Friday, June 14, 2013

Now Hear This – Sony Walkman W & The Grateful Dead

When I share product reviews they are exclusively food & beverage related. This week I will depart from that truth to tell you about the experience I've had with the Sony Walkman W Meb Keflezighi Edition.

I received my Sony Walkman W as a perk from I’m not a runner, one of the intended audiences, but I do walk a lot, hike and work out in the yard & gardens quite a bit. And working out in the yard is where I found the Walkman W to be a fantastic product.

I've been on a binge with the yard-work in the last couple of weeks. Between getting the existing gardens prepped & planted, clearing for new gardens, new landscaping in the front yard and some spot seeding I’ve probably spent almost an entire work week out there since Memorial Day weekend. Margot has helped with the work quite a bit, but during the times where we have worked in separate parts of the yard or when she was working elsewhere I've enjoyed taking my music with me as a work.

The Sony Walkman W is a about the side of a normal pair of headsets, with small modules at each ear for the electronics and a rubber coated cable connected the two. It has a USB plug for charging and to transfer music. It is designed to be water resistant, not swimming waterproof though, but more so sweat and rain-proof. I've tested both of those scenarios successfully.

The sound quality of the unit is exceptional. My music of choice the last couple of weeks has been live recordings of The Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band. Some of the audience recordings have good sound quality on their own and others have a bit more of the ambient noise. Even at the max volume the Sony Walkman W does a great job of making the music sound great. I don’t know exactly what the battery life is in practice (the web site says 8 hours), but I haven’t run out in between chargings which have been sporadic since I have been using it.

( A glimpse of what some of all the hard work has been about. )

I'll take a quick detour to share an observation specifically about my choice of music. The pairing of audience recordings of the Grateful Dead and yard work turned out to be superb, bordering on ethereal. The Dead never played the same show twice so the improvisational and organic quality to any collection of live recordings is part of the allure. Working in the garden is connective exercise, human with earth, and that activity and the music seemed linked in a spiritual way.  I prefer to listen to live music outdoors, it just feels better, and I think the experiences I have had in the yard these last few weeks are an extension of those feelings. With the added rush of the physical labor I was genuinely happy even after long, hard days of labor.  

I would highly recommend the Sony Walkman W to anyone who I active and would like to take their music on the go. It is light, comfortable, powerful and has enough storage (2GB) to listen to unique tracks for at least a few hours. The product retails for $69 at Sony's web site. Don’t worry about it getting sweaty or wet, it will keep on truckin'!



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Keeping a Garden

I've helped with or have kept my own gardens since early childhood. Something about working with the soil, the living plants and then eating like a king has always resonated with me because of those experiences. A big thank you goes out to my mom & dad for exposing me to the activity. Those were good times!

Last year (2012) was the first good year using our original gardening plan when we moved in 11 years prior. Why didn't it work early on? We had too many trees. We got dozens of them cut down in 2011 & 2012, resulting in lots of sun. The tree removals, roof replacement and re-siding projects in those same years also collectively exposed and/or destroyed lawn, gardens and spaces with plenty of biomass and mess to deal with. Yay! 

Clearing and re-purposing those areas has allowed us to expand our gardens, both for eating and sensory enjoyment. We picked a few more areas to clean up recently and as of the time of this writing we weren't yet done with this years' enhancements. Margot was epic in loading and moving the topsoil, but don't expect her to be announcing a change in career to landscaping any time soon! Between the two of us we have spent about a work week out in the yard so far this year, but based on the way it looks it has definitely been worth it.

( This is the herb garden cleaned up, soil spread and ready to plant. May 26, 2013 )

Salad vegetables and herbs are the most important food plants for me to grow on my own property. I love fresh, raw tomatoes; they just scream summer to me! The kitchen herbs basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme are so easy to grow, smell fantastic and liven up all our summer meals. Estate grown hot peppers go into lots of summer dishes and in back to back years I expect a large harvest as well the creation of a new special fermented beverage to honor the crop. The sweet and spicy mead last year was really out of sight! This year we also decided to try potatoes, garlic, onions and leeks. Margot calls it our "hash brown" garden. Makes sense, so just go with it!

We kept the number of herb plants constant (I lied, we added orange mint but planted it elsewhere), but a couple perennials that didn't come back gave us better space to work with. We'll be eating basil already for dinner tonight. The sage wintered like a champ and we've already steeped some in lemonade for the house cooler for the summer season. Eating from the garden right out back is a true joy!

( Ready to plant vegetables. May 26, 2013 )

I also planted hops and strawberries from a friend in 2012. They did very well during the first season and this year are really off to a great start. I hope to get a small crop of each when their seasons come. 

( Hallertauer hops, year two. May 28, 2013)

We also decided to pluck out some small ornamental trees and replace the area with a rose garden. That is one of the plans that hasn't been completed yet, so I don't have photos to share!

And with that let's get to the rest of the photos. The captions will guide you along this year's projects.

( Getting the herbs planted is always fun! May 30, 2013 )

( The "infamous" hash brown garden. From the left, front to back. 
Potatoes, onions, garlic, leeks.  The hops are on the far right. May 31, 2013 )

( The tomatoes and peppers are really happy a few days after planting. June 5, 2013 )

( There is activity in the potato bed as of today. June 5, 2013 )

( The strawberries are going to be made into a drink. 
Cute idea to have a "cocktail garden". June 5, 2013 )

( After a few days of sun and water, the herbs are really happy! June 5, 2013 )

This year we also cleaned up the area where we removed our front hedges. Some fill and crushed stone made for a nice clean look. Margot found rustic planters to put annuals in along the front. Looks smashing!

( Front of the house. The grass seed is already down by now. May 30, 2013 )

( The back of our house is finally worth looking at! May 30, 2013 ) 

So that's where I have been lately, and with a few more projects and hours to go, it's where I will be for a few for weekends.