yard

Posted by Ellen

My sister Carol is hard at work on a sewing card, in our front yard in Silver Spring, Maryland, circa 1958.

Back in the day, little girls and perhaps also some boys "sewed" around the pictures on these cards as an introductory activity intended to help prepare us for real sewing. Carol was probably three or four when she threaded the shoelace-tipped yarn through holes punched in the card; by age five or six, she had probably moved up to simple cross-stitch embroidery using real needles and thread and tiny, child-sized thimbles. All that stuff is out of fashion now, though the old cards, sometimes called lacing cards, are still available on ebay and etsy. Maybe the whole sewing thing is just too girly for modern parents. Or too 1950s.

I never was much of a girly girl, but I really loved sewing cards and cross stitch, and I kept begging and begging my mother to teach me how to use her sewing machine. As soon as I started to learn, however, I gave it all up for good. It turned out that real sewing involved ironing each seam as you went along–and I hated, hated, hated ironing. Also, sewing under my mother's eye required doing the stitches properly–in other words, I had to rip out most of my attempts at seams and do them over and over again.

But Carol was and still is good with her hands. For her, the sewing cards may have served as preparation for piano lessons, or for penmanship at school. But isn't this activity more suitable for work indoors, sitting down on the floor or at a table? I'm guessing Carol put her sweater on and brought the card outside so our father could take a picture without a flashbulb.

 

Posted by Ellen

Tanja Baker writes from Durham, Maine:

I could have sent some cute pictures of our cats; they turned 2 years old yesterday and had a blast with their brand new toys. But I figured our 4 quackers deserve some shine too.

Now that we own a house with a yard and we no longer have to ask a landlord where we can plant a garden or whether we can have some animals, we had to get some egg layers. Everyone can have chickens, which are messy, and we wanted more entertainment. So we got some Indian Runner ducks.

There are no breeders in Maine or New England, so we had to order them from Texas. Little did we know that ducklings do not need any food or water for the first 3 days of their life; they are still nursing on the egg yolk. All they need is heat. So they come in a cardboard box (yes, the one in the picture) with a heating pad, delivered overnight to your post office.

I did not believe this would work without any casualties, but those little birds are tough as nails. They arrived 3 days old  and happy to explore their new world. We had to keep them under a heating lamp and introduce them to water and cracked corn. Since then, they have been growing at an unbelievably fast pace. Now 5 months old and fully grown, they own the backyard, and we are waiting for our first egg. I will keep you posted, can't wait for my first backyard-grown breakfast.

Posted by Ellen

In the archives of the old Harris & Ewing photo studio in Washington, D.C., is the glass negative for this picture, with no caption information whatsoever.

What think you? A posed shot to promote new lawnmowers with Ajax Ball Bearings? Political imagery to promote a candidate with hard-working American (grass)roots? Somebody's aunt?

1920s? 1940s?

Couple of thoughts: Years ago, we lived in a neighborhood of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where most of our neighbors were older people. By then, lawnmowers had gasoline engines, but I recall that pushing them was considered women's work. More recently, when we lived in Maine, I often saw older couples out in the morning clearing their walks with gasoline-powered snowblowers. The division of labor for this task was that the man walked behind the snowblower while the woman worked alongside with a shovel.

What I like best about this picture: the pearls.

Posted by Ellen

 

Young Hanky got himself into this pose all by himself, with no help from Photoshop. The flexible back and seriously sturdy neck would serve him well athletically when he became a high school wrestler, but back in 1998, when this photo was probably taken, he had other interests, notably Beanie Babies. Rumor has it that as of this weekend, he's finished his first semester of college and shipped his snowboard back to Maine for some serious semester break.