Friday, July 10, 2015

Cutting My Losses


Moving to the basement for the duration of the current hot spell jostled a few furnishings. I found a good site for a sign writing board and realized I could mount the hinged pair of 30x80 hollow core doors on a dozen legally acquired industrial grade dairy crates.

Doing so made a set of featherweight plastic sawhorses redundant. It went immediately to the alley. There’s a cognitive point of no return when contemplating inventory that’s in the way. Twenty dollar’s worth of used gear would generate a couple of hundred dollar’s housekeeping effort and take up a yard of precious central city real estate. Into the alley it went. Scrounging neighbors made short work of the spares. A friend from Queen Anne hill used to disdain this recycling custom, but it's the most carbon-conservative one I know.

I pulled out a retracting tape measure to check the spatial realities of the rearrangement and promptly caught the hook end under a piece of interior siding on the enclosed porch. I do not enjoy this kind of IQ test when I’m in full burn. One conscientious pass with needle-nose pliers convinced me literally to cut my losses (with pruners). Tape to recycling, new tape deployed from the clutter in the tool chest, good to go. Again, the loss of the artifact more than covered by the gain in time and space.

Increasing my gains: all but a few of the dairy crates are full of tools, projects, and storage. They can just as well do double duty holding up the board. For a standing work surface, the crates are configured in four stacks of three each. I can set up the board as a bench or single cot by supporting it with six stacks of two crates and piling on a luxurious self-inflating air mattress with memory foam top from the collection of field gear, much of which does daily duty. Sticky shelf netting secures the arrangements. Setting the boards open, hinge side down, with four stacks of two on the corners and two stacks of two under the hinges transforms them into a double bed.

I’ve spent quite a few minutes over long months visualizing this arrangement, wondering whether the hinged boards might be the ultimate small-space amenity. Now I have a chance to test it. The board/crate combination freed twelve cubic feet of space and potentially displaces a double bed, work table, storage rack, sitting bench, and standing screen. The back of the work surface is covered with a collection of music posters harvested from the wild in the rich graphic environment of the Pike/Pine corridor. Such a scrap screen is a nineteenth-century classic in period for this and many other local interiors.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Old School Matrons


Studying Central Area fashion has been a lasting joy of life on the Hill. Until recently, senior ladies had a summer uniform: flowered dress, straw hat, and well-ventilated footgear. What looks like a church outfit is really portable sun shelter. The style has no edge to it, and it’s a relaxing hoot to wear. Some observers get it, and some blow past it as if they were at Daytona.

Complete the look with a pot of greens and a quick box of cornbread mix. Then fry the chicken you carried home in a straw tote. See Dooky Chase for details. Short version: room temperature meat, deep frying pan, dip in egg, dip in flour, fry hot and fast in peanut oil. Capitol Hill version: dress raw meat with cayenne pepper and other spices, ten percent water chestnut flour in flour mix for crispness.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Intellectual Honesty


I remarked to the in-house field scientist that it bothers me to watch, say, a chef with a familiar accent demonstrating the latest style in food and outdoor cooking against a Swedish landscape that looks just like Puget Sound second growth. As a lifer who rarely travels, I assume that local plants are unique. In-house said that Doug fir is an invasive species. Not here, but there, because it’s such an effective timber crop.

We dodged that bullet around 1910, when a forestry study out of the University of Washington concluded that, ahem, local timber species were the most productive on local soils. Our sense of native wilderness hinged on an accident of plant genetics. The beloved woods are plantations pure and simple, invisible to a native eye until displaced to another continent.

Something in me wants to cheer the home team, but it’s a fool’s errand to tamper with living systems. At a formal gathering at the Washington State History Museum a couple of years ago, the main speaker mentioned that it will take three hundred years to learn to manage the woods as well as the tribes did, because no one thought to interview the elders who knew the techniques.

Foresters, presumably, act as vectors for Doug fir just as robins are vectors for mountain ash and elderberry. Foresters might even be classified as surrogate mothers if seedlings are counted. Living with a cat taught me that my principal role in life was to bring cans home and open them. There are worse masters than pseudo-tsuga taxifolia, I suppose. 

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Below Grade


The current heat storm drove us into the basement, where I discovered the elegant wisdom of Japanese ways with simple panels of fabric. The noren that usually hangs between the kitchen and the pantry now screens the basement stairs. The panel hangs from a simple round spring rod that adjusts by twisting. Moving the curtain took all of two minutes. Setting it in place instantly softened a harsh space and improved air flow in a complicated structure.

A featherweight four-panel shoji screen floats from place to place in the house. I shifted it to the basement where it instantly defines a room. 

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More after the jump.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Gimme Swelter


Seattle neighbors are settling into their basements in an invisible migration. Nothing beats sleeping below grade on a cement floor when blinking one’s eyes brings on a sweat. We don’t need no steenkin’ AC.

Alternatively, copy practice of the eighteenth century Deep South: sleep on a cot in the entry hall, the draftiest place in the house. Those stately homes concealed migratory sleepers. Besides the hall strategy, regulars moved to cots in the attic to make room for guests, who sometimes stayed for months. There were security considerations, too. After her husband died, Martha Washington did not sleep in the same Mt. Vernon room two times running.

A stint in August Baltimore evoked my mother’s Norfolk strategy: rise early, finish the work of the day before noon, act languid until bedtime. Open the house to cool morning air. Shut it tight and close the curtains against the heat that comes on later. Lightproof roller shades are effective. I’m about to experiment with expedient mylar emergency blankets on a couple of over-exposed windows.

Cool feet in a dishpan full of water and ice cubes, a good way to travel in a car with no AC. Lounge on a clean floor leaning against a radiator.

Seattle hardly needs screens, either. Fend off the mosquito with the light breeze from a fan. Even a battery-powered model is effective, and those batteries can be charged with a hiker’s solar rig. Very small solar makes the household brown-out proof.

The real issue in town is conserving electricity, since drought is upon us. Watts come from clean hydro, for which the salmon have paid a huge price. Saving water and saving light conserve the environmental capital of the Northwest. 

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More after the jump.