Friday, February 1, 2013

Punk Furniture

I bought this little table in a moment of Goth appreciation. It was standing in the window of a neighborhood antique store violating every principle of efficient design. It’s the devil to dust even with a photographer’s equipment brush, has sharp corners, is sadly a bit rickety, and it’s visually aggressive.

After I brought it home, I learned that it is also the most efficient piece of small-space furniture I have ever owned. It floats from room to room doing whatever we want it to do, the two lower shelves have safety rails, the wide-set feet keep it stable, and after-market magical sliders give it wheel equivalents.

-30- More after the jump.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Is A Verb

Photo courtesy Flickr

An old art school buddy wrote the other day asking how we were wintering. He, he said, was on his fifth case of cabin fever and over-full of wood smoke. He lives close to his beloved trout streams and spends much of his day tending livestock.

I love to live close to the weather and to the environment, even though I deliberately chose to live life a stone’s throw from downtown high-rises. As the neighborhood has grown denser and the new residents more highly educated, I’ve had a dim sense that the culture is slowly being de-natured. Nearly everything I see is man-made or bred for human convenience. Pedestrian living, a very old house, and choosing low over high tech whenever it’s the more elegant strategy combine to keep me grounded in the immediate landscape, but cement rules. The crows add the principal note of wild grace. They really do.

When I chose to move into town, I was living on a stormy beach just minutes from Olympic National Park. I had fulfilled the popular Sixties dream of living (nearly) off the grid and on my own. It was metropolitan art supply stores that lured me into town, the stores and a lifelong personal preference for living close to the town square no matter what the size of the town.

My friend’s recent note reminded me that winter, even in this part of the world, is a challenge worth recognizing, though we no longer stock the woodshed in July. Late January’s a good time to think about wintering: we’re just over the hump and things are looking up.

-30-  More after the jump.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

Local news broadcast a truly sickening story Sunday morning: a parent was taking issue with a South Sound school district’s policy about managing head lice. The story revealed that their, and the CDC’s, strategy is to surrender to the pests, because there’s no risk of disease. It is not for me to second-guess the CDC, but this sounds like public health when effective antibiotics and conception control had subverted basic decency, until AIDS appeared to validate traditionally cautious behavior. The child who was the center of the story had her hair plaited into small braids, which makes grooming with a fine-toothed comb, the basic control strategy, impractical.

Something is very wrong when a family’s pet is more likely to be free of parasites than its child. I respect and appreciate that no child should be singled out as a source of infestation, but the stigma is there for a reason. At the very least, lice of other parts of the body are dangerous, and the close contact that spreads head lice may spread other species as well. It seems to me that the natural housekeeping vigilance that head lice provokes should be respected.

Over numerous cups of tea some years ago, I followed a friend’s adventures in the world of louse control as she wrangled a blended family of ten children and their half and foster siblings from other marriages. The emotional effects of being infested wrought a permanent change in her lovely daughters, and the housekeeping burden was not to be believed. An expensive truckload of stuffed animals, overstuffed furniture, and wall to wall carpeting went to waste, and thousands of dollars of maintenance time were required to bring the interior back into decent condition.

I have deep reservations about compromising domestic culture to tolerate head lice. Controlling the pests devours time and attention when they’re in shortest supply, but louse control is a fundamental housekeeping issue. Better, I think, to design an interior to support pest management by having smooth floors, small carpets that can be removed for cleaning, and a reasonable level of soft furnishings that are simple to maintain. At the least, maintenance will be simpler and allergens easier to control.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Holing Up In The Chill

Photo courtesy Flickr

I spent January, 1969, snowbound at the bottom of a steep rural road. Not even the VW bug could make that summit, and I was grateful for the staples the Berkeley Co-op had taught me to stock a few years earlier. My first years keeping house were lean ones, and I spent one of them in Utah, from whence so many good pantries spring. Diet For A Small Planet synthesized with “Store what you eat, eat what you store,” is an unbeatable combination.

One of the local viruses took hold a couple of weeks ago. It’s not serious, really, but I’m enjoying the longest rest period I’ve had since 1982. I’m just feeble enough to enjoy staying in, and just well enough to play catch-up with a few dozen minor chores that have been sitting around for months.

My partner left town for a few days, and I fed myself from things on the shelf and a few things growing on the compost heap. Featherweight, mostly vegan meals consumed every four hours have left me richer, thinner, and far healthier than when I took to the couch. 

Himself is under the weather, too, now, in a small way, and we are continuing to draw down our personal food bank. The reserves are rotating faster than they usually do, not a bad thing. If the chocolate supply weren’t generous, I might consider putting on make-up and mushing out to the store, but so far the essentials are holding up.

Two weeks of eating only from the home cupboard has been hugely profitable.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Second-guessing Sandy

Photo courtesy Flickr

Network news recently broadcast interior shots of East Coast storm survivors trying to stay warm in their gutted houses. The first thing that came to mind when I saw a drafty interior of vertical studs was that it would make sense to construct an old-fashioned inglenook around a heat source. The inglenook was a tiny, low-ceilinged enclosed space that opened onto the hearth. It captured the radiant heat of the fire and served as a comfortable lounging area in an otherwise rigorous interior. Depending on the heat source, an inglenook can be cobbled together out of nearly anything, although I’d use something fireproof close to an open hearth.

The in-house archaeologist was watching the same story, and he mentioned fashioning winter housing out of visqueen back in his dig bum days. He said fifty bucks worth of plastic sheeting would make one of those places habitable for the time being.

-30-  More after the jump.