Finding and featuring vintage milk cans in the garden
Milk Cans and Montgomery Ward
Now what do ‘Milk Cans’ and Montgomery Ward have to do with each other? Well, back between 1940 – 1950 until the adoption of farm bulk tanks & tanker trucks , milk was stored, cooled and transported in ‘milk cans.’ A 1922 Montgomery Ward catalog advertised ‘riveted’ milk cans as well as a Sears and Roebuck catalog in 1927. About 10 years later Montgomery Ward advertised milk cans as ‘welded’ and sold for $3.70 each. Do any of you remember as a child browsing old ‘Montgomery Ward’ catalogs to cut out paper dolls and clothes? Anyone cut out old milk cans? Don’t answer that as it may date you!
Milk cans have been around since the 19th century so it is no wonder that Flea Market Gardening folks have found them readily available over the years to repurpose in their garden and home decor.
Using discarded milk cans in the garden:
Vicky Thomas says, “Almost everything pictured here is junk from the old barn we had to tear down. The wreath on the outside has old wore out hand tools that I spray painted green and yellow. There’s barbed wire on the door. The milk cans came from several different places. There’s old bottles and gourds from the barn. One of the gourds I’ve had for years and painted it. The rope and old pulley is from the barn. The chair was a rocker that’s had many years of use and the rockers got dry rot so I just knocked them off now it’s a place to rest, I originally got it from the dump. It’s all junk but I love it!”
David & Peggi Freeman used an old milk can as part of their holiday front door decor along with a few of their treasures they’ve collected.
On Donna Anderson’s porch, she collects unusual and old things and likes to change out the combination of plants she uses each year.
Going vertical with milk cans
Creating height in a garden can sometimes be a challenge! These FMG folks found a solution with old milk cans.
And Christine Cross’s painted and added an “uppercase living” saying on this old milk can. She does take it inside for the winter.
In Donna Popp’s Western garden she adds not only a milk can, but an old milk bottle from her barn.
The next few photo ideas are especially for those of you who love the color, ‘red.’ First, a ‘jailbird’ birdhouse resides on Blondeponder’s old milk can where she says a bluejay is looking for peanuts.
Look what Billie Hayman tucked in between those beautiful hydrangea plants.
You’ve heard the phrase on Flea Market Gardening, “Rust is a must!” Here is Daphne Ross’ ‘Just Enough Antiques’ display and in the Fall, she changes out the geraniums to bright yellow mums.
No sniveling, now. Go out and find yourself an old milk can! Margaret Buiso shared, “My art studio and yard sale collections. Some of this stuff dates back to my college days…where I picked up old horse tack out of a barn and I have been collecting ever since. My hubby put a new roof and door on the shed and cleaned up the inside for the studio.”
Tip: Where to find milk cans
Flea markets! Rarely seen at yard sales or thrift stores, flea markets are the place to look, preferably ones in the country where they are commonly seen and not especially valued. A dented and painted one was purchased recently for a bargain $10 so be on the look out!
Milk cans! Can you imagine milking cows in the 19th century? First, getting the milk from the udder (makes me shudder!) to the pail; then heating it to kill off an bacteria; and then storing and cooling it in a milk can which had to be delivered by either the farmer or delivery man. Customers came to the delivery point with their jar or bucket in hand. A customer who came earlier in the day got the ‘cream of the crop,’ as the saying goes, since early meant a higher quality of cream; whereas, later in the day brought a lower quality because of separation. And if it was a hot day, the milk would often start to sour because the old milk cans weren’t insulated and many didn’t have covers (plug covers and vegetable parchment were rather expensive).