Sow: fall/DIY/dog saving

For a weekend, this ranks right up with our top #10 busiest. Friday, surface of the sun all-you-can-eat (or not) baseball for Bruce’s work.

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Yesterday?

Well, I was supposed to work. Instead I spent time up in the peach tree, harvesting:

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It was a fair haul. Not as good as last year but the fruit is larger. The composter got a lot of half eaten or bird pecked peaches, but I know it will be delicious dirt one day. George wanted to eat any peaches that fell on the ground.

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Lots of garden work. More tomatoes harvested. The first okra came in. The last cucumber.

We grilled the okra tonight–amazing. Just toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Delicious. NOT slimy at all.

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Pulled out the last of the carrots.

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Lots of garden is cleared so we can start the fall planting in a few weeks. Hard to believe!

Another big beet harvest with more to come.

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Dunked all of the rain barrels (those are the little donuts).

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One of the beets was really big. That’s Bruce’s iPhone next to the beet.

Saturday was also the day we kept working on the family room/lounge. Our little fridge for beer, wine and drinks came in so Bruce and the Gs took the truck to go and get it. Bruce and I went to pick up the last cabinet after confirming the fridge’s dimensions in real life, in place, not just at the store. And a shower solidified my farmer’s tan.

And then there was the more somber purpose of today: saving the Gs and their pals. We spent 6 hours in a dog first aid and CPR class learning what to do if there’s an emergency. Sobering. But good. I feel a lot better since I am prepared for the worst.

Now, Bruce is assembling that last cabinet so we can do a preliminary countertop measurement.

Our pal the electrician is coming by on Tuesday since we uncovered another issue while attempting to install a replacement ceiling fan in the office/tv room. He needs to move the new fridge plug anyway and better understand what else still needs to happen.

The plumber needs to visit to remove and cap the wet bar sink, making it a more useful dry bar.

See what I mean about busy? And I’m traveling all week this week, leaving Bruce to harvest tomatoes, okra, peppers and chard. Back Thursday!

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: friendly harvest

Today’s weather has been very ominous, but no rain at the office during work today. Hopefully at home, we got some free plant water this afternoon—there was a 30% chance, but that’s turning to 70% later tonight. In any case, tonight (or tomorrow morning if it rains before I get home) I’m going to do something that I absolutely love to do: pick stuff for my friends.

 

Filling a grocery bag with gallon Ziploc bags of freshly harvested stuff from the Urban Farm and knowing that other families will enjoy it makes me really happy. It’s a great gift that I’d love to receive (hint to all of you local readers with gardens and/or chickens). Hopefully soon I’ll be able to better predict what will be available so that I can give people a heads up of what’s coming. This week, they’ll get lots of leafy green stuff: red romaine, red velvet lettuce, green leaf lettuce, beet greens, rainbow chard.

Sometimes I accompany the produce with recipes. Here’s one of my favorites to give when I share kale and/or chard since many people aren’t too sure if they’re going to like those hardcore green leaves: kale and rainbow chard salad with peaches, blackberries & pine nuts.

kale and fruit salad

Photo from Napa Farmhouse 1885 blog. It’s a great source for ideas of what to do with a bounty of produce.

I’ve made it in the winter with pears and apples instead of peaches and no blackberries. The other day, I ran out of pine nuts so I used sunflower seeds (quite good). Experiment with the fruit and seeds/nuts you have and I’ll bet you come up with a great combo—let me know what you do and any fruit/nut combos that work especially well. I bet pomegranate seeds would be a good addition or different dried fruit. I like to make it before work on weeknights when we have dinner guests—it’s a big time saver since it’s supposed to marinade all day. Delicious with things from the grill or even by itself. Yum!

Since we’re eating so many salads, I’ve started making a salad for dinner when I make our work lunches. Wash and cut once, eat twice! Another huge timesaver when throwing together dinner on a weeknight. Tonight’s salad will be 85% from our garden. Only the goat cheese, sunflower seeds and vinaigrette are not from the land in our backyard. That gives me lot of happiness (although I’d love to have goats, but that’s a story for another day). And since it’s already done, there’s no post-work thinking involved.

Can you tell that I need a little break? Yes, me too. It’s definitely time for a mini-vacation. While the long weekend was fabulous, this weekend’s wedding in Niagara-on-the-Lake will be more of a getaway and bigger break from day-to-day reality. And the plane time will give me some uninterrupted reading time. I’ve been hording magazines and downloading books. I hope to cruise through lots of words. And not be online very much. So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days, please don’t worry. I may not have wifi and I’m not paying for international data roaming.

But if you have a moment, let me know your favorite green leafy salad recipe. As I mentioned we have a lot of green leaves to eat and George is the only four-legged family member who helps.

George: the newest member of the 3G Network

George: mouth full of tennis balls, not salad

 

Sow: turbo harvest

Whew! Is it bad that I’d like another day to add to my long weekend? Or at least to today?

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thank you to those who have served, are serving, and will serve

We got closer to final on two large-ish DIY projects:

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Cabinets in the dining room in progress

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Cabinets in dining room finished! Just need a countertop

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Cabinets installed in lounge. Temporary countertop from previous cabinet in place for now.

After all that, Bruce quickly cut the grass (with all the rain it grew 4 inches this week) and I headed to the urban farm to do a little grocery shopping.

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Rainbow chard

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mixed greens

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red romaine

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carrots

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chili peppers

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beets

One special thing for today besides feeding the composter tons of rain wrecked lettuce: purple beans

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not sure why one was green

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they turn green when you cook them (blanched them with a few peas)

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see how green they got?

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just a few peas tonight

I also planted basil, pulled up the last of the spinach, found some rouge basil that must have seeded itself from fall’s crop, and staked one of the pepper plants.

Sure was nice to spend a little time digging in the dirt. See why I’d like another day?

So: a break + photos

So, you haven’t heard from me for a few days. Unfortunately life has a funny way of filling up all of my writing spaces when I skip a day. Or maybe subconsciously I wanted a May 2-4 weekend (aka Victoria Day weekend) last weekend instead of Memorial Day this coming weekend. Not sure, but all I know is sentences did not get strung together and very few photos got taken. But maybe this post will make up for it!

Friday night we went to the BARC (Build A Rescue Clinic) Gala for Mazie’s Mission, the awesome rescue organization that saved George. Since it was a 1970s party, Bruce and I put on our vintage best:

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100% authentic 1970s polyester, baby!

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many guys with real hairdos like Bruce’s chose to accessorize with big hair

The outfits were even more amazing than last year. Lots of tie-dye and polyester but also:

great shoes

great shoes (don’t worry, fishy isn’t real)

fun spinning disco ball centerpieces

fun spinning disco ball centerpieces

Mazie’s Mission needs $3 million to build their clinic. As I mentioned in last post, Mazie’s Mission was founded by veterinarian Dr. Erin Shults to bring a self-sustaining, focused approach to animal welfare with the purpose of eliminating unnecessary euthanasia. They provide medical care, expert forensic evidence and adoption assistance to shelters, rescue groups, first responders and other non-profit animal welfare groups. The ultimate goal of Mazie’s Mission will be to establish a world class hospital and lifetime sanctuary for the care of those animals that cannot find a home.

My photos aren’t great (lighting wasn’t ideal to shoot these photos), but they’ll give you an idea. And if you’re interested in learning more or making a donation, visit their website. Or ask me. I might be able to answer your question too.

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aerial view of the clinic grounds

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another view of the clinic buildings

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architect’s rendering of the buildings

It’s a great cause and one I’m definitely proud to support since George was a beneficiary of Mazie’s Mission and Dr. Schults’ skill as a veterinary surgeon. She is an amazing person and it would be fantastic to help her bring her vision into reality.

Speaking of George, he was a bit of a mess yesterday:

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poor Georgie hurt his toe! he’s wearing a human’s sock (mine) to keep from licking it.

Notice his “bandaged” right foot. We woke up to George licking his foot. Sometime between his final let out of the night and his first let out of the am, George was most likely bit by a bug. He licked his swollen toe until it was nice and red. Since it was Sunday, our vet clinic wasn’t open but luckily we have a good friend (hi Christine!) who is a vet tech. She helped us to figure out what we should do to make him more comfortable and also if we needed to go to the emergency clinic (no, thank goodness). Because we had a bunch of medications on hand (a benefit of having Guinness), we were able to get him somewhat fixed up and feeling better fast.

First, I soaked his foot in Epsom salts for 15 minutes. Then I applied some Tritop antibiotic cream, fed him a delicious Benedryl and Rimadyl (anti-inflamatory) wedge of Laughing Cow Lite cheese (the best pill hider for the Gs), and “bandaged” his foot with a sock (mine) and some paper painters’ tape (to keep sock on and prevent sock from getting wet from licks). There was no morning walk for poor George and he woefully waited at the big bay window for Godiva and Guinness to return. Even though he had no mobility issues, we thought it would be better for him to rest and relax (and he’s good at snoozing).

His foot got soaked 3 times yesterday (plus ointment application and a clean sock) and once so far today. His toe seems much less swollen and it is definitely not as red. I saw a bump that looks like an ant bite (itchy!) so maybe that was what happened. If it’s not better by tomorrow morning, our vet tech friend wants me to take him to the vet. They are planning the Mortroski Wing at the vet clinic, so why not, right? Seriously, he’ll be going if it’s not better tonight.

Other weekend highlights included braving the crowds at Costco on a Saturday (not recommended unless you pack your patience), cleaning the very dusty and dirty Mortroski Midcentury, continuing to put away the stuff relocated because of the flooring and trim installation, the usual assortment of household chores, and finally some cabinet installation that hit a speed bump (it has since been figured out so we can hopefully work on it more tonight):

getting the new dark wood cabinets in place -- they will have drawers so being light colored on the inside will help us see what's in there

getting the new cabinets in place

No time for harvesting except for the peas (tons of snow peas and a cupful of sweet English peas for Bruce) for Saturday night supper, a bit of spinach for Sunday morning’s omelette, some lettuce for Sunday lunch’s salmon burgers (nice to have a produce stand in the backyard), so I squeezed some in before work today. Other than a plethora of weeds, today’s haul was tons of rainbow chard, red romaine, lots of mixed lettuce of all types, baby carrots (the real ones not the shaved down large ones), radishes, and chioggia and Detroit red beets.

Check out my biggest chioggia beet to date:

beetzilla!

beetzilla!

Yes, I’ll be roasting beets when I get home tonight.

The tomato forrest was bird netted this morning. I was especially worried about the succulent little sweet 100s — they look like they’re potential bird candy. Found a bit of blossom rot on the Burpee Big Boys, but after some research they could be too wet or not have enough calcium to support themselves. I will pick up some calcium for them later this week and watch their water supply.

Other than that, it’s back to work. We moved floors on Friday so it’s been a bit chaotic in the office for the past few days and rather noisy today with drills, saws, etc. Kind of reminds me of home!

Sow: overnight

It’s amazing how quickly plants grow in optimal conditions.

Here are the tomatoes today:

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They have overtaken their cages. Bird net is eminent since our bird friends are checking out the plants. The Gs are fine with the birds looking, but not visiting the beds.

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Everything is looking pretty awesome. Fingers crossed for the zucchini:

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I am hoping that the squash borer of last year was only last year’s pest! Fingers crossed that the metal stock tank high above the ground keeps the zucchini going and that the yellow squash that is somewhere under the tomato forest is immune to pests.

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The watermelon has doubled!

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I took a photo of baby bells but we have an impressive habanero forming also. A photo for another day.

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I’m amazed that the peas are growing so fast.

So far this week we’ve had snow pea salad, chard salad, stir fried bok choi (on the bitter side so it’s on it’s way out), salads galore.

I’m thinking we are not going to be buying many veggies for the next little while. There will be salads. There will be peas. There will be beets. And soon beans. Anyone got okra recipes to share?

Besides enjoying the growth in the garden, I grew too. We had a fantastic presentation training course today. The main message, of course, was simplicity. But it was also this, a quote I have loved for a good chunk of this year:

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Sow: huge harvest

It was a good day at the Mortroski Midcentury. George got braver. Bruce installed more trim. We all have a very packed fridge.

George is very afraid of sounds of the air compressor and the chop saw. That’s why we decided that I’d spend time outside with the Gs (Godiva and Guinness could care less about tool sounds) while Bruce installed trim.

Of course I spent the time on the urban farm. Here’s the harvest:

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1/2 lb snow peas

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English peas

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First carrots plus a second crop radish

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First real harvest of chioggia beets

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Spinach, I ended up harvesting another container the same size as these two

And here are some harvesting shots:

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Picking chard

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Lots of chard

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The urban farm today

The fridge is packed with gallon size bags of spinach, chard, mixed greens, beet greens. It looks like I barely made a dent!

Sow: water

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One rain barrel is empty and the way things are going the next one will be empty soon. Good thing we have three viable rain barrels. It helps when we are only allowed to water two days per week (ok, you can water by hand more often).

Hopefully the rain storms will come to Dallas again before the weather heats up. It’s been a wet night here in Greensboro, NC where I am visiting our other office for a meeting tomorrow. I bet it will be beautifully green tomorrow morning. But no rain tomorrow night when I’m traveling back — the little commuter jets are too small for a good storm to be anything but scary. Hello barf bag!

Everything on the urban farm is doing amazingly well. I am looking forward to picking snow peas this weekend. And beets. And radishes. And of course plenty of lettuce, chard, and spinach. It should be a great photo!

Nerd that I am I read the latest issues of Urban Farm and Texas Gardener magazines on the plane this afternoon. Just haven’t had the time to catch up on my reading lately for some reason…

PS: If you haven’t watched this video, you really should. I promise it will be worth your time, whether you are a new graduate or graduation was ages ago:

Sow/So: 100th post

Well, folks, my little writing experiment for 2013 has gone fairly well. I have written every day as I promised myself. And I’m definitely grabbing 2013 by the horns (perhaps 2013 is a longhorn) and doing as much as I can to make this year awesome, inspiring, educational, and fun.

NOTE: I want to reassure readers Kate and Fransi, as well as my grandma, that I am not killing myself. And I’m not heading for a nervous breakdown. I do sleep. And I have a lot of down time. I just seem very busy because I’m telling you about the exciting parts. Or at least the stuff I find exciting. Or that the Gs find exciting. Sleeping, watching tv, reading magazines, and sitting on the patio eating chocolate does not make interesting reading in my opinion.

So yay! 100 posts under my belt! Thanks for reading! I figured that Bruce, my far-flung friends, maybe my parents, and a couple of curious co-workers might check out the blog occasionally. Most would be from Canada and the U.S of A. But no, folks from Ireland, France, the UK, the Fareo Islands, Croatia, Australia, and a bunch of other places are reading. Thank you! And please comment since it’s fun to know what your growing seasons are like, what your dog’s names are, your trials with your sewing projects, what you do for a living, where you like to travel, etc.

On with today’s post:

Today was an amazing day. Bruce and I finished the construction of the office desk area feature wall:

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It still needs gray and orange paint on the wall and the desk needs to be stained the same dark color as the cabinet at the right, but it’s coming along. More work this week and probably next weekend…. Bruce took this photo.

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Here the desk area is close up so you can see the shelves and metal trim detail a bit better. The metal is aluminum C channel, wood is MDF cut into custom lengths/widths.        Bruce took this photo.

We’ll move on to another similar trim job in the office later this week. Today, we needed to finish up work by 11:30 since we had human and canine guests coming for Sunday lunch. Our friends Christine and Fred with their three dogs Polly (chihuahua), MJ (Boston Terrier), and Bandit (a tiny little guy with lots of attitude) and Chris with his new puppy Mayhem came by for a playdate for the dogs and lunch and a little NASCAR watching for the humans.

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Meet Mayhem. Mayhem and George had a great time playing tug together. Aren’t those ears so cute?

Since we haven’t gotten together for a while, we used the time as an excuse to have a dog birthday cake for Polly’s and Guinness’s birthdays.

Can you say spoiled animals?  Thank goodness for The Three Dog Bakery and their cakes which are a nice healthy treat (seriously!) for a big group of spoiled dogs like ours. And of course, each dog went home with a chunk to eat later. It freezes well too.

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Notice that it’s NASCAR on the TV behind Bruce, but once you get past that, you can see the dog birthday cake–and how Bruce is doing his best St. Francis imitation. All animals love him. Food has nothing to do with it…

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Notice how alert all of the animals are. As if Bruce might drop the cake. Or forget to pass it out. Dogs shown are: Godiva (behind Bruce), George, Mayhem (white dog), MJ (black and white). Not shown, but still very close by, are Polly, Guinness, and Bandit.

While today was all about partying for the dogs, today was about dirt for me. The soaked okra seeds were planted. Fingers crossed that the plants will grow and thrive since I’ve never grown okra before. More beet seeds were planted. Radishes were harvested — 10 today and more will be ready later this week. I will definitely replant as soon as I can since the French Breakfast radishes are fast growing and delicious.

Today was the day when all of the fall arugula and almost all of the kale got pulled out. It’s a little sad to say goodbye to plants that produced so well and kept us in salad greens for so long, but it’s time to move on to more spring crops. And I will definitely plant Nero kale again. So pretty and so productive. Arugula was a treat since a small packet of seeds gave us so much. It’s also neat to taste it at various points in its lifecycle. Today’s batch is almost too peppery. But it’s a taste to remember until cool weather comes again.

Spring is definitely here with warm weather (70°s this weekend) and cool breezes. It’s the time when day-to-day, the urban farm changes dramatically. The tomatoes, peas, and beans are remarkable right now and it seems like they are gaining inches every day. The lettuce and bok choi are cranking away. There are ladybugs and bees hanging out.

It’s exciting because every day is a surprise in the urban farm.

But it’s the same with “real life” as well. It’s a series of surprises and delights filled with daily shock and awe. As long as I choose to look for them.

Wishing you a good week and again, thank you for reading.