Thursday, July 1, 2010

Independence Day

Photo courtesy Flickr

Last winter local news announced that the commercial sponsor of July fireworks had withdrawn its support because of the state of the economy. This week local news announced that the citizenry is sponsoring fireworks itself.

One of the lovely surprises of city life has been what happens on summer holiday week-ends. The crowding and hassle shifts to beaches and freeways, leaving traffic lights whose only function is ornament. I’d still avoid the Market and intense entertainment venues downtown, but here in the ‘hood all is quieter than in the national parks.

Our first house was a few blocks east in a neighborhood of people not far from their country origins. Fourth of July was sacred, celebrated with family, superb old-fashioned food, and radio.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rabbit Ears


Photo courtesy Flickr

It hasn’t been very long since the Experience Music Project opened its doors not far west of the house. That glorious pile of scrap metal is Seattle’s answer to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Every year during this week, I remember the happy accident that made listening to the inaugural concerts such a joy.

A friend had asked me to bunny-sit her sons’ brown rabbit, Fudge. We installed Fudge in the latticed back porch. As I went about my household business over the three days of the EMP’s first celebration, I could visit Fudge and watch her super-ears responding to the national acts that were baptizing the building and the city with streams of sound.

Fudge had spent her life in a quiet suburb listening to an Oxford accent. To visit Seattle’s version of an inner city and process the best live popular music must have been very interesting. I don’t speak rabbit, although my guinea pig is quite good. Fudgie seemed to be aware and attentive and no more apprehensive than a small herbivore in an unfamiliar situation would have been. She came back for several more visits, and always seemed to lend a special ear to life on the Hill.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Floor Paint

Photo courtesy Flickr

My first experience of floor paint was in a rustic beach cabin. The floor was covered with heavy canvas nailed in place and coated with surplus battleship gray. I loved the feel of that painted canvas under my bare feet. Years later, I rented the cabin over a record cold winter, and I still loved the feel of that painted floor under my bare feet, no matter how cold it was.

My current powder room had a sick floor. It was covered in genuine linoleum from the Thirties, but a slow leak from the toilet had marred the surface. None of the vinyl options on the market suited the space. I reasoned that, besides its resilient component of ground cork, linoleum has the same ingredients as painted canvas, so I might as well paint the floor now that sensible people no longer wear street shoes indoors.

It took a couple of tries to find and sand a water-proof filler for the deeper scars, but once that hitch was resolved and some coats of commercial-grade acrylic floor polish were removed, painting was a snap. I used oil-based floor paint left from another project, and it bonded with the lino as if it had been meant to all along.

A fresh coat of floor paint in a vintage house looks vintage, but revived. This is a development property, and it’s not rational to put capital into major basis improvements. I am delighted to sidestep the floor covering market in favor of an old technique that I have always preferred.

I have had a couple of long chats with the painter who looks after exterior projects on the property. She’s a gifted and conscientious craftswoman who considers the pros and cons of working with “environmentally friendly” paints. My advisor tells me that the shortcomings of current low-e paints leave her doubting that they reduce the overall burden on the environment. I don’t know whether this is so or not, but I trust her and will make the big pro-environmental decision on the next big project.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Wild on Wild

Photo courtesy Flickr

Shifting the garden toward native species has yielded some surprises. About fifteen years ago, a third-generation arborist suggested I plant a few vine maples along the south fence. They would shade the front garden during the, so to speak, hot months of a Seattle summer and served as a gentle wind break during the off season.

I filed the project away as a possibility and got on with the endless routine of daily life, replacing imported plants with natives to reduce maintenance and give the local wildlife a break. Yesterday I patrolled the front garden with hand pruners, a simple routine that allows me to mow and dispose of garden waste at the same time.

To my surprise, I found three maple seedlings growing exactly where the arborist had recommended. Is that guy good or what? I marked them with sticks and will wait a while to learn whether they are understory vine maples or herky big-leaf maples. At that point, it will be time to decide whether I want several graceful landscape accents or the hassle of coppicing major trees for cooking fuel.

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