What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– vintage Mercedes alloy wheels

I am, I confess, a recovering car-holic. I shake my head now to think of all the cash, care, sweat and shivers I spent keeping cars running and on my deferred dreams of restoring vintage classics. (Not that Nimue and I are free of private automobile possession, but a series of exorcisms have done much to put the demons in their place. We’re down to a practical little Toyota Echo and our white cargo van “Remodelmobile.”)

I went through a long Mercedes phase, and Nimue came along for the ride. Twenty, even ten years ago we could afford a 1970s or 80s Mercedes diesel, address its issues, and then depend on it for a hundred thousand miles so long as we kept the filters and oil changed. But those cars are older now, most of them “B.E.R.”: beyond the cost of economic repair. The world has changed, as have we. As it recedes in the rearview mirror, I find I don’t miss it all that much.

Left behind is a lot of Mercedes “stuff”: parts purchased but never installed, filters, technical literature, tools … material for future sheds. Today I’ve posted an extra set of alloy wheels to craigslist. I told myself they were worth a hundred bucks for so long that I feel I have to try to sell them for $40. But I suspect I ought to just give them away.

The "bundt" style allow wheels, made for Mercedes by Fuchs, graced a lot of Benzes from 1969 to 1985.

The “bundt” style allow wheels, made for Mercedes by Fuchs, graced a lot of Benzes from 1969 to 1985.

shedding style: resell
destination: someone else’s garage or, better, old car

Comments welcome … have you any corners dusty with the ashes of former flames?

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– shower curtain rings

While we’ve been silent on this blog in recent months, Casa de WIST has echoed with the chatter of a reciprocating saw, the percussion of hammers, and the soft swish of paintbrushes applying new finishes. Nimue and revdarkwater have been busy renovating, inside and out.

But happiness often arises in balance and is at risk without it. So we’re feeling drawn, if not compelled, to attend again to cutting our clutter, and have embraced a goal this month to shed something every day and post to WIST about it.

This morning I was digging down through our box of plastic sheets (in search of one I could use underneath our Eureka Timberline as I attempt to renew its polyurethane waterproofing) when I uncovered this:

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It’s a shower curtain, yellowed and stained past my point of dismay, but sound enough to be re-purposed as a drop cloth. But why, I wondered, didn’t I remove the curtain rings back when I put it in the box? No matter; I did today, and we’ll give them to Goodwill or the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Bonus shed: also in the box was my old homemade plastic camping tarp. It was my first backpacking shelter, carried on the Appalachian Trail before I could afford my first tent—which I saved up for and purchased, let’s see, some 35 years ago.

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Today the tarp smelled like acetic acid (a sign that plasticizers are breaking down) and cracked when I unfolded it. It must go to the landfill, I regretfully judge.

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome …

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– expectations of myself regarding the cooking of kale, leeks, and chickpeas “salad”

A couple-to-three years ago, a CSA (“community supported agriculture”) farm that Nimue and I participated in shared a recipe for “kale, leeks, and chickpeas salad.” She rather liked and I fell into an infatuation with it that matured into a steadfast love. So, I cook and we enjoy it often when kale is “coming on.”

I have come to regard the recipe as the merest of a sketch. To start, I make vastly more of it (leftovers = tomorrow’s lunch, x2). I had no leeks tonight, but it was trivial to substitute an yellow onion (Georgia grown, to its credit). But experience has proved that roasted red peppers are essential.

Some fine day, we shall grow and preserve our own. But not today. Today, I needed into my “boughten” peppers. But I couldn’t unscrew the lid.

That would’ve irritated me when I was young and thought I should be strong enough to force it with just my brute strength. And after I got over that, it would have bothered me a bit that I couldn’t attempt it with a tool more refined than Grandpa’s old pipe wrench.

But, heh-heh, Grandpa’s old wrench cranked that sucker right off. Give Grandpa and me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and we’ll move the world.

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And here’s the recipe, for which I regret I can’t credit a source:

KALE, LEEKS, AND CHICKPEAS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green part only, quartered, chopped and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 bunch kale, stemmed, chopped and washed in a colander
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 heaping tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper (fresh or from a jar)

Instructions:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, add oil. When oil shimmers, add the leek, garlic, salt and paprika and stir until leek wilts, about 1 minute. Add kale, chickpeas and red pepper and stir to combine. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, checking to make sure pan doesn’t scorch. If needed, add a tablespoon of water to keep a very small amount of liquid in the pan. Once kale is tender, taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold after a night in the fridge.

shedding style: release

Comments welcome … have you celebrated the subtraction of any perfectionism lately?

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– my favorite paintbrush

I’ve had my Porter Paints 2” wide paintbrush for some 30 years. Not to brag, but it’s lasted this long because I’ve taken exquisite care of it. I always rinsed it out promptly, used a brush comb to keep its bristles aligned, hung it to dry, and stored it in its cardboard brush-keeper till that finally fell apart. The brush was worth that investment of effort because it feathered better than any other I’ve ever worked with.

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But late last year it suffered a solvent incompatibility accident, and it’s never been the same since. Material has hardened to something like stone in its heel, and Nimue strongly suspects it of leaving contaminating particles behind in what are supposed to be satin-smooth finishes.

It’s not working anymore. And we don’t keep what isn’t useful.

But I’m going to let myself stop by a “pro” paint store and try to buy its genetic clone.

shedding style: throw away
destination: landfill (sob)

Comments welcome … do you have tools the loss of which you couldn’t just “brush off”?

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– styrofoam peanuts in the treehouse

Casa de WIST came with a treehouse out back, which was really cool.

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Except the 3/4”-plywood floor had rotted before we took posession, which was a sore trial to my inner child’s spirit. Making the treehouse safe will require demolishing the superstructure and building back something more resilient and useful. My superego keeps saying, “Other projects have higher priorities.”

(Inner child heaves long-suffering sigh.)

You’d think at least that I would have, after all these years, removed the styrofoam peanuts that, inexplicably, covered the still-semi-solid parts of the treehouse’s floor to a depth of about two inches. I recently made a list of “ten itches to scratch,” and peanut extraction was at the top. But that was going to require hauling the shop-vac out there, lifting it into the treehouse, snaking an extension cord out to it, and sucking up styrofoam while balancing precariously on the joists. One of my earliest childhood memories is of the two holes in the ceiling my father’s legs made when he fell through while working in the attic. I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps.

But a couple days ago I finally said, “Okay, I’ll at least start by grubbing out a bag to put the peanuts into.” And the rest followed, step by step.

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Ah, (skritch skrich), that feels good.

shedding style: remove and throw away
destination: landfill (unfortunately)

Comments welcome … have you a list of itches to scratch? What might go on it?

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+ reel mower

Yesterday we unshed the reel mower.

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I was taking its picture by sunlight so I could post it to craigslist when a back burner in my brain suddenly went warm. “What are those bolt-and-bracket-y assemblies inside each wheel doing?” I wondered. Ah-ha! They’re for adjusting the cutting height! Might it be made to go over the acorns and gum balls?

I raised it as much as possible and mowed a test swath. It would do better if our lawn were verdant with Kentucky bluegrass and sweet white clover, but it worked well enough on our weedy cover. So we’re keeping the reel mower for now.

This will likely encourage us to rake up the chaff and seed some annual and perennial rye into the lawn (the little left that hasn’t been turned to growing vegetables). Then, perhaps, we can shed the fossil-fuel-powered vegetation chomper!

destination: right back into the garage

Comments welcome … has your “less is more” journey had u-turns?

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– reel mower

We so wanted this to work. We loved the hope of never buying nor burning lawn mower gasoline again.

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But American sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) and white oaks (Quercus alba) lean out over our “lawn,” which is a rough patch of bermuda grass and Indo-European herbaceous colonizers of disturbed ground. By hundreds, the gums drop the spiked, remarkably rot-resistant balls that are their fruits. The oaks rain down thousands of acorns on top of them. It’s the ambition of each and every gum-ball and acorn out there to jam the whirling blades of the mower and bring it to a jarring halt.

Maybe we’ll get a goat.

shedding style: resell
destination: the grass that’s greener in someone else’s lawn

Comments welcome … has your “simpler” ever turned out to be much more complicated?

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– Grandpa’s frames with still-life prints

Grandpa Elmer and Grandma Trudy, my father’s parents, lived north of Columbus, Indiana, on R.R. #1 (the post office’s abbreviation for “rural route one”). We lived east, on R.R. #4. Only a few miles lay between … indeed, when I got a little older, I once rode to Grandma and Grandpa’s on my bike, and not by the shortest route. I realize now how fortunate I was to grow up so close to them and to visit so frequently—nearly every weekend and holiday of the year. Their house was almost like a second home to me. I still remember every room, its decoration and many of the furnishings.

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The cypress knee and piece of petrified wood on the display shelf close to the front door were special and needed to be touched like totems every time I was there. I didn’t ask to handle Grandma’s collection of souvenir shot glasses, but I liked to look at them. Other items were just “there.” They didn’t have anything to do with me or, it seemed, with Grandma and Grandpa. They were just ordinary accessories to a house. Like the framed set of still life prints in their front room.


Not everything that’s passed down in one’s family is an heirloom.


But those, it turned out, meant a little more to my father. Some years later, when Grandma and Grandma’s health declined and they had to move to a retirement home, he took the pictures. “Dad made these frames,” he told me. I looked at them with fresh and appreciative eyes. I’d worked in “the trades” on and off at that point, and I knew a well-executed mitre cut when I saw one. “Do you know anything about the prints?” I asked. “No, I think they were just something he liked,” Dad said.

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But they never found a place on a wall of my parents’ homes. Mom is a gifted water-colorist; one of my brothers makes exceptional photographs. Gallery space is scarce. Somehow, somewhen, Grandpa’s frames and prints came to me. The prints don’t please me (they recall the interior decoration of “home cookin’” restaurants), but I always thought I’d mount something else in the frames.

But a truth I’m having to face is that we don’t have anything that quite fits, in size or style. Another is that not everything that’s passed down in one’s family is an heirloom. I’ve repeatedly offered Grandpa’s frames and prints to my brothers and sisters, and they don’t want them either. Maybe a cousin would … but probably not.

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I’ve got Grandpa’s big screwdriver, his brace and bit, and his 65-year-old Craftsman ¼-inch electric drill; every time I use them his spirit is with me. I don’t get that spark off the frames. So they’re a hook I’m finally going to let myself off of. If I need forgiveness for that, well, I ask it. He was a good man. I can accept it as given.

shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store

Comments welcome … are you hung on the hook of any un-heirlooms?

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– gourd, + birdhouse

Unfinished projects weigh on me as much or more than “stuff,” so I count their completion as a shed. This one has a happy power to make me smile.

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I don’t remember how many years I’ve been storing this gourd on a succession of shelves, nor how it came into my keeping. But I’ve always meant to turn it into a birdhouse. It took only an hour of yesterday, half of that pleasant research, during which I learned some about the needs and preferences of cavity-nesting birds. The entry hole is larger than most species like, but that’s how it broke under my grandfather’s old brace and bit. I hope some nesting pair will enjoy a large front door. The dull color I sprayed it isn’t imaginative, but the intended tenants prefer earth tones for their homes. It’s they, after all, who will provide the flash and spark of life.

shedding style: complete
destination: a white oak we can see from our table

Comments welcome … it can be such a gift to finish something; why are we sometimes so stingy and withhold it from ourselves?

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– water garden pond liner with DIY stand

Twenty years ago—how they’ve flowed down what watersheds!—Nimue and I moved to northeast Georgia so she could start her Ph.D studies at the nearby state university. Among our inheritances from the Previous Occupants of the house we moved into was a fish pond. The male P.O. had dug a hole in the side yard, lined it with plastic from an old waterbed mattress, installed a pump, and filled it with goldfish and a foot-long koi.

That arrangement didn’t survive the gap in occupancy between the P.O.s and us. When we moved in, the view out the bedroom window was of a hole in the red Georgia clay, holding a scummy few inches of water, around which a sheet of plastic flapped in every breeze.

As soon as I had a spare moment, I determined to yank the liner out and fill in the scar in the earth. Until I watched as frogs plopped! into the scant water that was there. This, I realized, was someone’s habitat—and it would be a long, hot, dry hop and crawl to reach the nearest fresh water.

Nimue and I researched and re-thought. We could, we realized, fairly easily patch the holes in the liner, rim the edge with locally-sourced stones, add plants and fish and snails, and have—hooray—a water garden! It turned out to be not quite that easy, but it almost was, and it gave us a lot of pleasure until frosts threatened.

The hardy water lilies would overwinter outside, but my goodness, I had all of perhaps $15 invested in the water hyacinths and water lettuce. So I bought a rigid plastic pond liner, built a stand for it, and moved the tender plants and a few goldfish inside for the season.

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By moving this today, did I perform a kidney transplant?

That’s how we wound up with our above-ground pond. We’ve hauled it and a water lily to three more addresses since, though none of the places we’ve had for siting it have been ideal. It finally occurred to us we don’t have to do so anymore. We’ve downsized to a modest tub, in which our 19-year-old “James Brydon” can still thrive. I listed the liner, stand, and cuttings from the lily for sale, and today handed them off to their new owners.

shedding style: resell
destination: a new water gardener’s garden

Comments welcome … I think there’s no “less” in this at all, only “more.” What else in our world, I wonder, might wear that mantle if we’d see it that way?

 

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