Archive for November, 2013

November 24, 2013 |  by  |  No Comments

Below appear two photographs I recently uncovered from my days of researching the book Aware:  A Retrospect of the Life and Work of Eric Sloane.  I somehow got wind of an Eric Sloane mural painted upon the wall of the old International Silver Company of Meriden, Connecticut.  I don’t recall the name of the business that occupied the building when I photographed it back in 2000, but after some initial difficulties I was admitted inside to snap photographs.

Meriden was known as “The Silver City” – I think because of International Silver Co., and a few other manufacturers of silverware and other products which required silver in their production.  You may recall that Eric Sloane had a series of plates struck by the International Silver Company which depicted 4 separate line drawings of Sloane’s.  Each drawing represented one of the four seasons and were quite charming.  Sold as “Eric Sloane’s Four Seasons”, these plates were not manufactured using silver; rather, they were made of pewter.

I have lost track of the International Silver building and the beautiful Eric Sloane mural which graced the main staircase which led to the second floor.  If any of you know what has become of the building or the Eric Sloane mural, please let me know.

November 24, 2013 |  by  |  No Comments

Winter came to Weather Hill last night.  22 degrees when I shut the drafts down on the wood stove prior to going to bed, wind howling, and snow falling with a light accumulation.  It set me to thinking what this winter might bring.

Eric Sloane once wrote of thinking about the good that wind brings – it sweeps away much debris and is mother nature’s way of pruning trees and brush.  I recall Sloane also writing of describing storms in ways to children that would not frighten them – how the trees were getting their “exercise” because of the wind.  If Eric Sloane was correct, the trees along the hillsides that surround Weather Hill must be quite buff by now….

November 17, 2013 |  by  |  No Comments

I recently read Trails Begin Where Rails End by Albert D. Manchester (1987 Trans-Anglo Books) and found it a very interesting read.  The author documents, among other topics related to early 20th century motoring adventures in the southwestern United States, much about the tourist trade in and around Taos, New Mexico in the 1920s.  Made me wonder how much of the sites depicted in the photographs Eric Sloane might have seen and experienced.  Sloane wrote of supplementing his meager income from selling original sketches and paintings to the tourists of Taos by acting as an “unofficial tour guide”.  It was fascinating to see c. 1920s photographs of Taos, the LaFonda Hotel, and “Harveycar Driver-Mechanics” – men who piloted large and luxurious touring cars out into the hinterlands in what was known as “The Indian Detour”.  Eric Sloane must have at least been aware of this tourist service.  Interestingly, a photograph on page 141 of the book depicts a Harveycar and tourists in front of the Taos pueblo with some natives looking on from above.   I recall this subject, or one extraordinarily similar, in an Eric Sloane painting of Taos.

November 3, 2013 |  by  |  No Comments

This year, Edith and I decided to try our hands at pressing our own apple cider.  While we both really enjoyed visits to “our” hidden apple cider press run by Old Order Amish friends of ours, we wanted to do it “Eric Sloane style” and broaden our own sense of awareness by doing for ourselves.

Earlier this summer we purchased this mid-19th century “Improved Buckeye” press.  It is an interesting contraption.  It needed some work, as some parts needed to be fabricated and some

parts were present, but not attached correctly.  In the photograph, Edith has her hand upon the flywheel for the apple crusher.  As the wheel is turned, the apples are crushed into a kind of applesauce, something Eric Sloane said the old timers referred to as “cheese”.  This cheese is then moved to under the press, which is located to the right of the crusher.  Obscured by the vertical timber, the hand wheel above the press utilizes a screw mechanism to transfer the rotational movement of the wheel into downward or upward movement/force.  A large iron plate at the bottom of the screw pushes down on the cheese.  As the hand wheel is cranked, the pressure upon the cheese becomes greater and greater, pushing out the juice of the apples.  The juice is collected in a stainless steel tray (we had one custom made) with a spigot on the end.  The cider flows off the tray and into whatever container you want to use.

An Amish friend of mine taught me to use a number of different types of apples to make cider, and a few bushels of pears for good measure.  The resulting cider tasted fresh and delicious.  I understand better Eric Sloane’s illustrations of cider presses of old, in which great levers or beams were used to apply even greater force to the cheese.  The more force, of course, the more juice.  However, I wonder if the pressing one is able to affect using only the hand crank of a machine like our “Improved Buckeye” is somehow lighter and of better quality.

I’d like to the ink that Eric Sloane himself would advocate for small localized presses such as these.  Organically grown apples and other fruits, recipes created and perfected by families, all hand-pressed, resulting in tours and tastings to experience the different grades and flavors.  What a wonderful way that would be to experience apple cider…

November 3, 2013 |  by  |  No Comments

A beautiful autumnal morning dawned at Weather Hill.  Pussy Willows in the antique bottle or a hold over from spring cuttings.  Perhaps next year we will cut some to fashion a door wreath.  Welcome autumn!