Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
A view of the battlefield from Gettysburg NMP.
Tuesday, I began my time in Resource Management by spending the day with Bert Herbert, our park's archaeologist. As I mentioned before, I was excited for the opportunity - because I'd finally have someone to "talk shop" with.
From my limited time with Bert, I gleaned that the park archaeologist in Gettysburg primarily works to protect the resources through ensuring compliance. This means that when our battlefields or properties are potentially disturbed, he steps in and acts as an overseer and consultant.
In fact, our first activity of the day was in relation to this exact function.
Our Spangler's Spring comfort station had been closed for some time due to the fact its 30's-era water line had become non-functional over the years. This year, the park is beginning a construction project to replace it and thereby reopen the comfort station. To give a simplistic explanation of the situation: The park intends to replace the water line by digging in the exact path of the old water line, replacing it in kind. Because the survey team discovered that the water line runs beneath a number of our park's defensive walls, and would require their being disturbed - it required a field visit from Bert.
Bert and I walked the entire length of the old water line, chasing the occasional blue line across the tall grass of the fields. At one point, we even had to venture straight into deep, overgrown thicket. Even though it was still early morning, it was about 90 degrees out and very humid. Trying to make my way through that thicket was probably the most intense hiking I've ever done in my life. If you're ever around some thicket and are curious about venturing off trail, I wouldn't recommend it. There's just too many plants with thorns and tangly vines and roots.
Blue line hunting in the thicket! You can see the trail we were following in the lower right hand corner, painted on a plant.
The water line intersecting one of our defensive walls.
Finally, we came to the tail end of the water line, and documented the path photographically. I later learned from Bert that this water line was originally dug by hand. Hand-dug trenches can be made to be very narrow and are much easier to "shape." This means that when our machines come in to "replace in kind", they have to be just as precise as the original scope of the labor in order not to disturb areas outside of the original trenches, so that the integrity of the battlefield is maintained. Extraordinary care will be necessary as the crews get near the walls and monuments, as well. Construction and preservation of historic sites is a very delicate thing. on one hand, you want to maintain and make accessible your resources - but on the other hand, once you've tampered with the original integrity of a historic resource, it can never be regained.
Bert and Dan (the supervisor for the project) meet to discuss the importance of using a very small diameter backhoe bucket and an experienced operator for the delicate excavation, and the best methods to preserve the integrity of the battlefield during the project.
After lunch, I was allowed to go into the wet lab and assist with the cleaning of artifacts that had been discovered at one of our building preservation sites, the Klingel house.
Water and a bucket. My tools for the afternoon also included a cup full of toothbrushes, pipe cleaners, cotton swabs, and tissues.
I invented a new tool to clean the bottle. I call it the field-expedient cottonswab and pipe cleaner apparatus - or FE-CAPCA - because I've also learned that the government really likes initialisms and acronyms
Generally, you can't use water on metal. Instead, dry brushes (seen on the right hand side of the picture) are used. The artifacts here are two nails and what I thought was a bell, but Burt said could also be some kind of censer (a kind of receptacle for burning incense).
This inscription, located on the back of a spoon handle, became visible once I cleaned the dirt off of it. It appears to say "RITAN" and has an image of what is either a crown of a chef's toque, and some small letters beneath. "KET", maybe? My guess is that it said PURITAN at some point in time.
"Guaranteed full 1/2 pint"! All clean. Thanks, FE-CAPCA.
Nothing like a basket of clean artifacts at the end of a day. These will eventually be cataloged and then make their way into storage at curation (which you can see in one of my earlier posts), but for now they have to dry.
Trying to strike that balance between conservation/protection and public use is probably the most complicated issue I've come across in my time at the park so far - and after spending the day with Winona Peterson (more on that later), one of our park's historians, I'm convinced there's no easy solution. The visitors come to see the resource - but visitor use can sometimes threaten the resource. Without visitors, there is no park - but without resources, there are no visitors.
Visitors enjoying Little Round Top; Ranger Ryan Levins patrolling.
I think the best thing that I can do as a LE ranger, then, is not just to demand rule compliance as if it were some grand arbitrary fiat - but rather take a page from the interp rangers and do some education. If visitors cutting social trails down the face of Little Round Top is causing the hill to erode (which they are - and it is), then it's probably beneficial to take them aside and tell them: "Hey, I understand you love this place and want to see more of it, but we only get one chance to preserve history. We get over a million and a half visitors in a year, and if they all walk down the side of the hill, then there's not going to be anything left of Little Round Top in the future." Or something like that.
Of course, sometimes people won't listen to you, or don't care, and in that case I don't think there's not much to do aside from punishing the violation by whatever means are appropriate for the situation. But discounting that, I think most people are reasonable and appreciate being treated as such. I'll definitely have to do more observations of conflict resolution styles, though. I've still got a lot (and by a lot, I mean everything) to learn!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Full story from the York Daily Record here:
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Me and Eagle 2.
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of working with the Park Police again, and this time I got pose for a picture with Eagle 2. Sweet! This photo was taken on the ground just outside the old Cyclorama building.
Tuesday, I'll be starting my two weeks with Resource Management/Planning. As an Anthropology major, I'm excited, because that means I might get to spend a few days with our park's archaeologist.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
On the side of invasive species management we were trained on the proper use of herbicides and exotic plant identification. We were trained by Frank and Jeff from the Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). This was very hot and sweaty work but very rewarding in the end. By the end of our two weeks with resource management we had treated four areas that are being managed for invasive species one of which was hand pulling barberry bushes and if you know anything about barberry you will know that it hurts!! Everyday we would leave the park sweaty and dirty but it was alright because we felt a sense of accomplishment and that we had done our part.
While in RM we also have done a lot of water quality testing. In order for the park to keep the 5 lakes within it's boundaries open it must monitor the quality of the water. The two main test that are done are acidity and E Coli. These are both done by taking samples to the lab and either titrating them to determine the pH or using a bacteria test to determine the presence of E Coli. I find this work very interesting and looked forward to doing this after every rain storm.
GPS and GIS are used quite often in the NPS. From measuring the size of an area of invasive species that need to be taken care of to marking the spot of a hunting blind that you found while out on boundary patrol, these skills will be very useful whatever department you end up going into with the NPS. If you have not done so and have the opportunity to get familiar with this software I would highly recommend it because of the many ways you can use it in the field.
It was also very nice to get out and enjoy the woods of PRWI on our two resource hikes that we went on. It is a very beautiful park and has many hidden treasures, one of which is a plant on the endangered species list, Isotria. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent here at PRWI with RM it has been two very enjoyable weeks where we have stayed very busy and enjoyed spending time with people our own age. I look forward to the next few weeks where we will be spending some time with LE and Interp.
(Pictures to follow)
Monday, June 14, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Included in these noxious weeds are Johnson Grass and Ailanthus trees, aka Tree of Heaven. They are considered noxious because they are not native to Maryland and more important they were not present during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. The mission here at the park is to preserve and protect. t our duty to preserve the battlefield so a visitor will see it the same way a Civil War soldier would of seen it all those years ago.
After a morning of hard work, we successfully cleaned up this problem spot. Unfortunately, this field has been overrun. In order to to get the land usable for farm use, like it would of been back in 1862, we had more work to do. We spent the rest of the work week cleaning up the invasives in this farmland.
This week ended with quite the bang! It was one of the artillery weekends here at Anti. One of the most popular programs of the year, men from Civil War Living History Groups come to put on a show. They fire cannons and explain how the canons worked and were used during the Civil War Era. The men of the Baltimore Light Artillery Group came to give the demonstration.
On a hot friday afternoon, I spent time making artillery rounds for the show. For obvious safety reasons, we make use real canon rounds. As a substitute, we make rounds out of aluminum foil, tape, peat moss, and one pound of black explosive powder.
Here I am fulling a round peat moss and to the right is Ranger Christy molding rounds for me to fill.
I am now molding the round so it can be used for the artillery weekend. After we fill a round with peat moss, we then make another round and fill it black powder. We then put the peat moss round inside the black powder round and mold the whole thing together to make it look like an authentic civil war artillery round.
Of course, this is very dirty work.
But it was well worth it in the end because I got to fire a real civil war canon! KaBoom!
Till Next Time!
A small portion of the calves from the herd. The older ones are far less curious.
Well, in all honesty - it was just one calf, but still . . .
Gettysburg has a lot of fields and fences, some of which we lease to farmers who in turn work the land. I don't really know anything about the agricultural leases or how they work, so I can't say too much about them unfortunately - but what I can say is that we maintain the historic fences around these farms, and that portions of them (usually just the top beam) do on occasion fall down or get knocked over by the animals grazing inside. This in turn tends to lead to escaped farm animals.
This morning, we were called over to one such leased farm to corral a calf. This particular calf - #997 - had already escaped on numerous other occasions in the past. According to our Park Watch volunteers, he even jumped clear over a fence on at least one occasion.
Ranger Ryan Levins secures the gate afterward as the calves watch.
Once we get the cattle back to where they belong, search for and repair any fence damage, we usually notify the farmer. Until that point, however, getting the animal back where it belongs is our responsibility since it's on park property.
It was an interesting way to start the morning. I got to run along side a calf while holding a video camera, with my arms spread out so that it wouldn't try to turn backwards or towards me.
"He doesn't know what's about to happen." Ranger Levins and I coerce the calf back into the pasture.
Friday, June 11, 2010
The 18 Venturers of Crew 615 clear brush along the area of the High Water Mark known as "The Angle," one of our most-visited and visible areas of the park.
I've mentioned before about how incredible the attitude of the people within and around Gettysburg is, but I don't think it can be stressed enough just how dedicated the people who work here and the visitors are to this place.
I was fortunate enough to work with Angel De Jesus today, inside the administration of our maintenance division. He administers the Adopt-a-Position program in the park, among other things, and is an incredibly busy man. Despite this, he took some time to explain to me some of the ways the park takes advantage of the massive volunteer support it receives. For example, in 2008, Adopt-a-Position volunteers logged nearly 7,000 hours of work maintaining the grounds of the battlefields. Our Park Watch program (which works alongside the Law Enforcement Division), as well, recently celebrated completing its 100,000th patrol hour.
Angel told me that he likes to meet the volunteers personally, taking pictures as they work and e-mailing them to the volunteers afterward. This helps reinforce our park's relationship with the volunteer groups, and lets them know how important they are to us. Here, he photographs some of the crew working.
Early in the afternoon, I was able to follow Angel as he met with Venturing Crew 615, which had traveled all the way from Augusta Georgia in order to complete a service project here at Gettysburg. In just one day, the 18 of them completed 54 hours worth of very hard labor, manually hacking overgrown weeds and tangled honeysuckle bushes down with clippers and swing blades near historic stone and wooden fences along areas too delicate for our mowers to reach. This difficult work helps us maintain the historic appearance of the battlefield in order to honor the fallen and the men who fought here.
Carlos Garcia and Angel De Jesus (far background) supervise the crew as they work The Angle.
I keep hearing that once you work at Gettysburg, you never leave - and I'm starting to see why. The people love this park and their enthusiasm is infectious. During the busy season, we have multiple groups of volunteers who come from all around the country (some of our Adopt-a-Position VIPs travel all the way from California) every day for the specific purpose of helping maintain the battlefield. Personally, I love these people. I think they're fantastic and the work they do is phenomenal.
Being able to work and have contact with these volunteers is incredible. Their enthusiasm and love for the park is just so apparent when you talk with them, and their eagerness to put in hours of very hard physical labor on their own time really rubs off on you. If you're ever having a bad day or feeling off for whatever reason, talking to a volunteer for just a couple minutes really sets things right again and puts everything in perspective. We're very fortunate to have such proactive supporters, and working with and for them to maintain and protect these cherished places is nothing short of a great honor.
This week I am in the maintenance department at Independence and I must say I have a whole new respect for gardeners. I never thought that I would enjoy gardening but I have. I have had so much fun learning the ins and outs of the different departments. I'm loving every minute of this.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The barn: my workplace for the past few days.
This past week I've been working in the maintenance division, helping to reconstruct a historical barn out near East Cavalry Field.
One of the most interesting things about the building of this barn is that the NPS and the carpenters I've been assisting have a real dedication to maintaining the historical appearance of the barn, from the meticulously-matched custom paint on the outside all the way down to the structural beams on the inside.
Any time you take a tool to a medium, it leaves evidence of its use. Normally, this isn't much of a problem, but since we are interested in preserving a historical structure rather than simply building a modern facsimile, the traces of the modern tools we use have to be removed so that the restoration is as seamless as possible.
Old and new beams.
To this end, the carpenters here try to re-use as much of the original wood as possible, stripping, moisturizing (with a linseed oil and turpentine mixture) and re-painting it when it is structurally safe to do so, and replacing it when it is not. Some of the larger structural beams were in bad shape and fell into this latter category, but before they could be placed inside, they needed a bit of touching up.
Modern-cut plank. You can see the circular saw marks along its surface.
Wood cut with a modern circular saw is usually covered in visible arcing furrows caused by the teeth of the blade passing through as it is cut. These have to be removed using a planer.
This planer saw a lot of work. As you pass it over the wood, it levels the surface, eventually removing the furrows completely, until the face of wood is smooth.
A comparison of the original beam and its replacement.
Planing is good, but not good enough. If you look closely at the aged beam in this picture, you can see a number of lateral (perpendicular to the beam itself) gashes going up its side. These were caused by the original carpenters using axes (not planers) to level the wood.
The carpenters recreate this notched appearance by taking a small axe and striking the wood at an angle. I got to strike at a beam myself on Tuesday, which I found to be very therapeutic. As a special bonus, I'll know that there's a beam of wood inside the barn that will have my unique series crosswise gashes on it for, hopefully, another two hundred years or so.
Maybe I'll take my children to see it someday. I bet they'll be super impressed. Or not.
Gary recreates a historic wood joint used to hold beams together, using the original beam as a pattern. Many thanks to him, by the way. I didn't know anything about barns or carpentry until he took the time to teach me.
It hasn't been all axework this week, however. There's louvers to take care of. Louvers are the slatted "windows" you see on a barn. They allow airflow into the structure. This is important, because is a pile of hay or whatever plant-stuff you're piling needs to be able to "breathe" in order to dry properly. If it is not able to dry, much like a compost heap, it will steadily increase in temperature as the organic material is broken down. When it gets hot enough, this can potentially lead to spontaneous combustion.
Louvers! Already painted, so I have nothing to do here!
Since nobody wants the hay in their barn to suddenly explode into flames, and louvers also let in of light which can help you find your way around once inside - you'll probably spot louvers or some similar manner of ventilation systems on most storage barns.
Stripping the louver. I start the day out in coveralls, but by the time I get to painting, it's too hot to work like that and they end up half-unzipped. Oh well. The thought was there.
The louvers on the barn were in need of some love, so I got to strip the crusting old paint off of them, dust them off, prime them with oil-based paint - and then paint them over with a lovely green latex paint.
A stripped, upside-down louver.
Getting the paint off of the slats is actually kind of difficult. If you're trying to be conservative with the centuries-old wood, you're not going to be able to get all of the paint off. This is OK, though. We really only needed them smooth.
Painting the louvers with mint-green primer.
Like I mentioned before, it's really good to see the attention to detail put into the restoration of this barn. While I didn't do much other than paint louvers and siding (that's really all I'm capable of anyway, since I'm no carpenter), helping a with project as massive and visible as the reconstruction of a 1850's barn is a very gratifying experience - the measure of work you put into it is immediately visible to the same degree.
Allison, me and Ryan at the visitor center here at Gettysburg, ready to answer questions. Picture only tangentially related to the post below.
Last Saturday, I was able to ride along with my supervisor during patrol. Up until now, I'd only ridden in one of the big the SUVs - but since today was Park Day and we had a massive amount of volunteers show up to work on reconstructing the historical fence line along either side of one of the park roads, we wanted to make sure the work zone was as safe as possible. Therefore, it was time to take one of the interceptors and watch for speeders.
Tuning forks which vibrate at the speed marked.
The people driving through the park were pretty well-behaved, so we didn't make any stops (which is good.) - but I did get to see how the radar is tested before use. It involves little tuning forks, which when struck vibrate at a specific frequency (35 and 65 MPH for the two in the picture) - if the radar accurately detects the vibration of the forks, then it's good to go.
Ranger Ryan Levins, testing the radar unit.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
What kind of snake is this? My last day with the maintenance division was really interesting. after a long day of labor, one of the six snakes I saw that day decided to make friends and wrap around my boots. luckily, I was fast enough to grab it before her teeth got any closer to my skin.
While I was working on some paper work, I observed a fox hunt for Squirrels and Chipmunks to keep her young ones healthy. The fox had built a fox whole behind the ranger station where our law enforcements officers are stationed.