Sow: signs

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Photo by Bruce

Sign of the times. Follow the signs. Here’s your sign. If you flip through my iPhoto library, you’ll see that signs frequently capture my eyes. I like ’em rusty. I like ’em slick. I LOVE them when they’re funny (at least to me). And I really love putting fun signs amongst the veggies and flowers of the Mortroski Midcentury Urban farm.

Our latest arrival is the word “Garden.” Made by a metal craftsperson, it caught Bruce’s and my eyes when we were out looking for some planters for our patio last weekend. Needless to say we never found the right pots, so the search continues. Maybe we’ll just go for some smaller format stock tanks…

Here’s the sign on the wall of the new part of the garden (Fig tree is just out of frame to the right):

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Raised bed #4 has the out of control salad greens, the power greens (kale, spinach, chard), and the rogue tomato plants. A pot of mini roses that are not doing great and a pot of mint are also in this photo. And the little wood square on the fence is a window so our little kid next door neighbors can watch the garden and the Gs. Photo by Bruce

I love how happy it is—so cheerful and fun. And the primary colors are really nice on the wood fence.

One more happy addition is our new garden owl. Not only is he a wise old welcome sign, he’s also a rain gauge (the yellow glass tube) which will be fun to see fill up during our wacky Texas downpours. Here’s hoping for rain very soon!

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Wise old rain gauge • photo by Bruce

Slowly, but surely, we’ll collect more fun stuff to brighten up the plants. I am looking forward to seeing the evolution. After all, change is the only constant, in life and in gardening.

For today’s gratuitous dog photo, I thought I’d share that Bruce informed me that the Gs are being very lazy today. Clearly Gidget needs a nap:

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So tired • photo by Bruce

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Sow: incarcerated fig

The Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm isn’t just for veggies (or dogs). We’ve got three fruit trees too: a plum tree and a peach tree that came with the house and a very young fig tree I planted a couple of years ago.

Little fig tree is coming into its own this spring and when one of our Canadian visitors pointed out that she saw tiny little figs sprouting, I knew something had to be done STAT!

You see, we have roving bands of marauding grackles even though the 4Gs do their best to chase them from the yard. Those naughty birds spend a lot of time picking our neighbors’ three fig trees clean of any figs, so we needed to take action, quickly, before they realized that our little tree was chock full of yummy figgy goodies. And yes, they eat the baby figs green. Bastards.

Taking action was easy enough. Bruce went to the local big box home improvement/garden center store during his lunch break to pick up just two things to build the tiny tree’s prison: bamboo stakes and bird net. Now before you go all PETA on me about the bird net, it’s not for catching birds, it’s for covering plants so the birds won’t get in there. I have used it with great success for several years on my sad tomato experiments with no winged casualties (there was a deceased bird near the urban farm last year, but I suspect feline foul play, not bird net) and once it’s in place, the birds (and squirrels) stay away, mostly because the plants look different.

Here are a few figgy photos so you can see what I mean:

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figs galore! shot through the bird net.

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bird net close up — see the yummy tiny fig?

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the fig facility: yes, those are binder clips!

The stakes are around 4 feet high so the fig tree is still more petite than me. But unlike me, it still has the chance to get taller.

The bricks are an inelegant temporary solution. It was very windy during the install on Monday night so I thought it might not be prudent to cut the bird net then. I’m going to adjust the bird net when both Bruce and I are at home this weekend (he was in Boston during the install and I’m in California until Saturday) and then pin it down using landscaping pins for a better look.

As for the office supplies in use, I find that binder clips are very helpful on the urban farm. I use them during the cold months to secure the frost cloth to tomato cages, the lips of the stock tanks, the bars of the trellises, and even attach the ends of the frost cloth to itself. That’s why when I noticed that theses stakes were so thin that the bird net’s holes could slip down and touch the fig tree, I grabbed a few. I may concoct another solution that looks a little better, but for now, they’ll stay.

So now that the fig tree is all locked up, hopefully I’ll be able to report back in a few months with a nice big fig harvest. I’d settle for a few to eat with prosciutto and cheese or on top of a yummy salad, but my dream is to be able to make fig jam and give it as gifts. It just may be another few years. Sigh. A girl can dream.

If nothing else, fruit trees teach us patience, something we all can use in our fast paced world.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Gidget likes to bark at the photographer. It’s almost as good as saying “cheese”.

And a special treat for today, a gratuitous business travel shot from my current home away from home (and former stomping grounds):

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San Francisco Bay Bridge

It really was as picture postcard perfect as it looks. But don’t feel too jealous: I’m about to spend my entire day today (8:30 am – 7 pm PT)  in a dark room! But still I took a quick walk at 6:00 am in the early morning fog to pick up a Peet’s Coffee at the Ferry Building. I won’t lie, trips like these make me miss the Bay Area…

 

So: Keepin’ Austin weird

My dear friend Simone and I were in Austin for a few days. She flew in Thursday from Toronto and we headed to Austin directly from DFW. We left Saturday morning since she headed back to Toronto this morning and needed cuddle time with her favorite G, Guinness, and her favorite shoe-a-holic Bruce so they could clean out DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) before she left. Just doing her part for the US economy!

It’s only a three hour drive to Austin from Dallas and now that the highway is vastly improved, it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal. Besides we spent the whole time gabbing and catching up, eating lunch and looking for signs for the huge outlet mall in Round Rock (if you are in search of bargains on summer clothes, I highly recommend it.)

Besides horseback riding with our pals Topper and Julius on Friday evening, Simone and I made sure to do plenty of touristy stuff (including more shopping on South Congress Avenue):

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Food truck on South Congress! And yes, the cupcakes are delicious.

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We bought t-shirts (although not these exact ones)

We ate the best pizza in the universe Friday night after our backcountry adventure—and I am not kidding. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my life (hazard of late nights in the advertising world) and I would drive three hours to Austin just for Home Slice Pizza.

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the queen of pies neon sign

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One of their amazing pizzas and their awesome caesar salad

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they make me feel special

Don’t worry, we’re bringing Bruce our leftovers and a little gift so he doesn’t feel so bad missing out on the deliciousness. He was so jealous!

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A major touristy thing: Austin Duck Adventures! This bus is also a boat.

 

We even went on the Austin Duck Adventures city tour on Friday morning (it leaves from the aforementioned Visitor’s Center). Our driver/guide Vic was hilarious. I highly recommend this tour just for the novelty of it since you drive all around Austin and learn the history, then drive around Lake Austin and feel the cool breezes coming off the water. But if you don’t appreciate little kids blowing duck calls along to funny songs, don’t bother. It’s a little noisy. I loved it.

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this is the gift they give you with the tour: a beak-shaped duck call

Splash down into Lake Austin

Splash down into Lake Austin

Did you know that the Texas State Capitol is taller than the US Capitol building in DC?

Did you know that the Texas State Capitol is taller than the US Capitol building in DC?

When we got back to the visitor’s center where the tour starts, I heard a couple asking where to buy cowboy boots. They looked like fashionable people with a little bit of discretionary income burning a hole in their pockets.

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Simone at Austin Visitor’s Center

The cashier recommended Allen’s but said, “it’s really expensive,” which is true, but not if you’re in the market for perhaps the only pair of cowboy boots your East Coast self might need for an entire lifetime. She also mentioned that it’s far from the visitor’s center, which it is not if you are fit and sporty looking which they were.

They looked sad so I said, “do you have a car? You could try Cavenders, it’s where I got my boots.” (Yes, both Simone and I purchased cowboy boots a couple of years ago when she was visiting. They came in handy for horseback riding.) Again, they looked sad and said no. So I said, “You should check out Allen’s. They actually have boots in a variety of price ranges and if you’re only thinking of buying cowboy boots once, it will make a good story.”

They perked up and I said “It’s not that far, but we’re going that way, so we can drop you off.”

They were surprised, but thankful I offered. So we drove them over even though they said, “we never accept rides from strangers.” I said, “we’re not strangers, we’ve been on the duck tour together for the past 2 hours.” They laughed.

They were nice people from Binghamton, NY (him) and NC (her). Seemed like they were old friends, on a fun getaway, just like Simone and me. After making a couple of jokes about the potential of two Canadian ladies being serial killers and asking us to at least have the courtesy to call their parents and let them know what happened, we headed out. We chatted about Toronto and the CN Tower, how awesome Austin is, and how my Prius reminded the guy of an Alero (I think that’s an Oldsmobile, but I’m not sure). We drove them through the back roads of the South Congress neighborhood so they could see the cute little cottage houses and beautiful landscaping and told them a bit about Verde Camp, the place where we stayed and where Bruce and I stay every time we come to Austin. (more about Verde Camp tomorrow)

It took us all of 15 minutes to leave the parking structure and get to Allen’s by car. It was hardly out of our way since our next plan was to walk around on South Congress after we dropped off the purchases we made at the Visitor’s Center.

They thanked us when we dropped them off and waved bye to us. Hopefully they got the boots. Maybe we’ll run into them again on another adventure.

Yes, I did my part to keep Austin weird during our weekend, but so did Simone. And she started early.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, on the way down, we stopped at the giant outlet mall in Round Rock for a little retail therapy. We both were looking for stuff to wear to work as the weather got warmer. Well, Simone is a good shopper and has a knack for helping people find the perfect outfit. That is why I have a huge bag of work clothes to bring back to Dallas—I managed to find nearly all of the things on my shopping list and my spring/summer/fall wardrobe will look awesome.

Not only did Simone help me, she also helped a lady that we met at the Loft outlet find a dress for her son’s upcoming June wedding. Anna was really unhappy and hadn’t found the right dress even though she had been shopping for days. She had friends, the bridesmaids, her kids, her future daughter-in-law help her to no avail. And the wedding would be outside which is going to be surface of the sun hot down in the Austin area. Lots of roadblocks!

After unsuccessfully trying on dresses at Loft, Simone convinced Anna to follow us to Ann Taylor and try on a few things. She started to protest that it wasn’t the kind of store she shopped in and they would have nothing for her. Simone wasn’t having any of that. She told Anna if she wanted to find a dress she needed to come along.

Well, like usual, Simone was right. Anna left with a beautiful sleeveless blue dress that really flattered her body and made her look like the mother-of-the-groom. And we gave her another friend’s contact info so she could get jewelry help (she sells it online).

Simone even told her what shoes to get (nude or black) when she went to DSW—Anna is a fan also. She was so happy she wanted to pay Simone or give her something, but Simone said to just pay it forward and help someone else.

It was a great trip. And we lived up to the Austin vibe.

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One of the official beverages of Austin

And here is your gratuitous (and funny, at least to me) dog photo:

Gidget, mid-bark

Gidget, mid-bark

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.

So: the Murphster

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You'll love the post I'll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. Don’t worry this post has a happy ending. Photo by Bruce

Murphy was dumped. He should have been returned. Yes, he was adopted as an adorable little ball of puppiness. He was a Duck Team 6 dog, a cute puppy that went to what Duck Team 6 thought was a nice, responsible home with people that would love him and give him a wonderful life. He was loved for a little while. But then, their life got busy. Kids came and the sweet brown and brindle dog with the expressive ears became a pain in the ass. He was, after all, still a puppy, since he was under 2 years old.

So, one of the humans he trusted dumped him. At the local kill shelter near where the family lived.

Luckily his microchip told the city shelter that he was a Duck Team 6 dog or he might not have been around in 72 hours. He was supposed to be returned to Duck Team 6 for rehoming if the family couldn’t keep him for whatever reason. Instead, like cowards, they dumped him at the shelter with vague information that didn’t provide enough information. But the microchip did. And that’s how he came to the Mortroski Midcentury Bed and Breakfast and Home for Wayward Dogs for a sweet three week vacation filled with friends, food, playtime, wrestling, napping, lots of pets from nice visitors, walks, and fun. And had we not already had four dogs, we might have found a nice G name for him.

Here are some of our favorite photos of Murphy:

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Isn’t he cute? Aren’t those ears ridiculous?

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The Murphster looks a bit like Scooby Doo. With George photo bomb.

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Sleepy buddy.

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He’s a snuggler.

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Murphy liked to try to con me out of my breakfast.

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Gidget was his best buddy.

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This is the photo that got him adopted.

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Murphy fit in the pack just fine.

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Obviously Murphy’s former family never let him on furniture.

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Learning the finer points of Squirrel TV from Guinness. Gidget supervising.

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How could anyone resist all this cuteness?

So here’s the happy ending: after the three week stay where Murphy went from scared and sad and hating the crate (he was quite the escape artist) to a well-adjusted, happy-go-lucky boy, he found a new home. One of my coworkers and her husband fell in love with him. He has a new loving family who will spoil him, give him lots of toys and plenty of walks and play time. And his new older sister dog to continue to teach him the ropes. 

Gratuitous dog photo of the day? Really? Don’t you think you’ve gotten enough dog photos for one day?

To help more dogs like Murphy, consider a donation to Duck Team 6.

Sow: voluntold

In the gardening world, there are plants known as “volunteers.” These sneaky little devils are not planted by human hand. They just show up and take root. They could be “planted” by the wind, dropped from a bird’s beak, carried by naughty squirrels moving yummy seeds to their eat later stash, or even hidden in the depths of a compost pile.

In my case, it’s possible they’re here to test my sanity, patience, and goodwill to plant-kind.

After my terrible luck with tomatoes for the last two years I vowed that I would NEVER EVER grow them again. And I meant it. Well, I guess I’ve been “voluntold” by the wind, birds, squirrels, compost or something else to grow them this spring. Maybe rejecting tomatoes will be the best thing that ever happened to my tomato farming. Teaches me to give up on a type of plant.

See, two volunteer tomato plants have appeared in Raised Bed #4, where I grew tomatoes last year. They’re nestled in between the thriving power greens: spinach, kale, and chard. Sneaky bastards. Of course, I didn’t have the heart to pull them out once I realized what they were. They’re doing quite well, flowering, growing,  and enjoying the new irrigation system. They even have nice red cages to protect them as they get bigger. Maybe if I continue to ignore them they’ll be fabulous. I can almost taste the ‘mater sandwiches now…

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Volunteer tomato #1, barging in on the spinach

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Volunteer tomato #2, crowding the kale

My other volunteers cheered me up. I was really sad when the beautiful Malabar spinach got hit by the first frost and croaked. Two little plants provided lots of people with green leafy goodness and looked so pretty covering the trellis at the back of Raised Bed #2 all summer and fall. Well, I guess it’s a perennial or it’s decided to be zombie spinach because it’s back. And it looks like it’s more determined than ever — the little plants seem to be doubling every day. Hopefully it doesn’t squeeze out my one surviving bush bean that’s just starting to get close to the trellis. Or bug the okra. But I know I’m going to be happy to have it around when North Texas’ crazy summer temperatures get too hot for regular spinach. I bet it makes great green drinks.

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Malabar spinach is back! Green drinks for everyone!

But I can’t really complain. Even though I wasn’t planning for them, these volunteers are all doing great. And they were 100% free. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.

 

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Godiva decided to see if Gidget’s crate was good for naps. Photo by Bruce

Sow: spring 2014 update

There’s something so amazingly satisfying about popping out the back door right off the kitchen and picking a super gourmet salad right out of your yard. So far in spring 2014, the things you’d want in a really good salad are growing like gangbusters.

We still have the same set up: 4 raised beds and 3 stock tanks plus a few large pots.

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This is my master planning document. My pal Lisa gave me the PDF with all sorts of gardening planning stuff for Christmas 2012, but this year, I’m only focused on filling this out.

It’s so hard to read so here’s what’s where:

Raised bed #1:
-Pole beans at the back on the trellis
-2 poblano pepper transplants
-2 yellow bell pepper transplants
-2 bell pepper transplants
-2 tam jalapeño pepper transplants
-2 larger basil transplants

Stock tank #1:
-1 poblano pepper (accidentally got an extra)
-tomatillos from seed

Large pot in front of stock tank #1:
-cilantro

Raised bed #2:
-Pole beans at the back on the trellis
-Clemson spineless okra (same kind I grew last year)

Stock tank #2:
-Red velvet lettuce (another favorite from last year)

Raised bed #3:
-Pole beans at the back on the trellis (and last year’s Malabar spinach seems to be coming back)
-bok choi
-Detroit dark red, early wonder and chioggia beets (more favorites from last year)

Stock tank #3:
-French breakfast radishes (a personal favorite)

Raised bed #4:
-Bloomsdale spinach
-Nero toscanakale
-5-color silverbeet chard
-Arugula
-Mixed salad greens (Q’s special medley, gourmet baby greens)

Whew! It’s busy on the urban farm this year and everything’s been growing like crazy.

So without further ado, here are some photos of stuff growing:

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French breakfast radishes: 73 harvested so far!

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chioggia beets: first one picked on 5/4/14

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first bok choi: picked 5/4/14

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a sample salad green harvest — I’m giving it away too!

This weekend we also did a few improvements to the urban farm in preparation for fencing off the urban farm from the rest of the yard:

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mulched and added pavers in the weedy part of the yard. fence is going where the grass starts.

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Guinness “helping” in the back of the truck with the mulch. Gidget is eating dog food that spilled in the bed.

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The rest of the urban farm

Hopefully I’ve caught everyone up enough! Harvesting is underway and each night I look forward to seeing what kind of growth happened while I was at work.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Gidget “helping” me lay sod in April


Sow: new growth

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herbs!

Now that I’m an avid (perhaps even extreme) urban food grower, I love March because it means that it’s time to get the spring seeds and transplants in the ground—and it’s time for me to spend more time outside. While my allergies don’t love all the pollen in the air, I feel a whole lot better when I have vitamin D fresh from the sun coursing through my body.

Today the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm looks a little sad. We’ve got a bit of hardscaping happening in the backyard since we decided to extend our patio to make more room for seating, entertaining and eating (and of course, dog lounging). We are hopeful that the concrete will be poured this week and we can start thinking about fun things like building our wine barrel Muskoka chairs and side tables (thank you for the barrels, Marc Pistor!) and how many chairs we’ll want around our new outdoor fireplace (thank you, Grandma!). Even when it’s super cold or super hot, people love to be outside and this will give us much more entertaining space for our dog park dinners and our growing list of Mortroski Midcentury Bed & Breakfast guests for 2014.

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this will be a patio soon

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another view of the soon-to-be patio

But back to the farm: from a distance the raised beds and stock tanks look really empty. When you look closer, there’s no need for sadness—in the Power Greens bed (Raised Bed #4) we’ve got all sorts of salad-y stuff sprouting. Arugula! Spinach! Kale! Chard! All sorts of different lettuces! In two weeks, it will be beautiful and full of baby salad stuff.

Stock Tank #3 is teeming with French Breakfast radish sprouts. They are my absolute favorite radish so I’m pretty excited for the radishes but also for their yummy sprouts. As more sprout, I’m going to have to thin out the Stock Tank so we can have the sprouts on our lunch salads.

Raised Bed #3 got planted with three varieties of beets, two types of bok choi, plus a trellis row of pole beans (green beans) on Sunday. I saw bok choi sprouts this morning but nothing else is up yet.

Stock Tank #2 got a full packet of that beautiful Red Velvet leaf lettuce. I just love how it looks in salads and its big leaves are great for sandwiches and burgers. Plus it seems to like the North Texas temperature fluctuations.

That’s the secret to my planting this year: I’m growing what likes to grow in North Texas. So bye bye tomatoes and hello tomatillos. I’ll be growing tons of peppers. Tons of leafy green stuff. Okra galore. Black eyed peas in the heat of the summer.

Okra will go in after April 1 and it will produce until October or until we get sick of okra and I cut it down and put something in it’s place. I’m growing a whole bed since I like it pickled and several of my coworkers and friends have put in requests for more okra. It’s gratifying because the blooms are pretty and it grows so darn fast.

Tomatillos are this year’s experiment. I have seeds but if I see transplants when I get the peppers (jalapenos, naheims, and bells) I will probably go the instant gratification route. We have made a green chile chicken stew a Boxing Day tradition at our house and it would be really awesome to say it’s from our tomatillos and peppers verses the cheater jar version that we use. It’s delicious, but I bet I could make it from scratch with a little practice.

I re-seeded the cilantro pot although after I cut it back post-freeze, it is coming back like a weed. Same with the mint, oregano and thyme pot. Unfortunately, the kitchen herb garden that has been with me since we moved to the MMC croaked except for the chives. So I replanted with sage, parsley, oregano, golden oregano, basil and thyme. I’ll put more basil in the raised beds once I get everything else in, but I love having the planter right off the kitchen to grab a little of this and a bit of that while I’m cooking dinner.

And I think I mentioned that I’m branching out to flowers and decorative patio plants this year.  I will still keep tucking flowers to attract bees into the raised beds, but I am going for backyard beautification now that I’ve kind of got the hang of the food crops.

Bruce surprised me with an amazing b-day present for the crazed veggie grower: a full-on professionally installed  irrigation system for the raised beds and stock tanks. Yeehaw! It’s pretty awesome and I hope it makes a big difference in how well everything grows. It’s even more awesome than my birthday present from last year (remember the twin spinning composters?).

See why March is such a great month?

Here’s your gratuitous dog photo for today:

sisters!

sisters!

PS: For those of you who are curious, the Lacey dog is doing just great. The folks at Take Me Home Pet Rescue have reported that she is adjusting nicely and even attended their board meeting the other night. Of course, she charmed everyone with her sweet snuggliness.

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

 

 

So: polar vortex slowdown

Before anyone states the obvious, I am well aware that in Texas we tend to have warmer weather than the rest of the country during the traditional winter months. BUT NOT THIS YEAR! (Yes, I am yelling.) It has been very cold, much, much worse than usual.  There have been travel delays and “ice days” off from work. Our winter coats, toques, and gloves imported from Canada are getting more than their fair share of use. No offense, but if I wanted weather like this, I would have stayed in Canada and had a plentiful supply of winter fashions that are really warm, drivers who can drive on ice and snow, snow tires, and public transportation for those days when I’m too Californian to venture out on my own.

Yesterday was beautiful and truthfully, somewhat “normal” by north Texas standards for March 1. It was gorgeous, sunny, warm, the kind of day that makes you really glad to be in Texas at the edge of winter.

Today is a completely different story. The daffodils which so bravely pushed their way up to the sun over the past two weeks now lie flattened on the front lawn. They have been pelted by tiny pellets of ice all day long today and exposed to below freezing temperatures starting late last night. I’m glad that they brought joy to me and to several neighbors walking by yesterday. Maybe they’ll rally once the temperatures head back up.

I doubt the peach and plum trees have faired so well. The peach tree was in partial bloom. The plum tree hasn’t started yet. I may be incorrect about the possibilities of fruit, but I fear that it will be the opposite of what happened last year and I should horde my last few jars of precious peach jam. Or at least share them with people who will really appreciate them. Fingers crossed that the plums will pull through. Both trees are gorgeous and I brought the cuttings from pruning into the house—I have two lovely bouquets that will boost my spirits all week if the cold continues.

The driveway is a sheet of ice, as is the sidewalk. The street in front of the house has not been as well-traveled as usual today. Sunday morning dog walkers and runners were absent. The little kids and parents heading to the park were nowhere to be found. The yard and the neighbors’ roofs are white. Neither are supposed to be that way.

Facebook was filled with parents’ statuses about missing kids’ sporting events, friends afraid to go to brunch, parties being rescheduled. Yes, that is what ice, snow, sleet, thunder sleet (yes, there is such a thing and it’s loud), and the newly coined “polar vortex” does to North Texas.

The Gs didn’t enjoy being pelted with ice bits. Godiva’s thick coat kept them hidden away and even a rough toweling couldn’t get them all out. Guinness was irritated by the wetness as usual. I hope he’s peed today. George, being George, did what he had to do and ran for the door to be let in. Gidget got muddy. She’s the most unfazed by the change in the elements. Perhaps her feral life comes back to her during these uncertain weather situations.

We all spent the day inside, hanging out. The Gs following us around sleeping while Bruce and I cleaned up, rearranged, and organized. Bruce braved the elements to grill lunch—he’s still Canadian, eh! Stuff got done, but it was a very chill day. We haven’t really left the house. Lots of coffee was drank. Lots of time in our cozy office/tv room. All the Gs tested out Gidget’s recently reassembled crate (a subject for an upcoming post for sure). Birthday cards got written. Birthday gifts wrapped. Mulch and compost ordered. Menus planned. Lunch food prepped. DIY tv shows watched. Dog pedicures happened. Magazines re-read and put into the recycling bin.

And despite the fact that our plants are not very happy and neither are the drivers, I say THANK YOU, POLAR VORTEX! It was a good Sunday to slow down and enjoy each other’s company. Perhaps more Sundays need to be spent this way, just with warmer weather. I hope wherever you are that you had some slow moments to your Sunday. May you wake up tomorrow reenergized and ready for whatever the week brings you.

The gratuitous dog photo of the day looks a little scary but is actually very sweet since George and Gidget do so much together:

George and Gidget sharing a bully stick. Photo by Bruce

George and Gidget sharing a bully stick. Check out those white teeth! Photo by Bruce