New Spaces

Not only are we extremely close to opening our new space in
the Exchange District... we have moved our blog.

All the content from this blog has been moved to our new
address on the web. We will leave this blog up as a byway
to ...

See you there!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Old School

Waking to a flurry of snow yesterday I wasn't so much astonished as I was crestfallen. Snow. In May. The winter gear has already been put away. I refuse to pull it out again. I can't help but wonder if this is some cruel joke by Mother Nature. After spending days tilting my face up to the warming rays of the sun, feeling my body soak up oodles of much desired vitamin D, there is something positively sinister in hearing a windchill report in the same week. As the grass struggles to green and the wee buds on the trees remain reluctant, my longing for warm weather, or simply continuity, grows.

And so I seek out answers. Well, not answers so much as a reliable long range forecast.

I've never owned a copy of the Farmers' Almanac but I've heard tell that there is no other source for weather predictions with an accuracy record like theirs. The Farmers' Almanac has published an annual Canadian edition for 191 years. Die hard fans of the Almanac claim it is accurate in weather predictions 80 to 85% of the time. Not too shabby. I wonder what sort of accuracy stats Environment Canada claims?

How does Farmers' Almanac predict the weather? The behaviour of beasts and insects? The migratory habits of waterfowl? The tint of the grass or the sweetness of the corn crops in a given year? It is actually nothing as old wife-ish as an aching bunion. The first of the Old Farmers' Almanac was founded and edited by Robert B. Thomas. To predict the weather, Thomas studied weather patterns, solar activity and astronomy cycles. He used this research to create a secret forecasting formula which is still in use today. Few people have laid eyes on the secret formula and today it is kept in a black tin box in the Almanac offices located in Dublin, New Hampshire. Top secret formula? Black box? Maybe bunion activity factors into the formula after all.

Predicting the weather is not the sole purpose of the Almanac. It is chock full of helpful advice from when to plant specific garden plots and how to care for them, to recipes, to advice on the best day to cut your hair or go to the dentist. Astrology plays a large part in what the good people at the Almanac do. There are no doubt countless detractors who pooh-pooh such mumbo jumbo but, considering the number of years the Almanac has been in publication (the very first edition was published in 1792), its considerable success would suggest some degree of validity.

That I was thinking of farm life this weekend seems strangely coincidental to seeking out weather predictions from the Farmers' Almanac. While closing shop on Saturday I stopped for a few moments to admire the new found treasures in the Kitsch'n. We've changed the room up a little to make room for two kitchen queen cabinets which are presently laden with numerous colorful glass bowls and both vintage and reproduction enamelware. The practicality of these pieces, made long before built-in cabinets became a staple, struck a chord with me and my mind wandered off to simpler, but considerably more difficult times. Would I give up much of the conveniences of today to live as our forebears did? Not likely. Technology, when used for the betterment of people, is a good thing. There are aspects of life 'in the day' which are more than a little bit appealing but I only have to look at the other 'new' treasures to appreciate much of what life today has to offer.

We acquired seventeen near mint flour sacks this weekend. Having them near the front counter, to check their condition, sparked memories and tales from many of our customers. I recalled that my great grandmother would bleach flour and sugar sacks to remove the telltale merchandising print from them. She would then cut them and do her petit point, which are still in the family, many still waiting to be framed. A customer shared her story of how her mother wore dresses made of bleached sugar and flour sacks. Another told of how they were used to make underwear for the family. Today they are collected and sometimes repurposed into clothing or totes with the print left deliberately intact. We don't imagine nary a one of our collection will bathe in bleach. I wonder what my great grandmother would think of such a thing if she were still with us today?

Another find, a collection of old crocks, played directly into the days gone by theme which seemed to surround us this weekend. We currently have a 20 gallon crock as tall as my chicklet (but much rounder!) and a variety of sizes down from there. Some are Medalta, some are Red Wing and others have no markings other than the size. Medalta Stoneware Inc.'s pottery was made in the Clay District of Medicine Hat, Alberta where the company started in 1915 and produced crockery until 1924 when it was reorganized under new ownership as Medalta Potteries Ltd. The newly organized company produced crockery until well into the 50's. Red Wing Pottery is still in business today - in Red Wing, Minnesota, thereby leaving no mystery as to the origin of the name. As a third generation family owned business, Red Wing has been making pottery for over 140 years. The most collectible of their crocks were produced in the late 1800's and are known as salt-glaze pots. The exterior finish came out in a greyish color and was created by throwing salt into the ovens during firing. The smoother, and more common, pottery is known as Bristol glazeware which they began producing in the early 1900's. As we are by no means experts on old crockery we will have to do some homework to see if we can unfold the history of the other crocks we've found.

Crocks were made in a variety of sizes and were used for everything from churning butter to baking beans to food storage to pickling. The value of any particular crock is entirely dependent on its origins, age, purpose, rarity and condition.

If I could incorporate some of the practises of my great grandmother's era into my life I think I would adopt a very few. Baking beans in a crock designed for that purpose is appealing to me. Churning my own butter is not. Bleaching sugar and flour sacks to make my own underwear and clothing is nowhere near my list of things I consider charming. Nor is having to buy household staples which require a forklift to haul. Repurposing a vintage flour sack as a tote or a quaint laundry bag? Well, there's something I may just have a go at.

No comments:

Post a Comment