Sunday, July 31, 2011


On early Appalachian farms and in small towns, collecting eggs for the household usually involved a child or teen trotting out to the chicken house to gather eggs from some protective mother hens. Along with the young person came a small egg basket that could easily handle a dozen eggs. These baskets were made in the region  -- sometimes by the very household that collected the eggs.

The Appalachian area eventually became famous for their well crafted baskets. There were many basket designs -- small, large, and medium each designed to fulfill a certain use. The basket construction varied with the maker -- examples being round rib, round, and rectangular to name a few.

The art of basket making was often passed down to the next generation. Various construction methods can sometimes identify the basket-weaver or the family weavers. 

Appalachian split baskets initially seemed to be made to provide containers for various chores around their country farms. The raw materials were available in the abundant woodlands and the knowledge to make them was present among the folks. Split baskets are strips of wood such as hickory, oak, or ash splits removed from felled trees.

Above is a close up of the small split rib egg basket seen in my top photo. The wide rounded handle is worn smooth from years of handling. The ribs are those carved pieces that emerge out from the top diagonally. The weavers are those strips that are woven around the entire basket. Making a basket took time and skill. 

Law and Taylor's book, Appalachian White Oak, Basketmaking, Handing Down the Basket, discusses the complete process of basketmaking from tree to finished basket.

I mentioned that these baskets were for chores around the house. Well their beauty and craftsmanship eventually attracted buyers both from the immediate surroundings and afar. Basketmaking became a cottage industry -- whole families sometimes got involved and some could even support themselves by the basket trade. 

Today these Appalachian baskets are treasures that are sought after by collectors of antiques and folk art. Many spiral into the hundreds of dollars range. 

If you are lucky though, they can still be found at Appalachian yard sales or perhaps at estate sales -- at reasonable prices.

Thursday, July 28, 2011




Tuesday, July 26, 2011



Between Mount Vernon, Kentucky and Berea, Kentucky is a small used car lot that sells both semi-old and historic cars. I'm not a car buff but I am attached to old cars in another way. Like so many people that were raised in and around the Great Lakes states in the twentieth century -- we as families have a cultural relationship with the auto industry. Starting with the Ford factories in Detroit to the spread of plants to surrounding states, our fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, and aunts plus our siblings were touched by this industry. You might say it is in our bones. We have stories to tell that can't be found in history books. 

The auto industry was huge by the end of twentieth century and had changed considerably from its first half. A secondary industry of sorts had grown as a result and it was one that was worker driven -- that industry was the unions. Unions have both a good name or not-so-good depending on which side of the worker's rights you stand on. But for all the farm boys, Africans Americans, immigrants, and others during the twentieth century,  it meant, finally, that they could make a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their families.

My Irish grandfather worked for Henry Ford in the beginning of the century -- he was fresh off the farm located in what Michiganders call the thumb area. He had four brothers that all signed on -- copies of their Ford employment applications lay in my old trunk. My father followed in my grandfather's footsteps and worked 36 years for General Motors. Although he was not union his salary was compensatory with union demands. Both my grandfather and father retired from these giant industries. 

Now we are in the twenty-first century and things have started to go awry. Autos are over-populating the earth, guzzling oil, and filling up our landfills. The days of one car families has disappeared along with the mindset left over from the depression days of limited household spending. A dilemma of huge proportions. 

The next few decades will tell us if our thoughts of "living comfortably" are  now being overdone. Will we benefit from the lifestyle we live today? Lots to think about.


Friday, July 22, 2011


My toy antique Schoenhut upright piano no longer plays tunes. Yet its design -- an all wooden upright case with painted wooden white and black keys reminds me of the old full-sized player piano in my great uncle's Ohio farmhouse. When I was young, it was a treat for me to sit on his piano bench while the piano rolls magically moved the keyboard keys.  Out of the guts of this piano would come loud, lively music. If I was lucky, I was allowed to listen to the piano rolls every-time I made a visit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



Early this summer I took the time to visit Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, to see their textile exhibit . It featured textiles that exemplified the order and balance in their everyday life.

Shakers  were industrious, inventive, and disciplined in their everyday activities. They were productive in many areas of their culture; furniture production, seed production, textiles, architecture, and other artistic endeavors. peaking during the 1800s.

Religion played a part in their culture as well as abstinence  Males and females slept, lived and ate separately.  On Sunday, their religious day, their dancing was done with spiritual spontaneity in the meeting hall .  This spontaneous dancing gave them the name "shakers" to the outside world. Both men and women participated in the dancing, yet were segregated.

Women were active in  textiles. In the early years they made  richly designed textiles that are now highly desirable to collectors

The rugs in the exhibit were made by sewing small folded pieces of cloth to the rug's backing and finishing the edges with braided pieces of cloth. 

Included here are two pictorial rug examples that I photographed at the Pleasant Hill exhibit. Most rugs made by the Shakers are not pictorial. The rugs that were made at Pleasant Hill average 3X5 feet making them all rectangular. 

Beverly Gordon in her well researched book, Shaker Textile Art, believes these two pictorial rugs are probably from about the 1840s.

I viewed these rugs with my interpretive eye. I wanted to get a sense of the woman that made each one. Perhaps you will notice cues, other than mine, to the maker's personality within the rug design.

The "horse" rug is vibrant, colorful and was designed  in a naive manner. This told me perhaps that the women put her soul into her work, had a lively life in the Shaker community, and was rather out of touch with the world about her  -- by her naive design. I believe the horse would to be a reflection of the importance of this animal to their society?


The pictorial "GOOD" rug was again naive, colorful and soulful. The "Good" might be a reminder that within their world this was an important way to be.

All conjecture on my part.

Shakers were a large society that accomplished so much during their active time. I would recommend the Beverly Gordon book as a great start to learn the ways of the Shakers.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I noticed this small, square, one-room, weather-boarded outbuilding several years ago. The property it sat on had a house, canning outbuilding and a wash house outbuilding -- all were vacant. I now can name  the outbuildings because I finally took the time to stop and ask about them.

I asked the next-door neighbor (to the property) about the two small outbuildings about twenty-five feet behind the vacant house. She had lived next to the house for most of her adult years. She said that the old folks who had previously lived there always called it their wash house. She gave me the name of the present owners that lived down the road so I rode down to talk with them.

One door wash house. 
Wooden door with four raised panels.
Similar to other doors from the early 1900s period. 

The owner gentleman said the property with house and outbuildings had been in his family as long as he could remember  He felt that the old buildings went back to the early 1900s. At that early date there would have been no electricity nor water lines out in this part of the country. Washing clothes would have been a large undertaking by the women of the house.

There was a large cistern on the property where they undoubtedly got their water for washing. And of course they would have to heat the water which could probably be efficiently done in their backyard. All the washing paraphernalia was probably stored in the wash house. Probably many of the early activities connected with washing clothes would have been carried on inside the small wash house in cold weather.

Four pane, or also called lights, sash window. One in the front of the wash house, the other located at the very back. Window design similar to early 1900s. 

I need to say the word  "probably" often when I write about the use of the wash house as no one seemed to know that much about it. The neighbor knew that it was called a wash house. The new owner did not know what the outbuilding was called. He did say that he remembered family folks washing on the back porch of the main house in the summer. This is the extent of oral history I could obtain.

We cannot say for sure what went on in and around the wash house. I do know from research that this type of outbuilding has similar construction and size, as those listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey, National Park Service. 

Courtesy : Franklin D. Roosevelt Library,  National Archives and Records Administration

I don't have a photo of an original family member doing wash. So, I found this early 1900s photo that will give one an idea of the washing accessories that were prevelent at the time. There are other types of accessories that can be found at this site -- which covers the 1800s to the early 1900s.

"Wash House"
Herman Farm, Washington, Maryland
Archival Photo
Historic American Building Survey
National Park Service
Department of the Interior

*Enjoy your automatic washer!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Hobbits are a fictional diminutive race who inhabit the lands of Middle-earth in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. Their housing is funky and habitable, yet small.

I like small funky houses.Why? Because if you find the right one you can transition it into a warm cozy cottage. Unfortunately, the house in the photo above is not for sale right now. But it would be an ideal candidate to turn into a hobbit  place that I could move into.

I think the angular jutting out of gables and shed roofs adds a playful feeling to the place. It is probably only one room on the first floor with a small add-on mud room and kitchen. The upstairs is probably one big bedroom. I would guess the entire house has about 500 to 600 square feet plus or minus. The porch although sagging a bit could easily be repaired.

What would I do if I could live in this house? First I would paint the exterior all over with a dark leather brown paint and replace the front door with an old door painted a dark eggplant. I would put some shutters on a few of the windows, probably a dark pumpkin color?  I would plant a wild patch of various sunflowers and tall golden cosmos around the house -- hundreds of them and just have a dirt path winding through them to the front door. I would put two old metal chairs on the porch (painted a dark eggplant) and invite a good friend over for coffee or tea. I would swing a circle of natural wood fencing around the whole place.

I would have my grandchildren call my lttle place -- the hobbit house

Do you ever fantasize about what kind of house you would like to live in?

I just did about this house. Being retired, I would like somewhere to live that is easy to care for and sweet to enjoy. I do like the house I live in now but it requires a lot of work to keep it in shape. Too much for this little lady. 

Maybe in the future I will find a place like the one in the photo and trade out this house for a cozy hobbit sized house. It might not be in Middle-earth but it would hug Mother Earth.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Group of unemployed New York City workers holding up 1914 newspaper -- "The Voice of the City"
Library of Congress
Here is an article recently published and wrote by Robert Reich. Robert Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations

I admired what he had to say. Maybe you do or don't but it is something to think about

I'm sharing it with you in its entirety as follows:

The President’s Jobs Plan (Not)
TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2011
What did the President do in response to last week’s horrendous job report — unemployment rising
to 9.2 percent in June, with only 18,000 new jobs (125,000 are needed each month just to keep up with the growth in the potential labor force)?

He said the economy continues to be in a deep hole, and he urged Congress to extend the temporary reduction in the employee part of the payroll tax, approve pending free-trade agreements, and pass a measure to streamline patent procedures.

To call this inadequate would be a gross understatement.

Here’s what the President should have said:

This job recession shows no sign of ending. It can no longer be blamed on supply-side disruptions from Japan, Europe’s debt crisis, high oil prices, or bad weather.

We’re in a vicious cycle where consumers won’t buy more because they’re scared of losing their jobs and their pay is dropping. And businesses won’t hire because they don’t have enough customers.

Here in Washington, we’ve been wasting time in a game of chicken over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans want you to believe the deficit is responsible for the bad economy. The truth is that when the private sector cannot and will not spend enough to get the economy going, the public sector must step into the breach. Cutting the deficit now would only create more joblessness.

My first priority is to get Americans back to work. I’m proposing a jobs plan that will do that.

First, we’ll exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes for the next two years. This will put cash directly into American’s pockets and boost consumer spending. We’ll make up the revenue shortfall by applying Social Security taxes to incomes over $500,000.

Second, we’ll recreate the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps — two of the most successful job innovations of the New Deal – and put people back to work directly. The long-term unemployed will help rebuild our roads and bridges, ports and levees, and provide needed services in our schools and hospitals. Young people who can’t find jobs will reclaim and improve our national parklands, restore urban parks and public spaces, recycle products and materials, and insulate public buildings and homes.

Third, we’ll enlarge the Earned Income Tax Credit so lower-income Americans have more purchasing power.

Fourth, we’ll lend money to cash-strapped state and local governments so they can rehire teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and others who provide needed public services. This isn’t a bailout. When the economy improves, scheduled federal outlays to these states and locales will drop by an amount necessary to recover the loans.

Fifth, we’ll amend the bankruptcy laws so struggling homeowners can declare bankruptcy on their primary residence. This will give them more bargaining leverage with their lenders to reorganize their mortgage loans. Why should the owners of commercial property and second homes be allowed to include these assets in bankruptcy but not regular home owners?

Sixth, we’ll extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans who have lost part-time jobs. They’ll get partial benefits proportional to the time they put in on the job.

Yes, most of these measures will require more public spending in the short term. But unless we get this economy moving now, the long-term deficit problem will only grow worse.

Some in Congress will fight against this jobs plan on ideological grounds. They don’t like the idea that government exists to help Americans who need it. And they don’t believe we all benefit when jobs are more plentiful and the economy is growing again.

I am eager to take them on. Average Americans are hurting, and their pain is not going away.

We bailed out Wall Street so that the financial system would not crash. We stimulated the economy so that businesses would not tank. Now we must help ordinary people on the Main Streets of America — for their own sakes, and also so that the real economy can fully mend.

My most important goal is restoring jobs and wages. Those who oppose me must explain why doing nothing is preferable

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Paint Lick Area, Kentucky --  Greek Revival Style Influence
Early 1800s

Greek Revival Influence
Paint Lick Area, Kentucky
Early 1800s

Georgian Influence
Early 1800s
Central Kentucky

Friday, July 8, 2011



Unemployment benefits aid begins. Line of men inside a division office of the State Employment Service office at San Francisco, California, waiting to register for benefits on one of the first days the office was open. They will receive from six to fifteen dollars per week for up to sixteen weeks. Coincidental with the announcement that the federal unemployment census showed close to ten million persons out of work, twenty-two states begin paying unemployment compensation. -- Library of Congress

Unemployment figures
2009 -- 2011
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How will we ever recover when U.S.companies
are giving jobs, that were once located here, to other countries?


Thursday, July 7, 2011


Farmers markets in our country have been around for quite a while. It's an old idea that serves the community be it urban or countryside. Below are some early urban markets that offer up farm agricultural products. They were all busy markets and were essential to urban folks. The Detroit Publishing Company accumulated these photos and they now reside in the Library of Congress. Nice that we have the opportunity to view these early years of farm commerce. 

Great sign on this warehouse "AGRICULTURAL WAREHOUSE."  Apparently in this photo the vendors are setting up their spaces before the market opens. Photo taken in Boston, Massachusetts at the old Quincy Market, 1904.

City Market, Kansas City, MO, 1906

Close-up of the large bushel baskets and crates used to display produce. When I blew them up they got a bit fuzzy but they still are interesting compared to today's types of marketing display pieces. Close-up is taken from bottom left hand corner of Kansas City Market above.  

Every age appears to be involved in these great urban markets. Delightful photo of children at the French Market in New Orleans, LA, circa 1900 -1910.

Close-up of the "market kids" from the French Market above.  

This busy market place in New York City was called the Ghetto Market.

Open wagons of produce line the streets in New York City at the Italian Neighborhood Market, 
circa 1900-10. Ethnic markets were popular as immigrants flooded into the U.S. during this period.

New York city had a multitude of Farmers Markets across city neighborhoods. Here in 1900 is one called Mulberry Street Market.

Farm markets have a long history in our country and thankfully for us they have had a resurgence replicating the market places in both urban and countryside places. 


Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Gray Tree Frog -- Hyla versicolor

Since early April I have been serenaded by tree frogs. Their melodic croaks begin as dusk turns to night. For awhile I timed when the Carolina Wrens stopped singing in the evening and when the tree frogs started up their chorus. It was interesting that within minutes of the wrens signing off the frogs started up. It was almost as if they had an agreement to keep nature's songs in the air.

Of course with a good rain shower during the daytime the frogs belt out a few crocks.  

In the above photo you'll notice the small Gray Tree Frog sitting on the ledge of my outdoor electrical outlet box. He sat there yesterday, very still, yet his eyes appeared watchful. 

The tree frog is native to the United States and is only about 1.5 to 2 inches at maturity. The female does not croak -- only the male. (yes, one could get several jokes out of that last statement)

Frogs eat a diverse diet of both beneficials and non-beneficials in our gardens. Some of their favorite foods are algae, amphibians, insects, spiders, mites, plant lice, harvestmen, and snails.  

Frogs depend on bogs, swamps, and lakes for their life cycles. All of nature benefits from healthy streams, bogs, swamps, and lakes. And, as we are nature, so is the Gray Tree Frog. Both depending on healthy water.


1) University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Tree Frog

2) eNature.com Gray Tree Frog Croak

Friday, July 1, 2011


Unincorporated Kentucky communities are places that are rooted in tradition and/or history. . They are places where the residents know the boundaries. They have no formally organized government. 

Kirksville is an unincorporated place that is surrounded by historic farms. Older homes along the curving main street reflect a rich texture of country living.

I could not find  population statistics for the community and maybe that is the way it should be. Everybody knows each other and everybody counts so there is no need for  official data..