Sow: peachy

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Yes, of course, tomatoes were harvested today (and were given to the Gs pal Tracy when she came by at lunch to let them out), but I discovered the next big harvest when I was out dumping my poor dead plants garden debris in the composter.

While I was sleeping or at least spending time worrying about the urban farm, the peach tree has gotten busy making peaches. I’m pretty excited about it especially since the plum tree hasn’t produced anything this year.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll start climbing the ladder and plucking down peaches before the birds, squirrels and perhaps even neighbors who know they’re there get them. It’s best to pick them a little green then let them ripen in a paper bag.

I’m hoping to have enough to make jam again. However, my plan is to blanch (skin comes off easier), peel, and cut up the peaches now and freeze them in gallon size ziplock bags. That way I can make jam in the fall, when it’s cooler. Closer to the holidays also.

Truthfully I just don’t have that kind of leisure time right now. It isn’t hard, just time-consuming because there are a lot of steps. But oh so worth it.

Last year I made a ton. In cute little jam pots with a fun label. Gave most of it away and it was a big hit. My grandma who’s 97 said it reminded her of the jam she had as a child.

I can think of no better compliment.

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Sow: mort

These days, with North Texas temperatures headed back up to the 100°+ days, early morning is the best time to head out to the raised beds and stock tanks for a little harvesting, cleaning up, watering by hand, and digging before work. It’s getting closer to surface of the sun weather, by next month, it will be here and I’ll be devising shading systems for some of the raised beds. And even at 6 am, it’s still hot. But it’s cooler than at 6 pm so I doused myself with OFF, grabbed my buckets, garden scissors, watering can, and compost bucket and started to get busy.

It’s usually a good time to clear the mind and get focused for the day ahead.

Just not today.

While watering the tomatoes, I found something that made me very sad: a poor bird that looked like it died trapped in a bit of the bird net. The net covers the tomato plants but this bird was on the part on the ground. It’s the part that I pin down to keep the critters out.

I say it looked like it was trapped, because I have a feeling that it was dispatched by one of the Gs, most likely Godiva the Huntress, since she wasn’t coming near me or the garden. It didn’t look crushed or torn, but a little bit flattened, like maybe someone tried to de-squeak it. I’ve found dead birds before, killed by cats or other predators, dead on impact with windows or walls. But this one made me feel terrible as I wondered if the bird net wasn’t there, this little bird would have had a chance.

resting up for tomorrow

resting up for tomorrow

Death was a theme in the garden from that point on. As the weather gets hotter, the lettuce crops are on their way out. I pulled some that was going to seed and began to ready their bed for the fall tomato crop (yes, it’s almost time to start thinking about planting them). I noticed that all of the cucumber plants were toast except one (partially because of not getting watered while we were in Canada). I pulled out the dying and dried up pea plants. I pulled some of the brown bean stalks. I harvested the remainder of the 3rd crop of bok choi and put the stalks in the compost bucket. As the bucket got more full, I felt even more sad.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gotten really attached to these plants. Yes, of course, I talk to them and encourage them to grow and do their thing. I know they have a lifecycle and that when they reach the end, they have to go to make room for new plants.

Today it was a little like saying goodbye to old friends. The lettuce and all of the leafy greens have done so well for me. They’ve looked so pretty and brightened up the Urban Farm. And for just $2.50 a seed packet, they produced tons of green stuff since January. An excellent return on such a small investment. But they’re done.

today's leafy harvest: bok choi (right), lots of lettuce (left)

today’s leafy harvest: lots of lettuce (left), bok choi (right),

It’s really taking me a while to get used to the garden circle of life. Just when I get used to a rhythm and a routine, something changes. That’s life though.

But in the midst of all of this death, life. A small toad hopped by as I was doing my thing. He startled me out of my funk. I’ll take him as an omen of unexpected goodness to come.

So/sow: day job + play job

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Another fabulous photo by Bruce. I had no idea that he took it because I was so engrossed in my work yesterday (Sunday) morning. And don’t worry, the cling on my Mac isn’t hurting it, just keeps it from getting stolen at airports.

Hopefully it doesn’t surprise you that I’m actually a professional writer. I’ve been writing advertising and marketing copy since 1991 which everyone knows is a long, long time ago.

Yesterday, I had to do a little “homework” before Bruce and I went to a seminar on “Planning for Your Pets”. Without getting into the details, just know that you should plan ahead for someone to take your pets if you (and your legal spouse) croak. If not, they’re following you to the pearly gates if you live in Texas. And you should get disaster kit together for your four-leggeds. And know how to do first aid on them. We’re remedying all of the above with 1 ) paperwork, 2) a kit, 3) a class. The class is Sunday. I still have to put the paperwork together. I’m giving myself this week as a deadline.

I really liked Bruce’s photo though. I didn’t even notice that he was taking it. That’s typical for me when I’m writing. I’m definitely in the zone. As a manager I’ve been less in the zone than I’d like but in the last little while, it’s been my home. Works for me.

Tonight the lines between work, home and other have been very blurry. I’ve been trying to understand why something so dear to me in college is being compromised. Ah California. Your obscene “view” property values makes civic/charitable organizations with amazing property amazingly greedy. A conference call. And another tale for another day.

On to happier topics: Last night we had some neighbors visit. And in Texas, walking the dog often includes a plastic cup filled with the alcoholic beverage of your choice (wine in this case). Bella the chocolate lab needed a long, long walk. And the Gs were prepared to play. As you all know the mosquitos love me so I minimize my time at dusk/night outside. Our sweet neighbor Emily (5) decided to harvest a few things from the urban farm: tomatoes especially. Her lucky parents were not paying attention at all, but were probably surprised by the brown paper bag of fresh veg that she and I gathered! Tomatoes and carrots mostly, with a bit of lettuce for her parents.

Even still, this morning’s harvest was pretty impressive:

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notice the quarter. those are Texas sized Sweet 100s.

The tomatoes are making me happy though I’m a bit worried we won’t eat them fast enough. Oh well, time to make sauce, right? The Sweet 100s are doing great. The rest, not so sure.

A couple of people messaged me to know what our beet salad looked like. Here’s a visual:

go to beet salad

go to beet salad

It’s pretty but truly nothing special. Beet greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, olive oil, salt/pepper. Yummy, yet common. Cheap and cheerful!

Hope you all had an enjoyable Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sow: beet it

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Yesterday morning was lovely. Cool, bright, and slightly breezy. A perfect morning to poke around and harvest stuff.

Beets have been one of my favorite vegetables to grow, mainly because they are such a leap of faith. You soak the seeds for 12-24 hours. You plant three or four seeds per hole. Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Maybe it’s me.

I’m learning patience when it comes to sprouting. Moving beyond the instant gratification of transplants which look nice the minute you pop them in the dirt.

You can’t grow beets from transplant. And you have to thin them if you want to be successful in the size and shape of the beets. If all three beet seeds sprout, you have to eliminate two. And how do you decide which two? Luckily you can enjoy the beet sprouts and leaves on a salad. Still it makes me a little sad as I wonder if I’ve made the right decision.

Since they’re something that I love to eat, I planted lots of them this spring because we went through fall’s beet supply so fast. This time I planted 1/2 of a 4″ x 8″ raised bed of chioggia and 1/3 of a 4″ x 8″ raised bed of Detroit reds.

We’ve had 6 harvests so far with more to come.

My friend Clair tells me they’re excellent for gall bladder health. She juices them.

I prefer to roast them in my handy dandy toaster oven so as not to heat up the house. Wash well and trim. Rub a bit of olive oil over them, then salt and pepper well. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F or until you can stick a knife through. Let cool and peel as needed.

Last night I made a salad that used all the parts of the beet. I took a mixture of torn up beet greens (chioggia are light green and Detroit red are dark red), put them on a plate, added a sliced roasted chioggia beet, sprinkled it with a bit of goat cheese, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of garlic vinaigrette. Delicious and a great use of the whole plant.

Today it’s rainy so no harvesting will happen this morning. We woke up at 6:20 this morning to a thunderstorm and heavy rain. It continued until about 9.

Everything is wet and very green. While the Gs are a bit miffed that it interrupted their walking schedule, I’m sure the beets are happy for the free water.

Sow: happiest hour

Today was an excellent day.

George came to work and was a fantastic canine coworker:

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just hanging out with his toys

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all tuckered out from meeting and greeting

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George worked his jaws

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worn out from a hard day of work

And after a long day, Bruce brought home a pizza so after dinner, we all have come outside to enjoy the cooler temperatures and water the garden.

Here’s what we found today:

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much bigger harvest than Monday

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twice the size it was two weeks ago

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on the verge

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container watermelon

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cute baby watermelon

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okra flowers

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artichoke going strong

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purple beans

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weird heirloom cucumber

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zucchini

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more zucchini about to happen

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chile peppers

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jalapeños

And finally, one of my garden helpers:

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Perhaps I just needed to spend some time outside to get my super powers back.

So: lacking super powers

This week the Gs have all been a bit off. Exhausted. As cranky as happy go lucky dogs can be.

Me too. I’ve been severely lacking in super powers this week. Work, usually the place where I could spend hours, drains me in eight hours. On Tuesday, in an internal meeting, I could barely be articulate about one of my clients that I’ve worked on for more than five years.

So I haven’t been writing much outside the office. And I haven’t really done much in the evenings when I get home. Or in the mornings before work as I usually do. Taking a long weekend off has brought me to a grinding halt. Not much gardening (tonight it was too wet after today’s storms). I’ve been resting. Going to bed early. Taking the easy way out when it comes to meals, chores, attire, everything. Believe me, the dog hair tumbleweeds on the floors are getting bigger by the day. If I sweep them together, I might get another Guinness.

But tomorrow’s Friday.

At work we have something called summer hours which means if you’ve worked 40 hours by noon on Friday, you can leave. Because I was off on Monday, I don’t qualify. Even still, Friday’s my favorite day of the week in summer because everyone leaves early. It is blissfully quiet and the phone doesn’t ring. No meetings after 11 am. Everyone is nose to the grindstone all morning long so they can get out and start the weekend a little early. If you need me, I’ll be at my desk all day and when I leave at 5:30 or 6 pm, I’ll ensure my to do list for Monday is a lot smaller.

George may come to work with me tomorrow. We have a dog-friendly office and well-behaved dogs are allowed to visit. Godiva started visiting when she was a freshly potty trained pup. Guinness has been too, although neither of them have really enjoyed visiting once they became a pair. Godiva freaked out when Guinness had his heartworm treatments (thought he wasn’t coming back, we think) and when he had his TPLO surgery (same thing). But George hasn’t really visited yet and Guinness and Godiva don’t mind as much when he leaves (ah, the puppy). I’ll see what he thinks in the morning.

Right now, he’s pretty wiped out.

It's also really hard to type with George in your lap. He likes to put his chin on the mouse. Photo by Bruce

It’s really hard to type with George in your lap. He likes to put his chin on the mouse. Photo by Bruce

 

Sow: first tomatoes

first tomatoes

first tomatoes!

When we got home from Toronto yesterday, I was anxious to see how the Urban Farm did when we left it alone for four days. Last week was very wet, but unfortunately the weekend was not. We watered on Thursday night and rain was predicted all weekend.

No such luck.

Everything got watered well last night and again today. I think everything will be mostly ok, although several plants looked a little crispy. The okra has tripled in size.

But best of all, the first red tomatoes have appeared. The tiny ones in the picture are sweet 100s. The heart shaped one is a Celebrity. We do have some casualties though: blossom rot. It appears to still be isolated to the Burpee Big Boy plants and maybe the plants that got frost bit. I need to get out there tomorrow and clean up—harvest and compost the bad tomatoes and clean up some of the yellowing branches.

On a separate note: the Gs are exhausted from their four days of playtime with four other dogs. Their humans tired too.

So: postcard perfect

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YYZ photo op

We’re heading back to Texas after an action-packed long weekend. The weather is unseasonably cool (a nice change for us) and very clear which made all of the city view and highway shots on Breakfast Television (the local morning news) looks like they were straight out of a expertly retouched postcard.

Toronto is a pretty city, especially this time of year when everything is ultra-green and flowers are blooming.

Yesterday we crammed in a bit of shopping, a quick visit to our favorite winery (fielding estates), a trip to Costco, the Beer Store, the local pizza and wings place, and the grocery store for supplies for an impromptu dinner for 20 at Bruce’s mom’s house. We had another nice visit with Bruce’s sisters and their families plus a cousin’s family too.

Whew!

We may need a vacation from our little trip. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to start reading all of the Canadian magazines I picked up for the trip back. Or maybe I’ll just nap.

So: oh, Canada

I’ve been in Canada since Friday. Gotta say it’s been great to be back. I’m always so happy to cross the border, probably because coming here remains the decision that changed my life the greatest.

Marrying Bruce, immigrating here, reestablishing my career, and choosing to become a Canadian, are the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.

The trip started exactly as planned: relaxing, pampering, reading. We flew to Toronto with a old friend, had coffee with a newish friend and had a wonderful time with a group of friends we wish we could see more often. But we started planning Bruce’s next big birthday so perhaps we’ll all be spending quality time together in December 2014.

Last night was Bruce’s niece Amanda’s wedding. Of course she looked beautiful and we are all so excited to have Marc in the family, not just because he’s a winemaker.

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the happy couple signing their paperwork

A great party! And it was great to catch up with Bruce’s family and have something exciting to celebrate. Tonight we’ll all gather for some pizza and wings and hang out some more.

It’s been a lovely trip. But now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to head to The Beer Store and LCBO for supplies. And pick up some Canada Day decorations.

Enjoy your Sunday, eh.