Last Chance to Win Theodore Payne Garden Tour Tickets, A Note on Our Backyard and a Mini-Rant

A reminder that you have until 5pm today to enter our Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour ticket giveaway.

We have slowly introduced more and more native plants into our garden for a few reasons: to reduce water use, to sustain wildlife and to reduce maintenance. On that last point I’ll note that there is no such thing as a zero maintenance garden, but I will say that California natives are, generally, a lot less fussy than annuals.

This year we’ve also decided to hire a professional to come up with a design for our troublesome backyard. The first order of business is to jackhammer out an ugly concrete patio and deal with some possible foundation issues. I’m hoping, with our designer’s permission, to share the work in progress. I’ll just say at this point that it’s really helpful to have an outside set of eyes especially if you’ve been living with a space for so many years that you’ve lost perspective and openness to new ideas.

Lastly, I must toot my digital horn and note the excellent timing of my February 28th anti-Facebook rant. It’s time to #DeleteFacebook and #StartGardening with #NativePlants.

Win Two Tickets to the 15th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour

If you’re a Southern California local we’re giving away two tickets to the 15th annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour that will take place on April 14th and 15th. It’s a self-guided trip through 40 gardens in the region and includes 19 new locations (including our neighbor Lora’s house!). If you’re thinking of including native plants in your garden or pondering a garden re-design, the Theodore Payne Garden Tour is a great way to get ideas.

To enter our contest leave a comment on this post naming your favorite native plant. Please make sure to enter your email in the comment form (your email will not be published nor used for anything else other than contacting you to send the tickets). We’ll choose a lucky winner at random and the contest will close on Friday March 23rd at 5pm.

California native plants are beautiful and sustain our wildlife companions.  They also help you reduce your water consumption in a climate that is rapidly changing. In addition to the use of plants, the Theodore Payne Garden Tour has a lot of great examples of hardscaping and ways to make the best of small and challenging spaces.

Kelly and I plan on going and we hope to meet the winner of this contest on the tour!

Saturday Tweets: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What You Need to Bake Bread

As the co-founder of a club for bread nerds, I field a fair number of urgent, sometimes panicked baking queries. While in the past I’ve posted basic bread recipes and lists of equipment, I’ve since taken to simply referring people to Josey’s Baker’s excellent book, Josey Baker Bread.

In the hopes of one final post on the subject let me suggest the following bread related resources and tools:

Bake With Baker

Again, get yourself a copy of Baker’s book. It’s a class in baking organized into recipes in ascending order of difficulty. Work your way thought the book and by the end you’ll be a baking god and the life of every party. Baker is a fan of whole grains and sourdough and if that isn’t enough he has the only decent gluten free bread recipe I’ve ever tasted. At the end of the book you’ll find cookie and scone recipes that will make you the most popular person at the next potluck you attend. If you’re a Los Angeles local, you can also take a whole grain baking class taught by Root Simple pal Roe Sie at his shop, the King’s Roost.

Scale It

A digital scale. The inaccuracies of measuring flour by volume is a path to frustration and misery. The model pictured above has a pull out display which makes it easier to view under a large bowl of flour.

Legal Pot

A 5 quart dutch oven. I like the model pictured above for the reasons I outlined in a previous blog post.

When you encounter problems—and I guarantee you will–I really like this handy visual guide on a Serious Eats blog post. And a note on baking disasters. I recently heard an experienced craftsperson explain that, despite his accomplishments, he never feels like he’s ever reached some kind of final, blissful state of mastery. During a class I took with Josey Baker’s mentor Dave Miller (I know, those last names!), Miller detailed some of the baking disasters he’s been through including the mysterious failure of a sourdough starter that shut down his bakery for several weeks. With this caveat on baking problems, let me assure you that if you go though Baker’s book carefully, you’ll have more wins than losses.

Mill Your Own Damn Flour

Should you want to go deeper down the baking rabbit hole, there’s a nice, inexpensive new mill designed by the legendary German engineer Wolfgang Mock. I have the Mock Mill 100 and will post a review sometime in the future. I’ll just say now that it works great and is a lot cheaper than other mills on the market. But you don’t need a mill to get started.

With those resources you’re pretty much good to go.

I’ve had to take a long break from baking due to the family emergencies of the last year. I’m planning on getting back into baking soon and when I do I’m going to go step by step through Baker’s book starting at the beginning.

Stickley’s #603 Taboret

There are many things I should be doing other than meticulously constructing my own copy of Gustav Stickley’s #603 Tabouret.  I could be writing a new book or magazine article, replying to emails, paying bills, lining up contractors for overdue home repair projects or filing the stack of papers growing around my computer.

Tabouret in progress awaiting sanding, glue-up and finish.

Instead, I’m taking a tip I learned from some of the creative people I’ve worked for and known in the past. Their work habits, if you call them “work” or “habits” seemed to consist of letting all the “important stuff” go to hell while pursuing some arcane, overly complex and silly project. While the Stickley’s #603 Tabouret is not really complex, it has occupied way too much of my time in the past two weeks and I haven’t even gotten to all the possible confusing finishing options.

By way of excuse let me suggest that with screen time averaging 10 hours a day for the average American, perhaps 2018 is the year we all might consider taking up a few arcane, overly complex and silly projects. It could be sewing, gardening or any other activity that takes us away from our phones and slows us down.

Now I’ve got to get away from this screen and start cracking on that finish . . .