So: grateful gratitude

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Thank you for all of the nice feedback on yesterday’s post. I hope you all have seen the results of your kindness, your helpfulness, and your generosity today. Reading so many people’s responses and knowing that so many people shared the post with their friends, family and followers, certainly made me feel more hopeful. Here’s a secret: when I spread a little kindness, I think I get more out of it than the person or people that are the receivers! And that’s why, no matter how craptastical the day is, I try to make it better for someone else.

Yes, it’s a little selfish. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t always work. Some days I’m just in a funk or inside my own head. Or too damn busy. But for the last year or so I’ve deliberately tried to be a kinder me, even when I don’t feel like it.

I’ve also forced myself to be deliberately grateful.

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My beautiful gratitude journal made by my very talented friend Mary-Claire

In an effort to stay positive and focused on all the good that’s happening, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal since the beginning of September and each day, I take a few moments to write down 10 reasons I am grateful. It was another one of my experiments like planting tomatillos or trying a complicated recipe. At first it felt a little silly and forced. But I made myself do it. Two months later, I actually like it. It reminds me of how much is going right, even when so much sounds like it’s going wrong. I track the lovely and nice things people do for me every day. I track the people who make my days better. I track the “tools” that make life better for me. Mostly, I track the things that mean something. If you’re in that kind of funk at the present moment or the “eating season” holidays make you feel blue, why not try it?

So much good happens everyday. But it’s like the comments and reviews on sites like Yelp, Amazon or even GlassDoor: it’s easier to point out the defects, problems and challenges. The things that went wrong—or at least not to your liking. Good is always our expectation. But when you don’t capture it, the good things become a tucked away memory that’s difficult to dredge up when you need it. You might already know that but I’m grateful that I figured that out for myself.

One last thing: I am also very grateful that the weekend is here. It’s time for a little down time. Maybe you’re going to kick back and relax a little like today’s gratuitous dogs of the day:

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Gidget and George enjoy snuggling while they watch tv • photo by Bruce

So: love love love

Woman holding heart, close up

 

Seems like the entire planet needs a little extra love this week. Some people are getting very discouraged. They are thinking the worst about their fellow humans because a few sourpusses, big bullies, and meanies are running their mouths and doing unkind things. Some people are just very, very sad.

We can help.

I challenge each and every one of you who takes a peek at this blog post to spread a little love tomorrow. Or tonight if you want to go ahead and get an early jump on it. Anything. Leave a note. Leave a bigger tip. Hold a door. Hold a hand. Buy some donuts for your coworkers. Buy a round. Listen. Listen some more. Let someone in your lane. Let someone with one thing go ahead of you at the grocery store when you’ve got a full cart. Help load something heavy into a stranger’s car. Help out someone who can never help you. Spare some change. Spare a smile. Make a phone call to an old friend. Make room for someone else to sit down. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in line. Buy food for the food pantry. Give a compliment. Give a hug. Just give a damn about the rest of the people on this big blue marble.

I’m putting this out there because it’s been a rough week for a number of people in my life. And as the saying goes, being kind because everyone is facing a hard battle will help them a lot. Even if you don’t impact them directly, I bet there’s someone else near you who is having a parallel experience. Or maybe a worse experience.

A bit of hope and a smidgen of kindness can go a long way on a dark day. Won’t you help me be the light today? C’mon, show your sparkle. It can be our secret.

Even if you’re looking at this post weeks later from the posting date, please do something. It’s not too late.

And if your heart is feeling a bit hard today, just have a look into the big brown eyes of the subject of today’s gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Pure love! This little cutie is Daphne, one of our many office dogs. She’s gotten a bit bigger since this photo was taken but she’s just as cute.

 

 

So: out of practice

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exhausted puppy

 

Today I’m starting with the gratuitous dog photo. Gidget pretty much sums up how I feel today. The past two rainy days have me wanting to snuggle under the covers—or be in a cozy pub in England, whiling away the time.

The real problem? I am out of practice in the staying up late department.

At one time, long, long ago, I was a night owl. I happily got my second wind around 10 pm and would toil away in the pre-dawn hours on freelance work, doing chores, reading an entire novel in one sitting, or dancing in a nightclub.

Like I said, that was long, long ago, before I married an early bird (see, opposites do attract) and had to walk dogs in the early morning hours. And before I had a whole list of to-dos complete before work. Good thing it was too wet to play in the dirt today.

You see, last night I decided that I was having such a good time chatting with our visitors that I would stay up even though Bruce went to bed. He hit the pillow at around 10 pm. Not me! Our visitors like to stay up late.

The lesson? Something has changed. For the first time in my life, I can no longer function on 4 hours of sleep a night. I’m a little afraid to know what an all-nighter might do to me.

Guess my new secret power is the ability to rise before the dawn.

 

 

Sow: crazy ideas

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not exactly plant seeds • image from McCormick.com

I’m beginning to think I have a reputation as a girl who will try anything once. In the garden, people! (Remember, “Sow” is in the title of this post, not “So.”)

If you’ve followed along with me for the past couple of years, you’ll recall that I’ve tried many “experiments” at the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm thus far. Some have been dismal failures. Like every tomato plant I’ve put in the ground, not counting Seymore the feral Sweet 100 that’s eating Raised Bed #4. Cabbage. Broccoli. Brussels Sprouts. Squash of all kinds. Watermelon. Cucumbers.

Some have been fabulous. Copious amounts of tomatillos filling the freezer! Black eyed peas galore! Every single kind of pepper producing faster than we can eat or give away. Malabar spinach. Beets. Two little basil plants that I have had to “prune” and bring to work by the bushel basket. Kale. Chard.

But this experimental idea, shared with me by my pal Mack one night on Facebook, has got to be the weirdest—and the most tempting: plant a Zatarain’s crab boil bag. No, Mack did not make it up. It’s a thing. Supposedly you can grow all sorts of amazing peppers. Over 21 varieties. Cilantro and a whole bunch of other amazing herbs that go into this New Orleans’ delicacy.

If the Kroger by my office would have had a box of Zatarian’s yesterday, I would have bought it and planted it just to see what happened. I would have had the most amazing story to tell you!

Or so I thought…

Turns out, if you Google it, it’s (wait for it, I know you’ll be surprised) a really well executed April Fool’s Day prank!

Good on ya, Mack. You got me. I wanted to believe! I wanted a whole passel of Cajun peppers and herbs. I wanted to tell the world about my crab boil garden—maybe McCormick would have sponsored the garden, you know, like NASCAR sponsors drivers. I’d wear the Zatarain’s logo proudly.

Alas, now I need to come up with another crazy experiment for Spring 2015. Got any bright ideas? And don’t say money tree. I hear the climate’s not right in North Texas.

Your gratuitous dog photo of the day is a bit of a throw back to a few year’s ago when we only had one G:

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We’re both a bit older now, but we’re still just as cute • photo by Bruce

 

 

Sow: storm’s coming

The sky’s been dark and ominous for a big chunk of today. Can’t blame the end of Daylight Savings Time either—everyone’s anxiously awaiting the storms that are supposedly coming over the next three days. Today we have a 30% chance of rain, but I’m willing to bet it’s higher. Tomorrow it’s at least 50%.

Can you see me doing my rain dance? You see, I always know when a big thunder-boomer is coming. Besides George pacing, panting, and needing his Thundershirt, my noggin’ tells me so. I get these weird little headaches that don’t go away, no matter how much water I drink or what kind of headache pill I pop. It’s very common here—several of my coworkers have the same thing happen to them. And they don’t let up until the storm is well underway.

Still, a bit of pain is no big deal when it means 1) full rain barrels, 2) free water from the sky, and 3) happy plants.

Speaking of happy plants, I’d really like the spinach to get going. The little teeny sprouts are super cute and all, but I’d like them to be bigger and heartier before things start getting colder around here. I planted them in the stock tanks to help protect them from the cold a bit. And of course, I’ve got frost cloth for the entire set up.

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Spinach sprouts, a few days ago

The Malabar spinach is definitely on it’s way out and needs to be pulled out. I was hoping that there would be a bit of cross over between the two so we’d have a constant supply of spinach but alas, that is not meant to be. Good thing the chard is doing its thing. After such a weird summer, the fall veggies seem to be taking their own sweet time.

Perhaps the lesson for this fall is patience.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Gidget sleeps well anywhere and everywhere

Sow: Gilroy experience

While I’m not a Native Californian, the years I spent in both Southern and Northern California have definitely shaped who I am. My love of dirt may be genetic (my paternal grandparents were farmers), but my appreciation of produce comes directly from California. Until we moved there when I was 12-ish, vegetables were mostly frozen or canned. Oranges came from nearby Florida (we lived in Savannah, Georgia). Then we moved to California, where produce was everywhere. My memories? The Irvine Ranch market. The citrus groves. Strawberries and artichokes. The lemons, grapefruit, loquats, and avocados in our various backyards. The Los Gatos farmers’ market. My mouth still waters thinking about the produce I purchased a million years ago as a new college grad—I sure could make $20 go far and provide a week’s worth of meals thanks to farmers like Dirty Girl Produce.

There really is something amazing about getting your food directly from the people that grow it. Hearing the stories of how it came to be, the trials of the weather, the experimentation with new crops and varieties, makes you feel like what you’ve been allowed to buy is a real miracle. Because it is.

I spent my teen years near the Garlic Capital of the World. Gilroy, California claims that title. Driving through there with my family and later as an adult on my own cross-California adventures, I was fascinated by the distinctive smell of millions of cloves of garlic growing in the hot inland Northern California sun. It was strong. It was pungent. It made me hungry even though it was so overwhelming.

One late summer I visited the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival with a pal from college. We tasted garlic ice cream and garlic wine (don’t bother) but also delicious aioli and artichokes and scampi. The very smell of garlic makes me think of California. Not just driving through Gilroy with the windows down, smelling that heady vampire-repelling smell, but also walking through North Beach in San Francisco. If I had to pick an official culinary scent of California, it would be garlic. Sorry oranges, strawberries, and wine. You are definitely in my top 10, just not in the coveted #1 position.

And I’ve always wondered how garlic grows.

So when Farmer Megan at Pure Land Organic posted that she needed help getting next years’s garlic harvest into the ground, I jumped at the chance and volunteered for a few hours of labor, a free lunch and a bag of amazing organic veggies (gonna need to make some roasted peppers and another batch of cowboy candy with the bounty). How cool would that be? Bruce got volun-told I’m afraid, but he was excited to help too.

It’s how we spent today:

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Farmer Allan, me, Farmer Megan taking a break • photo by Bruce

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Garlic planting volunteers • photo by Farmer Megan

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Farmer Pop’s planter • photo by Bruce

In short it was awesome! Bruce and I put around 2300 garlic cloves into the ground. And it was super easy thanks to Farmer Pop’s (Megan’s dad) handy dandy John Deere ride-on planter.

 

All Bruce and I had to do is sit side-by-side for a couple of hours and push root ends of  garlic cloves into the holes that the planter made, then pinch the soil over the holes. Easy peasy! Such a nice day to hang out outside.

And now I know how to plant garlic. I’m going to add it to the rotation at the urban farm and get some in the ground next weekend. Thanks for the planting lesson, Farmer Megan!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo of the day comes from last night’s surprise on Bruce—he’s got a big birthday coming up and we have a very busy next couple of months so the friends who visited us last night decided to celebrate his birthday early. Here, Gidget is helping with the birthday candles and Guinness is asleep on the sofa!

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Happy (early) birthday, Bruce!

So: fall evening

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It’s a lovely cool fall night. We are hanging out outside with some friends. Bruce made a fire even!

It’s funny how the weather works here. Last weekend it was hot–like over 90. But not this weekend. I love it–it’s a delightful change.

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The summer veggies are still growing though. But I fear that the okra is almost done. Peppers are going crazy still.

We spent time at the vet today. Guinness has a hurt foot–seems like he has something stuck in his paw like a piece of a burr. So he’s the gratuitous dog photo of the day–isn’t his sock cute?

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Until tomorrow! I’ll have an awesome farm story to tell.