So: good scents

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photo by Brian Jimenez | Unsplash

As much as I love apples of all kinds*, when citrus fruits from California and Texas appear in the grocery store, it always makes me very happy. Maybe even a little giddy. As much as I enjoy a gigantic Rio Star ruby red grapefruit as a decadent sweet-tart mess, those tiny clementines that usually come in a little wooden crate or a mesh bag are my ultimate favorites. Juicy. Plump. Vibrant. Portable. Self-contained. The unmistakeable fragrance lingers in the air (and on your hands) long after the fruit is eaten. It’s a dessert and an air freshener all-in-one, perfect for dining al desko.

The sharp scent of citrus also means that the year is winding down and the promise of a new beginning is on the horizon. But for now, frost is in the air. I think of—and want!—soups, stews, roasting, potatoes, pasta, big pots of this and that. Warming food. Comfort food. Hark! The Eating Season is beginning. Get the stretchy pants ready!

One Boxing Day party not so many years ago, I put a big bowl of clementines out on the buffet table, more as an in lieu of flowers decoration than as food. When I was cleaning up at the end of the night, I was very surprised that there were only a few left. I guess my friends like their delicious cuteness as much as I do. Or maybe by that point in the Eating Season, everyone was feeling stuffed from Thanksgiving dinners, company parties, friends’ parties, and Christmas dinner. They welcomed a little sweet treat that’s not cookies, pie, candy or cake.

A virtuous snack. Almost medicinal, right? After all, doesn’t Vitamin C cure colds? If that’s the case, I’m going to keep working on not getting one any time soon.

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Continuing the orange theme, today’s gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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George!

*although not nearly as much this year. The Invisalign teeth-movers I’ll have in my mouth for the next year make apple eating less than desirable.

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Sow: dead peppers

The big freeze in North Texas is diminishing our chances for growing our own produce this fall and winter. The peppers are toast, but I salvaged what I could.

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The tomatoes I picked last weekend are turning red and we had a lovely roasted tomato pasta dinner tonight.

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We have the potential for snow tonight so I’m not sure exactly how everything left will do. The agaves are covered. We have the ice melter handy and our trusty snow shovel ready. It’s been raining on and off all day and things are wet so there is the potential of a frozen driveway gate, frozen alley, frozen roads.

The weather is much colder than normal. It’s a little sad for the urban farm, but it feels very eating holiday-ish. And its lending itself to cooking lots of slow cooked foods.

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The roasted tomato pasta dinner tonight was simple: a bunch of the Sweet 100s that have been ripening inside, some peppers from Pure Life Organic, some peppers from our garden, two little zucchinis, an onion, three garlic cloves, three anchovy filets, garlic olive oil, and some fresh ground pepper on a tray. Roasted it up at 400°F for 30 minutes in our Breville toaster oven, then when it was done, I tossed with a little frozen basil puree. I added some chopped up chicken sweet Italian sausage too so I threw it into the frying pan with the sausage chunks and mixed it all up, but the sausage isn’t necessary. It would still be delicious without the sausages. I added the penne directly to the sauce in the pan, tossed, added a little bit of grated parmesan and it was delicious. Most of the meal came from the urban farm or Pure Life Organic farm which makes me really happy. And there’s enough for lunch tomorrow.

The Gs are all very snuggly because it is cold. Today’s gratuitous dog photo shows you the bond between the newest Gs:

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photo by Bruce

 

The toy near George’s head is one of his mice. They are kids’ toys from IKEA and he loves them. Perfect size for his big mouth.

So: nothing but a number

Bruce was still a little under the weather so this morning I struck out on my own to kill our to do list. Among other things I needed to buy bubble wrap with the little bubbles, a giant suitcase, gas for my car, chicken noodle soup/ginger ale/saltines for the patient, and a few other bits and pieces.

One of my stops was at the local grocery store. I threw stuff in the cart and managed to find George’s favorite toys by making a wrong turn down an aisle I usually ignore. And since I had time, I decided to explore the store a bit more (it’s not where I usually go, but I’m thinking it’s a better place). It seems to be good for spices, canned soups, crackers, dog toys, snacks, and wine. I restocked the spices I’ve used up over the past few weeks and got lots of nice supplies for the patient and the ever-so-needy Gs. And I thought I should get myself a little liquid reward since I knew that I was going to be working hard packing boxes and suitcases today.

Well, after the added benefit of an engine full of firefighters doing their shopping, I had another lovely surprise. The checker rang up all of my stuff, got to the Chardonnay (white or clear are my colors of choice with my newly installed Invisalign braces) and asked for ID. I thought she was joking, but hey, I handed it over. She thought I was joking too. The chick in her thrashed gray hoodie, nondescript gray t-shirt, faded jeans, and gray Chucks with a 100% make up free face in makeup-loving Dallas was actually born in 1969. Yes, a 40-something! Probably her mom’s age! Maybe older than her mom! She looked at me and then my Texas Drivers’ License, then repeated the cycle. After shaking her head, she put the wine in the bag and told me the total. I admired her nose piercing and bid her adieu.

I’d like to think that my restful Friday night had everything to do with the carding incident. As one of my sweet, sweet friends pointed out when I recounted the story on Facebook, “Not bad when you’re more than double the drinking age.” It’s just a number, folks. And it doesn’t bug me one bit.

On the good news front: Bruce says he feels “a million percent better” by the way. Tomorrow he should be ready to go, helping me to pull out all the dead pepper and basil plants.

On the bad news front: Yes, we have casualties from the freeze. And something ate all of the spinach seedlings in Stock Tank #1. Godiva kept trying to tell us that was happening but we chose to ignore her sniffing. We have bok choi that may be salvageable, chard that might not be salvageable. It was a little bit of a sad day for the urban farm. We could get snow early this week. Hopefully we get rain tomorrow.

Lots of dog laziness today. Gratuitous dog photo of the day continues yesterday’s theme:

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photo by Bruce

 

 

So: Friday night

Peaks Above Clouds

It’s finally Friday night! Wooohoooo! Am I getting ready to go out to a club? Maybe meet up with friends at a bar? Go to the theatre? See a movie? Visit a gallery? Attend a fancy dinner party?

Nope.

While all that would have sounded awesome to 20-something me, 40-something me arrived home from work, picked up Guinness, went to the vet to have Guinness’ injured paw rechecked (all good!), came home, then put on battered plaid flannel pajama pants, a weathered Chefs for Farmers t-shirt, a tattered, but warm hoodie and fuzzy slippers. I’d stay all cozy like this all weekend if I could. Who knows, I just might. I’ve done it before. There’s really nothing better than that Friday night switch into lounge-y clothes to signal that the work week is over.

But in case you think I’ve settled in for an evening of sloth in front of the tv, glass of wine in hand, emptying out the DVR, you’ll need to think again.

You see, Bruce is sick with some kind of bug. He’s been feverish and achy all day long. He is no fun tonight and I’m leaving him and his germy self alone. He’s already announced that he’s going to bed by 9 (it’s 7:30) and suggested that I sleep in the guest room so I don’t get his cooties. Sounds good to me.

So I figure that now that I’m warm and comfy, I’ll take care of some of the “easy” stuff on my to-do list so that I’ll have less to do tomorrow. After all, I’m going to need to survey the urban farm and see what’s survived the deep freeze that’s happening around here. Potentially make a grocery store run. Definitely chase the dog hair tumbleweeds down with the vacuum. When you have 4 freely shedding large-ish beasts living under your roof, there’s always plenty of dog hair to fill up your weekends.

Speaking of my sweet shedders, the lazy Gs are all quite content. They’ve whiled away the day all cozy, snuggling a warm, sick human. They love sick days because they can get in their 20 hours of sleep pretty much uninterrupted by things like people coming and going. Even so they’re very happy to go to bed at 9 too.

Well, what will I do first on my big night in?

Looks like laundry is the clear winner. I’ve already got a load in the washer and one in the dryer. Doing laundry is great since once it’s in the machines, you can do other stuff, like shop. I needed to pick up birthday gifts, snow boots and snow pants. No need to get in the car and head to the mall. No need to be cold in the parking lot and too hot wearing a coat inside. The online stores are open 24-7 online and they gift wrap too. Done and done. Check and check.

Maybe it’s time to flip through a magazine or two while the laundry finishes up. A 9 pm bedtime seems might appealing all of a sudden. I don’t want to overdo it. Must not tax my immune system by doing too much and staying up too late!

The 20-something me (and probably the future 70-something me) laughs at my Friday night of domesticity and puttering. The 40-something me treasures the luxury of my Friday night with no plans and no demands. Isn’t it funny how things change?

But one thing that never gets old is the gratuitous dog photo of the day. Just look at these lazy hounds:

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Gidget, Guinness, and George sleep the day away • photo by the flu-ish Bruce to amuse me while I was at work

 

So: throwback thursday sounds

I have another secret for you: I like to sing along with the radio during my morning commute. I am a terrible singer and can’t carry a tune, but I do it anyway. Loud and proud. Nothing timid about it. If you pull up next to me a red light, please join in, if you know the tune. Even if you don’t, I’ll sound a lot better with a little help. I’m the person who shouldn’t even sing in church. I really do blister people’s ear drums.

Recently, I got bored with the local commercial radio stations. I know I could just plug in my iPhone and listen to Pandora or even my iTunes library, but I like surprises. That’s also why I got bored with the radio. After a while I could predict what was coming next.

I listened to NPR for a while. The news, while interesting, bummed me out. And I missed singing.

Then I found public radio station 91.7 KXT.

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I’m sure my pals in North Texas have been listening to it for years and just “forgot” to tell me about it. What I like about it is it’s like the most awesome music collection I could amass combined with a bunch of stuff I never knew I’d like. Then, they put it on “random”. It’s all mashed up together, like a gorgeous musical goulash.

I can hear the Grateful Dead, then Smashing Pumpkins, Sam Smith, then the Who. I was listening to the Jam earlier today. I heard Selector yesterday. I haven’t heard either of those two bands on the radio in I don’t know when. KXT takes me in the “way back” machine every commute by playing a gem or two from my high school and college favorite bands. Then they make me feel like less of an old fogey by introducing me to some great new stuff I’ve never heard of. It’s awesomely programmed. All the stuff that doesn’t really belong together really makes sense.

It’s their pledge drive time, so I’m thinking a donation is in order tonight. They’ve brought back my “lovely singing voice” after all.

And with that, here’s today’s throwback Thursday gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Godiva may be 5 now but she still loves those spherical objects

 

Sow: big chill

The frost cloths are out. I just straightened them on the agaves since it looks like the wind has been busy in our yard. The frost cloths are also on the raised beds and stock tanks, protecting the kale, chard, mustards, collards, bok choi, lettuce, spinach, and peppers.

I never got the garlic in the ground over the weekend. It may very well be too late for a 2015 harvest.

Even though tried to be strategic with my planting and where I planted each thing, I am a bit worried about the longevity of the fall plants on the urban farm. We very well may have picked the last peppers. We may not be eating bok choi next week at this time as planned. We may not get much more from the rest of the garden if the below 32°F/0°C temps keep it up for more than a few more days. I guess I’ll be spending more time and money at Trader Joe’s since it’s the cheapest place to get decent looking and tasting organic produce in this town.

Fashions have changed overnight. Sweaters and scarfs are out in full force. Turtlenecks. Tights. Blazers. Most telling is the outerwear. The people are wearing all sorts of coats that we don’t see much around these parts: puffy jackets, wool long coats, fleece. I had on my snowboarding jacket, a toque and gloves for this morning’s 5:30 am dog walk. I’ve replaced my usual yoga pants with sweats. We’ve put blankets on the bed. I’ve given the Gs their little fleece blankets on their dog beds which everyone absolutely loves. I’ve broken out the flannel pjs.

The heat is on. Unlike the air conditioner, it usually doesn’t get used all that much. Tonight it keeps clicking on.

Even Gidget is cold. She’s outgrew her old pink puffy coat—we donated it to an animal rescue group last spring. We will need to find her a new one in the next few days. Believe it or not her fur is so short that she gets very cold, even though that doesn’t ruin her love of the outdoors.

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Even though it might not sound like I’m excited, I am. It’s nice to have seasons, real seasons, extremes. And it reminds me that as this year winds down, there is so much to be excited about. But that’s a story for another day.

So: poppy wearer

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My sweet friend Simone bought an envelope of poppies for me last fall. I imagine that she told some sweet senior from the Canadian Legion the story of her friends who now live in Texas, but wanted to wear their poppies on Remembrance Day. I bet she slipped the veteran a twenty or maybe even more. Maybe the vet gave her a big hug. Or at least shared the story over some beers back at the Legion hall.

Those poppies are gracing the lapels and tops of several Canadians today: Bruce, my boss, me. Not sure about the other ex-pats I’ve listed, but today I’ve talked all about Remembrance Day and the veterans selling the poppies.

According to the Canadian Legion’s Poppy Campaign, “Every year, from the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day, The Legion conducts the Poppy Campaign. Canadians have donated money to support the services we provide and to clearly show their recognition of the debt owed to so many Canadians who gave their lives for our freedom.” It is a visual symbol that visibly unites the country from tv news anchors, to politicians, to school children, to captains of industry. Along with the poppy goes the idea of never forgetting—”lest we forget.”

The poppies themselves are a bit flimsy, nothing more than a fuzzy plastic backed cloth, held in place by a dangerous straight pin. Because of that pin, they frequently litter the floors of the subway stations and buses when crowds of people commute and brush against each other. Cynics might say that perhaps it is a tactic of the Legion to gain more funds for the Poppy Campaign, but everyone seems to be perfectly fine with replacing their poppy with a new one when it goes missing. Or perhaps even on the floor of the streetcar, a poppy reminds us of the brave men and women who have come before us.

In Flanders Field by John McCrae 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

My father is a US military veteran. I have many friends and family members who have served or who are serving. On this Veteran’s Day, I wear my poppy for them too because I wish we had a visible symbol in the US to show our vets that we have not forgotten them. It is a simple, yet deliberate act to wear a poppy, to drop your spare change into a bucket, take the poppy from a wrinkled and weathered hand and pin it to your coat. I know it means a lot to the Canadian veterans to see the seas of poppies everywhere. Wouldn’t it be nice if the US veterans could see something similar on Veteran’s Day? So today, I wear my poppy for them too.

 

Sow: freeze coming

The prediction of the first really cold night in North Texas gets everyone all worked up. It’s on the way for tomorrow night supposedly. No, it’s not going to snow. Or even make icy roads. Still, already people are battening down hatches and digging out their warm coats and sweaters—boots made their fashion appearance as soon as the temperatures dipped to 80°F. Brrrr.

While I don’t necessarily mind pulling out the headlamp and the frost cloths to cover everything up once I get home from work in the pitch black that’s 6:30 pm, I realized last year that sometimes such attempts are utterly futile.

You already heard about Seymore the feral tomato plant (actually plants — I found that he created several clones of his wild armed self). He’s gone because no amount of frost cloth would protect his crazy girth (and I’ve already got cute little super red tomatoes happening on my kitchen counter. I guess they like it inside the nice warm kitchen).

The peppers may be ok but they might not be (more about that later). The kale, chard, bok choi, arugula, lettuce, collards, spinach and mustard should all be fine. The herb box close to the kitchen door will be ok since the brick walls keep their planter warm. I’ll pull the little wheeled herb garden closer to some nice warm bricks.

But there was some major picking this past weekend so that all of those plants lives would not be in vain.

First casuality: Malabar spinach. Last year, I foolishly thought covering it would keep it going. It is on a trellis so that was not a good idea and made for a nasty melting, black-leaved mess to clean up. I got a huge metal bowl worth which will last us a couple of weeks in our breakfast green drinks.

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Next was bye-bye basil. There’s a lot that grew from two little plants. So I gave away two gallon ziplocs and have another two washed and ready to be turned into pesto tonight. Just throw it in the food processor with garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan and then pack it away in the freezer for eating in the cold miserable months. Brings a smile to my face just thinking about those delicious dinners.

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Peppers are a little iffy and I’m thinking about going out tonight and picking the biggest ones that remain on the plants. This morning before work I roasted several trays of poblanos and jalapeños for future meals. I’ll peel them tonight and into the freezer they go to brighten up soups, stews, Mexican dishes and more.

I fully intended to plant garlic yesterday, but as I mentioned yesterday, I really don’t know how to rest but I ran out of steam. Maybe tomorrow morning before work when I water everything that’s still alive. Farmer Megan gave me some nice bulbs just waiting to be planted and it will give some bio-diversity to Seymore’s former home (Raised Bed #4). Let’s see how cold it is in the morning.

And even though it’s not Throwback Thursday, here’s a major brown dog throwback for the gratuitous dog photo of the day:

8 week old Godiva

8 week old Godiva

So: relaxation challenged

Apparently I do not know how to relax. I prefer to think of it as living life to its fullest. I like to stay busy. I like to get things done. I like a good to-do list.

But perhaps I have overdone it this weekend. After all of my “relaxation” this weekend I am sore, tired and a bit grumpy. I’ve played in the dirt, cooked, prepped, done chores galore, and now I’m ready for rest. Well, a good night’s sleep. Lots of sleep. Only one problem: It’s not even 9 pm!

Maybe that’s my body’s way of forcing me to relax. Or maybe I only have two settings: on and off.

I can confirm that none of the Gs have trouble relaxing. George is snoring softly while I write this and Guinness is “breathing heavy.” Godiva and Gidget are snoozing on their dog beds.

So before I fall asleep writing this, here’s the gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Let sleeping dogs lie!

Sow: So long, Seymore

You showed up randomly among the spring crop of kale and chard and quickly swallowed them up with your fast-growing leaves and vining tendencies. All summer long you provided handfuls of sweet 100s pretty much whenever we wanted some.

I’d say you’ll be missed, but ever since Godiva decided that you were sheltering furry small mammals under your vines, I’ve wanted to pull you out. Today we did that and look what you produced:

The old timers around here say those little green tomatoes will ripen. Then I will turn them into roasted tomato sauce, which will be awesome in the middle of winter.

Thank you for showing up and thank you for making lots of tomatoes!

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Now here’s the gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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That’s gidget’s crate Guinness is in!