Tuesday, May 31, 2011


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Sunday, May 15, 2011


      Mourning doves are calling, the world is greening up. It almost looks like a wee bit of Ireland.  Don’t mind the dandelions they are nice and friendly compared to the Canada and Goat-head thistles that menaced our other place.

      I haven’t had a “lawn” for over 15 years and I don’t know when I’m suppose to mow it, water it, feed it etc. I keep peeking out the windows watching what the neighbors are doing. Their lawns look super. I’ll do what they do only a day later!

       This year I’m going with container gardening, too tired to plant a “real” garden. And if the weather turns bad, I can hall all the containers onto the back porch rather than just stand there and watch them be washed away by rain or torn to shreds by hail. Here is a bit of information regarding planting by the phase of the moon.

New moon to full moon/Increasing Light 
Examples of garden chores to do by the Light of the moon:

Repot and groom houseplants.
Sow seeds of plants that grow
above ground. Fertilize and graft fruit trees.  
Plant evergreen and deciduous trees.

 Full moon to dark of the moon/Decreasing Light 
The decreasing or waning phases are when the moon "shrinks" from the full moon down to the new moon (darkness).  

Plant bulbs
Plant crops that grow below the ground,
such as potatoes, carrots.                               
Plant biennials and perennials
because they need strong roots.
Eliminate slugs, Prune shrubs.

     How is sowing, transplanting and harvesting linked to phases of the moon? One theory is that during the light (waxing) of the Moon, sap is thought to flow more strongly, filling plants with vitality and energy, favoring the planting and harvesting of crops that mature above the ground.

     The decreasing or waning phases are when the moon "shrinks" from the full moon down to the new moon (darkness). As the moon wanes during the 3rd and 4th quarters, this is a good time to prune plants, as the water table is diminishing and so less sap will flow out of the cut ends. The plants are said to orient themselves toward their roots, making this a favorable time for planting, transplanting and harvesting root crops in general. The 4th quarter is the most dormant period and is good for chores like weeding.

     Happy planting and may your labors now
reap many delicious rewards all summer long.

This blog in memory of Uncle Al and Aunt Linda. Aunt Linda always made me feel pretty and Uncle Al was a heck of a gardener, who did wage and win several terrtorial battles with the squirrels.

Sunday, May 8, 2011



A cowboy without his hat is just a man on a horse.

       The concept of a broad-brimmed hat with a high crown worn by a rider on horseback can be seen as far back as the Mongolian horsemen of the 13th century. A tall crown provided insulation, the wide brim, shade. In hot, sunny climates, hats evolved to have wide brims, such as the sombrero of Mexico.

     Before John Batterson Stetson created the “The Boss of the Plains”, men who drove cattle and worked the range sported any number of hat styles. They generally wore whatever headgear was required at their previous profession so it wasn’t unusual to see them in a sailor hat, a barret, derbies, Civil War paraphernalia, and even top hats. None of these were very useful out on the prairie. And luckily this was soon to change and a legend was about to be born.   

      John Batterson Stetson started his life in East Orange, New Jersey in 1830. His father, Stephen Stetson, was a successful hatter and taught his children the hatting trade. Having developed tuberculosis as a young man, a doctor advised John B. to move west and in 1859 he struck out for St. Joseph, Missouri.

      While there, he tried to join the Union Army in the early 1860’s but was rejected do to his poor health. Undefeated he worked as a bricklayer which went fairly well until the river flooded and washed his business away. At loose ends, he joined a group heading west to the gold fields of Colorado.

      This didn’t “pan” out but during his stay in the mountains, he fashioned a head covering from beaver hides. After a mule driver paid him a $5 gold piece for the hat right off his head, Mr. Stetson, being no fool, decided to refine, manufacture and sell this type of product.

       By 1865 he was back in Philadelphia working in the hat manufacturing trade. A year later the “Boss of the Plains” came into being, and after that came the front creased Carlsbad, destined to become “the” cowboy style. The Stetson®  hat has captured the essence of the west, has become an American icon, and is now an indelible part of western history 

      The rugged individualism of the West was perfectly represented by a Hat that could be shaped differently by each wearer -- a punched-in crown, a bent brim, a braided leather band were all different ways to make a Stetson®  one’s own.

     By 1886, Stetson owned the world’s biggest Hat factory in Philadelphia and employed nearly 4,000 workers. And by 1906, the factory was putting out about 2 million hats a year. John B. transformed hat making from a manual to a mechanized industry. He introduced iron cutting and shaping machines, improving quality control. He was also among the first U.S. tycoons to offer benefits to reward workers for hard work. He dispensed free health care to employees and gave shares in his company to valued workers. As a philanthropist, he founded Stetson University in Deland, Florida, and built a Philadelphia hospital.

       Inside the cowboy hat is a memorial bow to past hatters, who developed brain damage from treating felt with toxic mercury (which gave rise to the expression "Mad as a Hatter"). The bow on the inside hatband at the rear of the hat resembles a Skull and crossbones.[19] "Early hatters used mercury in the making of their felt. Their bodies absorbed mercury, and after several years of making hats, the hatters developed violent and uncontrollable muscle twitching. The ignorance of the times caused people to attribute these strange gyrations to madness, not mercury.”

In the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, a hat was an indispensable item in every man’s wardrobe. Stetson focused on expensive, high-quality hats that represented both a real investment for the working cowboy and statement of success for the city dweller.

 Early on, Stetson®  hats became associated with legends of the West, including “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Calamity Jane, Will Rogers, and Annie Oakley. It is said that George Custer rode into the Battle of Little Big Horn wearing a Stetson® . Later on, Western movie cowboys were quick to adopt the Stetson® ; many were drawn to the largest most flamboyant styles available. Tom Mix, an early-20th century movie star, wore a ten gallon hat (my Mom rode in his car).

     Texans were known for their preference for the "Ten Gallon," model, possibly so named for its enormous crown which at least appeared to be able to hold ten gallons were it to be dipped into a stream and used as a pail. An early Stetson®  advertising image, a painting of a cowboy dipping his hat into a stream to provide water for his horse symbolized the Cowboy hat as an essential part of a stockman’s gear.

    According to Win Blevins' Dictionary of the American West (p388), the term "ten-gallon" has nothing to do with the hat's liquid capacity, but derives from the Spanish word gal√≥n (braid), ten indicating the number of braids used as a hat band.

   The first American law-enforcement agency to adopt Stetson’s western hat as part of their uniform was the Texas Rangers. In the Second Boer War, the flat brimmed Stetson®  became the standard issue of the second Canadian Contingent, becoming recognized throughout the British Empire as a symbol of Canada. Canadian police, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police's (RCMP) Red Serge dress uniform includes a Stetson®  with a flat brim.

 Tonight I'll be dreaming of Stetsons®  and the men who wear them!
                          I know, the Quigly hat isn't a Stetson® .
 It should have been.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CHAMBER POTS: A peek behind the bathroom door.

                         Ahh the good old days,
                 well maybe if you were part of the upper class.

    As romantic as the Victorian era may sound, I have a feeling it was pretty rough in the trenches….especially the trenches running through town filled with the byproducts of the Industrial Revolution.

    By the mid-1800s, the consequence of 3 million people crowded into London was flowering, mixing, and foaming merrily along. All sewers led to the Thames, pouring through bulkheads along the shores. (I always thought punting on the Thames sounded so nice, probably not.)

    The abominable odors of the Fleet river, complained the monks of the White Friars, "have overcome the frankincense burnt at the altar". They claimed the fumes caused the deaths of several brethren. And for a number of sultry days in 1859, the Thames seethed, seeped, and nearly boiled under the burning sun of an unusually hot season. Parliament was suspended as window blinds saturated with lime chloride and other disinfectants failed to subdue the odor and revulsion. It was so revolting that one foreign newspaper bannered twin headlines to catch the calamities of the day: "India Is In Revolt, and The Thames Stinks."
   The cess-pit which existed in London for many centuries, from medieval times onwards was a chamber in which sewage from each individual house was 'stored' until it was emptied. This dubious task was assigned to the 'night-soil men'. And nothing was sacred not even privy privacy. Saltpetre men extracted nitrates from excrement, so it could be used to make gunpowder. Saltpetre men also had a license from the king to enter into anyone's house at any time and remove the sewage-ridden earth from the cess-pit.

    By 1858, George Jennings had popularized public lavatories. He first introduced the novelties by installing them in the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851; over 827,000 people paid to use the "necessary convenience."
     Still the chamber pot, our topic of today, remained in demand for many years due to the fact that converting one’s home was expensive and on occasion not logistically sound. Chamber pots are known by a variety of names including: •Po •Pot •Pot de chambre •John •Jordan •Potty •Thunder pot •Thunder mug •Bourdalous
      The chamber pots of the working class were usually made of copper, although later ones might be of crockery. The chamber pots for the rich and royalty were solid silver, the kings' very ornate and pretentious. James I had a portable "potty," which he used for traveling. During the 1500s, poor families would urinate in a pot and at the end of the day this urine would be sold at the local tannery to tan animal hides. Some families were so poor they "didn't have a pot to piss in" thus the term.
      Going even further back in history, injuries caused by the far-flung contents of the chamber pots, or "missiles of mirth" as one ancient Greek dramatist called them, persisted through the ages. Early Roman law included the Dejecti Effusive Act, which fined a person who threw or poured anything out of an open window and hit someone. The law awarded damages to the injured party. Strangely, the statute applied only during daytime hours. King Richard II followed suit with his writ of Statuto quo nut ject dung "A writ that no one is to dump dung."

      Proper manners would prescribe warning unwary pedestrians that a shower was on its way. Thus the cry of "Garden l'eau" (pronounced Gardy-loo, and meaning "Watch out for the water!") would echo up and down the streets. Over time it evolved into English slang for the toilet or loo.

        If you were a family of means, you had a chamber maid to empty the chamber pot. With some variation, the hierarchy of maids in large households ran thusly. Housekeeper, Lady’s Maid, House Maids divided into Parlour Maid, Chamber Maid, Laundry Maid, and servants.

  The Chamber Maid was responsible for taking care of the 'chambers' in the home. Normally this meant the bedrooms and dressing rooms. They would make the beds, dust, clean up the clothes and floors. They would also take care of the 'facilities' such as chamber pots or bathrooms.

      There are still occasions when chamber pots seem practical, envision a two story house with only a main floor bathroom, primitive camping trips and long car rides.
       Anyway, the next time you use your lovely nice smelling facility gleaming with porcelain, chrome, and travertine tile, do offer a moment of gratitude for the advancements we’ve made.

     For which modern day convenience or invention are you most thankful?