October, damp and cold this year, made lighting the boiler last week a heralded and longed-for occasion. I began mixing rye bread dough this morning at 4:30 just for the joy of baking it. One grey day I stopped on a narrow country road to listen to the wind rattle the corn husks and then noticed a little black cat watching me. The shop is filled with all sorts of lovely old painted furniture, all chippy and time-worn. That is my favorite furniture of all types and I imagine where I would use it in a future home if I were tp keep it. I sand them to remove specks of paint that could come off and seal the exterior with flat acrylic. After washing the insides of drawers, I seal pretty wood with varnish or, sometimes, I paper them with 1940s wallpaper if the interior wood is nothing remarkable. I enameled the exterior of the dresser shown above with Rustoleum’s stock color Marine Blue. With polished brass antique hardware, it makes me think of a sailor’s dress overcoat with brass buttons.
“The stripped and shapely
The ghosts of her
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
Loveliness” – John Updike, A Child’s Calendar
Walking through Haf’s Apple Orchard last month was a picnic of smells and color. Some trees seemed to be chosen for allowing dropped apples to remain on the ground. The smell of vinegar rose from these fallen apples and the bees were having a wonderful afternoon.
If you live near Haf’s, remember that apple season is not over in November. They have coolers kept at 35 degrees and all of the wonderful varieties are still for sale at prices less than the grocery stores. The comparison stops there as there is no comparison between taste and freshness-Haf’s is the winner in that category, also. All of the apples are marked by variety and purpose. My freezer is full of pies now. I look forward to baking one on a cold January and February night.
From where I sit in the dark shop late this afternoon, leaves are rattling down the sidewalk like old chicken bones. I’m still in the Autumn mode of enjoying mystery movies curled up in the chair with an old cotton blanket from the 1940s. Just as the movie begins, I take two out of the drier and curl up covered in soft, old cotton.
I finished three Christmas wreaths, two to sell in the shop and one to send my sister for the door of the post office where she is the postmistress. I made it from tiny envelopes stamped with dates ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s and Midwestern place names.
Before I leave you in November, I want to show you the Princess and the Pea bed I began last winter. I have 22 mattresses finished for this antique doll bed marked 1898. Using only ticking and other fabric made between 1930 and 1960, it is a like a small encyclopedia of fabric design.
If you are a local reader, remember that Haf’s sells bags of apples with tiny flaws (like a real apple) for 1.00 a pound! It’s fabulous!
Remember my post about my friend, Robert’s, Morning Glory window awning? I think he switched to moon flowers and I haven’t seen how that worked out. However, I can tell you want happened to my cat-run roof of Morning Glories. It turned into a giant chipmunk blind. The two cats, Emma and Kaiser, can’t go outside until I have the time to cut some of the Morning Glories down. I’ve managed to save the two that Emma caught, one of which lived under the radiator for two days, but that can’t go on. I picked one up that I believe fainted from Emma whacking it on the head and it was so soft. As soon as I got it out of the pen, it high-tailed it away.
I didn’t know that chipmunks love to eat the spent Morning Glory flowers. So, I won’t plant Morning Glories near the cat-run again. The shade provided is perfect, but I can figure something else out that doesn’t attract chipmunks. Meanwhile, I will need to make sure that Emma and Kaiser didn’t get fleas from my house guest of two days. I had the front and back doors open for 8 hours a day and that chipmunk would sit on the door threshold and not go out. Finally, I corralled him one night and lead him outside.
Keeping the shop filled with inventory, upkeep on the building and working in the village gardens keeps me busy in June. The freezer is filling up with black raspberries. There are still plenty to share with my neighbors.
I took a friend to the hospital today for a test and saw many people fighting age and illness. A nurse walked by with a tomato plant in a wheelchair. I called out, “I hope your tomato plant gets better.” and she laughed.
I finished watching the Ken Burns and Stephen Ives DVD called The West. Once you pick yourself up from the floor, the history of settling the western part of the United States has much to teach us now.
This is the criteria of Cheyenne people when choosing a chief for the tribe:
He must be a father to all members of the tribe.
He must be good, generous, brave, courageous and must have concern for the welfare of the people.
He does not acquire wealth for himself; but to give to the people who are less fortunate.
He has led a morally up-right life and is respected.
This is how the people choose a spiritual father, a true servant of the people.
Four of the last seven governors of Illinois went to prison. They were very bad chiefs.
Stay strong America. We must have courage and not become apathetic. We must close our ears to the self-serving people who tell us good people are weak. That is a lie.
Good leaders know how to compromise for the well-being of the people, all of the people. Democrats and Republicans, throughout history, have used tactics to block the meaningful decisions of good leaders. That is wrong. We should not allow this.
We are Americans first. This is our America, all of ours. We must act and think like chiefs.
Hidden away in the tiny town of Alden, Illinois, is my favorite antique shop, Sedge Meadow Antiques. I have wanted to write a post about my friend Robert Anderson’s building for some time. Finally, he asked me if I would like to come over and photograph his place to create a small time capsule of his project. This project, this work of art, this creation. It took more than a decade to complete. Though Robert says it still isn’t quite finished. Robert will do something as interesting in the future. But, for now, this building is going on the market.
Most of the antique components of the building were brought in and installed after the electrical, utilities, and plumbing were updated to today’s standard. From city and county, Robert found the architectural elements during a 30 year career as an antique dealer.
The exterior hasn’t changed since the 19th century when the building was, I think, the general store and the interior looks like it is original. That is the art. That is the magic of this place. It is like stepping into another age with all the modern components that make it comfortable and convenient.
Robert’s Apartment Above the Shop
A view into one of the baths illustrates the workmanship that went into creating it with its knock-your-socks-off cabinets. I particularly like the piece of tin from a pie safe hangin in the window. No need for a curtain when the light comes in through all the air vents pierced through the tin.
Dining Room and Living Room
A peek inside one of the three or four bedrooms. People raised large families in the upstairs of these buildings.
Visualize how cozy this room looks in the glow of three oil lamps on the coffee table. I hope I’m there some night when the electricity goes out. One of the things that Robert does so well is meld styles from many decades together in a way that makes them seem at home together. It is the way a house would be if families stayed in the same spot for generations.
The apartment wooden floor came from a tobacco barn. I love the worn part from the chair leg at Robert’s desk. Did you notice the laptop? It is covered with an interesting textile.
Beautiful 19th Century decorative curtain rod knobs kept the drapes from slipping off the poles. Shown in the above three photographs, people who admire the craftsmanship and design that went into making something that was functional is what this love affair with antiques is all about.
An antique velveteen elephant is now more folk art than toy.
And everywhere there are original framed pieces of art.
Now to the back of the building, past the tenant’s downstairs apartment…
Robert’s downstairs back tenant is an artist.
Robert’s friend and ground level tenant has created a magical garden outside her back doors. I knew I would like this woman before I met her after viewing the joie de vivre held within her small garden and hearing the birds sing inside her apartment.
Near the barn, a Victorian planter rests.
Robert’s folk art wooden cats climb the barn wall.
A glimpse into Robert’s shop….
The packing crate walls in one of the rooms are original to the building. Probably put up to keep the building warmer; 100+ years later, we admire them for their cheerful, warm color and make-do attitude.
Customers, who let their gaze linger for a moment, notice that each piece was carefully selected with appreciation for its beauty and craftsmanship.
This cupboard boasts of six spice drawers. Perfection!
Patina, Patina, Patina
A handmade iron exterior lantern holder with pulley to raise and lower now hoists a bird-cage.
This European photograph shows how the bracket was probably used. The lanterns in the photo were probably converted from gas to electric. I think the one in Robert’s shop was lowered and lit by the lamplighter each evening. Robert would know if kerosene or some other fuel was used with this lantern.
A fabulous 1920s original pastel drawing.
Perhaps someone who worked for the circus in nearby Wisconsin made this for a lucky child.
Everything is art when viewed with the discerning eye.
January, 2016 was a month that had to be wrestled and flung to the ground. When it was good, the snow floated down lazily and soft under a sky the color of a grey kitten. I made pear biscotti and baked bread that I shared with the birds and squirrels. When January is mean, the nights are long, dark, and cold in old houses and buildings across town. The sharp wind rattles the old windows and sneeks in through gaps around doors. There was 1/8th of an inch of ice on the interior side of the steel door and windows. Inside, I wore big sweaters, snow boots and a scarf around my neck. Now, we have stomped on old January and walked over it.
The shop was closed for the whole month. Customers dwindle down to one or two a day when the sidewalks are covered with ice and snow. Some building owners don’t shovel or de-ice their sidewalks because they aren’t here. Even with a #10 shovel, I couldn’t break the sidewalk ice after sprinkling ice melt on it the night before. I held on to the buildings when I walked to the mailbox and took ginger steps. Two shopkeepers slipped on the ice; one broke her leg. One day, I went inside Sweet Angeline’s Gourmet Bakery and Cafe and spend a comfortable hour with my friends, Angie and Jim, with a huge, steaming cup of their fabulous coffee. It is the most welcoming place with pastry worthy of a Parisian boulangerie. Walking home while reading their new menu, that I will post under the glass on the shop desk, I am again amazed that we have such a cosmopolitan cafe in this little town of 2000 people.
Now on to February and I think we are going to have an early spring. The sun is out again and it feels strong. Almost all of the ice is gone from the sidewalks on the north side of the street. We have three new (and interesting) shops in Richmond.
This post is about something fabulous that happened. Last fall, I was walking around the corner of my building, carrying, with my friend, Roger, a huge replica of someone’s farmhouse that I bought at a barn sale. The house was quite big and a man, walking to a restaurant across the street with his wife, stepped up to help carry it. Everyone walked into my building and the house was set down. The man, Ron Warwick and his wife, stayed for a minute to talk and as one topic led to another I mentioned that I wished I had a replica of my grandparents house. It had recently been torn down in Northbrook, Illinois. A developer was building a McMansion on the property as happens everywhere now. Ron said that he would turn the house that we were carrying, into a house as close to my grandparents’ house as was possible. I don’t know what kind of a look I had on my face, but I think it looked like a big question mark. I said, “Why would someone do that for a complete stranger?” I realized later that he is simply a selfless artist who must create, for not only did Ron with the help of his friend, Rich, make me a replica of my grandparents’ house, but built a completely new house, from the ground up.
We sat down only a few times and talked about the house. On Google Earth, we watched as the last remaining images of it disappeared forever. Ron whipped rulers around and did some kind of complicated mathematical and geometrical figures in his head while I tried to remember where the windows belonged. Then he started telling me, from his calculations, where the doors and windows belonged.
Nothing like this ever happened to me before, nor will it, I expect, ever happen again. I told Ron, and it is true, that I like the house as much as I liked my brand new 1972 convertible Mustang on the day that I got it. Every time I look at the house, I get a joyous and magical feeling.
Now, the real house, our grandparents and their children are gone. And just as they had to go on living as they lost their loved ones, our generation must go on, too. It is still hard. But, we were lucky to have all those people once and I was lucky when I came around that corner and, just by chance, met Ron Warwick.
Some nights, after I climb up the 17 stairs to where I sleep, I make a mad dash to get under the feather blanket where it is cozy and warm. And sometimes, in the dark, I stand by the house and angle a flashlight to shine in one of the windows, just as the street lamp did and I can hear Grandma and Grandpa, in the den, singing the songs of their youth, following the lyrics on the television screen as Mitch Miller* smiles and waves his hands in time to the music.
*In the early 1960s, Miller became a household name with his NBC television show Sing Along with Mitch, a community-sing program featuring him and a male chorus: an extension of his highly successful series of Columbia record albums of the same name. In keeping with the show’s title, viewers were presented with lyrics at the bottom of the television screen, and while many insist there was a bouncing ball to keep time, Miller correctly said this was something they remember from movie theater sing-alongs and cartoons.
I took this photograph the other night as I was admiring a quarter moon through the tree branches. Something went wrong because instead of a quarter moon, the camera registered this. My neighbor walked by and I pointed to the sky and said, “A quarter moon in a ten-cent town.” quoting a line from the Emmy Lou Harris song Easy From Now On. He laughed and walked on. Sometimes a mistake yields a delightful surprise.