Friday, October 11, 2013

A Festival That Remains To Be Celebrated


Photo courtesy Flickr

Autumn rains send the Skokomish river across a local highway. Local news can be counted on to broadcast fresh footage of salmon swimming across the road on the way to their spawning grounds.  I’d like to see a charitable betting pool to pick the date that the first fish crosses the road, and I’d like to see a roadside or on-line gathering, with live music, to cheer the fish on their way to the next generation.

One question remains to be resolved: can one legally keep and eat a road kill salmon, or must it be donated to the prison system, like road kill venison? 

There’s a surprising lack of CC images of the fish crossing, but YouTube has good footage.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Snuff Bottle


Photo courtesy Flickr

Seattle’s Asian art museum displays its collection of snuff bottles along the north wall of one of the inner galleries. All my life I have loved to contemplate the rows of skilled iterations of the same basic design. You can do the same thing by pulling up a large sized en from several of the various fonts on your computer. Like the persons of classmates who wear the same school uniform, a defined base emphasizes individuality rather than conformity.

Seattle’s very own Northern European Fashion Chain sent a mailing announcing the return of the textile version of a snuff bottle, the little black dress. I pulled up the page and found an entertaining and revealing collection of current thought about personal style. I also found the heart of the wisdom of the little black dress: my own two-piece version assembled from the offerings of a mid-range vendor of knits looks like it will be good for another fifteen years.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Flip Side


Photo courtesy Flickr

Japan’s famous monastery courtyard of white gravel artfully raked around a set of rocks gets all the attention. The back side of the place has a contrasting hall of mosses. New construction in the neighborhood has thrown my garden into deep shade. Fourteen months’ anticipation is being rewarded with autumn’s first landscape response to the radical shift in light and moisture. I did not expect to see how very much more beautiful the native plants have become in the sheltered and humid space that previously was the anvil of the sun.

Free of thermal and wind stress, the modest smaller herbage, like mosses and yarrow, are presenting themselves more openly and gracefully than before. The native roses are impossibly aggressive now in their damper situation and will have to go. The next time I plant wild roses, I will also plant elk to keep them under control.

I expected that the newly shady garden would be even easier to maintain than it had been. It is so. I could never have imagined that the gift of shade would have produced such a welcome and tender return of the true atmosphere of the local woods. I credit the decade’s tenure of the native plants and the soil of the property that has been undisturbed for a hundred and twenty-three years.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Interior Micro-climates


Photo courtesy Flickr

Recent construction in the neighborhood has thrown the house into deep shade. The 1890 structure is ideally designed and oriented for passive solar gain, given solar itself. The long axis of the house runs east-west and originally it had full south sun. Casual attention to curtains and doors allowed me thirty years of free heat gain any time the sun was out.

This will be the first full year of the new solar situation. I’m watching windows, doors, and the thermostat like a small boat sailor with a squall on the horizon. Surprisingly, the most noticeable change is a new pattern of cleaning demands.
Increasing shade from the south leaves the house more humid than it has been. The damper interior atmosphere amplifies scent, and I find it necessary to shorten the cycle of changing linens to keep rooms smelling fresh. This is not such a bad thing. In fact, the place is smelling fresher than when the sun hit the walls most of the year. The new construction has swales and a rainwater garden on the roof, and the scents of nature dominate in its vicinity.

It dawned on me the other day that I could manage the new shade as if it had been generated by the sudden growth of a forest. The new atmosphere at home can be handled like wilderness. I’ve been able to manage the shift toward cold weather with the same low-tech strategies that have seen us through the previous decades in the house.

Shakers were famous for the cleanliness of their communal living quarters. At the heart of their practice was the best known ventilation. My newly humid rooms demand to be aired with care and attention, and at the moment, doing so is keeping the place sweet, welcoming, and surprisingly rustic. I did not expect to like the change, but I do.

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More after the jump.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Apple Crisp


Photo courtesy Flickr

The simplest of recipes: mix unsalted butter or bland vegetable oil with oatmeal, a little flour, white pepper, and chopped toasted pecans. Improvise if you feel like it, but be generous with the fat.

Spray a baking dish. I like to use small, shallow rectangular glass storage dishes to set up MREs. Cut small flakes of peel off a lemon. Work into a large-ish bowl. I like to use a sharp paring knife for all the work. Juice the lemon into the bowl. It’s simple to ream it with a fork. Peel the estimated number of apples, mixed varieties are best, and slice large irregular flakes off the fruit into the bowl. Mix with the lemon juice as you work to keep the slices from browning. When the quantities look about right, mix the fruit with a little turbinado sugar, a dusting of flour, some pie spice, maybe a dash of cayenne, and some vanilla. It’s hard to fail with this one.

Fill the baking dish(es) about halfway with the fruit, dot with butter, and top with the oatmeal mixture, patting it into place. Spray the top with baking spray for extra crispness, and bake at 350 for about half an hour. Your nose will tell you when things are done. This is a healthful utility recipe that may impress no one with your skills, but will keep the family out of a fast food outlet. Like many old-fashioned recipes, it stands or falls on the quality of its ingredients and the care with which they are presented.

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More after the jump.