On a trip to England for my 25th Wedding Anniversary almost 12 years ago now I picked up a snack at a local pub. It was a bread pudding in a pottery jar. I kept the jar all these years and I have used it as a vase for a bouquet of corn cobs. This bouquet is kept in my pipe cupboard most of the year but on warm Spring and Summer days I take it out to my table when I am set up on my front porch for an afternoon of pipe smoking and reading. I have learned over time that as soon as I settle into a book and a pipe company drops by and settles in with me. Typically there is not much talking beyond the initial greetings before they note the tobacco and pipes and ask if they can give a pipe a try.
This is where my bouquet comes into play. In the bunch pipes in the jar are some unsmoked and some well broken in cobs. All are cleaned and ready for smoking. All have the filters removed to make the smoking much less wet and the draught wide open. On the table next to the bouquet I keep several jars of the tobaccos that I am currently smoking. Usually these include a Virginia and an English blend. Once in a while I put out an aromatic blend. Next to the jars are a pouch or pipe cleaners, several pipe nails and a bic lighter. With little ado they load up a pipe and fire it up. Then we settle into the quiet of the moment and puff, the rhythm of the puffing provides a cadence only interrupted by the bees and butterflies flitting by or a hummingbird stopping for lunch. It is a great moment.
On a rare occasion one of the “flowers” go home with the pipe smoker but as often as not they want to leave them in the vase for the next time they visit the front porch. I keep them clean and ready. I also have a few MM hard maple pipes and some smaller briars in the vase as well for those who want to try those out. I have found that this keeps my own pipes out of the hands and mouths of those who want to try pipes. I know that may sound harsh but I like to keep my pipes undented by teeth and free of tooth chatter from the unwary new smoker who seems bent on chewing the stem. In fact if I notice them chewing on the stem then the pipe automatically goes home with them. The last thing I want is more pipes to refurbish. At least not cobs and inexpensive briars that I put in the vase.
The bouquet has served me well over the years. If you have friends and neighbours stopping by for a visit and wishing to try out a pipe the bouquet is a great way to facilitate them doing so at a low cost to you. Somehow I find that the cob delivers a great smoke for these new pipesters and at the same time provides for the seasoned pipe man who for some reason known only to them has forgotten to bring along a pipe to smoke.
Spring is in the air here in Vancouver so I cleaned up the pipes in the vase this morning. I am getting ready for some good days on the front porch once the weather warms a bit. I know that my visitors will come with the sun so I am ready for them. Here is a photo of what I look forward to. The furniture is out, the table ready and waiting for the bouquet and tobaccos to be brought out and even my dog Bailey is waiting for me. The book, the computer and a brew are ready for me when I settle down for a pipe and some reading. Why not come by for a visit.