Vintage landscape: gourds and cans

Gourd and Can birdhouses, via Library of Congress“Typical birdhouses, gourds and tin cans in Coffee County, Alabama,” April 1939, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Hanging clusters of gourd birdhouses for the purpose of attracting purple martins is an Alabama folk tradition, according to the blog Appalachian History.

Choctaw and Chickasaw gardeners began the practice.  The purple* martins would eat damaging insects and mosquitoes and drive away crows and blackbirds from the corn.  

Farmers of European and African origins later adopted the custom, particularly as the birds also protect chickens by scaring away hawks.

The gourds should be hung in groups of 10 or more, according to the National Wildlife Federation’s blog.  They should also swing from crossbars and wires on poles at least two-stories high.


*They are actually dark blue and black, or pale grey.

Vintage landscape: Alabama garden

Drigger home, 1941 Coffee Co., Alabama, via Library of Congress“James F. Drigger’s farmhouse. Coffee County, Alabama,” August 1941, by John Collier, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This photo was taken in the same county as yesterday’s farmhouse with quilts. I think those are papaya plants in front of the porch vines and in the lower left corner. Nope, they’re Ricinus communis  or castor beans.  Thanks Melissa!

They and the flowers make a nice approach to the lined-up front and back doors.

John Collier was working for the Farm Security Administration when he took this photo. The Drigger family was receiving assistance to raise chickens under the “Food for Defense” program.

The Sunday porch: airing the quilts

I’m afraid I have a bad cold, so today’s porch is a repeat from August 2012. 

“Typical farmhouse, spring housecleaning, homemade quilts and bedding in sun. Coffee County, Alabama.” Photos taken April 1939 by Marion Post Wolcott.

Via Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black and White Negatives Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.