Sow: tree rat vendetta

This is not an ode to the cute, furry and omnipresent squirrel in all its varying colors (ours in North Texas are gray, by the way). If you want that, you’d better go right now to Evil Squirrel’s Nest and have a whirl around that blog. Tons of cartoons and photos. Get your ultra cute tree rat fill. I’m not publicizing those critters here.

No, this is an angry rant. A declaration of war from normally peace-loving me:

“Ok, tree rats, there are now 5 peaches on the huge peach tree. As of Friday, the branches were packed with little developing peaches. Now, there are green peaches all over the yard with one or two bites out of them. If you’re going to steal them and eat them before they’re ripe, you need to finish them. And when you do finish them, you guys keep leaving the pits where Gidget can get them. She’s going to break a tooth just like Guinness did a couple of years ago. We do not need another vet bill for a slab fracture. So as of tonight, every time I see you near the garden, on the fence, in the bird bath, anywhere in the yard, I’m opening the back door and yelling ‘Squirrel!’ Enjoy the exercise, you little bastards.”

I am not kidding.

I am furious there will be no 2014 peach jam. It was going to be the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm’s fabulously delicious Christmas gift. And I was so excited about spending an afternoon cleaning and peeling peaches, prepping them for freezing (it is too hot to make jam in North Texas in July), then finally making jam one afternoon in November when it’s cool enough to break out the canner, boiling water, sterilized jars, and cooling racks. It’s a production that I look forward to. It’s two afternoons of fun. And they’ve been stolen away from me. Bastards.

2013 Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm Precious Peach Jam. Little did I know how precious it would be in 2014.

2013 Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm Precious Peach Jam. Little did I know how precious it would be in 2014. Luckily we have two big jars left.

After my angry post yesterday, my Facebook friends have made quite an assortment of suggestions about how to ensure we have peach jam in 2015. Better dog training. Crown of thorns attached to tree. Metal object hanging from the tree that you switch up when the squirrels aren’t as afraid. BB guns. BB guns with scopes. Air guns. (Remember, we’re in Texas so firepower solves problems, y’all.)

I have defended the squirrels from the Gs since we’ve moved here. No more. I’m thinking the dogs are finally going to get their wish and taste squirrel for the first time.

Here is the gratuitous blood-thirsty squirrel hunter photo of the day:

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Gidget on Saturday between three dog beds, minus their covers (which were in the dryer). Photo by Bruce

 

 

 

Sow: long weekend landscaping

It’s been a long day with a very tight deadline for work, so I’m up late and writing more as a little wind down, despite my laptop feeling like it’s overheating from the exuberant pounding I’ve been giving it all day. Whenever I am away from the office for a week, there’s usually some sort of fallout. I expected today to go exactly the way it did and I was not surprised.

On the plus side, the weekend was a long one (Memorial Day here in the USA), so today, you’re getting lots of photos. First up was our long weekend landscaping project which fortunately was not hampered by all the (much needed) rain that we’ve been getting since Sunday.

A few days ago, I mentioned that Bruce and I were very unimpressed at the high cost of the type of patio planters we were looking for so we looked to the Urban Farm for a little inspiration: Stock Tanks! These mini stock tanks from Tractor Supply Company are absolutely perfect for some patio accents. Now we just need to find some patio lanterns (ah, a wee bit of Canadian content for you hosers).

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Look at me all covered with dirt and happy as can be. We picked up two tiny stock tanks for the new patio and put blue agave and lemon coral sedum in them. I like ’em! • Photo by Bruce

And guess where they're made...

And guess where they’re made…and if you’re wondering what the blue thing is in the driveway, it’s Gidget’s and Godiva’s wading pool • photo by Bruce

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Mini stock tanks in context after the first of the weekend’s rain storms. At least all of the plants, the grass, and the Urban Farm are super happy with all the water. Our new rain gauge said we received 1/2 of an inch yesterday.

Lots of good stuff to harvest yesterday…and more today.

The gigantic harvests are starting. Lots of good stuff to harvest yesterday…and still more today. From left: power greens mix (spinach, chard, kale), big bag of mint, a huge head of curly lettuce, a bell pepper, a bunch of beets, two jalapeños, and a big bowl of salad greens. 

As a special treat, it’s gratuitous dog photos galore!

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George could finally relax and sleep through the night again. • Photo by Bruce

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And here’s a little update on my sweet pal Murphy: here he is with his new sister Harley. He looks pretty content, don’t you think? • photo by Debbie

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: 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: 3-day Guinness celebration

Let Guinness eat cake -- it's his birthday!

Let Guinness eat cake — it’s his birthday!

(WARNING: this post is pretty much all gratuitous dog photos with a little bit of garden and DIY commentary thrown in just for good measure. If you’re not a fan of my dog discussions, you may want to skip this one. It’s been very canine-focused around here for the past week.)

St. Patrick’s Day is a rather big deal in North America, so it’s only fitting that we gave Guinness, a great big black lab, a day of massive celebration for his made-up birthday. Guinness was a stray so we don’t really know what he thinks of the name we gave him, but we know he’s appreciated the three days of celebration he’s had in 2014.

First, on Saturday, the Gs all got a delicious buffalo shin each for their chewing delight.

We were hoping to distract them from being a little sad since their new pal Lacey went to her real foster situation on Saturday afternoon. We all really enjoyed having Lacey around. She was a wonderful houseguest and a super sweet dog that will make her new family very happy.

Once she warmed up to having four larger dogs sniffing her and trying to get her to play, Lacey enjoyed being around everyone. She was great on the leash too, which was surprising for a street dog. She tried really hard to fit in and even slept next to the Gs when we all were watching tv in the office. She loved her crate and went in it on her own (probably to escape Gidget).

Guinness especially enjoyed having a new lady friend. He was quite smitten with her.

A few photos of Lacey during her stay at the Mortroski Midcentury Doggie Bed & Breakfast:

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pre-bath: Lacey was a real trooper and once she got in the shower seemed to enjoy soap and hot water, but she loved the fluffy towels the best. Her new family will be thrilled with her bath time manners and fast drying time.

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We weren’t sure how Lacey would get along with fellow former street dog Gidget, but once they got to know each other, the girls enjoyed each other’s company

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being too big to be a lap dog didn’t stop Lacey from wanting to be held — or wanting to sit in chairs with people before they had their coffee

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Lacey was great in the car and was pretty chilled out as we headed to Take Me Home Pet Rescue, the group that found her foster

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Carpool buddies

At Take Me Home Pet Rescue, we took a last photo with Lacey (we are in our Duck Team 6 shirts):

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We all had fun together and while we were a little sad to see Lacey go, we know she’s going to be an awesome addition to another family. 

Well, with Lacey gone to her new life, the Gs have had to deal with going back to “normal” at the Mortroski Midcentury. Weekends are made for DIY projects! And digging in the dirt!

This past weekend we did a bit of both. Gidget the garden dog was very curious about the dirt digging (a favorite activity of hers).

Guinness spent his time rolling in the not yet green grass (and in the part of the yard which is being turned into a patio this week):

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Guinness, post rolling (he got up covered with little bits of dead grass and dust)

So far for Urban Farm spring 2014, we’ve got sprouting mixed greens, kale, swiss chard and spinach in Raised Bed #4, radish sprouts in Stock Tank #3, three kinds of beets, green beans, and two kinds of bok choi seeds in Raised Bed #3, red velvet lettuce seeds in Stock Tank #2. I replenished the kitchen herb garden this morning (yesterday was too cold for transplants) and have my fingers crossed that we will have lovely weather from now on. This weekend I’m going to get bell pepper and jalapeño transplants in the ground. I promise food pictures as soon as there’s something more to show.

Our DIY project is to get the office/tv room and attached bathroom finished up. We have a cool panel treatment that we’re going to continue throughout the office/tv room and a wall treatment that we need to install in the bathroom. We purchased the wood and metal tracks yesterday, then cut the panels tonight. We’ll install them tomorrow and then Bruce can paint them while I’m traveling for work on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the meantime, we have some outdoor work going on and will have an expanded patio in the near future. I’m excited about adding some flowering plants in planters and maybe some fun lighting. We love being outside.

After Sunday’s wood getting and seed planting, Guinness’ second birthday treat was an extravaganza for the entire family, 4-leggeds and 2-leggeds: steak eating! Yes, it was the people’s dinner and the very spoiled Gs all got meat juice and a fair portion of meat along with a bit of their usual kibble. We don’t have red meat that often around here anymore so it was a real treat.

After we cut the panels for the office tonight (table saw! lots of saw dust! minimal cursing!), Guinness had his third treat: Peanut Mutter Bars from Three Dog Bakery. Yes, it’s a bakery for dogs. You could eat the “cake” if you wanted, but it is not sweet, even though it’s made with all sorts of good ingredients like yogurt, carob, peanut butter, whole wheat flour, etc. Guinness shared with Godiva, George and Gidget but our old man would have loved to have all the treats for himself.

We figure Guinness is now about 10 since we got him 4 years ago in January. At the time the vet figured he was 4-6 years old. We really have no idea. His chin is getting whiter and he’s got more sparkly hairs on his face, but Gidget has brought out the puppy in him and he plays like a maniac with her. Hopefully he gets to enjoy many more St. Patrick’s Day birthday parties.

 

So: 2013 lesson

Patience. Stillness. Acceptance. Calmness. Since the 23rd of December, I certainly haven’t been up to my usual tricks.

There’s been no way to cram my Christmas break chock full of visiting, errands, crafts, gardening, organizing, sewing, DIY projects, or really anything that requires lengthy standing. Instead I’ve gotten well acquainted with my insurance company’s online portal, watched a lot of HGTV and the Cooking Channel, reconnected with the sofa, cuddled with all of the Gs, slept way more than I have in years, and sat. And sat some more. And sat some more.

I’ve gotten pretty good with the crutches (Bruce constantly tells me to slow down).

It’s not what I planned.

Looking back on 2013, there’s plenty that did not go as planned.

Take the Urban Farm. Try as I may, I just cannot make tomatoes happen here in North Texas. Cherry and grape maybe, but certainly not anything larger. Same goes with squash, cucumbers, English peas, brussels sprouts, and pumpkins. But okra? Peppers? Kale? Lettuce? Malabar spinach? Swiss chard? You better believe I’ll be planting tons of all of those in 2014. Alas, the big ice storm at the beginning of December while we were off in Palm Springs celebrating our 18th anniversary pretty much wiped the winter veg out. Hindsight being 20-20, it’s a good thing. There’s no way for me to tend it or harvest at the moment and veggies don’t generally wait around 4-6 weeks to be picked. But that said, all the time spent in the garden was very well-spent and I look forward to February when I’ll be back in it.

Take sewing. It’s in the name of the blog, but after February, the machine has stayed ensconced in its case and resided in the spare bedroom closet instead of on the dining room table as I planned. And given my mishap, no sewing is happening any time soon (can’t use the pedal/presser foot). But while I’ve been sitting around, I’ve been surfing Pinterest for inspiration. Looks like I’ll be busy in 2014 if I attempt even 1/2 of what I’ve pinned.

Take work. The end of the year (aka Q4) was as busy as always. (PS: I learned at my management training session that life-work balance is a complete myth and that striving for it just makes people crazy. Don’t do it). Other than writing for work, I did a few pro-bono animal rescue press releases. Doing necessary household chores was exhausting. The dog hair tumbleweeds grew. There were few Christmas decorations this year. Luckily I had made most of my Christmas gifts throughout the year, dehydrating, preserving and saving the harvest, so packing them up was nice and easy.

At this point, I’m guessing Fransi is saying “I told you so.”

You see, my lesson for 2013, delivered at the very tail  end of 2013  is obvious to everyone, including me: slow down.

I’ve always had tremendous energy. The stamina to stay awake and working for days. The ability to throw myself into many different things at once and get it all done. The desire to see things completed and delivered neatly. In high school, my parents worried that I was over-programming myself. I told them I was just fine, but fell sound asleep on family vacations. Like the time we went to Yosemite. Surrounded by beauty, I had to be awakened at every stop. Sitting still in the car, seatbelt on, just shut me down and sent me to Slumbertown. The same thing happened in college. After final exams, I knew better than to start a job right away. The batteries needed to be recharged.

We had a mini-vacation in early December. In Palm Springs, we walked, went on an amazing mid-century architecture tour, rode cruiser bikes, hung out with my parents, went swimming, chatted with strangers at happy hour, visited with Bruce’s aunt, uncle and cousin. I marveled at how well I slept in our cool little mid-century boutique hotel. And I was surprised that things like canceled flights, having to change airports three times, middle seats, and unexpected expenses including plumbing issues and arborist bills from the ice storm didn’t phase me. Why? It was completely escapist. I went with the flow. But I guess it wasn’t enough of a recharge.

And so, here I am again.

This physical break in my foot and the break I’ve had from work and the usual responsibilities have brought me rest, though I can’t say relaxation, exactly. It’s more medicinal than soul-feeding. Even with our annual Boxing Day party, I just sat. It was really all I could do. And poor Bruce had to carry on with the party preparations, running around and picking stuff up. Still, I have to say it was the best one we’ve had. I really had a chance to visit with our guests and catch up with dear ones we don’t see often. And I relished each and every hug. Of course, I parked my butt on a chair near the door so no one could leave without me seeing!

Lest you think I’m ending 2013 on a sour note, let me assure you I’m not. It was a fantastic year. I reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in years (yes, you, Ida-Rose and Laura). I spent loads of time outside. I got to see my best friends (Reesa, Clair, and Simone) much more often than we thought geography would allow. The Gs, Bruce and I fostered and kept a puppy (Gidget) and found volunteer work that we really love (the Gs especially enjoy it when we are bagging dog food).

Gratuitous dog photo:

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It’s definitely cold enough for Gidget to put on her puffy pink coat tonight

We got to see a fair amount of far-away family members. My grandma turned 99 on Christmas Eve! Work was great. We spent more time discovering Dallas and are inspired to try lots of new stuff in 2014. We hung out with Fransi (one of my advertising idols). I read so much great writing—especially blogs. I ate lots of great things, including stuff I grew. Whew! 

As the last few hours of 2013 happen, my wish for you is that you appreciate all that you have right at this moment. If you’re making resolutions, think about what you’ll gain, not what you’ll lose. 

As for the residents of the Mortroski Mid-century, to celebrate the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, we’re going to make a pizza, then I’m going to put my foot up, watch a little tv, call some friends and family, and probably hit the hay long before midnight. Remember the Gs don’t really get what all the fuss is about — their tummies will tell them it’s time to wake up long before this human is ready to rise. Bruce is walking all 4 at once for the next few weeks, so please think positive thoughts for his poor back!

Cheers to you all and Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year, y’all!

 

So: winding down

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pepper haul (from top): bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapeño peppers

2013 is winding down and this lucky, yet turbulent year is promising to end on the same chaotic, always changing, yet exciting note that it started.

First, a quick Urban Farm update: After last week’s earliest freeze in 13 years, I lost pretty much all of my pepper plants. They were covered with peppers so we were able to save the peppers even though the frost killed the plants.  There are two which are now cut down to tiny things and one that was more protected that’s still looking nice and bushy. We’ll see what happens in the next week or so since we have snow predicted. After I harvested all of the peppers, my plan was to can “cowboy candy” aka pickled jalapeños this evening to give out as holiday gifts, but the powers that be had other plans and I was not in the right frame of mind to can. Spending a chunk of the afternoon at the vet, giving the old credit card a little bit of a workout will do that to a gal.

I also lost the beautiful malabar spinach vines, but not the plants. They’re still hanging on and I’m hoping they hang on through the winter and do their thing all spring and summer again, even though Bruce really isn’t all that crazy about their thicker, more juicy than North American spinach leaves. The haricots vertes aka green beans were also murdered by the frost. The last ones were quite good and worth planting again in the spring. One hidden basil is hanging on, though it will most likely be a casualty in the coming weeks. Still I supplied many people with tons of basil this summer/fall and that was really gratifying. Plus, we have a bunch of pesto in the freezer.

On the plus side, we are having a lovely bok choi harvest, growing plenty of leafy salad greens for lunches, and enjoying the beauty of tons of bushy kale and brightly colored chard. The radishes were also quite good, though they are done. Hopefully the carrots they were planted next to can do their thing. The beets are pitiful compared to the spring ones, but I’m hoping that the ones that are there are at least delicious. Snow peas are slow growing for some reason. They are not loving North Texas fall. The herbs are all growing like champs.

The Gs are also in rare form these days. The cooler weather is bringing forth some rowdiness and naughtiness, although you wouldn’t guess it from the dogs spread out across the kitchen floor at the moment. But they’ve had a tough couple of days.

You see we’re trying to give Gidget more freedom and less crate time. Yesterday’s weekday attempt was a bit of a fail. Notice in the photo below that there are little yellow-orange half-chewed pumpkin-y things lying on the dog beds and floor. Those are the decorative gourds that I’ve had kicking around since Canadian Thanksgiving and was hoping to keep around until American Thanksgiving (a week from Thursday). That is not to be since George and Gidget think they are delicious. George greeted Bruce at the back door with one in his mouth last night. Godiva also took several dainty bites out of a bright orange mini pumpkin looking gourd. Needless to say, we have no more gourds lying around the house. And I’ve moved my big pumpkin and anything else that might look tempting to Gidget to higher ground. At least no one experienced any GI issues due to the gourd consumption.

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the Gs gourd-ous handy work

And then there’s the vet. He has just joined the practice and the 4G network just might be his opportunity to put his kids through college. Last week it was Guinness with an ear infection. He is prone to them and no matter what we did ourselves to doctor him, it wasn’t enough this time, despite training from the vet, consultation from our vet tech friend, and OTC products. He’s now doing much better with special ear meds and a prescribed course of hard core cleaning. Cha-ching!

This week (today) it was Godiva. Cha-ching! I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, she must not lick a certain body part for the next 3-4 days so she’s going to wear the Cone of Shame when she’s not being supervised by us. She is on some serious antibiotics and steroids to get the itchy situation under control. And she’ll be hanging out with me at work for the rest of the week, since leaving her at home in the cone, puts her at a disadvantage with the rest of the Gs. It also makes her very sulky. And that in turn, has made me feel rather sulky. Or maybe I am just suffering from lack of natural vitamin D.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day is of disgruntled Godiva:

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poor Godiva

So: great house

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Pretty in pink (photo by Trish at Three Dog Bakery Plano)

As you can guess by the big smile on Gidget’s face, she’s pretty happy that Bruce bought her a puffy coat last weekend in preparation for the earliest frost in 13 years that came on Tuesday night. Buying dog jackets/dog clothes of any kind is new territory for us since our bulldog didn’t need any additional insulation and the other 3Gs have thick natural coats. Poor Gidget doesn’t have a lot of insulation and her white coat is very short. Now she’s protected from the elements and won’t shiver during her twice daily walks with the rest of the pack. And believe it or not, she really does seem to like the jacket.

Other dogs are not so lucky. While our Dallas weather is unpredictable at best, sometimes it gets below freezing and that’s not good for outdoor dwelling dogs. So this week, Bruce built a dog house for Duck Team 6‘s Outreach Team to give to a nice dog named Goliath (and I helped). On Monday evening after work to be exact. For about 4 hours until we figured our neighbors would call the cops on our use of power tools in the later hours of the evening. Should have started on Sunday!

This dog house was different than other dog houses. You see, Goliath is a senior Great Dane who has lived outside his whole life. And like most GD’s, he’s very tall. So he really needed a mini shed. Unfortunately, a mini shed wouldn’t fit in Bruce’s truck assembled. So Bruce designed a modern dog house that was made of a preassembled floor, walls, and roof which could be joined together in Goliath’s yard.

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The floor: plywood base with deck posts to raise the plywood off the ground and keep Goliath warmer

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Bruce assembling the frame for the first wall. He attached plywood to one side of each frame.

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Test filling the walls together. The back wall is higher to allow water to drain easier off the single sheet of plywood roof.

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One wall done, on to the opposite wall.

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Gidget making sure Goliath’s house will be sturdy enough.

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Two walls done, on to the sides

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Framing up the side walls

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Final assembled house with Goliath inside—he likes it! It just needs a coat of paint.

More photos are available on Duck Team 6’s Facebook page Operation Goliath if you want to check them out. Bruce got Goliath setter in before the temperature dropped and he said Goliath seemed very pleased with his new digs.

However, on Tuesday night, one of the Gs was not so pleased with her home:

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Naughty Gidget decided to remodel.

And while I did have a lovely harvest on Sunday afternoon:

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Sunday’s harvest from left: bok choi, tons of basil, mixed salad greens, Russian kale, Swiss chard, nero kale, haricots verts, Malabar spinach, bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapeño peppers

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salad greens growing away

it was not a great week for the urban farm. With several very cold days and frost, some plants couldn’t handle it. I have yet to assess the damage thoroughly (I was traveling for business starting early Wednesday morning and got home late last night), but it looks like even with the frost cloth as protection, several of the pepper plants and the Malabar spinach have bit the dust. Oh well, more compost for the spring!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo features four familiar mugs:

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4G Network on a coat buying mission (photo by Trish at Three Dog Bakery Plano): Guinness, Godiva, George, and Gidget

Sow: live, learn

I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m not very pleased with the Urban Farm at the moment, although it looks nice from the mulching two weekends ago. (Side note: We’re getting really good at mulching—this morning we mulched the front flower beds ourselves. Oddly, lots of cars slowed down to watch me spread the mulch around. I can’t figure out why. Either they didn’t think it was an ok thing to do on Sunday morning or they were shocked to see homeowners doing their own yard work. I really enjoyed it—and it gave me a good look at the growth of all the perennials and shrubs planted last year.)

This fall growing season does not seem to be going very well yet. My kale seeds never sprouted. The two kinds of beet seeds I planted have not turned into a bounty of beet sprouts, much to my (and Bruce’s too) disappointment.  Eating lovely roasted yellow farm-grown Ontario beets last weekend made me yearn for beet harvest time again. I guess next weekend I’ll plant some more seeds and see what happens.

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this is what I’m dreaming of

After a chat with one of the horticultural experts at North Haven Gardens today, I’ve decided not to move forward with growing my own blueberries. I just don’t think we have enough space for two bushes that need their own 4″ x 8 ” raised bed. I’m worried about crowding the fig tree that hasn’t given us any figs yet. Sorry birds!

And then there’s my nemesis: the tomato plants. They’ve made me want to rip them all out of the ground and throw them in the composter. They are not looking very well. So far I’ve pulled three. There are four more left.

But before you think the worst: don’t think I’m giving up on the Urban Farm, because I’m not.

Lots of good stuff is happening, but at this point, I’d like to think of my approach as realistic. I’m getting schooled by the climate—and maybe even though this is my second fall season, I’m not the best student. I love digging in the dirt and seeing the results of weekends spent outside. But I’m thinking that I’m going to stop experimenting with tomatoes. I may grow Sweet 100s or some other kind of cherry or grape tomatoes in a large pot, but I’m going to leave the big juicy and heirloom ones to the professionals. I can pick up delicious ones at the hippie-yuppie grocery store. Or from a real farmer at a farmers market.  So I don’t see some improvement in the tomato plants I planted in July by next weekend, I’m pulling them out next weekend and planting collard greens. Or something else that likes fall/winter in North Texas. Maybe even more lettuce since after yesterday’s rain storm, none of ours looks too great. The bok choi looks puny, snow peas are still small. {cue the violins, right?}

But the okra? Still going strong. Same with the basil. Same with the peppers. Same with that wild and crazy Malabar spinach which now is thickly covering the trellis since we haven’t harvested any for over a week—it also has lovely tiny purple berries. Bush beans are flowering. Chard seeds have made 5 viable plants. Stuff is happening, it’s just taking it’s own sweet time. And I’m not as patient as I should be.

After the kale seeds didn’t happen, I picked up 6 kale plants at North Haven Gardens today — 4 Nero kale (the Italian one that looks like palm trees) but also 2 Russian kale with their pointy leaves and purple-y veins. The parsley seeds didn’t sprout either so I grabbed two Italian flat parsley transplants. It’s funny because the cilantro seeds are doing their thing and I’m excited to see the results. But I guess you just never know if conditions were right, the birds were hungry while I was at work, whatever.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to fertilize everything and see what happens.

And with that, I leave you with the gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Godiva also likes to see what happens, usually from a human vantage point

Enjoy your Sunday evening!

 

 

So: different welcome

IMG_3905If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I was born and raised in the US, moved to Canada when I was 26, became a Canadian citizen after living there for 5 years, and then I moved back to the US 6.5 years ago. And you know that pretty much any time have the opportunity to go to Toronto for work, family or friends, I go.

Here’s a little story that might explain why:

Last Thursday I hopped on a American Airlines flight at DFW to YYZ (Toronto’s Pearson Airport). It was uneventful and perfect for working since the miracle of a row with 2 empty seats happened. When we landed I grabbed my stuff and made the longish trek to Customs and Immigration. With a Canadian passport, you can now go through a automated line  which lets you check out faster. As you walk out of the section with the automated lineup, there is a line up of Customs and Immigration officers and each person speaks to one of them and shows them their receipt from the machine that scanned their customs form and passport.

I did not know the customs agent nor had I ever been in his line in the past. He greeted me with a hearty, “Welcome home!” and proceeded to ask me what I would be doing on my trip. I mentioned that I was having a girls’ weekend in cottage country with two dear friends. His next comment was, “Well, then, when are you coming home to stay? Your friends and family miss you and Canada wants you to come back.” I was a little shocked by his comments (you’ll understand why in a minute), but I laughed and thanked him. He wished me a wonderful weekend and I was on my way. I really wanted to hug him.

The weekend was wonderful, the weather was perfect, company excellent, everything you’d hope a fall colours weekend with your girls would be.

Late Sunday afternoon, I was back at YYZ. I got my boarding pass and took my completed US customs form and headed for the US Customs and Immigration line (flights to the US are often processed in Canada). After standing in line for 30 minutes, I reached the officer. He took one look at me and one look at my passport and asked me if I was going home to Arizona. I told him no, that I was born in Arizona but I now live in Texas. Maybe he was trying to stump me. Next he asked the purpose of my visit. I said, I was visited my friends and had a girls’ weekend. He said, “why would you come here for that?” to which I replied that we were at my friends’ cottage and left the husbands, kids and pets at home. He then asked me if I ever lived in Canada. Of course, I said yes, and mentioned that I lived in Toronto for 12 years. After that he grunted at me and chucked my passport at me. I took that as I was free to go and headed towards Security which ended up taking over an hour.

I boarded my plane, grumpy and hot from rushing to the gate. And while the miracle of the a row with two empty seats happened again (perfect for working on the way home), it took me a little while to feel cheerful. I was glad to that I was going to see Bruce and the Gs in three hours and a bit, but that’s because home is wherever they are.

Of course, everyone came to DFW to pick me up. There were lots of tailwags and kisses, then Gidget insisted on sitting in my lap for part of the way home.

Here’s your gratuitous G photo for tonight:

Gidget really likes to be in the car, even when it's in the garage.

Gidget really likes to be in the car, even when it’s in the garage.