Friday, September 22, 2017


A young friend used this term to describe what happened to the fourteen dollars she failed to note as the price of a bunch of salad greens when she checked out at an unfamiliar grocery store -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grooming The Garden For Winter

Cosmetic yard maintenance now pays hugely over the holidays. It's a special joy to contemplate a well-managed landscape from a Thanksgiving table. This weather is just right for comfortable labor.

From English garden writers Vita Sackville-West and Gertrude Jekyl I learned not to over-groom my plants. Seattle's climate is like that of England, so that skilled and elegant advice makes the most of my efforts. Mass-market garden books are aimed at the interior and eastern continental US climate, that has four seasons and looks like a Dick and Jane primer. Seattle does not. 

Seattle has one season: it's forty-five degrees and raining. Anything else is a minor variation. Ignore broadcast weather reports: they take all the fun out of living here with their self-indulgent definition of a good day. My good day is overcast, kind to the eyes and skin, and supportive of the vegetation.

The English approach to perennials is to let them have their head, straying at will during the growing season. As cold weather approaches, tidy the stalks but leave them in place. The bare stems harbor welcome predatory insects over the winter and act as windbreaks for new growth that peeps out in the spring. Groom those stems when the new growth seems safe from frost.

I leave seed pods and withered foliage in place on the native iris, so it looks as if it is growing wild. The seeds are more beautiful than the ephemeral blossoms. I weed diligently and sheet compost what I gather. Ratty, chaotic foliage from the food garden is sheet composted as well, along with deadheaded roses. Aside from that, little needs tending except for the odd conifer branch. A local arborist goes after mature shrubs now and then, and I harvest a juvenile conifer as a home-grown Christmas tree nearly every year.

Like child-rearing, timely action yields an appealing result. The year's minor grooming pays off at the end of the season with comely groups of withered plants. Anything that is overgrown is simply mowed in place or cut and sheet-composted on the lawn. In Seattle, one prunes anytime the tool is sharp and the weather is dry.

I don't grow anything that requires a stake or special handling to look its best. I increase perennials by cutting their seed heads and shaking the pods around the garden. No doubt I am recreating an archaic planting ritual in doing so. All plants want to do is grow. All I have to do is figure out how to work with them -30-

More after the jump.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The only practical use for leather clothing in Seattle is to prevent road rash while riding a bike. Otherwise, leather holds rain, weighs even more when wet, and layers poorly.

Shop The Great Big Hiking Co-op to learn what really works in this unusual climate: only Japan and Great Britain have similar ones (at the moment). Scout high-end English rain gear at other venues for well-engineered outerwear that goes from trail head to high rise without a hiccup -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Hem

Smooth with fingers for long life. Fabric wears along creases. A garment or piece of flatwork may not be ironed, but include this step to communicate careful management as the piece ages. Line dry for longest life -30-
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Friday, September 15, 2017

Loud Shoes

Early one sunny August morning light conditions were just right to highlight the neon green plastic sandals worn by a neighbor walking past me on my way to the bus. Ordinarily I do not emphasize the foot when getting dressed, but pedestrian safety makes it easy to rationalize putting on a pair of play shoes for daytime.

I have grown to appreciate the white edges on the soles of skate shoes and may actively shop for lighted footgear for the dark and rainy days ahead -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fashion Note

A senior gentleman boarded the bus wearing a definitively original Pacific Northwest garment. It was a worn but skillfully cut blazer fashioned from the red and black buffalo check wool plaid that is the hallmark of the woods. The fabric is interesting. As I understand it, the weave is the oldest known to humankind. 

The first "Whole Earth Catalogue" included how tos for fashioning a traditional mountain, uh, person's long jacket out of a worn blanket. That cut can be spectacular when it is tailored by someone who knows what they're doing. The close fit brings to mind the tweed suit George Mallory wore on his unsuccessful attempt to summit Mt. Everest. Climbers copied the outfit and were surprised at how efficient it was to wear in extreme conditions. They said fitting is the key to conserving body heat.

The catalogue describes garments cut from the broad-striped beaver pelt trade blankets produced in England. Local Indians still make jackets and vests out of worn Oregon Round-up blankets -30-

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Gift To The Hand

Pottery and other crafts are a gift to the hand. Well-designed ware is the product of skilled artisans whose trained gestures are re-created by the user just as a device that plays music re-creates the movement of the players. It's an advantage to be able to handle first-rate work.

An antique collector once showed me a plate that was a product of the highest level of privilege in its culture. He casually picked it up, nearly waved it in the air as he discussed its qualities, and handed it to me as easily as one would pass a latte' in a paper cup. I gasped and sat down to take a closer look. The form and decoration of the plate were as straightforward and ingenuous as the watercolor paintings of Seattle's Jim Peck, who taught at Cornish.

It is my pleasure to rent a miniature plastic house from my kid. It's part of an encyclopedic line of parlor toys. I have a small collection of fine furnishings that are in scale with the structure and are used (at first) under careful supervision. I believe a child benefits from informal acquaintance with the best that humanity knows how to produce, easy tutorials undistorted by the pressures of formal education.

Privilege takes many forms. A leaf is as beautiful and sophisticated as any work of art and less stressful to store. Any pebble reflects the same powerful forces that produce a lively pot. Often, the "found art" of street litter is as beautifully formed as sculpture -30- 
More after the jump.