What Claire Fraser Didn’t Know About J. Marion Sims


Having been a Diana Gabaldon fan for many years, this was a great post.

Originally posted on Nursing Clio:

I have a not-so-secret weakness for historical fiction series. I think, in some roundabout way, this is what started me on the path to studying history. I read the Little House on the Prairie books as a child, John Jakes’ North and South series as a tween, and it’s been my genre-of-choice ever since. But there is one series in particular that really is my favorite. Maybe even an obsession. I have no idea how many times I’ve read and reread the now eight volumes in the series. I’ve even considered going on one of those themed-vacations, where you visit sites featured in the books. It’s that bad. My obsession, I mean. The books are simply that good.

When I say that I’m talking about the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, I imagine that most of you who have read the books will know what I am talking about…

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— Merle Massie

Here mousie, mousie, mousie!

It was a tough day.

Hantavirus on the mind, dust in the air, and too many shriveled and desiccated corpses to count. Cleanup day in our farm shed was a sad experience.

We’ve owned our homestead quarter, with a modest set of buildings for nearly ten years. In that time, the best storage building has housed a motley collection of important gear: canoes and kayaks, extra wood for emergency treehouse building, an antique forge and blacksmith’s tools, my Mom’s garden seeder, a farm-size fertilizer spreader.

And, because there is a lot of storage room there, my Christmas decorations.

Like any Mom, my Christmas decorations contain a hefty variety of seasonal offerings of the sticky description. You know the kind: the craft projects muckily but lovingly put together by small fingers, guided by big fingers. Day care. Preschool. Grandma’s house. Kindergarten. With two kids and a few years of creation, this came to a rather large assortment.

Each year, the unpacking and tree hanging would have some disappointments and sacrifices. Those napkin holders got too squished to be recognizable. The glue came off that Santa’s hat, and he looks rather drunk. Oh, look at where you glued those decorations. That elf seems rather well-endowed, doesn’t he?

Age does bring wisdom. And sometimes, the kids would throw things away on their own, surreptitiously adding to the annual pile of cracked and broken balls, tinsel that dry dieted away its bulk, and poinsettia squashed past resurrection.

But this year, disaster. For the first time, our storage shed witnessed a grey tsunami. Mice, mice, and more mice.

There are always mice on a farm. And, unlike the main farm where the cows, farm dog, and farm cats reside, this collection of buildings has no feline presence. The owls do their bit, but they only get the outside critters.

A grain hauling incident with a semi truck put a substantial dent and crack in our storage building in June, while emptying the nearby quonset of last year’s record grain harvest. It is, I admit, a tight fit. One minute of inattention and WHAM! We have a door that sort of shuts. If you pull really hard and hold your nose the right way.

And the mice? I guess they thought that dent and crack was an invitation. A door, just their size. That we were saving them from the owls. We are such thoughtful caretakers of all our farm animals!

My husband, with his keen nose, noticed the infestation. Mice smell. It’s noticeable and nasty. He dutifully laid out two sacks of mice killer — which is obviously tasty, since they both disappeared right away.

But we knew that wasn’t enough. A full-scale cleanup — moving everything, sweeping underneath, checking boxes — had to happen. No less than twenty dead and desiccated carcasses in a 20 by 24 foot shop. Ugh. And I stopped counting somewhere along the line.

The Valley Center dump got a full truck load. There were a couple of boxes of ‘stuff’ — the didn’t-sell-at-the-garage-sale-but-should-in-the-next-one kind of stuff. Those went. I’m not washing mouse pee off old teapots. Yuck. Similarly, car seats. My kids are long past needing them, they are no doubt past their due date anyway, and I’m not putting a kid in one now. Gone. My blankets for covering my garden in spring, old kids puzzles, and assorted cardboard (which, if you’re a farmer, you know procreate and explode when no one is looking) got tossed or burned.

But the real shock, and sorrow, came when I got to my Christmas decorations. My tree, with my home-make tree skirt nestled in, is fine. Whew for that. But the big box, with the years and years of decorations made by the kids, bought by us on holidays, with the stockings and the annual Christmas cards and letters going back many years, had to be tossed. It was heartbreaking.

I salvaged three glass balls that had been individually boxed: one of our house, painted by a friend; one of my Mom and I on our European holiday; and a Pooh Bear ball that was my husband’s first Christmas ornament. The rest, with no less than three dead mice draped and squeezed in, had to go.

Eighteen years of married memories, in the Valley Center dump.

There are two upsides to this story: one, my Mom still has all our family Christmas decorations, which may migrate to my house; and two, my storage shed is, once again, clean and mouse-free.

If you have an ornament to share, feel free. Unless it’s a well-endowed elf. You can keep that.

— Merle Massie

2015 Turku Book Award

The next Turku Book Award will be presented in Versailles in 2015; eligible books are those published in 2013 or 2014.

The deadline for submission of three print copies and one digital copy is 15 January 2015. If the monograph is written in a language other than English, please include a one-page English summary.

Full details are available in the official announcement below.

— European Society for Environmental History

Locals in the landscape

Mirror Lake, Yosemite. Photo by Carleton Watkins, 1865. Library of Congress.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite. Photo by Carleton Watkins, 1865. Library of Congress.

This week, Eric Michael Johnson published a piece at Scientific American, ‘Fire Over Ahwahnee: John Muir and the Decline of Yosemite’, about the drive by conservationists to both extinguish fire and the indigenous peoples who lived in the areas which would become some of the most famous ‘natural’ wonders in the US. This is a sad tale that many people within the field of restoration ecology are only now coming to grips with–the very thing that was valued was not ‘wilderness’ but rather anthropogenic. This resonated with my recent thoughts about the tendency to de-humanise thoroughly human landscapes. But it also got me thinking about whose interests get to count in nature conservation.

When Adolf Hoel decided that muskoxen should be reintroduced into the Dovre area of Norway, no one consulted the local population. At the beginning, there were concerns about safety hiking in the mountains. In the wake of a muskox attack which left a 74-year-old local man dead in 1964, the local farming community was even more concerned about the safety of children walking to school and potential deadly encounters on their farms. When the farming community of Engen sent a telegram signed by 122 local residents to the Ministry of Agriculture demanding that the Ministry remove the muskoxen, they got only a lawyer-speak response about the legal protection afforded muskoxen. Their concerns were not addressed.

When a small muskox herd moved over the border from Norway to Sweden, many people were happy. The tourist industry was particularly excited to have a new draw to the area. But some people were unhappy. The Sami reindeer herders were particularly displeased. The muskoxen had moved in the same area where their reindeer fed and this meant human-muskox encounters, something they wanted to avoid. In a letter from 1978, the Tännäs Sameby representative asked the environmental agency to not allow the herd to grow bigger more than 20 muskoxen. The Sameby also wanted a ban of muskox monitoring activities from 20 April to 15 June during the reindeer calving period. Although the county administration agreed with the Sameby’s position and forwarded these recommendations to the environmental agency (Naturvårdsverket), the memorandum of 10 May 1979 which defines procedures for handling muskox in Sweden does not address any of those concerns. In fact, it doesn’t mention reindeer herding or the rights of the indigenous peoples in the area at all.

What these two incidents have in common is that the local voices didn’t count. Someone far away in the capital got to decide what the ‘right’ relationship between people and animals should be. This is precisely the same kind of interaction I saw in the dam removal controversies I researched–the local people are discounted from the conversation because they are considered ‘uneducated country folk’ rather than parties with valid interests. I think reintroduction projects often face the problem of privileging the ‘common good’ (i.e. the good as defined by policymakers and scientists far away from the site) over the ‘local good’ (i.e. the local inhabitants and their needs and wants).

The beaver reintroduction in Scotland is a perfect example of this. In the report summarising the public consultation, which is a required part of the reintroduction process if you are going to follow the international IUCN guidelines, the conclusion was reached that a majority of people want the reintroduction, therefore it should move forward. But if you read the details, you see that the majority of the people who lived in the immediate vicinity of the reintroduction site were against it. It all comes down to how you define ‘local’ residents and whose voices are heard. I’m not saying that the trial shouldn’t have gone forward, but I am saying that we need to think about whether ‘public consultation’ in nature conservation and reintroduction projects is real or just lip service. Are the surveys and information gathered just to support the previously-decided outcome? Or are the consultations really part of the decision-making process?

When John Muir looked at Yosemite, he saw a natural wonder. What he didn’t fully grasp is that the people living in that landscape mattered tremendously. Wouldn’t it be a shame if after 100 years we still continue to do the same?

— Dolly Jørgensen, The Return of Native Nordic Fauna

Wairau River – ancient and modern engineering

In 1963, a major engineering feat was completed on the Wairau River, in the Marlborough district: the Wairau diversion.  The diversion created two Wairau Rivers, one following its original course, which meanders south-east into a network of lagoons, before reaching Cloudy Bay at Wairau Bar. The “new Wairau River” was a channel that connected the […]

— envirohistory NZ

Schenck Documentary Now In Production!

What began as a millionaire’s dream, a genius’s vision, and a forester’s labor is now being captured in a Forest History Society documentary film. This spring the Forest History Society joined forces with Bonesteel Films to produce First in Forestry, a documentary film about Carl Alwin Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. Principal photography for the interviews and re-creation footage began in earnest last month, and yours truly was there to witness the excitement and action, consult a bit, and try to look like I know what I am doing.

For those not familiar with our story, George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the first large-scale forest management effort was carried out in the United States under the direction of Gifford Pinchot and Carl Schenck. Schenck also established the first school of forestry in North America. Several of the nearly 400 men who graduated from his school went on to become leaders in American forestry in the first half of the 20th century. Much of the land they worked and learned on is now preserved as the Pisgah National Forest. The story of Carl Schenck and his work at the Biltmore is the focus of the film.

cradle overlook

The view from the Blue Ridge Parkway towards where the Biltmore Forest School spent the summer months. George Vanderbilt owned much of what is visible from there. (Jamie Lewis)

Director Paul Bonesteel strongly believes that including re-creation footage will draw in today’s audiences, and we couldn’t agree more. He used this technique with great success in two other films that have aired on PBS, The Mystery of George Masa and The Day Carl Sandburg Died.

Critical to that success is finding the right actors to portray historical figures, in this case, finding forester Carl Schenck (not Finding Forrester).

"Dr. Schenck" keeps a close eye on "his boys" during a break in filming while Paul checks the playback.

“Dr. Schenck” keeps a close eye on “his boys” during a break in filming while director Paul Bonesteel checks the playback. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here's an example of pretending I know what I'm doing: showing Paul and "Dr. Schenck" the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here’s an example of acting like I know what I’m doing: showing Paul (left) and “Dr. Schenck” (right) the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. The rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight about my having punched out Paul over creative differences are incorrect. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Paul gives “Dr. Schenck” direction for his next scene. The rumor reported in the press in 1909 that Dr. Schenck punched out estate manager C.D. Beadle is, sadly, true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel films)

We are fortunate to have the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service and the Cradle of Forestry National Historic Site in making the filming possible. We’re using locations found throughout the Pisgah National Forest and at the Cradle of Forestry.

No shoot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right shot. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

No shot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right angle. No animals or camera crew were hurt in the taking of this photograph. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

As you might imagine, it takes a number of talented people behind the scenes to make the action in front of the camera look good and convincing. The folks at Bonesteel Films are top-notch and really pleasant to work with. Early calls and long days don’t dampen spirits. Not even a relentless rain storm stopped our filming interviews one day. We just moved to a new location. Fortunately, when it was time for shooting re-creation footage in the forest we had good weather.

Part of the crew watching and making sure everything runs smoothly. We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, and coordinating the two cameras.

We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, checking the script, and coordinating the two cameras. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things that excites us about working with Bonesteel Films is Paul’s skill in mixing traditional documentary film-making style (historical photographs and interviews with historians) with re-creation footage that works like a historical photograph brought to life. But without good interviews, the film could suffer. So we brought in one of the best at on-screen interviews, Char Miller. You may know him from such films as The Greatest Good and The Wilderness Idea.

Pinchot biographer Char Miller will be one of the featured interviews. Here Char (right) takes a break from being interviewed to pose with yours truly and Paul. Rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight that I got in a fight with Char and Paul over sartorial differences are not true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Not all of the film will be “talking heads” and re-creation footage. This is not just a story of the people, but the story of the place. The Pisgah region and the Southern Appalachians are one of the most beautiful places in the world in my opinion. You can’t ask for a better backdrop for filming. It’s why so many Hollywood films are made there, too.

The area around Asheville, NC, is known as "The Land of the Sky" and with good reason. Here's the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

The area around Asheville is known as “The Land of the Sky” and with good reason. Here’s the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

For a few months now, whenever he gets a chance, Paul has been shooting footage that will capture and convey that beauty. He has plenty of experience doing so because of his film about George Masa and commercial work for the Biltmore Estate.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.  (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things you often hear about with actors and film sets is how groupies sneak on to the set to watch filming. I’m hear to tell you it’s true. We’re going to beef up security for the next round of filming. We can’t allow set crashers who then peddle gossip to the tabloids.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he's the source of the rumors in the press.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he’s the source of the rumors in the press of fisticuffs and tantrums. (Jamie Lewis)

If you’ve read this far, thank you! If you want to be a part of forest history, we’re still fundraising for the film. Please visit our film page to learn how you can contribute, and stay tuned for more news on the film.

Filed under: Carl Schenck, FHS News Tagged: Biltmore Estate, Biltmore Forest School, Bonesteel Films, Carl A. Schenck, Carl Alwin Schenck, conservation, Cradle of Forestry, foresters, Gifford Pinchot, historic film and video, historic photographs, Pisgah National Forest, U.S. Forest Service

— Peeling Back the Bark

Environmental Activism and Science: Stories Waiting to be Told

This week I encountered another interesting example of an environmental organization assembling and presenting scientific information.  (I also explored this phenomenon in an earlier post.)
Here, WWF Canada has gathered knowledge of ocean currents and other factors affecting oil spills in the Beaufort Sea, and combined this with information about bird and marine mammal distribution.  The results include animated maps of a variety of scenarios, such as a well blowout or a tanker accident, in which ugly black stains – oil, that is – spread across the region and into the habitats of birds and beluga and bowhead whales..
It’s a good example of how civil society organizations have taken on environmental roles once performed by governments.  Forty years ago, at a time of intense concern about Arctic oil spills, the Canadian federal government spent quite a few millions on research to understand the risks.  Now, with the government having withdrawn from many areas of environmental research, organizations like the WWF are playing a bigger role.
This is a significant development, relevant to both the history of environmental science and the history of environmental politics.  It is shaping what knowledge is gathered, how it’s presented, and how it contributes to decisions.  It has even led to a new kind of environmental research, which I’ve referred to elsewhere as “advocacy science”.  So it’s interesting that this has not yet, as far as I can see, become a major theme in work by environmental historians on the history of environmental activism.  There’s a good story here, waiting to be told.

— Stephen Bocking - Environment, History, Science

Episode 61 of Exploring Environmental History released: The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress

The latest episode of the Exploring Environmental History Podcast features Cameron Muir, a researcher at the Australian National University and author of the recently published bookThe Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress. On the podcast Cameron takes us on a journeys of the inland plains of Australia and he explores the story of how the arrival of modern agriculture promised ecological and social stability but instead descended into dysfunction. It is a true tour de force that starts in regional Australia but also touches on the global food system.

— EH Resources

Third Conference of East Asian Environmental History (EAEH 2015)

Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, on October 22-25 (Thursday-Su […]

— Australian and NZ Environmental History Network

Seminar: “Whales, Antarctica, Forests, and Climate Change: the role of international activism and national leadership in saving the planet”

Speakers: Professor Robyn Eckersley, The University of […]

— Australian and NZ Environmental History Network