Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pilgrims on My Table

As far back as I can remember, my mother had these little Pilgrim candles out for Thanksgiving.

The labels on the bottom reveal that they were made by the Gurley Candle Company of Buffalo, New York. The Pilgrims cost 15 ⊄, and the turkey 29⊄.

When my mom bought these, probably back in the 1950s, 59⊄ was more than just pocket change and was carefully spent. She never lit the candles, keeping them in their original condition for decades.

When I married Robin, he came with lots of stuff. Among his treasures were more Gurley Pilgrims.

The little lady is like Mom's except for her grey dress, and the larger turkey is a duplicate of Mom's. I had never seen candles as big as the taller lady, nor a turkey as small is this little one.

Many years later, my sister found this little Indian girl in a thrift shop and gave her to me for Christmas.

She's a Gurley too. Until she joined my Thanksgiving candle collection, I didn't know they made Indians. The text on the bottom label is different from all the others...does that mean she's older?

Even if she's showing her age, she has a sweet little face, don't you think?

A few months ago, I ran across this pair of Pilgrims in an antique store.

They're the same size as Robin's taller lady, about 5 1/2 inches. I'm not sure they started life together as a pair, since their labels and prices aren't the same.

But they're just the right size to go with Robin's larger turkey, so now I have another perfect three-some.

And now, for the best find so far...

I found this whopper just ten miles from home! Our local chapter of the SPCA runs a second-hand store in town. Not long ago, I went in to see if they had anything new and this lovely fellow greeted me from a table near the door. I couldn't believe it! I didn't know Gurley made holiday candles this big. He's almost six inches tall!

He's in perfect condition, without a flaw of any kind that I can see.

When he was brand new, he was quite an investment at $1.19. I got him for a steal...only 50⊄!!

He towers over my other little turkeys. Do you suppose they made pilgrims this big? They would be at least eight inches tall, maybe taller.

Gurley candles are among my favorite vintage things. I always enjoy having them on display during the holidays, and put them where I can see them often. Besides these Thanksgiving candles, my little collection includes two Halloween candles and several Christmas ones. Do you remember Gurley candles from your childhood? For me, they evoke a comfortable aura of nostalgia. Sweet memories of home and family are something to be thankful for, are they not?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Buckets Runneth Over

Yes, that's right: my buckets runneth over. And my pitchers and jars, too. Everything's running over with milk!! Right now, there's at least five gallons in the house, and this evening, again, there will be more. A lot more. I guess that's what happens when you buy a milk cow!

Oh my, have we taken leave of our senses?? Hopefully not. It's only been two days, so I'm believing that this is an adjustment period and we'll get into the routine of fresh milk twice a day...twice a day?? What were we thinking?!

We were thinking, and have been for a while, about getting a cow. For us, the older we get, the more important quality, nourishing food has become. Not that we're elderly or anything, but our bodies are telling us we're not 20-something anymore. The most logical place to begin a healthier lifestyle is to eat healthier food. I discovered the FOODWIFERY philosophy of sourcing, cooking, and eating, which made a lot of sense. One part of the Foodwifery approach is consuming raw and cultured milk products. Thus, the cow.

We also thought a milk cow would be a good thing for our vacation rental business. Folks who stay at the Guest House love the farm, especially the animals. Milking a cow and tasting fresh milk will be a great experience for them.

We actually have four cows at the moment, but two of them are just babies: heifers that are about 8 months old. It will be a couple of years before they'll be giving any milk.

The other two were a package deal. Otherwise, we would have gotten only one. They are both Jerseys and both came with month-old calves, thank goodness! Every drop those baby girls drink means less for us to deal with. Without them, we'd be dealing with about eight gallons a day! As it is, two to five gallons a day is way more than enough. I obviously have a lot to learn about dairy!

When I met Robin oh, so many years ago, his family still had milk cows. We had raw milk the first few years of our marriage, but his mother took care of most of it. Robin brought in a glass gallon jar of milk every few days. I learned to make butter and whipped cream, but that's all. Now my mother-in-law is gone, and it's all up to me. All five gallons a day! Milking is coming back easily to Robin after all these years, but I think his hands are complaining a bit.

As for me, I'm filling jars and pitchers, skimming cream, washing buckets, and experimenting with cultured dairy. I think I have plenty to work with. There are jars and jar of milk,

The cream is adding up...I'll be able to make butter soon.

I let one gallon clabber and ended up with curds

and whey. Until now, I had no ideas what whey looked like.

There's milk to drink,

even chocolate milk.

I'm thinking ice cream might be a good idea soon. And pudding. At some point in the near future, I'll be giving cheese-making a go as well. I'll have to be careful, though, that all those pounds of milk products don't end up around my waist. That would not be good.

And so our milk journey has begun. I'll let you know how it's going once in a while. I'm excited...but I still think we're nuts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Don't Bug Me

I don't like bugs. Never have. I can barely tolerate a butterfly. Just about anything with six legs makes me recoil in disgust, and a praying mantis could give me nightmares. Needless to say, I don't normally look close enough to appreciate their intricacies, and insects aren't usually the subject of my photographic adventures.

Once in a while, however, I can get past my dislike and see the wonder in a bug. Such was the case Sunday afternoon. Down by the river, where we were enjoying a beautiful afternoon, Robin pointed out this pretty thing flying around.

There were several of them. When they landed, they were perfect subjects, sitting still long enough for me to compose a shot, focus, and click away. Almost entirely iridescent, they are tiny things, only about two inches long.

I have to admit, it was fascinating to see this fellow up close. I got some nice photos, and it wasn't too awfully creepy-crawly, either.

But, just for the record, I still don't like bugs.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Visitor

We had a special visitor on the Guest House pond this morning. Once again, Robin called while I was still a-snooze, to tell me to bring my camera and hurry. And once again, I threw on some clothes, grabbed the camera bag, and this time, headed for the car. When I arrived at the pond a few minutes later, Robin had gone to feed the cattle and the surface of the pond was empty. Or so I thought. I watched and looked for a few minutes and saw nothing but the fish swishing and a few raindrops making ripples. Robin came back and didn't see anything either, but kept insisting that it was still there. Finally, we saw it: a grebe paddling around near the water's edge.

 My Birds of Virginia Field Guide (by Stan Tekiela) gives the bird's proper name: a Pied-Billed Grebe and describes what we were looking at perfectly.

Although the book says grebes are "common residents," they are not common around here, at least not anymore. Robin's father could remember when, decades ago, there were a lot of grebes on the river. They called them "dive dippers" because they dove under the surface of the water. I tried to capture our little fella as he dove, but this is all I got:

They stay under water for several minutes sometimes, and usually surface in a completely different place from where they went down

Robin walked to the other side of the pond, which caused the grebe to swim toward me.

He (or she!) finally got close enough that I could get some decent pictures. 

Years ago, when a school faculty meeting got hot and stuffy, I slipped out of the library to open the front door for some fresh air. A few minutes later, a little bird (which turned out to be a grebe) hobbled in and started down the hall! With the custodian's help, I got it into a box and brought it home. When we put it into a small tub of water, it was so happy! It paddled and paddled with its one good leg, sending it around in circles. Apparently, it had mistaken a puddle on the parking lot for water deep enough to land on and broken its leg as a result. We sent it to the wildlife rehab center where it could be properly cared for. Luckily, this morning's visitor didn't make the same mistake.

I watched him dive and resurface for almost an hour. He stayed in the middle of the pond as long as Robin and I were on either side. When Robin joined me, the grebe headed to the other side, away from us pesky humans.

How blessed I am when God lets me peek inside the wonders of his creation! And how sweet it is to have a husband who gets up early enough to make sure I don't miss them.