"Years ago," wheezed the oldster, arthritic knuckles whitening on the handle of the deluxe walker. "Years ago, artists had to use rubylith to separate each color for a color print."
Honking into a worn handkerchief, the dusty wheezer raised watery eyes and continued. "Hours I spent over a drafting table, X-Acto blade in hand, separating colors. The eye-hand coordination alone --!"
After a long pause, the lecture continued. "It took years to learn the tricks of the trade. Nowadays, all it takes is a ninety-nine cent app. Putting artists out of business. I don't know how they make a living any more."
Yeah, artists mostly don't make a living.
In honor of all of us antiquities who remember cutting ruby to separate colors, here's a timelapse video of the Rubylith process...
But those 99-cent apps are really fun:
In this highly digitized age, it's nigh on impossible to grasp the amount of work that went into, for instance, the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. This link describes the Technicolor process.
Such an effort to give the viewing public ruby slippers!
*The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1 1851-1864, (Univ. of California Press, 1979)
But at the top of mind, there's the question of the couch. At least for me, anyhow, New Year's is a couch issue.
It's like the pull of an annual migration, or whatever impulse that makes bears and porcupines wake up in the spring. Midwinter and its myriad festivals of light and sugar-cookies pass and I look around with a sense of urgency like a vulgar itch. It's time to rearrange the furniture.
At the literal end of the day this year, the living room is still in a bit of disarray. Turns out the little red chair and foot-stool were ready to retire. Ten years of service in a home-made slipcover? Okay, then, go on, thrift-store find, thanks for your service!
Plus, the inexpensive IKEA rug I picked up to cover more square footage of the plywood floor is –– to the inch –– the exact same inexpensive IKEA rug I have had for four years. Whoops. (A foolish consistency would be the hobgoblin of little minds, just ask Ralph Waldo Emerson, but this? This consistency shows unflappable design taste, baby.)
But the drive is wearing off. I think the impulse that kept me hustling around the house today is almost the opposite of a resolution: I make no promises for the coming year. The work is done, aside from returning that rug and a bit more cleaning. In the coming weeks, I'll be utterly guilt-free as I think less and less about the process. And by May, I too will have forgotten humbug promises and the shiny sense of a whole new year full of potential and improvement.
Still, something had to be done. A fan of direction and themes, I set myself a design goal: cozy and fresh and comfortable. Not fussy. Not mortifyingly dated or dingy. Machine-washable.
The settee cushions went to local upholsterer, as I knew I'd make hash of the long zippers. I did the rest of the sewing, with some help from my favorite sailmaker.
How long did it take? Probably longer than I think: taping the whole cabin was a full afternoon, but each coat of paint was a matter of an hour. Four coats of paint including primer, five when I went the wrong way with my choice of color.
I was hesitant about drilling holes in the walls until it occurred to me: this is a 2006 truck. What could I possibly do to make the interior design worse?
Here's how it turned out so far. Still some things left, but that's home life.
Back in those days, rural Jefferson County had no public sanitary service: no town dump, no curbside pick-up, no recycling centers.
This was also (mostly) before plastic, so the sheer volume of garbage produced by a family was a fraction of what it is today.
Between midden heaps and melting metal, the Would-Be Farm is giving us a rich archeological site to mine.
The barn has been a collapsed wreck for thirty years or more. Locals who come visit don't even remember even when it went. It's a little mystery.
This spring, we hired a guy with a very large excavator to clear out the old foundation and haul the detritus away.
The old foundation area was chock-full of ancient roofing material, twisted sheets of metal, honeysuckle trees, tumbled rocks, pipes, and miscellany.
The man with the excavator (and dump trucks!) showed up while we were racing sailboats in Massachusetts. By the time we arrived back on the farm, only an invoice, some dents in the turf, and a void remained.
Knowing how brambles quickly re-colonize an area, we got to work clearing the rocks* that had tumbled outward from the collapsed western and southern sides of the old foundation. Decades of fallen leaves helped the old timbers and cow manure compost itself into some good-looking soil. We took the opportunity to carve out more garden space.
(*Rock-picking. One of the harder jobs on a farm. Oddly, it did not seem incongruous for me to find myself, decades and degrees later, once again picking rocks from the clay soil of the North Country.)
My friend Len has a metal detector that he uses to great effect. He often sends snapshots of his latest hauls: delicate, old-fashioned ladies' rings, coins, lead weights he's saving for Mr. Linton.
My metal detector is less refined: I use a big magnet on a length of twine.
There's a decided "clink" when a rusty nail jumps onto the magnet. And then there's the odd pull when the metal is too big to heave itself from its bed.
I can't resist saving these things.
The metal chunks range from the obvious –– hinges and horseshoes –– to the arcane.
Nails were evidently cheap, and our guys never used one nail when three were possible.
Astonishing amounts of leather survive, the linseed oil preserving the bits of harness and halters even after half a century or more.
So much peculiar loot! We could open our own Agricultural museum –– or stock a display case or two at least. Until then, we have a level spot to park the tractor, a stretch of reclaimed field, and a new couple of gardens.
I am thinking horseradish and rhubarb, plus a protected winter bed for daffodils and iris. Ahhhh.
It took two and a half years of procrastination and one short day of work to get solar power at the Would-Be Farm.
Some readers may remember our solar ambitions and my brief return to calculus. What I neglected to mention is that I didn't finish that class. Stupidly enough, I lost my notes from class while transporting myself and the late small dog across the Philadelphia International Airport.
I know: duh.
Anyhow, the notebook contained my calculations for the first weeks of class as well as the splattered remains of those four brave brave brain-cells that had remembered something about calculus. I honestly couldn't face doing that homework over again. Never mind the work for the rest of the semester.
I was raised to look for solutions in the pages of a book. Thank you, O Beloved Bookworm!
So, to book! The class in solar system design was actually a bit of overkill. I just wanted to set up a couple of batteries and some panels so that we could have light and be able to re-charge our electronics.
(Oh, which reminds me of this potty-mouthed and funny political Tweet. )
The go-to-solution book this time was Stand-Alone Solar Energy by Oliver Style, a clearly-written, solution-oriented reference that focused on installing systems in remote, underdeveloped areas with ITACA and Concern America.
So, two panels, a controller mounted on the side of Base Camp, two batteries, an inverter, and poof: we have power for the water pump, lights, various small electronics, and we can charge battery packs for our power-tools.
Utility! Civilization! No unsightly power-lines and no monthly bill.
And as if their great-grandparents didn't say the same damn thing about the egg-head scientist working on penicillin, chemo-therapy, seat-belts, gel insoles. Jupiter!
Imagine sitting in the tiered seat of a dark movie theater late at night. You are among a group of outgoing, cheerful, and odd strangers. It's a scene. Then begins a not-quite-chaotic game of call-and-response that seems a little like magic.
People in the theatre make a suggestion or ask a question, and the movie provides an answer.
"What's your favorite Ivy League?" the crowd hollers in unison and up pops the Columbia Pictures icon.
It's a giddy, cheerful experience that blurrs the line between watching a performance and becoming the performance.
We have no particular audience cheering us on at the Would-Be Farm, and heaven knows our meals are both low-drama and Meatloaf-free, still, this tangent eventually leads to the Would-Be Farm...
Mr. Linton and I ventured North for Thanksgiving. We deep-fried a turkey, played in the snow, made pie, and visited folks we care about.
And while we were up there, we fired up the chainsaw and did some more upkeep on the elderly apple orchards that came with the Farm. It's a long process, as these trees were left to run wild for decades. When we first found them, the trees were scraggly and snarled and over-crowded.
Three years later, they are slightly less so, but –– evidently –– the Would-Be Farm will always call for some level of lumberjack work.
The process goes like this: I'll select a branch or a whole tree that needs to go. If I can use the loppers, I'll nip the bit off, but the big stuff I leave for Jeff and the chainsaw.
Unless my skill as a sawhorse is required, I generally watch Jeff work from a short distance away and wring my hands.
It's not an irrational fear of power-tools. I once saw the result of a chainsaw rearing back and catching someone in the leg. Yurp. Anyhow, each time he leans over the chainsaw to yank on the pull-cord, the phrase "Transvestites, start your engines," drifts idly across my mind. I rarely say it aloud, but it's a bit of comfort for a worrier.
We dodged disaster again this trip, and left giant piles of brush for the wildlife to enjoy over the winter. Some of the logs we made last year got hauled back to basecamp, and I only wish there were a scratch-and-sniff option on the internet to share the scent of that apple-wood as it burns in the campfire.
So there are presently two foils extending from the sides of the boat. They resemble the tipped wings of some airplanes.
To put them in, the fellas first cut a pair of holes in the sides of the boat and then fitted them with daggerboard trunks from an A-Cat.
Why yes, it does seem ironic to cut holes into the hull of a boat that was a good floater. But progress is not made without some revolutionary thinking.
When the team chooses not to use the foils, they can seal off these slots with a strip of tape. Good old duct tape would do, though they are more likely to use Insignia sail tape.
A few test-runs (thanks to guest test-pilots Bill Wingrove, John Paulson, Ben Givens, and Dave Clement) to adjust the angle of attack, and poof! The bow lifts to reduce wetted surface and make Spawn a more stable creature.
The team will take to the water this coming weekend for a longish trial. Crossing fingers for good sailing weather.
The "fun size" candies start coming home as early as mid-September.
I'm a sucker for a good deal, and it's appealing to load up on the cornucopian selection of kid-sized chocolate bars in the grocery store. Probably a signifier for an under-served childhood.
And without fail, the supply fails to meet the trick-or-treating demand. Somehow, we find ourselves in a darkened house with only three or four dejected-looking candies lurking at the bottom of orange plastic jack-o-lantern when the sun sets.
And with this annual candy ritual complete, we mark the halfway point of the football season. Followed rapidly by the slightly panicky realization that the Earth has nearly completed its annual circuit.
ABout the Blog
A lot of ground gets covered on this blog -- from sailboat racing to book suggestions to plain old piffle.
Trying to keep track? Follow me on Facebook or Twitter or use the RSS option below.