Saturday, June 24, 2017

Uncovering History

I've taken on a new hobby. Just what I need, another hobby to take me away from writing. But it's okay! I don't write much in the summertime anyway, and this hobby, alongside with my gardening, which by the way I've been slacking on this year, can only be done when it's nice outside and not freezing. What is it you say? Take a look!







The inscription on the bottom reads:
Jennie, it's my sorrow's pride
This last dim duty to fulfill
Though all the world forget beside
Friends will you remember still

And one more...

In progress...
Since last fall I had begun cleaning headstones, starting with a few that the historical society I'm currently a board member of have chosen to put on a list as part of a cemetery tour/walk of some notables of our town. The walk is scheduled for our town's sesquicentennial in 2019, so that is giving us time to clean up some of those stones. Aside from those, we've also cleaned some veteran's stones for this year's Memorial Day and other random stones of interest, like the Jennie DeBolt stone (who is, btw, the namesake of one of my female main characters in Lake One) and the Hardy stone. I'm still working on Hardy and should have it cleaned up as best as I can get it this weekend and I'll continue on to the stones we have for the tour.

Initially, it was cleaning the stones for the tour that got me into the hobby in the first place. There's a lot of satisfaction seeing these old pieces of history come to new life after decades of moss, lichens, and algae are cleaned off. My interest grew even more upon the discovery of a Florida man on Facebook who calls himself The Good Cemeterian, and seeing his results made me want to attempt the same. His page has a section which describes his process and what he uses to achieve the level of cleanliness of the stones he restores, and the key ingredient is the cleaner he uses: D/2 Biological Solution. The stuff isn't cheap, but it works great and it continues to clean or keep the stones clean long after the initial cleaning. The Good Cemeterian states some stones are easier to clean than others; some come clean only after the initial cleaning, others take months and several treatments of D/2 to get his results, and even sometimes not all of the staining comes out. I've noticed this on the stones I've been cleaning. The Jennie DeBolt stone so far has had two treatments and still shows some staining, but it continues to whiten.

So this is the process that I use, very similar to what he does:

  • Wet the stone with water
  • Using a safe for nonstick cookware scraper, carefully remove thick areas of moss and lichen
  • Rinse with water, apply evenly the D/2
  • Let it sit for 15 minutes (you'll see discoloration)
  • Scrub with nylon brushes (anything else may scratch and cause damage to the stone)
  • Rinse, repeat spraying with water or D/2 and scrub until satisfied with results
  • Rinse, let stone dry until slightly damp, apply final dose of D/2
For large stones, like Mr. Hardy above, start from the bottom of the stone and work your way up to prevent unwanted staining. Preferably, clean the entire stone and not just where the inscription is. Moss and lichens do damage to a stone over time with their roots and removing it all from the stone prolongs the life of the stone. NEVER use bleach. It can do more harm than good, and never use a power washer or metal brush or steel wool, because come on. Some headstones may be so delicate that scrubbing at all is not recommended, and D/2 can also work with the wet and forget method. Dampen the stone with water, spray the D/2 evenly (starting from the bottom on up) and leave it alone for a month or more. If the results aren't satisfactory, repeat the process.

I won't recommend another product in place of D/2 because I don't want to be responsible for any damage done upon my recommendation, and I'm not knowledgeable enough anyway on what other cleaners work just as well. I know this stuff works and is used by not only Mr. Good Cemeterian himself but the government for their monuments and by preservationists. So if it's good for all of them, I know it's good for the headstones here.

And when the Hardy stone is complete, I'm sure I'll be back to give an update with pictures to follow.


I'm going to amend on a couple of points above. I had said that one should never use a power washer. I learned that using a power washer is safe, ONLY on granite headstones that are in good condition, and using a PSI of 600 or less. Don't use a strong stream because it can lead to uneven cleaning. Still, be careful even on granite. I recommend only those that are seasoned with using a power washer (I'm not) to use one on headstones. Another thing, I discovered another easier to come by and cheaper cleaner to use on headstones called Orvus WA Paste. I've never used it, but it's a soap that contains no damaging salts that's safe for use on headstones. I do not recommend using dish soap because it contains said damaging salts.

And now for a picture of the Hardy stone all cleaned up!

Picture taken 7-2-2017
It cleaned up quite nicely! It still has stains in areas, especially on the north side of the stone, and I'll hit those with more D/2 eventually. This stone now stands as a beacon in our cemetery.

The more I clean, the more I learn different and better techniques to cleaning headstones. Eventually I would like to be able to learn how to properly straighten and repair stones and not just clean them. But for now, I'm quite happy doing what I'm doing.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Old Timey Newspapers -- My Go To For Research

Since having discovered access to old newspapers on microfiche through a fellow historical society board member and friend, I've found a wealth of information to questions I've been wondering about regarding my novel-in-progress, Lake One. Answers to those questions and those I hadn't even asked yet. Let me tell you, those old newspapers are a historical writer's jackpot. And one of the best parts about this discovery is that they are located at the library the next town over (about eleven miles) so I have easy access to them. The rolls are put on a scanner that's hooked up to a computer and I can save whole pages or just sections of a page into files on a thumb drive. Love it!

The newspapers are pretty fun to read too. The vernacular of the day, as I've heard it described, was salty and quite humorous, depending on the story. They would take, for instance, an incident that did not go so well for a fella, he hiring a moody horse and cutter to go visit his school ma'am girl, the horse getting spooked and busting up the cutter, all the while writing the story in a hilarious way, though I'm sure it wasn't too funny for the fella at the time. These particular stories are helpful in that I can learn a bit of how people may have talked as they incorporate a bit of slang from back in the day and are written more like someone telling you a story rather than reporting the news.

Said spooked horse article. Click photo to enlarge to read it.

Ads in the newspapers are very helpful as well. They give me a peek into what items cost back in those days, what was being sold, what movies were playing at the theater, and even some of the fashion of the day. Announcements of events are helpful too, so if I decide I want to include an event in the story I can, but generally I don't because they have nothing to add to the story other than to give it a more authentic feel.

Speaking of not including things if they don't add to the story, one must resist the urge to include interesting things for the sake of adding interesting things to tell the reader, but have nothing to do with your story. For instance, I learned that within my story's timeline there was a band of gypsies that were going through the area and pillaging what they could from local businesses. They first struck Nashville before heading to Hastings, where the police there had been warned before the gypsies' arrival and were rounded up and escorted out of town, and then tried to hit a country store south of town. The shopkeeper's son made a warning shot with his rifle and the gypsies had a second thought about that, and instead commenced toward Battle Creek. That would have been something fun to add to my story, perhaps might even get a mention still, but since it has nothing to do with the story I'm writing, the gypsy saga will have to remain untold except in the paper.

Going through these papers, as mentioned earlier, I'd found answers to some of the questions I've been wondering about since I started this story. For instance, who was the sheriff at the time, and who would have been Jennie's school teacher? What activities were happening, when and where, during the Fourth of July? When did school let out (still as of now searching for that one) and when did it start back up (that one was answered)? What was the train schedule? Stuff like that.

Train Schedule for the week of July 19th, 1923.

What I'm telling in this post is most likely nothing new to someone who writes historical novels, but maybe for someone starting out this may be an avenue one hadn't thought to look before. I knew for a while that going through old papers would be helpful in my research for Lake One, but I had no idea how to find them until just a few months ago. And I'm so glad I did.

Speaking of Lake One, progress had been going pretty steadily for a while since late January, but has dropped to near nothing in the last couple of weeks with the day job demanding most of my energy. And now that spring has sprung, more of my energies will be going toward outdoor chores. I'm going to try not to slip back into the bad habit of not writing again, but I can't guarantee it. I kind of got stuck in this current section in the novel not knowing how to continue on with it. Should I write it this way, or write it that way? I think I know the answer now and I just need to get off the internet (you damn siren) and just write. I also want to draw my characters but fear is stopping me dead cold before I even start. Drawing used to come so easily to me. Not so much anymore. If what I'm drawing doesn't come out right fairly quickly, I get easily frustrated and scrap it. Why did I let myself go out of practice with drawing?

Enough of rambling, time to get to work, and get off the dang internet.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Just Another Update

Nothing Earth-shattering has happened since my last post, except for Trump becoming...ugh, I can't even say it. Still trudging along on Lake One. My interest in writing has perked back up again, but we'll see for how long. I've been working more on the historical society's Facebook page more than my own writing, though not at the amount I previously said I would like to do. We have other admins on the page that contribute interesting pictures and stories so we share the work. Which is fine by me. It has become quite popular and to keep up that popularity we try to post something new at least once a week. Once a week is good enough to not inundate our readers with too much which would in turn lead to them unfollowing us. Don't want that to happen!

In the nearly 150 years our town has been a town, there's a lot of history to share, so I doubt we'll run out of material any time soon. With the discovery of microfilm of our town's newspaper at the library the next town over, it opened a Pandora's box of interesting information and history. We're pretty stoked about that!

I'm on chapter 15 with Lake One right now. I was going to go a certain way with it when I finally reached it, but after some research I realized I could not do what I wanted to, and it might be for the best. This new approach I've been brainstorming at home and at work all day today is making me think this will be much better than I originally intended. At least I hope so and I don't end up writing myself into a corner. Discovery writers, anyway!

Oh, and I have a new cat since I last wrote. My best bud, Jake, passed away in November last year. A past surgical area to his intestine closed back up and even though the new surgery went well, he never came out from the anesthesia. I adopted a new kitty I found online from an animal shelter. He's a Russian Blue I named Ivan, and he's quite something. Loves to talk. And eat. And eat. And talk. And eat. He's a bit squishy, and with his thick, plush fur he's so soft. For the first month of having him he did not stop meowing at night, and I threatened him I'd take him back to the shelter if he didn't shut up (my threats of course did not phase him), but after a while he finally settled down and now I sleep most of the night. He still likes to wake me before the alarm goes off most mornings.

I am not impressed, human.

I have nothing else so until next time...