Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Wednesday, March 09, 2016: What a beauty. I only wish this day would have timed it better ...

I really dug it out there today ... read more below: 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016: What a beauty. I only wish this day would have timed it better with this weekend’s change to Daylight Savings Time, then I would have an extra late-day hour. On work days, I greatly prefer the late-day feel to getting up in the wee hours, prior to the grind. Of course, when the fishing demands a sunrise session, I’m ready to salute.

About 3 PM, I headed to the mainland for a dig. There were a few trucks with rods on Rte. 9. I assume they were heading to Graveling or the Mullica landings. I’ll explore Facebook and such to see if anything was biting.

Below: I dug this gorgeous tiger beetle. Fortunately, it was still cold so I could grab it. Check out those insane choppers, which it uses freely and fiercely when handled under warmer circumstances. 

Hitting the road mid-afternoon,  I followed a tip about an old homestead, a building with an early start in history -- and a rapid end. It was built in 1780s. It was located near Bass River and had something to do with the way-back clamming industry. Sadly, it went up in flames in the 1840s. I do not believe there was any loss of life but the building was leveled. All that shows today is the proverbial cellar hole – and fieldstones, along with locally fired bricks, which are normal brick-colored on the outside but have a charcoal black core. Again, very old.

I wasn’t having much luck using the metal detector – just one Indian head penny, not related to the original house. So, I took the back-intensive approach of digging with one of my specialized heavy-duty digging tools. They’re made in  Brazil and one of the few diggers able to rip through a carpet of green brier roots. I get my forged diggers from: 

Easy Digging tool store

I quickly realized just how burnt-down the house had been. The melted glass from windows -- and likely glass kitchenware and knickknacks -- were mere blobs. It wasn't much of a pick. I was about to give up when I found an absolutely primitive smelting pot. It is crudely hand-forged and weighs a solid 7 to 8 pounds. Batsto???? It even has some hardened metal (not lead) on the bottom, inside. It doesn't have a typical melting pot handle but does have two indentations on the bottom where it was likely grabbed, to be lifted, with a very special grabbing tool. It is surely from the earliest days of NJ.

Not far from the pot was what remains of a once comely hand-mirror, owned by the lady of the house. The design on the back is very ornate. Oddly, the mirror part is unmelted, though it shall nevermore reflect. 

Suddenly more interested, I turned my digging up a notch -- going whole-hog for a solid 30 minutes ... with nothing to show. Then, I literally hit a hollow area within the buried charred material. One after one, flatware came out. It was a tad sad. I have no doubt this same flatware had been regularly used right before the fire in the 1840s. The pieces aren't matched, showing the household was far from wealthy. But that was a bit of a given by its history as a clamming-related building.

Below are a couple photos of the majority of the pieces I dug, though I uncovered maybe ten more utensils after I snapping this shot, right around dark.

I'll likely go back there again with a siftbox to see if there are any little things I'm missing. That is once I build said siftbox. After wrecking my last one, I've been putting off building another one -- even though it only takes a few hours.  See instructions below. 

By the by, I had absolutely no bad feelings at the site, so any lingering spirits didn't mind I was rooting around. Yes, I've been to many a site where you could just feel a "Get out!" being paranormally issued. Go ahead and smile but if you were there that smile would be on the other side of your face ... as you turn to bolt.

"Find anything, Big Boy?"

Legs do your stuff!

Bob Misak
Bob Misak's photo.

Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency

Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency (Cold Springs Press, 2014), by Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt, shows you exactly how to build dozens of projects for a self-sufficient lifestyle, with beautiful photos and complete plans for each. Four categories—Food Prep & Preservation, Homestead, Garden and Animals—cover a broad range of popular projects, often with a creative touch or two to make them easier to build or more efficient to use.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency.

Sifting your soil is an excellent way to refine the foundation of your garden. The basic idea is to sift the soil through a screen much as you would sift ingredients for baking. Sifting “cleans” the soil, removing large organic objects such as rocks and debris like broken glass. The process improves the texture of the soil, loosening it to allow for better water and air penetration. It can also remove old weed rhizomes—root systems that could grow new colonies of weeds. The benefits include improved drainage and moisture retention so that your plants’ roots are more likely to get the water they need without becoming waterlogged or rotting.

You can take the opportunity of sifting your soil to blend in amendments such as compost, manure, or other nutritional additions. It’s a great way to create a premium top soil that will get your garden off to a great start—and keep it growing strong throughout the season.

Sifting soil can be done with nothing more than a sturdy, thick mesh screen held by the edges. But if your garden is like most, you’ll be faced with sifting quite a bit of soil and a simple hand-held screen will be quite laborious to use. That’s why the design of the sifter described in the pages that follow is a bit more sophisticated. It uses a sifting box equipped with wheels, and this box sits in a frame. You sift the soil by rolling the box back and forth within the frame, saving a lot of energy, effort, and sore backs. If you want to make the rig even handier and easier to store, add handles to both the sifting box and frame.

The sifting frame has been sized to fit perfectly over a standard wheelbarrow. But if you are using another container to catch the sifted soil, or if your wheelbarrow is a different size, adjust the measurements to suit. This could even be used over an empty garbage can or barrel. Once you’ve constructed the sifter, sift soil for your whole garden, container plants, or anywhere you want clean, effective top soil. Your plants will thank you.

Tools and Materials

• (4) 1-inch rigid casters (uni-directional)
• 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch galvanized screen
• Cordless drill and bits
• 1-1/4-inch washer head screws (also known as lath screws)
• 2-1/2-inch deck screws
• 1-1/4-inch wood screws
• 1-1/2-inch-wide metal angle
• 3/4-inch x #8 pan head screws

Cutting List

Materials table

Make the Soil Sifter

Build rails

1. Drill pilot holes through the frame guides and into the 1 x 3 frame stiles. Screw the guides to the stile with 1-1/4-inch wood screws, ensuring that the guides are aligned along one edge of each stile. These guides will serve as tracks for the soil-sifting box.

Corner brackets

2. Join the frame rails to the stiles with a metal angle at each corner.

Attach screen

3. Screw the sifting box ends to the box sides with 2-1/2-inch deck screws. Cut the screen 1/4-inch less than the size of the box. Screw it to one side with washer head screws, then stretch it tightly and screw it to the opposite side. Use at least 4 screws per side.

Attach casters

4. Screw the casters to the back and front ends of each box side so that the wheels face toward the ends.

Soil sifter

Sifting soil is largely a lost craft in the garden, but one that can go far toward improving your soil and making your plants grow as healthy as possible.



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