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Mayflower, Day by Day - Thursday, 29 April 1621

29 Apr 2021 3:17 AM | Soule (Administrator)


Another of the advantages of the warmer weather, in addition to the start of planting crops, was the thawing of the ground.  During the winter, it was not possible to construct houses in the preferred fashion because it was not possible to dig clay.  Walls were usually of a construction known as “wattle and daub” -- after vertical studs were put in, sticks were woven into a lattice called “wattle”; these wattles then were packed with a mud plaster (clay mixed with water).  This form had been used in England for centuries, and would become common in America for centuries afterward.  This assumes that a roof has been put up first (so that rain would not wash the wet clay away, as happened at least once in the winter).  Chimneys were also made in this way; before the chimney went in, there was simply a hole in the roof.  Before the ground thawed, it was difficult and time consuming to extract enough clay to cover the wattle.

I was amused by two common phrases for this time of the year when I lived in New Hampshire: the first was “mud season” (when the upper layer of the ground had thawed, but the lower layer had not, causing water to be trapped in the upper layer); the second was the ubiquitous sign “Frost Heaves”: I pondered whether either, or which, of those words was a verb.

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