January 2015 archive

Vintage kitchenware utensil: 19th Century Bully Beef Can Opener

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One of the oldest models of can openers from England’s “bully beef”, this lovely Victorian cast iron can opener, from the 1860’s, in the shape of a bull’s head, produced up to the mid 1930’s, was originally made of cast iron and often painted red. The bull’s tail curls round, to form a handle. It is really a must for any kitchenalia collector.

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Meet the bird who’s not afraid: the European robin (Erithacus rubecula)

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I couldn’t believe it, when my husband came in today with these beautiful pictures, as we’re now sure he’s here to stay: the inquisitive and intelligent robin, featured in British and northwestern French folklore, many poems and fables. The Welsh know him as “Bron Rhyddun” who scorched his breast whilst trying to quench the flames of hell. Where Shakespeare teaches them to sing in King Henry Fourth, Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, marries him to a wren. (more…)

Antique vintage “metre-stick”

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Maybe it’s because I’m and a teacher and a seamstress, that I love this object so much. In the old days, nuns used actual yard sticks to spank the bottoms of naughty children. This object on the other hand, was only meant for measuring fabric, straight lines and the position of hemlines.

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Free basic tutorial: Sew on that button

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Ask people nowadays and they have to look up a tutorial on the net, to sew a button on! Buy new clothes, don’t pull the thread or your button is on the floor. As it’s done with a machine, no way you can save yourself, once pulling the thread. Let’s be honest it’s nature, you have to pull it! So let’s try to find a solution for all of us: those who like to sew it on by hand, those who like to use a helping device and of course those who just use their sewing machine to sew a button on.

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Feeding birds in winter

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I do hope you haven’t burned your Christmas tree yet, or thrown away? Just discard it somewhere in your garden and watch how it will become the hiding spot and shelter for birds in winter, whilst you marvel at their fascinating behaviour and wonderful colours. Your children will be enthused about this aspect of wildlife: indoor bird watching with eagle eyes. Look at our main picture, even the wood pecker came to feed.

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Walking sticks made out of Brussels sprouts’ stalks

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Harvesting Brussels sprouts stalks might be a weird thing to do, you have no idea what they can become! I do want to talk about walking sticks again. In a previous post you already saw this finished item: a walking stick or cane. I wanted to show you, were we started from. Just look at the main picture, how green they are and what they turn out to be!

If you ask the farmer nicely, he will allow you to recuperate some stalks, after he harvested his sprouts. Try to take long and straight ones. Once collected, you have to take, of course, the left over sprouts off (there are always some tiny ones still hanging on the stalks) and dry the stalks for at least six months, some even dry them for two years. We taped them together, to stop them warping and keeping them straight. A walking stick or cane has to be straight!

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Once dried, they can be sanded, varnished with varnish or linseed oil and the walking stick handle can be put on.

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You can colour them, if you like the darker version. When sanding, don’t be surprised, as it smells like cabbage. To be honest, our friends, Ken and Darline, who collected them from the harvested fields and transported the muddy stalks in their car, weren’t to happy about that smell in their car. My son in law and daughter, who transported them from Belgium to France, were smart enough to pack them in plastic bags for their 12 hour drive towards here, to avoid driving in that special, unpleasant smell.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, cabbage stalks were dried and varnished, to be used as walking sticks on the islands of Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel. The stalks could reach twenty feet tall over there!

I will keep you updated about how we treat them and when they’re ready to become a nice walking item!

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Sprouting wings

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Vintage brass items for sale

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Let’s get down to business, let’s get down to brass tacks, they would say in the old days. Being strong, dense, resistant to corrosion, easy to sculpture, always to be recycled, this very heavy metal, composed primarily of copper and zinc, has conquered the world. Always a classic, yellowish with a hint of red in it, brass, crosses our path in hardware, whether it’s keys, door handles, musical instruments or bathroom fixtures (it can still be found in the plumbing of your house, often at the end of copper pipings). It gives your house that extra warm look. In the war it was even used to make cartridge casings for firearms. Worth a great deal more as antique than its scrap value. (more…)