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Chapter 6

1634: Autumn on the Hudson

If anybody knew when to harvest maize, it was Arrow. A half-dozen years before, she'd been captured by the Narragansett while working in an Oneida cornfield. The pair of them ate fresh corn, sometimes boiled and sometimes roasted. Thunder loved to teethe on a sweet corn-cob. Once it was past the ideal stage for eating immediately, Arrow peeled the shucks back and hung it in the top of the longhouse to dry. They had plenty of fresh beans and fresh squash, and then the dry beans could be hung up with the drying corn. Greater care had to be taken with the squash. It had to be absolutely dry to be kept, or it simply rotted. She strung pieces of dry squash on some of the wire that he'd been planning to use for something else. She was careful to save all seed.

"Bring me cedar roots, and I won't use any of your precious wire," she threatened. "Next year, pumpkin and turnips. Maybe cabbage, but I'm not sure," she said. "We'll see if my friend Clara van Tanken has some seed when we're next in New Amsterdam. You need to kill us some deer when the cool weather comes on, to carry us through the winter. Start with the ones that have been raiding my garden. You need to dig a hole to put all the potatoes in. The vines are dead now, so the Fourth Brother is finished growing. I know that walnut trees are hard to find, but if you line the hole with walnut bark, nothing should bother the potatoes. Nothing likes walnut, except me. Bring in a sack of walnuts and beech nuts to crack this winter. Mound up the dirt over the potatoes really well, or some bear might dig the whole thing up. I know that bears would like potatoes, since we do." He could only agree. The only part he didn't agree with was the part where more of his warm-weather time kept disappearing into jobs that Arrow thought up.

He dug another, deeper hole for a more permanent outhouse, which he built from some of his new lumber. He split out his own cedar shingles. He filled in the old hole and made a mental note not to use that ground for anything for seven years. Arrow gradually fed the remnants of the former lean-to into her stove. Every day he cut and stacked a little wood, even if it meant setting some other job aside. They'd both lived in New England when younger, and they knew how cold the winters could get. The stacked and split wood helped brace the longhouse walls.

Since the building around his forge would need to last for many years, he also used good lumber for that. It would be more like a Dutch shed than like a longhouse. A traditional Pequod longhouse couldn't stand up to both forge-heat and winter weather. Their home had received a lot more extra care and bracing than he could put into a longhouse as a shed over a forge. He built a tool-shed from smaller split trunks, using sawn beams only when he had to. Both smaller buildings would be shingled from slabs split out of cedar, but that took time. He thatched them temporarily with pine and cedar limbs. He might thatch some other structure more thoroughly, when he could haul a boatload of straw from some farm downstream. He scattered grass seed on mud to stabilize the thatched branches. He'd replace them as time permitted.

Five minutes later, Arrow began nagging him to get all of his tools out of her longhouse. He could take his "man" business to a place meant for it. As soon as that was completed, he decided that it was time to cook some more charcoal, before frozen ground began to interfere with what he needed to do.

A million years before, in the library at Grantville, he'd watched "How-to" "videos" on how to do a number of things that he'd need to know in order to be a householder in the land of his birth, without losing what he knew from Grantville. As soon as he'd begun watching any that called for power tools or modern chemicals, he'd left it and begun another. A huge pile of charcoal for a whole town or an iron foundry took a lot of men and ten days of cooking or more, with round-the-clock watching. By combining two or three techniques, he knew that he could produce charcoal. He couldn't produce either a 55-gallon drums or the round-the-clock monitoring needed. He did need to monitor his charcoal-cooker, but at least he could rest some. The technique didn't make much at once, and he was going to mess it up a few times, but he'd only get better.

First, you created a triangular "chimney" by stacking green slats, like some kind of children's game. Then, you piled green wood against your chimney to make a pyramid, using smaller and smaller pieces to take up all the air space. Then, you dropped enough dry kindling and sticks down the chimney to hold a fire. You covered the entire pyramid with dry, leafy branches. They were there to hold the next "children's" phase. He needed lots and lots of mud. He'd let Thunder play in the mud with him and let her mother wash her off.

There was no use to use good, scarce clay. When you had several inches of plain mud all over the outside of your pyramid, you let it dry until it was firm enough not to collapse. A wood fires outside would speed that up, anyway. Around the base of the dried mud, you dug in half a dozen small tunnels as far as the leaf layer.

Down the chimney, you dropped a shovel full of live coals from Arrow's stove. Coals burn especially hot, so that your kindling would soon be blazing high. Then, you dropped in more kindling and more chunks of wood until you'd completely covered the fire below. At that point, you had to watch the little side tunnels. As soon as you could see fire or a glowing coal down any tunnel, you sealed it shut with mud.

Finally, you put a flat rock on the top of your chimney, sealing it as best you could, but leaving a small escape hole for smoke. It would smoke for many hours, perhaps as much as a day, as you dozed nearby or cut wood, making sure that no fire broke through anywhere around your mud shell. Later, the baked mud would break right off, leaving you a chamber at least partly filled with charcoal.

That was messy and not really efficient, but it created all the charcoal he'd need for a long time. He was able to run six batches before freezing ground in early October cut off his mud supply.

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Before then, he'd resumed his stump-removing project in Arrow's garden. All summer long, each time a sprout would appear on a stump, her broad hoe would destroy it, even more thoroughly than it attacked the weeds. No stump had been allowed to feed itself from new leaves. With fall coming on, the sprouting rate lessened anyway. One by one, he mounted his attack on the stumps. There'd been a "video" about that, too.

He didn't have a "chainsaw," but he did have a saw that made a narrower cut. Each stump would have an "X" cut into the top as far as the saw could easily go. At that point, he'd hammer in steel wedges, perhaps even splitting the stump. With the wedges knocked out, he'd saw again, going as deep as possible. He only had to use his axe to chop one wedge free, but that was a miserable undertaking that involved re-sharpening the axe afterward.

With a hollow reed, he'd blow any stray sawdust from the notches. He'd fill each notch with dry cedar needles. In the center of the stump, he'd place a thin plate of inner birch-bark, and on that he drop coals from Arrows stove and handfuls of kindling. The stump became a pedestal with a campfire on top.

As soon as the birch-bark burned in two, it began dribbling burning splinters onto the dry needles in the notches. The coals themselves eventually fell into the center of the notch. He'd pile on more kindling, until the stump became a gigantic torch and the fire began to creep down into its insides. If he could catch a day with a good breeze blowing down a notch, he'd created a stump-stove with its own fuel and air supply. It would burn for hours. He only had to be careful not to set fire to anything else.

When the stump finally went out, he'd simply build another campfire in the hollowed remains. Arrow's garden spot became a land of stump-torches. When he was finished, nothing remained of the stump above ground. The roots were dead; they had no choice but to rot. Over the next years, Arrow’s hoe would drag their rotted remains into the light to be burned in her stove. Once a tree stump was entirely gone, it was gone for good.

The pioneer pair worked until they were exhausted every day, except Sunday. That day, they'd sit in the shade and play with Thunder or complete some minor, mostly decorative project. Eliezer would read the Bible to Arrow, and they'd relentlessly practice Iroquoian, with him speaking it, and the pair of them turning it into Cherokee letters in the dirt with a twig.

In New Amsterdam, they spoke Dutch, but both were rusty from lack of use. At home, they spoke Oneida/Iroquoian. He'd begun a pencil translation of the Book of Matthew into Iroquoian using Cherokee letters.

With the frost coming on, they chopped the cornstalks, bean vines, and dead squash- and potato-vines back into the garden soil. They covered the ground with maple leaves. Eliezer had read how that the white man's techniques of growing crops had destroyed the ground during the age in which they now lived, but that proper farming improved the land each year. He planned for his great-grandchildren to be feeding themselves from that land, as rich for them as it was for him.

Geese sometimes landed on the broad Hudson. Sometime a shot with his crossbow didn't startle the birds, but he lost several shafts in the water. His musket, loaded with shot, was better. Roast goose was great, and smoked goose would keep, but it needed to be boiled properly, because it sometimes harbored some of those interesting bacteria demons. The same thing applied to pigeons.

A huge flock of passenger pigeons decided to settle into a forest area across the Hudson. Eliezer didn't even need a gun or crossbow, though he carried them in the canoe as he crossed the river. He simply waited until the thousands of birds had settled down for the night, and then invaded their roosting grove with a torch and a club. He brought back a basket full of pigeons to be roasted. With the stove door open and the chimney damper left full, they could spit a pigeon on an iron rod and roast it inside the stove, over the coals.

After the frost that year, Arrow's inclination to seek heavy work dropped off. She waddled around the longhouse, caring for Thunder, sewing, grinding vegetables, and cooking. Eliezer got three deer that year. He shot two with his musket and one with his cross-bow. Two of the grazers simply couldn't get the message to leave the cornstalks alone. The tool-shed was secure enough to hang a deer after he brought it in, waiting for a chance to be eaten soon or smoked, dried, and hung out of the way, awaiting the next animal. He was forced to use some more of his lumber to build a small smokehouse, and that had to have a board roof. The tool shed leaked enough to dampen meat that had to stay dry.

He could see that, with the next spring, his forge had better be up and running, so that he could drum up business in New Amsterdam. Next year he wanted a keg of sea-salt to use as a rub on his smoked venison. He expected iron to be coming in from Newfoundland, but there was no fixed date on that. When it did come in, he needed to have orders ready to put it to use. The iron ore sacks were still stacked against the forge's wall. He was planning no trips to New Amsterdam for the next months. Arrow's baby was due in perhaps two months. Likewise, he didn't want to become entangled in some major project, such as building a homemade blast furnace for his iron ore.

After consideration, he decided not even to suggest having another woman, such as Clara van Tanken or a midwife, present for the next birth. For one thing, while first babies took half a day or more to arrive, second and later babies might take as little as an hour. There was no time to rush to New Amsterdam, especially against Arrow's wishes, because she'd have the baby before he could ever get there and back. She had that late-pregnancy jumpiness that wouldn't want another woman staying in her house. Besides, he was the only Pequot warrior or English gentleman ever to witness every part of his wife's giving birth. He'd done it once; he could do it again.

He practiced firing up his forge with a limited amount of charcoal. With a coal from the stove and a little kindling, that turned out to be easy. He looked at some long pieces of brass scrap, left over from stove pipes, rolling them around in the his mind, looking for a project. That solidified quickly: a bucket; a good, wooden bucket; something that he and Arrow needed all the time. He beat the heated strips into the long the circular shapes that they'd someday have to have, but he added no more charcoal. Most of the bucket work would be wood instead of metal. He knew of some pieces of red oak that should be just right for the slats. The bottom would be a circular piece of cured oak that he sawed carefully, directly from a trunk. With a lot of careful working and some cedar gum, he should have a bucket ready to bind within a few weeks. That would also keep him conveniently inside the house.

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Eliezer decided to make a quick trip to New Amsterdam in his canoe, before the ice locked them in. The Hudson was a large river, but every morning saw panes of clear ice stretching further out into the stream. If he didn't go now, it might be April before he could go again, after the upstream ice let loose.

He was pleasantly surprised to discover that his shipment of iron had come in, but there was no way that he could carry back more than a minimum amount in his canoe. He dickered with the owner of a warehouse to store his iron out of the way until spring. The man agreed to be paid with an axe-head and two hammer-heads. Eliezer also got an order for three pick-heads and one shovel from other merchants. That almost would take up all the iron he could easily carry.

He had to break ice before he could get his canoe back to his property. Did that property need a name? English nobleman like Sir Edmond St. Clair and Sir Thomas Roe named their houses. Eliezer mulled that over in his mind as he unloaded the iron and dragged his canoe out on the bank, upside down. With a great deal of heaving and some more ice-breaking, he also dragged his larger, heavier boat out and inverted it. It had occurred to him just what the ice would do to his to craft over the winter.

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