Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Night Garden

Photo courtesy Flickr

When I gave species yarrow the front yard for its very own, I wasn’t thinking about Vita Sackville-West’s famous white garden.

The other night, I glanced out the dining room window to discover a small meadow of white yarrow flowers illuminated by street light and backed by dozens of blossoms of a heavily doubled old rose. The yarrow flower heads appeared to float eighteen inches off the ground.

Sackville-West’s garden was designed to be enjoyed at night. One of the great joys of her school of landscaping is that ordinary plants are used generously and to good effect.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sweep

Photo courtesy Flickr

When my son was little, every Friday, not quite in desperation, I’d take a big plastic garbage bag up to the far end of the attic and start filling it with things I wasn’t using. By the time I reached the back door, having made a side trip to the basement, the bag was as full as Santa’s on the 24th and ready to take to the thrift store.

Years later, I still love to sweep through the household (and garden) and be able to call things good and organized. I do it on Saturday morning now, and the bag’s much smaller. It’s deeply calming to look things over fence to fence, foundation to ridgepole, and know that the physical situation is decently in hand.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Photo courtesy Flickr

I ran across an elegant noren on a recent visit to Seattle’s Asian Art Museum. The noren is a traditional flat paneled Japanese curtain meant to hang across a doorway. It’s split down the center for easy passage.

One of the bedrooms upstairs is now the “tech room” that houses my partner’s mysterious inventory of things covered in pebbled black leatherette. The room is not a pit, but it’s no showpiece, either, and it has one of the best views in the house. Opening the window in hot weather is a key to keeping the place comfortable, and opening the door in any weather expands the sense of space in the upstairs hall.

For forty dollars, the museum’s noren looked like a good bet to improve ventilation and screen the electronic “back of the house”. That it did, and then some: I had forgotten that noren are often used to separate a public room from a service area. That one carefully hand-dyed featherweight panel of bast finishes the tech room and communicates that it’s the way it is on purpose.

The noren is money well spent on a space that’s furnished with epoxy-coated high tech racks, shop lights, a salvaged office chair, and a two-stack of olive drab foot lockers.

-30- More after the jump.


Photo courtesy Flickr

OOOO steel wool is my new best friend. Handled gently, it cleans stainless steel, old enameled iron fixtures, and windows glazed with urban patina. Now and then I try it on a new surface: yesterday’s experiment was the inner side of the front door. A recent paint job had left a few thin smears of primer on the side I wasn’t planning to rehabilitate. Since the surface couldn’t look worse, I rubbed it ever so gently with a tuft of 0000 that took the primer right off, leaving obvious matte areas.

A finger’s dab of oil from my nose proved that a little polish would leave the repair invisible, so I fetched my other best friend and all-purpose brightener, the German chrome polish that costs far more than I care to spend, is hard to find, and that pays for itself on the first job. A few second’s work with a square of old T-shirt and a dab of polish brought the shine up to equal the rest of the door. I was done and set for a family visit.

Three or four-grit nail buffers are a good third of the triad and handy in a small detailing kit.

-30- More after the jump.