Sow: extreme weather

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I got my wish. It’s raining. Next time I will qualify my rain wish. We don’t need to get it all at once.

We got so much rain in a short period of time that all the rain barrels are full. The eavestroughs (aka gutters) over the patio were sagging from the weight of the water and are currently propped up by a pole saw used for pruning trees. Bruce spent a lot of time pushing water off the patio with a push broom. He’s made some makeshift sandbags with towels.

We are using Godiva’s and Gidget’s wading pool to keep the water coming off the house into the eavestroughs and into the full rain barrels from eroding the soil around the edge of the house. I also grabbed the garden cart’s insert to catch excess water from the rain barrel under the kitchen window.

We’ve dumped both already, dragging those huge containers into the middle of the yard.

So much water was coming so fast that we were worried about it coming into the house.

We were about to go to bed when it started coming down hard. Now we’ll be up for a while to see if the weather radar is correct.

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Today’s one of those days that Texas didn’t need to do everything bigger. Today’s humidity made my hair closer to God* and the rain quickly flattened it.
Hopefully the garden and its watch toad are ok. We’ll see in the morning.

*popular Texas saying: “the bigger the hair, the closer to God”

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Sow: late start

Perhaps it’s not the best idea to plant the fall carrot and radish seeds before work. I’d like to think that it wasn’t that. Maybe it was the garage door not wanting to open (worked fine for Bruce tonight). Or the strange melted-looking blue-green plastic that was adhered to the side of my otherwise clean and wrinkle-free pants (not sure how that happened). I couldn’t go to work like that! And then, well, Gidget was out too long with me and the rest of the Gs while I was planting those seeds. So she didn’t want to pee when I let her out before I left (ah, puppies).

You get the picture. Clearly, I was working something out in my head this morning. And puttering around in the garden needed to happen. I’ve been a bit out of it. Lots of learning happening at work and maybe it’s sucking up all of my energy. And I’ve been a bit foggy for at least a week.

Fall allergy season seems to be hitting me harder than usual. Luckily I’m not snotty or sneezy. But I’m terminally itchy. Throat and skin definitely, but my eyes especially. That’s a problem for looking at a computer screen after a work day of looking at the computer screen. All in all, this sort of discombobulation is no good for making regular blog posts.

As I’ve said before, I’m not usually a procrastinator, but tonight when I said to Bruce, “I think I’ll write a post in the morning,” he gently reminded me that I’ve been saying that all week. And it’s Wednesday, in case you haven’t noticed.

So this morning while I was puttering and trying to get the synapses firing, I tried something new with the carrots and radishes. Remember all that seed tape that I made back in February? I made too much and said that I’d use it in the fall. Well, today it got used!

carrot seed tape in stock tank #3

carrot seed tape in stock tank #3

Notice I’ve used a different approach. In the spring, I planted long rows of carrots with radishes in between, since they come up first. Bruce took one look at it and said, “Why did you do it that way?” He had envisioned the carrot tape going from side to side, with radish seed in between, because he was sure that I’d do it that way to maximize the harvest. Well, duh! Of course, my brain didn’t work that way. Should have waited to do the planting when he was around!

But this time, I realized the error of my ways and got it planted this morning. It’s a little late, but given the wacky weather we’ve had all summer, it’s probably ok.

the seeds under the dirt, the recycled skewers mark the carrot rows

seeds under the dirt, recycled skewers mark carrot rows

Looking forward to seeing the radishes come up soon. I also threw some free thank you mesclun seeds that came with my Botanical Interests seed order in the front part of the stock tank. Never can have too much salad, right? Not in this household!

In the meantime, Bruce and I’ve been doing a lot to spruce up the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. In fact, we’re about 2/3 of the way done. We’ll finish up the first fall improvement on Saturday and then I’ll post the photos. Believe me, it needed it, especially since the temperatures are headed down to the cooler 80s and that means time to enjoy more time on the patio.

Are you looking forward to cooler fall weather where you are? Or is it already there?

The Gs are looking forward to more time outside when fall and winter come. Here are your gratuitous dog photos for today:

our supervisor for last weekend's improvements

our supervisor for last weekend’s improvements

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camped out in the kitchen, hoping for fall out

So: preparedness

Today’s the day in the U.S. when everyone remembers what happened on 9/11/01.

I know exactly what I was doing (getting ready for work and watching the Today show) and where I was (in our condo in downtown Toronto) when the first plane crashed. I remember going to work in the heart of Toronto’s downtown core not really knowing what was going on.  I remember getting called into a conference room and watching the tv. I remember getting told by our Managing Director to go back home, not realizing at the time that he hadn’t been able to reach anyone in our agency’s NYC headquarters.  Once I got home, I remember Bruce and I pulling our blinds shut and watching news channels all day with our bulldog Daisy snoozing on the sofa, not really knowing what was going on. I had friends and family in D.C. and PA. I had friends in NYC. I remember planes getting rerouted to various Canadian cities and people taking the frightened and passport-less Americans into their homes, giving them their bedrooms and making them part of the family without knowing when they’d be able to leave. I remember the chaos.

No one was prepared for it. How could they be?

Well, friends, one of the themes for 2013 for the Mortroski Mid-century is to be prepared. We’ve optimized and checked systems. We’ve gotten important paperwork in order for both ourselves and the 4Gs. Bruce and I attended a Pet First Aid class and now know how to do CPR on the dogs, muzzle them in an emergency and do some basic first aid.

And I’ve been building a dog first aid kit and a people first aid kit. To get it done in what I thought would be the most efficient manner, I ordered everything online from Amazon. Well, the mailroom at my office must be wondering what’s coming in all the boxes.  Amazon (and their various suppliers) have been shipping everything in bits and pieces, despite my checking of the “ship in as few boxes as possible” box.

Still, by the end of the week, I will have a very comprehensive kit for the Gs, a smaller kit to bring to work, and plenty of materials to expand our human first aid kits. Then I need to work on the emergency supplies: food, water, tools, etc.

It’s a wonder I’ve never put these emergency kits together before. Before adulthood, I lived through tornadoes in Indiana, hurricanes in Georgia, and earthquakes in California (including the big World Series earthquake in the late ’80s where the Bay Bridge and highways fell down). I remember going to the hurricane shelter and I remember being without power for a week. I remember staying with my friend Elaine as we watched San Francisco burn from across the bay in Berkeley, not knowing whether or not her dad and stepmom who lived in the Marina neighborhood were ok. She wouldn’t hear from them for full day, but luckily they were ok.

In Toronto, I should have had an emergency kit for the big eastern 1/2 of North America power grid blackout in August 2003. Instead, our bulldog Daisy and I went for a walk (Bruce was on a business trip in Quebec City and would find himself being driven back to Toronto in a day or so since it was lights out for several days). We visited with our neighbors who were all sitting outside on their stoops, drinking wine, beer and cocktails and chatting. We made our way to our friend Jeanette’s townhouse.

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Daisy and me

Glamorous Jeanette was (and still is) the hostess with the most-ess. Not only did she have a fridge full of food that she was turning into an amazing meal cooked on her BBQ for a full house of friends and neighbors, she had more wine, beer and candles than anyone I knew. It was an amazing and fun night on her back deck—a beautiful party under the stars with a huge group of fascinating people. If I remember correctly, she sent us home with plates of food, for “Daisy’s breakfast”, she said. (Her big black mutt Wade was Daisy’s pal and it was a contest to see who was the most spoiled canine.)

Daisy and I hung out with Jeanette and Wade until 1 am, going home after realizing like everyone else that the power wasn’t coming back on any time soon. Since it was August and still hot and humid outside, we slept on the sofa in our basement that night since it was the coolest place in our townhouse. And since it was so dark, we slept way past when we should have woken up.

But I didn’t make an emergency kit afterwards. Or gather up food and bottled water. Life (ok, work) got in the way and it went to the bottom of the to do list and finally just fell right off.

Maybe it’s Texas, the land of extreme weather, flash floods, tornados, lightening that burns down houses. Maybe it’s just age and realizing that with each passing year, time’s slipping away. So I’m getting prepared for the unknown.

It may not be enough. But at least I’ll have something. So if we need to help the neighbors, we can. If we need to bandage up neighborhood dogs, cats and even chickens, we can.

So on this 9/11 anniversary, I’m taking action. I’m planning ahead. Don’t worry, I’m making sure there’s wine in the kit. And candles for ambiance. Of course, there will be dogs.

And because around here, dogs are everywhere, here’s a photo from last night:

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“So, where will the 2-leggeds sleep tonight, George?”
“I don’t know, Guinness. Maybe they could both fit on the extra dog bed that Gidget and Godiva aren’t using.”

 

Sow: seed signage

Must be something in the air. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have any kids that are in a Texas high school and need me to make a homecoming mum. You really must watch this video to understand this state’s fascination with something so ugly, huge and ridiculous:

Yes, I have a glue gun and I recently picked up a laminator. That’s why I decided to make some fancy-ish garden signs so that I remember what plants are which when the seeds I planted on Labor Day start springing from the ground (so far bok choi, snow peas, and mesclun are winning for speed).

First, I grabbed the seed packs (yes, they are all Botanical Interests) and made color copies of their pretty fronts.

lots of seed packs

lots of seed packs

You may wonder why earthy-crunchy me didn’t just reuse the seed packs. Two reasons: I haven’t necessarily emptied each pack and there’s important growing info on all four sides so I like to keep them for reference. And I suppose the third reason would be that I’m not sure the laminator could take the thickness of multiple layers of seed packet paper.

Second, I fired up the laminator. It’s only the third time I’ve used it. It’s not a very fancy one and cost less than $20 including 100 sheets of laminating plastic. A bargain! It has two settings: cold, which is for fragile items like old photos and hot, which is for paper things like my seed pack fronts.

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laminator

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The first package going into the laminator

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Laminated radish seed pack front right after it came out of the laminator

It was super easy so I just kept feeding the plastic covered seed pack fronts into the laminator. It really didn’t take very long. I trimmed off the excess plastic and was left with the seed pack front signs:

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A few laminated seed pack fronts 

Third, I wanted a post for each sign so I grabbed my glue gun and fired it up. I picked up some craft sticks, aka popsicle sticks, at Target. They’re inexpensive and I think they’ll be durable enough to stand up for the season. And if they don’t stand up to water and soil well, I bought 60 so I’ll have replacements available.

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the sign posts

When the glue was flowing, I made a thin line on a stick:

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the thin clear line

Then I slapped on a laminated seed pack front and pressed down for a second or two:

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voila: a little seed sign!

Here’s one for the arugula washtub:

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the arugula feels special now

It didn’t take very long and I had a lot of fun with this little craft. Best of all, anyone who looks at the washtub, planters, raised beds and stock tanks will know exactly what’s growing there. It was a great Thursday night activity.

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lots of seed signs ready to plant

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

Sow: happy birthday, fig tree

One year old!

Congratulations, fig tree! You’re a year old.

After yesterday’s lengthy post crashed and I lost it the first time, I forgot to mention in the rewrite that our little fig tree has been a member of the Mortroski Mid-century Urban Farm for a full year now.

Whooohooo!

Last year at this time, it had about three leaves and really only two branches. It was about 1 foot tall. I was pretty proud of it though because I got it for free since my favorite garden center had a crazy loyalty program that gave you Canadian Tire-type money whenever you bought something during their promotional period.

You could only cash in that fake money at certain times. Because last year was the start of the MM Urban Farm, I bought a lot of stuff. Truckloads of dirt, compost, transplants, seeds, raised bed kits, organic fertilizer, worm castings, gloves. I very well may have been North Haven Gardens’ best customer in 2013.  And I held off purchasing that tree until I knew I could get it gratis.

With not much care, just a bit of organic fruit tree fertilizer in the spring and water when the sprinklers are run, the tiny fig tree has since doubled in height and is getting a nice set of leaves. Unfortunately, the birds ate all of the 12 tiny figs it produced back in the spring so no figs for us. That is why, if you have recently posted about your lovely fig trees and jam/preserve making or shown pictures of delicious fig salads, desserts and appetizers, I may have seemed a tiny bit, ok, VERY, jealous.

While I wasn’t planning on a bumper fig crop or anything like that, I was hoping for a small taste of the bounty to come.

Damn birds. Hope they enjoyed the figs, though that’s doubtful since they ate them before they were barely developed and definitely not sweet. They also ate all of the figs off the neighbor’s tree that I occasionally sampled from in the past in the name of research. (How else would I know what a Celeste fig tastes like? The varieties that grow in North Texas aren’t the same as the ones shipped to the yuppie-hippie grocery store. Those are mostly from California.)

Can’t wait to see what year 2 looks like for the little tree, especially since George is no longer interested in it.

Ok, little tree, let’s get growing and producing more figs, shall we?

Have a great day, everyone!

sow: dirty gardener

 

IMG_3758Guilty as charged! It was a fantastic Labor Day long weekend for getting stuff done—with plenty of time for relaxing. Although I slept in for the first time in eons, I spent most of Monday afternoon outside digging in the dirt. Perfect timing too since it rained on and off all morning long—a lovely way to start the day lounging about and drinking coffee, although Guinness was not impressed with what the wet weather did to his morning walk.

Monday’s harvest was pretty awesome (notice the seed packet next to the pile of produce):

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The chard is the last of what I planted last fall. As you may have gathered from the seed pack, I planted more. The peppers are all still going strong as is the okra (it’s all as tall as me now so it’s getting harder to pick) and they’ll keep going until the first frost hits them. I decided to freeze the nearly 1.5 pounds of okra I gathered up since it will be nice to pull some out in the middle of winter and use it in soups or stews.

But picking wasn’t the most important part about Monday. Serious digging happened. And I’m not talking about the hole that Gidget and George have been making next to the driveway when no one’s looking.

Why? Well, because fall’s here. Ok, truthfully, fall’s not really here until September 21 or so and it’s still close to 100°F almost every day, but it’s time to get fall seeds in the ground. So I started by soaking some snow pea and beet seeds on Saturday evening. The snow peas are already sprouting and they were planted on Sunday afternoon!

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Monday, I dug, added compost and soil, pulled weeds. moved stuff around. And I did a lot of squatting which is why my body was a bit sore yesterday—and my brain was too tired after work to blog.

But not too tired to get one more thing done. Bruce and I worked on clearing out the flooded stock tank (#3) last night. I used about 1/2 of the dirt to augment the other beds and tanks on Monday, then he finished clearing the rest of the soil out into two wheelbarrows. We added three bags of crushed stone, then tested the draining (works fine now). So we loaded the 1/2 of the dirt that was left back in and I’ll get more dirt on the weekend so I can plant carrots and radishes.

Can you tell that I’m excited to get new stuff in the ground? Here’s what what I planted on Sunday (all seeds are from Botanical Interests):

  • Oregon sugar pod II snow peas
  • French filet bush beans (had to plant more since I think the birds may have eaten some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago)
  • Gourmet blend beets (check out the seed pack above)
  • Detroit red beets
  • Five color silverbeet Swiss chard
  • Nero Tuscana kale
  • Red velvet leaf lettuce
  • Qs special medley mesclun
  • Cilantro
  • Italian parsley
  • Bok choi

Here’s what’s sticking around from the spring planting:

  • Malabar spinach (going crazy still)
  • Oregano (moved into a planter)
  • Thyme (moved into a planter)
  • Mint
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Clemson spineless okra
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Marigolds (moved to the bed with the fall tomatoes, they help attract bees)
  • Black diamond watermelon (a gift from a friend that is finally just starting to produce watermelons)
  • some of the basil (see below for details)

My arugula patio planter experiment is going very well. We’ve been harvesting handfuls for sandwiches and burgers—it’s really yummy. Definitely going to do it again next summer and maybe try a couple of additional planters to increase the volume.

I picked up some sprout seeds over the weekend and will be trying out growing those on the window sill just as soon as I get some quart mason jars (I thought I had some, but I only have 1/2 quart jars). I really love them on sandwiches and am a little worried about all of the illnesses that store-bought sprouts seem to have. (The instructions explain how to properly disinfect the seeds so there is little chance of getting sick.)

The fall tomatoes are cranking away. There’s fruit on the Indigo Rose and Celebrity plants, flowers on the rest and I’m already dreaming of tomato sandwiches and caprese salads. The warm days and cooler nights appear to be working their wonders. I pulled a tomato (sweet 100 so Bruce won’t care) and a bell pepper (green) plant that were formerly in the flooded stock tank and really didn’t appreciate being moved. They weren’t doing well, so it seemed a better idea to use the space to plant something else.

I’ve had an exceptional season for basil. I’ve made pesto several times, frozen some, given tons away. Last Thursday I gave away 10 1-gallon bags of the stuff to some coworkers:

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I love basil and it’s so gratifying to grow—that’s why it makes me so happy to share it. While I have had great plans to make another couple of batches of pesto to freeze (I have everything I need, just need to do it), I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I did make a lovely basil-watermelon-feta salad from a recipe one of the basil beneficiaries suggested (thanks, Lauren):

 

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Martha Stewart’s Basil-Watermelon-Feta Salad

 

It was pretty and delicious and I plan to make it many times—I even made a small batch of it for our work lunches today.

The basil is also doing double duty as housing. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see the toad that has lived in Raised Bed #4 all summer. He arrived when the tomato jungle was making tons of shade and has stuck around. Last night, I saw that he’s made a little hut from the mulch around the basil. Hopefully it keeps him hidden from Gidget (she keeps looking for him, perhaps because she has a taste for toads).

 

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Toad in a hole

But as cute as it is, a toad isn’t a dog.  And it won’t satisfy your desire to see gratuitous G photos from the long weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites of George and Gidget, who are quickly becoming best friends:

 

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George has a ball in his mouth that Gidget really wants

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Hope you’re having a great week!