Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Bounty





Our neighbor has an "early" apple tree; and he let us pick all we wanted. We picked about 25 pounds. So I made apple butter. I was thrilled, because he doesn't spray his trees - they're totally natural.
Green beans are coming in thick, and I've already done 10 quarts.... more this week. Last year's 17 quarts lasted us until last week; and that didn't include the 12 or more quarts I gave away.

I've decided that canning is exactly like painting. All the hard work is in the preparation, and not in the actual act of canning, itself.

I meditate a lot while I am preparing food to can and canning. I think about the sense of urgency that people must have had in the days when, if you didn't grow it and can it, you might not eat that following winter.

I spent all day canning those 10 quarts of beans and making apple butter. I didn't finish the apple butter until the next day, in fact. So you could say I get really, really close to my food.

Pop over to my food blog to find out how I made the apple butter and get the low down on canning green beans.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A word on waste

I grew up throwing everything away in a plastic garbage "can" lined with plastic garbage bags. Every week my Dad would make a "dump run" and pitch it all in the green box to go to the landfill. This is not a finger pointing slam on my parents; it's just the way it was.

But I didn't want to do that anymore when I got my own place; so for a while now I have been:

A. Composting kitchen waste - that is, veggie and food waste.

B. Recycling plastic, glass, paper, metal, and cardboard.

(Mostly. I still throw away some stuff; like really gross and slimy wrappers, and nasty things I don't want to clean and sort into my recycling bins.)

This takes a lot of space, however. I have to keep a container on my counter for the kitchen scraps. I had a great one, and it started leaking, and I had gross compost juice all over the place. So now I use a plastic container with a loose fitting lid. I collect bits of food waste in it and every few days, dump it in this spot in my garden.

For the recycling, I have this plastic laundry hamper that I throw all the bottles and cans in. I rinse them all out and take off the labels and in they go. Then I sort it into boxes and bags on recycling day.

Then I had my wooden trash receptacle with a hinged lid that I stick my paper horse feed bags into for "trash" trash. I never buy plastic garbage can liners anymore. Ever.

So this system worked great - until summer.

Now the weather is warm. We have no central air in this house yet. Just fans and an ac unit in our bedroom.


The "trash" stinks.

The compost stinks and grows fungi and attracts flies.

And....... I found a maggot - a maggot! - crawling on my kitchen sub-flooring the other day.

I called Kevin in and we had a conference on the waste policy in our household.


1. Recycling of plastics, metal, paper, cardboard, and glass will continue as usual - as long as the items are washed and contain no food particles.

2. Composting kitchen waste will continue, with this exception: The lid be kept firmly on the bucket and be dumped daily in the garden, then washed thoroughly.

3. The "trash" can has to go. Has.To.Go. Because of the composting and recycling, we generally only take out the trash about once a week - or once every ten days or so. That is how drastically we've reduced our "trash". So It just sits there; in the horse feed bags, in that wooden trash receptacle. So if you throw away a chicken bone; it stinks the next day. You know. So we got rid of the trash can altogether.
Instead, I keep a five gallon bucket under my sink, with a lid; and at the end of each day, it will have to be emptied outdoors into a bigger can.

As it is, we take the recycling to the recycling center about 2 times a month. And I know some people insist that recycling is not effective; that the stuff isn't really recycled and what not; but this is my system, and I'm sticking to it!

I almost have enough green beans to can a batch - can't wait!

I have taken to going bare foot to weed in the garden. These are my thriving pickling cucumber vines! So, soon I will be making dill pickles!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Victory Gardening and Other Stuff

My "victory" garden is coming along extremely well. (Click on the link if you want to know what I am referring to....) I am enjoying learning more about plants and how to keep them alive and thriving. My tomato plants are huge and happy, due to my reading up on how to properly plant them - that is, burying the seedlings 80% upon planting. It makes for a hardier plant. And boy, are mine hardy! I also fed them with chicken tea: a mixture of chicken manure and water, left to sit for several days. It made my plants completely explode with growth and flowers that will soon be big, juicy, ripe tomatoes. Yummm! BLTs, prepare thyself!

I also realized that I was going to have to protect my plants from my free ranging chickens; all 30 of them that wander about the yard, digging at and pecking at my plants. So I dragged a roll of woven fence wire from the barn and made these protective cages for my maters, that they can conveniently grow on as well. Now the pesky chickens can't dig about the plants.


Me: 1. Chickens: 0. Mouhahahahaha


Here are the cherries we picked from the neighbor's tree. You have no idea how many hours it took for me to pit those babies for jam making. Needless to say, there was exactly ONE batch of cherry jam this year.




My newly painted pantry.

The view from my pantry window..

I bought this chair at a big, indoors, community yard sale in my town for just $3. It is very old. I am going to make a cute, Frenchy cushion for it. And apparently, Phileppe and Brutus think I bought it for them to play kitty "jungle gym" on.

Have a great day and y'all come back now, 'hear?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Business of Vintage

There is far more to being in the vintage selling business than picking up some junk at the local thrift store, snapping a couple of pics of it and listing it on a site like Etsy, eBay, or Artfire.

If you want to be a shop that is taken seriously, you have to make sure you're offering things people are actually going to want, have excellent photos, and label/tag items so shoppers can find your items via Google, etc.

Several times a month - mostly on Tuesdays, or weekends - I get myself together and head out and about on what I call "inventory buying trips".

First of all, vintage basically is anything 20-25 years old or older. Over 60 years old would be antique, I think.

I go to about three different thrift/charity stores in my town, as well as any rummage sale and yard sale I can find. I am sure some may think "Eeeeeeew! Gross! Dirty, dingy thrift shops!" Yes, some of them are dirty and dingy...but I NEVER buy anything dirty or dingy, as far as clothing/accessories goes. I do buy dirty china. It cleans up really well.


When it comes to finding vintage clothes, it helps to have a trained eye. I trained myself by reading books on vintage and spending countless hours on the Internet researching vintage textiles, designers, clothing styles, jewelry, etc. etc.


My eye scans past the new, flimsy, "cheap" fabrics and hones in on the cottons, wools, lace, taffeta, etc. Once you have seen a lot of vintage clothes, you can spot them a mile off not just by the cut, but by the fabric itself.

Next I open the garment and to the most important thing of all: check the labels. Labels are the best sign of all for a vintage piece. If there are no labels; say if something is handmade, custom made, or re-made, you have to look at things like zippers, threads, seams, lining, etc.

"Gunnes" with black labels are more collectible than this more common Gunne Sax label. I have never found a Black Label Gunne Sax.

Items with labels may be worth more than items sans tags. A labeled item will be able to be researched and you can find out the history of the item. The most common label I find are Union labels. Small red, white and blue labels often in the side seams or zipper seams.

Not all Union labels are red white and blue. The International Ladies Garment Worker's Union started in 1900 and has gone through many label styles, the most recent being the red white and blue label here.

Next I check for wear and damage. If a garment is overly worn or stained, of instance, I might not buy it. Or, I might consider re-fashioning it. But mostly, I simply don't buy. I look for stains, holes, zipper function, and underarm staining. If I think I can do a repair, I buy it. Most of the items I buy are flawless, however.

Next I consider price. I don not like to mark my items up sky high; I believe a good deal is appreciated my everyone, so I try to buy items at good prices that I can offer back in my Etsy shop for a reasonable mark up to my customers.

This item was featured on the front page of the Etsy website and was sold to a woman in Sydney, Australia.

I actually pass up many garments in my shopping because I do not have a gift for selling them.

I do, however, sell a lot of hats and other accessories. The first thing I look for in my inventory shopping are hats. I buy every single hat I can find, regardless of condition. I collect them myself, so many are kept in my personal stash. I have sold hats all over the world. And this summer, I sold my first fascinators, as well.

A 1930's Elsa Schirapelli in my personal collection.

I spend a relatively small amount of time doing the shopping; I am often in and out of a store or yard sale, or rummage sale, or whatever kind of sale, in less than an hour, and in most cases, about 15 minutes to a half hour. Sometimes, I find nothing I want, and leave empty handed.

Then I begin research. I research labels for hours. I have to date each item to the best of my knowledge, often doing hours of reading on websites dedicated to vintage fashion and labels. Once I have a firm grasp on the item, then I begin the photography process.


Photography is, by far, the most time consuming aspect of what I do. I have to clean, repair, press, and display items. I often take hundreds of photos just to get a hand full of good ones that I can use. I have taken most of a day to get photos of five or six items, and still been dissatisfied with my shots.

It also takes forever if I am modeling the garments myself. I have to put them on and set up the camera and take twice as many as usual because I am not behind the camera to see to it that each shot is ok! This is why sometimes, I simply use one of my two dress forms, Heidi or Helga.
The only Gunne Sax I have ever found. I am reluctant to sell it.

Once I get the shots, I get them into my computer, and start editing. Cropping, tuning, touching up, exporting to different folders of listing the next day.

On listing day, I write descriptions, tag, upload pics, and list. I try to do it mid morning on weekdays, because that is when traffic on the site is heaviest. Unless I am targeting international buyers, in which case, I list items in the evening, when folks are not asleep in other countries.

Then I wait.

I bought these from a church yard sale for twenty five cents and sold them the following week for $50.00 to a customer in the UK.

Monday, June 7, 2010

History Lesson

I've hit the blogging "doldrums"....... or maybe my life is just getting boring? Anyway. In an attempt to string my two or three readers along and keep things somewhat amusing around here until creativity strikes once more, I am going to resort to telling stories. Stories probably nobody is interested much in hearing about, but I am going to tell them anyway.

Story number one is this: A brief history of my Vintage interest and my shop on Etsy.

I think what sparked my early interest in vintage fashion was old movies. My parents let my 6 siblings and I watch very little TV, but what we did see was a lot of old movies and new movies about old times. So from the time I was a very little girl, I was exposed to old-fashioned looks.
Which didn't mean much to me until my late teen age years, when school friends and I attended "Colonial Balls" where families from our circle of school and church friends would gather together for evenings of good wholesome family frolics in period costume.
My girlfriends, sister and I all owned a couple historically inspired frocks, which, looking back, were not nearly as period correct as we thought they were. Ball gowns styled to replicate Colonial American dresses but with Antebellum full skirts large enough to accommodate huge hoop skirts - they were a mix of periods, but we felt elegant in them, and that is all that mattered. We would sit around and design all manner of lovely new concepts for gowns; visit fabric stores and spend hours sewing and embellishing them; and dolling ourselves up in a period manner. My mother actually made me a pair of frilly Victorian "bloomers" which I adored, and still adore to this day.
The guys we were all friends with were persuaded to don tights and short knee britches, also, and we hit the dance floor, twirling to the tunes of a three piece band and the dance caller who called the contra dance steps out. Some of us, one year, learned some more complicated dances and did exhibitions at retirement homes and once at a Independence Day festival in my historic home town in North Carolina.

Eventually I got sick and tired of the hoop skirts. To this day, I despise my hoop skirt, which I very pointedly left in my mother's walk-in closet when I moved away two years ago. So one year, for one such period costume dance party, I shunned my hoop skirt frocks and went with a black velvet 1940's jumper and ivory satin blouse from my Mother's stash of old family things. I wore a black velvet beret that I dressed up with a vintage silver buckle and ribbon doo-dad, black velvet Mary Jane shoes, curled and styled my hair after a 1940's fashion, and showed up on the scene as the only person in attendance not in a hoop skirt that evening.

Around that time I began collecting old hats and handbags, just as a "thing" to do. I didn't go digging for vintage fashions, but when I happened upon them in shopping trips with my mom, I would pick them up.

I started working in an antiques store in 1999, I think it was. It was also around that time that I got my own room after my third oldest brother, Noah, got married and moved out. My mother let me decorate my new room however I wanted. So I chose a rosy, vintage theme, and purchase little accents to go along with my Grandmother's bedroom set was allowed to use. I also started buying little trinkets for my future home and stashing them in the 1930's cedar chest passed to me by my Grandmother; which is in my home today.

My work in the antique store inspired me to learn more about old things; so I knew at least a little something when customers asked questions. I read books and searched the Internet, learning everything I could about "old stuff" and what it was worth. It was, and still is, amazing to me that some people think their stuff is just old junk and donate it to charities, and all the while it is worth something to someone else out there who happens to collect it.

When I got married and moved to my husband's 1920s farm house, I already had a huge collection of "stuff" - stuff I had bought and packed into boxes and stored in my parent's barn on the farm. I had every inch of space in my little room stuffed with stuff - mostly vintage fashions and accessories. My closet was jam packed with it.

But now that I have a whole big house to "play" with, my collecting has taken on a whole new level. Sadly for me, though, our budget does not allow for me to collect the pieces of antique furniture and rugs on my wish list - so I collect smaller items, and occasionally pick up a piece of furniture I am lucky enough to snag for a modest amount of money - like the 4 poster bed with carved rails in our bedroom I picked up one afternoon at the Salvation Army for $30.00.

For a year or so, I displayed my vintage clothes in the Antique store (I still work there), but nothing much came of it. I sold a few dresses and hats. Finally I packed up all my stuff into plastic bins and took it home, deciding that an opportunity would present itself for me to sell it down the road. My big dream is a vintage clothing boutique - but it is an impossible dream in my rural locale.

Then one day my friend Elisa told me about this site called Etsy. She said it was primarily a "handmade" site, but that they had vintage items there also. I looked it up and thought it was interesting - but I have always been timid about using the computer and I didn't think much of it. She was also prompting me to start a blog - which I decided I wanted to do , but only after I got a newer computer and Internet in our house. For the first months of our marriage, we didn't have Internet, and I used my parent's computer for emails and such.

Then, all at once, we got the computer, and wireless Internet via our cell phone company, and I started this blog. That was a little over a year ago. My next goal was to start "Etsying", but I was terrified of that, also. I didn't even know how to get decent photos of my items. But one day Kevin and I switched banks, to a bank that actually had debit cards, and then we set up a pay pal account. This was the first time I had done anything with my money on line and I was a mess about it. Fraud, you know. Identity theft. I was - and am still, I guess - a huge big chicken when it comes to things like this.

We set all that up in the spring, and all summer, I collected more and more vintage things, and browsed all over the Etsy site, seeing how people did it, how they took their photos and wrote descriptions, and tagged, and all that stuff. My photos still stank, and my ever patient friend, Elisa - who is more a part of this whole thing than she will ever truly realize - was helping me with photo tips.
Finally in late September, I chose the items I was going to start with on my Etsy, and got some photos out in a field on our farm. I signed up for an account, and set up my shop one night. I listed a couple of dresses and some hats - and in less than 5 minutes, 2 of the hats had sold to my first customer in Hong Kong. I was elated, as I had read that it can take weeks for a first sale! Mine was less than five minutes! I have been selling steadily ever since, to customers all over the world.

Of course, my goal is to do better - good enough, in fact, to quit my day job. day. The fun thing about all of this is, I get to do a lot of shopping for "new" items all the time; which I will write about later.

So that is how I took my collecting habit to a whole new level and actually make money at it.

PS - just a note about my shop's name, Carolina Roses: I had originally wanted to make it "Sophie Rose", after my great grandmother and my grandmother. And my sister; who is named for them both. But "Sophie Rose" was already taken by another Etsy user. So I decided on "Dorothy Rose", for my Grandmother. That, too, was taken. So, annoyed and irritated, I decided on either "Virginia Rose" or "Carolina Rose". So I took a poll among my close friends and my mom. Everyone said "Carolina Rose". But "Carolina Rose" was taken, also! So now I was really annoyed, and stuck a "s" on Rose, and went with it. I am from North Carolina, and love that state, and dream of a day when I can move back there and live on a old farm surrounded my my horses and gardens. So that is how I chose my shop name. Since then, I have thought maybe I should have chosen something more cutesy and clever, but don't want to go through all the trouble of changing my name.

Later I will describe how I choose items, where I find items, etc. etc. It is not an easy task. Fun - not easy.

Thanks for reading.