Friday, October 5, 2012

The Garden Dialogue

Photo courtesy Flickr

Our record summer dry spell is teaching me that the term sere is not just for lit majors. I see leaves dead that ordinarily just blink a couple of times when water is short.

Saturday I had the luxury of spending the whole of the daylight hours in the garden, loafing, tending a cooking fire, and performing the odd chore now and then. The secret of gardening, I think, is simply to spend time there. The space will tell the gardener what it wants.

The grounds are utterly dormant and have been for weeks. It’s fascinating to stroll around and see what’s happening. The brief rain spell brought aggressive opportunists to life, and it’s easy to nail unwanted ones that stand out green against the background. The lawn and border look like a piece of autumn tweed, no surprise since tweed is hunter’s camouflage.

The drought brings back memories of the choice cultivars with which I crowded the borders years ago. Looking after those plants was like child care. Now the hardy natives behave like a flash mob, and it’s easy to guide them into areas that are convenient.

I’m grooming the grounds so that when the rains come, the landscape will spring to life with nary a displaced twig. Experience has taught me that following a dry summer, our September spring is a thrilling show of growth and scent. A simple pass with the mower along the grass path through the front sward of yarrow and clover established a rewarding contrast between the dry turf and the brown-stemmed herbs.

-30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Photo courtesy Flick

I am the happy roommate of a traditional Finnish knife, the puuka. The handle is buoyant, making it reliable around bodies of water, and the blade on mine is about six inches long. There is no tang. Ordinarily, a puuka is carried in a sheath attached to the waist, but mine lives in a slot at the side of a maple kitchen cart. It and a rectangular Asian all-purpose cleaver are the only two knives in the kitchen.

Kept sharp, the puuka has replaced conventional small knives and patented peeling tools in meal preps. The handle is rounded in the middle, making it ideal for paring: it’s faster and more subtle than the various complicated, hard to wash mechano-gadgets I still use on carrots and hard cheese.

There’s a dwindling crate of Asian pears on the kitchen table, and this morning I copied a low-tech third world chopping technique: cross-hatch the whole fruit with a series of cuts (easy on the pear) and then simply slice off the dice.

I might not encourage a child to work this way.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shoe Shopping

Photo courtesy Flickr

A cousin who lives in Paris sported a wonderful pair of shoes on her last visit. She confessed to indulging herself because she’s a nurse and works on her feet. She then invited me to come to Paris to shop for myself. I know the world has scooted past me when I ask professional environmentalists if I will go to hell if I fly to Paris to shop for shoes, and they all say no. One said I would, but that I would get to meet Imelda Marcos.

Flying halfway across the world to buy footgear gives pause to no one I know. In case you missed the memo, when the early Seventies’ jolly gang of students discovered the environment, the first word that went around was that flying generates the most carbon per passenger mile, followed by the personal car, bus, and train. Bicycle is most elegant. Technology has skewed the rankings a bit, but I’m guessing not by much. I’m still thinking about shoes, but I’ll have to rationalize the trip with other factors:)

-30-  More after the jump.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Dress

Photo courtesy Flickr

After Carl Lagerfeld adopted the waterproof zipper introduced by the Dinosaur Parka Company, I began to suspect that the Great Big Hiking Co-op might be fashion-forward. Over the years I have learned that high-tech fabrics perform so beautifully that I can cut back on heating the house. The Co-op’s current offerings reflect the fusion of field and street wear that is so elegant and practical. Consistently, the store offers cuts and fabrics that show up in main stream venues a year or two later.

If you look at the roots of the language, the word “dress” means the same as the word “coat”, usage no doubt inspired by the state of home heating in the Middle Ages. The hiking store is showing carefully cut quilted coats in beautiful colors and nubby knit wool skirts with matching tops that can serve as cooly understated casual suits.

Combine the coat and the suit, and you have one heck of a warm dress with a good set of wool underwear. The three pieces together would cost several months’ heat for this barn, and if I weren’t well supplied already, I’d go for them, throwing in a set of tights with attached skirtlet for good measure.

-30-  More after the jump.