Monday, February 19, 2018

Why would I buy a Field Guide to Mushrooms when it's in German?

On Saturday I wrote about the history behind some of my finds at The Special Store. I'd found some 55 year old church fans, and a 1927 field guide to mushrooms- in German. There were some other finds too, but those were the historical ones.

When I was describing the history behind the church fans, and the old alphabetic number telephone exchanges, the essay got long. I'd decided to write about the German Mushroom field guide later.

Later is now. :)

The German word Fuhrer means 'leader' or 'guide'. Hitler obviously used the word as Leader. The Field Guide uses the word as Guide.

I like old books, and this one is a good old one. The pictures were hand painted and then reproduced in the book. They're gorgeous.

Sydney Living Museums has an entry on botanical illustrations-
Botanical illustration is the art of depicting the form, color, and details of plant species, frequently in watercolor paintings. They must be scientifically accurate but often also have an artistic component and may be printed with a botanical description in book, magazines, and other media or sold as a work of art.

I like botanical illustrations. This is a picture (a bad one with reflection) of a large botanical over my couch. It's the main photo in my living room. As a bonus, it nicely matches the couch.

I have two natural history books, old ones with hand painted plates inside. One is The popular history of the Mollusca; comprising a familiar account of their classification, instincts and habits, and of the growth and distinguishing characters of their shells By Mary Roberts. Printed by London by Reeve and Benham, in 1851. It's 396 pages, with 18 hand painted color plates, like these:

Before photography, artistic drawings were the only way to show people the items they were teaching about. After Darwin's Theory of Species was published, it sparked an interest in the natural world. Explorers, especially from Britain, went out to discover, draw, and bring back samples of flora and fauna of all kinds. Books were written, field guides were published.

Artists were in their heyday, drawing all manner of bugs, animals, plants, trees, birds, and the like. Even today, there is an American Society of Botanical Artists who specialize in detailed drawings and paintings of things that grow.

I also have a Botanicals calendar book from the British Museum I'd bought at a flea market. I use it in crafting.

I have four other field guides. One is for mammals, another is for Atlantic fish, and two are for seashells. I used to have one for birds but I gave it away.  I've also got three encyclopedias of shells:

The field guides are old. Now I have one for mushrooms to add.

I got interested in field guides when my husband and I lived in our camper van and went across country, and when we lived on the sailboat and sailed up and down the eastern seaboard. I wanted to know what I was seeing. When I ceased traveling, I kept the books even though I don't go out much anymore, because they are interesting and pretty books. I love my book collection. It's been added-to over many years, each book carefully selected, and arranged in useful ways on my bookshelves.

So knowing that, now you might understand why I picked up the German Field Guide to Mushrooms. I can use the pages for crafting, I can leaf through and just enjoy the botanicals, and/or I can add it to my collection of field guides. The pages have darkened to brown with age, and are extremely brittle so I have to handle it carefully.

As for the book itself: the title is variably translated as:

Guide for mushroom lovers. The most common edible and poisonous mushrooms; By Michael, Edmund, 1849-1920. Or, Guide for Mushroom Hunters.

This seems to be THE standard for field guides to mushrooms, from what I have researched. His Field Guide was published 4 times according to Mushroom The Journal:

Edmund Michael (1895) Führer für Pilzfreunde: Bd. 1 (Guide for mushroom hunters)
Edmund Michael (1901) Führer für Pilzfreunde: Bd. 2 (Guide for mushroom hunters)
Edmund Michael (1905) Führer für Pilzfreunde: Bd. 3 (Guide for mushroom hunters)
Edmund Michael (1927) Führer für Pilzfreunde, systematische geordnet und gänzlich neu bearbeitet von Roman Schulz (Guide for mushroom hunters, systematically arranged and totally revised by Roman Schulz) 3 vol. 
There are 144 pages of introductory text, and then 386 colored plates with descriptions. 
It's quite a feat when all your most popular books come out after you're dead. Michael studied agriculture in Leipzig, and ended up teaching at the agricultural academy in Auerbach from 1884 on. He wrote a field guide that it became an establishment of its own, bearing his name (sort oflike the contemporary "Webster's" dictionaries) long after he was no longer a contributor.
We learn this from  Wikipedia translated from German.
Edmund Michael was senior teacher at the Agricultural School in Auerbach. In 1895, his guide for mushroom friends first appeared with illustrations by the painter Albin Schmalfuß from Leipzig , who appeared in six editions and three volumes until his death and made him known as a fungal father.

Here is an example of one of the illustrations inside:

So nice!

The book was $1.

Who can resist? Not me.

Here are a few of my favorite mushroom pics I've taken. BTW I had eggs with mushrooms this morning for breakfast. I like mushrooms.

I mean, look at the variety! And this small selection is by far not representative of the ones I have photos of from just my yard.

So I picked up a Field Guide to mushrooms in German for $1. I had fun with researching the author, admiring the paintings inside, adding it to my field guide collection, and researching & writing about botanicals. A nice way to spend a morning!

Have a good day everyone.


PS If you have Netflix you might enjoy the British show Dealers Put Your Money Where Your mouth Is, where British antiques dealers spend a certain amount at a thrift sale, auction, or flea market, explain what the items are and the history behind them, and then compete to try and make the most profit in reselling. I like the show because they explain what the items are and why they're interested in them. Also, the competition is extremely friendly and not a ripoff against the buyers or the antiques sellers. The donate all their profits to charity.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ladies furiously fanning, and other ephemera

We began our school Winter Break last night. After three days of hectic busyness and two half days with the kids so teachers could conference with parents, we were released to go home and enjoy our days off. We return to school Wednesday after a four-day weekend.

LOL it's hard for me to call this winter break, and I keep accidentally saying 'Spring Break'. This is because it's been 70 degrees outside or warmer! It's been that warm all week. This morning I went out to enjoy the pre-dawn and listen to peepers and roosters and faraway dogs in the still darkness. It was 62 degrees.

One thing I enjoy doing at the start of any long weekend or school break is after school on the Friday, heading up to Ila to The Special Store. This is a second hand store stuffed with beautiful things, at rock bottom prices. Everything from tchotchkes, to vintage jewelry, to art, mid-century modern furniture, books, vinyl albums, fine bone china and mostly anything else you can think of. The store rotates its inventory depending on which estate sale they have obtained it from.

For me, it's like going to a museum and looking at beautiful things. I love looking at beautiful things. Even better, given their prices, I can afford to purchase beautiful things. Or funky things, or unexpected things. It's all a delight. Let me share what I found yesterday.

I got a 55 year old church fan, a 100-year-old field guide to mushrooms- in German, a small spiral notebook/journal, a calculator, a craft item I'll give as a gift, two gardening/yard things- one a hand painted mock birdhouse, and a large plant pot holder, a pack of 10 foam bookmarks I'll use with my small reading group, and 3 packs of decorative cocktail napkins.

All for $10.

The collection includes several articles I needed (garden items, calculator), some I will be able to give as gifts (bookmarks, craft beads, journal, napkins) and a couple I just like because I like them (fan, mushrooms). It's all good.

Let me share about while I was there.

I had a nice chat with the nice lady who staffs the place. Then as I put the mushroom field guide on the counter and went about shopping, an amateur mycologist came in and saw the book. He was so excited. Then he noticed it was in German. He found me in the next aisle, saying, lol,

"Fraulein, do you know this book is in German?"
Do you read German?
Then why...
Because I like vintage books and I like mushrooms. Win-win.
He looked at me like people normally do, like I wasn't normal, lol.

But then he went on and showed me thru the book which mushrooms are which and told stories about when he went mushroom hunting. I told him about well-known New England Mycologist Sam Ristich (who used to be my landlord).

I enjoy shopping there not only to look at beautiful things, but the history. The fan was just charming. I liked to imagine ladies furiously fanning in church, before air conditioning came in. It's fun to think of the history you're holding in your hand, where it has been, and what happened to the people who last held it.

Thirdly, the other part about shopping at the Special Store is the fun I have when I get home. I like to learn things. I was holding what I suspected to be an interesting and important book, and a very old church fan.

How did I know the fan was old? The telephone exchange on the back: LIberty 8-4176.  Time to research!

I spent a good hour learning about the old telephone company (which I grew up with) Bell Telephone, nicknamed Ma Bell.
The Bell System was the system of companies, led by the Bell Telephone Company and later by AT&T, which provided telephone services to much of the United States and Canada from 1877 to 1984, at various times as a monopoly.
In the 1950s after WWII, Ma Bell realized that the telephone exchanges were going to have to be expanded. Each central office could only handle 10,000 subscribers, and after the War, the influx of people returning home and the acceptance of the phone as a normal appliance caused a plan to be formulated to expand to all numbers. They proposed moving away from the word-exchanges to an all-number dialing exchange, the one we have now with 7 digits and area codes. Previously, they had chosen exchanges with easy to pronounce words that would not likely be misunderstood, such as BUtterfield (memorialized in the Liz Taylor movie Butterfield-8) or PEnnsylvania such as the one memorialized in the 1945 song Pennsylvania 6-5000.

Wikipedia explains the named Pennsylvania exchange served the area around Penn Station in New York. The two letters, PE, stand for the numbers 7 and 3, making the phone number 736-5000, not including the later area code 212 for Manhattan. The number is best known from the 1940 hit song "Pennsylvania 6-5000", a swing jazz song.

Americans identified themselves in relation to the phone exchange, and also identified each other.

However, the American public so loved their alphabetic word phone exchanges that this proposal to go to all numbers was met with heated hate.

This plan was vehemently opposed by many groups that popped up. There was even a legal injunction for a while. The man who'd proposed the all number dialing, John Karlin, was once called 'the most hated man in America." But in the end of course, all numbers prevailed.

The link above goes to Karlin's obituary in the NYT, revealing an interesting and accomplished man to be sure. America should know about him. Here is just a snippet:
But his research, along with that of his subordinates, quietly yet emphatically defined the experience of using the telephone in the mid-20th century and afterward, from ushering in all-digit dialing to casting the shape of the keypad on touch-tone phones. And that keypad, in turn, would inform the design of a spate of other everyday objects.
It is not so much that Mr. Karlin trained midcentury Americans how to use the telephone. It is, rather, that by studying the psychological capabilities and limitations of ordinary people, he trained the telephone, then a rapidly proliferating but still fairly novel technology, to assume optimal form for use by midcentury Americans.

I learned all that as an internet detective wanting to discover the age of the fan I was holding. Given the exchange on the back, it seems it was made between 1958-1965, no older because all-number dialing came in then.

I also had fun researching the Mary Carter Paint Store, touted on the back of the fan as "World's Largest Operation of its Kind".

This store has an interesting history. It was a successor to a store founded in 1908, and became the Mary Carter Paint store in 1958. Owner James Crosby diversified into land and real estate development, and ten years later dropped the paint store and became Resorts International. Resorts International. Crosby opened the first legal casino in Nevada in 1978, and expanded to Paradise Island Bahamas, Atlantic City and so on. It's funny that a paint store became one of the largest real estate development conglomerates in the world. Even Donald Trump briefly held the company, then Merv Griffin bought it.

The Paint Store was the subject of a FTC lawsuit because of the advertising on the back of the fan. Most fans had some sort of printed advertising on the back. On mine, it states that every second gallon is free. Case Law online explains,
Respondent paint company had a practice of advertising that for every can of paint purchased the buyer would be given a "free" can of equal quality and quantity. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the paint company to cease and desist from the practice as being deceptive under 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act since the paint company had no history of selling single cans of paint; it had been marketing two cans; and had misrepresented by allocating to one can what was in fact the price of two cans. The Court of Appeals set aside the FTC's order. 
It's so fun to research about American history. The store had three versions, one with Jesus as the Good Shepherd (the one I got) one of The Last Supper, and one with two small children praying.

Portland State university History Portland State University history has a synopsis of the church fan:
The church fan is a familiar icon of the Southern black religious experience.  Cut out of heavy paper and stapled onto a wooden handle, the fans provided some measure of relief during services that could last several hours in a hot and humid climate.  Following the advent of air-conditioning in the 1950s, the fans all but disappeared from white congregations, but remained in many African-American congregations, having become rooted in church culture.  The fans commonly featured an advertisement for a local funeral home on the reverse side, underscoring the role of the church played in the local community beyond a place of worship.
Here is another take on the history of church fans as described through one North Carolina man's historical collection.

Collection of church fans represents Southern hospitality
"Aunt Susie would come down from Raleigh, and my mother would serve her a piece of her pound cake," McNeill said, remembering his 5-year-old self holding a fan printed with an image of Jesus ascending into heaven. "And I fanned Aunt Susie while she nibbled her cake. So Southern hospitality then was a sweet tea and a sweet Jesus."
Since then, the Bladen County and part-time Wilmington resident's fascination with the instrument of church air conditioning and funeral parlor advertising has grown to a 30-year collection of more than 150 church fans from the turn of the century to modern times.
"I see my fans as historical artifacts, vanishing relics of the American South," McNeill said. "Part of the appeal is nostalgia."
McNeill’s oldest fans are woven straw, grass and reed fans, some rainbow-hued, from African-American churches. Many have religious images – Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus as a shepherd holding a lamb, a 1950s child kneeling with her white-gloved hands pressed in prayer. 
"I have many different interpretations of The Last Supper, which seems to be a common theme in fan iconography," he said. "Another thing I’ve noticed in my collecting is that the image of Jesus has evolved from a Renaissance image of him with a long beard to a more modern Jesus with a trimmed, short beard."
One public misconception about church fans is that only funeral homes advertised on the backs of them. But McNeill has fans advertising tobacco houses, tire dealers and auto repair shops. Some list three- and four-digit phone numbers.
See, I'm not the only one...

For mere pennies, I entertained myself for hours. I learned about American culture and history, and I have a small piece of it to hold onto. Way cool.

This has gotten long so I'll stop here and make another essay tomorrow about the mushroom book and botanicals in general. Have a  wonderful Saturday!

Further Info:

Second Hand Stores-

Here’s Why You Should Definitely Be Shopping At A Thrift Store

10 reasons why thrift stores are awesome

Phone exchanges-

Reminiscences of the old letter exchanges

Look Back, Chicago!

Church Fans-

Fannin' the Heat Away

A time when hand fans cooled church-goers

Material History of American Religion Project: Church fans

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sounding off about real estate/renovation shows

I like watching real estate shows. I like them because I like design, and I like the aspect of being able to feast on the design of the interior rooms of people's homes. I like to see why people are looking for one type of home or another, or why they are building it this way and not that way.

There are three real estate shows I've been watching.

Tiny Paradise on HGTV: "Couples build tiny homes in idyllic locations."

Grand Designs on Youtube (British): "People pursue their visions and aspirations of building their own homes."

Escape to the Country on Netflix (British): "Helping prospective buyers find their dream home in the country."

In Tiny Paradise, a couple, sometimes young and starry-eyes exuberant, in other cases middle aged and wearily retiring, buy a plot of land in paradise somewhere and build a tiny house on it. Tiny houses are part of a growing movement where someone designs and dwells in a home that's less expensive to build and maintain, causes a lower impact on the land, and yet affords the person the ability to live in a beautiful area of the world, like seaside in Costa Rica or in the jungle of Mexico or in the Rocky Mountains. A 'tiny home' in America is generally considered to be less than 400 square feet. Sometimes a tiny home is on wheels and transportable, other times it has a foundation.

Then there's Grand Design. First of all, I enjoy British reality television more than American (and Australian and Canadian) because the UK reality shows are always more low key. On reality and UK/OZ/Canadian competition shows there seem to be calmer people who are more respectful, and hosts who seem truly interested in the people and the process.

In Grand Design, we follow a couple who has purchased a plot of land and plans to build a house on it. The hook is that the land and/or the house present challenges. In one episode, a young couple had saved money and bought a postage stamp sized lot in London and planned to build an eco-friendly house of three levels on it. The lot was so small it could barely hold a bucket loader, never mind room for the machine to move around and deposit its goods.

In another episode, a middle aged couple bought a dilapidated Victorian dairy in London and planned to make a home for themselves and their son within it, updating the structure and making it habitable for their modern needs, yet retaining the character and qualities of the history behind the place.

In a third episode, a New Zealand couple with several children bought a plot of land sight unseen in Britain, and planned to build a self-designed home on it. Te issue was that the land was incredibly steep (they knew this going in). They had designed a house specifically to suit the difficult challenge the steep grade that hillside dwelling presented.

In Escape to the Country, a couple who had been living the rat race life in one of Britain's cities decides to leave it all behind and escape to some part of the United Kingdom that is bucolic, rural, slower paced, and gorgeous. I mean, REALLY gorgeous. Even if you don't care for real estate shows, just looking at the beautiful parts of the UK is incredible. They also spend time teaching about the history of the locations and the industries there (tanning, horse raising, lace making. etc). So this show is beautiful and interesting.

The seekers are interested in a higher quality of life and are ready to make a big change in order to get it. The areas are so pretty if I had $300,000 I'd escape to the British countryside, too!

So those are the shows I've been watching lately. Here is my review.

People who build tiny homes are part of a movement called the Tiny House Movement. These are people who deliberately eschew large dwellings for various reasons. They want to make a limited footprint on the land. They want to live a low-impact lifestyle. They are conservatively saving money or entering an alternate lifestyle that includes a lot of barter and such. And so on.

Sadly, in several of the Tiny Paradise episodes, it turned out that the people list the house on a site like AirBnB and rent it out! This, to me, is the opposite of low impact, eco-living. It makes a mockery of all the philosophy the couple has spouted at the beginning of the show. It really ruined it for me to discover that these people claiming all this low impact living and adhering to the tiny house philosophy are just out to grab a buck from this house they had all this free help to build in the first place.

As an aside, I have been an advocate of tiny house living since 1990. I am a grandma in the tiny house movement, which is not new and wasn't started by millennials. I've lived tiny since 1990 and have experimented with small, low impact, non-consumerism lifestyle by living on in a sailboat, a small camper, and now a tiny apartment. Who fought at against zoning officials, experienced bias and prejudice, and called for the necessity of different land use ideas. So it is a personal affront to see the 'movement' taken over by people who in fact are living a high-impact, high-consumerism philosophy and call it tiny living.

The Grand Designs couples...their build is usually pushing the edge of the envelope of financial feasibility or reasonable topography, or doable size, whatever limit they've decided to try and overcome, the overwhelming feeling you get by the end is that the project has sucked all the life out of the couple. If the host asked them 'would you do it all again?' the feeling you get from watching them struggle through so many difficulties and setbacks  is that they'd respond "I'd rather slit my throat first." They've would up with a house they have come to love-hate, or a mountain of debt they owe to Dad or Brother or The Bank, or a job they gave up to be the project manager since the build overtook their whole life, or a strained marriage. Not all episodes arelike that, some feature happypeople doeing exactly whatthey wanted. But the episodes which feature soemone disheartened with DIY building are at the same time interesting and sad. 

Escape To the Country is gorgeous, as I mentioned. And the couples they choose are always low key. I'ts refreshing to see a British couple defer to one another, to discuss things politely, and to move through the house as guests and not a herd of elephants. The US couples on the real estate shows are, ahem, less polite, gentle, and deferential. The homes are absolutely lovely to look at. The host never tries to upsell the couple. In fact, he or she always seems to find a home or two that is under the couple's stated budget. So all that is good. The only thing that is difficult about watching that show is that there is never an ending. Most times, the show concludes with the couple still thinking about which house to buy. Even if there is a conclusion, the show never goes back and films what the interior looks like after the couple has made it their own. So you're sort of left hanging. It's like sticking with watching the 4 hour Academy Awards show to the end, and you get to the Best Picture category and they pull out the envelope and say "And the winner is..." and the screen goes black.

Oh well, lol, that is my take on the recent real estate home shows I've been watching. What shows do you enjoy! Which ones aggravate you? Let me know in the comments!