Friday, July 11, 2014


Photo courtesy Flickr

This is the time of year I most appreciate the summer house in the back yard. The building evolved over a number of years in response to friends’ suggestions and the design ideas of the carpenters who kept it from composting in place.  What was originally a pre-fab Model T garage has become the Northwest version of a tea house. 

A ten-second commute from the kitchen produces as much tranquility as a week-end at the beach. This far into the growing season the heavy labor of spring is finished. I can spend a day listening to the plants grow and the neighborhood mature.

Asby Brown’s Just Enough is a good guide to the kind of thinking that generates a valuable retreat for pennies.

More after the jump.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Flying Tigers

Photo courtesy Flickr 

An early twentieth-century edition of a Good Housekeeping manual points out that central heating means having to worry about clothes moths all year round. Whatever. Good mothkeeping also means controlling allergens and the abrasive dust that accelerates interior wear and tear. Respecting the human and animal resources that produce clothing and soft furnishings replaces many a pound of atmospheric CO2.

Owning good wool is a privilege that requires minor commitment to secure storage and to diligent maintenance. On Puget Sound, wool is a three and a half-season fabric that clothes best as light, variable layers rather than as ponderous arctic armor. Tweaking housekeeping to do right by the woolies is just standard practice. There’s no need to mothball. Simply keep things clean.

Moths like wool that has food residue on it. Hair and skin flakes are food, too, for future offspring. It’s good practice to brush wool coats at the end of the day. I’m partial to a small currying brush from a tack store. Brush hats as well, and hang a wool coat on a generous wooden hanger. Square it off and button the buttons. Groom knits gently with a brass suede brush. Wool and other animal fibers like cashmere and silk are living and sculptural, like hair. Attention at the end of the day will generate telling signs of care as a garment ages.

Regular use protects wool from moths, since it’s the larvae that chew holes in things. Store dormant clothing in a closet with a good-fitting door or in a chest or dresser. Muslin laundry bags protect blankets and work as clothes bags, too. Identify with parcel tags or a length of gaffer's tape and a white marker. Weekly vacuuming is the first line of defense against moths, that lay their eggs in dark places with chow. Textiles shed fibers onto the floor where they mix with dust and hair to form little variants of tumbleweed, known to some as dust bunnies.

Keep electrical cords off the floor and fit movable furniture with magical sliding castors to make it easy to shift those countless, inevitable legs for a thorough going over of a room. The time it takes to knot a cord to the right length to stay off the floor is time well invested. A knot can often be hidden. Careful cord management leaves a space looking surprisingly well kept. 

I find that making maintenance a priority displaces excess inventory and needlessly elaborate decoration. It also protects innocent insects. Reasonable, adequate maintenance pays off in good morale, good health, and a calm and productive atmosphere.


More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Never Give Up

Photo courtesy Flickr

Local thrift shops have yielded a small collection of veteran Award-Winning director’s chairs, the graceful hardwood 1890 version of a porta-throne from Tut's tomb. Look for a brass plate under a seat rail and lines like the chair legs in the illustration, but without the desk arm. A couple of the chairs had never been curried below the knee, and I use them outdoors on a rustic patio.

The looks of one of them got to be too much last spring, and I set it in the alley for a scavenger. No one took it away, and in a moment of brain fade I set it back into the woodshed to await another design decision. I installed a fresh white canvas seat in anticipation of incoming visitors. The contrast of pristine fabric and walnut-stained weathered varnish fading to driftwood feet is a delightful, accidental recreation of the best of Seventies interior thinking. That beat up old chair is now as good as the best seat in the house.


More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Smoke Test

Photo courtesy Flickr

This irresistible piece of nomenclature applies to a procedure used to evaluate a piece of electronic gear, generally a used one. Take it home, plug it in, and keep an eye on it. If it starts to smoke, unplug it and figure out what’s wrong. Or get rid of it.

I discovered the wisdom of a smoke test the hard way by setting out and turning on a vintage wood-cased bookshelf radio. The eek! factor was significant. Smoke tests of other gear now happen on a stone work top.

More after the jump.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Facebook Seems To Be A Verb

Salem memorial photo courtesy Flickr

The other day I reconsidered a personal encounter where I was not at my best and decided that I and the web might benefit from remembering Massachusetts’ classic Twelve Good Rules of Puritan Behavior:

Profane no Divine ordinance.
Touch no state matters.
Urge no healths.
Pick no quarrels.
Encourage no vice.
Repeat no grievances.
Reveal no secrets.
Maintain no ill opinions.
Make no comparisons.
Keep no bad company.
Make no long meals.
Lay no wagers.
The twelve have sweetened my life considerably.

More after the jump.