Friday, April 15, 2011

you can really tell your age ...

when you feel that your skills at this new fangled thing called blogging is a total mystery to you. Talk about feeling like an artifact. It has taken me several attempts at maneuvering around the site to finally see the goofy little button at the top that tells me it is the key to hit when i want to post something. Still can't figure out how to add a picture for my profile though. it does not seem to want to accept jpg's. Every day i learn more and more and am grateful that i still have the three brain cells required to think with. If these meandering words actually post i will consider today a success. Digress.
Now to comment on my colleagues posts. Wow. I mean wow. You inspire me to search out cool stuff to add and to be part of the collective DSQHR consciousness. Sandra your insight into the irrigation system is great stuff. Now that i get to go back tomorrow and learn more I will be able to add my own thoughts and hopefully have input worth sharing. Now i just have to get a new camera as i left my old one a the Giants game last sunday. bummer.

Day 1

Day 1 The day started with a welcome from Sister Karen Elizabeth, the Motherhouse Administrator for the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose. Sr Karen shared some archaeological history of the Convent site and invited us to walk around if we had the time. My first impression of the site was green: grasses, trees, flowers, and meditation areas set in garden rooms. It was very peaceful on a Saturday morning.
We picked a juniper tree as our site datum, hammered in a piece of rebar and marked it with a wooden stake. Setting up the instrument took most of the morning as we all got a chance to try and level it before starting to measure the angles for the site. Could I do it again? Well, maybe with some help. Using the Trimble XT 2005 GPS instrument with David seemed much more efficient and accurate.
And then there are the field notebooks. I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to be recording so I just took notes as we went along. From what I recorded I think I have the start of a site map. I downloaded the map from Google Earth, located our site datum and marked the angles. Am I on the right track?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

DSCQHR Orchard Site: Water as Artifact

Google capture of the DSQHR well and pumphouse remains encountered during Trimble survey on April 9th, 2011. Note the rather large wooden joist foundation just south of the pump house. The easternmost portions of the foundation are missing and may turn up in another location on the DSQHR site. It is possible that this foundation supported a water storage system during the first half of the 20th century.

A farmhouse with water tower supply system circa 1903. Wood was far and away the most favored material for fashioning water storage towers on homesteads and farms during the late 19th and early 20th century CE.

Looking over notes taken during the first day of field work at the DSQHR orchard site, the perhaps one of the most evident assemblages the class will immediately confront is that associated with the orchard's irrigation system and the technology of its water supply. Evidence for this derives from the information provided by Sister Karen, Professor Hartely, and from our collective experience during the Trimble survey of the orchard site. In the southeast corner, outside of our permitted area, are the remains of a well and pump house along with its machinery.

Abutting the pump house ruins is the rather massive foundation square formed of what appear to be 12"x12"x8' wooden joists (measurements subject to revision). Our group speculated that this wooden foundation supported a water storage system, i.e., a water tank fashioned of either wood or metal and perhaps datable to the first two decades of the 20th century. A casual estimate of the capacity of such a tank would fall in the range of appoximately 5500 liters.

Forestry and Irrigation Magazine: as the frontier closed and the 20th century dawned, farms and households in the west were vitally concerned with hydrology and water self-sufficiency.

DSQHR Water Use and California History

As Euro-American culture expanded increasingly west of the Mississippi, eastern farming methods and cultivars could not be dry-farmed along established European lines because of unpredictable periods of rainfall. This was not the case in the American west a hydraulic civilization arose dependent on irrigation [for a cogent discussion of this thesis see: Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985)]

Commencing with the Spanish mission period, and this is evident on the lands of Mission San Jose, aqueducts were constructed and played an important role in the transfer of water from natural watersheds to irrigation canals supporting European crops such as wheat, barley, oats, wine grapes, and fruit trees. California never abandoned the large-scale aqueduct during its subsequent history and well-based hydraulic irrigation systems proliferated on farms and homesteads where landowners could directly tap an aquifer.

The well, water storage, and irrigation system ruins on the DSQHR orchard site represent a specific example of human modification of the environment to support the cultivars of European dry farming in an alien environment characterized not by four seasons but two: wet and dry. In this sense, the DSQHR orchard site is directly related to the politics and culture of water use that evolved in California after 1848, where, in fact, three systems of water law co-exist side by side: California recognizes riparian rights, appropriative rights, and pueblo rights,wherein Spanish and Mexican era settlements held claim to customary sources and ground water. It is perhaps possible that the DSQHR associated well derives its legal basis from such pueblo rights.

A family posing in front of old Riviere (or Reviera?) Adobe, west of Jefferson and St. Andres, ca.1878. Without pueblo rights or rights to a riparian source, this homestead depends on appropriative rights to water pumped by wind and stored in a wooden tank.

A Note on Artifacts and Materials Associated with Early 20th Century Water Storage Systems

I was surprised to learn that wood construction of water storage tanks was a preferred material over steel well into the 20th century. Here is an excerpt from a farm manual dated 1918 that discusses the construction of water storage systems:

The storage of water. With any type of pumping appartatus so intermittent in its action as the windmill and so variable in its output, a form of storage must be used. An elevated tank or reservoir is most common. Occasionally, the site is so arranged that a small reservoir may be built on a hillside, usually a masonry or concrete structure partly dug into the hill and partly walled above ground level. More frequently an elevated tank is built on the same tower with the windmill, or, possibly , in the attic or in the barn loft. In all these cases, gravity pressure is relied on to give the flow of water.

Tanks. Both wooden and metal tanks are used, of all sizes from 150 to 150,000 gallons. Usually of 4- or 5 day supply is arranged for. For wooden tanks, pine and cedar are regarded as desirable in the East, while cypress is most favorably regarded in the South and Southwest. Metal tanks are occasionally of cast iron or steel. They cost nearly twice as much as wooden tanks. In both cases, care must be taken to keep the tank painted, clean, and tight.

Wooden tanks are generally thought to be better than metal ones. They are easier to erect; they neither seat nor rust; they do not follow temperature changes so readily; and they are less likely to freeze. As they cost much less, wooden tanks are much more common, even in the very large sizes.

Whether the tank should be inside or outside, depends largely on the local conditions. The insided tank is restricted in size, both because of the limitations of the space available and, also, because of its great weight and necessity of making special provision for its foundation support. …The life of wooden tanks is found to be seldom less than 15 years, and it is frequently 25 years or longer.

Redwood water tower enclosed in a stable in San Mateo, California, circa 1937. Redwood, due to its rot-resistant properties, was used in the construction of water storage tanks in Northern California. It should be noted that the wooden slats of the water tank were held in place by upwards of thirty bands of steel cable.

It is also possible that the DSQHR water storage tank was fashioned from cast metal. The DSQHR role in Catholic education required involvement in Latin America and water storage systems had to rely on materials other than wood. Here is an example of a cast metal 5500 liter storage tank constructed by a Protestant Missionary group in Africa circa 1924.

Narrative Source: Seymour, E. L. D. Farm knowledge: a complete manual of successful farming written by recognized authorities in all parts of the country ; based on sound principles and the actual experience of real farmers: "the farmer's own cyclopedia": Volume III. Farm Implements and Construction, Garden City, N. Y. : Doubleday, Page, [c1918] pp. 169-170).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More pics from Day One

As a Socio/Cultural Anthro major, this is my first field class (and first Archeology class!). Its refreshing to bring the educational experience to a beautiful outdoor location. I'm so used to learning from books and lectures that learning hands-on seems foreign. It took hours to understand the purpose of the transit and how to measure distance by reading the stadia rod (its been a LONG time since I've done math). However I did enjoy the teamwork aspect, especially flattening the tall grass in front of the eastern stake. Field experience sticks in my mind, whereas years of books tend to fade from memory. I hope we can break out the gloves and tools this coming week!

It is fascinating that Andy Galvans said there has been no archeological activity yet on our site, considering the amount of human activity surrounding it. His team has discovered many burials along Mission Blvd. over the years. He also noted that even the Native Americans would have stayed away from such a sloped area. But with the concentration of humans here since the mission was established, and possibly prior, I don't think its unreasonable to expect some archeological finds.

Photos from our First Two Classes

Some photos from Day One

Charles expounding upon the exquisite calibration of our 32-year-old Transit.

Our First Day at DSQHR

Sister Karen!

I'm looking forward to working with you all again next week! :)