It’s a jungle in there (a letter to Grace)

Plant with mold issues is in lower left corner.

Plant with mold issues is in lower left corner.

Dear Grace,

How is your visit going? I hope you and Howard are nestling in a sturdy shelter as the nor’easter rolls in. But then, I suppose Cape Breton houses are used to bearing the brunt of storms. With all that rain, you must be enjoying lots of cozy talks with your sister.

You’ll be happy to know that the four overwintering new guinea impatiens from your garden have now been joined by eight more from Tucker’s. That way, if the one poorly impatiens doesn’t make it through the winter, there’s a chance one of the others will and you’ll still get four for the spring.

I waited until the soil in the poorly plant dried out, and then watered it from the bottom. I’m hoping that if I don’t water the top of the soil, the mold that covered it will die out. That plant is in its own roast chicken tray where I can keep an eye on it.

Three stick-figure impatiens, tiny but tenacious.

Three stick-figure impatiens, tiny but tenacious.

I’m so glad you told me about cutting back the plants to keep them from getting spindly. That’s something I didn’t do with the three that survived last year’s housing, and although they’re still alive and bloomed all summer, they pretty much looked like a child’s drawing of pink blotches on sticks. Am still deciding whether to bring them in as well, and see if I can get them to branch out.

Mother and daughter dracaenas, dressed in designer cache-pots.

Mother and daughter dracaenas, dressed in designer cache-pots.

I’ve also brought home the dracaena spike from Tucker’s windowbox planter. I was surprised when potting “it” to find two, not one, dracaena. They were growing so close together that I’m guessing they’re mother and daughter plants. The pretty gallon pots I placed them in almost look too big for them, whereas the dracaena coming inside for its second winter needed potting up.

The rootbound dracaena has been moved from a gallon container to this bigger, beige model.

The rootbound dracaena has been moved from a gallon container to this bigger, beige model.

The oldest dracaena, in for its third winter, should take some time to outgrow its purple pot. Anyway, if you’d like a spike come springtime, you’re welcome to it.

Have a good visit with your family, and safe home.
– Dandyknife.

Pause Without Caws

"Wait for me, Philbert, just a few more..."

“Wait for me, Philbert, just a few more…”

I was studying my shed plans in the living room when these two crows landed in the mountain ash that grows on the far side of the parking pad. Hard to miss them, really, the slender branches under their heft providing a midway ride along with the snack.

The crows were kind enough to wait while I grabbed the camera. Just one quick snap before Philbert, now bored with the berries, flew on and Dennison followed. Two doors up, a maple tree blazed the news that Autumn is well underway.

Why whispering during choir practice doesn’t work

I just can't decide: hook and eye, or cup hook?

I just can’t decide: hook and eye, or cup hook?

Last night at choir practice, I sat beside one of the better-behaved altos. Sheila and I both try not to be disruptive while our choirmaster, Tucker, works with the other sections. We try not to talk aloud or shift around in our seats or flick elastics or do anything else that might distract the work going on around us.

No sense being unfriendly, though.

So when Tucker started going over the tenor and bass parts on a new Christmas anthem, I slanted towards Sheila and informed her, triple piano, that Carl had been over in the morning and sawn up all the 2x4s that I had marked with cut-lines this past week.

Sheila signaled her rejoicing with me by widening her eyes, smiling, nodding gently, and mouthing the word “Good!”

At about that moment, the paving on our road of good intentions started giving way.

First, Sheila said something I didn’t catch one word of.

“Sorry?”

Sheila tried again, carefully enunciating each word.

“I had 2×2 bras today.”

What???”

“I never knew those would shrink when losing weight.”

Well, they certainly might warp if they aren’t kiln-dried, but…

Hang on…

I started convulsing with silent laughter. Yanking a sheet of paper out of my choir folder, I scribbled what I had understood in the context. I was talking about 2x4s, and you said you had 2×2 bras.

By that time, of course, I had figured out that she had said, “I had to buy two bras today.”

So much for behaving ourselves.

Forever Rafter, or, Measure Twice, Think Again

So. A windowsill and a header. Three pieces of two-by-four (two for the header, one for the sill) cut to the same length. They run horizontally between the 16″ stud and the 64″ stud, so that’s 64 minus 16 would be… umm… yeah, forty-eight inches.

WAIT!!!!!!!

Make that forty-six and-a-half inches. The studs are 16″ and 64″, respectively, on centre. A stud is one and-a-half inches wide, subtract half the stud width from each end of your erroneous forty-eight inches, that makes forty-six and-a-half.

Now that you, dear readers, understand how good my math is, not to mention my prowess in carpentry, you won’t be surprised to learn that it took me a mere two full days to make a prototype rafter.

After all, how hard could it be? One chunk of two-by-four with slanty ends and a notch. And all the measurements and angles are calculated for you on a webpage.

How hard could it be? Below you will find a pictorial representation of how hard it felt.

Simply calculate the angles and lengths of these 23 pieces of wood, mark the lines with a ripe banana, saw the pieces with a nail file and fasten them with quarter-inch dowelling, and voilĂ ! You're done.

Simply calculate the angles and lengths of these 23 pieces of wood, mark the lines with a ripe banana, saw the pieces with a nail file and fasten them with quarter-inch dowelling, and voilĂ ! You’re done.

On the other hand, the task having been that difficult to begin with made me all the prouder when I finally got it right. See how the notch perches so nicely, and the higher end rests flush (enough) against the wall with nothing else holding the rafter up?

Shiny, happy rafter.

Shiny, happy rafter.

The rafter is spending the night in the mudroom. It’s that special.

We interrupt this construction site to bring you supper

A turnover with attitude.

A turnover with attitude.

Rainy today. Played with weatherstripping. Read blogs. Coveted pasta.

Chicago John has posted a recipe for duck ravioli which, if the Superstore actually had ducks in its frozen meats section like last week’s flyer advertised, I would have made for today’s supper.

I'm too tired to come up with a funny caption here. Any takers?

I’m too tired to come up with a funny caption here. Any takers?


But if you think that stopped me, you don’t know Dandyknife!

I veered slightly from John’s recipe. Okay, I modified it till it’s unrecognizable. My filling has leftover rotisserie chicken (BBQ spiced), chorizo sausage, an avocado, some thickened-by-draining plain yogurt, and some mashed roasted butternut squash.

But it DOES have the egg John suggested, scout’s honour!

On the other hand, his mother’s pasta dough recipe was followed to the letter.

Aren't they adorable?

Aren’t they adorable?

The raviolis are now resting under a tea towel, waiting for a plunge into boiling water and a slathering with pesto.

I’m waiting too, though not under a tea towel; too hard to type that way.

I made a half batch of the dough, to match what was originally intended to be a half batch of ravioli filling. Never mind, the leftover filling already tastes so much like chicken salad, why not throw a few frozen peas at it, make a quick pie crust, and bake it?

Tape measure crashing the photo. I found it on a basement rafter a year after we moved here. I'd probably have behaviour problems too if I had gone through what it did.

Tape measure crashing the photo. I found it on a basement rafter a year after we moved here. I’d probably have behaviour problems too if I had gone through what it did.


And so I did. That way, if the raviolis come apart and we accidentally end up with club-sandwich soup, there will be something else for E.g. to sink her teeth into.

Busy work week again. Supper’s ready, E.g., any time you are!

Just don't tell them it's ravioli pie.

Just don’t tell them it’s ravioli pie.

Well, I’m Floored

A good foot off the ground.

A good foot off the ground.

Carl came over today to help with Maud’s Place. That’s as much of him, in the photo above, as he wanted made public.

I measured and marked boards, and he took his circular saw to them. I marked off sixteen-inch centres on the two rim joists, and we drilled pilot holes in them. One cross-joist at a time, he screwed one end to the rim joist and then came around to steady the other end while I screwed the other end.

That was the easy part. The fiddlier part was getting the two sheets of plywood and the joists all squared up before screwing down the plywood. The test for squareness is to measure the two diagonals; they should be the same length. Anyway, we got it.

Then we framed the first wall, the one that has neither door nor window. That’s what Carl has his foot on in the photo. Finally, we carried two sheets of half-inch plywood around and just set them on the frame without nailing them in, so I can frame another wall — or two, or three — on that nice flat, raised surface.

Carl left at 3. I tarped the whole thing against tomorrow’s rain. Then I came inside and scrubbed some veggies to roast in the oven for supper.

Sunday afternoon and all day Monday I spent in the garage or the basement, cleaning up and tossing junk, so it won’t surprise you that by the end of this workday, those veggies in the colander were holding some weird discussions.

"You know I'm rooting for you." "Why? Beets me why you carrot all." "I think things are coming to a head." "Oh just draw the nightshade, all of you, and get some sleep."

“You know I’m rooting for you.”
“Why? Beets me why you carrot all.”
“I think things are coming to a head.”
“Oh just draw the nightshade, all of you, and get some sleep.”

It’s Getting So’s You Can’t Trust Anyone

Police are investigating a robbery in the city's North End.

Police are investigating a robbery in the city’s North End.

In-house cameras show a brown-haired male, of slim build and approximately sixteen inches tall, removing leaves and vines from a trellis holding scarlet runner bean plants.

In-house cameras show a brown-haired male, of slim build and approximately sixteen inches tall, removing leaves and vines from a trellis holding scarlet runner bean plants.

Suspect has white feet and tail tip, and is believed to have an accomplice acting as lookout.

Suspect has white feet and tail tip, and is believed to have an accomplice acting as lookout.

Anyone with knowledge of someone fitting this description is advised to call police. Suspect could be dangerous.

Anyone with knowledge of someone fitting this description is advised to call police. Suspect could be dangerous.