Jack’s Walk

Keeping me waiting ©voyager, all rights reserved

My pink peonies have come and gone in a blaze of fuchsia glory, but the purple peony that lives beside it has just been sitting there with one great big bud that still hasn’t opened. Both plants are the same size and age, both plants live in identical conditions and both plants budded at the same time, yet something is obviously different. This is the first flower this plant has ever put out and I’m getting more and more anxious to see it. There wasn’t a label on the plant when we bought it last year so I’m not even sure what shade of purple to expect. I swear I’m trying to be patient, but please my pretty peony, won’t you please open your big purple eye and look at me.

Story of two Knives

This article contains an acute case of Opinions.

Let’s talk about two chef’s knives that currently reside in our household.

The black one is some cheapo crap that we got as a “bonus” back when Reader’s Digest was a thing and my mother had a subscription.
The blade is coated in Teflon and the handle is from some cheap plastic. The shiny one was moderately expensive. It is made from one piece of stainless steel, although judging by the mass the handle is hollow (I have no clue whatsoever what the manufacturing process was).

I like the cheap one. And I regret buying the expensive one. The cheap one cuts like a lightsaber. The expensive one sticks and twists and does not go through anything with ease, cutting onions or potatoes is a penance.

As far as I can ascertain with callipers, they both have nearly identical secondary bevels – the blade near the edge is circa 0,6-0,7 mm thick and the bevels are somewhere around 1,2-1,5 mm long. That means that the grind angle is for both blades between 11°-15°. They are both sharpened the same way. But they both behave and handle very differently, even when freshly sharpened.

Let’s start with the first thing – weight and point of balance. Both have nearly identical point of balance, near the heel of the blade, right in front of the hand. I personally prefer my kitchen knives balanced at the forefinger, but I do not mind the more forward put point of balance on the black knife, for one simple reason – the knife is very light, it weighs nearly nothing. The steel one is on the other hand heavy, and in combination with the forward put point of balance, it feels more like a chopper than like a knife.  But that is a personal preference thing – I do not like chef’s knives in general that much, and I do not actually need to use them all too often. Maybe they are all supposed to be weighed like that, I have no idea.

The second difference is, however, more objective. The black knife has a massive handle with cross-section more like a rounded rectangle than an oval. And it has a big flat spot on the spine right behind the blade. It looks chunky, but it is in fact very comfortable in the hand, the handle allows for firm grip and great edge alignment. And the flat spot is there for the thumb should you need to apply more pressure. The steel knife handle is very slick, very elegant looking. It is thin towards the blade and its crosssection is at all points nice and oval. But not only does that make edge alignment slightly more difficult, it also does not allow for a very strong grip. When tackling a difficult cabbage, a big chunk of heterogeneous material, the knife tends to slip and twist in the hand (especially when wet) and it is a struggle to keep the blade on track.

The third difference is the real clincher – blade geometry. The black knife has hollow ground primary bevels and the blade is a mere 1 mm thick at the spine. The shiny one has flat grind and is 2,7 mm thick at the spine – nearly three times more.

That kind of thickness is suitable for a heavy-duty camping knife, but in a kitchen it is a noticeable hindrance. When cutting small things, like herbs, carrots or similar, it is not a problem, but when cutting something bigger and/or harder, like a lemon, an onion or a potato, or something stickier like a sausage or hard cheese, the blade thickness makes the cutting more difficult, because it must push the hard material more to the sides.

Each of these problems in itself would not be a big problem but together they make a chef’s knife that is truly awful to use – it is supposed to be a universal knife, but instead it is a knife that is only universally problematic.

I guess the moral of this ramble is – when it comes to knives, cheap does not always mean bad and expensive does not always mean good.


Jack’s Walk

The river is high and I don’t care… ©voyager, all rights reserved

It was a quiet, sunny morning with a blue sky full of lazily drifting cupcake clouds that called to me to come outside. I’ve been waiting for this feeling. This not having to grin and bear it when I take Jack for a walk. Today was a day when I would have gone for a walk even if I didn’t have a dog. To celebrate, I made a thermos of coffee for me and some ice-water for Jack and took us down to the river to see if we could find us some beavers.

We’ve been avoiding the river area because of flooding, but it’s been a month or so since we were there and I was hoping things had improved. Well, not only hadn’t they improved, but they’ve worsened. We didn’t get far past the entrance when the whole path went underwater. Jack thought this was great fun and didn’t let it slow him down, but I wasn’t quite as willing to snorkel my way around. I let Jack frolic for a while and he was a gentleman today and dried himself off in the grass when he was done. Then, we trundled off to our usual forest for a nice, dry walk in the woods.

Happy Jack ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack’s Walk

It’s a mystery ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack found a mysterious structure in the forest today and it left both of us shaking our heads with confusion. It’s a small building, you can see that Jack towers over it, with an open doorway and no windows. The walls are made of a mixture of mud, sticks and leaves and they form a simple A-frame cottage. Around the outside base of the structure there was a ring of plain rocks that formed an exposed footing and a single small sheet of gray plastic had been laid over the roof as weatherproofing. Inside there was a single, large rock painted a brilliant azure blue. The rock was incredibly heavy, much heavier than it looked, and I couldn’t lift it. I was able to shift it a few millimeters towards the back, but it felt almost as if something was pushing against me. As we were pondering the situation it suddenly began to rain and since neither Jack nor I could fit into the tiny shelter we reluctantly made our way back to the car. On the way home Jack told me that he’d detected a faint odor of pipe smoke and dirty feet and that he’d heard something that sounded like singing, but only for a moment. Well, that’s curious, isn’t it. Jack and I love a good mystery so we’ll be returning to see what more we can discover and next time I’ll take a few simple tools with me, like a flashlight and a something to use as a lever.

How to Sharpen a Knife

Instead of writing at lenght, I will let Walter Sorrels to explain it better than I ever could.

This (except the measuring of the angle with a tool, which I was taught to recognize by feel and eyeballing) is how I was taught to sharpen knives and it is essentialy how I do it and teach others to do it.



Jack’s Walk

The shy flower of mayapple ©voyager, all rights reserved

Things change so quickly in the forest at this time of year. Today we found very few trilliums and those that remain have turned the pretty pink of fading glory. Also disappearing are the Jack-in-the-pulpits and I’ll miss them the most. Taking their place are the shy flowers of mayapples and small patches of buttercups and forget-me-nots. The false Solomon’s seal is also in bloom and hundreds of baby trees have sprouted up across the forest floor. The biggest change we saw today was in the quality and quantity of light. The canopy is nearly full and the bare, bright light of winter and early spring has vanished into dappled pools and deep shade. The quality of sound has also changed under the fullness of leaves and the forest is entirely more intimate and inviting.

Mayapple, why must you bloom facedown? ©voyager, all rights reserved