Thursday, June 13, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr
A couple of weeks ago, I wondered where the squirrels were, the grey ones from London that are on a hit list as invasive species. Their absence has left the neighborhood far more peaceful. The in-house field scientist wondered, too. We speculated that the newly urban crows and squirrels compete for the same nesting space in local tall trees.

He called from the office the next morning to say that while waiting for the bus, he’d witnessed a crow attack. The crow stooped onto a squirrel, sinking its talons into the animal a couple of times. The squirrel got away, but Science Guy said it looked as if the crow were trying to drive the squirrel into the path of a car. He added that crows have been found to be as intelligent as great apes.

Last year a bulldozer took down a turn of the century house. The crows, who loved to hang out on the gutters, screamed and cried for a whole afternoon. The next day I bought them a consolation pound of hamburger and tossed the open package onto the excavation. Masters of gesture, the crows devoured the raw meat and stood around looking like the living picture of malevolence. 

After hearing the squirrel story, I remembered demolition day and looked at the flock with apprehension. I love them, and our relationship is untainted by self-interest. Except for the pound of raw meat, I haven’t fed them. For a week, though, I’ve been reserved. 

Several days ago, a crow called out a soft head’s up as I went out. It took a few seconds to catch on, but I said hello. The next day, a crow cawed at me as I sat behind blinds at my work table, and I nodded in acknowledgement. A day later I took a nap in a closed room, and a crow cawed relentlessly until I pulled up the shades and said hi.

Sunday morning, I looked out an open window to see if a crow was around. The lookout on the telephone wire rose into the air, collected a buddy, and did a low flyby. On the pass back, they showcased their flying skills and were then joined in a complex flying ball by a third bird.

See what you get when you don’t spook them in the winter, when every calorie counts?

-30-  More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Life Of Drab

Photo courtesy Flickr
Wedgewood drabware reappeared on the market after a hiatus of (I  think) a couple of hundred years. The color was appealing, and I remembered reading that service quarters in stately English homes were painted in the drab color produced by mixing leftover buckets of paint from the principal rooms.

For a lark, I tried mixing separate drabs from the exterior and interior palettes I use at the house. The experiment has been a revelation. The interior of a low-tech outbuilding is now the exterior drab. The interior drab coated a bedroom with a good view. Each space has become a calm haven, to one side of the main action in the house but gently integrated with the ordinary flow of daily life. The view room has evolved into a master suite equally comfortable for personal use, a guest room, or a small parlor. The same is true for the shed.

I find that a drab background is a flexible setting for works of art, the colors of a video display, and the varied follies of entertaining. In this increasingly urban neighborhood, drab links nature and high tech.

A hundred and thirty year old woodwork and floors grounded on the natural drab of sea grass matting anchor the subtle drabs of unpainted wood, unbleached linen, and split bamboo blinds.

-30-  More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There Goes The Neighborhood

Photo courtesy Flickr

Living on the Hill since 1972, I’ve experienced the life cycle of a couple of bakeries. Sivertsen’s of blessed memory sold traditional Swedish breads. The ace head baker at the Great Huge Supermarket Chain led me to develop the doughnut diet: eat as much of what you really really like until the body is satisfied and hungry for poetic nutrition. It works but requires careful attention. When the baker went to his heavenly reward, the whole parish mourned. 

That loss led me to ignore baked goods for a couple of decades, although from time to time I shared a styrene clamshell of chocolate cake with rubber frosting. Last fall a sign went up on a corner storefront in a new building on Fifteenth, the rustic back street of Capitol Hill. The sign promised a snazzy new bakery, vaguely exciting news tinged with apprehension: the place is close enough to the house to permit a cookie run during a TV commercial. 

The shop has been open for a couple of months, and official house policy has been to deny its existence. We know ourselves. As expected, the go-fer picked up an experimental loaf of bread last week and pronounced it Good. One of the factors keeping us out of the place has been the long lines snaking out the door.

For a recent birthday, the go-fer brought home one single confection. Cautiously I carved, and we pronounced it Good. So good, in fact, that it does not trigger a binge. I feel safe now.

-30-  More after the jump.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pillow Power

Photo courtesy Flickr
If the title brings back visions of the scarlet rayon velvet and fire-polished Doug fir sofa arms of the Seventies, I apologize. The stuff was awful, but the design insight viable.

Searching for an honest pillow, I’ve tried a couple of mail orders over the last year. Ultra-green kapok was disappointing, not the silky quality I remember from the Fifties and fast to compact into uselessness. Once I found a way to demote that pair of pillows to floor-seating in a low-ceilinged attic space, I replaced them with a second, equally hopeful shipment of feather-core down pillows from the local, well, feather merchant.

The pair that arrived are solidly constructed and well-proportioned with carefully boxed corners and removable silky Egyptian cotton covers. They cost the same as the kapok duds. I bought them to bolster reading in bed, and it looks as if they’ll provide decades of good service.

Interior designer Diana Phipps’s “Affordable Splendour” is pillow power with clean fingernails. The new pillows arrived ready to deploy in any of many strategies. I wouldn’t hesitate to gift wrap them in a luxury fabric using hot glue, apply piping (I buy mine at the Great Big Hiking Co-op, that calls it parachute cord), and set them on a sofa or twin day bed. We-uns like local Rodeo Round-up blankets; Ms. Phipps is partial to whole skins of leather (not a bad investment).


More after the jump.