When people think of Halloween, they usually picture pumpkins, bags bursting with candy, and hordes of kids roaming the streets in cute costumes. They also imagine witches, ghosts, ghouls, and all manner of creepy, crawly things guaranteed to make one’s hair stand on end.
This darker side of Halloween stems from its earliest pagan roots, particularly the ancient Celtic festival of Samain. That word in Old Irish literally means “summer’s end,” the season which ushers in the darker half of the year, with its longer, colder nights and gray, lifeless landscapes. For our pagan ancestors, this was a transitional time of year, full of magic and mystery, when the boundary between the world of the living and that of the fearful spirit world was at its thinnest. Thus, occasionally, those creatures of the gloomy Otherworld—deities and demons, ghosts and fairies—would more easily be able to cross over and dwell among us.
Over the centuries other folklores and superstitions attached themselves to present-day Halloween customs, so that now we have quite a menagerie of seemingly monstrous beings to contend with when October 31 rolls around—including certain real-world animals.
Granted, all animals are beautiful in their own way. However, the appearance and behavior of some of these animals lend themselves perfectly to the eerie atmosphere that Halloween inspires. Here are the most popular ones, with a little explanation as to why and how they became associated with Halloween. Continue reading “The Animals of Halloween”
Below is a guest blog article by our social media editor, Frank Weaver, who just returned from a trip to the Balkan region of Eastern Europe.
If you are an animal lover, one of the first things you will notice when traveling through the Republic of Croatia is the large number of stray cats you encounter wherever you go. Especially in big cities, but also in small towns, they are everywhere!
While there are cat sanctuaries and rescue shelters to be found here and there in Croatia, they are few and far between, and no doubt their funding is marginal. That being said, such organizations would in some degree be serving a need that may not really exist. In this country, the human and feline tribes seem to cohabit independently yet connected in a kind of perfect symbiosis. These cats belong to no one, yet belong to everyone. Continue reading “Cats of Croatia”
Now that the dog days of August are long past and the evenings have started to get ever so nippy, we at Ketchum…wait—dog days? What does that even mean? What do dogs have to do with August? Curious, we looked it up; and in the process discovered a slew of other interesting animal-related idioms commonly in use in the English-speaking world. Herewith—our favorites. Continue reading “A Menagerie of Beastly Phrases”
When visitors first pull into the parking lot of our manufacturing facility in Lake Luzerne, New York, they are immediately struck by how small it looks—from the inside. But no one should be fooled by first impressions. For once they step inside, they are dumbfounded by how big it is in reality. Continue reading “Ketchum Mfg.: Take a Peek Inside!”
Most people, when they think of cows, picture them in numbers grazing contentedly on rolling green hills. That is, the average person does not see them as individuals but in the plural as cattle, as part of a herd: nameless, indistinguishable one from another, a little un-fantastical, never to be acclaimed, and certainly not destined for “great things.” Once you’ve seen one cow, you’ve seen them all, right?
Yet, don’t be fooled by their seeming docility. As any cow-owner will tell you, each has in fact a distinct personality. And while most have remained anonymous throughout the long history of human-domesticated livestock, there are those that have made their name and achieved fame, if not notoriety—from Pauline Wayne, President Taft’s prized Holstein, who once grazed the grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; to fearsome Ratón, the Spanish fighting bull responsible for the death and maiming of dozens of toreadors foolish enough to face him (hence the bull’s nickname, el toro asesino, “the killer bull”).
Throughout our short but spectacular history, we of the bipedal mammalian species known as Home sapiens have been utterly fascinated by our quadruped cousins in the Animal Kingdom (not to mention our finny friends and wingèd companions on this Earth). For centuries we have written learned books about them, recounted their exploits in ancient fables and folk tales, celebrated them in song, drawn their figures on cave walls and canvas, and we began photographing them relentlessly almost as soon as the camera was invented.
And, it goes without saying, we have composed countless poems about them. The sheer volume of poetry dedicated to our fellow creatures—all manner of flesh, fish, and fowl, from monkeys to microbes, from the common to the exotic, limbless and many-limbed, the living and the extinct, and all inhabiting every corner of this amazing terraqueous globe of ours—is daunting, to say the least. Where to start?
This April, to celebrate National Poetry Month, Ketchum Mfg. Co. showcases just a few of our favorites among the most famous poems about our brother animals—both wild and domestic. Continue reading “An April Bestiary in Verse”
Why paint a cat? It is art already.
— Wieland Grant
From the time of the ancient Egyptians, through the classical period and the Middle Ages, and right up to the present day, the common house cat (Felis catus) has been a constant object of attraction, mystery, and fascination for humanity. And throughout history, artists and craftspeople have expressed that fascination in every form of art—in sculpture, mosaics, drawings, paintings, and more.
The homesteading movement in the United States represents a return to “first principles,” chief among which is self-sufficiency; and two of the cornerstones of this burgeoning movement are “do-it-yourself” and “grow-your-own.” Now that Spring is just around the corner, what better time to put both these ideas into action at once than to build your own backyard chicken coop?
It’s easier than you might think! More importantly, the overall benefits far outweigh the initial investment and effort. The endless supply of farm-fresh eggs alone is worth the price of admission. Without the added chemicals and hormones you might expect from mass commercial egg production, they’re healthier for you, they taste noticeably better, and they’re available at a moment’s notice just a few feet from your kitchen. Likewise, if you use the birds for meat, they grow fast, don’t take up much space, and more than pay for themselves in reduced grocery bills. Last but not least, it’s fun to raise your own chickens—it’s something that you and your whole family can learn from and enjoy in its own right.
Among the very first dogs known by name in Western literature is Argos, who appears near the end of Homer’s Odyssey. In that great Greek epic of ancient times, he is depicted as the very epitome of faithfulness: waiting patiently for 20 years for Odysseus to return home from the Trojan War, he immediately recognizes his old master at first sight. Only then is the sick and feeble dog able to pass away in peace. Thousands of years later, we in the modern world can still recognize and appreciate this common bond between human and animal.
That is just one of the many reasons dogs are called “man’s (and woman’s) best friend”! Since the time of Homer, many more books have been written and stories told about the canines we love who love us back, entertain us, provide for us, work and play with us, protect us, inspire us, teach us the virtues of kindness and wisdom, and keep us company when we are lonely. Here are five of our favorites. Continue reading “Literary Dogs”