Sow: perfection is overrated

When we first started the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm, I thought that I had to do everything just right or my garden wouldn’t grow. I tried to mix up the soil and compost just so. I tried to line up the transplants so they would grow neatly and symmetrically. I tried to make sure that the little signs were lovely and durable. I tried to be very organized with my tracking.

Flash forward to Spring 2014. After a very disappointing winter growing season, I didn’t have a lot of patience or time for perfection. I bought mostly seeds, not plants, although I did buy herb and pepper transplants. I bought organic compost from a local Boy Scout named Kyle, not the fancy garden center. And I literally threw seeds into the ground and hoped for the best. Well, I did use a tool called a Garda Dibble which probably helped a lot:

123 Product Photos, LLC (http://www.123ProductPhotos.com/)

Garda Dibble: a fun and brightly colored garden tool

 

So how does the Spring 2014 garden grow?

Just fine. Well, better than fine. Our weekend guests from Toronto said how pretty it looked. (That made me very happy.) It is very green and lush, soon to be even more lush after two super ugly north Texas rain storms over the past 5 days.

Best of all, it’s supplying us with veggies a plenty with lots to give away. Our guests enjoyed many yummy meals filled with ultra fresh veggies from a kale/chard salad to spinach omelets to bok choi stir fries. And of course, lots of raw radishes!

Want to see? Here are some of my views from yesterday:

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malabar spinach growing like weeds

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beautiful rosette bok choi with a two radish photobomb

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baby bell pepper, all shiny and new

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more bell peppers, a bit bigger though

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pole beans have doubled in size since last week and are climbing away

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wacky spiky lettuce!

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yesterday’s harvest: bok choi, salad greens, kale, chard, more radishes (although they are almost done), the first jalapeño, spinach. it’s an amazing abundance!

In the fruit department, the little peaches look plentiful. And there are figs happening too! The teeny tiny figs are so small you almost can’t see them. Time to get some bamboo stakes and bird net so I can see some of them through to maturity. And maybe there will be fig jam this fall.

One of my favorite quotes for 2014 is “all great changes are preceded by chaos.” The Spring 2014 garden’s chaos is teaching me an important lesson: not only is it clear that perfection is overrated, but also sometimes what happens is just a happy accident that works out even better than you could have ever imagined. So go with the flow! Here’s to my 2014 goal of more imperfection and more happy accidents because life’s just better when you chill out.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Gidget enjoying a weekend morning belly rub.

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So: ice ice baby

this is not what winter looks like in North Texas

our winter is not pretty like this

In some parts of the U.S. and lots of Canada, there’s a mythical event called a snow day, usually when the snow comes down so fast and furiously that the plows and salt trucks can’t keep up with keeping the roads safe for school buses.

In north Texas, we have ice days because we have such extreme temperature swings,  no snow plows or salt trucks, and the sand that they throw down on the streets and highways just makes the ice dirty. It feels like we’ve had at least 4 ice days this winter. Usually we’re lucky if we get one, and it’s a lovely day at home with hot chocolate, fires blazing in the fireplace, maybe a little snowman building.

The rule of thumb at my office is if the school district you live in is closed or delayed, you should stay put at your home for safety’s sake. This works well if only you remember to bring your laptop home and any important papers you might need.

My rule of thumb for this winter is to always bring home the stuff I need to work on the next day because this year, the ice days are nothing, but massive inconveniences. Instead of bringing people together, they make everyone very grumpy. Parents have to work from home and try to figure out how to get work done and kids occupied. Kids get irritated about Mom’s conference calls and Dad’s presentation building. Pets are a bit better, though the Gs saw me sitting next to the back door at the kitchen table and suddenly realized that my opposable thumb could let them out whenever they sat by the door. Bruce left for somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard this afternoon so he and I didn’t have to deal with dueling conference calls or staking a claim to working space.

So I’m one of the lucky ones today. I got tons done and was pretty much able to do everything I usually do on a Monday at work, and then some (I have a bit of homework tonight so this post is a little break). Since I was working in the kitchen, the microwave was handy for thawing out some frozen leftovers for lunch. My slow cooker made me a pretty good soup for supper. And the rice cooker made enough brown rice for a while. I managed to finish the last cup of coffee that never usually gets drank. George slept on my feet during a conference call which was awesome since Gidget ate my Christmas slippers after the first time I wore them. And I caught Gidget in the act of naughtiness twice, so maybe she’ll learn eventually that she can’t tear up her dog bed.

After I took Guinness and Godiva for a walk, I put ice melter on the parts of the driveway that was still icy despite the sunshine this afternoon. Gidget and George got their walk next and I noticed the peach tree is still looking ok. Hopefully the weather didn’t ruin its chances. The collards, kale and cilantro look a bit frostbit but that’s my own dumb fault for not covering them. If they don’t rally, well, it’s going to be time to plant new stuff this weekend anyway.

The polar vortex has moved east and is now torturing the rest of the south. Tomorrow it will be North Carolina’s turn for an ice day.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

The Gs were hoping to go for a ride, but instead they figured out that a bag of dog food had spilled in the bed of Bruce's truck. Photo by Bruce

The Gs were hoping to go for a ride. Instead they realized that bag of dog food had spilled in the bed of Bruce’s truck.    Photo by Bruce

 

 

Sow: happy birthday, fig tree

One year old!

Congratulations, fig tree! You’re a year old.

After yesterday’s lengthy post crashed and I lost it the first time, I forgot to mention in the rewrite that our little fig tree has been a member of the Mortroski Mid-century Urban Farm for a full year now.

Whooohooo!

Last year at this time, it had about three leaves and really only two branches. It was about 1 foot tall. I was pretty proud of it though because I got it for free since my favorite garden center had a crazy loyalty program that gave you Canadian Tire-type money whenever you bought something during their promotional period.

You could only cash in that fake money at certain times. Because last year was the start of the MM Urban Farm, I bought a lot of stuff. Truckloads of dirt, compost, transplants, seeds, raised bed kits, organic fertilizer, worm castings, gloves. I very well may have been North Haven Gardens’ best customer in 2013.  And I held off purchasing that tree until I knew I could get it gratis.

With not much care, just a bit of organic fruit tree fertilizer in the spring and water when the sprinklers are run, the tiny fig tree has since doubled in height and is getting a nice set of leaves. Unfortunately, the birds ate all of the 12 tiny figs it produced back in the spring so no figs for us. That is why, if you have recently posted about your lovely fig trees and jam/preserve making or shown pictures of delicious fig salads, desserts and appetizers, I may have seemed a tiny bit, ok, VERY, jealous.

While I wasn’t planning on a bumper fig crop or anything like that, I was hoping for a small taste of the bounty to come.

Damn birds. Hope they enjoyed the figs, though that’s doubtful since they ate them before they were barely developed and definitely not sweet. They also ate all of the figs off the neighbor’s tree that I occasionally sampled from in the past in the name of research. (How else would I know what a Celeste fig tastes like? The varieties that grow in North Texas aren’t the same as the ones shipped to the yuppie-hippie grocery store. Those are mostly from California.)

Can’t wait to see what year 2 looks like for the little tree, especially since George is no longer interested in it.

Ok, little tree, let’s get growing and producing more figs, shall we?

Have a great day, everyone!

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!

 

 

Sow: Eco-lutionary

I don’t ask much of you (beyond reading). Please watch this awesome TED Talk by Ron Finley so you’ll understand why I’m so fired up*:

I agree with Ron that we need to make gardening sexy. Not just for the obese residents of a food desert. Not just for bored teens with nothing to do. Not just for the homeless.

We need to make it sexy for everyone. And take back the simple act of growing some of our own food. Anything. A pot of herbs is an excellent start and very practical even for space-constrained city dwellers, little kids, or even those with a black thumb. You like basil? Grow some!

I love the idea of being a garden gangster, an eco-lutionary. Picture my swagger as I put on my headlamp to water the seedlings tonight! Watch my lean as I pull out the weeds and water! I love that a it’s a defiant act to tear up the lawn and plant some deliciousness.

Gardening IS without a doubt the most therapeutic thing that I have done. It beats the hell out of yoga, as much as I loved that. Even better a good run. Give me a backache from weeding verses a pulled calf muscle any old day. It pushes the crappy days out of me and clears my mind so I can be a better solution provider. A harder worker. A nicer person.

Plus, I’m much more artistic about it than I ever was with cake decorating or pretty much any craft I’ve done. When I’m outside with my hands in the dirt or with the watering can in my hand, I feel more alive than ever. I’m contributing. I’m improving the air. I’m putting effort into something that I will receive back tenfold. A gift I can share with my family. And something I can share with friends and neighbors and have it gratefully received because we all have to eat and vegetables don’t make you fat. Unlike my baking.

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Spring has sprung. Our plum tree is blooming. The peach tree will be next.

So now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go grab the 3G Network, head outside, and water the crops. And think about planting some more shit.

*A big thank you to Brandy Slater (aka The Grammar Belle) for thinking of me today and posting this marvelous TED Talk on my Facebook page. You were right when you said one of the best lines was “Growin’ your own food is like printin’ our own money.” I certainly feel rich these days.

So: new beginnings

Tortoiseshell butterfly on marigold flower

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but January and February have flown by. I can’t believe that it’s March tomorrow.

One of my friends calls March, “Kate Month”. She loves her birthday more than anyone I know* and plans to celebrate it all month in a wide variety of ways and in an assortment of places.

March is also “Julie Month” and “Aly Month” and “Frances Month”. A whole bunch of my coworkers can also claim this month as their own. And I’m not joking when I say it seems like everyone I know is having a birthday this month. I’m definitely going to need to restock my birthday card supply when April rolls around.

I plan to celebrate my birthday all month too. Since my new year’s resolutions really haven’t stuck and I haven’t been actively working on my vision for 2013 (minus a bit of sewing and lots of gardening), I’m going to celebrate myself by investing in myself.

More about that in a sec.

I gave my first March birthday gift last night. You see, Frances is my hair stylist/colorist. She’s absolutely amazing and I always trust her to send me home looking way better than when I arrived. Of course, I usually visit her on Saturday mornings wearing no makeup and looking like I’m planning to spend the day digging in the dirt (because I probably am). Last night was different. I sped over to the salon after work. And I had a plan.

Frances’ birthday gift was also a gift to me. You see, I told Frances to go nuts and do whatever she wanted with my haircut. She’s already been hinting that that’s what she’s been wanting to do. I give her complete freedom with color as long as she sticks to colors that people could actually be born with (she has also hinted that the primary pallet would be fun, but unfortunately, I’m not sure my clients at work would agree) and she’s always done a fabulous job.

I’m not the client who tells a stylist “cut off exactly 1/4 inch from the back” or anything like that. But lately I’ve been in a hair rut and I have just told Frances that I liked the style, just trim it. That’s why I knew she’d love the opportunity to hack it all off.

She cut about half of my hair off. With a straight razor. It’s now piece-y and can stick out in all directions if I choose to do so. It dries in minutes, doesn’t use much product and the messier it looks, the better.

It’s perfect. And I’ve been enjoying the compliments from coworkers, friends and total strangers.

Photo on 2-28-13 at 9.54 AM #2

the new ‘do

So I’m starting March with a new look. I’ll be embracing newness all month.

March here in North Texas is truly the start of spring. Our bipolar weather still has cool nights, but the days are getting warmer (we usually have to turn the AC on starting some time near the end of April). We’ll wake up one day and the plum and peach trees will be in gorgeous pink full bloom. The urban farm will be going full tilt. The grass will go from hay-like to lush green in what seems like hours.

I love it. And while I am honestly not a fan of my birthday (a story for another day), I intend to celebrate new beginnings and fresh starts all March.

Won’t you join me?

*Except for my friend Brandy (aka The Grammar Belle) who loves November with a fevered passion and constantly reminds everyone exactly how many days remain until her birthday.

Sow: spring garden phase 1

Today I was literally outside from sun up to just before sundown. Today was Presidents’ Day in the U.S. and for some reason, my agency had it off for the second year in a row. (Hey, I’m not complaining. There aren’t nearly enough mandatory holidays in this country and I’ll take whatever I can get).

I’ve been planning today in my head for weeks: Phase 1 of the 2013 spring garden. It’s Phase 1 since there are still many winter crops that are not all done and there are still transplants that need to come in — like tomatoes and peppers.

One caveat: like most of my “project” plans, I did not plan that it would take as long as it did. At least it was a beautiful sunny day, slightly breezy and I had no real plans for later on in the evening.

I started out this morning by making radish seed tape. Bigger seeds, faster making time.Remind me next time I bring this great idea up, not to bother. It really didn’t  make planting any easier or faster. And I have quite a lot remaining. Hopefully I can use it for second and third crops. Or this fall. Or give it away. Sigh.

I also upcycled an empty plastic bottle and some plastic skewers from one of those Edible Arrangements into name tags for the plants. I used my trusty Sharpie collection on the plastic. It seemed like a good idea and it shouldn’t get wrecked by the rain so we’ll see how well they hold up in the coming months.

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a tag made from a skewer and a piece of a club soda bottle, radish seeds in the background

After that, it was time to weed the front flower beds. Actually I should say “de-grass” since the type of grass that grows here runs sideways like a centipede. I spent a couple hours pulling out long strips trying to eat the little perrennials and become part of the landscaping.

don't worry, I was supervised while performing all of this manual labor

Don’t worry, I was supervised while performing the manual labor (if you look carefully, you’ll see also George in the window)

invading grass + a flower the previous owners planted

invading grass + a flower the previous owners planted (it’s the tiny white thing)

Once all of that was done, the 3G Network and I headed to the backyard to dig in the dirt. I was surprised that I was the only one who actually stayed outside the whole time. Lazy animals wanted to sleep on their comfy beds not the driveway or grass.

Lots of winter crop clean up. Harvesting (lots of spinach, collards, kale, mixed lettuce, fennel). Moving herbs to a window box off the kitchen so they survive the heat of spring and summer. Cleaning up tools, yard waste, dog waste, and just generally puttering around. It was an excellent day.

Here’s the end result (and no, I didn’t take a photo of my aching back!):

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Raised Bed #4: Tomato bed prepped and ready for 8 tomato plants, plus basil once it gets a bit warmer. I added the mini rose bush at the end to help with pollination.

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the whole operation minus the peach, plum and fig trees

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Stock Tank #3: This is the stock tank where a few of the carrot and radish seed tapes now live. I unfortunately planted it the wrong way. I planted long rows and should have planted width rows for a larger yield. I may dig up what I planted today tomorrow before work and start over.

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Raised Bed #3: thyme and oregano are growing just fine so they’re staying put. This bed contains beets as well as the still growing fine collards, cilantro and some spinach (the “fence” is to keep George from digging and/or napping in the nice warm composty dirt)

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Stock Tank #2: mint in the pot in front, spinach in the front and back, red romaine lettuce in the dirt

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Raised Bed #2: another fence for George, this one has the remainder of the salad greens and the parsley I planted last fall. today’s seeds included: mache, more mesculin, a fancy lettuce called red velvet, bok choi and snow peas

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Stock Tank #1: has a drainage issue so it’s drying out for now before I add anything else to it. I moved the washtub full of greens in front of it for now and you’ll see there’s some bright green leaf lettuce, a fancy kale and some spinach at the front and back.

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Raised Bed #1: the one that started this whole thing — beets where the George fence is, kale still going strong, chard, brussels sprouts (I’m hoping to harvest very soon), English peas at the back.

Whew! Truly a great day in the sun. I wished I had time for a nap once I got everything done, but I didn’t. No rest for the wicked I suppose. It’s almost guaranteed I’ll sleep through the night tonight. I just hope I can move at work tomorrow!

Sow: dream trees

When I moved from Savannah, Georgia to Southern California when I was in 7th grade, the fields of oranges everywhere captured my imagination. To see oranges growing in neat rows of trees and to smell the orange blossoms was just heavenly to me. Those orange groves at the Irvine Ranch are now covered with homes, not orange blossoms, and Orange County has pretty much completely lost its namesake.

Southern California was amazing to a 12 year old who really liked plants—especially ones that provided things you could eat. The farmers markets and even the grocery store were chock full of produce I had never seen before. You have to remember that having the produce selection we now have in the grocery stores is a relatively new development. Before we moved to Southern California, much of the vegetables and even some of the fruit our family ate was either frozen or canned.

Half way through 8th grade, we moved north to the San Francisco Bay Area. While, of course, I was sad to leave my friends and school, my new (to us) house had many things we didn’t have in Irvine’s densely packed tract neighborhoods. A backyard pool, perfect for a girl who loved swimming and swam competitively. But even more exciting were the trees. This house had three special trees: a lemon tree, a grapefruit tree, and best of all, an avocado tree.

All three trees were prolific producers. And yes, it is actually possible to get sick of avocados when they are constantly part of meals from breakfast (avocado omelets—delicious with monterey jack and topped with a bit of salsa), lunch (in every kind of sandwich as a mayo replacement), dinner (on salads, as salad, topped with seafood salads, mexican-inspired dishes, etc.). The avocados were small by our grocery store standards, about the size of an egg. But they were delicious.

The lemon tree came in handy nearly year ’round. The blossoms made the back patio smell divine. If we needed a lemon, lemon juice, lemon zest, lemon as a garnish, anything you could think of using lemons for, there was always plenty for the picking so it seemed to me. They were thick skinned and yielded only a bit of sharp acidic juice with a hint of orange. I now wonder if they were the prized Meyer lemons.

My father and I loved the grapefruit tree too. It produced orange-sized grapefruits. For weekend breakfasts, I would squeeze the juice by hand and make a pitcher of the fresh juice for the family. I suspect perhaps my father made after-work or weekend cocktails for himself and my mother by adding a bit of vodka because one day an electric juicer showed up and we began having pitchers of the juice at the ready.

I don’t know who planted those three trees. It may have been our eye doctor—his family lived in the house before we did. Or maybe the family before that. The trees were old. The lemon was trimmed into a bush, but the others were large (at least to a 13 year old) trees.

After experiencing life with those wonderful trees, I’ve always wanted some of my own. The Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm currently has a peach tree, a plum tree and a baby fig tree that we planted last fall. The previous home owners neglected the peach and plum, but my dad, the son of farmers, showed me how to prune them to ensure that it not only produced fruit but also didn’t injure itself when the branches became too heavy. It rewarded us with plenty of fruit for the birds (very top of the tree), squirrels (ground and anywhere they could climb), and us (I grabbed a ladder and picked several weekends in a row). And I made delicious jam. Friends and family have already put in requests for more.

The final batch of 2012 jam, made in September with fruit I prepped and froze

The final batch of 2012 jam, made in September with fruit I prepped and froze

I’m not sure that the figs will make it to be turned into preserves. We love figs right from the tree. Maybe in a salad with a bit of cheese. With proscuito. I want to have so many figs that I am sick of them, then I will make fig jam. Last year our baby tree gave us 3 and the birds/squirrels/wind maybe another 3. But the nursery said I’d be surprised how fast it will grow. You see, this fig tree is a Texas native.

In the previous house, I attempted to grow a potted lime tree with cute little baby limes that the garden center told me would be perfect for slicing in half and shoving into the neck of a Mexican beer. I killed it, mostly because I had no clue how to take care of it. I’m guessing that it fried in the blazing Texas sun.

You see, citrus trees (and avocados too), do not really grow in north Texas. Despite our exceptionally hot weather from say March to the end of the October, our winters are unpredictable at best. We get snow (like Christmas Day 2012) that sometimes lingers. We get frost for several days in a row then it’s 80°F. Patio lemons and limes must be brought inside for the winter It’s definitely not California here. Down south, closer to Mexico, is where you must go if you want citrus to grow. Like those beautiful Texas Ruby grapefruit (had one for breakfast today—amazing).

So for now, picking lemons, limes, grapefruit and avocados from my own trees are only a dream. But peaches, plums and figs are a delicious, though completely different, substitute.

So: an ode to under-appreciated (but necessary) home tasks

It’s the final day of 2012 and I don’t have to work. (Poor Bruce does though.)

I’ve been up since 5, which is when the 3G Network (Guinness, Godiva and George) prefer to rise so their humans can consume mass quantities of caffeine prior to a brisk-ish 30 minute walk. It’s raining so most of my outdoor to-dos have to wait (except fertilizing the plum, peach and fig trees, but more about that in a second).

So what’s a gal to do?

How about the most heinous, the most under-appreciated home tasks imaginable: taming the paper pile monsters and getting organized for tax time!

Ugh. I’ve been at it for about an hour and while it is exhilarating to run the shredder and eliminate some of the clutter in mere moments, it’s also dreadful. Sure, the paper cuts hurt, but so does the archeology.

For example, as I unearthed the “Home Warranty” file from the old filing cabinet and looked to see what could be streamlined, I realized the answer was “nothing”. For those of you who don’t know, a few days into our residence at the Mortroski Midcentury, we started experiencing bizarre and frankly disgusting plumbing issues. Like sewage backing up into one of our bathtubs every time we ran the washing machine.

I won’t go into all of the gory details, but let’s just say that the home warranty company did everything in their power to NOT help us for more than SIX MONTHS. Finally, a solution: tunnel through the foundation in the family room (we call it the lounge since it’s 1960s groovy) and purchase 37 feet of new sewer pipe which inconveniently ran right through the center of our house. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. So we must keep that entire file in case we ever want to sell. My stomach still hurts just thinking about it.

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A huge chunk of 2011 was spent worrying about things like was our cool new house a total lemon? Would we be able to afford the costly repairs? Would we have to take the previous owners to court since they did not disclose this preexisting condition? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

This little project will take most of the day, by the way. I plan to pace myself, get outside in the mud and fertilize the fruit trees with their first (organic, naturally) fertilizer in perhaps ever in the case of my formerly neglected, now lovely plum and peach trees, and run a couple of errands in the middle of it, just so I can propel myself through the piles—and keep the shredder from overheating. But many black garbage bags full of shreds later, it will be done. And I’ll be thrilled to have it out of the way at least until December 31, 2013.

Yes, although I’ll promise myself that 2013 will be different and I’ll stay organized all year, the odds are good that I won’t. My track record hasn’t been all that great. And I like to procrastinate and find preferable activities like digging in the dirt and planting stuff to eat.

But for 2012, I also blame the office renovation, which is verging on fabulous, but is still not 100% complete, mostly due to me having a crazy Q4 and not being available to devote whole days to sanding, staining, painting, etc. If it was up to Bruce, it would have been done months ago. Like August. Sorry, dear.

So tell me, what horrible home task have you been avoiding? And when are you planning to get it done?

Now, excuse me, the shredder is waiting.