The past two weeks of the Veteran’s Historicorps project has been very exciting for us here at Thornburg Farm. When we first arrived, the team only had five SCA members and two Historicorps members, but we managed to set up our tents pretty quickly in back and front of the site, respectively. The kitchen was a bit more challenging as we need a well-placed tree to hang lines from in order to stretch out our tarp roof and arrange storage containers and cooking equipment. The area around the farm is beautiful this time of year, even if we weren’t completely prepared for the intense heat and humidity, as well as sudden heavy rainstorms.
The Historicorps supervisors introduced us to the history of the Thornburg Farm, including details about its original construction and later expansions. After learning about the tools and safety measures we’d be using during the project, we donned our Tyvek protective suits and/or tools belts and got to work. Half the team removed the double hung windows and started the arduous process of stripping of the old paint and refinishing the frames, while others were cutting and replacing the glass itself.
The other half set up scaffolding, scraped off old roofing and began replacing rotted rafters, laying down new felt, re-shingling and installing new flashing and fascia along the roof’s edges. The highest part of the roof got metal sheeting instead of asphalt shingles, requiring the one of our members construct a rope rigging to lift the sheets up to the top roof where they were placed.
Outside of working hours, we’ve also taken in a good deal of the local landscape and culture. The forest trails and rivers around us have given us the opportunity to take hikes along trails and creeks in the Birkhead wilderness, and to spend some time swimming and fishing near a low wooden bridge only a couple miles down the road. We’ve had a few encounters with local wildlife too. A rat snake made its way around our kitchen a couple days after our arrival and a rattlesnake caught our team by surprise the following afternoon as it was basking in the sun where our scaffolding was to be moved. As a dangerous animal in our worksite, we determined it had to be dispatched. The teamwork that followed, with one member pinning the snake with a rake and another decapitating it with an axe allowed our newest member, at the time, an opportunity to skin, clean and cook the small animal into a tasty stew. The camp fire our team dug and built together has given us ample opportunity to get to know each other, trading stories, playing board games and guitar and watching as fireflies fill the fields around us each night. Camp also seems to be getting cozier as we build benches, tables and other crafts to help make life easier.
Learning to live with each other has had its challenges, from some of us having to watch our language and choice of conversation topics to shopping more locally than many of us are accustomed to. With members trickling into the group, there’s been some consternation stemming from having stricter SCA policies spring up without much forewarning. A number of meetings dealing with both team building and SCA policies seem to have helped the group compromise and adjust to the situation. We find ourselves getting into a groove and hitting our strides in distributing workloads and understanding expectations that we have for each other.
We’ve encountered a number of other colorful people since the project started. The local volunteer fire department impressed us with their hospitality and generosity early on, making almost daily supply runs to provide us with water and inviting us to their Memorial Day celebration BBQ at the station. A few days after, a group of French travelers came to the farm and spent the night with us around the campfire. Returning from a supply run into town one night, we found a group of local astronomers stargazing next to the camp’s gate and their rather excitable leader convinced a few of us to join them for a while. We even ran into an older man living a short distance down the highway who used to help the last Thornburg resident farm the property.
This past weekend has certainly been a highlight for the group. We made a 4 hour road-trip to Jacksonville, NC where we met with one of the other SCA teams. Everyone was excited to see how other teams are living and working together, getting to know each other and relaxing together. Visiting the beach, eating together at an Arabic restaurant and going to a bowling alley to play pool and arcade games has relieved a great deal of stress and tension from work and camping. Getting back to work this week, we’ve definitely noticed an improvement in productivity and morale. We are looking forward to the next hitch, when we will be moving up to Wisconsin to begin our next project.