Geek Week

DH is headed to China. Lucy is back in college. Jon and Amanda are leading their lives in Connecticut. For a week I am all alone. (Except for the two dogs, the barn cat, the cow, the heifer, the bull, the eleven sheep and ten lambs, the two geese, the six hens, and the rooster.)

It is my school vacation. Usually at this time of year I’m juggling lambing and calving while attempting some out-sized farm building project. However, this year the calves are due in June. Lambing has unexpectedly ground to a halt. I am sick with a vicious sinus cold that won’t quit. And now, for the next two days, they are predicting a blizzard carrying over a foot of snow.

I have decided that all of this adds up to God telling me to rein in my Puritan work impulse for a little while and have some self-indulgent fun.

For me, one of the things I enjoy most is historical detective work. I simply adore following research trails. Today, with the internet, I can reach into library and museum collections across the country, Canada, and England. How fabulous to be discussing 18th century shoes with a cordwainer (shoemaker) at Colonial Williamsburg! How exciting to get emails from the British National Archives in “Kew, Richmond, Surrey”! What fun to search Revolutionary War newspapers, now digitized, and to have so many 18th and 19th century books scanned by Google and available free for download!

At this point, however, I actually have done most of the research needed for the story I’ve been plotting. (There are a few holes left: I’ll keep them like Easter eggs to reward myself during the tough patches.) My next task is to organize this information and analyze it. I have to take notes on all the books, diaries, letters, newspaper clippings, and maps, and then massage the information into a useful, coherent whole. This will take a lot of time. The work is less thrilling than the research but also satisfying as my notebook becomes filled with material.

My story is set in the area of western Connecticut in which I grew up. Many people forget that the American Revolution was a civil war (also, in New England, a religious war, but that’s another kettle of fish). Unlike the later Civil War, the American Revolution had no geographic lines, no North vs. South. The Revolution pitted not only neighbors but families against each other. It is heartbreaking to read the hand-written battle reports and realize that the dead and wounded of the enemy could be so often identified by first name because the protagonists grew up in the same town or were, in fact, kin.

Many of the supporting characters in my story will be fictionalized versions of real people. Above is part of a chart I began over the weekend to keep track of just a few of the complicated relationships in this corner of a small village in Connecticut. Now I have laid out on the dining room table the first stack of files and books I hope to annotate in the upcoming days. I am trying to be disciplined: to make all my notes on Revolutionary New York City; then all my notes on Fairfield County; then all my notes on the timing of a colonial farm year; then everything on ladies’ clothing, and so on.

The snow is falling, the dogs are snoring, I am brewing a cup of tea and can’t wait to dive in.

Yesterday I wrote to an unmet research friend in Canada (with whom for the past year I’ve been sharing discoveries from the British War Office papers) to tell him of this unexpected time alone, with no outside responsibilities except the animals.

Mike immediately wrote back, “Enjoy your Geek Week!”

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5 Responses to Geek Week

  1. Elaine Murphy says:

    You go girl! We have some history! Our house sits on John Stark’s gardens. He and his family are buried within a half mile of our house.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Wow! Very cool. The hero of the Battle of Bennington! I would love to know I was living on his land. “They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!” 🙂

  2. Shawn says:

    So glad to hear you’re getting some time for fun stuff! Enjoy!!

  3. Shawn says:

    And the history for my little plot of land? We sit on the Santa Fe Trail, within a mile of 110 Mile Creek crossing. They would cross over, water in the lake across the road from us, and camp on our property. We have four wells on 25 acres, so there was lots of water. I’ve often wondered how many are buried on our property. Life on the trail was harsh.

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