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: perfection is overrated

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

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

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Garda Dibble: a fun and brightly colored garden tool

 

So how does the Spring 2014 garden grow?

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

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

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

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malabar spinach growing like weeds

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beautiful rosette bok choi with a two radish photobomb

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baby bell pepper, all shiny and new

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more bell peppers, a bit bigger though

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

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wacky spiky lettuce!

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

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

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

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Gidget enjoying a weekend morning belly rub.

Sow: fall/DIY/dog saving

For a weekend, this ranks right up with our top #10 busiest. Friday, surface of the sun all-you-can-eat (or not) baseball for Bruce’s work.

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Yesterday?

Well, I was supposed to work. Instead I spent time up in the peach tree, harvesting:

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It was a fair haul. Not as good as last year but the fruit is larger. The composter got a lot of half eaten or bird pecked peaches, but I know it will be delicious dirt one day. George wanted to eat any peaches that fell on the ground.

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Lots of garden work. More tomatoes harvested. The first okra came in. The last cucumber.

We grilled the okra tonight–amazing. Just toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Delicious. NOT slimy at all.

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Pulled out the last of the carrots.

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Lots of garden is cleared so we can start the fall planting in a few weeks. Hard to believe!

Another big beet harvest with more to come.

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Dunked all of the rain barrels (those are the little donuts).

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One of the beets was really big. That’s Bruce’s iPhone next to the beet.

Saturday was also the day we kept working on the family room/lounge. Our little fridge for beer, wine and drinks came in so Bruce and the Gs took the truck to go and get it. Bruce and I went to pick up the last cabinet after confirming the fridge’s dimensions in real life, in place, not just at the store. And a shower solidified my farmer’s tan.

And then there was the more somber purpose of today: saving the Gs and their pals. We spent 6 hours in a dog first aid and CPR class learning what to do if there’s an emergency. Sobering. But good. I feel a lot better since I am prepared for the worst.

Now, Bruce is assembling that last cabinet so we can do a preliminary countertop measurement.

Our pal the electrician is coming by on Tuesday since we uncovered another issue while attempting to install a replacement ceiling fan in the office/tv room. He needs to move the new fridge plug anyway and better understand what else still needs to happen.

The plumber needs to visit to remove and cap the wet bar sink, making it a more useful dry bar.

See what I mean about busy? And I’m traveling all week this week, leaving Bruce to harvest tomatoes, okra, peppers and chard. Back Thursday!

So: hotdogs and peanuts

There will be no peach picking or harvesting or composting this evening. Bruce and I are  joining his coworkers for a company event at the Rangers Ballpark, home of such delicacies as a giant hot dog:

courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

Everything’s bigger in Texas, right?

And the team they’re playing? Why none other than:

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Caveat: I’m not a huge sports fan. But I do like going to see a baseball game live every now and then. Unlike the dome where the Blue Jays play, Rangers ballpark is open air and styled like an old-fashioned ballpark. It is however, pretty new. And while it’s going to be a hot night (probably 100°F at 5 pm) there’s something magical about hunkering down with a program, a cold beer, a hot dog (something I rarely eat), and a bag of peanuts.

It takes me back to my childhood of course. My dad is to this day a guy who really enjoys a day at the ballpark (we took him to Rangers ballpark last time he visited Texas) even though it is definitely not my mom’s favorite way to spend an afternoon/evening. He knows how to keep score and even if he’s unfamiliar with the particular team, he can size up the players quickly.

The first baseball games I remember going to were Savannah Braves games. They were the minor league team for the Atlanta Braves. So much fun! Every time we went, there were giveaways and special activities for the kids. And apparently it was a rather inexpensive night out for a family of four. We’d get bags of peanuts and make a big mess. When we moved to Southern California, we went to Angels games in Anaheim (can’t remember what they’re currently called, something like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). We’d get bags of peanuts and make a big mess. Then when we moved to Northern California, we’d hop on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and head up to Oakland for the Oakland As games. We’d get bags of peanuts and make a big mess—can you see the pattern? My mom hated the chaos and debris, but it was how it’s done. As a college student and young adult I also went to San Francisco Giants games with friends.

But ask me about the inner working of the game and you won’t get much. I read the program because I like the articles about the players and the teams. I like being outside (no surprise there). I like being able to snack on peanuts and throw the shells on the ground, just like I did when I was a kid.

But most of all, I love the people watching. Always have. It’s like being in the airport, except better. Sporting events bring uninhibited yelling. Crazy fashions. Drunken behavior. Rudeness. Kindness. It’s all out there at the same time. And when combined with the game, it’s visually overwhelming. At least for me.

Once or twice a year I love it. But since this is Friday night after a long and busy work week, I’ll probably be ready to head home after two hours or so, sleepy from the heat and overloaded by the visual stimulation. Gotta get up early Saturday. Peaches are calling.

Sow: peachy

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Yes, of course, tomatoes were harvested today (and were given to the Gs pal Tracy when she came by at lunch to let them out), but I discovered the next big harvest when I was out dumping my poor dead plants garden debris in the composter.

While I was sleeping or at least spending time worrying about the urban farm, the peach tree has gotten busy making peaches. I’m pretty excited about it especially since the plum tree hasn’t produced anything this year.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll start climbing the ladder and plucking down peaches before the birds, squirrels and perhaps even neighbors who know they’re there get them. It’s best to pick them a little green then let them ripen in a paper bag.

I’m hoping to have enough to make jam again. However, my plan is to blanch (skin comes off easier), peel, and cut up the peaches now and freeze them in gallon size ziplock bags. That way I can make jam in the fall, when it’s cooler. Closer to the holidays also.

Truthfully I just don’t have that kind of leisure time right now. It isn’t hard, just time-consuming because there are a lot of steps. But oh so worth it.

Last year I made a ton. In cute little jam pots with a fun label. Gave most of it away and it was a big hit. My grandma who’s 97 said it reminded her of the jam she had as a child.

I can think of no better compliment.

Sow: spring back?

It’s 58°F at 5:30 pm.

In North Texas, this time of day, not midday, is usually the hottest part of the day. I’m just glad to have the temperatures climb back up to a place closer to where it should be. I’ve been a bit of a nervous wreck worrying about the plants.

The entire Urban Farm stayed covered all of yesterday underneath the frost cloth. Hopefully it was all warm and secure enough.

I’m hoping to see happy tomatoes, basil and peppers when I return home tonight. Bruce uncovered them at midday today since it was still only 35°F when I left for the office. Still, that’s three degrees warmer than when I woke up this morning. Brrr. It’s been toques, snowboarding jackets, and gloves weather since Sunday and it’s felt even colder because it was so warm a bit earlier this month.

I’m also hoping for warmer temperatures that stay around. On Friday, I’m going to be putting down sod in parts of the backyard where we need it. It’s mostly to keep the Gs out of the mud truthfully. Yes, we’re buying grass for the Gs. Well, and me. Despite any required labor on my part, it will be a big timesaver if for nothing else than cutting down on the dog towel laundry. Godiva and George are my worst culprits, although I have caught Guinness trying to sneak back on to the couch muddy.

Tomorrow I’d better do a little reading to remind myself how to plant grass. Don’t worry, I’ve done it before. The first time, however, was a really long time ago. When I was a little girl living in Savannah, our whole family spent a weekend installing plugs of grass in the yard of our new house. In no time at all they spread and we had a nice lawn.

With this North Texas lawn planting, water will be the key. (It seems to be a common theme down here, doesn’t it?) But if we water well, the grass will be established prior to our surface of the sun summer temperatures and will survive.

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April showers?

My fingers are crossed for plenty of April showers, not for the May flowers, but for the plump tomatoes, sweet peas, snappy beans, crunchy peppers, bountiful salads,  juicy peaches and plums, and well-established grass!