A Kingfisher in the Kitchen…

Vintage 1950’s Kingfisher bird illustration by Athos Menaboni

Some time ago, in a dusty section of an old antique shop, I found a broken down book full of beautiful portrait prints. The book was getting ready to be heaved into a rolling bin headed for the recycling center, along with many other books that had been damaged by a recent leak in the shop. Still on the shelf, but tagged for recycling, the fate of the bird book didn’t look good.  On the outside, it didn’t have much going for it. The spine was shredded, the cover splotchy with water stains, the dust jacket missing. But on closer inspection, with a flip through its interior pages, a little miracle had occurred. The bird bookplates inside had somehow escaped the water leaks. The images were bright and colorful and perfectly preserved. The birds fluttering among the pages, each depicted in their own natural setting with their mates and their foliage, were too beautiful to be tossed away.

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Illustrated by Southern botanical artist Athos Menaboni in the 1950’s, these bookplate prints featured a whole aviary of birds. Many were familiar… geese, hawks, doves…but some were new like this handsome duo…

I liked their spiky head feathers immediately and thought they might be part of the woodpecker family. But I was wrong. Do you know what kind of birds they are? Here are a few hints…

  1. They LOVE to fish.
  2. They come from one of the few bird species where females are more colorful than males
  3.  A grouping of them is called is called a crown.
  4. They have big heads and even bigger hairdos, not for vanity, but to accentuate their superior skills when diving for dinner.

Could you guess? Do You know it?! If you said the Eastern Belted Kingfisher then you are correct (and a wonderful birder).  The kingfishers capabilities at mealtime know no equal. They are one of the best fishermen on the planet and can gather up enough aquatic life to get a fish fry started in a jiffy. Industrious, talented and always ready to get to work on planning the possibilities of their next meal, kingfishers are wonderful kitchen role models, happiest when engaged in the food options around them. See their expressive personality in this fun two-minute video…

Ever since  I learned about these remarkable little birds I have been on the lookout for more of their images and information. Serendipity came calling the other day when I found a vintage 1970’s paper bird model of a kingfisher that had never been assembled.

How exciting! A new craft project – our very own paper kingfisher for the kitchen. Last Sunday, Bradley, the Vintage Kitchen’s resident builder of all things fun and functional, got to work assembling the new paper bird. The whole thing took 4 hours to come to life, but we shortened all that time down to just a 27-second video so that you could see how it all came together too…

Now the Vintage Kitchen has its own little symbol of industry, talent and enthusiasm flying around the kitchen and watching over all our cooking endeavors.

Usually, the birds most symbolic of the kitchen are chickens, roosters, turkeys and pheasants but I recommend the kingfisher any day. Aesop once said it is not only fine feathers that make fine birds. The effervescent kingfisher proves just that. Even though they are beautiful their abilities are even more so.

Look for more kingfisher magic coming to the shop this fall and winter. In the meantime, find their botanical print here along with others from the rescued bird book here. 

May your next cooking endeavor be as joyful and as enthusiastic as any kingfisher’s catch. Cheers to the birds who make our culinary spirits fly!

North vs. South: The Beach in November

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In 1960, John Hay spent the month of November on the coast of Massachusetts.

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John Hay

In 2015, Ms. Jeannie spent the month of November on the coast of Florida.

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John Hay was writing a book about the seasonal evolution of life on Cape Cod – a month by month collection of observations he would publish in 1961 under the title Nature’s Year: The Seasons of Cape Cod.

 

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In November 2015, Ms. Jeannie was navigating a bevy of hospital hallways and doctors offices with her sick dad.

John escaped to the beach to think about life. Ms. Jeannie escaped to the beach for a brief break from life. Both John and Ms. Jeannie found solace on the shores of November.

55 years, 1300 miles and 11 states separated John from Ms. Jeannie. Does that matter?  Does the seasonal effect of nature change so emotionally at sea? Fundamentally month by month are we more different than alike? Ms. Jeannie thought about these questions while she walked the beach and tried to make sense of the medical mysteries surrounding her father. Decades earlier John thought about these same questions while he walked the beach and tried to make sense of the natural mysteries surrounding humankind.

In this post we’ll be looking at one month from two sets of eyes to see how the natural world compares and contrasts between decades, between states, between regions and between people. Just how different is November from one place to another?

” The clouds cover the sky like gun smoke and the air feels cold and restricting.” – John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In November 2015 in Florida, the clouds also covered the sky like gun smoke but instead of being cold and restricting the air was oven hot and heavy with humidity.

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“November rolls into view with cool, solemn, formal consistency…daylight diminishes. The summer no longer pounds at our temples. The fall color is gone. There is nothing to look at  and very little to hear… to a city lover it is silent and deadly dull.” John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In Florida in 2015, November rolled into view on the body of a heatwave. Temperatures hovered for most of the month in the mid-90’s. The air felt consistently relaxed and languid.  If Ms. Jeannie was blind-folded and asked to guess the month she would have said August by the sticky feel of things around her.   Summer was holding strong.

 

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“Out on the bay the low waves look as if they have a harder push and pull to make, imbued with new heaviness.”- John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In Florida in November 2015, the waves are not low. They are tall and fat and strong. So full of energy and life, their crashing chorus’ take up all the audible room in Ms. Jeannie’s eardrums.

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“There is a kind of ice sludge being nudged in by the tides along the shore and through rippling purple waters of tidal inlets.” – John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In Florida in November 2015, the tide drags ashore signs of autumn color in the form of clumpy pumpkin-tinted seaweed that stretches the entire length of the beach.

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“Seeds, on grasses and weeds now grow thinner, drier, more colorless, are not only rich in generation on their own account but they provide beyond themselves.  The simplest food chain suggests the links in many others.  The time for persistence is coming, when those grasses we take so much for granted will hold our earth together.” – John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In Florida in November 2015 as a whole it is easy to overlook the wild greenery in excitement to get to the water. The waves have a way of calling all attention.

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But nature s running its course and Ms. Jeannie sees that the Florida beach grasses are also going to seed. Look closely below and you can see a little lizard scampering around the stalks.

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Southern beach grasses wave hello and goodbye all at once as they share their seeds with beachcombers of both the two and flour-legged variety.

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“The oaks are monumentally persistent. Cut them down fifty times and they will sprout back from the roots. This is their chosen land. The late fall wind makes their leaves rustle and stir…the whole year is full of the collaborative music of air and trees. ” – John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In Florida in November 2015 there are no oak trees. In fact, surprisingly on the stretch of beach Ms. Jeannie visited there were very few palm trees. But what there was in great succession was a thick barricade wall of sea grape trees. Like an enchanted garden,  they formed natural vestibules to and from the street to the beach and the beach to the street. Those are the trees in Florida that have made choices. Those are the ones who will continue to fight for life whether they are cut down fifty times or 1500 times.

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“Since Cape Cod is surrounded by the sea  it has another depth, another range, were other populations roam while the rest of us wait and shiver.” – John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

In Florida in November 2015 the most interesting and immediate animal life to observe was the multitude of shore birds.  They provided beauty…

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and comic relief…

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intrique and mystery…

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and even the threat of tragedy…

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After a consult with the lifeguard and a call into animal wildlife patrol, Ms. Jeannie was happy to hear that this bird was no sick or injured creature who seemed helplessly hopeless clinging to the sand when she spotted him. Instead he was a just a baby learning how to fly…

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“In fact there is no fundamental separation anywhere in this common world of life, despite the greatly various environments of water and and what we use to help us differentiate between the species. Winds blow through. Tides lap over. Each plant and animal is proof of general contact and association.” – John Hay, Cape Cod, November 1960

After seeing the baby gull and running through the gamut of emotions and feelings of wanting at first to observe him, then protect him, then help him, then understand him, Ms. Jeannie realized whole-heartedly that there is no real difference in the Novembers between years and states and places and faces.

Sure the typography changes and the climate varies but similarities are equally as present. We all just want to survive in the place where we are rooted. November is as much a natural state of mind as it is a calendar month, and although the landscapes may vary from North to South and East to West, fundamentally we are all the same at heart. We are all the little gull plopped down on the sand, learning how to fly. learning how to survive. learning how to make it from one day to the next. We are all the little gull trying to make our way in the big world.

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Do you have any natural wonder stories from the month of November – something that surprised you dear readers? If so, please contribute your thoughts in the comment section below. In the meantime, if you’d like to see what John Hay has to say about the 11 other months of life on Cape Cod in 1960, you can find him in Ms. Jeannie’s shop here.

For your palm tree fill, visit Ms. Jeannie on Instagram!

Cheers to the new month of December! May it be equally as enlightening:)

 

Early Auditions!

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This week in the garden there has been a lot of activity in the creepy crawly department. As it turns out Mother Nature was holding early auditions for her haunted garden tour that she’s hosting at the end of October. Naturally you have to pick the baddest of the bad and the most wicked of the wicked, and while there were a lot (a whole yard full) of entrants who came to try out, in the end it came to four who really made an everlasting impression.  Here’s the cast of the 2014 Haunted Hollow Garden tour…

Most Haunting:

Camouflage of the most intellectual kind;)
Camouflage of the most intellectual kind;)

…goes to Melvina, a 6″ inch long praying mantis. Six inches dear readers! That’s as long as Ms. Jeannie’s hand!

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Most Scary

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…goes to Pistachio, the poisonous saddleback caterpillar who auditioned with a hot pepper plant prop. Pistachio was quite cute in all his ferocity with a costume that  looked like a cross between a scrub brush and a diseased finger.

If Frankenstein had a pet he may choose something like this!
If Frankenstein had a pet he may choose something like this!

If you come in physical contact with him Pistachio will not hesitate to sting you with his bristles – which then causes a welted rash for days. Luckily Ms. Jeannie does not know this from experience! While everything about him from his pudgy belly color to his markings makes you want to touch him – it’s his “eyes” looking at you from all directions that warn against it.

Most Creative…

He might win the award for most crafty costume!

goes to Roberto the red footed cannibalfly for his cool name and his cool conglomeration of costumes.  Roberto couldn’t decide on which bug he wanted to be for Halloween so he decided to incorporate elements from all four of his favorites for a really spooky creation…part bumblebee and part beetle with fly eyes and dragonfly wings…

there's a lot of time and energy taht when in to building this costume!
There’s a lot of time and energy that when into concepting this costume!

Roberto was sure to incorporate the best features from each bug. He even threw in some spiky hair and extra long legs for  added panache:)

And last but not least, the winner of the…

Most Creepy (but somewhat cute) category…

A family portrait!
A family portrait!

…goes to Wilomena the Wolf Spider and her four dozen back-pack babies! That’s right gang, all those little dots on her back are the kiddos. There was no holds barred when it came to Wilomena’s costume –  this year, she was involving the whole family. Nothing like bringing your 57 kids along to make an everlasting impression:)

That’s a  lot of eyes looking at you!

Wolf spiders are the only spiders that carry their kids around like this.
Wolf spiders are the only spiders that carry their kids around like this.

Here’s a close-up if you really want to see how that whole baby carriage works…

photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest

This picture gives Ms. Jeannie goosebumps every time!

Is Mother Nature holding auditions for a Haunted Hollow tour in your neck of the woods too? If so, You have to let Ms. Jeannie know who your winners are. Maybe next year the whole cast of characters can hit the road and go on a country-wide tour!

 

 

 

Baby’s First: A Cattle Round-Up Story

This weekend, Ms. Jeannie was invited to a semi-annual cattle round-up at her friend’s organic farm. She had never been to a cattle-round up before. It all sounded very exciting!

On this farm, the round up occurs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The purpose is to take inventory of the herd, worm all the cows and castrate the baby boy bulls that have been born between roundups.

Being somewhat of a city slicker herself, Ms. Jeannie was excited to put on her rubber boots and spend a day romping around the farm. She brought along her camera to document the experience.

Starting at day break (which is farmers speak for bright and early 6:30am) it took about fours hours from start to finish to move 100 cows through a head gate shoot, where they would be quickly examined,wormed and castrated. The cows on this farm are 100% free range over many acres, so first, they had to be herded together.

Once corraled into one paddock they keep moving into smaller and smaller fenced areas.

For most cows, this is a routine procedure, sort of like a doctor’s check-up for us. They don’t love it – but they endure it just fine. Waiting at the holding gate is like waiting in a doctor’s office. Everyone is antsy to get their examination over with.

While the cows were cueing up Ms. Jeannie spotted the smallest cow in the herd…

…a baby born just 3 weeks ago! You can see see him in this picture with the little white spot on his side.

To keep the cows organized right before they line up for the shoot, they are broken into groups according to size.Which meant Mama and Baby had to be seperated. Baby went to the holding pen with all the other calves to wait
his turn while Mama lined up with the heifers in the shoot.

They both called for each other when they were separated, which pulled at Ms. Jeannie’s heart.

The older cows traveled through the shoot relatively easily. Here is one getting wormed. Which looks like a giant tube of toothpaste that gets spread onto their back.

Almost done…

Some look even downright content like this one…

but the babies are a little more rambunctious since it is their first time in such a confined area.  This one below  kept trying to figure out how to get her head unstuck.

Mama went through the shoot, was vaccinated and wormed. Her whole procedure took about four minutes.

Ms. Jeannie was surprised to see that when each cow is released from the shoot – they sort of spring out of the gate, sort of half jumping like a bunny rabbit. Free at last! When Mama was released she stood off to the side, just feet away to wait for her baby who was about 60 cows in…way in the back of the calf group. Mama is looking for Baby here in this photo…

Waiting on Baby…

Alas! Mama spots him through the fence!

When he got close enough in line, Mama reassured him that everything was going to be fine and gave him a kiss for good luck!

A kiss for good luck!

Finally it was his turn in the shoot. His head was collared in place for his exam.

This may look like it hurts, but it doesn’t. Holding them in like this protects the cows from getting over excited and from breaking a leg or hitting their head against the metal rails.

Mama waited next to him the whole time. She touched noses for extra support…

Baby wanted to put his own spin on this whole head lock thing, by throwing a leg out. He was such a little guy – there was a bit of extra space in the holding collar. Why not air out a leg while you have the chance. It’s one step closer to freedom afterall!

Mama advised that this was probably not a good idea.

Stick your leg back in baby!

Moments later, the collar let him go and he was out!  Mom and baby headed off together to mull over the whole experience.

Ms. Jeannie was struck by what a wonderful and encouraging mama this cow was. And how Baby really depended on her for moral support. Seeing the two of them interact together was the highlight of Ms. Jeannie’s day!

Etsy is full of whimsical items that celebrate the wonderful relationship between animal moms and their babies. If you need some inspiration this Mother’s Day, take a look…

Plush Animal Mom and Baby Snuffalo from cuteandcreepy
BlackBears Mom and Baby from wishdaisy
Nursery Wall Decal Mom and Baby Giraffe from LeoLittleLion
Vintage Mama and Baby Ducks Pull Toy from OopseeDaisies
Duck Dish from AutumnAlways
Hummingbird Babies Metallic Photograph from LD Photography
Mama & Baby Elephant Vintage Ring from bigGreengiraffe
Le Mama & Baby Dust Bunny Totems from leanimale