Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Garden Kitchen

We'd wager that in our social circles, the phrase 'kitchen garden' would evoke romantic images of a small patch of vegetables and herbs situated just outside a kitchen window, lush and green, and frequented by friendly honeybees and hummingbirds.  The produce should be picked fresh, then brought inside, cleaned in the sink, and incorporated into a supper entree or side dish not more than two hours from harvest.  But we've found that in the heat of summer, such images leave out the important consideration of the temperature inside the kitchen, which, in the presence of a hot oven or stove, quickly rises to levels that are all but romantic.  To remedy the situation, we constructed a second piece of infrastructure (along with the Dakota rocket silo) to move some of our hottest cooking operations outdoors.  That is, in addition to our kitchen garden, we now have a garden kitchen.

We were fortunate enough to have been bequeathed the cabinet and sink by the previous occupants of The Lab, who left them in the shed where we wanted to put a chicken coop.  However, similar items can frequently be found on Craigslist (at least in our area), free for the hauling.

Opening the doors reveals two things: there is a larger amount of storage space than we'll probably ever use (partially due to the bumpy ride between the garden where we use it and the garage where it is stored), and that we built the chassis such that the cabinet doors open over top of the tires.  The second part took more than one iteration.  A couple of other notes: the chassis itself is just a simple box of screwed-together scrap 2 x 4s, with inside supports at either end and one in the middle to hold the cabinets up.  Also, our mechanism of attaching the tires is not quite satisfactory, since the axles are only long enough to pass through the outer board, held in place by a nut on the other side.  That configuration makes the wheels toe out (more visible in the last photo below), which increases the effort required to push the cart around the yard.  A better design would have the axles running all the way from one side to the other.

The connection for the sink line to the garden hose was at Home Depot.  The ferrule on the sink line side is facing the wrong way, but it doesn't leak under our ~60 psi water pressure.  The sink currently just drains into a bucket, but an enterprising fellow could easily run a drain line out the back if he preferred.

On one of the skinny sides, we put a handle to help steer (as in, 'lift this end and rotate the whole thing like a garden cart'). We also screwed the cabinets into the chassis to keep them from tipping up when we push the cart.  The cart currently lives in our garage, but we've considered building a temporary structure with a roof to keep it out in the yard.  So far it hasn't been too much work to push it out in the morning and back in the evening.  It also has worked really well for the first few batches of jam we made, providing enough flat space to fill and seal the jars, and running water to wash things up.

Do you process your produce outside in the fresh air?  What type of setup do you use?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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