Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wattle and Daub

Wattle and Daub

A small house crumbles along the eastern slopes of the Cypress Hills. This house, built in the early 1900s, is a relic of Saskatchewan's past. Immigrants from Europe entered the Northern Plains because of the pull of British policies and the push of European practices. The first migrants were ranchers. Their cattle wandered across this hilly landscape, blind to political boundaries much like the bison that had once called this land their home. First Nations also thrived in this country, but they are another, much longer story.

This house may or may not have been a rancher's home. It may instead have been home to a homesteader, a farmer of various crops like rye and wheat.
The house has spartan interiors of wooden frames and iron stoves. Disheveled cots and various goods ordered from the Eatons' catalog or purchased after long journey to the nearby HBC post.
Now, animals and time have taken up residence here. The soil and vegetation seep through the floor boards. The sunlight peers in and bleaches the timber. The iron stove rusts.

The prairie grasses reclaim the area around the house. A garden may have once laid at the foot of this building. Now there is only the slumpage of soil from the gentle slope the runs to the house's west. Once this hill would have blocked the winds and snows from inundating the house. Now it runs free.
Was there a fence here? Hard to say. There is a slough just to the south of the house. Just a few steps away really. Mosquitoes must have been a nuisance during warmer months. Wildlife must have also been visible from the small square windows. Wildlife such as wolves and bears were seldom seen during the turn of the century because of ranchers protecting their cattle. For instance various traps and animal carcasses were laced with poison with the hope that a carnivore such as a wolf or fox would eat the animal and later die. Wolf skins were especially prized as companies offered fair prices for such furs. Now such animals as the bear and swift fox are extinct in Saskatchewan. The cattle, however, are safe. Provided that beef prices remain stable.

Hard work went into constructing this house. Waddle and daub was used to construct the walls. Trees from the area were cut and trimmed to be placed in lengthwise fashion. Mud was layered over top the logs to seal the walls. Banches were then pushed into the mud and more mud was added. Finally, white paint was then lathered over the walls. This house retains none of the paint and only little of the mud, but this house is likely no exception to this description.

So this is one of the neat things I've found while doing archaeological surveys around the Cypress Hills. Lots more though, but too much to mention at one go.

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