Sow: new growth



Now that I’m an avid (perhaps even extreme) urban food grower, I love March because it means that it’s time to get the spring seeds and transplants in the ground—and it’s time for me to spend more time outside. While my allergies don’t love all the pollen in the air, I feel a whole lot better when I have vitamin D fresh from the sun coursing through my body.

Today the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm looks a little sad. We’ve got a bit of hardscaping happening in the backyard since we decided to extend our patio to make more room for seating, entertaining and eating (and of course, dog lounging). We are hopeful that the concrete will be poured this week and we can start thinking about fun things like building our wine barrel Muskoka chairs and side tables (thank you for the barrels, Marc Pistor!) and how many chairs we’ll want around our new outdoor fireplace (thank you, Grandma!). Even when it’s super cold or super hot, people love to be outside and this will give us much more entertaining space for our dog park dinners and our growing list of Mortroski Midcentury Bed & Breakfast guests for 2014.


this will be a patio soon


another view of the soon-to-be patio

But back to the farm: from a distance the raised beds and stock tanks look really empty. When you look closer, there’s no need for sadness—in the Power Greens bed (Raised Bed #4) we’ve got all sorts of salad-y stuff sprouting. Arugula! Spinach! Kale! Chard! All sorts of different lettuces! In two weeks, it will be beautiful and full of baby salad stuff.

Stock Tank #3 is teeming with French Breakfast radish sprouts. They are my absolute favorite radish so I’m pretty excited for the radishes but also for their yummy sprouts. As more sprout, I’m going to have to thin out the Stock Tank so we can have the sprouts on our lunch salads.

Raised Bed #3 got planted with three varieties of beets, two types of bok choi, plus a trellis row of pole beans (green beans) on Sunday. I saw bok choi sprouts this morning but nothing else is up yet.

Stock Tank #2 got a full packet of that beautiful Red Velvet leaf lettuce. I just love how it looks in salads and its big leaves are great for sandwiches and burgers. Plus it seems to like the North Texas temperature fluctuations.

That’s the secret to my planting this year: I’m growing what likes to grow in North Texas. So bye bye tomatoes and hello tomatillos. I’ll be growing tons of peppers. Tons of leafy green stuff. Okra galore. Black eyed peas in the heat of the summer.

Okra will go in after April 1 and it will produce until October or until we get sick of okra and I cut it down and put something in it’s place. I’m growing a whole bed since I like it pickled and several of my coworkers and friends have put in requests for more okra. It’s gratifying because the blooms are pretty and it grows so darn fast.

Tomatillos are this year’s experiment. I have seeds but if I see transplants when I get the peppers (jalapenos, naheims, and bells) I will probably go the instant gratification route. We have made a green chile chicken stew a Boxing Day tradition at our house and it would be really awesome to say it’s from our tomatillos and peppers verses the cheater jar version that we use. It’s delicious, but I bet I could make it from scratch with a little practice.

I re-seeded the cilantro pot although after I cut it back post-freeze, it is coming back like a weed. Same with the mint, oregano and thyme pot. Unfortunately, the kitchen herb garden that has been with me since we moved to the MMC croaked except for the chives. So I replanted with sage, parsley, oregano, golden oregano, basil and thyme. I’ll put more basil in the raised beds once I get everything else in, but I love having the planter right off the kitchen to grab a little of this and a bit of that while I’m cooking dinner.

And I think I mentioned that I’m branching out to flowers and decorative patio plants this year.  I will still keep tucking flowers to attract bees into the raised beds, but I am going for backyard beautification now that I’ve kind of got the hang of the food crops.

Bruce surprised me with an amazing b-day present for the crazed veggie grower: a full-on professionally installed  irrigation system for the raised beds and stock tanks. Yeehaw! It’s pretty awesome and I hope it makes a big difference in how well everything grows. It’s even more awesome than my birthday present from last year (remember the twin spinning composters?).

See why March is such a great month?

Here’s your gratuitous dog photo for today:



PS: For those of you who are curious, the Lacey dog is doing just great. The folks at Take Me Home Pet Rescue have reported that she is adjusting nicely and even attended their board meeting the other night. Of course, she charmed everyone with her sweet snuggliness.


So: 3-day Guinness celebration

Let Guinness eat cake -- it's his birthday!

Let Guinness eat cake — it’s his birthday!

(WARNING: this post is pretty much all gratuitous dog photos with a little bit of garden and DIY commentary thrown in just for good measure. If you’re not a fan of my dog discussions, you may want to skip this one. It’s been very canine-focused around here for the past week.)

St. Patrick’s Day is a rather big deal in North America, so it’s only fitting that we gave Guinness, a great big black lab, a day of massive celebration for his made-up birthday. Guinness was a stray so we don’t really know what he thinks of the name we gave him, but we know he’s appreciated the three days of celebration he’s had in 2014.

First, on Saturday, the Gs all got a delicious buffalo shin each for their chewing delight.

We were hoping to distract them from being a little sad since their new pal Lacey went to her real foster situation on Saturday afternoon. We all really enjoyed having Lacey around. She was a wonderful houseguest and a super sweet dog that will make her new family very happy.

Once she warmed up to having four larger dogs sniffing her and trying to get her to play, Lacey enjoyed being around everyone. She was great on the leash too, which was surprising for a street dog. She tried really hard to fit in and even slept next to the Gs when we all were watching tv in the office. She loved her crate and went in it on her own (probably to escape Gidget).

Guinness especially enjoyed having a new lady friend. He was quite smitten with her.

A few photos of Lacey during her stay at the Mortroski Midcentury Doggie Bed & Breakfast:


pre-bath: Lacey was a real trooper and once she got in the shower seemed to enjoy soap and hot water, but she loved the fluffy towels the best. Her new family will be thrilled with her bath time manners and fast drying time.


We weren’t sure how Lacey would get along with fellow former street dog Gidget, but once they got to know each other, the girls enjoyed each other’s company


being too big to be a lap dog didn’t stop Lacey from wanting to be held — or wanting to sit in chairs with people before they had their coffee


Lacey was great in the car and was pretty chilled out as we headed to Take Me Home Pet Rescue, the group that found her foster


Carpool buddies

At Take Me Home Pet Rescue, we took a last photo with Lacey (we are in our Duck Team 6 shirts):


We all had fun together and while we were a little sad to see Lacey go, we know she’s going to be an awesome addition to another family. 

Well, with Lacey gone to her new life, the Gs have had to deal with going back to “normal” at the Mortroski Midcentury. Weekends are made for DIY projects! And digging in the dirt!

This past weekend we did a bit of both. Gidget the garden dog was very curious about the dirt digging (a favorite activity of hers).

Guinness spent his time rolling in the not yet green grass (and in the part of the yard which is being turned into a patio this week):

post rolling

Guinness, post rolling (he got up covered with little bits of dead grass and dust)

So far for Urban Farm spring 2014, we’ve got sprouting mixed greens, kale, swiss chard and spinach in Raised Bed #4, radish sprouts in Stock Tank #3, three kinds of beets, green beans, and two kinds of bok choi seeds in Raised Bed #3, red velvet lettuce seeds in Stock Tank #2. I replenished the kitchen herb garden this morning (yesterday was too cold for transplants) and have my fingers crossed that we will have lovely weather from now on. This weekend I’m going to get bell pepper and jalapeño transplants in the ground. I promise food pictures as soon as there’s something more to show.

Our DIY project is to get the office/tv room and attached bathroom finished up. We have a cool panel treatment that we’re going to continue throughout the office/tv room and a wall treatment that we need to install in the bathroom. We purchased the wood and metal tracks yesterday, then cut the panels tonight. We’ll install them tomorrow and then Bruce can paint them while I’m traveling for work on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the meantime, we have some outdoor work going on and will have an expanded patio in the near future. I’m excited about adding some flowering plants in planters and maybe some fun lighting. We love being outside.

After Sunday’s wood getting and seed planting, Guinness’ second birthday treat was an extravaganza for the entire family, 4-leggeds and 2-leggeds: steak eating! Yes, it was the people’s dinner and the very spoiled Gs all got meat juice and a fair portion of meat along with a bit of their usual kibble. We don’t have red meat that often around here anymore so it was a real treat.

After we cut the panels for the office tonight (table saw! lots of saw dust! minimal cursing!), Guinness had his third treat: Peanut Mutter Bars from Three Dog Bakery. Yes, it’s a bakery for dogs. You could eat the “cake” if you wanted, but it is not sweet, even though it’s made with all sorts of good ingredients like yogurt, carob, peanut butter, whole wheat flour, etc. Guinness shared with Godiva, George and Gidget but our old man would have loved to have all the treats for himself.

We figure Guinness is now about 10 since we got him 4 years ago in January. At the time the vet figured he was 4-6 years old. We really have no idea. His chin is getting whiter and he’s got more sparkly hairs on his face, but Gidget has brought out the puppy in him and he plays like a maniac with her. Hopefully he gets to enjoy many more St. Patrick’s Day birthday parties.


So: temporary houseguest


Bruce getting ready to transport Lacey to the Mortroski Midcentury

Since yesterday there’s been a four-legged houseguest at the Mortroski Midcentury. Her name is Lacey and she’s around 2 years old. One of the families that Bruce knew through his Duck Team 6 outreach work  fell on hard times and was forced to move to a different place. Unfortunately, the place didn’t allow dogs and the family had to make a tough decision to leave Lacey behind and have Duck Team 6 find her a new home. 

So Bruce picked Lacey up last night after work. She was a little confused about the whole thing, but went willingly.

First, they went to the vet for vaccinations and a check up:


Lacey is pretty laid back and not too worried about being at the vet and getting her shots. Guinness, Godiva, and George are like this at the vet too.

Then, when they got  to the Mortroski Midcentury, the Gs were a little overly enthusiastic and after getting poked and prodded at the vet, Lacey wanted the peace and quiet of a private crate in our laundry room. She really liked Bruce’s truck although she doesn’t have a drivers’ license.


Lacey may look a little sad, but she’s tired from all the excitement

We humans got lots of doggie kisses and tail wags last night. She got a good night’s sleep in the borrowed crate, but was still very subdued (but hungry) this morning.

The Gs’ pal Tracy reported that Lacey was very sweet at lunch time. At that point, she was still being sequestered from the Gs.

But tonight, she greeted Bruce at the back door along with Godiva, Guinness, and George. It appears that she’s a crate escape artist and maybe spent the afternoon acquainting herself with her new friends. Or maybe the Gs felt she needed to be freed. (NOTE: Gidget is currently being crated for her own safety since she’s a naughty chewer. We are confident that she will outgrow the naughtiness soon.)

Everyone enjoyed dinner time together, except for our sensitive Godiva, who was too busy being a good hostess to eat her dinner:


Lacey’s gotten 3 good meals and she really likes the Gs’ food.

And before everyone asks if we’re changing her name to Gracie, we’re not. We’re not upgrading to 5G because she’s an awesome dog and she’ll be perfectly adoptable. She’s sweet and gets along well with lots of dog personalities which makes her super adoptable. She’s going to be a nice addition to another family and a good friend to any pets they have. She’s about 55 lbs., 10 lbs smaller than Godiva and she’s not skinny. Bruce says she’s good on the leash since they went on a short walk this evening. She’s not food aggressive nor bothered by squirrels. And she’s got a spotted tongue like Godiva.


what a difference 24 hours makes!

After dinner tonight, Lacey continued to make herself at home. While she spent a lot of her time outside, she’s far too comfortable inside to have never been a house dog. The Gs are all enjoying her company although everyone has gotten a little too fresh with the bum-smelling. There have been a few growls, but everyone has kept their teeth to themselves.

Since everyone is getting along and Lacey is getting well-rested, she’ll be having a bath tomorrow morning. If it’s like everything else, she’s going to be easy going and enjoy the whole process from the warm water to the fluffy towels. She’s already gone into the bathroom and checked out the shower where the bath will take place. No sweat.

Knowing the Gs, they’ll all come into the bathroom and hang out while she’s getting her bath. Gidget could already use another bath, although she had one on Sunday (white dog’s curse).

photo 2[1]

everyone’s getting very comfortable

As an emergency foster family, we simply are a safe place for Lacey to crash on her way to another rescue group that can find her a good home. In this case, it’s Take Me Home Pet Rescue. She’s going to be with us for the next few days. But I think she might miss Bruce when she leaves:

photo 2

Lacey likes to snuggle

Lacey hopped up on her own to enjoy the comforts of the sofa with the rest of the Gs. I hope her new family is ok with dogs on the furniture.

So: good karma

I woke up on the wrong side of bed today. Bruce let me sleep in slightly so I missed the morning dog walk/bunny hunt/coyote sighting. I went off schedule. Perhaps that’s what started my not-so-great mood. Usually I’m a pretty upbeat kind of gal. Usually I can banish the blues in a minute of mind shifting. Usually listening to one of my favorite dance tunes chases away the grumpies.

But not today.

I had to bust out my serious mood fighting force: improving my karma. You see, when I’m miserably miserable and I can’t shake the disease, I make myself perform good deeds, random acts of kindness, and various little tasks that can make a big difference when they’re all done and grouped together.

First, while I was eating my salad I  wrote my love letters for the second half of March: a birthday card, a note for a kid who is having a tough time at school, a card for a man celebrating his 7 month of sobriety, a letter for a chiropractor who has recently changed careers to teaching due to MS taking away her strength. Hard to stay grumpy when you’re sending love and good vibes to four deserving people, right?


Today it didn’t work like it usually does.

Next, I decided that some fresh air and a change of scenery might help. So I grabbed my letters and headed out to the post office down the street. I had a small pile of things that needed to be mailed. Two birthday gifts. The letters. A package of old greeting cards to be recycled. Why would anyone want my old cards? Well, the kids at St. Jude’s Ranch want them—they make new ones out of them. You can learn all about it here. I also cheerfully made small talk with the nice postie who helped me mail all my stuff.

Again, spreading good vibes and happiness. Well, it lasted for about 10 minutes.

So back to work I went.

And finally, I decided to bring out the big guns: cleaning and decluttering. The process sucks, but once it’s done, I’m usually guaranteed a more cheerful disposition. I recycled a bunch of old paper. Filed some piles. Vanquished dust bunnies. Wiped down my desk. Put some clutter away.

It kind of worked.

I finished out my workday and headed home. The Gs were their usually tail-wagging happy selves and it’s hard to be grumbling and grouchy around them.

Still, it’s good that tomorrow is another day.

The gratuitous dog photo of the day is the subject of tomorrow’s blog:


Lacey’s going to be staying at the Mortroski Midcentury for a little while

So: Texas is popular

Not sure what’s happening in 2014, but we have more visitors coming this year in the first 5 months of the year than any other year we’ve lived here. Some are first time visitors, others are back for more shopping/eating/sightseeing. And it seems like many people are considering or being transferred to the Dallas area.

I’m delighted. And excited! I don’t even care about the cleaning.

We have guests coming for a friend’s concert in April (Maysa–she’s an amazing jazz singer. Check out her site They’re coming from Colorado and Virginia so far, but you never know if our Detroit pals might make the trip.

Then we’re being invaded by the Canadians in May.

Lots to look forward to!

And your gratuitous dog photo of the day:


Sow: here comes the sun


Final carrot harvest. While these are super cute, carrots are another vegetable that I’m buying from the store.

Finally, a weekend filled with lots of things that I like best (and some housecleaning). It was a big gray and cool on Saturday, but everything worked out fine since that was the day when Boy Scout Kyle who is trying to raise money to fund his Scouting activities delivered, yes, delivered 10 huge bags of compost and 18 huge bags of mulch. Sweet Kyle even stacked them neatly. And delivered they were cheaper than the place where I have gotten compost and mulch in the past. Best of all, Bruce and I didn’t have to load and unload it. Score!

While the mulch for the front planting beds will wait for another weekend, after cleaning up what was left of the winter garden (lots of death and a few fancy mini carrots), I made quick work of getting the compost into the beds. 8 of the 10 bags of compost were added to the raised beds and stock tanks.

In case you’re curious, my faithful birthday composter is still doing it’s thing, breaking down scraps and keeping them out of the landfill, but it’s not ready yet for the garden. I’m thinking I was a big overzealous with the size of the peels and scraps. But the composter beasties seem happy enough with the variety. So they’ll need to get busy and the compost will wait in the composter until fall once it’s ready. That’s where all of my sad and very dead kale, collard greens, and cilantro went. (They looked beautiful and then the sleet got them.)

The other two bags of compost will be great for helping along the flower planters that I intend to get for our patio and the kitchen herb planter which has been 80% wiped out by the weather. All that’s left are the chives and truthfully they look like they may have finally succumbed to the awfulness of this winter. And yes, I did say flowers. They may be edible or just pretty. I’m not sure what I want to get yet, but I would like them to be attractive to both butterflies and bees.

And because I couldn’t help myself when my hands were in the compost and my face was smudged with dirt, I went ahead and planted spinach, mixed salad greens, kale, chard, and cilantro seeds. Beets will be this weekend, provided I remember to soak them on Friday night and I think it’s nearly time for beans. Hopefully we will not get any additional freak ice storms or sleet. I’m really thinking about getting a bunch of herb transplants this weekend at the local yuppie-hippie store. I was tempted Friday night when Bruce and I went on a pizza run, fueled by exhaustion and dinner ennui and then on Saturday morning I kicked myself for not getting them (they were a really good price and organic too).

To top it all off, Sunday marked the day when we spring forward. While plenty of my friends and coworkers complained about the loss of one hour of precious sleep (I went to bed deliciously tired at 9:30 pm), I rejoiced. It makes me so happy to have light when I leave the office and it’s much nicer for our dog walks in the evening.

So not only is it so sunny that at 5:30 pm I thought it was 3:30 pm, it’s also TIME TO DIG IN THE DIRT! I have missed it so. Seriously. I was wondering what was wrong with me in January and February and besides the broken ankle bone, I think that might have been one of the reasons I was so blah.

Blah no more. I am excited about the promise of beautiful plants. Time to spend outside even if it’s weeding. And so many good things to eat.

One more thing made me excited this weekend: my neighbor’s little French bulldog puppy Sophie. Don’t worry, I’ve already offered to puppy sit so I can snuggle that sweet little snorter. We lent her people one of our doggie gates so I had two chances to see her: once on Saturday to meet her and then the excuse of helping to install the gate on Sunday to see her again.

If she goes missing, her people will certainly come looking for her here. So without further adieu, here is today’s gratuitous dog photo:




So: time out

Today was a day when you were supposed to turn off your electronics and just be. Not feasible from a work perspective. Too many emails to send. Too many words to write.

But once the workday was over, I could do it, right?

Nope. Grocery list was on smart phone.

After dinner I wanted to unwind by reading a magazine. Um, they are on my iPad now.

Even now, I’m using my iPhone.

So, it was a big fail for me. I guess I’ll save my technology break for our summer vacation.

Gratuitous dog photo for today:

Let sleeping girls lie

So: throwback thursday

young Daisy cropped

This is Daisy, a week after we got her (9 weeks old) The kids in the photo are Bruce’s nephew and niece. They are now in their 20s.

Lots of people do Throwback Thursdays on their Facebook pages where they share funny photos or stories of their long lost youth. I’m a little tapped out in the writing department tonight, so it’s time for plethora of gratuitous dog photos for your Thursday, the Gateway to the Weekend(™) enjoyment.

I hope you enjoy this quick a glimpse into life with a bulldog. Like many of her kind, Daisy was a old-man style snorer with farts that cleared rooms. She didn’t realize she was a bulldog and played ball like a maniac until she was about 11. She drooled when she smelled oranges (her favorite fruit) and ate fruits and vegetables with great gusto. While she spent most of her life in Toronto, she moved to Texas as a senior citizen and enjoyed sunning her self by the pool.

We were lucky to have her with us until she was 12.5 years old.

Here are a few of my favorite Daisy photos:

bruce&daisy bw

This photo was taken in Toronto when Daisy was only a few years old. We are in the park next to our friends’ house doing a little photo shoot for our annual Christmas card. 


Another Christmas card. This one was taken after we were on an HGTV show called Get Color (US)/Colour Confidential (Canada) and designer Jane Lockhart and her crew overhauled our bathroom.

Daisy was a good sport

Daisy was a good sport, especially on her birthday.

She liked holiday photos

She liked holiday photos

And squeaky toys! But any ball was her favorite toy.

And squeaky toys! But any ball was her favorite toy.

Daisy was a great dog.

Look how big her noggin was!







So: looking on the bright side

Vintage abstract green background with flower

image by bigstock

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And in my case, when the daily grind gets busier, chaotic, and stresses some people out, I actually like it better. I like to have a full to-do list. I like the rush when you’re working towards meeting a deadline. And yes, I really enjoy pulling ideas out of the ether at the very last minute.

I’ve always been a fan of lots going on. It’s fun.

Maybe that’s because I really try to keep things positive and not take life too seriously.

I slowed down for the first 2 months of this year. And I really didn’t like it much. Too much television. Not enough reading and writing. Definitely not enough gardening.

And that’s why it’s back to vibrant chaos. Action-packed fun. A little less sleep but a lot more living.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo is a blast from the past — our first dog:

our bulldog Daisy


So: elections, again?


Today was the Texas primary. Most people I know said they weren’t voting because it doesn’t really matter. In their opinion, it’s basically a way to cull out the lunatic fringe, the people who are running to make a point, and those who just want to see their name on the ballot.

It feels like we just had elections not so long ago. Like maybe even November. Maybe that’s because we live next door to a professional political campaign manager who decorates her lawn for the majority of the year with her employers’ signs. This election I put up some signs of my own, which has pretty much guaranteed that I’m not going to be invited over for coffee or a cocktail any time soon. You’ve probably gathered that we might have different viewpoints.

After living in Canada for 12 years, I don’t think I was fully prepared for all the angry and negative political commercials I’d see here. And in primary time, you see people from the same party throwing barbs at each other with so much hate and vitriol that you wonder how they can espouse the same convictions, much less be in the very same political party. It’s maddening since those spots barely give you any useful information, yet they clutter the main networks when all you’re trying to do is see how cold/hot/wet/snowy it’s going to be during the course of the day. You can put on and take of layers, but you can’t escape the barrage of venom.

And then there’s the actual act of voting. I’ve gotten to the polls pretty consistently since being in Texas. The first place we lived had a much more sophisticated system than the one Dallas has. Each time I’m shocked by the Sharpie and Scantron form approach to voting. What are we doing, taking the SAT? And then, there’s the size of the ballot. Today was a huge 11 x 17 monstrosity featuring all sorts of judge positions that I didn’t even know existed. Everything really is bigger in Texas.

Surprisingly, I was prepared, although due to the post-ice storm work day, I got to the poll almost at closing time. But I had done my homework: I had a little cheat sheet of the candidates of my choice to make the coloring in of the dots a bit quicker. When I pulled it from my purse, I thought the polling officials might tell me to put it away. No one blinked an eye which was odd. I guess the bored polling officials were just glad someone came to vote. The counting machine I used said 273 voters after I fed my sheet in. I hope the other counting machines had at least that much. With all the political smack talk around here, it would really be a shame if not that many people voted.

Ok, enough musing about the sad state of politics. Here’s the  gratuitous dog photo of the day:


“ok, enough typing. let’s go for a walk.”