Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Today I Spread Manure.

I love old diaries and have owned a few over the years. I had one once that was kept by a farmer near Fort Plain during the year 1917. It wasn't very exciting. In fact, the most common entry was “Today I spread manure.”

As I read it, I kept hoping to find some reference to World War I which The United States had entered that year, but there wasn't any. At first I was a little annoyed with the guy. How could he write about spreading manure when such a terrible event was going on.

But since I have kept a paper journal for six years now, I can better understand this diarist. It is very easy to get caught up with my own life and forget the world around me. My paper journals, which I keep in those marble composition books because they will stand up on a shelf like a regular book, often don't reflect what is going on in the world, just what is going on in my world. Sometimes days go by during which I forget we have troops getting killed in Iraq. If you don't have someone stationed there it is easy to forget what is going on there.

Furthermore, I have begun to see the value in spreading manure. Fertilizing the earth is an important part of the cycle of life. Without a fertile earth, we won't need a war to destroy us. Did this Fort Plain farmer realize that? I don't know for sure, but he must have thought that spreading manure was important because he not only did it almost everyday, he also recorded that he did it in his journal.

Another journal that I owned was kept by a lock tender at Fonda's Basin on the Erie Canal in the 1800s. Fonda's Basin was not in Fonda but was somewhere near Clifton Park. This diary which chronicled life on the canal had more varied entries and was more interesting than the one kept by the farmer in Fort Plain. This diary is now in the New York State Museum.

Another time I owned a number of journals kept by various members of the French family from Amsterdam. I read many of them, and they gave a fascinating insight into life in Amsterdam in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Now that many people have turned from writing journals on paper to blogging on the internet, I wonder how many journals future historians and antiquarians will turn up. I will most likely leave my composition books to my daughter when I die, but to whom do I leave my blog? Is a blog worth preserving, and how do you preserve a blog for posterity?


  • Thats a really interesting thought. We read journals from years ago all the time. But as technology advances people seem to feel no need to write thier feelings. They seem to want everyone else to be able to read about them.

    By Blogger Rachel, at 9:46 AM  

  • Historians will keep track of the wars, floods, hurricanes and other "big" happenings in the world, although I think our perspective on these things matters for future referrence.
    Still it is the little day to day events in your life, i think, that will offer folks in the future a real window into life today.
    I also have a farmer's diary and one from my great grandmother and I love how they give me a chance to see what they did every day and how they got it done.

    By Blogger threecollie, at 10:37 AM  

  • This is an interesting thought and as a collector of emphera the one thing that I have often pondered is that with our technological advances in PC’s and home printers more people tend to take the cheap route (including myself) and design and print their own letterheads which is ok to do, but what will our descendents a hundred years from now think of these letterheads? I know in looking at the incredible examples of letters and letterheads that I have in my collection I often think that what we do now with our home PC’s and printers (even with my color laser) looks so much more primitive than the stuff from a hundred years ago or even older.

    By Blogger AmstHistory, at 1:48 AM  

  • Thanks for the comments. If paper items that people collect are called ephemera because they are ephemeral, I wonder what name has been (or will be)given to a collection of digital items stored on a computer or disk? Stuff stored on disks is ephemeral as well. But it also requires the appropriate technology to read it. I still remember storing computer programs and documents on cassette recorders. I never kept the tapes, but if I had I no longer have the capability of reading what is on them.

    By Blogger Dan Weaver, at 8:53 AM  

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