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



Sow: It’s My Park Day

Bags of mulch are a lot heavier than I remembered. Today’s fresh start/new beginning was adjusting to being “voluntold” by my sweet husband Bruce. You see our voluntary neighborhood association’s (not an HOA) president and the vp of activities came for a visit a week ago Friday. You see, they remembered that we volunteered at the It’s My Park Day that the city of Dallas sponsors. And they also remembered that we have three large-ish dogs that spend a great deal of time at the park with us.

Before the hour was out, Bruce was the Park Liaison. And I was the Park Liaison’s helper. I even have a fancy name tag.

That’s why I was up by 5:45 on a Saturday. And at Lowes by 7:30 to buy 16 bags of hardwood mulch since the city had apparently forgotten our delivery for the park (more about that in a second). Do not go to Lowes to purchase mulch at 7:30 am on a Saturday. First of all, each bag weighs 40 pounds. Second of all, the garden center isn’t really open that early so you will have to push 40 pounds x 16 through the entire store to get to the checkout. Third, when you are loading your pickup truck with 16 bags of mulch, no Lowes employee will help but instead make pithy comments like “Dang, that looks heavy” and “Y’all sure that’s gonna fit?”


heavier than it looks

When we arrived at the park, it was around 32° F. Yes, 0° C. And a bit windy. Still 35 volunteers plus 3 local politicians (some with entourages) came to clean up in and around the creek and mulch 6 flower beds.

My first job after toting mulch bags was to check people in, make their name stickers, and get them to sign the city’s waver, allowing photography and holding no one responsible if they got hurt. I also pointed out where the donuts, coffee and water was, although given the temperature, coffee was the most popular option. Two little kids scarfed down most of the donuts, much to their mother’s horror. I chuckled to myself because I figured they would go sugar crazy pretty quickly.

The city arrived with the mulch. Bruce collected the bags he had unloaded and loaded them back into the truck.

My next job was to fill my wheelbarrow with bottled water, trash bags, gloves and kleenex (cold = runny noses) and walk the length of the park near the creek, then continue on to the flower beds, following the creek up to the next big street. I gave my big orange plastic bucket to the donut eating kids and their mom to help them mulch the flower bed they were working on (unfortunately for me, they decided to keep it).

After that I raked and mulched a flower bed. I got some gardening tips and heard about the heads of cattle one neighbor has on his ranch (his weekend home).

And then we were done. The creek was very clean. There were full black garbage bags waiting for the city to pick them up. The flower beds looked fabulous.

Well, WE weren’t done. Back to Lowes to unload and return the purchased mulch!

I’m going to need some Aleve tonight.



Sow: education & expansion

Despite having a cold and the weather being gray and kind of misty, I had an action-packed Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm weekend.

Saturday afternoon, Bruce and I attended Terrific Tomatoes — a three-hour long class on how to grow better tomatoes in North Texas. Well, I certainly know a few more things that I did wrong with both the spring and fall crops. I now know that I have to plant the transplants a lot deeper. I know how to fertilize correctly. I know when to plant (very soon) and that I’m going to have to cover them whenever the temperature threatens to get below 40° F. We learned about the best varieties to plant, pests, watering, and pretty much everything you might need to know about tomatoes.There’s even a new kind of grafted tomatoes which may be more tolerant of our rapid weather swings and crazy heat. We’re excited to get planting. But we need to wait until mid-February.

A green zebra from our spring 2012 crop

A green zebra from our spring 2012 crop

Like I said this was an outdoor weekend. I harvested the last of the carrots and bok choi this morning and puttered about the garden first thing this morning.Then we got down to business. After taking the 3G Network for an extra long walk, we all jumped in the pickup and headed out to the country to pick up the first amendment for the spring 2013 Urban Farm season. Our closest Tractor Supply Company is in Mesquite which is about 25 minutes from our house in North Dallas—it’s not really that country but it’s where the rodeo takes place.

All of the dogs enjoy riding in the truck (we have a crew cab with flip up seats in the back which makes it a perfect canine transporter). Godiva loves to surf the console and perch between the front and the back so she can see where we’re going. Guinness and George are tall enough to look out the windows. Luckily they’re all good passengers.

stock tank

example of the type of stock tanks we have, they are normally used as water containers for livestock

Once we got to the Tractor Supply, Bruce picked up our 3rd stock tank and some landscape cloth (more about that in a few paragraphs). They’re great for growing lots of stuff but I think this spring, we’ll focus on growing root veggies like carrots and beets in them. Right now the two that we have are full of spinach, red romaine and kale.


the Urban Farm under construction today

the Urban Farm under construction today

Next, we dropped the stock tank and the dogs off at home and headed back to North Haven Gardens for another raised bed kit, earthworm casings and a truck bed full of bags of soil, composted cow manure, compost, and top soil. We headed back home to get super dirty assembling the raised bed, moving what seemed like hundreds of bags of stuff, and filling up the new stock tank and the new raised bed. We scattered worm castings amongst all the raised beds—something we learned from Saturday’s class. Supposedly not only will we get richer and more active soil (which will hopefully lead to bigger, tastier veggies), we’ll also get earthworms since there are earthworm eggs in the castings. What we learned in the class is that preparing the beds while ahead of planting lets beneficial microbes get active in the soil. That doesn’t matter to the 3G Network—they just enjoyed sniffing at the fresh dirt. Hopefully we don’t find George-sized body divots or Godiva sized holes dug in the middle of the new bed…

the new raised bed and stock tank plus the 3G Network

Then we began making the Urban Farm look nicer. Bruce put the farm sign back up on the fence.

Next, we put down landscaping cloth amongst the 3 stock tanks and the 4 raised beds to help kill off the weeds around them. Next weekend (or maybe this week if we’re ambitious and work cooperates), we’ll be adding some pine straw mulch—something else we learned about during the class—which will make it a lot nicer to walk around everything. It will also help to make the yard look nicer and more finished.

I folded up the frost cloths. This week’s temperatures are going to be in the 60°s so unless something changes, we won’t need them.

Finally, I picked a bunch of kale, collards, mixed salad greens and spinach for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. Have to say that after all of this, I’m a lot tired and my cold will probably not keep me up tonight!