Serendipity, thy name is clay.
It just so happens that our recent daub damage has coincided with a local excavator’s discovery of clay.
Jim Halunen Brush Cutting and Mowing and Cheney Trucking and Materials have been digging a septic pit in the White Horse Beach area of Plymouth, about 10 miles south of Plimoth’s original settlement. To find the right ”percolation rate” they’ve had to dig deep on this particular lot. Several feet down, they came upon a nice deposit of clay. We gratefully received a delivery of several yards of this material yesterday:
What’s the big dilly you ask?
Well, we love Gumby and Pokey as much as the next guy, but we’re not going to daub our walls with em. For one thing, they’re not found locally.
And their vivid colors might betray their other-worldly origins.
For more than a decade, we’ve been mixing mortar from clay which came from the bottom of Boston Harbor during The Big Dig. It’s called Boston Blue clay, and it’s a medium shade of gray in color, with a slight tinge of blue in places. The mortar made out of this clay seasons to a light gray color. Because the clay is very pure and “plastic”, it needs a fair amount of earth and binder in the mix to be useful as a mortar for our walls and chimneys. Unlike the vivid green and orange of Gumby and Pokey, the overall effect in our houses’ interior is a light gray color. Call it, Pilgrim Humours, if you’re looking for the correct shade at the paint store.
The White Horse Beach clay is much browner in hue, almost ruddy in places, with some flecks of gray.
It’s also more local and perhaps closer to what might have been used in pilgrim walls as a mortar. The primary sources speak of digging clay out of the side of Town Brook which we think is closer in appearance to the brown and ruddy color than the Boston Blue variety. We also have some anecdotal evidence of deposits of brown-colored clay in earthen basements of houses in downtown Plymouth today.
The overall appearance of the interior of our houses will subtly change over time, as we work more of the new clay into our walls and chimneys. We’ll also need to adapt our mortar recipes to this clay, which feels more silty and “crumbly” than the more dense Boston Harbor clay. We may need more binders like dung and straw, and less earth in the mix.
Come the summer, we’ll be all feet on deck daubing The Francis Cooke House. We’ll use mostly mortar which has been reclaimed from the former house’s walls, but we’ll also be mixing in some of the new clay. It’s an opportunity to experiment with different varieties of clay mortar in the same house. If you’re local, come on in the mortar’s fine!
Co-worker Eva Lipton remains in our hearts and thoughts and prayers as we approach Thanksgiving. Team Eva has set up a wonderful series of events and support pages for Eva and her family on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-EVA/223963567711425?fref=ts