Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bushel Basket


The other day at Aaron's Beach I spied this basket.  It was hanging out in the sand enjoying the weather almost as much as I was.



Most people think of crabs, rightfully so, when they see these.




Although there's little reason to doubt this basket was once used for hauling crabs, my first thought whenever I see these is of daffodils.



When my grandfather grew daffodils commercially, the packing and shipping operation was run out of his barn. The pickers bunched the flowers with rubberbands and gathered them in these baskets.  I'd drive a tractor towing a wagon up and down the fields, load the baskets, and deliver them to the barn.   They were then submerged in metal buckets of water where they waited their turn to be packed into long cardboard boxes which were then shipped to places unknown, otherwise referred to as "Up Nawth."

All this reminds me of an old (if you consider 1984 to be old, and I'm not sure I do) Daily Press article I stumbled across the other day, titled "Sweet Smell of Success Elusive,"  about my grandfather's daffodil business:

"G.H. Vogel had a plan that he hoped would be a golden opportunity for the daffodil business. From 1963 to 1968 the retired Army brigadier general spearheaded a study to determine the feasibility of manufacturing perfume from daffodils grown on the Middle Peninsula....In 1963...a local resident who owned a perfume company called May Cove expressed a desire to develop a fragrance representative of Mathews County.**  Vogel and other daffodil growers gathered 190,000 blooms to be tested at Virginia Tech to determine if commercial extraction of natural oils for the perfume were economically viable and if a market could be established for the product.  Only five pounds of pure daffodil oil had been produced in the world in 1962, Vogel said at the time, and none was manufactured in this country."

Chemists were successful in obtaining the essential oil, which my grandfather then took to New York for further testing. Although they determined that commercial quantities of the oil could indeed enhance flavors or fragrances of other items, the money they would earn from the essence could not offset the cost necessary to gather the blooms and extract the oil.

The article goes on to say, "Vogel, who used to grow as many as 13 acres of daffodils, has reduced his crop to about five acres.  At age 84 he has decided to let another grower harvest his flowers this year."

It's amazing the memories conjured up by an otherwise ordinary basket washed up on a beach.

**By the way, a fragrance representative of Mathews County would have to include eau de creek mud, dead crabs and snapping turtle stank salty sea air. Depending on the season, there might also be some honeysuckle and freshly cut grass  tossed in for good measure. We'll forgo the opinion of the Virginia Tech chemists and assume there's not much profit in such a scent, even if some people, myself excluded included, consider it priceless.

14 comments:

Kay L. Davies said...

Fascinating story, CBW. I love "my grandfather" stories. I'll be legally a senior citizen this year, and I'm still telling "my grandfather" stories, along with a lot of "my parents" stories that I hope will some day be re-told by my nieces and nephews.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Grandma J said...

Great post. Your family has such a rich history in Mathews. Now you will be remembered as the family literary genius, whose writings will live for generations.

Country Girl said...

Like your memories. Priceless.

Have a beautiful day, my friend.

BayBrowder said...

Being from Southwest Virginia, bushel baskets make me think of apples, peaches, and fresh garden vegetables like potatoes, green beans, corn, and tomatoes (actually a fruit, I am told).
Did you, like me, get a whiff of the sweet fragrance from the blooming vines along the 5K course at Williams Wharf last Saturday? The smell brought a smile to my mind at a time when I was otherwise wondering why I was trying (unsuccessfully) to run a race when overweight and completely out of shape. Congratulations to you on a good run...now you can put the 2012 Pet Castle Run and Pet Walk on your calendar....April 7 or 14....whichever is the open Saturday between the crew regattas at Williams Wharf.
Have a wonderful Mathews Water Wonderland day!!!

Deltaville Jamie said...

I have a picture of that same basket... or at least one very like it on the same beach (because you know, there's probably only one bushel basket in the area...) Won't be heading down this weekend due to contruction on the house. Going to West by God Virginia instead...

Maria_NJ said...

I am committed to walk or run my first 5K sometime in my near future...I promise myself I will...

I was thinking crabs for the basket, but I'm always thinking crabs.

wv: restspon: I wish I was restspon that area of the world right now...

Trisha said...

Funny - my first thought was apples! I guess that is what growing up in the midwest will do to you!

Daryl said...

I swear I was going to post a photo I took of crab baskets ... I should have .. damn

Bethie said...

I see that basket,think crab and apples, but not crabapples. I love the story about your granddad!!

Bluebird49 said...

Oh that last picture was just beautiful--all of them were, but that was perfect!

What a rich family history you have there! How fortunate you are.

Mental P Mama said...

Such a magical place....

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I just love this post CBW!
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AverettLadyNana said...

Was that Miss Mary Hopkins of the Town and Country Shoppe's perfume?

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

How interesting to see all the other things (I never considered fruit) spring to mind at the sight of a basket. Most people around here think crabs but I keep forgetting most people who read this blog are not anywhere close to here!

A.L.N. - The perfume company called May Cove was owned by Josephine Stronging Rixey, described as a local resident. Onalee J. Labby acquired the business in 1967 and moved it to Colonial Heights. One of the fragrances she sold was called Jonquilla Simplex, made from the daffodil oil purchased from essential oil houses in New York (according to the article).

I had forgotten until reading this article that my City Cousins, sisters and I used to make our own version of perfume (water and something scented poured in old perfume bottles--like Charlie or Jean Nate) and cart it all over the neighborhood trying to sell it. We didn't make much money, as I recall...