Friday, October 10, 2014

Wild And Clean


Photo courtesy Flickr

The first rains of autumn washed the garden last week. Mostly native plantings were beginning to wheeze in their lively urban context. It doesn’t take much of a shower to float the dust off a leaf’s surface wax. When stronger storms come along in a week or three, they’ll massage small branches back to life, drive dead foliage onto the ground to mulch in place, and revive summer’s odorless soil.

If I were keeping house in a tent, I would not find life in the field cleaner than life in town. A minimal roof, floor, and walls, though, make it clear that the woods and beach as they existed before Euro-american development are close to spotless. Little exists that does not clean itself in the short cycles of weather, annual growth, and organic decay.

An adequate water supply, running or not, solid fuel and small efficient hearth, decent privy, daylighting, and passive solar are all it takes to sustain respectable domestic life-as long as income is reliable and medical needs guaranteed. It is crowding and pressure on personal time that generate demand for more complicated higher tech facilities.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

License To Fill


Photo courtesy Flickr

One of the rooms is empty and waits for a few first passes with a paint brush.  In this piece of Jeffersonian Revival architecture, less is far more than more. Even one chair backed up with a small side table will focus a space, harvest daylight, and generate a supportive flow of activity.

When the contents of the house are just right, emptying one room does not disrupt the others. I wouldn’t mind ditching a couple of things that are cluttering the hall and the next room over. They’re not crippling the spaces, though, and my partner finds them useful.

Managing the closet is the key to getting the most out of a room. Storing clothes is the lowest priority. Little in our wardrobes requires ironing. All but key current garments can live in a mothproof chest that doubles for seating, serving casual meals, or staging projects. A foot or two of pole suffices, with perhaps a hanging nylon shoe bag for small clothes and footgear. Seattle's mild climate means that every piece of clothing can work all four seasons.

A nearly empty closet can house the odd bulky items that drive housekeepers nuts. Hiking and sports gear, extra chairs, spare work lights, bulky portfolios, stuffed animals, and cases of staples can all stand ready to use and out of the way.

The trick is knowing when to quit. Once I realized that digital culture feeds my hungry eye, I was free to leave the spaces in the house in nearly vacant peace.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sometimes LOL Means Little Old Lady


Photo courtesy Flickr

I swapped life support tips with an old friend last week. My buddy brought up her concerns for the culinary short cuts her younger colleagues use to get dinner on the table. Allie said the youngsters use prepared dishes, while she wants to know what she’s eating. We agreed that simplicity trumps convenience.

One cultural innovation builds on another until awareness of sensible origins is lost. Bread is an original convenience food, as are beer and wine. Cheese preserves milk. It’s a small matter to supplement deli and bakery staples with a bag of mixed salad greens (sanitize right in the bag with diluted peroxide and then diluted vinegar) and some fresh fruit (sanitize with the same solutions). 

Choose food to benefit gut and brain: the two are inseparable. There are enough brain cells lining the gut to make up a cat brain-nothing to boast about, but the key to wellness and good function. Pay attention to the quality of the paste that leaves your innards. That will give you feedback, so to speak, about your choices.

I find that giving up salt sensitizes the palette. It takes a while to make the transition, but doing so makes it easy to appreciate the subtle flavors of simple food.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Knowledge Work


Photo courtesy Flickr

An eight-hour day with two fifteen minute breaks and a longer lunch makes no sense to a laboring brain. Various sources of management advice recommend the following:

Work standing. A special purpose desk is good, a kitchen counter or bed risers under the legs of an existing work top serve just as well and are more versatile.

Eat six small meals a day.

Work fifty-two minutes, rest for seventeen. Try it. That seventeen minute “dog nap” (as Bucky Fuller called it) times out to the minute.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Radical Etiquette


Photo courtesy Flickr

Over the week-end I enjoyed a visit with a senior nurse who works in Europe. Ebola was on my mind, but I hesitated to bring up such a serious topic on a festive occasion. Elaine brought it up herself and was surprised to learn that hugs, handshakes, and sharing food are out for now, at least where the feverish are concerned. A brief surf before writing this post also brings up the reminder to wash hands often. Eating bush meat is not much of an issue on Capitol Hill, nor is avoiding monkeys.

Later in the day, my partner mentioned the enterovirus that acts like polio and has now spread to forty-eight states. Elaine was startled, concerned, and mentioned that she had not heard of the problem. It won’t be long before acting like a 1950s stiff (“Hug? What’s a hug?”) will be the revived norm.

An aunt trained as a public health nurse and spent many years working with the Red Cross on Pacific Islands. She had, as a someone remarked, a mouth on her. Describing a preventable cholera epidemic, Auntie Kay said she accidentally used the term Turkie when she was bidding farewell to a local official who was escorting her onto a departing plane. 

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More after the jump.