Monday, July 30, 2012

Something good this way comes: A Troy Bilt giveaway for me and you

Troy Bilt contacted me about a month ago and offered me a cordless, battery-powered cultivator for free if I'd a) review it, and b) give away another to some lucky reader of the blog.

Unfortunately for me, I already have Troy Bilt cultivator--a fairly new one, in fact, that I got for my birthday this summer. As tempting as free stuff is, and as much I like the cultivator I do have, I just couldn't justify having another. I explained this to the Troy Bilt rep, who said, "No worries! We'll give you something else to review! But you've still got to give away a brand-spanking new lithium ion battery cultivator to one of your readers."

My friends, there are no flies on me when it comes to seeing a bona fide opportunity when it presents itself.

So here's the deal: I'm getting this garden cart:

which I plan to use and review as part of a project involving the flower beds in our neighborhood parks (more on this in a future post), and one of you will get this cultivator shipped to you directly from Troy-Bilt:

You can read the details about it here.

This is a really good deal, y'all. I haven't used the battery version of the Troy Bilt cultivator, but I love my electric version. I put off getting one of these for years, thinking (erroneously, as it turned out) that there wasn't anything a cultivator could do that I couldn't do just as easily with a shovel or spading fork. Then Troy Bilt offered the battery version as a door prize at the Garden Blogger Fling that I attended in Asheville this past spring. And dang it! I found myself disappointed that I didn't win that thing.

So when Walu asked me what I wanted for my birthday, a cultivator seemed like as good a gift as any, figuring I'd use it to amend my flower beds this summer. Before I got a chance to do that, however, I got the idea to use it to put in some additional stones in a flagstone path, and a project that I figured would take me two or three days was accomplished in a couple of hours. If I had only known...

Don't be like me. Don't pass up this opportunity. All you have to do is leave me a comment on the blog telling me what you plan to do with the cultivator. It doesn't have to be anything special--I'm not going to pick out the "best" cultivator idea or anything like that. I just want to know how you'll use it because I'm a curious girl and would like to know something about you and your garden.

I'll take the comments until August 15, at which time I'll put all of your names in a hat and have my neighbor Julie pull one out.* I'll announce the winner on August 16th, and we can take it from there.

*Julie doesn't know this yet, but I'm sure she'll be game. I'd ask Walu, but since he's my paramour, that doesn't feel as impartial.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Redwood counters for the outdoor kitchen

Well, it wouldn't be summer without a woodworking project, would it?

A complete renovation of our kitchen has driven us outside this summer, and so I've created a temporary kitchen on the patio that has turned out to be very pleasant and functional:

I've enjoyed the experience of cooking and cleaning up outside so much, in fact, that I've decided to make it a little less makeshift. I also have this pile of redwood, left over from a deck we had removed this spring, and I'm looking for projects for it:

I don't want anything that looks heavy or massive, so I've decided to make two trestle counters, one for food preparation and one which will hold a stainless steel sink. Yesterday I milled some boards to freshen the surface and square them up, and glued them together for the top of the prep counter:

When it was dry, I squared the edges and screwed battens to the underside, making sure that I elongated the drill holes for the end screws, to accommodate wood movement:

Today I'll mill the wood for the rest of it, and if all goes well, start on the mortises for the legs. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back Garden Makeover Continued: More before and after

I've been reading Joe Eck's Elements of Garden Design this summer, and one of the first things he talks about in the book is deciding on the garden's "intention." That is, what is the garden supposed to be, what is it supposed to make you feel like...

A couple of summers ago I saw a garden in Dallas called The Pump House, and I was very moved by it, in part because of the way it reminded me of a desert cantina. I'm not sure that's what that particular garden's intention was supposed to be, but it made me realize that that is what I want my garden's intention to be--to have a sort of desert cantina/Texas hill country bier garten effect on the psyche, if you will. So this is the direction I've been going with the hardscaping.

On Saturday a friend came over and saw the garden, and without any prompting from me, she started talking about how it reminded her of places in the hill country of Texas. So I guess I'm headed on the right track...

Before (for those of you haven't been following, it looks this bad because of drought and house construction mess):


I won't lie, I'm using drought-proof garden structure to replace plants. Next up: I build some outdoor kitchen counters.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Our Kitchenless Adventure: Poached egg on toast

I woke up this morning ready to ride. The weather was agreeable, I was more or less caught up on any chores that needed doing, and it was a relatively cool and windless start to the day. So I pulled on my cycling kit and considered what to have for breakfast in order to fuel my ride.

A former student of mine, Sarai Brinker, recommended a book in the comments section of my last post. The book, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with economy and grace, by Tamar Adler, is a thoughtful collection of essays about cooking and food. I like the format a great deal, as it isn't exactly a cookbook, though she does include recipes, nor is it strictly a how-to approach to cooking, though she includes a great deal of that, too. Rather, it is a delightful way to think about food and its preparation that is simple and reflective.

Good cooking need not be fancy, and Adler focuses on this idea almost exclusively; pairing fresh ingredients with basic technique can go a long way toward elevating a necessity (eating and nutrition) to a pleasurable experience.

She has a whole essay on eggs, and much of it is devoted to the technique of poaching. Now I've tried poaching eggs in the past, without much success, but Adler makes it seem easy. My usual bowl of cereal would not be sufficient to fuel my ride, and thus I determined it was a good day to see if Adler was right. I would attempt to poach an egg in my kitchenless kitchen.

Here is the dish:
Bring a pot of water to just simmering. Add an unmeasured teaspoon of white vinegar (this will help the egg white hold together.

Crack an egg in a container with a sharp edge. Adler recommends a tea cup. I used a stemless wine glass because it felt decadent. If the yolk breaks, you can set it aside to scramble later and try again. 

With the water simmering, slip the egg in, folding the whites together gently with a slotted spoon. When it seems as though the yolk is beginning to set, lift it out of the water with the spoon. I don't show mine cooking because it is hard to juggle a camera while you are also chasing egg whites around with a slotted spoon, but I think mine turned out pretty well (though some of the white got away from me):

Adler recommends drizzling with good olive oil and seasoning with salt and freshly cracked pepper while the egg is still warm. I had simultaneously toasted on the grill a slice of French country loaf rubbed with olive oil, so I skipped drizzling the egg. I did add a slice of smoked ham to the mix, though.

It was a fine way to start my Saturday.