Sunday, October 28, 2007

Greenfield Village

One of my favorite places in the world to visit (short list includes Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Vancouver and Saratoga) is the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village complex in Dearborn, Michigan.

Years ago, Henry Ford (the first one) began collecting. He started small, with cars, motorcycles, steam engines, etc, but then moved on to buildings. He bought the Wright Brother’s bicycle shop and the Firestone family farmhouse and barn, and that just whetted his appetite.

(hey, it’s great being a multimillionaire).

As his collection grew he decided to create a place near his home in Dearborn where all of these buildings could be displayed in an appropriate setting. It’s a wonderful place; it’s what Disneyland would be if Disneyland were only real. A Cotswold sheepherder’s cottage and a Swiss watchmaker’s house stand on the same wide, tree-lined street as Robert Frost’s study and a New England saltbox. A Maryland coastal plantation house shares a yard with a 1930’s sharecropper’s cabin.

Eventually Mr. Ford had to build a museum to house all of his stuff and that is now at the entrance to the Village. I think there must be an example of every motor vehicle built between 1895 and 1915 there, as well as buggies, fire engines, train cars and bicycles.

That is my Packard, btw. I don't care what mileage it gets or how maintenance-intensive it is, it's mine. Just as soon as I win the lottery.

A few more photos at

Oh, and there’s silver and china and jewelry too, if you’re interested in that kind of thing, at

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In the beginning

Several years ago the spousal unit left me in North Carolina to finish out my last tour on active duty, and traveled back to the windswept county where he was born and raised to enroll in a teacher certification program and find a place for us to live.

Since that time I have had women tell me that under no circumstances would they consider letting their husbands pick out a house, but I had no qualms. It was either trust in his judgment, or, just possibly, the scars left by several years’ residence in military housing that allowed me to treat the matter with complacency.

(there’s an old folk song advising young men to choose as their bride only a Texas girl, for “no matter what happens, she’s seen worse.” This is also true of anyone who has lived in quarters on a Marine base).

My faith in him was justified eight months later when we moved into a 1917 bungalow; spare, compact, graceful, with high ceilings and bright, airy rooms. It is the house I have dreamed of living in since I was eight years old. We are only the fourth owners, and the man we bought it from made us swear we would never paint the woodwork.

Custody of this small jewel brings a certain responsibility; for a long time the living-room windows remained uncurtained while I looked for a window treatment that wouldn’t block the view out of the large window that opened out over the porch, or hide the leaded glass in the two small windows on each side of the fireplace, or detract from the molding over all three.

(the view from over the porch isn’t really that spectacular as it is the boxy brick 1950s Catholic church across the street. It’s more the effect of the original glass, with all the ripples and small imperfections, that we wanted to preserve).

I considered a number of period sources including my 1928 copy of “The Modern Priscilla Home Decorating Book” before finally choosing something I found in a post-WWII magazine called “Smart Sewing.” Quite simply, it’s a lined valance that leaves most of the window open. I had already used this in another room and liked the effect but decided to skip the gathering and the trim shown on the original in favor of a plain rectangle.

I asked the SU to put up a double rod on each window, and the next project will be insulated glass curtains. These will be hung soon, as our bungalow is very well designed but very badly insulated. A few months from now when the north wind comes hurtling down from Canada like a thrown bayonet, that extra layer between the porch without and the room within will be very welcome.

If you like the look and want to try something similar, your valance should be one third the depth of your window, and twice as wide. I sewed a strip of two inch wide bias tape on the back for the rod pocket; the strip should be exactly as long as the curtain rod. You can print off a better copy of the instructions below at