Friday, May 9, 2014

Fish On Friday


Photo courtesy Flickr

Even Protestant elders customarily served fish on the last working day of the week and on Christmas Eve. Merchant give-away calendars of the Fifties used to print mackerel on Fridays and other fast days. (Those letterpress calendars also had the phases of the moon printed on each day and little pockets for charge slips.)

A lifetime of lurching and stumbling through the demands of domestic life has taught me that custom is efficient: it displaces unnecessary decisions and eases the burden on the supply chain. A little bit of good, fresh fish at the end of the week marks the transition to Saturday, supports maritime skills, and ensures that when I want to make gumbo, I won’t have to go out and catch the shrimp myself.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Policing The Garden


Photo courtesy Flickr

I wandered the edges of the lot growling quietly as I picked up after smokers. Next time I’ll fish the forceps out of the tool cabinet and use them to save time and stooping. I ended up with a spadeful of debris that I planted under a hybrid rose. It has far fewer aphids than usual, thanks to the nicotine that is circulating up from the roots.

On the next round I’ll drop the cigarette butts into an improvised mesh bag to make it easy to remove the filter assemblies from my precious soil. 

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rust


Photo courtesy Flickr

It’s carcinogenic. Rust-removing stuff from the grocery store eats the white enamel on old sinks. Rust pits metal.

Seattle is blessed with clean water that won’t stain fabric. High-tech life support systems have far less rust to contend with than the old-school versions. On the upside, rust, aka minium or iron oxide, is the third element of the original color scheme of black, white, and red. Colorists have manipulated oxides of iron to replace more toxic pigments based on heavy metal. One steel alloy, Cor-ten, is designed to be at its best rusted.

Strip rust from iron with naval jelly. Get down to bare metal before you paint. Remove light rust with a tuft of 0000 steel wool or ultra-gentle crocus cloth. Finish fanatically with a four-grit buffer from a nail salon. Finish really fanatically with German chrome polish from a motorcycle shop.

Detail plumbing with an expired toothbrush. Immaculate junctures of piping and fixture add sublime to the merely clean.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wipers


Photo courtesy Yahoo

Shop wipers are underrated at home. “Rags” are worse than useless for cleaning things-a cheap washcloth is by far the better choice. A four to six inch square of dead t-shirt is the key to the maintenance mint.

Frugal housekeepers are not trained to appreciate the labor advantage of materials that are consumed during production. It is the housekeeper herself who is consumed. Thrift shops are full of discards that have no genuinely usable life left in them. Textiles have a subtle nap of fuzzy fiber on the surface that adds loft, or insulating value, to the garment. A garment will look presentable long months after the nap is gone, but the wearer will add a protective layer of heating oil to fend off hypothermia. The oil will cost more than the shirt.

Break out new threads in September, enjoy the thin ones over the summer, and recycle the goners into wipers when fall cleaning starts. You’ll end up money ahead and with a showplace by Thanksgiving.

I cut t-shirts, cotton flannel, wool, nylon tights, and the rare silk or cashmere casualty into palm-sized pieces to use for detailing the house and its contents. The wipers store easily in empty tissue boxes. Tradesmen appreciate a gift of clean wipers. Damp squares of t-shirt are ideal for wiping errors of paint. Use a wiper once lest it become an informal brush. Wool is good for polishing waxed wood or a final burnishing of brass. Nylon brings a high shine to synthetic shoe polish, a military trick. Silk is for precious detailing: wind it damp around a toothpick to clean crevices. Cashmere, unlikely to be contaminated by grit from rough wearing, is a sweet way to bring up the shine on silverware or ornamental glass. A blues guy tells me cashmere wipers do good things for guitar strings and finger boards.

Having the right wiper at hand in generous amounts cuts detailing time in half.

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More after the jump.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Wilderness, Maintenance, Wilderness


Photo courtesy Flickr

Western Washington forests ain’t what they used to be. When Pt. Angeles’s big saw shop, the one by the Black Ball ferry terminal, turned boutique, I realized that even the locals had accepted the new reality, for better or worse. Deep in my bones I mourn the absence of old timber and the smells and sounds of salt water, kelp, and all that comes with them. This neighborhood, Capitol Hill, retained the essential character of the old days as development reached toward the Cascades. The new economy flows toward the Hill. Builders race to plane off the proud elements that straight grain Doug fir afforded local carpenters at the turn of the twentieth century.

The ordinary demands of keeping up an 1890 property in a 2014 context seemed like an irritating hassle until I realized that the forces of disorder that generate yard work are the same forces that created the woods.  I won’t know how the new local patterns of light and shade will affect the garden and the interior until a full year has passed, but I’ll keep an eye on the process.

It’s like moving without having to pack. The new solar situation provokes new responses to changing needs for heat and light. So far, the rooms feel like ones in a woods cabin. The generous shade that falls on the front lawn is transforming its small conifers from potted merchandise into noble specimens that record weather and events in every branch and needle.

Lily of the valley is carpeting a quarter of the lawn as it responds to light from a new direction. Moss dominates the grass, and I think I’ll be happy with the change. So far, the changes have been for the peaceful and for more time to do what I value most.

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More after the jump.