Friday, September 11, 2015


The Great Big Hiking Co-op offers several specialty products for runners that are good substitutes for the traveler’s money belt. The new designs are cut to distribute cargo around the midsection. Capacity ranges from a large handful to just enough to survive a night in the woods. One particularly interesting model is a high-tech version of the obi, the traditional Japanese version of a cummerbund. 

More after the jump.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trudy's Cooking Room

In the Nineties I had the privilege of touring a vintage West End cabin that was about to come on the market. It was constructed of huge logs and had obviously been put together by guys who knew their way around the magnificent forest resources of the Olympic Peninsula. Set in pristine lands, the cabin was untouched by air or water pollution. Its unpainted interior was immaculate and furnished simply with an equally immaculate handmade carpet and period sofa/chair set. There was electricity and running water.

As Cook fried a chop on the back porch the other day, I realized that the key to the atmosphere in Trudy’s cabin was the cooking room set up in a lean-to that enclosed the entrance. Inside the exterior door was a day-lighted space just large enough to hold a cast-iron cookstove and the day’s wood supply. A second door directly ahead of the outer one led into the main room of the cabin with its massive hearth, beautifully designed not to smoke.

The stove faced a window set into the log wall of the cabin, so the cook had a view of the social life within while the smoke and smells of food were sealed away. Once the air cleared after meal preps, heat could be salvaged by opening the door or window into the main room. It may have been that the cooking room was added after stove was acquired. It must have been heaven to walk into that space on a rainy February day.

Long ago, it was ordinary to separate cooking from meal service. Doing so greatly reduces house cleaning. I have lived in this 1890 structure for thirty-five years and have felt the need to wash the cupboards once.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Setting The Bar Low

Several years ago, skimming UN statistics about per capita water consumption left the winning Navaho daily total stuck in my mind: five gallons. Recently Seattle asked us to cut water consumption by ten percent. After learning the Navaho challenge, I had swapped the telephone shower head for a kitchen faucet bubbler, installed an on/off switch to take Navy showers, and decided to let the garden fend for itself. Cutting ten percent off my total will be stringent.

The downstairs toilet is a politically incorrect vintage model. A full original flush is enough to wash a small load of laundry. Over the years I learned to adjust the mechanism to make it more than competitive with the high-tech pressurized version upstairs. The hydraulics of the old commode are so efficient that two cups of water, no kidding, suffice to rinse the pan and keep it bearable during a mellow yellow cycle. I replaced the original heavy enameled cast iron lid on the tank with a featherweight panel of corrugated plastic board. It’s trivial to tip it up and hand flush with the second’s cascade of fresh water that keeps the bowl clean between the long intervals of a full flush.

The in-house archaeologist tells me that the new technique replicates one of the original toilet designs. That comment reinforces my habit of looking to old technology first when trying to solve a basic problem of life support.

More after the jump.