Friday, August 30, 2013


Fireweed courtesy Flickr. Pinch the shoots, eat them, and grow a more beautiful plant.

Last week an acquaintance confessed that she is a slave to her garden. I confessed that I stopped watering anything several years ago. She may be honoring neighboring standards. I am honoring mine-this area tolerates intense water conservation. Native plants don’t mind being thirsty. I water the apples by shifting a downspout extension here and there from time to time.

Maintenance consists of regular, diligent grooming so the dry stems of this and that don’t turn into horticultural dreadlocks. This is prime time to thatch the sod with an ordinary rake and give it a quick mowing just for neatness. It’s also a good, albeit dusty, time to edge and to use the same rake to comb out perennials. 

Before committing a slow circuit of the garden with pruners and rake, I set out the mower to process debris, working on the lawn. Afterwards, it’s a simple matter to rake the mowings into the nearest mulched area and lay the dust and fine debris with a strong shower from the hose.

Managed with a green eye, every garden operation is a harvest, either of usable plants or of mulch.


More after the jump.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Virtual Assistant

Photo courtesy Flickr

Business writer Timothy Ferris recommends earning money in dollars and spending it in a currency that goes farther. He runs his business with off-shore support staff managed on-line. I’m not economist enough to evaluate his thinking but am housekeeper enough to consider what’s a responsible buy.

Recent maintenance projects had me using every cheap, disposable imported amenity I could lay my hands on. I never expected to learn the layout of a 99 Cent Emporium. What counts environmentally is daily behavior rather than the odd demand now and then. Living to reduce or eliminate daily waste is the key.

Ferriss’s advice opened my eyes to the wisdom, or lack of it, of buying imported clothing and nearly every doggoned thing else. What’s good value is another topic; what’s good assistance is this one. Ferriss understands that attention is the commodity that’s in shortest supply. A disruptive home maintenance project is a good time to discover local support systems that protect one’s cognition in the face of a heavy work load.

What looks like a ham and cheese croissant from the corner bakery is really a good hour’s prep time and a comfortable break wrapped in a square of recyclable paper. A cheap imported bristle paint brush represents an hour of prep and clean-up time and the additional hour(s) it takes to clean up after cleaning up. Disposable nitrile gloves encourage getting to work, save countless hours of detailing, protect health, and reflect work energies back up the arms the way good insoles reflect muscle energy back up the legs.

Paper table ware speaks for itself, as do bottled drinks and canned vegetables. They ain’t fancy, but they ease peak demand on personal energies.

The laptop on which I type this post is obviously an office staff and then some.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kitchen Down!

Photo courtesy Flickr

In lieu of laying vinyl over vintage linoleum, I painted the kitchen floor. Breaking  out a nervous brush and the trusty can tool, I reasoned that the floor would originally have been painted: linoleum was cutting edge in its day. The old sheet flooring is laid directly over boards, and ghost images of them form shadow patterns in the new paint. That’s fine with me.

Painting a floor is easy. Waiting for the stuff to dry tests both character and the kitchen fan. In a warm month, forty-eight hours will permit barefoot traffic for minor tasks. A good week or two is necessary to protect the new surface from the full onslaught of kitchen duties. Ban street shoes, a good housekeeping move for many reasons.

There was a covert reward for painting the floor: having the sink inaccessible created an automatic emergency drill for life support systems. We drew down the emergency pantry just in time for this fall’s new crops and were able to tune up for an annual autumn camp-out that is itself a dress rehearsal for the hunters in the group.


More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wake Up And Smell The Popcorn

Photo courtesy Flickr

On Saturday, I watched The Butler the way I most enjoy film: first-run on a big screen in a downtown theater. The early scenes of home training reminded me of my grandmother’s standards at table-these days all too easily dismissed as complicated and pretentious or menial. Originally, the butler slept in front of the strong box that secured the family's treasure. The ornamental porcelain figures in the photo would have been formed from sweet almond paste in an earlier period and have been intended to be eaten as part of the dessert course. The Oxford illustration is of a middle class table setting from the eighteenth century. The lavish table menu was intended to feed the staff as well as the family and its guests. One estate in England still distributes leftovers to the poor of the area. The practice is identical to the  hunting and gathering custom of distributing parts of a kill, and is an efficient way to distribute food in the absence of refrigeration. The table of an estate in this period would undoubtedly have included game from the park and an opening fish course caught in a local lake or stream.

The customs of the table have medieval roots. I believe they are the core of our civilization and the heart and soul of health management. The crone rocking on the film's veranda, who supervised health and medicine on the plantation, would not have been unaware of the value of the skills she was sharing with the young houseman. The silver that in the film makes presenting a simple cup of coffee such a supportive experience is a traditional store of wealth of the lady of the house, dating from a time when women did not inherit real estate.  The laws of the South during the period of the film, at least the law of the state of Virginia, date from the sixteenth century and define a class of lesser white citizens that includes "women, children, the mentally [unfit]". Silver has anti-bacterial properties, too, making it especially suitable for use with food. Back in the day, the non-toxic metal alternative to silver was steel, which develops carcinogenic rust and is therefore high maintenance. The ritual pre-heating of the cup dates from the period before we squandered energy on central heating. A boiling water rinse kills surface bacteria and dismisses dust. The practice is as useful in the field as under a roof. Japan values boiling water so highly that there is a special word for it.

A typical medieval hall house might be no larger than a one-car garage. It might have sheltered twenty people, most of whom worked outdoors during the day. Knowing those circumstances makes it easy to appreciate the rigid forms of etiquette that keep people from fighting over scraps of food at what rightly is a communion table. Until the central state became strong enough to assure border security and offer jobs in the capital, a medieval household would have been staffed by family. Before imperial successes and the industrial revolution, the survival of a European culture depended on citizens of privilege conforming to carefully prescribed forms of dress and behavior. Marie Antoinette’s calico dresses were the lost nail in the horseshoe of the French aristocracy.

Convention doesn’t have to be stuffy; it doesn’t hurt for it to be righteous. 

More after the jump.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

End tables
More chairs
More tables
An entertainment center
Two sections of a sectional

Clean that floor!

An old friend working on her third hip replacement grumbled about her house. It is stuffed with her furniture, her husband’s furniture, and his mother’s furniture, all good work. The place is not that large. Original Yankee traders commissioned fine furniture as a store of the wealth they otherwise had no place to invest. It’s inarguable that furniture is a store of wealth, both monetary and environmental.

So are hips. I vote to conserve hips. Ask your orthopedic surgeon to prescribe a storage facility. Editing the inventory will leave the best looking that much better, and that includes you.

More after the jump.