When we moved to the farrrm 18 years ago, we started to clear out one of the sheds that had been used primarily as a fuel store. The fuel was peat, dug off the face of the mountain, air- and sun-dried during the Summer and brought down as a Winter store in creels or later on a tractor-trailer. What we inherited was 80cm of peat dust, which was only good as humic bulk for the garden, with some nutty fragments that were good to go in the stove. But there was also an archaeological dig's worth of other material: a bicycle with one wheel (buckled) ; a pair of trousers; some bottles; waxed milk cartons; baler-twine; bones; fertilisers sacks; another pair of trousers. It took me months of elapsed time and many trips with the wheel-borrow to clear the shed so that we could fill if with our trash. If I'd cared I could have estimated when hessian sacks were replaced with plastic and when tetrapak cartons arrived in rural Ireland
I've been in my gaffer's cellar, on and off, for a week now. Coming up for air and cups of tea and then plunging down to deal with another dusty box of papers. It's very much like an archaeological dig down there because the papers are layered: an incoming letter is next to its reply - often helpfully held together with a rusty paper-clip. This context is important because The Gaffer had several consuming interests that he was inching forward in parallel. In broad terms his main interests were
- genealogy: in particular the Taft Family descendants of Robert Taft Sr. who appeared in Mendon Massachusetts in 1675; including the President Taft who thought Brandeis was too liberal for the US Supreme Court.
- numismatics: notably tavern tokens and market tallies which are coin-like metal objects with enigmatic markings "The Crown - Settle Road - 4d" which need to be tied down to a time and place by diligent research through 19thC street directories.
- biological evolution: the place I fitted in as we worked our way through New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the Portuguese Atlantic Empire making genetic diagnoses of cats in an effort to reveal the patterns of human migration in the 1600s, 1700s amd 1800s. It's a long story for another time.