Original Fixture

Our little cottage in Stonington has been revised and reconfigured and redesigned repeatedly since it was first built in the early 1900s.  As a result of all of the renovation work, we think there’s only one original fixture still in the house — the ceiling light in the guest room.  We’re determined to keep it as the one interior connection to the original design of the place.

It wasn’t a hard decision, because it’s a nifty little pink glass piece that has a distinctly old-fashioned, cottagey vibe to it.  But what I particularly like is the design.  Unlike modern overhead lights, which require you to stand, aching arms stretched directly overhead, and loosen multiple screws and then remove a glass fitting to get to the light bulb, this design is open.  Remove one of the anchors, tilt the pink glass section down, and voila!  You can easily change the light bulb or, more frequently, remove the inevitable collection of fly carcasses that you’re always going to find in a summer cottage.

It’s as if the light fixture design was based on the practical realities of where the light fixture would be and how it would be used, and took into consideration making it easier and simpler for the user to do the basics like changing a bulb.  What a concept!

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Weeding, Before And After

When you work at a white-collar job, as I do, often you don’t see the results of your labors for days, weeks, or even months. That can be a bit frustrating.

Weeding is different. You put on your work gloves, apply the weed popper, and get your back into it for an hour, until the sweat is dripping off your nose, and voila! The results are immediately visible, which (for me at least) provides an incentive to weed even more. It’s nice to get instant gratification for a change.

Hey, there’s a wall that was masked by all of that undergrowth, and a cool granite boulder, besides!

Pity The Poor Weed?

Today I spent an hour in the backyard, weeding.  We’d gotten some rain, so the soil was moist, making it a prime weeding opportunity.  As I bent over, trying to use my garden tool to find the roots of the weeds and pop them out of the ground — because you always want to get the root, of course — I cursed mightily at the humidity, and my aching back, and mostly at the unsightly weeds themselves.

And then I wondered — is there any living thing more reviled, more roundly cursed, more uniformly despised by one and all than a Midwestern weed?

Consider this awful dandelion that had taken root in our garden beds.  It’s an exceptionally ugly plant, with its broad, sharp leaves that look like the blade of a rusty hacksaw.  I first noticed it last weekend but didn’t get to it until today, and in the intervening week it spread like a fungus to cover more territory.  It’s a tenacious plant, too, hugging the ground and stubbornly resisting all efforts to pull it out by the roots and kill it once and for all.  After some careful searching I found the root and gently pulled it whole from the damp soil.  I felt a glowing sense of accomplishment as I removed the unsightly blemish from the beds, dropped the weed and its roots into a lawn refuse bag, and then moved on to do battle with the thistles, chickweed, mallow, and other thorny, repulsive broadleaf invaders trying to ruin my garden and yard.

I paused for a moment, though, to straighten up my creaking back and ponder the poor weed.  It doesn’t know it’s hated and unwanted, I realized — it’s just trying to survive as best it can, wherever it can.  Perhaps, I thought, there is value in weeds?  Perhaps they provide the sharp contrast that allows us to better appreciate the beauty of flowers and boxwoods and hostas?  Perhaps their presence makes us more industrious, by incentivizing us to go out in the fresh air and do some productive work.  Perhaps the weed, rather than being reflexively hated, should be pitied . . . and even admired?

Nah!  It’s weeds we’re talking about, and I would happily do without them. So I moved on and thrust my garden tool into the ground at the base of the next offender, found the root, and pulled it out with relish.

The Birdhouse Solution

Our tiny backyard features a flowering vine that has been growing like crazy. It completely covered the wooden trellis that is its intended home, then started to grow over the top of the small tree our landscaper had positioned next door — which obviously wasn’t good for the tree. To deal with the problem, we had to redirect the vine away from the tree. But how?

Our solution was to move our birdhouse stand to the other side of the vine, gently extricate the vine from the top of the tree, and loop the vine around the birdhouse and its stand. It worked like a charm. Now the vine has plenty of room to grow, the little tree is flourishing again, and the birdhouse and its bright colors look beautiful against the vine’s green leaves and deep purple flowers.

Now, if we could just get a family of birds to move into the birdhouse . . . .

Under Lock And Key

Do you ever leave your house unlocked, even for only a few minutes?  How about your car?

I never do.  In fact — and you can call me obsessive-compulsive if you want — I make sure I always lock our house with the deadbolt and not just the automatic lock, and I try the door handle after I’m done to be certain.  I also hit the locking button on our car key and hear the little chirp twice and then pull on the door handle to make absolutely sure the lock is engaged.  I have keys in hand before I do either of these things to make sure that I’m not locking myself out, too.  These are habits I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

187098I mention this because of this article I ran across about crime statistics in one upper middle class midwestern suburb in a recent month.  All of the 25 cases of automobile theft in that month involved unlocked cars, and half of the house thefts involved unlocked homes.  That’s mind-boggling to me.  And the house break-in data is skewed, because of some unique circumstances — typically, according to the article, an astonishing 80 percent of such thefts involve unlocked cars and houses.  Why would so many people leave their cars and houses unlocked?  Are they worried about locking themselves out?  Do they think they would be inconvenienced by the few seconds it takes to fish a key out of pants pockets or purses and unlocking their car or house?  Do they think they’re going to be gone for only a few minutes and there’s no risk?  Or are they just trusting souls who are convinced their neighborhoods are totally safe at all times?

According to the article, too, the identity of the criminals has shifted.  Before, teenagers looking for a little pocket money were often the perpetrators of such petty theft; now it’s inevitably adult opiate addicts who are looking for money that will allow them to get a quick fix.  Check out the chilling video surveillance footage accompanying the article, of the guy quickly checking the doors on cars.  According to the article, the thieves try to minimize their risk — in cars, they’ll look for an unlocked car and when they find one they’ll steal loose change and whatever appears to be valuable and be out in a few seconds, and in houses they’ll head directly to the bedroom, steal any visible small electronics they see, take any jewelry and money from the bedroom, and get out of the house in a few minutes — so being away from your unlocked house or car for only a few minutes isn’t going to provide any protection.  And the article notes that having a dog isn’t a sure-fire thief deterrent, either.

Why take a needless risk?  As the title of the article states:  Lock your damn doors!  (And make sure your kids do, too!)

Green, Green, Green

Green has never been one of my favorite colors, but after a long, gray, bleak winter I’m relishing the explosion of springtime color — all green, of course — in our backyard. The trees, grass, shrubs, and plants seem to have covered virtually every shade in the green rainbow.

Time to get out the green color chart. Chartreuse? Check. Lime? Check. Olive? Check. Emerald? Check . . . .

Patchwork

Dogs have many good qualities, but they aren’t easy on yards. Especially in a tiny backyard like ours, the combination of accumulated canine answers to the call of nature, unfettered grass nibbling, and gleeful dog romping will leave the lawn looking barren and diseased.

Now that we’re dogless for the first time in years, it’s time to get out the latest scientically developed patch mix and tackle those bare spots.