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  • Carole Conn

Autumn Antiques in the Country

When the leaves start to turn and the smell of wood smoke permeates the air I start to gravitate to country antiques that remind me of autumn, - harvesting, warming by the fire, and turning my attention to inside.


We have a huge old apple tree - so old no one can identify the variety - but they taste fantastic. I love apple boxes filled with apples and I put them all around the house, especially in autumn. Of course you need to check them often or a rotten apple will stain your box.

Apple boxes, or trays, are square or rectangular in shape, with canted sides, no handles or dividers, although they may have attached handles on the sides like the one below. They are shaped so that the apples' weight is distributed well. They are actually useful for any kind of display. A good apple box in old paint will cost over $100 and can often be much more. A very well made box or one that's an unusual size will also be around that price. You can sometimes find unpainted ones for under $100.

Totes of all sizes are very useful for gathering garden produce. They have the added advantage of having a central divider that acts as a handle - much easier to lug around the garden than an apple box. Look for ones in old paint and those with interesting handles, carving, or other embellishment. There are lots of them on the market for under $100. Good paint or an interesting shape can push the prices way up.

Berry baskets are great for not only gathering berries, but also for displaying small items. I like them with small stone fruit in them, or with strawberry sewing emeries. The ordinary ones are pretty inexpensive, but a very well made one, like the one on the left below can be hundreds.

Gathering baskets are also very useful at harvest time, but be sure yours is sturdy and can withstand the weight of the produce.

And baskets are great for any kind of storage - or just to hide things - like my remote speaker - in any room.

They come in all shapes and sizes, painted and unpainted. Look for very sturdy baskets, or beautifully painted ones, unusual shapes or known makers. Hand made ones are most collectible.

Planning Next Year's Garden

Lots of the fall gardening chores involve looking forward to the spring. Planting bulbs can be an arduous job, but my antique dibber is my go-to tool. You can get new ones at garden supply places, but I like my old one with the metal tip. Just push it down and there's your bulb hole. Some have handles, making it easier to get them out.

Gathering seeds for next year is a great way to save money and to get the plants you really want. (Can you tell I'm a gardener?). Divided boxes and seed sorters are very useful. Seeds need to dry out completely before storing them, so an open box is ideal.

I love this one that I found years ago at a flea market. I don't know what its original purpose was but it is perfect for seeds. I think I paid under $50 for it.

Storing the Bounty

Storing dried herbs, fruits, spices and grains for the long winter can be accomplished using your collection. I love hand blown apothecary jars with tin lids. I have all sizes and I really use them!

Be sure that your herbs and spices are completely dried out before storing them in these jars or they will get moldy.

The molded jars are much less expensive than the hand blown ones - but they look just about the same when filled. Hand blown ones have a pontil on the bottom - a rough or raised base and you often see bubbles in the glass. Molded ones have a smooth bottom and often a mold seam along the side or at the top. They should both have tin lids. The hand blown ones are over $100 and sometimes many hundreds if they are an unusual size. The molded ones can be had for $50-$100. Never buy them with cracks or chips.

And then there are my beloved pantry boxes. I've written a whole blog on them which is on this site. I am obsessed with them. They come in sizes from 2" to about 12", and up to 18" if they have handles. Look for early ones - the thicker the walls the better - with original or early paint, and in good condition. Prices vary all over the place, depending on color, condition and size.

Pantry boxes can be used to store spices, grains, herbs, and lot of other things. Just be sure they're really clean before you put things to eat in them!

Stoneware was used for canning and storing liquids. I love stoneware with cobalt decoration and have lots of jugs, crocks and storage jars, but I'm not sure I'd put food in them for storage. Dried flowers, yes. Food? Don't thinks so. But they look great in your country kitchen!

Hunkering Down

Time to think about candles, fireplaces, potpourri, and stews.

We have wood delivered for our fireplaces - too old for chopping - and store it outside, but we have a couple of wood boxes near the fireplace to hold enough logs to get us through a few cold days. These are strictly utilitarian pieces, but sometimes you can find them in interesting shapes and colors. I have a small piggin on the hearth where I store kindling. You can use any kind of bucket for this.

I don't dip my own candles anymore, but I always stock up at this time of year. I have a candle box hanging near - but not too near - the hearth, - filled with them. Makes it easy to just grab one when you need it instead of hunting for it.

Candle boxes which hang are very sought after. Double ones like this one are very pricey (think $1000 and up), but you can find ones in very pleasing shapes and sizes for well under that. Look for nice shapes, old paint, square nails.

And now's the time to make potpourri and to dry fruits for fall and holiday displays. I mix dried herbs from the garden with essential oils, lemon rind, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried orange slices, or whatever takes my fancy. Everything has to be very dry to do this. Then seal them in a container - a pantry box or apothecary jar works - until the scents are strong. Display it in a pewter plate or bowl.

See the blog post on pewter on this site - old pewter is quite inexpensive and very beautiful for lots of uses in your home. Don't buy shiny pewter - I prefer a mellow gray patina. You can find good pewter plates for $30-75 and bowls for a bit more.

I love fall in New England. Crisp weather, cool nights, warm sun and beautiful colors. This is one of my favorite fall photos - of my horse Major enjoying fallen apples in the pasture. No antiques here - just a nice picture!

Happy Fall!



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