Thursday, July 30, 2015


The attic, as in Athens, was designed to dry things. In an experimental fusion of Athenian and Damascene practice, I’ve been drying laundry on the floor. Damascus housekeepers used to lay wet clothes flat on the flat roofs of their traditional multi-family haveli. Like a beloved sweater, any textile dried flat looks its best when put to use again. Flat drying lets fibers relax.

The current hot spell suggests the thermal realities of a middle Eastern summer, and I find that dropping wet laundry onto a tufted rug is the easiest drying drill I have tried in any season. Wet clothes come out of the spin cycle to be flapped straight, folded into four layers, and toted upstairs. By the time I gain the summit, it’s like walking into a sauna. Simply dealing a folded garment off the stack on one arm is enough to produce a good looking finished piece in, sometimes, minutes. I pick up the folded pieces and deal them to their home positions. That’s all there is to it.

See Tim Beddows’ book about Damascus for further details.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Landscape Theory Of Completion

A couple of years into my stewardship of this property, a neighbor said I’d been wise to start with the landscaping, so that when the interior was finished, I’d have a completed facility. There was no wisdom involved-working in the garden was my favorite escape.

I guess the thinking goes: visualize the completed enterprise and start with whatever takes longest to accomplish. To that I would add clean up as you work. My beloved grandmother taught me to manage the kitchen that way, and it’s calming. Television cooks now set a large bowl to one side of whatever surface they’re using to prep vegetables and fruit. The practice greatly expands available work space and is probably one of the unexpected consequences of composting.

On a good day, I glide through tasks, setting up one that’s in the pipeline whenever space becomes available. Doing so displaces any sense of labor in the process of getting necessary life and clerical support out of the way.

When afternoon brain death approaches, I sit down to drink a cup of coffee at Dr. Johnson’s recommended four PM, then put the day’s sticky notes in rational order to program the morrow’s production. 

More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bonny Tipple Swine

It has been my privilege to harbor a nest of bumble bees for thirty-five years. Since the soil horizons on the property have been undisturbed for a hundred and twenty-five years, I think the colony has been here a long time. It survived  heavy construction in an easement area that abutted the site I knew about.

My enthusiasm for native plants brought snowberry to the bank in front of the house. In ten years, one small start has taken over the north section. I contemplated the monochrome gray-green texture of the planting and also contemplated what would be involved in yanking it out and replanting whatever. A morning’s grumble over coffee brought the field science guy’s observation that whenever he looks at the snowberry it’s crowded with bumble bees.

Good. They can have the acreage. The decision is another in a long line of environmental value judgements that have saved me money, labor, time, and maintenance. Go bees. I am told that urban habitat harbors resilient pollinators.

More after the jump.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Child Safety

A friend chuckled ruefully about buying a new dresser two weeks before the recent safety warning made the rounds of morning news broadcasts. Jake said his partner had grumbled about a piece of Seventies bloat ware that had been on his secret hit list for a couple of years. He’d held off complaining because he thought she liked the six foot long faux Mediterranean dresser whose ratio of structure to storage capacity was about six to one. It dated from the early Seventies when energy and real estate were cheap, wood abundant, and awareness of good design in limited distribution. It took mere minutes to move the behemoth to solid waste and order a replacement from the Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain.

Once the new dresser was assembled, it became apparent that it was just heavy enough to survive daily use and just light enough for a child to tip over. However, the ratio of storage capacity to outer dimensions is nearly one to one.

Here are some suggestions for making the best of an iffy safety situation. Be your own judge about what is prudent and effective. The Chain’s kit for attaching the dresser to a wall arrived not long after the safety advisory hit the air. Not every landlord will appreciate a fresh set of holes in the dry wall. 

Start by putting child safety latches on each drawer. That might be advisable with any dresser. I knew a boy who loved to empty drawers and use them as dry land rowboats. After he had stomped the life out of two or three pieces of case goods, his mother designed and built a dresser with quarter inch plywood bottoms on the drawers and one-inch pine sides and backs

On a hard floor, I’d consider getting a piece of hardboard the width of the dresser and deep enough that anyone who wants to open a drawer will have to stand on it. Attach the hardboard to the rails along the bottom of the dresser’s frame. Let the nearest hardware clerk advise about what fasteners will be most effective. I might try stick-on industrial grade hook and loop fasteners. It might be possible simply to stick the dresser in place with lines of mounting tape plus a couple of minor straps of duct tape connecting the bottom of the safety plate to the back of the storage unit and secured with tacks.

Put heavy things in the bottom drawer, with or without the hardboard plate. Consider fastening a plate to the bottom of any dresser on any soft or hard floor and heavily weighting the space between the plate and the bottom drawer. This would be a good place to store emergency canned food or bags of sand. Tip the dresser toward the wall by placing shims of some kind under the front rail. A line of paint stirring sticks or a yardstick might be a practical choice. Secure with rug mounting tape. Run a line of dark marker along the side of the shim that shows to deemphasize the modification.

Alternatively, sidestep a dresser by hanging nylon shoe and sweater bags from a closet pole. There are more interesting things to look at in a sleeping room than a dresser. A small table supports private meals. I’d consider stowing clothes in a featherweight set of plastic drawers and concealing it in the closet. Works of art, quality bedding, and the untold wealth of a digital screen easily replace the visual richness that storage furniture adds to a room. 

More after the jump.