Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Late Summer Harvest

Is it just me, or was there a touch of Fall in the air this morning? Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I felt that this morning, with its cool breeze and brief cloud cover, felt more like fall weather than late August.

After an interesting summer, we are finally beginning to enjoy a late season tomato and bean harvest. My 2nd patch of heirloom Dragon's Tongue bush beans are finally ready, and picking a mere 2 rows filled a 5 quart plastic bucket! I have sectioned off the best plants for seed saving, but that still leaves quite a few "eating beans" plants. The bugs have not begun hitting this crop yet, so all of the beans were pristine and lovely. I munched on beans as I worked, making the chickens and turkeys (whose pastures adjoin the garden) very jealous.

The Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge Tomatoes are ripening, and though their color is visually fascinating (they are supposedly the only domesticated tomato with a true purple pigment), their flavor is far better suited to sauce making than fresh eating.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Twisted Sense of Humor...

I've always enjoyed collecting odd old tins and glass bottles - the stranger, the better. It runs in my family, as my mother used to collect old medical bottles and such, and passed the collection on to me.

One of my favorite possessions is an old glass bottle I purchased for $2 many years ago - on the side it reads, "Worm Expeller."

Recently, at an estate sale, I found another addition to my Collection of Medical Oddities:

Look, there's even one suppository left!

Sleeping or Smothering?

I do believe Adso is trying to smother his brother!...Perhaps Jugi was snoring too loudly?

I'm Showing You the Bird!

The Bird HAT, that is! ;)

My hat style definitely trends toward the post-Audubon regulations; meaning that I love hats decorated with "fake" birds composed of common feathers over styrofoam. You get the funky effect without the (once live) parakeet.

It's getting harder and harder to find even these "fake" birdie hats. Vintage hats have become very popular collector's items over the years, so prices are high and unique hats rare. That being said, I still persevere! I have been blessed lately to have come across several rare, affordable bird hats. I have recently added two more into my collection:

A simple but elegant hat made by Isabel Pickreel. You can view the lovely hat HERE.

I also won another bet with the Devil (or, more appropriately, Ebay), for another bird hat. You can view this 2nd hat HERE.

Vintage hats are flying through my mail box like Christmas fruit cakes! YAY!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Estate Sale Finds...

Went to a pretty decent estate sale today! Not as good as some of the ones in the past, but I did manage a real score: a 1957 SIGNED Hollycraft hinged rhinestone bracelet for $20! Apparently, the hinged bracelets are very rare, and retail for $275-$475. Mine is missing a few rhinestones on the underside, but it's hardly noticeable, and I LOVE it! Soooooo shiiiiiiny...

I also got two magazines from 1948 (LIFE and POST) for $3 each. On the back of one of the magazines was an ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes! I couldn't help thinking of Mad Men when I saw it.

One has a fascinating (and scary) article about "fogging" with DDT! It has a picture of a woman eating, and another of children playing, in the "fog." Reminds me of a chapter in Bill Bryson's book, "The Thunderbolt Kid."
I'm the sure the bald eagles are thrilled.

Other items I picked up: a bag of vintage buttons for $2, some lovely old fabric with a garden theme print, several yards of pretty lace edging, a music box, a lovely candy dish, and a vintage white half slip (I have one in black, but have been looking for one in white for ages!!).

All in all, a pretty awesome sale!

Some Things In Life Are SO Not Fair!

It should be illegal to be that comfortable...

(I want to be a spoiled house cat!)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Raccoons, Cougars, & Cousins - Oh My!

What an absolutely ridiculous week! I am going to blame "Mercury in Retrograde," if for no other reason than I would prefer it to rest on something else other than my wild (and not always in a good way) luck.

For starters, I had two unfortunate brush-ins with the local raccoon population recently...

Now, anyone who thinks that raccoons are sweet and cuddly has clearly never lived in the country. They (at least the ones in our area) are vicious, aggressive, and one of the common carriers of rabies (besides bats and skunks). Not to mention that raccoons will decimate a poultry population if given the chance.

The other morning, I went to let the chickens out of the coop ~6 am (before the sun was shining, but definitely a well-lit predawn light!). After letting them out, I glanced up at the oak tree in their pasture and saw THREE raccoons staring down at me! So, I had to race around and chase 25 very uncooperative chickens back into the coop (which they did not appreciate, clearly not comprehending the threat to their feathered selves). After several hours, the raccoons left, and I was finally able to let the chickens out of the coop again. Oh, did I mention this was during a B&B booking? So, not only was I supposed to be cooking guest breakfasts, but was running late that morning before the raccoon incident! Thankfully, I managed to rush through my tasks and get breakfast ready on time (ironically, the guests ended up being 20 minutes late to breakfast...some days you just can't win! - What a MONDAY!!).

Then, three nights later at about 4 am, there was a terrible racket coming from the poultry pasture. It woke my grandfather up, who went outside to investigate (armed with a club). Punkin, the guard llama, was pressed as close to the gate by the barn as she could get (i.e. farthest away from the ruckus) and was clearly very upset. Gramps said he saw about 5 raccoons fighting amongst themselves in the chicken pasture, and the chickens were going NUTS in the coop. He chased the raccoons off (though it took some convincing, as they are aggressive and unafraid of people here), and the chickens quieted down, so he thought all was well. I went out two hours later to feed/let the chickens out of the coop. I noticed spotted feathers and a trail of blood leading from the poultry coop to the oak tree at our property line where I know that the raccoons love to roost (FYI - that tree is coming down this fall - for many reasons, but that is one of them!). When I let the chickens out, I saw that my beloved hen (a Mottled Houdan named "Jimmy Hendrix") was missing. I was SO upset! Apparently, the raccoons must have figured out how to lift up the little chicken door on the coop and go in. That evening, Ryan installed a sliding latch on the door to keep it bolted shut at night. I have been raising chickens for four years here and have NEVER had that happen! I didn't know raccoons were that wily!!?! I only hope they don't figure out this new latch...*fingers crossed*

And now, for the icing on the predatory cake:

Just yesterday (around noon), I was cleaning the Apothecary Suite after another guest check-out. Because it was a nice day, I had the window open. I can see the female llama pasture from said window, and about this time I noticed that my girl llamas were avidly watching something going on in back of our property (specifically the field behind my property line). It was then that I heard my neighbor say "I have to call Ryan and Jillian!" Of course, I was already heading downstairs to the phone at that point. Our neighbor told me that he had just seen a juvenile COUGAR loping along from our creek bed in the male llama pasture (located in the large wooded lot to the north of our house), along our back property line, and towards the back of vineyard next door!! Since the last time a cougar was spotted in our area was looooong before we ever even moved here, I was understandably shaken! As the livestock was my first priority, I grabbed a shovel (for lack of better weapon), and raced outside to do a head count. Everyone but my one white male llama, Judge, was accounted for. I started hiking into their pasture, and was talking to my husband on my cell phone about the cougar at the same time. Ryan, suddenly comprehending exactly where I was and what I was foolhardily doing, said, "Um, hun, PLEASE STOP and take a 360 degree turn around, checking the trees AND the ground level!!!" Oh yes, oblivious dolt that I am forgot that gee, cougars can climb trees AND stalk people on occasion! Thankfully, I was in the clear, and finally found Judge (who was perfectly all right, and - unlike George - does not know enough to come when called!). About 2 hours after this sighting, we received a notification that there had been a deer killed by a cougar the previous night just a mile away, and I would bet money it was the same cougar. I have to say that a cougar sighting right on/next to my property is very concerning - the donkeys are never locked inside at night, and though I don't worry about the llamas as much (weighing 500 lbs and all), they are also vulnerable to attack (the goats are at least locked in at night, and located in the middle of the property under the constant watch of humans and Punkin). Not to mention my small self, who goes out in the predawn dark to feed/let animals out every morning! I don't pay attention to if there is a cougar around! Are you kidding me?! It's before COFFEE! So I told Ryan I wanted to get some pepper spray to take with me from now on, as that would be easier to remember to carry around. I know that the folks living along the Highway 238 a few miles from us get cougars, but that is an area with lots of fields and forest and a low human population. Our property is in a heavily populated area that the cougars always seemed to stay away from (or so I thought!). I don't know if this was a freak occurrence or what, but I have to say that I am quite a bit unnerved. I have been stalked twice by a cougar, and am not game to try my luck with a third round!

So beyond that insanity, we have also been getting quite a few last minute bookings. I am very thankful for the cash flow, though I'm very much looking forward to the quiet at the end of tourist season! I have family visiting for the next three weeks or so, so we've been in an uproar of cleaning and cooking too. The weather here has been a bit wild: lots of thunderstorms, some rain, and a great deal of very muggy heat!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Tasty Joy!

The first real tomato harvest is in!: the large & beautifully bi-colored heirloom known as "Joya de Oaxaca!"

Pasta sauce is simmering as we speak! I'm thinking that some garlic bread (made with our own sourdough and heirloom garlic - recently harvested and now dried) would make for the perfect accompaniment to tonight's meal!

And of course freshly-baked peach turnovers (since I am still up to my eyeballs in peaches and peach preserves!) for dessert!

My tummy is grumbling...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Toyls & A Date

Yesterday, Ryan and I went out on a morning-long outing to several local antique stores. I had promised to buy him a new old toyl (in this case an antique vice), and we also wanted to see if we could find any old hat blocks on the cheap. You never know what you'll come across around here!


We found a canvas-covered hat block (technically a wig stand, but you can absolutely use it for basic millinery work too - like any wood hat block, you just make sure to carefully cover it with plastic before steaming the felt!!), which will totally work for felting cloches and other types of skull-hugging hats. It even has the jack hole in the base for mounting on a spinner. I am so excited!

The block is (very lightly) marked 21 1/2, so a little small for my 22 in head size. However, I can easily pad it a bit with a layer of felt before using it to make hats for myself. Voila! Ingenuity!

Also found this cutie: a very pretty little pheasant! Quite long in length, and will look smashing on a sculptured fedora someday soon...

Peaches...And More Peaches...

This has been a good year for the local peach crop, and this week finds me (amongst other things) canning peaches (and still more apples!). Thus far I have managed to process about 40 lbs of peaches, which we love eating in the winter either straight out of the mason jar or else baked into pies and tarts. Helps brighten that wintertime "blah" diet.

The tomatoes are just barely beginning to ripen, so hopefully by September I will be able to start on the pasta sauce canning!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Frankie II

My 2nd example of a 1930s/1940s "Frank Palma Original" tilt topper hat arrived today!! I LOVE it! The poor bird was in a bit worse shape than I had been led to believe, and needed some feathers re-glued (thank goodness I had already purchased the Fabri-Tac!). Otherwise, the hat is in great shape, as is the fun netting! Normally, I am not a netting/veil type of person, but this has a wide grid and just compliments the hat's character SO well. I will not be removing it.

This is the first tilt hat I've owned that does NOT stay on very well (odd), so I will be adding an elastic hat strap at some point (I also need to put one on the pheasant hat I recently bought). In the meantime, I am just very very careful not to move my head around too much when I wear this!

I LOVE this hat! It is another vintage hat that really epitomizes the funky & fun style that I like to call my own.

Viva la vintage hat! ;)

My First Real Day Off!

I have been working basically non-stop for the past 24 days straight, pulling 16- to 18-hour days. Today was my first real day off! The hardest tasks on my to-do list are moving the garden sprinkler and dying my hair with henna. Oh, and of course using the internet to feed my vintage hat addiction.

Don't judge me - it's been a looooooong month!

P.S. - You KNOW you're a hardcore coffee drinker when the inside of your mug develops a lovely brown "patina" that doesn't even come off after a run through the dishwasher! Yum! :P

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mad Hatter: Part 1

I have decided to try my hand at hat-making. I know, I know, I do NOT need another project! But I do so love hats, and I also love being creative, so why not combine the two and attempt a new chapter of millinery madness?! If nothing else, it will be a way to make vintage-inspired hats when I can't afford to buy them!


Step 1: Buy how-to book.

My choice was the much-approved "From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking" by Denise Dreher (available from Amazon). Basically, the millinery bible, and an excellent resource for a beginning mad hatter! The book breaks everything down into easy-to-follow lessons with thoughtful illustrations.

Step 2: Practice making paper mock-ups.

While I eventually want to turn almost exclusively to felt work, I feel that it is important to know how to do all aspects of hatmaking. So, for my first project, I will be making a buckram hat frame that will be covered in cloth and decorated with a fake bird.

Since I love the beautiful hats of the late 1930s and 1940s, I decided my first hat would be a tilt topper. I made the hat with a pointed front and a curved-up back, and it will rest at a jaunty tilt upon my pretty little head! I constructed a flat crown with which to place my mock "bird" (constructed of styrofoam and feathers).

In order not to waste valuable (and expensive) materials, you figure out the pattern for your hat using cheap-ish paper models. That way, if you make a mistake, it's not as expensive! You start with your first paper pattern, which you cut and shape and tape to figure out curvature of the brim (if you do in fact want curvature - which I did!). My initial pattern is shown below the "Step 2" title. Once you have your pattern figured out, you cut out the "real" paper pattern. Then, you use that final paper pattern to cut out the buckram, sew it together with some millinery wire for support, cover it with fabric, and decorate!

Step 3: Don't be Idle - Play with Glue!

While waiting to order the buckram, I decided to work on my mock bird. My inspiration came from this hat displayed in the November 1944 issue of McCall Magazine. My bird will look very similar, except that the tail feathers will be shorter, and will extend upward a bit more (as they will be resting/attached to the upturned back brim of the hat.

To make the bird body, I purchased a medium styrofoam "egg" and cut it in half.

Using the wonderfully brain-cell-killing glue known as Fabri-Tac (DEFINITELY only to be used in a well-ventilated area and while wearing gloves!!), I glued on a layer of colorful feathers, working from the back and making my way forward (so that they would lay and look more natural).

The bottom I left as plain styrofoam for the moment, but will eventually be covered with a light fabric and glued and/or tacked onto the finished hat to hold it in place.

For the bird head/neck, I purchased a styrofoam "ring" that I will cut a piece out of and carve one end to look like a head. I haven't figured out what to use for a beak yet...?

Anywho, I finished gluing feathers to the bird body today, and hopefully tomorrow will start constructing the head and neck.

Here is the bird body resting on the paper mock-up. Imagine the spray of tail feathers coming out the back too (like the McCall hat)...

More millinery adventures to follow!...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What's for Breakfast?

Peach "Boats" with our own homegrown raspberries & blueberries, drizzled in blueberry-lavender-lemon verbena jam, and garnished with lemon balm, borage, and evening primrose flowers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wear That Funky Pheasant, White Girl!

So I won my first (and most likely only) Ebay auction last week!

It was for the craziest vintage hat I'd ever seen: a sort of modified feathered pillbox with a fake feathered pheasant (complete with gold glue eyes and fun pompadour feathery poof) on top.

It even had trailing feathers in back (let's face it, I'm a total sucker for long, trailing feather accents), and the sides of the hat are covered in brown netting with random accent spots of gold glue.

Like I said, totally WILD vintage hat! According to the seller, it came out of a famous costume shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, that has been around since ~1840. This shop even supplies the annual bunny costumes to the White House each Easter! You can tell that the hat has seen better days - a few of the long tail feathers are broken off and missing, and there are bare spots on the sides of the hat where feathers are missing.

To me, it just adds character, and shows that the hat was well-used and hopefully well-loved. Given the crazy style and dark brown color, the hat was difficult to photograph, but we tried our best!

And in other hat-related news, my wonderfully crafty woodworking husband carved me out my first hat block this morning!

Let the millinery experimentation begin!!