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!

 

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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!

 

 

Sow: mulch better

Sorry, folks. I know I’ve been MIA for much longer than normal. My feeble excuse is work’s been pretty intense and snuck away to the Great White North for a much needed girls’ weekend with two of my pals.

While I was gone, Kate from the yummy foodie blog Tea and Tamarind nominated sowsewso for the Shine On Award. (I’ll take care of the formalities of accepting later. Maybe on the weekend.) Thank you, Kate! I appreciate your kudos and I thank you for the nudge that got me to write today’s post.

But in the interest of catching you up on what’s been happening on the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm, I need to show you a ton of photos:

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ugh. untidy garden.

Summer’s been rough in the aesthetics department. The pine straw mulch looked great for a while, but then it seemed to help the grass grow back in the places where we didn’t want it.

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth around the raised beds and stock tanks. Notice who appears to be doing most of the work.

 

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I read that many people use newspaper to more successfully smother grass and weeds, so we got several coworkers to save their papers for us

once we got all the old stuff up, we could put down the newspaper

once we got all the old stuff up, we could put down the newspaper

then it had to be soaked so that it stuck to the ground better

then it had to be soaked so that it stuck to the ground better. again notice it’s Bruce doing all of the work.

mulch applied over the wet newspaper

mulch applied over the wet newspaper. it already looks better, right?

 

we ended up doing about 1/2 of the garden on the first day because we ran out of mulch

we ended up doing about 1/2 of the garden on the first day because we ran out of mulch. still it looked much better.

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it’s a little hard to see everything, but once it was done, it looked awesome. thanks to Bruce for all the help.

It’s been about two weeks since we completed the mulching. I’d like to say that the grass/weed mixture is 100% smothered and the mulch looks perfect. I’m afraid that this weekend, I’m going to need to pull out some grass. But still if I’m vigilant, I’ll be able to keep things looking nice.

That’s important since it’s patio season again in North Texas. Time for sitting on the patio enjoying adult beverages with friends as we watch the 4Gs and their doggie pals romp around the yard. I can’t wait. It’s really lovely.

As for the urban farm, my kale seeds haven’t sprouted and after a few weeks of waiting and watching the chard sprout and thrive, I’m giving up and picking up some transplants this weekend. Bok choi is growing well. Beets are a little disappointing so I’m going to plant more seeds. Beans are doing their thing and flowering so I’m hoping for a bumper crop. Various salad greens are growing well.

Tomatoes are a disappointment once again and may get pulled out. They are a complete mystery to me. I tried everything, fertilized as directed, watered, and the weather wasn’t that hot. But some of the plants are flowering again so maybe there’s hope.

Snow peas seem to be taking their own sweet time, but maybe they don’t like being so close to the okra. The okra may get pulled although it could still keep producing until the frost kills it. I’ve been giving it away and I have a huge bag of it in the freezer. I’d love to make some pickled okra but that is a little more of a time commitment than I can do. I’d like to get some collard greens growing. Peppers are going crazy. Basil too. Radishes are turning into cute little seedlings. Malabar spinach is thriving and so pretty. And the peaches I froze back in the spring are reminding me that it’s time to make jam.

You’ve probably gathered that I haven’t been spending much time with urban farm. Hopefully I get a bit of time out there this weekend.

And now it’s bedtime.  So I bid you goodnight and leave you with a gratuitous (and nap-tastic) 4G photo:

"hey people, where are you gonna sleep?"

“hey people, where are you gonna sleep?”

 

 

 

 

sow: dirty gardener

 

IMG_3758Guilty as charged! It was a fantastic Labor Day long weekend for getting stuff done—with plenty of time for relaxing. Although I slept in for the first time in eons, I spent most of Monday afternoon outside digging in the dirt. Perfect timing too since it rained on and off all morning long—a lovely way to start the day lounging about and drinking coffee, although Guinness was not impressed with what the wet weather did to his morning walk.

Monday’s harvest was pretty awesome (notice the seed packet next to the pile of produce):

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The chard is the last of what I planted last fall. As you may have gathered from the seed pack, I planted more. The peppers are all still going strong as is the okra (it’s all as tall as me now so it’s getting harder to pick) and they’ll keep going until the first frost hits them. I decided to freeze the nearly 1.5 pounds of okra I gathered up since it will be nice to pull some out in the middle of winter and use it in soups or stews.

But picking wasn’t the most important part about Monday. Serious digging happened. And I’m not talking about the hole that Gidget and George have been making next to the driveway when no one’s looking.

Why? Well, because fall’s here. Ok, truthfully, fall’s not really here until September 21 or so and it’s still close to 100°F almost every day, but it’s time to get fall seeds in the ground. So I started by soaking some snow pea and beet seeds on Saturday evening. The snow peas are already sprouting and they were planted on Sunday afternoon!

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Monday, I dug, added compost and soil, pulled weeds. moved stuff around. And I did a lot of squatting which is why my body was a bit sore yesterday—and my brain was too tired after work to blog.

But not too tired to get one more thing done. Bruce and I worked on clearing out the flooded stock tank (#3) last night. I used about 1/2 of the dirt to augment the other beds and tanks on Monday, then he finished clearing the rest of the soil out into two wheelbarrows. We added three bags of crushed stone, then tested the draining (works fine now). So we loaded the 1/2 of the dirt that was left back in and I’ll get more dirt on the weekend so I can plant carrots and radishes.

Can you tell that I’m excited to get new stuff in the ground? Here’s what what I planted on Sunday (all seeds are from Botanical Interests):

  • Oregon sugar pod II snow peas
  • French filet bush beans (had to plant more since I think the birds may have eaten some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago)
  • Gourmet blend beets (check out the seed pack above)
  • Detroit red beets
  • Five color silverbeet Swiss chard
  • Nero Tuscana kale
  • Red velvet leaf lettuce
  • Qs special medley mesclun
  • Cilantro
  • Italian parsley
  • Bok choi

Here’s what’s sticking around from the spring planting:

  • Malabar spinach (going crazy still)
  • Oregano (moved into a planter)
  • Thyme (moved into a planter)
  • Mint
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Clemson spineless okra
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Marigolds (moved to the bed with the fall tomatoes, they help attract bees)
  • Black diamond watermelon (a gift from a friend that is finally just starting to produce watermelons)
  • some of the basil (see below for details)

My arugula patio planter experiment is going very well. We’ve been harvesting handfuls for sandwiches and burgers—it’s really yummy. Definitely going to do it again next summer and maybe try a couple of additional planters to increase the volume.

I picked up some sprout seeds over the weekend and will be trying out growing those on the window sill just as soon as I get some quart mason jars (I thought I had some, but I only have 1/2 quart jars). I really love them on sandwiches and am a little worried about all of the illnesses that store-bought sprouts seem to have. (The instructions explain how to properly disinfect the seeds so there is little chance of getting sick.)

The fall tomatoes are cranking away. There’s fruit on the Indigo Rose and Celebrity plants, flowers on the rest and I’m already dreaming of tomato sandwiches and caprese salads. The warm days and cooler nights appear to be working their wonders. I pulled a tomato (sweet 100 so Bruce won’t care) and a bell pepper (green) plant that were formerly in the flooded stock tank and really didn’t appreciate being moved. They weren’t doing well, so it seemed a better idea to use the space to plant something else.

I’ve had an exceptional season for basil. I’ve made pesto several times, frozen some, given tons away. Last Thursday I gave away 10 1-gallon bags of the stuff to some coworkers:

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I love basil and it’s so gratifying to grow—that’s why it makes me so happy to share it. While I have had great plans to make another couple of batches of pesto to freeze (I have everything I need, just need to do it), I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I did make a lovely basil-watermelon-feta salad from a recipe one of the basil beneficiaries suggested (thanks, Lauren):

 

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Martha Stewart’s Basil-Watermelon-Feta Salad

 

It was pretty and delicious and I plan to make it many times—I even made a small batch of it for our work lunches today.

The basil is also doing double duty as housing. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see the toad that has lived in Raised Bed #4 all summer. He arrived when the tomato jungle was making tons of shade and has stuck around. Last night, I saw that he’s made a little hut from the mulch around the basil. Hopefully it keeps him hidden from Gidget (she keeps looking for him, perhaps because she has a taste for toads).

 

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Toad in a hole

But as cute as it is, a toad isn’t a dog.  And it won’t satisfy your desire to see gratuitous G photos from the long weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites of George and Gidget, who are quickly becoming best friends:

 

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George has a ball in his mouth that Gidget really wants

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Hope you’re having a great week!

So: out of shape (extra long post)

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I worked 62.5 hours last week. I know that, because in advertising, creative folk like me must complete timesheets (we do it via web portal these days, not paper or clock punching). In this photo, taken by Bruce on Friday night, you can probably tell that it was a tough week. (He also has video because apparently my snoring was so impressive. My whole body moved with each snore. Pretty.)Don’t worry: George was just being an opportunist for a human pillow and a sleeping snuggler.

The week consisted of important meetings in small rooms. Plane rides galore, mostly in the commuter jet kind of plane. Hotel beds, some better than others. Late nights. Early mornings. Lots of writing at the ends of already long days.

Needless to say, after last week, I recognize that I’m painfully out of shape for that kind of marathon. At one time in my career, weeks like that were fairly  normal. And it was exhilarating. Exhausting. Exciting.

There were definitely parts of last week that I loved. I did some solid work. I got to tap dance and sell my little heart out. I did my best to educate and entertain.

Like anything else, unless you use it, you lose it. And I must have lost my stamina and ability to keep that pace for 5 days straight or more about 5 years ago. By the time I arrived home on Thursday night, I was done.

But the week wasn’t over.

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It was so nice to get home and see how much had grown on the Urban Farm. Okra, sweet 100s cherry tomatoes and Anaheim chiles that were marked as poblano transplants were harvested. Good thing they are also delicious. The okra and tomatoes were rehomed since Bruce had been picking tomatoes diligently while I was gone. Several friends and neighbors have been enjoying this spring tomato crop — certainly our most successful so far, despite the weather issues.

And I didn’t want to disappoint this week’s canine coworker:

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Last Friday was Guinness’ turn to go to work. During the summer, we have Summer Hours which means that if you work your 40 hours before noon on Friday, you can head out and enjoy your afternoon. I like to bring a dog along because often I’m one of the last people in the office because it’s nice and quiet, making it the perfect time to get caught up.

Of the three Gs, Guinness is the best office dog because he’s a great listener (Sit. Down. Stay.) and he’s very chill. Plus, he makes every single person he sees feel like a million bucks. He wags his huge puffy tail for everyone like they’re his long lost best friends, sits on feet to keep people from leaving, demands to be petted by putting his big noggin in naps, and lies down on command during meetings, staying put through the whole thing, though he’s very bored. My boss, who isn’t the biggest fan of our dog-friendly office policy (it’s one of the reasons I chose to come to the company), loves Guinness’ well-behaved, laid-back vibe. Although she’d never admit it, she’d be cool if I brought him to work every day.

Friday was actually National Take Your Dog to Work Day in the U.S. I had no idea, honestly. I just planned to bring the Gs into the office one by one this summer and see how they did so I’d know if I’d bring them in again.

The photo above was sent in to a contest that The Three Dog Bakery was having — you just needed to show your dog at work and you could be chosen to win a gift card (the Gs love TDB so it would be awesome to win). I like that Guinness blends in with the office carpet, like he’s in camouflage. He slept under my desk when I wasn’t in meetings. I only knew he was there because I’d hear his soft snores every so often.

Godiva was very put out that again, she wasn’t the office dog, but she’ll be going next. I promise. When she was an only dog, she started coming to work as soon as she was potty trained pup. She had a travel crate, a bed, lots of toys. People bought treats and kept them at their desks just for her. And they bought her fun toys and balls. They had Godiva breaks. Then Guinness came along and separating those two wasn’t a good thing at all.

You already know what I did on Friday night. It’s also what I did on Saturday night. And Sunday night. I can’t remember being that tired in I don’t know when. It reminded me of times in high school when I had to pull all nighters to get the school paper out and study for an exam. Or when I had two finals on the same day in college because of my poor planning. On the plus side, three days later, I now feel back to normal.

Never fear that I rested all weekend. Saturday we needed to get countertops ordered for all of those cabinets. This photo kind of shows what we’re getting, although the photo is too dark. Ice snow is the name of the color:

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It’s whiter but this photo shows all of the flecks in it. The substrate is called caesarstone—it’s quartz and reminds me of travertine which was a popular flooring choice in mid-century homes. The installer will be coming out to do final measurements next week and hopefully it will be installed by mid-July.

It wouldn’t be a weekend without time digging in the dirt. I found out about this cool plant on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee and reading gardening blogs:

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It’s not really spinach, but a juicy leafed plant that is grown in India and Africa for it’s spinach-like qualities. You see, salad isn’t really a summer food and leafy greens don’t grow very well in the North Texas surface of the sun heat. But apparently this stuff does. I’ve eaten a leaf and it’s delicious. A little citrusy in addition to spinach’s green iron-y taste. And it is a vine so it can climb the trellises that Bruce picked up for me. The photos of it are gorgeous and it would bring lots of visual interest to the months where not much is happy to grow (except okra). Stay tuned for further details.

photo[6]By Sunday I was feeling much better rested. Although it was very hot (98°F), I spent some time outside and did another big beet harvest, which I promptly roasted. We had lots of yummy tomatoes and some additional okra. I peeled, chopped, and froze the remainder of the peaches, although I saw a few in the tree up fairly high this morning. I guess it’s time to get the ladder out again. The jam will get made when it’s cooler.

I’m also thinking about making some pepper jams. Down here in the South, people pour pepper jam over cream cheese (or baked brie) and serve it with crackers or baguette slices. Since I couldn’t make plum jam, it might be nice for gifts.

Bruce made dinner (and extra dinners) on Sunday night. We’ve been enjoying the okra grilled. It’s very yummy and a quick side to just about anything.

photo[4]If we get enough okra, I’d love to pickle it, but we’ll have to see how it grows.

Last night I also ordered the fall seeds: beets, spinach, lettuce, collards, mustard, bok choi, snow peas, kale, chard, arugula, carrots, radishes. It’s funny to think about fall when it’s finally summer and it’s predicted to be over 100°F this week.

Yes, it’s back to “normal” for me. Get ready for more “sow” posts.

And I have something exciting to look forward too. Bruce and I will be starting a stay-cation on Friday (through the entire July 4/Canada Day week). Between now and then I have the usual work, plus a day trip to NC on Thursday.

I must rest up since we are going to use the time to get more of our projects completed. I want to break out the sewing machines. And plant the fall tomato crop. Don’t worry, I’ll post photos.

Sow: purple bean dreams

It’s only Thursday. I’ve wanted it to be Friday for three days now. Is that bad?

First of all, I’m not discontented, just really tired. Our lovely stormy weather, lots of physical labor, moving at work, moving stuff at home, dinner guests on Tuesday night, and a variety of other things have made me feel drained. Wiped. Exhausted. More so than I’ve been in a long time. Weird thing is many of my local friends are feeling the same way. Maybe it’s allergies too?

So last night, I went to bed at 9:15. I was done. And I knew bed was the only place I should be. I was asleep pretty much instantly and probably could have slept until 9:15 am or longer this morning. (Hence no post: too tired to form sentences.)

However, my eye’s on a prize that’s keeping me energized: the three day Memorial Day weekend, a three day work week next week, and a four day traveling weekend after that.

I’m giddy about the Memorial Day weekend for more than sleeping. While we have a number of house DIY projects that need to be worked on, three days off from work should give me plenty of time to play in the dirt and enjoy the bounty of the Urban Farm.

Tuesday evening, I saw these babies starting to form:

Purple beans!

Purple beans!

Aren’t they pretty? I love growing stuff I’ve never seen before. They look positively Dr. Seussian. Their flowers are also purple. And yes, the baby beans are very easy to find amongst the green leaves. Like the packet says, they seemed to be easy to grow.

Don’t worry, they turn green when you cook them—but wouldn’t purple beans be a cool thing to eat? Or a mixture of green ones with the purple? Maybe throw in some yellow tomatoes for fun. Or red peppers. You could have a purple veggie plate with eggplant, purple peppers, purple kale, purple cauliflower, purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple beans, and purple tomatoes, garnished with some purple basil. Who wants to come over for that dinner?

So much good stuff is happening — tons to harvest, tons to check. Heck, maybe I’ll even do a little bit tonight. After I ripped out the cilantro that was on its last legs, I picked up some beautiful basil that due to the crazy weather has not yet been planted. The basil I planted with the tomatoes has been dwarfed by the tomato-zillas and now with the bird net up, it’s also harder to get to for a handful. If this new basil grows like the stuff I planted last summer, it’s going to be amazing.

It’s been a scary weather week, but the plants appear to like the extremes. Everything that’s supposed to be green is vibrant. The young veggies seem to double in size every day. And the sun plus the humidity seems to make everything thrive (except for people, who complain about getting soaked when they go outside). It’s a hopeful time and it gives me a boost just thinking about what’s going on.

I leave you another beautiful thought:

Saw this beautiful image on Pinterest.  It is a typeface called Fruitcake designed by Jacqueline Wong

Saw this beautiful image on Pinterest.
It is a typeface called Fruitcake designed by Jacqueline Wong

Sow/So: 100th post

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

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

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

On with today’s post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sow: crop update

collards: it's time for them to go

collards: it’s time for them to go

This morning’s watering and romp around the garden with the squirrel hunting posse of labradorian descent gave me lots to think about. As our days are getting longer and warmer, some of the fall stuff must go to make room for the new spring crops.

The brussels sprouts have made it clear to me they need to go so they’ll be on the plate this weekend. And so the collards must go too. They are on the verge of flowering and my guess is if I let that carry on much longer, the plant will be inedible. Then again, who knows? I never really ate collard greens much until I started growing them. And they rewarded me by being easy and providing lots of good eating!

So bye bye collards! You have grown well and provided us with plenty of vitamins, tons of fibre, and lovely greenness. But you’re at the end of your life cycle and it’s time for you to make room for new veg. Maybe the zucchini will go here. Or some lovely peppers. Not sure yet. For now we salute you and bid you adieu. We’ll grow more of you next fall.

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all of the spinach is growing beautifully

Our salads these days are mostly spinach, arugula, kale and chard. A deep green and very tasty mixture that holds up pretty well even if you dress it in the morning before work.

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red velvet lettuce is getting bigger fast

But I’m starting to dream of the other lettuces that are sprouting up. The red velvet lettuce looks really pretty in its small state. It’s going to be just gorgeous when it’s bigger.

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snow peas are getting going quite well

The snow peas are bigger than the English ones. I took shots from two views so you could see how cute the little pea shoots are. I’m excited to see how big they get—and I can’t wait to pick the peas. They are reminding me that I can get pole beans in the ground starting now. If I can find the space, that is…oh wait, maybe they can go where the collards were.

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see how nicely spaced the peas are

Today’s gratuitous dog photo (you’re welcome, Julia):

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This morning, my 4 legged “helpers” chased each other around the raised beds and hunted squirrels (don’t worry no woodland creatures were harmed) while I watered. Bruce is considering putting up a low fence (2′ high maybe) around the farm to keep the straw mulch in and keep sunbathing hounds out because I’ve found a couple of holes where snouts may have pushed their way into the dirt. And George keeps trying to sneak digs. He has a nice hole started on the opposite side of the yard. And when I yelled at him to stop, Godiva started sulking. Maybe she’s thinking he should help us expand the Urban Farm.