 foot ridgepole to a 2x4 another six feet up. In the first place I’m not that tall. And if I fall on my head, my projects will come to a pretty screeching halt.

Luckily there’s a rental place in town that has everything you could possibly need at reasonable rates. I shot down there and got the pieces I needed. Things went much smoother after that. It’s a heck of a lot easier to concentrate on doing the job when I’m not constantly thinking about falling. Like Clint says, you’ve gotta know your limitations.

I almost finished the roof joists. Will complete that and install the roof tomorrow before I have to bring back the scaffolding. That means another early trip for supplies, and I may as well get the wallboard at the same time I get the roofing material. I’m going to try translucent suntuf panels. They come in 2 foot by 8 foot sheets, so I’m going to need the scaffolding to get them up on top. But with luck, I’ll have that all done by tomorrow evening, which is when I said I’d bring back the scaffolding. In the last photo, I’ve already taken down the second story of scaffolding, because I was running out of space inside the structure. Couldn’t add any more roof rafters with the scaffolding sticking up there!

Boy, it’s nice to have the right tools...


It’s the weekend, so I mowed the lawn over the septic system and planted blueberries and a couple of apple trees. I got the eight blueberry bushes online from Berries Unlimited. Five different varieties, all supposedly good for zone three. A mixture of early, early-mid, and mid-season bushes. If I keep them very wet through the rest of the summer, we should have berries in the spring.

While I was out this morning looking for peat moss to mix with the soil (I also incorporated some aluminum sulphate to pull down the pH a bit), I stopped by Nature’s Edge Garden Center. Chad didn’t have a bale of peat (but he directed me to Ace Hardware, where they did), but he was selling off his fruit trees cheap. Bought too many this spring, he said, and he didn’t want to carry them over the winter. They were a screaming deal. So I got two apples, and planted them in the fruit tree row on the top of the hill.

It's a Grind!

We now have two indoor cats and three barn kittens. Next week we’re getting two puppies, and in the late fall a third. We had good luck feeding our dog in New Hampshire a raw diet, so we thought we might try that here. In Keene, we were able to buy frozen blocks of ground raw chicken from the small meat market up the road. Here, no one is really doing that yet. So we decided to do it ourselves.

A little back-of-an-envelope math suggests that three big working dogs are going to eat 18-20 thirty-three pound bags of chow a year. Five cats are likewise going to eat about 20 twenty pound bags of cat food. If we used a decent supermarket brand like Iams, we’d be looking at about $1,500 in annual petfood costs. If we used a premium brand, it would be more. A lot more.

On the other hand, we could grind fresh meat for all the animals. This meat could come from a variety of sources, at a variety of costs. Some of it could come from the farm or from fishing, and would be very very cheap. But let’s look at the worst case scenario, and assume we went to the supermarket and bought people food, and ground it up for the animals. How would that compare?

We started out today with four whole chickens at 95 cents per pound. I dismembered them a little bit (note to self: sharp knives are more efficient and safer!), and then Steph fed them through the grinder for a coarse grind. The machine gobbled up skin, organs, meat, and bones, as fast as we could stuff chicken into the top. Then we changed to the fine extruder, and I fed the rough mix through again. This not only ground the chicken finer, but also mixed the meat, organs, bones and marrow into a nice uniform paste that looked just like the chicken-burger you get at the store. Most of that went into forms Steph placed in the freezer so we’ll have bags of serving-sized chicken for several weeks, from about an hour’s work this morning.

If the animals
eat between three and four pounds of raw meat daily, we’ll save from $100 to $500 in the first year. That will pay for the grinder. And chances are, our animals will be healthier and fitter as a result. We’d save even more, of course, if we added fillers like rice to the mix. But let’s be real, fillers are one of the reasons commercial pet foods lead to obese pets.

The kittens inhaled it.

Of course, it’s having a large number of animals to feed that makes this economical. We wouldn’t be able to do it this efficiently with just one dog or two cats. But it would still be healthier for single pets to eat a raw diet. Something to think about…

Later in the day, I worked on the henhouse some more. I set the base plates, cut the posts so they were all level at the top, and framed the sidewalls. Then I threw some of the dirt I had previously removed onto the floor, to protect the hardware cloth. I placed the studs so that I’ll be able to hang nesting boxes between them. I’m going to build the nesting boxes in stacks two across. So some of the gaps are two feet, and others are closer to three (for the Jersey Giant hens). It will all make sense later in the process. But it was fun cutting and hammering, and it’s nice that this structure is finally starting to look like something!

Got Worms?

We got our worms this morning, from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. I gave them some water to wake them up, and split them between the three compost bins. Their job is to eat everything the animals won’t eat, and to process the animals’ waste into compost for the gardens. As much as possible, we’d like to capture all the nutrients available biologically, and minimize the fertilizers coming from off the farm. I kept an eye on the worms throughout the day to make sure they were hydrated and not being eaten by robins before they could get to work. I also got a few seed-packs of heritage greens from “Uncle Jim” for the fall garden, but I put them aside for later.

After I put out the worms, I got back to work on the henhouse. I cut and leveled the base plates, then started cutting the one inch hardware cloth for the floor. This process was interrupted by rain a couple of times, but in the end I got all the pieces cut, and the two end pieces fastened to the 10 foot base plates. Then came the hard work.

Bending 16 gauge wire to lace these panels together was difficult. I did some of that, but mostly I cut short pieces of wire and made “twisties” every three of four inches. Hopefully these and the one inch overlap between sheets will stop any critters getting through to eat our birds. There’s a foot of extra mesh on each long side, which I’m going to fold upward and nail to the joists. I’ll add a couple more of these extensions on the front and back, to discourage animals trying to get in at the base of the walls.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish setting out the floor and fastening the baseplates. Then I’ll be able to start framing the sidewalls, and the thing will start to look like a structure!

Footings and Kittens

Today I got back to work on the chicken house.  I measured again, dug holes at each of the corners, and set the posts I’d brought from the sandbox in Keene.  They were still in their concrete footings.  The concrete was all kinds of overkill for a sandbox with a little fort and slide, but it sure came in handy today!
Digging post holes was less of a chore than I’d imagined it would be.  We have about six inches of topsoil here, and beneath that is a nice layer of sand.  In one spot I actually made it down to a clay layer below the sand, but it didn’t give me any trouble.  There were some bigger stones in the sand (evidence that farmers before me had removed the stones from the upper layer, I guess), but they were handy for bracing the posts when it came time to level them.
I had two concerns with these posts: making them straight up and down, and making them exactly 10 and 15 feet apart, top and bottom.  I used two braces in each direction, one for the top measurement, one for the bottom.  It actually worked great, once I figured out how to keep the high braces up high while I was attaching them.  I tried just balancing the other end on the top of the far post, but the 2x4 kept falling and I ended up with a bruised finger and a bent temper for a couple of minutes. Once again, the old sandbox from Keene was the solution.  There were big eyehooks on top of each post, which once had rope through them for hanging cloth. Steph had used them to make tents and shelters for the kids.  I used them to attach a bungie, so I wouldn’t need another person to hold up one side, while I was nailing the other. 
Long story short, I got the braces up, leveled the posts, and poured rocks and concrete into the holes.  Once again, this was found material.  The rocks were the ones that had come up in the digging process, and the Quikrete was the remains of two bags I found in the garage when we arrived here. 
So I have four corners of a henhouse.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll dig out the floor a little more, set the base plates and lay out the hardware cloth that’s hopefully going to stop predators from getting our birds. This is going to be a deep-bedding-over-dirt style henhouse, so I need to prevent critters from burrowing under the walls. Mark the insurance guy, who has been raising chickens around here for over twenty years, poured a concrete floor and wrapped the edge with a course of blocks. I’m still hoping that won’t be necessary, because I was convinced by
Harvey Ussery’s description of deep bedding, and want to give it a try.

Steph spent part of the afternoon shoveling away at the manure floor of the shelter behind the barn where the horses were kept.  It’s deep, and will make good worm food, then good compost!  She filled each of the three sections of the composter with a good foot or so for a base layer, and I watered it down.  Tomorrow, we should have worms to throw on the pile…

One last thing that happened today: Steph read a craigslist ad this morning from someone giving away kittens.  We had already determined we’d need a couple of barn cats.  Heather wrote an interesting piece on the role of cats on the frontier for
The Historical Society’s blog this week, and our reasoning was pretty much the same (except not the part about mice eating my beard!).  Just goes to show how some things don’t change (the need for cats), while some things do (once they were rare and expensive, now they’re free to a good home).   In the end, we went looking for two and came home with three. Their names, from left to right, are Quintus Maximus (or just Max), Iorek Byrnison (from The Golden Compass), and Tommy (or Tom-tom, or Thomas). Hours and hours of fun…



In spite of the fact that we’re going to have dogs and chickens — omnivores who ought to eat most of our table scraps and garden waste — I took some time out from the henhouse project today to put together a composter. It has three sections, and we’ll probably fill at least one when we clean out the shelter behind the barn where the previous owners kept their horses.

I used old lumber, mostly pieces from the old sandbox I disassembled in Keene and brought along. If you look closely, you can see where the kids painted some of the boards. These are cedar, so they should be fairly rot-resistant. They were also precut into sizes I could use without any modifying. The couple of pieces of pine I had to add from the pile in the barn all went up off the ground. Those were the only three pieces I had to cut. I didn’t get it completely done with found materials, though. The chicken wire around the outside is new (it’s really nice Redbrand wire from the coop, as a matter of fact), but I managed to salvage a couple of old scraps for the dividers between the sections. And I used up nearly a box of nails and a whole box of staples. But all in all, about $25 and half a day’s work. We’ll start filling it tomorrow, and then we’ll see how the worms like it when they arrive.

(Carrying away the remaining pieces of Keene cedar. I’ll find another use for them soon…)

Gardenagerie, Week 1

Day One

The morning began early: 5:30 or so, when I woke in a hotel room in northern Wisconsin. I looked out the window to verify that the truck was where I had left it and hadn’t been messed with during the night. We’d asked for a room overlooking the truck parking in the back of the hotel, but since they gave us a room facing the street and the front parking lot, I had moved the truck to the front and parked it in six or seven spaces (with the other two vehicles in the two spaces in front of the cab, so I’d be sure to be able to get out), We began the breakfast/quick packing/sneak-the-cats-out routine we’d mastered during the course of this trip, excited that this would be our last hotel stay.

We still had several hours to drive to reach our destination, and we arrived at the farm about lunchtime. The grass had been mown, and the lot looked tidy and well-kept. The trees had filled in nicely (when I’d been out here in May, the oaks were still flowering and hadn’t really leafed out yet), and the house was well-sheltered from the dirt road in front. I called Steve the realtor to tell him we’d arrived early, and he said he’d come out immediately to do the walk-through with us rather than wait until 2:00 (everybody is incredibly nice here).

Steve came out, we walked through the house, and he let us leave the cats in the garage, which was a big relief. Freddy had cried pretty much the whole way from New Hampshire, and although she didn’t complain a lot, Meowie had been carsick several times.

We went to town, since the way we’d arrived went through the woods, and I wanted to show the family how close we were to town, and I to show off the town; and stopped at the food coop. We got some lunch and joined the coop (the first of many coops we’d be joining in the coming days). Then we went back to the farm. The kids were thrilled with the old swing-set and the huge yard, and just happy to be out of the car. So we threw a couple of blankets down under the trees and left them (with big sister Sofie) to play when we headed down to the closing.

The closing went fine. We came back and opened the house up. Although we were tired, we couldn’t help but start unpacking the truck. Did that for a couple of hours, during which Steve the realtor stopped by with four take and bake pizzas! So we had our first meal and sat on the back porch watching the hummingbirds dart around the feeder. For a moment, it seemed like “hummingbird habitat” might be a better name than Gardenagerie…

We got the mattresses out of the truck, and threw them on the appropriate floors. As the sun set we turned off the air and opened the windows. It’s quiet here. If you listen very hard, you can hear a road in the distance. Sometimes trains. But these are faint sounds, and are easily drowned out by the beating of finches’ wings or the buzz of hummingbirds.

Day two began at about 6:30 AM, when I woke on the bed on the floor of my new bedroom. Outside the windows, tree branches waved in a gentle breeze, in front of an overcast sky. It had been light for what seemed like hours, and I vaguely remembered waking once or twice before, and deciding it was too early to get up.

There was no coffee, so I had a glass of cold water. There was no food to speak of, so I had a fig newton. I figured we’d go out to breakfast when everyone was awake, and I’d get my dose of caffeine soon enough.

In the meantime, there was still half a truck to unload. We’d made a good start on it the evening before, but the stuff toward the front was heavier (books!), and it was stacked floor to ceiling. Luckily I had the dolly, so I moved piles of boxes at a time, down the ramp and into the garage. Steph and Sofie helped with the remaining furniture, and by 9:00 we had just about everything out. The final heavy pieces were the kitchen table and the sofa, which had to go around to the back of the house and enter by the sliding door on the deck.

So by nine the truck was empty, except for the six four-by-four posts with concrete footings that I had salvaged from the kids’ play-house I’d built in Keene. These were beasts due to the big concrete feet on each of them, but the wood was valuable, and I like the idea that I’m going to build the chicken house with some lumber that the kids painted and played on when they were littler. I used the dolly to take these one by one to the barn. Then it was time to shower and get some breakfast.

We went to the bakery Steph and I had noticed the day before on the way to the closing. There were a dozen or more old people at a long table in front, eating breakfast. We got a table and ordered — Steph asked for a “cake” donut along with her meal and was very happy when she didn’t have to explain what that meant. It’s like being back home!

We dropped the kids back at home, where the little ones played on the “playground” (the old swing-set in the backyard the previous owner left behind) and Sofie watched a DVD movie on her computer. First stop was the local U-Haul, where we dropped off the 26-foot truck we’d just emptied. I’d already made a couple of calls earlier in the morning — joined the electric coop and learned that because of the storm last week, it would be ten days before the telecom coop could connect our internet. We went in and filled out their paperwork (you have to give everybody your social security number and sign a W-9 when you join these coops, because they actually pay their members dividends if they make a profit — what a concept!), and then we got a library card and did our first grocery shopping. The dreaded stock-up new house shopping trip, which we managed to get done for just a little less than I expected.

In the afternoon, we made another trip out and joined the farm coop, where we got the things we’ll need for the first batch of chicks, and some grass seed and hoses. This is a real farmer’s coop — and I filled out another W-9 to join! The prices were reasonable and the guys were knowledgeable and helpful. The manager came out of his office and gave the kids little coloring books and crayons. They had 50 foot extra-heavy duty hoses on sale for $19.99. The last hose I bought at the fake coop in Keene (Agway) was a 50-footer too, but it cost me $54!

So we came home and I found some old lumber in the barn to use for the chick brooder. Then I threw down the grass seed I’d bought (I knew I should have bought the 25# bag — I always underestimate grass seed!) and watered. I think they seeded when they finished the septic system, but the ground is bone dry. I wonder when the last decent rain was here?

We had our first home-cooked meal in the new house: bison meatballs and organic (jarred) red sauce over linguine. When I said it would be ready in five minutes, Vivi asked, “Where are we eating tonight?” It’s been a while since we sat down to a home-cooked meal. But slowly we’re getting back to normal.

Day three began about six, with hot coffee in the french press — I guess that means we’re home! I unpacked the tools and sorted the garage a bit, then I put together the little brooder for the chicks. Called the post office to ask how they handle chicks, and the lady said, “Our trucks usually come in between 7 PM and 3 AM and I’ll call you when the chicks come. But some people don’t like to be called after midnight,” she continued, “So I can wait until morning too.” I said no, please call as soon as they arrive and I’ll come get them. Can you believe it though? They call in the middle of the night when chicks arrive! We keep being surprised how nice people are here!

Steph got an old-fashioned school desk from a lady on craigslist, for our youngest. And when we went to the Depot for paint, she got paint to customize it per our daughter’s instructions: gloss black with red, orange and yellow flames! We also got three shades of yellow and a light green, for the first round of painting, and Steph painted the wall in the living room that had been red. I took inventory of the barn and found a couple of sheets of old paneling and chipboard that I can use to build nesting boxes for the henhouse. I also got a 100 foot tape measure, so I could measure off the gardens. There’s enough space between the side-door of the barn and the animal pen in back, for a 40 or 45 foot run. So the 36 foot hoophouse will fit behind the henhouse, as planned.

I dragged some heavy fence panels onto the grass, but they weren’t in great shape and they weren’t the right lengths. So I hauled them back into the barn and stashed them out of the way. I bought the 25# bag of grass-seed from the coop today, so I’ve been throwing that down and watering it. The coop guy remembered my name, and said he’d tried two more distributors, but couldn’t find a source for the Cedarific cat litter Steph had been using in NH. But I’m going to try the pine shavings we’ll be using for chick bedding — they cost a lot less and I could compost it.

In the afternoon we visited a farm about 45 minutes away, to look at puppies. They’re an accidental litter from a German Shepard/Great Dane cross, born about six weeks ago. Cuter than hell. We went for one, but decided to get two. Met both parent dogs, and they were both nice animals. Such a difference from the puppy-farm people; and it turns out they’re everywhere. Yesterday Steph called on another craigslist ad and the person wouldn’t let her visit to see the puppies. It was that same old line: “Oh, I’m coming into town anyway so I’ll meet you in the Walmart parking lot.” they must all read the same grifter manual!

Day four began at about 2:30 AM, when I decided I really wasn’t going to get anymore sleep. I was hoping to get a call from the Post Office at 3-ish, with news of the baby chicks’ arrival. But that didn’t come. Turns out they weren’t shipped, because the hatch was less than expected. So we’ll be getting them next week.

As I was laying awake, I started going over my plans for the henhouse in my mind. I had been thinking of building it 12 x 18 feet, but that would have meant the roof pieces would need to be over 8 feet long. That would mean buying more suntuf panels, cutting and overlapping them. It would also mean that the roof would have to be reinforced where the overlaps were, which sort-of defeats the purpose of buying translucent panels.

At 5:16 I noticed the eastern sky was getting a little light behind the trees. I was sitting at the kitchen table, looking through the sliding glass door. A car went by outside. Happens a few times a day. What a change from 24x7 traffic and sirens at all hours of the night and day!

This house is practical: it doesn’t have a dining room. And the old electric range — well, damned if it doesn’t actually boil water on all four burners! Not like that pretentious glass-top thing we had at the last house. And the dishwasher. They’re all a standard size, so how does this one manage to fit twice as much in it? I guess when you lose that stainless steel effect, you gain something too.

So, in any case, I’ve got a new design for a slightly smaller (10 x 15 feet) henhouse, and detailed drawings of how I think it’s going to go together. And a step-by-step plan (Step 1: posts and braces, Step 2: sides, Step 3: back, etc) and bill of materials. It should be a little cheaper at this size, and I don’t think we’re sacrificing too much in the way of living space. This will be a spot for laying hens, anyway — meat birds will probably end up living somewhere else.

I should be able to build this without buying any new tools. So I can put off a table-saw purchase for a while. I might splurge and get myself a nice post-hole digger, since I’ll be doing more of that soon, when I get around to fencing the front and putting up a gate. The garden/chicken fence is going to be electronet to start. Especially since it won’t be much of a garden until I get the hoophouse put up. Then in the spiring I may have to think about a fence — or we may use the garden fence that’s already up, if the goats can clear the wreckage from that area.

I took an hour nap, and made it through the rest of the day. Went to the depot and got a load of lumber, and to Acme Tools for a chainsaw. Took down a dead pine in the front yard. It was a workout! I’m going to be able to get in shape just by working on this land!

Day five: When I woke this morning, the sun was already clearing the trees. Had breakfast and visited a little with the in-laws, who drove out for a visit, then the women went to see art in the park, Roger watched the kids hit golf balls, and I worked some more on the pine tree I took down yesterday. Lots of branches on a pine, so there were a lot of small sticks and twigs to cut or break and then stack. The goals was, to make the site look like there hadn’t been a big tree taken down and disassembled on it. I haven’t moved the stacks yet, because I’m not sure exactly where I want to put them (but they’ll probably end up in the woodshed once I take a harder look at that and get it a bit organized), but it looks pretty good.

Then I took down three dead birches, that were already starting to rot from the bottoms. There were shelf mushrooms of some type on the lower parts of the trunk, but the wood above seemed sound.

Went up on the roof in the AM, too. The sixteen foot ladder I picked up yesterday was more than enough to get up onto the garage, and from there you can hop up onto the main roof. My fear of heights didn’t have much chance to kick in, and I was able to trim off all the remaining seedpods from the lilac bushes. I even got several that were leftover from prior years.

We went out to dinner in the evening, which will probably end up being a fairly rare thing for us.

Day six: Brought in all my boxes of books from the garage this morning, and put about 1/3 of them on the shelves in the study — which is Sofie’s bedroom until she goes off to college in three and a half weeks. After she goes, I’ll paint the gray and white paneling and set up my desk. I put out only the books I think I need for my immediate projects. More books will fit on the shelves, but I’ll probably be able to cull a few, too.

Played a little horseshoes with Sofie & Steph, and watched the kids play for a bit.

This afternoon I’m trying to bake a loaf of bread.

I’ve sort-of designated Sundays as a day to think and plan, but not to work on any large projects. So I didn’t cut any wood today. Didn’t start digging on the henhouse. But maybe the post-holes on that project will happen as the same time as the fencepost holes in the front yard, and maybe I’ll get somebody to dig them or rent a power tool. Have to think more on that.

The loaf has a little coarse cornmeal in it. Just enough to taste good with the honey I used instead of sugar, I hope. Not enough to ruin the loaf (I hope!). But it seems to have risen well, out on the back porch in the 90 degree summer heat….

It actually rose quite well, and I baked a successful loaf.

Day seven was day one of chicken coop building. Not a lot of building today, really. Digging. In spite of being in the upper midwest, our new place is a little hilly. The ground isn’t completely level where I want to put the chickens and additional gardens, so I decided to make a level pad for the henhouse. It’s going to have a dirt floor and deep bedding (with a hardware cloth predator barrier), but even so, I don’t want it to look like a falling-down shack as soon as I build it!

We also got internet (hence the blog update) and phone service today from the telecom coop. Nearly a week before we expected to, because the lady we signed up with took the trouble to check for cancellations and squeeze us onto the schedule. And an insurance guy came to inspect the place for our homeowner’s policy. We chatted about chickens (he’s been keeping layers and raising meat birds for over 20 years up here), and also about trees. I asked him who he might recommend to take down a few trees that are either too big or leaning in strange ways or too close to the house, and he said “If you can wait until the weather cools down a bit, I’ll do it.” (Have I mentioned people are just NICE here?)

The digging was strenuous, but the Mantis made it a lot easier. And it was definitely not as tough as it would have been in New England. The ground here is sandy loam, and since it was once farmland, it’s pretty free of stones. There were a few, but nowhere near the number there would have been in New Hampshire. Tomorrow I’ll start digging the footings and maybe place the posts. The weather was a little cooler today — it was warm in the sun, but not the 100 degrees we’ve been having every day since we arrived!

Before the Plunge

“an incredibly riveting read”! (that’s what she said…)

Got an unexpected email a couple of mornings ago, from Jasmine at onlinecolleges.net. She was writing to let me know she’d included this blog in her article, “The 50 Best American History Blogs.” I’m very happy to be included – you’ll find me at #16 in the alphabetical list – especially after looking at some of the other blogs Jasmine picked. Really good stuff! And the list itself is a great resource; I found a bunch of blogs I didn’t know about, which I’ll probably follow regularly. So thanks for including me, Jasmine, and thanks for the list! Online colleges also looks like an interesting concept and website, which I’ll be looking into more closely as well.

For people who may be coming here for the first time, I should mention that I recently archived my posts from the last few years, and started fresh. So the new stuff is here, and
you can find everything before this summer here.

Still preparing for the move.

We’re down to the last few days of our stay in Keene. It’s the deep breath before the plunge, as Gandalf would say (we’ve been watching the extended versions of
The Lord of the Rings to help the time pass). Today I’m taking it easy. Tomorrow, the trampoline comes down, the computers get packed, and the kitchen and everything else that’s not staying. Monday we finish packing. Tuesday we load the truck. Wednesday we clean and the buyer walks through. Thursday morning we close and drive.


As part of the finishing-up-with-New-England project, we picked blueberries today at our favorite spot, Monadnock Berries. This was their opening day, and we got there early in the morning and beat the rain. Next time we pick blueberries, with luck, it will be on our own spot.
I’m really looking forward to getting started on the little farm – we’re thinking of calling it a Gardenagerie. But, just to prove this back-to-the-land idea isn’t something we just pulled out of thin air, here’s a photo of me with one of my “projects” for animal science when I was an undergrad at UMass. So, nothing new here. The surprise is that it took me this long to make the big circle and end up where I began.

Charles Knowlton's Books

I recently made a trip over to the Franklin County Courthouse in Greenfield Massachusetts, to see if they had any documents in their Probate Office on the families I’ve been researching. I should have done this a long time ago, but I never managed to get around to it. Now that I’m leaving the area, I had to get over there or lose the chance.

It was worth the trip. Although it
is a courthouse, so you’re likely to see people in shackles and you have to empty your pockets and go through a metal detector, the Probate people are very nice and helpful. They’re very focused on the present in their day-to-day work, of course. But they seem to like it when historians come and show interest in the old documents they have stored away in the vaults. And there’s gold in those vaults.

I found wills and estate inventories for several of the people I’m researching. Most importantly, I found a huge folder for Dr. Charles Knowlton, including the will and inventory, an inventory of items sold in the estate sale (and who they were sold to!), and guardianship papers and accounts for the minor children Knowlton left behind. You can learn a lot about your subject from these documents. Who were his friends? Who did he trust to look after his children? Who owed him money?

One of the most interesting things for me, so far at least, has been the inventory. It lists everything from horses and buggies (how did he get around when seeing patients?) to featherbeds and mustard spoons (what did the house and furnishings look like?). The list of medical devices was surprising, and suggests (I’m going to check with a couple of historians of medicine to be sure) Knowlton was at the cutting edge of his profession. And then there are the books.

By cross-referencing between the inventory and the estate sale documents, I think I’ve managed to identify nearly all of the books in Charles Knowlton’s library. The majority of them are medical texts, as I expected. There are 72 titles I was able to identify, but many of them contained multiple volumes (largest being Braithwaite with 18 vols.), so the actual count was easily over a hundred books. This seems like quite a large collection for a country doctor. And interestingly, they aren’t all dated around the period when Knowlton was studying medicine (the mid-1820s). Several of them were brand new at the time of his death (1850), which again validates the idea that Knowlton was trying to stay up to date on the very latest procedures and techniques. In addition to the texts, he subscribed to several regional and national medical journals – one of which,
The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, he was a regular contributor to.

This was not a trivial task: the inventory was a five-foot long roll of paper, and the titles were never complete. In about half a dozen cases, I was not able to decode the script, or there was no title or author that matched what I seemed to be seeing. But I feel pretty good about getting all but 6 of about 150 titles -- that’s 96%! Here’s an example of the inventory:


I don’t know enough yet about these medical texts to say whether this collection represents a particular medical point of view, but I notice there are a lot of anatomy texts and a lot of texts on treating women. This makes sense, given Knowlton’s interest in birth control, women’s health, and women’s rights in general. Interestingly, one of the books in what I’m calling the Freethought section of his library is Mary Wollstonecrafts
Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Which brings us to the non-medical portion of the collection. The general library contained 28 titles, many of which (such as
Peregrine Pickle) were probably books used in the education of the Knowltons’ three children or for family entertainment. The Freethought library, in contrast, contained 44 titles. I’m making value judgments here, assigning texts to one category or another. Clearly, Knowlton’s medicine was influenced by his philosophy. And clearly, even a book like Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language could be political. But also obviously, the Thomas Paine texts belong in Freethought, as do the histories of religion and books like Paley’s Natural Theology (Knowlton liked to understand the other position, and anticipate his opponent’s argument in debate). And I’ve also put Democracy in America and Weld’s American Slavery As it Is in this section, because I think Freethought was very political for Knowlton, and his ideas about America were tightly bound to this perspective.

Charles Knowlton died in 1850, so of course we don’t see one of the foundational texts of contemporary secularism, Darwin’s
Origin of Species. Robert Chambers’s Vestiges of The Natural History of Creation, however, is right where it ought to be on Knowlton’s shelf. This is remarkable, and it demonstrates not only Charles Knowlton’s incredible coolness, but that if anything, James Secord underestimated the importance of Chambers’s anticipation of Darwin’s theory of evolution in his book, Victorian Sensation.

Okay then! Without further ado, here are the books:

Oh, wait! One more thing: The dates below represent the first publication dates of these works, not necessarily the editions Charles Knowlton owned -- which of course we’d have no way of knowing. Many of these titles were regularly revised and updated. Similarly, the links do not necessarily represent the earliest edition or the edition Knowlton owned.


John Abercrombie, Pathological and Practical Researches on Diseases of the Brain and Spinal Cord, 1829

Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, Philadelphia, The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, (1830s-60s)

Joseph Ayre, Practical Observations on the Nature and Treatment of Marasmus, and of those Disorders Allied to It, which May Strictly be Called Bilious, 1822

Matthew Baillie, The Morbid Anatomy of Some of the Most Important Parts of the Human Body, 1793

Thomas Beddoes,
Manual of Health, 1806

Charles Bell, The Anatomy of the Human Body, 1803

John Bell, Discourses on the Nature and Cure of Wounds, 1795

J. Frederick Blumenbach, The Institutions of Physiology, 1795

The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal

W. Braithwaite, The Retrospect of Practical Medicine and Surgery (a biennial journal), 1840-50

Amariah Brigham, A Treatise on Epidemic Cholera, 1832

F. J. V. Broussais, Conversations on the theory and Practice of Physiological Medicine, 1825

But it might also be Alphonse Broussais,
Self Preservation: Or, Sexuality Revealed: Being Facts of Vital Importance to the Married and Unmarried…, 1843

Thomas Brown, Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 1826

John Burns, T.C. James, The Principles of Midwifery; Including the Diseases of Women and Children, 1817

Charles Caldwell, Facts in Mesmerism, and Thoughts on its Causes and Uses, 1842

N. Chapman, Elements of Therapeutics and Materia Medica, 1822

J. Chitty, A Practical Treatise on Medical Jurisprudence, 1834

Colombat de L’Isere, Charles Meigs trans., A Treatise on the Diseases and Special Hygiene of Females, 1845

Astley Cooper, A Treatise on Dislocations and Fractures of the Joints, 1823

Astley Cooper and Richard Rowland, articles on disease in
Medical and Surgical Monographs, 1838-40

Samuel Cooper, A Dictionary of Practical Surgery, 1809

Samuel Cooper, The First Lines of the Practice of Surgery, 1815

James Copland, A Dictionary of Practical Medicine, 1834

William P. Dewees, A Compendious System of Midwifery, 1825

William P. Dewees, A Treatise on the Diseases of Females, 1826

Robert Druitt, The Principles and Practice of Modern Surgery, 1847

A. J. B. Parent Duchatelet, Prostitution in Paris, Considered Morally, Politically, and Medically, 1845

Robley Dunglison, American Medical Library, 1837

Robley Dunglison, Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine, 1845

Robley Dunglison, Human Physiology, 1832

Robley Dunglison, Medical Lexicon: A Dictionary of Medical Science, 1842

Robley Dunglison, New Remedies: The Method of Preparing and Administering Them; their Effects on the Healthy and Diseased Economy, &c., 1839

Guillaume Dupuytren, Clinical Lectures on Surgery, 1832

Lewis Durlacher, A treatise on Corns, Bunions, the Diseases of the Nails, and the General Management of the Feet, 1845

John Eberle, A Treatise of the Materia Medica and Therapeutics, (2 vols) 1830

John Eberle, A Treatise on the Practice of Medicine, 1830 (2 vols)

R.T. Evanson, H. Maunsell, A Practical treatise on the Management and Diseases of Children, 1838

O. S. Fowler, Love and Parentage, Applied to the Improvement of Offspring, 1846

Robert Gooch, An Account of Some of the Most Important Diseases Peculiar to Women, 1829

An Estimate of the True Value of Vaccination as a Security Against Small Pox, T.M. Greenhow, 1825

George Gregory, Treatise on The Theory and Practice of Physic, 1826

Horace Green, A Treatise on Diseases of the Air Passages, 1846

Samuel D. Gross, The Anatomy, Physiology, and Diseases of the Bones and Joints, 1830

Marshall Hall, On Diagnosis, 1817

John Harrison, An Essay Towards a Correct Theory of the Nervous System, 1844

Abner Kneeland,
Boston Investigator, 1831-9 periodical

William Lawrence, A Treatise on the Diseases of the Eye, 1830

Charles Lee, A Dictionary of Practical Medicine, 1834

John Macculloch, An Essay on the Remittent and Intermittent Diseases, Including, Generally, Marsh Fever and Neuralgia, 1828

R. Marsh,
The Animal Magnetizer: Or History, Phenomena and Curative Effects of Animal Magnetism; With instructions for Conducting the Magnetic Operation, 1840s

Jacques Maygrier, A
tlas of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 1822 not available online, but possibly similar to this, which is sometimes credited to Martin and Maygrier

The Medical Recorder of Original Papers and Intelligence, Philadelphia, 1816-26

John Ayrton Paris, Elements of Medical Chemistry, 1825

A. P. W. Philip, A Treatise on the More Obscure Affections of the Brain on which the Nature and Successful Treatment of many Chronic Diseases Depend, 1835

William Prout, Samuel Colhoun, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Treatment of Diabetes, Calculus, and Other Affections of the Urinary Organs, 1826

William Prout, On the Nature and Treatment of Stomach and Urinary Diseases, 1840

W. H. Ranking,
The Half-Yearly Abstract of the Medical Sciences, 1845-73, for example

P. Rayer, W. B. Dickinson trans., Treatise on Diseases of the Skin, Founded on New Researches in Pathological anatomy and Physiology, 1833

Possibly Reports and Other Documents Relating to the State Lunatic Hospital at Worcester Mass, 1837

William Stokes, John Bell, Lectures on the Theory and Practice of Physic, 1842

J. G. Spurzheim, The Anatomy of the Brain, with a General View of the Nervous System, 1826

J. G. Spurzheim, Education: Its Elementary Principles, founded on the Nature of Man, 1847

J. G. Spurzheim, Observations on the Deranged Manifestations of the Mind; or, Insanity, 1836

J. G. Spurzheim, Phrenology, 1826

J. G. Spurzheim, The Physiognomical System, 1815

Dugald Stewart, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 1813

S. A. Tissot, Onania; or a Treatise upon the Disorders Produced by Masturbation, 1758

William Tully, Thomas Miner, Essays on Fevers and Other Medical Subjects, 1823

Alfred A.L.M. Velpeau, wrote extensively on midwifery and diseases of the breasts, 1830s-60s. Also wrote on surgical anatomy 1830s.

Rudolph Wagner, Elements of the Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrate Animals, 1845

Alexander Walker, Intermarriage; or The Mode in Which, and Causes Why, Beauty, Health, and Intellect Result from Certain Unions, and Deformity, Disease, and Insanity from Others, 1839

Thomas Watson, Lectures on the Principles and Practice of Physic, 1845

Caspar Wistar, A System of Anatomy for the Use of Students of Medicine, 1811 (2 vols)

William Youatt, Every Man His Own Cattle Doctor, 1832


F. W. Adams, Theological Criticisms: or Hints of the Philosophy of Man and Nature in Six Lectures, 1843

Aaron Bancroft, The Life of George Washington, 1826

Paul Brown, The Radical: and Advocate of Equality, 1834

Orestes A. Brownson, Charles Elwood: or the Infidel Converted, 1840

Gilbert Burnett, A History of the Reformation of the Church of England, 1690

George Bush, The Soul; or, An Inquiry into Scriptural Psychology, 1845

Joseph Butler, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, 1824

Robert Chambers, Vestiges of The Natural History of Creation, 1844

Joseph Coe, The True American, 1840

George Combe, The Constitution of Man Considered in Relation to External Objects, 1828

Thomas Cooper, A Treatise on the Law of Libel and the Liberty of the Press, 1830

Rodolphus Dickinson, A New and Corrected Version of the New Testament; or, A Minute Revision, and Professed Translation of the Original Histories, Memoirs, Letters, Prophecies, and Other Productions of the Evangelists and Apostles; to which are Subjoined a Few, Generally Brief, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical Notes, 1833

John Fellows, An exposition of the Mysteries, or religious Dogmas and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Pythagoreans, and Druids. Also: An Inquiry into the Origin, History, and Purport of Freemasonry, 1835

Female Education: Tendencies and Principles Embraced, and the System Adopted in the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary
, 1839

John Mason Good, The Book of Nature, 1828

Probably Thomas Hertell, A Layman’s Apology for the Appointment of Clerical Chaplains by the Legislature of New York, 1834

Paul Henry Thiry Holbach, The System of Nature; or, the Laws of the Moral and Physical World, 1795

George Houston, The Correspondent, 18207-9 periodical

David Hume, Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects, 1758

The Works of Flavius Josephus volume 1, translated by William Whiston before 1752

Joseph C. Lovejoy, Memoir of Rev. Charles T. Torrey, 1847

Harriet Martineau, “A Manchester Strike,” Illustrations of Political Economy volume III, 1834

H. C. O’Donnoghue, The Church of Rome: A View of the Peculiar Doctrines, Religious Worship…, 1830

William James Linton, Life of Paine, 1839

Benjamin Offen, A Legacy to the Friends of Free Discussion, 1846

Robert Owen, New Moral World, 1836

Robert Dale Owen, Frances Wright, The Free Enquirer, 1826-9 periodical

Robert Dale Owen, Moral Physiology; or, A Brief and Plain Treatise on the Population Question, 1831

Robert Dale Owen, Origen Bacheler, Discussion on the Existence of God, 1832

Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794

(Probably Richard Carlile), The Theological Works of Thomas Paine, 1819

The Political Works of Thomas Paine, 1826

William Paley, Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of The Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature, 1802

William Paley, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, 1817

David Pickering, Lectures in Defence of Divine Revelation, 1831

John Jay Smith, Celebrated Trials of All Countries, 1837 (includes William Cobbett and Richard Carlile)

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy In America, 1835

Volney, The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, 1791

Voltaire, A Philosophical Dictionary, 1796

Theodore Dwight Weld, American Slavery As It Is, 1839, which many Ashfield peddlers carried on their rounds

William White, Lectures on the Catechism of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1813

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects, 1792

Frances Wright, A Few Days in Athens, 1822


Addison & Steele, The Spectator, periodical, 1810s-20s

E. A. Andrews, C. Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic War, 1844

John L. Blake, A General Biographical Dictionary, 1835

Thomas S. D. Bucknall, The Orchardist, 1797

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha, (in 4 vols) 1818

The Works of Cowper and Thomson, 1832

Ross Cox, The Columbia River; or, Scenes and Adventures During a Residence of Six Years on the Western Side of the Rocky Mountains…, 1832

David Crockett, The Life of Martin Van Buren, Heir Apparent to the “Government,” and the Appointed Successor of General Andrew Jackson, 1836

Timothy Flint,
Travels and Residence in Mississippi, 1826

An Abridgment of Goldsmith’s History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Death of George II, and Continued to the close of the year 1828, 1833

Edmund Hoyle, Games, 1845

John Fellows, The Posthumous Works of Junius, 1829

Washington Irving, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, 1831

Knickerbocker, or New York Monthly Magazine, 1840s, for example

The Library of Romance; A Collection of Traditions, Poetical Legends, and Short Standard Tales and Romances, Of All Nations, 1837

Lambert Lilly, The History of New England, Illustrated by Tales, Sketches, and Anecdotes, 1831

J. R. Major, Schrevelius’ Greek Lexicon, 1831

Thomas Moore, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: With Notices of His Life, 1830

Memoirs of Marshal Ney, 1833

Alexander Pope, Poetical Works, 1841

W.S.W. Ruschenberger, Three Years in the Pacific; Including Notices of Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru, 1834

George Saintsbury, ed., The Works of Laurence Stern in Six Volumes, 1814

James A. St. John, The Lives of Celebrated Travelers, 1832

Walter Scott, The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1827

Walter Scott, The Waverley Anecdotes, 1833

T. G. Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, In which are included, Memoirs of a Lady of Quality, 1758

Joshua Sturges, Guide to the Game of Draughts, 1800

Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828

Ready to Go!

We’re getting ready to go.

We’re more than ready to go,
but there’s still a little more time to wait and a little more packing to do. We’ve been doing some “last time in New England” types of things. Went on a whale watch and saw whales (and got seasick!). I wore my kilt to the showing of Brave at the Bellows Falls Opera House theater we like. Planted some pumpkins for the new people (and to keep the weeds down a bit in the garden). Have to pack the things we use daily – though I’ve already packed all my clothes and am living out of a duffel bag. I finally went to Greenfield and found Charles Knowlton’s will and estate inventory, as well as a couple of Ranney documents for my other project. Knowlton’s library was listed in the inventory, title by title. So I’ve been transcribing that and looking up the books. More on that when I finish the list.

A week from tomorrow we’ll close on this house and start driving west. Then the rural adventure begins….