Friday, April 3, 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Now And Then


Photo courtesy Flickr user Wonderlane
Long, inefficient years in the garden taught me the value of timing. An hour’s pleasant maintenance in late March or early April equals a gritty, two-fisted sunburned hassle late in June. Clean up in late September or early October to get the most out of your efforts during the second yearly tweak of plant forms. Calendar slack times to be free to pounce when the weather is just right: cool enough to work hard and with soil moisture that makes it easy to lift weeds. It’s worth the trouble to make garden maintenance a priority.

The Western Washington growing season begins in autumn. Plant just after the first rains rehydrate summer soil, and you can ignore your work until the spring pay-off.  Spring grooming generates warm weather garden leisure. Fall grooming produces a pleasant vista for the holiday table.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tussy Mussy


Old school elegance.* Photo courtesy Flickr  user willium billium
The term is Vita Sackville-West’s for a customary garden gift of a small bouquet gathered and arranged into one hand and tied with a bow. One picks a tussy-mussy on the way to visit a friend or gives one to a departing visitor. Rosemary, the herb of remembrance, is traditionally planted at the gate. 

Not long ago I attended the interment of a beloved relative. Her formal service had been held a few weeks earlier, and an elaborate florist’s bouquet seemed too much. A turn in the garden provided rosemary and tiny, choice winter hazel blooms. Usually I bind a casual tussy mussy with grass or a long stem of whatever is in the bunch. For the interment, I found a length of double-satin ribbon in a quiet color in my small inventory of reusable wrapping materials. 

* This stylistic approach is usually cheaper than contemporary retail strategies. Deft key word "interior design" has many tips. English Conde' Nast's "World of Interiors" is a good guide. Sackville-West was the garden columnist for the "London Times". Her book conveys her privileged perspective, that is essentially green and preservationist. Local garden writer Ann Lovejoy's work applies the thinking to Western Washington.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Victory Crab


Photo courtesy Flickr roseannadana
The venerable broadcast Victory Garden recently included coverage of a community-supported fishery. I caught scattered minutes of the segment, that was filmed against the familiar backgrounds of Seattle’s Lake Union. CSF is a heartening development that has already generated a tasty local line of smoked salmon, a staple of the nearby food co-op that itself grew from ‘umble 1973 beginnings in a defunct corner market.

In the spirit of Western Washington cuisine, here is the menu for a traditional 1920s European-American crab feed: drive out onto the Dungeness spit and buy the blocky local crab hot out of the tribal pots. Cover the dining table with layers of newspaper,and top them with a big bowl for shells, a loaf of hot garlicky French bread, a tossed salad, and a bowl of sauce that’s based on ketchup. Provide guests with a double set of napkins.

Crack the crab with a wooden implement to avoid driving shell fragments into the meat. I cover the crab with a dishtowel and pop the shells with a rolling pin. Hit a leg on the narrow side. Break off a long claw and use it to pick the meat. Cracked crab brings out personality types, pick and pile or pick and eat.

Follow the crab course with steaming hand towels, blackberry pie, a few words of gratitude for the bounty of the local ecosystem, a brief iodine-oriented assessment of other species of crab, and a few words of respect for the s’Klallam, who now own the fish market and the hospital. 

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More after the jump.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Deft Laundry


Photo courtesy Flickr
At a recent family lunch, a cheeky cousin twitted me about having a salad spinner in lieu of a washing machine. We’ve been working on our act. At one point in the evolution of my understanding of laundry systems, I did consider using a commercial salad spinner after having studied Whole Earth offerings of low-tech laundry systems and bicycle-powered centrifuges. My cousin is the child of a good-sized suburban family, itself descended from one of the large broods typical of the turn of the nineteenth century. 

A Sixties stint as a traffic engineer taught me to design for the ordinary daily load rather than tool up for the heaviest imaginable demand. Cousin Lip claimed that her underwear alone demanded a conventional machine. That may be so, but it may also be that we manage our work flows differently. Domestic historian Susan Strasser points out the bitter irony of automating laundry: what was once a Monday ordeal or a bundle sent to a commercial operation has now become a daily chore. At the moment, I am voting for daily chore. The corner laundromat handles the occasional avalanche. 

When prima toured my kitchen for the first time, she remarked on the one-pound capacity automatic washer that sits dutifully near the sink. I like washing machines that I can carry home on a hand truck. She wondered what the “spinner” next to it was. I use a German bathing suit centrifuge to extract the final pint of water from an automatic load of wash. I can wear synthetics right out of the spinner. Previous experience with hand and electric wringers produced equal efficiency that also removes buttons.

Modifying conventional housekeeping amenities is rewarding and deeply foolish. Like any investment, expect chagrin as part of the reward.

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More after the jump.