Nitty gritty

Another sweaty, dirty, dusty, filthy day for the guys. This awful humidity makes an already dirty job even worse – the dust just sticks to the skin and becomes muddy.    We are all certainly thankful for the sun shower – we are certainly using it a lot these days. As for me, last week, after “suiting up” with goggles, hair protection, breathing mask, gloves and old clothes, I spent about an hour removing the lead paint – taking care to not contaminate anything. Beforehand, the guys ingeniously stapled plastic under the eaves so that the paint can be caught and never touch the ground.   Wearing a breathing apparatus and long sleeves wasn’t very comfortable, but I recently had practice working under such conditions when our family when back to help with the clean up ofNew Orleans after hurricane Katrina in November ’05.

Once the roof is complete and gutters put in, Jules plans on buying a solar attic fan and the City of Pasadena offers an incentive of arebate.


Too hot to sleep {LATimes}

The windows are all open, and the ceiling fan in his bedroom is going full blast. But to graphic designer Terry Payne, it doesn’t matter. It’s just too hot to sleep.So Payne, a 48-year-old Pasadena resident, takes his sheets to the backyard, where he and his dog, a Newfoundland mix, can finally fall asleep.”Back in the old days, it got a lot cooler at night. Now, we’re not getting relief at night,” said William Patzert, a meteorologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge…..”The extreme makeover Southern California got is impacting nighttime temperatures,” Patzert said. “Everybody wants to know why it’s not cooling off at night. This is an urban land use ‘heat island’ effect.” The numbers tell the tale: Between 1901 and 2000, the average daytime temperature in Southern California has gone up by three degrees, Patzert said. But nighttime averages have risen by seven degrees. read more

Natural Cooling

Who would have thought we’d have to think of natural cooling methods? Since living out here (since 1984) we really didn’t need any such cooling devices. Our pre-AC house with its walk in cellar, big attic and nice high ceilings–well, we were doing just fine.   Sure there were a few days where it got a bit uncomfortable – but this– two straight weeks– is ridiculous!   If this weather pattern is now the norm, well, then, we’ll have to look into natural cooling options. There are many folks we know, for instance, my knitting mentor, one who has lived in So Cal practically all her life and has lived w/o AC.   Well, she even had to break down and buy a floor fan to survive the intense humidity. Many years ago (think it was on KCET) a local guy laid in pipes under his lawn to draw the cool air from underground to pipe it into his house. In such humid climates like Florida and Louisiana (where we are from) old houses were built to deal with the humidity. Sleeping a hammock sounds good right about now – sleeping on top of the bed just doesn’t cut it.


B.A.C (before AC) this simple solution kept you cool and had a language all of its own. Much more personal than a big (and noisy) AC unit.
BTW: a heavy piece of paper works well also and these days such weight of papers are sought in our home to keep us cool.

You’re always cool with a fan {GuardianUK}

The latest development, then, is more than just another facet of the 80s revival, and has taken retro cool back a few centuries further. The folding fan was invented in Japan in the eighth century and taken to China in the ninth. It was 400 years before hand-held fans were reintroduced to Europe, brought back from the Middle East by Crusaders and, in the 15th century, Portuguese traders, who carried them from China and Japan. By the 17th century you can see fans in many portraits of high-society women.
The most heartening aspect of the recent revival, however, is that it may also resuscitate the forgotten art of “fan language” – an array of gestures, popular in Victorian times.
read more

Saving water

Water Wise II

Jules attached a hose to ourhand washer/wringer so now we don’t have to lug water from the back deck to the surrounding edible shrubs and trees.   Hey, but we liked the exercise – now we are going to have to find something else that’s heavy to care to keep our arms looking nice and lean.   Anyhow, back on the subject, the used wash water (that contains biodegradable soap) now empties out underneath the dwarf avocado and collection of dwarf bananas. Underneath the avocado Jules plans to plant blueberries (which you see – but they are in pots at the moment).  

The hand washer/wringer we’ve had for, oh, I’d say two years now. It’s easy to use if you plan it right. We found that if you soak the clothes (with water heated by our sun oven) and then agitate the load a few times, clothes come out quite clean. Of course you can’t use this washer for many heavy items like jeans or blankets – but it works well for t-shirts, light dresses, skirts, khaki’s, underwear, socks.

Drying clothes is not a problem. Having lived without an electric dryer all our lives, it’s only natural that we hang the clothes outside in the sunshine using a clothes line accordion-style wooden racks.

Hand power

Back to basics

On Sunday we whipped out ourhand cranked blender and made a huge batch of pesto (about 6 cups!) We are Planning on eating that up this week along with heirloom tomatoes.   If we can’t finish it then, I’ll just freeze the rest.

Besides the fridge, our kitchen has no (zip, nadda) plug in appliances (no microwave, toaster, food processor – nothing)   We like it that way.  Less clutter, less maintenance, less noise, less cost to the environment.   Instead, we rely on good old fashioned arm power – keeps those arms looking good without having to go to the gym and work out.  

In the kitchen there’s an old time vegetable “cooler” which was a useful asset in pre-war homes during the “pre-fridge” era. The ingenious cabinet is great for keeping vegetables and fruit fresh. It outwardly appears to be an ordinary kitchen cabinet but the shelves inside are made of wire mesh or evenly spaced wood slates. At the bottom, there is a vent opening into the cellar and at the top, an opening to the attic. This allows a natural cooling air flow which is a very sensible arrangement that has all been forgotten by modern builders. This floor to ceiling sure comes in handy when the harvest comes in.


What’s In Your Cabinet?

We’ve always, since I can remember, have lived very basic and simple lives.   Much of our furniture and “decorations” are either hand-me-downs, inherited, second hand purchases, found alongside the road, or handmade. Our two sofas in the living room are miss-matched (one second hand, the other found on the curb); however, no one know because of the matching slip covers. The curtain accents are made from bed sheets.

Even with such simple values, we still find over time that we collect stuff. But when it comes to purchases, we try to keep things simple. Take for instance our bathroom “cabinet” where we keep most of the beauty and hygiene stuff.     You won’t find make up, hair spray, hair dryers or electric shavers.   Instead:, homemade soap, homemade deodorant, homemade “baby powder,” homemade toothpaste,  straight razor, hand shears, lotion, toothpowder, mineral deodorant rock, a small bottle of natural blemish cream to hide the occasional bump or rash, royal jelly, and toothbrushes. Recalling our experience in New Orleans 45 days after the flood waters receded, where the bathrooms and kitchens were the most disgusting rooms to clean (having to go through the cabinets [gross]) we wondered if we do really need all these products.   How’d they survive  over 50 years ago without aisles and aisles of hygiene and beauty products. We’ve learned through our many camping outings (and train trips across country) – pack light, go with the basics and you learn you can survive just fine.   We find that we don’t need more of this or different type of that – less is better.

Beneficial visitor


As our long time readers know we all have a long standing fondness for bees — and raw honey (Jules started beekeeping in New Zealand in the mid 70’s and continued to keep hives for 15 years — even right here in Pasadena!), so we always take notice of articles like this one:


Buzz Kill: Wild Bees and Flowers Disappearing, Study Says {National Geographic}

Parents may soon be telling their kids about the birds and the … birds.Bees—and the flowers they pollinate—are disappearing, according to a new study of bee diversity. The results raise concerns about food crops and plant communities that rely on animal pollinators to reproduce.
…They found that bee diversity has declined at nearly 80 percent of the sites.
read more

No Comments

  1. JBB says:

    Another old-time tradition that’s still carried on in some African-American churches is the use of hand-held fans to keep cool. This is an interesting WSJ article about the advertising on the fans, as well as their cultural significance:

  2. Peggy says:

    I have used a hand held fan in the recent past. I was thinking about carrying it with me more often with this latest heat wave. Unfortunately, I must also carry a sweater as many places are too cold! My husband and I live a rather simple life, out of choice. I appreciate you sharing yours. Thank you.

  3. Esther says:

    Well, some bees set up house under our roof! We now have to invest $$$ to have a hole made in the roof to get the probably sizeable hive out and have the roof fixed again.

    They entered our home through a ceiling lamp in a walk in closet…. strange bees!

    Conc. laundry: with three young children, laundry piles up quick. I’m glad I have a electrical washer but I now wash on cool temperatures…
    Did you already see An Inconvenient Truth?

  4. Wildside says:

    I would have bees despite of private spot to house them; I dream of having bees — but my neighbor is deathly allergic! Last week she told me a secret — last year she was rushed to the emergency room due to bee sting even. Best to give this one up… Perhaps along with goats. But I’m still dreaming on that one!

    Yep, you win. I doubt my life will ever be as simple as yours! Though my neighbors think me too minimalistic…