Tag Archives: House Work

Four Family Clocks

We have four old family clocks, two of which work and one of which chimes. The sound of the two ticks and the chimes fills our downstairs with small comforting noises, even when everyone is silently interacting with their computing devices. The clocks keep time but not with each other. It is somewhat like how Terry Pratchett describes the clocks in his fictional city of Ankh-Morpork on the Discworld,

“Noon in Ankh-Morpork took some time, since twelve o’clock was established by consensus. Generally, the first bell to start was that one in the Teachers’ Guild, in response to the universal prayers of its members. Then the water clock on the Temple of Small Gods would trigger the big bronze gong. The black bell in the Temple of Fate struck once, unexpectedly, but by then the silver pedal-driven carillon in the Fools’ Guild would be tinkling, the gongs, bells and chimes of all the Guilds and temples would be in full swing, and it was impossible to tell them apart, except for the tongueless and magical octiron bell of Old Tom in the Unseen University clock tower, whose twelve measured silences temporarily overruled the din. And finally, several strokes behind all the others, was the bell of the Assassin’s Guild, which was always last.” (Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms, 1993).

The Junghans chiming mantle clock was a wedding present in 2000 from John’s parents. It was purchased by John’s great-grandfather Johannes Plocher in Holzhauzen, Germany. Joannes and his wife Anna gave it to their son (John’s grandfather), Karl on his wedding Adelia, in 1930. I love the art deco design on the clockworks inside the case.

I bought the Gilbert wall clock in 2008 as a birthday present for John. The clock itself is from about 1915. The Western Pacific glass is not original but is one of the reasons we like it, since we own WP668, a Western Pacific caboose. John winds up his Junghans and Gilbert clocks every week.

The two clocks which have stopped working are from my family. One is a gilt metal Rococo style clock that my father’s mother, Gladys Grace Oakes Dickinson, loved. The other is an ornate horseman clock that my mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, had since I was young. Surprisingly, even though they are from different parts of my family, both were made by the New Haven Clock Company, probably over a hundred years ago.

Web search results showing many horse-only New Haven Clocks

Update: I have been looking for more information about the New Haven Clock with the ornate warrior horseman figure. I found that a version of this clock with the exact same horse but no rider is relatively common. All of the versions I have found on the web have a top piece above the clock that is missing on ours. Sometimes the horse is on the right and sometimes on the left of the clock on the pedestal. I still have not found an exact match. My Aunt Louise Creekmore Senatore read my blog and wrote that her father (my grandfather), Robert Elmond Creekmore, was once its owner in Knoxville, Tennessee, “the Ornate Horseman clock was on my Dad’s bureau for years when I was a child. It traveled with us to Windgate (1964), stayed on his bureau, and Eleanor asked Mom for it when Dad passed away (1976).”

I found this tiny, blurry thumbnail photo on the web of a gilded variant of our clock but it is on a dead website. Still hunting for more information!

New Haven Gilt Clock, horseman figure

(None of these clocks is for sale – please do not ask.)

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Updated 20 Oct 2020

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Micro Farm Update

Katy Dickinson micro farm San Jose CA June 2020

My Willow Glen micro farm is thriving. I usually grow cactus, and herbs like fennel, rosemary, and sage. Since we are mostly staying home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am taking the opportunity to grow vegetables. I started this project in April by converting a section of our little orchard. The first fruits of my farming efforts are cherry tomatoes and delicata squash. Both indicate their readiness by a color change. The tomatoes shift from green to yellow to red. The delicata squash start white and develop green lines as they mature.  The tallest plants are sunflowers, which are currently competing with the apple tree for head room. I am expecting beans, peas, corn, and watermelon over time.

Katy Dickinson delicata squash San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson delicata squash San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson cherry tomatoes San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson cherry tomatoes San Jose CA June 2020

Katy Dickinson cactus blooms San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson fennel San Jose CA June 2020

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Reading _The Plague_

In 2012, we had a mouse infestation in our home, one of the potential downsides of pet birds. I was thinking of this when our book club read The Plague by Albert Camus  (in which the bubonic plague starts with rats). Plague and pestilence books have been popular during the Coronavirus pandemic, with book recommendations lists being widely published. We read sections of Camus’ 1947 book in last semester’s “God and Suffering” class at GTU‘s Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology (DSPT). Ironically, The Plague was part of the reading list for the class before Covid-19 came upon us. It seems to me that in the months since the pandemic started, we have slowly become like the people of Camus’ town of Oran in Algeria who, “in the very heart of the epidemic… maintained a saving indifference, which one was tempted to take for composure.”

The Plague‘s narrator ends with qualified optimism,

He “…resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply what we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.

None the less, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”

While our community has become less focused on the pandemic and has turned to other matters, I pray that we continue to honor and support the heroic doctors and health workers who are still fighting Covid-19.

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Images Copyright 2012 by Katy Dickinson.

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New Sewing Machine

Since it seems that Covid-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, I bought a new sewing machine. Every time I wanted to make a face mask, or hem some pants, my old one would jam – even after having it repaired. So, John and I did some research and bought a Singer CG590 Commercial Grade Sewing Machine.

I used it yesterday to make four more face masks and hem two pairs of pants. It works very well – even sewing through several layers of denim. I decided I did not need any fancy stitches because in twenty years I never used those features on my old machine. (How many times do you really need to embroider ducks?) Straight, zigzag, and button hole are enough for me. Other than wanting the person who created the threading instructions to go to remedial art school, I am happy with my purchase! It is very similar to the machines I used in my high school sewing class – sturdy, simple, and heavy.

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Willow Glen Garden Redesign, 5 Years Later

Willow Glen Garden Redesign Plan 17 June 2015Redesign Plan 17 June 2015

Five years ago, I redesigned our front garden for water conservation. Partly as a result of my recent experience with a Pacific School of Religion class project helping to plant a food garden for The Village curbside community, aka homeless encampment, in Oakland, I was inspired to replant some of my own garden in Willow Glen (San Jose, California). John Plocher and I had to reroute the watering lines. I also had to remove couch and Bermuda grass volunteers, and relocate the many big pink worms that get mixed up in the work.

My 2015 plant list included:

  • Achillea tomentosa – woolly yarrow (yellow/grey) – still thriving
  • Agapanthus inapertus (purple) – still thriving
  • Bearded iris (red and purple and yellow and white) – still thriving
  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica, orange) – still thriving
  • Dymondia margaretae (yellow/grey) – removed, could not take the heat
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens – Blue oat grass – removed, could not take the heat
  • Lantana (purple) – still thriving
  • Lavender (Lavandula – purple, of course) – still thriving
  • Muhlenbergia rigens – deer grass – removed, got too big
  • Narcissus – daffodils (yellow – full size) – still thriving
  • Verbena lilacina (purple) – replaced twice and finally removed, could not take the heat
  • Verbena peruviana (red) – replaced twice and finally removed, could not take the heat
  • Phormium – flax (purple/brown) – died and was replaced with a similar plant

What I have now includes more California natives, which I hope will handle San Jose’s increasingly hot summers better.* New additions are in bold:

  • Achillea Millefolium “Sonoma Coast creeping yarrow”  (California native, white)
  • Achillea Tomentosa – woolly yarrow (yellow/grey)
  • Agapanthus inapertus (purple)
  • Bearded iris (red and purple and yellow and white)
  • California Poppy (California native, Eschscholzia californica, orange and yellow)
  • Ceanothus hearstiorum “Hearst Ranch buckbrush” (California native, from San Luis Obispo County, purple)
  • Ceanothus megacarpus “Bigpod ceanothus” (California native, from the Central Coast and Channel Islands, white)
  • Echium wildpretii “Tower of Jewels” (red)
  • Lantana (purple)
  • Lavender (Lavandula – purple, of course)
  • Manzanita “Emerald Carpet” (California native, from Mendocino County, Arcostaphylos, white flowers, red fruit and bark)
  • Narcissus – daffodils – full size (yellow)
  • Narcissus “Tete Tete” – miniature daffodils (yellow)
  • Penstemon baccharifolius “Rock penstemon” (a Texas plant, but the only red bloom that day in Yamagami’s Nursery natives section)
  • Phormium – flax (pink/brown)

On 9 February, I took out three of the lantana and replaced them with low-growing manzanita, which is a California native that I hope will be less bushy and aggressive. There are still two of the lantana, much pruned back.

* “San Jose will go from having 7 days a year on average above a heat index of 90 degrees between 1971 and 2000 to 24 days a year by mid-century and 53 days by late century, at the current rate of emissions.” – Paul Rogers, “Bay Area likely to see more 100+ degree days in coming years, new study finds,” The Mercury News, 16 July 2019.

Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 10 Nov 201510 Nov 2015
Willow Glen Garden, San Jose, California 4 Feb 20204 Feb 2020
Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 10 Nov 201510 Nov 2015
Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 4 Feb 20204 Feb 2020
Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 9 Feb 20209 Feb 2020
Daffodils, San Jose, California, 29 Jan 2020Daffodils, 4 Feb 2020
Princess Cat, 29 January 2020Princess, the Garden Guardian, 2020

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Images Copyright 2015-2020 by Katy Dickinson.

9 Feb 2020 – added a photos of 3 new manzanita

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Lighting a Stained Glass Panel

Detail stained glass panel by Vince Taylor 2004

Lighting a big stained glass panel is tricky. You want the light to be warm and even across the surface to show off the colors and and patterns. Museums like The Richard H. Driehaus Gallery of Stained Glass at Chicago’s Navy Pier feature custom light boxes to present their masterpieces. Those of us with stained glass built into our homes as windows need another solution that addresses inside/outside light and darkness.  The glass should look good from both inside and out: a gift to the street.

Our architectural stained glass was created by Vince Taylor, starting in 2004 with a big panel in the dining room plus a smaller panel in our front door. In addition to being lovely, the panels provide privacy from the street and help reduce the heat and glare from direct sunlight on the hottest side of the house.

John tried lighting the big panel in a variety of unsatisfactory ways until he settled on LED strips around the edge. These work the best of the options we have tried – providing a warm and inexpensive light source – but the strips become brittle in sunlight in about five years. Today, John replaced the set.

This is Vince Taylor checking up on the big panel in 2012:
Vince Taylor with stained glass 2012

New LED strips going in:
LED strips

John installing new LED lights on stained glass panel 1 Aug 2016

5 year old LED strips in the trash:
degraded LED strips

Detail stained glass panel by Vince Taylor 2004

Front door stained glass panel by Vince Taylor 2004

Added 2 August 2016: night picture from the street:
Stained Glass Panel from outside at night

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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How to Display Stones in Earthquake Country

Sea Lily crinoid fossils Scyphocrinites elegans from Morocco on wall plaque

Displaying stones can be a challenge, especially in California where we regularly have earthquakes. If you are lucky, a decorative stone will come with a suitable base. Or, if the stone is small, a store-bought plastic stand may work. However, for large, heavy stones custom design and fabrication are needed for the best presentation. If you are handy like my husband John, you can make stands and pedestals yourself.

Here is what we are avoiding. This is a large cloisonné metalwork vase John and I bought in China which was flattened in an earthquake when it fell to the floor:
Chinese cloisonné vase smashed in an earthquake

Example 1: Small Fool’s Gold Sphere

iron pyrite, fool's gold sphere 1 Aug 2016

Basic hoop: My son Paul gave me this pretty iron pyrite (fool’s gold) sphere along with a clear plastic hoop for a stand.  The hoop keeps the sphere from rolling but it is only held in place by gravity. In an earthquake, this heavy sphere will probably smash something.

Example 2: Ruby Crystals on Quartz

Ruby Crystals on Quartz on a stand, from China
Simple pedestal: John brought this rock to Paul as a present from China some years ago.  It is ruby crystals on quartz, on a custom pedestal. The quartz has been carved away from the crystals to show them off. You can see in the photo below that the pedestal it came with has a trough or fitted hole carved into it the exact size and shape of the stone.
pedestal or stand for a rock

Example 3: Zimbabwe Shona Sculpture

Large fitted pedestal: I carried home this Shona sculpture of carved serpentine for John when I was in Zimbabwe with the 2016 TechWomen Delegation. I asked the sculptor, Martin Chirenda, to sign it before before wrapping. The sculpture weighs over sixty pounds and is top-heavy. We were concerned that it would break or hurt someone falling over in an earthquake. John made a low oak pedestal by carving a trough and then filling it with epoxy to fit the stone exactly. The stone is fixed to the dried epoxy with a thin pour of Karo (corn sugar syrup). Using Karo is a museum display trick that does not damage the art but keeps it firmly attached to its base.

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare, 26 Feb 2016 . Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare, 26 Feb 2016

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare

sculpture stand

Martin Chirenda 2015 Shona Sculpture Zimbabwe Harare on pedestal 10 July 2016

Example 4: Sea Lily Fossil from Morocco

Mounted on a Plaque: We bought this ancient double Sea Lily or Crinoid fossil at Consolidated Rock & Mineral in Vacaville for our anniversary. It was found in Morocco originally. The stone is heavy but the fossil itself is fragile. We wanted to display it so that it could be admired but not broken. John just finished making this wood plaque with hooks. The plaque is mounted to the wall with a French cleat.  These are the best flowers John has ever bought me!
Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

Sea Lily crinoid fossil from Morocco on wall plaque

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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