Friday, March 16, 2018

Every Blossom Counts

A friend whose family has a long tradition of growing fruit trees brought her three-year-old to visit my home orchard. The dwarf trees were in bloom, and Anita carefully instructed her rambunctious toddler to handle a flower with caution. It took only one rep for the child to get the message -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Noble Bean

A bean is not a bean is not a bean. They're delicate critters that are worth the trouble it takes to cook them carefully. I'm not above opening a can, but the recent demise of the electronic pressure cooker left me considering the wisdom of an overnight soak and a carefully attended simmering pot.

Beans seem to have been bred for faster cooking than the edible pebbles I recall from the Sixties. The quick soak method described on packages is easy to achieve in a rice cooker. Pick over the dry beans to check for rocks, no kidding!, and remove broken beans. Wash in cold water and remove the beans that float.

Cover with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil hard for a few minutes and turn off the heat. In an hour or two, drain and rinse the beans (to control their gassy potential) and proceed with your intended recipe. Keep a careful eye on the doneness: a good bean deserves attention. It is done when the skin peels back if you blow on one. Cook it to a perfect texture or cook it to a creole fare-thee-well over long slow heat -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


A cheap one-inch disposable bristle paint brush is surprisingly useful in the kitchen. I use mine mainly to clean the many crevices in the filter basket in an automatic coffee maker -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Prudent Maintenance

Wear a medical glove when picking up litter.

After you notice that the lawn is shaggy, mow the minute weather permits. Doing so will produce thick, healthy turf.

Control weeds as soon as they are big enough to pull. The medical forceps I use to modify stooping for litter are good for grasping the crowns of tiny weeds.

Dead stalks that stand over the winter break the wind and protect new growth from frost. They also harbor predator insects that control pests.

Known in some circles as "Dr. Foxglove", this invasive biennial grows itself, is beloved of bees, and encourages healthy growth in other plants -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Getting Ahead

Janitor/guru Don Aslett advises to store nothing on the floor. This one practice halved the time it takes me to vacuum and is also the key to maintaining a manageable inventory.

I use Aslett's recommended neutral pH no-rinse janitorial floor cleaner to keep surfaces in good condition. Cheap cotton washcloths from The Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain are my rag of choice. I run an inch of hot water into a dishpan and add a tablespoon of the cleaner. Then I soak half a dozen cloths in the solution and strew them around the hard floors. Using an adjustable anodized aluminum janitorial handle and the toothed plastic device designed to grasp nylon floor cleaning pads, with a white (least abrasive) pad in place, I wipe the floors clean. 

It takes longer to describe the process than execute the task.The supplies are cheap in the long run. I then wash the floor cloths in a short load in the machine. It's easy to dampen a bunch of cloths with window solution in the same way. I use an Italian window squeegee for sparkling clear panes.

The key to the mint is maintaining a space so that it is easy to clean. That means no clutter on horizontal surfaces and only essential furniture in place. All the furniture is fitted with Magical Sliding castors that act like after-market wheels. I can move a piece aside during a major vacuuming episode without worrying about stressing the glue joints on a vintage design.

Removing shoes at the entry, using HEPA air filtration, and frying and stewing on the back porch prevent most house cleaning. Though the vibrant local economy and subsequent traffic has increased the amount of dust in the air, cleaning is still trivial. 

Once I recognize the subtle irritation generated by an interior that needs attention, it takes mere minutes to set things right. The grimly unseasonal weather of the last few weeks afforded me the chance to use early garden energies indoors. Having done so, I'm good to go on the landscape -30-
More after the jump.