Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Food Out of the Dirt

My poor garden's definitely been neglected this past summer. I think I applied Miracle-Gro maybe once.

Still, the veggies are coming on in spite of me, and this year as in all gardening years I am continually amazed that I can go get food right out of the backyard.

What astonishes me most of all is potatoes. There they are, food in the dirt! Reach in, scrabble around a bit, and there it is-- dinner! Some say they're not worth planting. That you can get them cheaper at the store. But these came from some Aldi's potatoes that sprouted, and I've already got more than I planted, despite my neglect. And these buried gems are firm and fresh and hard and smooth, not slightly soft and contorted and covered with eyes.

Tonight's potato morphed into french fries. Or should I say, nice, fluffy-on-the-inside, crisp on the outside, English-style, Delia-Smith-recipe chips. With a shrimp stir-fry featuring mushrooms, eggplant, and yellow peppers, the last two also from my backyard larder.

I'd better enjoy it while I may. The dreaded f-word (no, not that one!) was mentioned on the weather report yesterday and while the Brussels sprouts might enjoy a spot of nippiness, the peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes will not.

(Good grief, it's only the end of September; lighten up with the cold weather, all right already!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not on the Agenda

This evening as I was finishing up supper, the phone rang. I'm not very good at long phone calls; at least, I'm not very good at just sitting still and being on the phone. I also have to move around and do things. Load the dishwasher. Wipe down cabinets. Pet kittehs. This was a longish call, and while I was listening and talking, I started picking at the dining room wallpaper.

A few weeks ago I discovered that given a fairly humid day, whatever dining room wallpaper is hung over plaster will come off rather easily. Tonight, it wasn't that damp here in southwestern Pennsylvania, so I took the phone into the living room ("Yes, right . . . uh-uh, and what happened then? . . . . ") to see what luck I'd have there.

Oh, yeah, this was nice. Peel, peel, peel. Look how easily that boring beige printed moiré paper comes down! By the time the caller rang off I had it all off the lower part of northwest corner of the living room, both walls.

Stripping wallpaper wasn't on the agenda for this evening. I was going to do ironing. Lots of it. But as long as I was at it and things were going so well, why not bring in the step stool and finish these areas at the top? And around the north of the chimney breast? And hey, why not let 'er rip on the chimney breast itself?

So on I went, and the paper came off. But as I was working on the center of the chimney breast, I noticed something. The paper I was removing was damp. And so was the wall under it. At least, the paste under it was damp.

Then, what's this? Here's another dampish place a little lower, where the finish coat of the plaster seems loose.

What the-- ? This I do not understand. My POs-1 put this paper up at least twenty years ago. The paste should be dry. Moreover, this plaster is on brickwork that's on the inside of the chimney. There are no plumbing pipes on the second floor above this, and it hasn't rained around here for two or three weeks. The plaster itself isn't staring with wet, nor is it mouldy or yellowed. But it's unquestionably damp.

Where is it coming from? Is my chimney leaking from above, and is there some pocket in the chimney that's catching water and slowly letting it in? I know the west wall of the house needs repointed sometime. But please, God, do I have to have it done now?

I'll come back and feel it in the morning. Messing with masonry is not in the budget! Nor is it on the agenda. Dry, rot you, dry!!