Friday, October 17, 2014

The Neglected Garden


Photo courtesy Flickr

A friend mentioned that her yard has gotten away from her. She does not feel good about it. Rehabilitating a garden that has struck out on its own is a wonderful design opportunity. Sharpen the pruners and the spade, buy a new pair of sticky-palm work gloves, fill the mower, and arrange for a loved one to show up with burgers in the afternoon. When the garden’s had a long recess, the plants have been developing original forms. Restoring workable order to a tangled series of plantings will reveal the plants’ history during the months or years they fended for themselves.

When I was working on the long-dormant garden of my first house, a senior neighbor walked by and complimented the “symmetry” I was achieving in the two overgrown laurels that sat at either side of the entry. I was blown away by the the comment, because neither shrub resembled the other. I was simply trying to remove overgrowth and attain some visual balance in the varying patterns of the laurel’s branches. The fellow who had offered the critique was a local jazz pianist. In one word he focussed a lifetime’s study of layout and bridged the formal symmetry of Western art and the relaxed expression of the East.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hooks And Space


Best of all and hard to find: hammock hook photo courtesy Flickr

One of my favorite destinations is a tiny, unpretentious rental cabin on the Washington coast. It serves backpackers and cheapskates who are enjoying wilderness beach or simply trying to survive bad weather. There is just room in the unit for a double jack bed in one corner, a small round table and four chairs, a behemoth of refrigeration, a sink unit, and a low-slung wood stove. Over the decades, enterprising guests have added nails to the unfinished cedar beams to get packs and sleeping bags out of the way.

I learned the hard way that mounting amenities on the wall ossifies an arrangement just when I need flexibility the most. I have discovered, though, that accommodating the odd need to hang a side bag or battery-powered reading light conserves and amplifies space. In a sort of domestic vivisection, I’ve been scraping the interior down to unavoidable necessities. Besides simplifying maintenance, the process has revealed unsuspected functions in familiar pieces of furniture.

The ever-present side bag, that holds my office, graphics kit, dressing kit, and ten essentials can be slung over one corner of the bed in lieu of a side table. A recently installed fastener in the kitchen wainscoting holds the bag just as well, turning that short length of wall into a service area. Even the hinge of a door can do double-duty.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Christmas Checklist


Photo courtesy Flickr

Schedule routine medical exams for after the holidays to protect morale from potential bad news.

Get the garden cleaned up before Thanksgiving.

Have someone wash the windows early in November.

Stockpile drinks.

Survey the house for child hazards.

Arrange guest parking.

Send a memo around to the immediate family defining plans for the tree.

Negotiate a limit on gifts with the extended family.

Plan charity contributions for the year in January. 

Iron last year’s tablecloth.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Line Of Defense




Photo courtesy Flickr

I have little patience with polish but learned to appreciate a manicure from a dedicated amateur of the classical guitar. Sam collected well-used diamond files to buff the precious edges of his fingernails.

It’s small step from the business end of a nail to the bed. The multi-grit buffers on the market make it easy to groom a cuticle so that it does not grow out with the nail and tear open, rendering the hand open to infection. A sore hangnail is telling you it’s in trouble. Take action when this happens.

Most of my day is spent working with my hands. A buffed natural nail trimmed even with the end of the finger deteriorates gracefully and is easy to accomplish while watching the morning news.

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More after the jump.