What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– upstairs bathroom 1.0

Today we turned our upstairs bathroom into a shell of its former self.


the bathroom after the application of wrenches, hammers, pry bars, and scrapers

I thought I had a “before” photo on my hard drive, but it appears to be archived off somewhere. You’re spared that image of a cramped room, painted brown and furnished with builder’s-grade fixtures in “almond” shades. Nothing in it had been changed in the 28 years since the house was built.

Ah, but today, we took up the curling and yellowing sheet-vinyl flooring. (I regard every trip to the construction-and-demolition landfill as a capitulation, but that’s where it will have to go.) We’ll lay ceramic hex tiles in its place; with good care by subsequent owners, they might last the next hundred years.

The cabinet and sink top were too large for the space, so we pulled them out and will replace them with a pedestal sink. (Since the cabinet matches those in the kitchen, we’ll rebuild it and relocate it there to serve as a stand for our microwave, which currently teeters on a folding tray table. The sink top will go to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.)

We’ll try to give the tub and shower surround an update (and color change to white) by applying an epoxy coating. It’s an experiment, but we had good luck refinishing the laminate countertops in the kitchen with a product from the same manufacturer.

Tomorrow, renovating continues! With it we release the weight of what what doesn’t “spark joy” and, thus, lighten up!

shedding style: demolish

Comments welcome … does it seem that, more often than not, we must destroy in order to build?


– shredded paper

Because heaven forfend our identities be stolen (and heaven helps those who help themselves), we shred papers that bear, in one of those phrases that define our times, “personally identifiable information.” Our city-county, however, doesn’t want shredded paper in the recycling collection because it’s too fine for the monster-machines that pick through the single-stream to sort it out. So I’ve been saving our shreds for garden mulch. A friend offered hers as well. Thus, over the winter, a baby mountain of bags grew on our front porch, and what had seemed like a good idea became clutter.

But this afternoon the paper became the foundation of paths between our front-yard garden beds:

a strange snow on a warm, wet spring day

a strange snow on a warm, wet spring day

I’ll cover it with a layer of leaves, and then it may toil with the soil to grow some goodness.

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decomposing wood deployed 2

Running to catch up (pant, pant) … I need an easy shed. But I honestly feel it counts: I completed the first terrace of our street-side vegetable garden, and moved enough rotting wood to edge the second.

That bed is a thing of beauty to me. I could lie down and sleep in it ... nah, I think I'll plant onions.

That bed is a thing of beauty to me. I could lie down and sleep in it … nah, I think I’ll plant onions.

As I placed one chunk, I noticed that an inhabitant had emerged in distress at the disturbance of its home: the largest southern unstriped scorpion (Vaejovis carolinianus) I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry that, in the fading light, I wasn’t able to get a photo. They’re also called “little brown scorpions” and rarely grow longer than two inches—this one was about that. Their string is briefly painful, but dangerous only to rare individuals who have an allergic reaction. I apologized for the inconvenience and invited the scorpion to become a protector of the garden. “Sting a deer!”

shedding styles: re-purpose, relocate
destination: front-yard vegetable garden

Comments welcome … do your projects to simplify sometimes stretch over days? It hardly seems fair, does it?

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decomposing wood deployed

I’ve mentioned before that we have a lot of rotting wood cluttering our yard, most of it left after selective tree removal by previous owners of our property. It’s too far gone to use for firewood, so I’ve slowly been incorporating it into a structure I call our hugelkultur mound. It isn’t what’s usually meant by hugelkultur, since I plan to plant it with eastern redcedars (Juniperus virginiana) rather than grow vegetables on it, but the idea is the same: wood buried under organic matter that’s used as a growth medium.

Now, however, we have a new use for some of that old wood.

Our lot is covered with second-growth oak-hickory woods, so we don’t have enough sunlight for vegetable gardening except in the narrow opening beside the street. Thus I sited my garden there. It hasn’t been ideal; the soil is the nutrient-depleted red clay endemic to the US southern piedmont. (That poverty is partly due to its extreme geologic age—minerals have leached out over the millions of years—but mostly are a consequence of the disastrous practices that went with cultivating cotton from the late 18th through early 20th centuries). It’s also quite compacted and on a slope. With those challenges, I’ve satisfied myself (and the local white-tailed deer herd) with a modest plot … until now.

Nimue signed off on expanding operations, so yesterday I let a tiller beat me up for two hours as I turned 600 square feet of hardpan into a nascent Eden. Well, that’s optimistic, but it’s stirred up, at least. Since I don’t want it to wash down the hill in our first summer thunderstorm, I’ll shovel and rake it into terraces, and frame them with chunks of the old wood. They will serve both to help retain the soil (as they quietly melt into it) and mark the border. “Something special is happening here!” they’ll say.

I've just begun placing the wood blocks, but you get the idea ... kind of like playing with blocks!

I’ve just begun placing the wood blocks, but you get the idea … kind of like playing with blocks!

Indeed, scallions will happen! And potato onions! Egyptian walking onions! Tomatoes! Heirloom cowhorn okra grown for decades by Nimue’s grandparents, entrusted for preservation to me! Squash, in the prickliest varieties I can find to dissuade the deer! Though if they take an occasional leaf, I’ll accept it. Because there is enough, and shall be.

shedding style: re-purpose, relocate
destination: the garden of eatin’

Comments welcome … might some unlikely thing in your world be transformed by a new use?


daily gain: easter eggs

Easter Day: spring seems finally to have fully arrived in the US southern piedmont, and signs of new life abound. I had a full day. My personal high point was attending the consecration of a community garden on the grounds of a neighboring congregation. (Perhaps sometime in this millennium the Church will collectively figure out what it’s all about!)

I didn’t manage to shed anything. Rather, it was a day for celebrating gains. But I’d like to share a photo of our Easter eggs:

Recipe: place cracked eggshells in the wells of a cardboard egg carton. Fill with seed starting mix and sow at recommended planting depth. When ready to set out seedlings, cut the wells apart and gently squeeze to break the eggshells. Plant seedling, shell, and carton; it will decompose.

Recipe: place cracked eggshells in the wells of a cardboard egg carton. Fill with seed starting mix and sow at recommended planting depth. When ready to set out seedlings, cut the wells apart and gently squeeze to break the eggshells. Plant seedling, shell, and carton; the paper will decompose.

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chipped cup

Beauty and usefulness are our standards for retaining a thing in the WIST household. Generally, either knowing something to be useful or believing it to be beautiful are sufficient. Tonight, however, I want to shed a cup that’s gotten chipped, and it presents a quandary. The damage isn’t so bad we can’t use it, but it has lost its beauty in my eyes.

I’m not sure why that is. I know that sometimes we’re pleased to have our expectations of symmetry satisfied, and other times we want what surprises. And often we take them together, like the dissonant notes before the resolution of the chord. That might be part of why many items become more beautiful to me as their initial perfection fades. I love how the finish and fittings on Slowjourner Truth, my touring and commuting bicycle, offer a visible record of the many miles we’ve traveled. Slow isn’t factory-perfect, but he’s real. That doesn’t work, however, in the case of the cup.

Maybe it’s that there’s no story to the chip. The piece just fell away one day, and now there’s a slightly sharp edge there I want my lips to avoid. Well, enough aesthetics and ethics—it’s in no condition to give away, so I’ll break it into shards and use them to improve drainage in the bottom of a planter. Now there’s a use.

Fox: "Why are you putting chipped crockery beside my perfection?"

Fox: “Why are you putting chipped crockery beside my perfection?”

shedding style: re-purpose
destination: bottom of a planter

Comments welcome … what do you think about that constellation of beauty and usefulness?

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In what’s almost an annual event, we shed t-shirts again.

In the affluent parts of the West, t-shirts are easily acquired. They’re frequently issued as mementos of occasions and to supply a “uniform” for those sharing a volunteer day or amateur athletic event. That’s how Nimue and I add several to our t-shirt drawer every year … most of the “charity” rides include one in the goodie bag, so taking the tandem makes it x2.

We use them for casual wear and “work” shirts while remodeling and gardening. But our “need,” generously defined, is for only a few. So when it gets hard to stuff two more in the drawer, we recognize it’s time to cull the collection. We’ve grown fairly hard-hearted. Even two thoughtful gifts moved from the “keep” to “go” stack this round. (We retain the intended affection.)

After last year’s purge, I took a dozen cycling-themed shirts to the second-hand bike shop to give away. Today we subtracted eight: two were demoted to rags, and six are bound for the thrift store.

"Poor citizens must not with courtiers wed/Who will in silks and gay apparel spend,/More in one year than I am worth, by far." (Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker's Holiday)

“Poor citizens must not with courtiers wed/Who will in silks and gay apparel spend,/More in one year than I am worth, by far.” (Thomas Dekker, The Shoemaker’s Holiday)

shedding styles: re-purpose, give away
destination: rag pile, thrift store

Comments welcome … would you feel lighter giving the t-shirt off your back?


ancient computer books

Our friends J. and D. are marrying early this summer. Their planning has arrived at the point a thousand specific decisions must be made, each with potential to express who they are, individually and together. Some couples, usually younger and with less experience of themselves, can hardly stand the strain. But our friends are enjoying plying their creativity, and we look forward to their weekly reports.

This evening we learned something about the table centerpieces for their reception. I don’t know what will rest on top, but they will build the bases of old computer books. J. and D. met through computers, they work them hard and play with them harder, and nothing could be more appropriate … well, lacking a dusty horde of old external 2400-baud modems.

They have, however, kept their libraries fairly current. Where to get a hundred or so utterly deprecated computer books? —From friends like Nimue and me, of course. So tonight I ventured into the lair of Tiamat, the primordial chaos dragon, in search of Understanding Red Hat Linux 3.0. Though I swear it’s in there, doubtless with the accompanying CD-ROM, I couldn’t find it. Failure wasn’t complete: I removed a handful of other candidates. They make my shed today.

Does anyone else think those top two titles had to be a joke?

Does anyone else think those top two titles had to be a joke?

And as soon as I can get bread to leave a trail of crumbs, I’m going back in the lair … er, the library … because I love picturing that cement block of a Linux bible at the reception, holding up a vase. As my last sight of it, forever and ever, amen.

shedding style: give away, re-purpose, recycle
destination: decorations, then the community recycling stream

Comments welcome … what might you shed today?

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toilet paper roll tube peat pot substitutes

Thanks to The Snail of Happiness for suggesting that toilet paper roll tubes, cut in half and stuffed with a growing medium, make even better pots for starting seeds than those pressed out of peat that the garden centers sell. The homemade version doesn’t deplete peat bogs!

Also, two Zaxby’s “Zalad” trays offered themselves for use as mini-greenhouses. So, as close as our recycling bin and compost pile, I found everything I need to sow Amish Paste tomato seeds. For the win!

the tomato nurseries

the tomato nurseries

shedding style: re-purpose
destination: a sunny window, then the garden

Comments welcome … what might you shed today?


mini-blind slats

“Nine pounds of raw exuberance” defines Blueberry, who never comes into a room, but arrives. Once present, she loves to underscore it by making a racket. Pawing the slats of lowered mini-blinds does it very well! She means no harm, but if a claw hooks and cuts the “string ladder” so half the ensemble cascades toward the gravitational center of the earth, well … what’s a cat to do but look obliviously cute?

And what are her humans to do but sigh and try to re-purpose the pieces? So Nimue asked Mr. Google: “recycle mini-blinds?” And found a gardener’s tip: cut the slats into row markers. Yeah!

mini-blind slats find a new purpose in life

mini-blind slats find a new purpose in life

So now we have a lifetime supply, plus enough for three or four rounds on the wheel of rebirth. At our next few community garden network monthly meetings, I’ll share the abundance.

"I'll help!"

“I’ll help!”

shedding styles: re-purpose, give away
destination: fellow community gardeners

Comments welcome … what might you shed today?

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