Surprise the Reader!

Notes from a Lymington bungalow? What is this contraption doing here?

I am hoping to draw your attention to the role of these Notes as a place to log the research snippets and discoveries left over from my America 18/70 blog. These nuggets of interest will help provide a context or background to the destinations.

The Great Black Swamp is no longer a feature of the Ohio landscape. But when European settlers first reached the western shores of Lake Erie, they encountered a forested wetland that covered nearly 4,800 square miles in Ohio and Indiana, and the immigrant farmers hated it.

‘It was in their view a pestilential menace and barrier to prosperity and as soon as possible they began the business of draining it.’

Responding to this business imperative, a typical gung-ho American inventor, James Hill came up with the perfect solution; the Buckeye Steam Traction Ditcher, an excavation contraption that could dig a ditch faster than a team of 15 men working by hand. When drained, the Great Black Swamp became some of the most productive farmland in the US. You can find out more by visiting the US Nature Conservancy here

This may not be my only encounter with the legacy of the drained Great Black Swamp. Intensive chemical farming practices are cited as responsible for blue-green algae infestations in a number of major waterways – including the Mississippi – See you later, alligator!

America 18/70

Ask the Reader!

 How would you plan to spend 3 months travelling in the eastern third of the USA?

Describing the outline travel plan in the Welcome paragraph was the easy bit! Now I am responsible for building the complete itinerary for the trip! Where to begin and what to choose? This dilemma took me straight to the heart of the research process – how to find out about things that you don’t yet know versus researching more about what you already know.  For some aspects of the trip I know the question I want the answer to (can we travel by boat north up the Hudson river from New York?).

For much of the rest of the planning, I have general knowledge gaps about everything! – landscape, key historical events, significant locations –  to name only three! The first type of question requires a targeted approach to the research to locate something that I know exists. To tackle the general knowledge gaps I will need to research more broadly, learning about culture and places without quite knowing how I will  use the information on the trip. To use an appropriate metaphor, it’s mining versus prospecting! Drill down deep to find the facts and range far and wide to gain the bigger picture. This good tip came from a research article here:

Wider reading

A further source of stimulating ideas is coming from novels. Tracey Chevalier introduced me to the Great Black Swamp of Ohio. Here in the 1830s, struggling pioneers settled where their wagon got stuck.  I found that discovery intriguing and naturally, that set off a few hours of ‘prospecting’ and wanting to know even more.

Great Black Swamp, Ohio
The Great Black Swamp, Ohio