So: in summary

Hey! Long time no write! Me, not you. To say that 2014 has been full of surprises is a major understatement. If there’s one thing that 2014 has been, it’s unpredictable. And while many parts of its randomness have been fabulous, they have also sucked up my writing time.

First, let me bring you up to speed about the weather this summer in North Texas. You may remember my frequent rants about the ever-changing weather patterns and their effects on the Urban Farm. This summer, the weather was milder than the usual 100 day strings of 100°F+ temperatures. It rained. Several times, even.

Second, plants like it when they aren’t trying to survive on the surface of the sun. They like it a lot. And they produce tons and tons of vegetables. And when you plant things that thrive on the surface of the sun normally, they go crazy for the cooler weather. I’m not complaining: I have bags of black eyed peas, okra, and roasted tomatillos in the freezer. We have enjoyed many yummy meals and so have our friends and coworkers!

It’s still going too. Fall crops are in — spinach is sprouting, kale transplants are getting bigger, collards are fighting some bug that’s nibbling one them, chard is so beautiful. My coworker’s chickens Jenny and Penny are enjoying all of the “chicken treats” I  bring them from the garden and giving me some eggs in return. The composters are full so I’m glad for the girls.

 

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One of my many instagram photos from the 2014 harvests. Follow me @julie_petroski

 

And that darn feral tomato plant has gone completely insane. I named him “Seymore” after the Little Shop of Horrors’ plant. Seymore is covered in tomatoes (again) and taking up all of raised bed #4. I’m looking forward to more free tomatoes!

 

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Seymore! He’s a Sweet 100 tomato plant.

Third, we built things! Painted things! Traveled to see things! Bought a big thing! More about that later in the month since I’ve decided to force myself to write again by doing NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). Wish me luck. I may need to can and schedule some posts in order to fulfill my !

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Fourth, 4th Quarter. Work’s been a little bit busier. Interesting stuff though, so I’m definitely not complaining. In fact, my company let us go home at 3 pm tonight since it’s Halloween. Sweet! Now I don’t have any big plans for it, but if you do, have a great time and don’t eat too much candy. I’ll talk at you tomorrow.

Back by popular demand (ok, mine) is the Gratuitous Dog Photo of the Day!

George says, "it's about time, lady."

George says, “It’s about time, lady. Get back to blogging already.” Photo by Bruce

 

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sow: composted

My birthday composter

My birthday composter

Going away on an extended business trip for a week meant that my birthday composter got an extra large helping of partially decomposing stuff this morning and multiple spin cycles.

(So happy Earth Week composter! Hope you enjoyed all of your treats! Kick back, relax, make some nice compost, and I’ll keep feeding and spinning you.)

Have you ever touched fuzzy zucchini? If you haven’t, it’s slimy and furry at the same time. Like it’s covered with soggy white hair. Now you can safely skip seeing it yourself and say “ew” with me. You’re welcome.

Same goes with celery that’s gone bad. It turns into a pile of limp, watery yet fibrous brownish slime. Again, thank me for sharing that visual. Hopefully you’ll never have to see it in real life. It’s not pretty.

But all those fuzzy and slimy veggies made the composter really happy. It’s been cooking away and breaking down everything I’ve been feeding it for the past month. No bad smells. No animals breaking in for “treats”. No unwelcome bugs (I’m hoping that earthworms find their way inside naturally).

The produce peels, tea bags, coffee grounds, parsley, egg cartons, toilet paper cores, napkins, dryer lint, dog hair, rotting produce, apple cores, banana peels, egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, pine straw, garden waste, tomato vines, newspaper, and paper towel rolls are turning into the stuff gardeners love. This batch is almost finalized (there is a limit to how much you can put in) and then it will sit for about a month until everything is broken down. I’ll start its twin and by the time that one is ready to go, the first one will be finished the process.

Yes, it is a little bit of work. Some re-training on what not to throw away. A trip out to the composter every other day or so. Washing out the little collection bucket when it gets gross. Spinning the composter. I think of all of those things as fun—and an investment in future crops.

It’s pretty exciting to think that what is basically garbage is turning into fertilizer and a growing medium for the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. It’s all going down in a very under-utilized part of the side yard by the plum and peach trees. And soon I’ll be able to load up the wheelbarrow and take freshly made compost over to the raised beds.

Composting is kind of like growing stuff. It’s dependent on a variety of factors (materials, weather, water, heat). Even if you think you’ve timed it perfectly, it may take fewer (or more) days than you think. It can be a bit dirty. But in my opinion, it will be well worth the effort—and the wait.

Sow: spring fever

Although it’s a bit gloomy-gray out, when George and I went out to pick lunch this morning by headlamp, I knew that I would have a hard time being inside today. So much so that, even though I had time for a break, I dared not go outside. I might roll the windows down and drive. And I might not come back, as crazy-stricken with spring fever as I am.

While work is fun and cool stuff is happening inside, there’s so much going down at the Urban Farm. Tomato flowers! Lettuce that has doubled in size! Tufts of bok choi! Beets that need to be thinned! Carrot shoots coming up in neat little rows (thanks, seed tape)! An almost full grown radish! Rose bushes greening up and getting leaves! Pea shoots starting to reach toward the trellises! Garlic sprouts! (All exclamation point worthy!)

I’ve been dreaming of planting jalapeño and bell pepper transplants. Getting the spring basil plants in the ground. Figuring out what to do with the patio pots (edible or just pretty? that is my question). I want to feel the soil on my hands (and face) and the sun blazing on the back of my neck. I want to yell at George for trying to catch butterflies and Guinness for trying to catch bees. I want to catch Godiva digging the hole she shares with George. I want to bask in the flowering beauty of the plum and peach trees now that Bruce added a gate to that part of the fence. I want to get the composter going  and turn those garden and kitchen scraps into this fall’s fertilizer. I want to wear flip flops and sit on the patio, cool drink in hand, watching the plants grow and the Gs roll in the grass. I even want to pull weeds in the front yard again.

(I’m itching to get outside if you can’t tell.)

Two walks through the neighborhood each day with Bruce and the 3G Network plus some weeknight watering and limited poking around in the raised beds isn’t doing it for me. I need more. And since my allergies aren’t going completely insane anymore (touch wood, right?) I am even more ready to plant some stuff and enjoy the outdoors before it becomes The Surface of the Sun (aka North Texas’ version of summer).

Luckily for me, it’s almost the weekend. Well, it’s Thursday, the Gateway to the Weekend(TM) and this week, it’s my Friday. You see, on Monday, I decided to give myself a little gift. I’m treating myself to a vacation day and spending Friday doing what I wanted to do. So I’m prepping for Spring, starting with a much needed pedicure to get ready for sandals and open toed shoes, then doing a little bit of wardrobe refreshing, topping it off with a visit to North Haven Gardens for some transplants. (I could do without the shopping but I really must go. I have a lot of client visits coming up and I need to look sharp. Ugh.) A perfect day that hopefully will go as planned and the shopping gods will deliver lovely work clothes and great bargains to me in record time.

So I’m getting up at 5 am as usual tomorrow. Starting my day as early as I can. No rest for the wicked. Or the spring feverish.

 

 

So: new beginnings part 2

So I promised earlier this month that March, the month of my birth, would be a month of new beginnings. Of change.

Well, it’s certainly delivering in the project arena. And that’s just fine with me.

It’s like I’m physically waking up from the (short) winter’s hibernation. And as sick as it is, I’ve been enjoying the sore hands. The tight back. A few bruises here and there. Dirt under the nails and coloring my skin. Sound sleep from a weekend of manual labor. Finding red paint in my hair and orange paint on the back of my arm. Even liking the twinges from too many squats. My left buttock has never been so toned. And my body feels alive.

Last weekend we painted. Poured some concrete. Installed hinges. Planted stuff. Grouted. I can’t even remember what all else. We still have lots to do with the laundry room/office/bathroom project. But we’re chipping away at all that bit by bit because it’s the catalyst to the biggest project of all.

You see this spring, we are going to start getting rid of the stinky, dirt trapping carpet throughout the Mortroski Mid-century and put down bamboo flooring (you wouldn’t expect anything less from a tree-hugger like me). First room is the office. And, like the office, we will do most of it ourselves, saving only the really tricky room, the family room aka “the lounge”, for the professionals.

Here’s why: in the 1960s apparently exterior brick was a popular flooring choice here in Dallas. I’m thinking the mason who installed it must have enjoyed liquid breakfasts and lunches. We have seen it  uncarpeted when the big hole under the house needed to be dug to ensure that we continued to have indoor plumbing. It is not pretty nor even. I can’t imagine that someone thought it was a good design choice since it looks like they just decided that the middle of the house was a good place to get rid of the leftover bricks. It will be nice to have it covered with a dog-friendly, easily cleaned flooring choice.

We have hardwood in one room right now: the kitchen. Note to anyone that has large dogs that drink water enthusiastically: hardwood is not a good choice for the feeding/watering area. So we will also be tiling the kitchen sometime between now and 2015. A shame really, but truly the floor the previous owners selected is not a good choice for animals, my somewhat sloppy cooking and washing up skills, and North Texas weather (we have a door to the backyard and hardwood is not the best for muddy paws).

Some might think, “Poor Julie!” But don’t feel sorry for me at all. I’ve enjoyed learning a plethora of new skills ever since becoming a first time homeowner back when I was 27. Who knew that I, a bookworm who paid little attention to her dad’s piddling around in his workshop,  would ever helm a tile saw? I have in several of our homes now and I am not afraid. I am not scared of cutting flooring. I am an amazing taper. I can dig great holes. I have used a jackhammer. I can drill. And while I am still somewhat apprehensive about the nailer, I’ll use it. I just make sure to have the protective eyewear on because I had a friend with a construction worker boyfriend and he shot a nail from a nailer through his eye. His misfortune ended up ok (a short hospital stay with lots of tests, workman’s comp, and a week off with no loss of eyesight). I benefited greatly by accompanying his girlfriend to see Rod Stewart using his ticket. Score!

Speaking of new beginnings,  Bruce found me a great gift this past weekend: a dual action composter. You fill one side and then let it do its thing and while it’s doing that, you fill the other side. It’s in about a million parts in its box right now, but once we get it together, we can get our own free compost/recycling system going. In Toronto we had garbage, a green bin (compostables), and recycling. While our home compost system won’t be able to reclaim as much as the Toronto system, we will be able to reduce our trash considerably AND more importantly, create our own compost for the urban farm.

I’m really excited to get it up and running. It’s going to go in the part of the yard where we have the plum and peach trees which is very close to the raised beds/stock tanks. I just need to get the inside bin to collect the peels, shells, scraps, etc.

It’s kind of like this one in case you’re wondering:

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Hopefully it’s not as complicated to assemble as it looks. We should save it for Friday as a fun date night!