Oldest Message in a Bottle

A couple of years ago, I told you about a man who casts bottled messages off the coast of Canada, just to see who might write back.

If that story set your imagination bobbing dreamily out onto the open sea, then listen to this:

Last month, fishermen in the Baltic Sea hauled in their catch and discovered what may be the oldest message in a bottle ever recorded.


Photo courtesy of International Maritime Museum Hamburg via NPR

The message within was scrawled on a postcard dated May 17, 1913, and signed by a man named Richard Platz. His note asked the bottle’s recipient to forward his message to his own address in Berlin, reported the German online news source The Local.

Sounds like he just wanted to see if it might ever make its way back to him, don’t you think?

Instead of reaching Platz, though, the bottle ended up at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg. Researchers managed to track down Platz’s granddaughter, 62-year-old Angela Erdmann, who lives in Berlin. Erdmann said she never knew her mother’s father, who reportedly died in 1946 when he was 54 years old, but upon hearing the news of his bottled message, she visited the museum to see it for herself.

“That was a pretty moving moment,” she told German news agency DPA. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”


With May Day hovering on the horizon, I thought of a fun little geography quiz: Map the Maypole!

Just in case you’re not familiar, maypoles are decorative wooden poles that have stood at the center of European May Day festivities throughout the ages. It’s no surprise that the traditions of twirling ribbons and dancing ’round the pole have spread across the globe, but can you guess where in the world the following maypoles are located?

I’ll give you the answers at the end, so don’t peek!

A. A rainbow of ribbons …


Photo by Jengod via Wikimedia Commons

B. Red, white, and blue? Might surprise you …


Photo by Grenville Burrows via Wikimedia Commons

C. Those sure are tropical looking leaves …


Photo by Vmenkov via Wikimedia Commons

D. Skirts and ribbons swirl …

Photo by Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons

E. Renaissance garb and … a plastic coffee mug?


Photo by KenL via Wikimedia Commons

F. And, perhaps, my favorite of all …


Photo by Haxpett via Wikimedia Commons


A. Los Angeles, California

B. Offenham, England

C. Victoria, Australia

D. Salisbury, England

E. Tuxedo Park, New York

F. Dalarna, Sweden


Happy Earth Day Earthlings!




Chatsworth Chickens

Hellooo Downton Abbey fans!

Can you picture the resplendent Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham …


Photo courtesy of

… feeding chickens?


Feeding the Chickens by Walter Frederick Osborne via Wikimedia Commons

I can hear you clucking your tongues.

Why did I pose such a silly question?

Well, it wouldn’t seem so silly to the real-life Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah Mitford (known to her family as “Debo”).


Photo courtesy of

This dignified dame (now 94 years old) resides in the celebrated Chatsworth House of North Derbyshire:


Photo by Rob Bendall via Wikimedia Commons

And, yes, she keeps chickens.

You might even say she is passionate about poultry.

“She’s resolute, charming, and forward-thinking—and has been known to feed her chickens while wearing a ball gown,” reports Papercity.


Photo of courtesy of

A veritable Downton Abbey farmgirl.

Pardon me while I swoon …

According to the British Your Chickens website, “Her Grace, The Duchess of Devonshire, is a keen poultry enthusiast and has kept poultry all her life. Her mother kept Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns on a commercial scale, and the small profits helped pay for the homeschooling of the Duchess and her sisters.”

The Duchess’ favorite fowl?

She has reportedly raised Rhode Island Reds, Dorkings, and Derbyshire Redcaps.

“Now she is contented with free-range Welsummers and White Leghorns, which cause a great deal of interest when they hurry to share the picnics of summer visitors in the park at Chatsworth,” says Your Chickens. “In the garden, there are also a number of Buff Cochins. They roam around near the potting shed, where visitors are fascinated by their feather ‘trousers’ and their slow, stately gait. They must be the most photographed birds in the country!”

Fortunately, for those of us who can’t stop by for a visit any time soon, the Duchess has written multiple books that chronicle her life on the “royal roost.”

Look for these titles on Amazon:

Counting My Chickens and Other Home Thoughts


Home to Roost and Other Peckings


All in One Basket


Flower Festival

At last, spring is in the air …

Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are heralding the warm-up, so I dug out my one small white trumpet vase that was once part of a bigger Victorian centerpiece called an epergne—French word for saving—that radiated 2 to 7 “branches” that held small glass, metal, or silver trumpet vases as shown in today’s photo (held upright by the use of a more common flower frog) … look up epergne on eBay—intact epergnes are a S-P-E-N-D-Y collector’s item.


Photo by ShakataGaNai via Wikimedia Commons


Photo by Clinton & Charles Robertson via Wikimedia Commons

That’s when a little birdie (named Megan) told me that she and her “nestlings” are already crafting their May Day doorstep surprises.


Right now, flowers are our fancy here at the farm. And that why I’m as happy as a spring chicken wandering around my own little paradise, watching for new blooms, but …

You know that I also love a virtual vacation—especially when I can talk you into tagging along.

How about it? Let’s roam the sunlit countryside, visiting flower festivals across the U.S.

Are you game?

First stop:  the Sequim Lavender Festival in Sequim, Washington.


Photo by Kgrr via Wikimedia Commons

Southward we go to the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival in California.


Photo courtesy of the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce

Wagons east to Tyler, Texas, for the Texas Rose Festival.


Photo by Robert Nunnall via Wikimedia Commons

On our way back up north, we’ll head for Holland, Michigan, and the Tulip Time Festival.


Photo by BazookaJoe via Wikimedia Commons

Hold on to your bouquets because we’re landing at the Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York next.


Photo by C.C. Tsao via Wikipedia

The last destination on our whirlwind tour is the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia. It looks like an old-fashioned good time with a bounty of beautiful blossoms.


Photo by Glenn Grossman via Wikipedia

Now … aren’t you glad we don’t have a long ride home?

Caretaker Jobs

Looking for an uncommon getaway this summer that doesn’t break the bank?

Consider a caretaking position.

No—I don’t mean caretaking someONE (although that is an undeniably noble effort). I was actually talking about caretaking a place.

As it happens, prosperous property owners around the country are always on the lookout for reliable people to help keep their homes and ranches in working order while they’re away—and those homes and ranches are generally in stunning locations.

A website called provides a forum where caretakers and property owners can make a match. Here are a few of the listings I found on a quick search:

Seasonal Ranch Help Needed for Housekeeping and Grounds keeping in Glacier Park, Montana.


Photo courtesy of the National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons

Caretaker Hosts Needed for Rustic Mountain Lodge in Whitepine, Colorado.


Photo by rjones0856 via Wikimedia Commons

Property and Farm Manager for Organic Farm and Garden in Priest River, Idaho.


Photo by S.hammarlund via Wikimedia Commons

Caretaker or Caretaker Couple in San Juan Islands, Washington.


Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management via Wikimedia Commons

Shall I twist your arm?

These kinds of positions make me nostalgic for my days in the Idaho backcountry … but I digress.

If you’re getting excited, don’t let the moment pass. Hop over and check out the details of these and other enticing opportunities at