Another Duke’s Mixture

A Duke’s Mixture blog is one containing a few totally unrelated items, so please bear with me.

Unrelated item # 1:

This morning while getting dressed on the bench in the closet, I saw a genuine antique staring back at me through the sides of our plastic sewing kit. In that moment, the thought that occurred to me is this: A GenZ’er and probably most Millennials wouldn’t have the foggiest notion of what that is.

And what was that ancient item? My mother’s darning knob. The frame for Evie’s pedal-powered Singer Sewing Machine had four drawers. One was for spools of thread and bobbins, one for scissors, measuring tape, and pin cushions, one for buttons, and one for the darning knob.

I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table and using the darning knob to repair my father’s socks. Does anybody repair socks anymore? No, we simply toss them. People who endured the Great Depression didn’t toss anything if it could be fixed.

And that’s when I remembered one other thing about my mother’s sewing equipment. Her darning needle was so much bigger than all the other ones, it stuck out of her pin cushion like a sore thumb.

Unrelated item # 2:

A week or so ago I wrote about finding a baby bird stranded on the pool deck. I moved him out of the sun and into a shady spot. I also put down some bird seed and made sure there was readily available water nearby.

For the first day or two he scurried out of my way as I passed while doing my steps. A couple of days later, he could flap his way up into the raised flower beds. A day or so after that he made it as far as the bird feeders in the lower branches of the trees, but I could also see that without fully grown tail feathers he wasn’t very adept at flying.

We feed birds. We have a couple of seed containers as well as a couple of suet stations. What I started noticing is that, whenever I passed by the bird feeding tree, all the other birds would go zooming off, but Mr. Short-Tail, as I have come to call him, stayed put. He’d watch me go by, but he wouldn’t leave.

This past Sunday I was sitting on the porch when I realized both of the suet containers were empty. When I went out to fill them, he sat on the other one watching me. As soon as I filled the first one, he jumped over to it and stayed there while I filled the second one from only a foot or two away.

That’s when I dialed up my cell phone’s camera app. The photo you see here was taken from all of six inches away, and Mr. Short-Tail didn’t move a muscle.

After the photo shoot, I noticed that he stayed right where he was—on top of the suet container. In the past, I had seen bigger birds chasing him away. This time, he puffed up his wings and told them in no uncertain terms, “This is MY suet.”

The little guy’s flight pattern is still a bit wonky, but I’m sure it’ll improve as his tail feathers get longer.

In the meantime, I can tell you that, although I’m no wildlife photographer, this one really made me happy.

Semi-related item #3:

After sending out the first post on Mr. Short-Tail, someone sent me a note calling me a “tree hugger.” I’m not sure I qualify since the bird in question isn’t a northern spotted owl. .

However, later on, as I sat thinking about that comment, these words came to mind:

“I’m not a tree hugger
Or a tree hugger’s son …”

Which immediately brought me back to a tongue twister I learned in back in college.

I’m not a fig plucker
Or a fig plucker’s son
But I’ll pluck figs
‘Till the fig plucker comes.

Try saying that one three times in a hurry. If that doesn’t end up making you giggle, I don’t know what will.

PS. I understand that when photos are included, some folks can’t see them. If that happens, just send me a note at, and I’ll send them via email.

40 thoughts on “Another Duke’s Mixture

  1. I collected them! You would be surprised how many different ones there are.
    (sock darners)

  2. I still have my darning bob but have not used it in years. My children can toss it when I pass on.

  3. Not only do I still give a darn (sorry for the pun!) but I have become the darner for my knitting group. It started when a friend mentioned that her elderly mother had hole in the elbow of her favourite sweater. I offered to repair it for her and now anyone who needs darning done brings it to me.

    It is too bad that modern socks really can’t be darned but sometimes I try.

    Oh yeah, I use a burnt out lightbulb instead of a darning egg!

  4. My mother had what she called a darning egg. It is cream colored and doesn’t have a handle. I use it when mending socks. I like the weaving of threads you do when covering a hole.

    I learned to sew as soon as I could handle a needle. I don’t do much of it now, but it was nice to know how in high school when clothes were important.

  5. I darn hand-knitted socks. Otherwise, I toss them. by the way, I have some socks that are at least 20 years old because I hang them to dry on those wooden racks and do not put them in the dryer. All my clothes last longer than expected because I try to avoid the dryer.

    • I am so touched that this little bird loves you! Please give us updates, whenever you can squeeze him in! I sent you my email as the picture wasn’t attached.

  6. Kudos on weaving these unrelated thoughts into a beautiful blog! I used to darn socks but don’t anymore since I wasn’t very good at it and the people whose feet went into those socks complained about the irritation caused by my mending.
    Loved the photo and the story about Mr. Short Tail! You’ve made a friend for life!
    Tried the fig plucker tongue twister and not only did I giggle, I laughed so hard, it brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you for making this Friday a joyful way to start the day!

  7. BTW, I was curious about Duke’s mixture and here’s what I found:
    Years ago there was a “Duke’s Mixture” pipe tobacco. The expression came to mean a mixture of things, sometimes confusion or chaos.
    Also: … a loose, low-quality tobacco sold in a pouch by the same tobacco company that would later donate millions to the school named in its honor, Duke University.
    Fascinating! Believe it or not, I had never heard this expression so you enticed me to learn something new today – thanks! You can teach an 79 year-old dog new tricks!

  8. The story about Mr. Short-Tail is making me smile. How delightful that you were able to save that little bird, and he (or she) is now your friend!
    And yes, I’m one of those who still darns socks. I didn’t grow up in the Great Depression, but we were pretty poor when I was a child, and I became quite thrifty. I don’t have a darning knob, but I keep a bunch of hole-y socks in a bag with needles, yarn, and scissors, and whenever I’m to be a passenger in a vehicle, I grab that bag so I have something to do with my hands while I’m sitting there. My darns don’t match the original socks, because they’re just made of scrap yarn, but I wear my darned socks with pride, even with Birkenstocks which allow them to show.

  9. I have my Mothers darning wooden “egg”, too. I’ve darned many socks over the years until now we just buy new socks. I’m keeping the implement as a momento of my Mom.

  10. I loved your blog today. Memories… My mother had one as well, and she also had a Singer sewing machine, the treadle type. She sewed many a shirt for me. I don’t remember being teased about home-made shirts, as J. P. Beaumont was. But I do remember her making matching shirts for my Dad and I. Well, sort of remember, more from family photo memories. My parents were also Depression-era and not much was ever thrown away that was still usable. We are a throw-away people now, aren’t we?

    Love your bird story too. Nothing tree hugging about it to me.

    Thanks again for your blog an

  11. I think my mother-in-law had one of those darning things when my father-in-law was in the Navy. It looked familiar.
    Glad that little bird seems to be on the mend. He’ll be flying straight lines before you know it.
    As for your critic, bless his heart…

  12. I remember my mom used to use light bulbs to darn socks. Mom also used to save old Levi’s to use to mend our newer ones when we’d somehow get a hole in the knee. What a concept…. didn’t know how stylish we could have been in the ’40’s and ’50’s.
    Got a chuckle out of the tongue twister… never dared say that in the house. Here’s another we used to giggle over.
    I split a sheet,
    A sheet I split,
    And through that splitted sheet
    I slipped.
    Thanks for another fun blog
    Long live Mr short tail.

  13. Good morning and happy Friday. Thank you. You never fail to make me smile and think. I hope you both have a good Father’s day weekend.

    Noreen Simon

  14. I remember darning eggs that my mom had. I also remember blisters from bumpy darned Sox. Maybe it was the darning or maybe it was my mother’s sewing. Needlework was not her skill.

  15. Your blogs always make me smile! This one especially so. I had just explained what darning a sock was to my son the other day. He is 48 years old and didn’t have a clue, only a holey sock.. although my mom and grandmother used a darning knob, I pulled out an old incandescent light bulb and showed him how to do it himself. He was delighted to learn a new skill in these inflationary times.. hahahahaha… thanks again for jiggling my memory..
    PS.. that picture of the bird, is just adorable, love his name also.. 🙂

  16. Tree hugger, huh! So many people think their way of thinking is the only way of thinking. They think everyone who don’t think like they do are wrong. Well guess I’m wrong a lot.

    • Try clicking on the comments and then scrolling back up. Otherwise, you need to send me an email at and ask me to send it.

  17. I figured out that if you click on the “comments” button and then scroll back up to Judy’s blog, the pictures will show. Otherwise, I also could not see the pictures if I was just reading the blog.

  18. Such a sweet blog! Not so much the darners, but the birdie for sure. Mr. Short-Tail has bonded with you, thinks you can show him/her how to fly, maybe catch hugs? ;). You are doing everything an adult bird would do for a fledgling.

    I’m wondering what kind of bird Mr. Shirt-Tail is? Maybe someone here does?

  19. Never darned a sock (gen x), but I sure like cute birds! Hoping Mr Short Tail stays happy & healthy!

  20. Another uplifting blog–thank you! I think Mr Short-Tail is a juvenile House Finch. We have a lot of them fledging in Spokane right now. When I was a child in Richland WA my folks took 2 baby finches from the nest of 6 siblings to raise in our house because the widowed mama bird couldn’t keep up w their feedings. They lived in a cage in the kitchen and came out at dinner time to fly around and eat vegetables from our plates at the table. I have my mom’s and my grandmothers’ darning eggs and a few made of Dash wood collected while living in England.

  21. Love the story about the baby bird.

    Your story about your mom and the darning and sewing machine brought back memories to me about my mom. I have my mom’s darning thing and a friend has her Singer sewing machine inside her front door. Asa kid I loved working that treadle.

  22. Both made me LOL and love the memories of my mom but the bird one really hit home. I have a lovely fountain about 10′ from my patio chair that I have been struggling to fill because of the birds bathing by the bunch around 7pm every night. Lovely little yellow finches will fill it with splashing until “my” hummingbird chases them away. Last evening while enjoying the movie out there a small bird flew down to the back of the chair right next to mine. He then turned around facing me and proceeded to loudly cheep cheep CHEEP! I looked up to the left and darned if he wasn’t right! I promptly went in and came right back out to fill the feeder! And I thought the squirrel I had name Shirley who came knocking on my window when she wanted a pecan was pushy! PS peanut shells made my neighbor crazy. So I buy Georgia pecans which she buries over my fence on the golf course:-)

  23. Think I still have a sock darner. Thanks for that memory. The bird story is wonderful. Thanks for brightening my day.

  24. My mother was a seamstress but I don’t remember her having a darning knob. Strange. As for me, I can’t sew a straight line or darn, but I have taking in a baby bird and cared for it until I could get it to a friend who has a bird sanctuary. For many years I had bird feeders in my back yard. Now I can barely take care of myself, so the feeders had to go.

    Hope you and Bill have a wonderful Father’s Day.

  25. In the spring when it is still cooler, my hubby and I sit on the patio having coffee and watch all the birds. Last month when we were sitting outside, we had a covey of quail come through as well as two roadrunners! You just never know what might show up.

  26. Was dealing with a young Crow who had what appeared to be an injured foot. My little dog saw him and ran over. Of course the little Crow tried to run/fly but wasn’t too successful at either. I chided Jack and he quit chasing. He just wanted to sniff and make friends but didn’t understand. I tried to carefully go to the little bird but he hobbled his way under our fir tree. I took a shallow dish of water out to him and some bread. It’s been several days now and I have replenished his water and was going to take some seed out but he seems to have recovered (at least I CHOOSE to believe that). He had the rest of his crow family flying around yelling at me thru the whole affair – they made sure I wasn’t going to hurt him. This same family has been here for about 2 years. Hope they stay. They chase off hawks who seem to want to eat our bunnies. Best of luck with the little bird. Hopefully he will be a friend to you for a long while.

  27. Your little bird looks like a Pine Siskin to me. Amazing how tame he is. I can remember my grandma having a darning egg and trying to teach me how to darn socks. I would use a different word than “darn” for that process and did not succeed. Great post, thanks

  28. My Mom and I always darned my Dad’s and my husband’s socks. It was very relaxing. I still have my darning knob, but haven’t been able to find darning thread for a long time.

  29. My mother-in-law darned socks for my husband when he was a child-
    Professionally she beaded gowns on a frame- The whole family was in the business of making women’s clothes for special occasions-
    Our cousin Pauline made wedding gowns for every bride in the family, including
    me, making a beautiful gown that my mother-in-law added beading to-
    My mother was a talented seamstress, and had a large Singer sewing machine-
    I’m afraid I did not inherit this trait- Once when Carl and I were first married, I
    announced that I would sew a button back on his jacket- It came off immediately when he put said jacket on, and I wisely gave up trying to be that kind of house-wife- From then on my mother-in-law sewed things back on-
    Now that people are talking about the climate, there is a push to repair things, rather than replace them- I wonder if something like darning might come back?
    The “Disposable” world we are living in might yield to some form of the world our Depression-era parents lived through?
    It is clear that in Mr. Short Tail’s opinion, you are a highly rated mother bird!

  30. maholo I needed that. Brighten my day. just sitting at home after my mere 1500 step walk. recoperating from angiagram on 48 hrs ago. with all those thoughts. that are promulagated by visits to ICUs and Hospitals in general/ Chuck from Tacoma, via 10 1\2 years in Hawaii. ALOHA

  31. What nice memories. I remember my Mom’s darning egg that also sat in a drawer in her Singer sewing machine cabinet. Mr. Short tail is a handsome little guy. He obviously knows you are his friend and his food bag 😉

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