Friday, August 24, 2012

Garbage Strike

Photo courtesy Flickr

I was preoccupied during the recent work stoppage and decided to stay preoccupied: three years’ participation in the city’s experiment with zero garbage service during the early Eighties left the household systems immune to the problems of festering waste. My family of three generated two large garbage bags on unrecyclable waste a year during the most wasteful period of  packaging.

So, if another strike comes along, here’s how to manage: compost food waste, use a diaper service, keep cloth napkins on hand, and wash and store foam meat trays. Leave lawn clippings in place, toss weeds and small caliper prunings on the lawn and mow them. Larger prunings become barbeque fuel.

Zero garbage often means zero expense and better quality. Trim discarded textiles with a quilter’s gridded mat and rolling knife to produce quilt patches or shop wipers. Shoes are still a problem. Nylon recycles and I read recently that a long-term world supply of nylon already exists. I considered saving nylon but decided it’s a system problem, not a personal one.

Look over the contents of your waste and recycling bins to see if the elements can be reconsidered. I have found consistently that decisions that green the household improve the standard of living, reduce expense, and save time.

-30- More after the jump.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Old School Salad

Photo courtesy Flickr

As a child, I spent long hours with a friend reading the first chapters of the Forties edition of The Joy of Cooking. We loved to laugh at unfamiliar dishes that seemed unpalatable.

That old cookbook and its contemporaries are gold mines of convenience food. American cuisine of the time had not entirely adapted to electricity. (Indeed, I did not fully accept electricity until 1995, when I discarded my hand grain grinder.) A low-tech pantry would have been full of cabbage, carrots, and apples, all of which store well without power.

The many variants of cole slaw tide us over mealtimes when sloth or fatigue overcome the will to cook. A large batch of slaw stores for days in the refrigerator.

Waldorf salad has joined cole slaw as a deli staple in the frig. Many variants are possible. Sometimes we wing it with grenadine syrup, and the mayonnaise is always deconstructed into oil and lemon. Paul Prudhomme-style toasted pecans and craisins are a good variant.

Fruit salad is a good menu default. All fruits, dried and fresh, most nuts toasted or not, grenadine or liqueurs, never had a bad combination. Just remember to add soft fruits at the last minute.

-30-  More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dormant vs. Mobile Warmth

Photo courtesy Flickr

Period dress is very efficient at conserving energy. Long hostess and evening skirts are long because they never were shortened during the Twenties. The house has many microclimates, with different areas being of advantage winter or summer.

Like a hiker, I have learned to layer clothing to accommodate sedentary work, active puttering, or public life. We use the furnace very little over the winter, and it’s amazing how active attention to wardrobe pays off when the oil bill shows up. Money spent on functional clothing is not extravagant.

Early American houses had a “keeping room”, one space that was warm and furnished with table and chairs. Sounds like a coffee shop to me. It makes little sense to heat a whole building to the standard that is comfortable for someone sitting doing knowledge work.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Productive Error

Original culture plate of penicillin. Photo courtesy Flickr.

I whipped into the local Righteous Value Hardware store to pick up small plastic waste baskets to use as a sort/recycle array in an antique copper wash boiler. I bought one more than I needed, somehow, and it’s been a boon.

One basket holds solid waste, one recycling, and the redundant one holds one of the other units. When it’s time to empty a bin, there’s always a ready replacement. I had been using plastic bags in the boiler, but the new arrangement is faster, cleaner, and less wasteful.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Right Broom

Photo courtesy Flickr

Living with an archaeologist leaves one aware of certain subtleties that are not included in the basic curriculum. When I mumbled over a long-ago dinner about how good the tiny pebbles in the old sidewalk looked after regular sweeping, he told me about “sickle polish”.

The term derives from agricultural hand labor. The stems of grains contain silica, and the hand tool used at harvest develops a subtle shine as it cuts through the crop.

Old-fashioned broom corn holds silica, too, and a broom made of quality corn polishes while it sweeps. My current warehouse broom is made of corn, but it’s a cheap and feeble version of the real thing, with little snap to the bristles. Now that I’ve experienced that broom, I appreciate why the ferrule of a good broom was bound in cotton velvet back in the day. One of the prizes in the house is a vintage Appalachian round broom, like a vehicle, made by a famous craftsman. The bristles are eighteen inches long, gathered to a rustic branch in a decorative pattern, and it’s ideal for the final grooming of a lawn that is recommended by old school garden fanatics.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Eastside and was sad to see a diligent staff person sweeping the planting area and front hardscape of a local restaurant. I watched as, using a synthetic interior kitchen broom, he worked longer, harder, and to far less effect than if he had had the right tool. With the right broom, that place could raise its prices.

-30-  More after the jump.