So: cleaned up

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It’s a dog’s life at the Mortroski Midcentury. Much of this weekend was spent outside, going for long walks, riding in the truck, rolling in the grass and dirt. It did, however culminate in the dreaded Sunday night bath, so there are now three pouty, but clean and fresh smelling hounds in the house. Brushing will commence in the am post walk.

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It was also a weekend for getting things back to what is normal around here. The living/dining room is now fabulous with trim and a new bamboo floor. All it needs is a bit of white paint on the trim and we are done.

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As you can see from Bruce’s photos we are not afraid of color. Yet it’s all working together like we planned it. Ok, Bruce planned it.

Speaking of Bruce, he decided that the composter was not a sufficient birthday gift for me so he got me some trellises that I admired but didn’t buy. I had been talking about them for a while…

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I think the peas and beans will enjoy the pretty trellises and they will add lots of interest to the garden.

I planted the plants that Lisa gave me and shared some of the extras with my neighbor who enjoys gardening. She was pretty excited that I was sharing and I know she’ll take good care of them.

And I got the taxes submitted!

A great weekend all around.

Sow: tomorrow’s planting

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I like red Solo cups. Toby Keith song aside, they remind me of good times with good friends. College parties. Housewarmings. Barbecues. Beach parties. You get the idea.

Well, today I loved those cups and their blue brothers even more. You see my coworker and fellow urban farmer Lisa used them to bring me seedlings!

Lisa repurposed containers from catered work lunches to make mini greenhouses for her seeds and nurtured the baby plants for good long while.

Today, she brought me some of her bounty and made today like Christmas! Or my birthday again (seems to be a 2013 theme)!

Here’s what’s in the red and blue Solo cups:
Spaghetti squash.
Round zucchini.
Yellow crookneck squash.
Black Diamond watermelon.
Thomas Laxton peas.
Pickling cucumber.
Marketmore cucumber.
Straight 8 cucumber.
Tender green bush bean.
Clemson spineless okra.
Burgundy okra.

But best of all, my most favorite veg in the whole wide world: green globe artichoke! Lisa, you are the best!

18 precious seedlings in all. An awesome and thoughtful gift that will hopefully turn into a bounty I can share back with Lisa and her family. Lisa’s as crunchy as me (perhaps even more so) and gently reminded me to please reuse or recycle the cups (party people: always put your recycle bin out when you use these cups).

Don’t worry, it will all get planted tomorrow. And as you can guess, there will be photos of their growth and development.

Stay tuned!

PS: You’ll want to stay tuned to the blog next week. There will be a Bruce guest post, plus I’m going traveling for work, so you never know what will happen next. I certainly don’t.

Sow: flowers

Look! Little yellow blooms!

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They will be delicious tomatoes by June. All the tomato plants even the ones that got frosty and black are getting bushy and taller. And flowers mean it’s time to give them some fertilizer.

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These will be orange pepper flowers soon. Once they bloom, it’s the same fertilizer treatment for the peppers.

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While those leaves don’t have flowers yet, they’ll be quite pretty soon when they’re covered with flowers. The purple pole bean leaves are lovely though.

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The peas are getting big too. They’ll be blooming soon.

And I’m really looking forward to seeing the okra flowers when it gets hot. They are purple and white.

You may have guessed that I’m impatient tonight. We are expecting unsettled weather tonight. Lots of wind and rain. I’m hoping that we don’t get hail.

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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: photo essay

Not writing much today because the urban farm looked so pretty this morning. So I captured it for you.

Enjoy the views:

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dePierre spinach (heirloom variety)

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Purple pole bean seedlings

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Spinach

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Arugula flowers

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Mixed lettuce

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Ladybug on chard

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Chard

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Snow peas

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Zucchini

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French breakfast radish

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Gratuitous 3G photo (thanks Bruce)

Sow: black death

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Poor orange bell pepper! It may need to be replaced or just a trim. Will reassess Friday. (Peas are doing fine at the back of the bed)

Dead plants make me sad. Last night, a black and crispy mixture greeted me as I covered up the peppers, tomatoes and basil by headlamp in anticipation of yet another cold night.

Since last night, I’ve been the kind of gloomy grumpy that lingers through the next day, despite my best efforts to perk myself up. And I’ve tried. I watched a badly produced video on composting and read a homesteading magazine featuring pictures of baby goats and showing me how to make the garden signs I’ve been planning in my head. To no avail. I’m still grouchy.

However, I’m hopeful that today’s beautiful weather with sun and a high of 68°F will perk the garden up. When I recheck everything tonight while watering, I’ll be greeted with growth and greenery and some of the black death and crispiness will be gone. At least the peas won’t let me down. Neither will the kale and chard. And the Red Velvet lettuce is doing just fine.

On a side note, this morning when I walked into the office, the beautiful hydrangea I received for my birthday was drooping, blue-purple flowers looking wilted and shriveled up. DAMN! Another plant murdered! Can’t I catch a break with even the indoor plants this week?!?

After kicking myself for not checking it before I left last night and spewing a string of colorful and descriptive words, I gave it a good drink and hoped that it would go back to its beautiful self before my coworker (the giver) came by to check it out. More sadness. More gloom. More grouchiness. Ugh.

Luckily my coworker is out today. And luckily, no plant-a-cide happened. The water worked its magic and it’s just as blue and beautiful as it ever was. Whew. That perked me up a tiny bit. Especially since I know zero about hydrangeas except that they can shift color depending upon the soil.

And lest you think I’m stretching the truth about the croaking happening around me and wondering if I’m being an overly dramatic Garden Diva (by the way, I do have a t-shirt that says “Garden Diva” — thanks, Simone!), I’ve snapped photo evidence, taken this morning before work as I assessed the damage in daylight:

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A crispy, wilted green bell pepper. It was sheltered, but I guess it wasn’t warm and sheltered enough. It will need to be replaced.

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This was one of the bushiest of the tomatoes. It will need to be replaced since the frost and cold have fried its top and probably stunted its growth for good.

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Another tomato plant, fried at its top. This is one I will assess on Friday, especially since it’s part of the red water tray experiment. It was also one of the taller plants.

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A common crispy leafed tomato (probably one to replace). This one makes me sad because so much of it got damaged.

See what I mean? Hopefully this is the end of the frosty and cold nights and we can get back to good tomato growing weather. Don’t let anyone tell you that growing tomatoes in North Texas is easy. I struggled last spring, last fall, and this spring has also been a battle. And if by chance you figure out what I did to entice Old Man Winter to come back for a visit, could you let me know? He is not welcome back in Dallas until at least November.

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!

Sow: spring fever

Although it’s a bit gloomy-gray out, when George and I went out to pick lunch this morning by headlamp, I knew that I would have a hard time being inside today. So much so that, even though I had time for a break, I dared not go outside. I might roll the windows down and drive. And I might not come back, as crazy-stricken with spring fever as I am.

While work is fun and cool stuff is happening inside, there’s so much going down at the Urban Farm. Tomato flowers! Lettuce that has doubled in size! Tufts of bok choi! Beets that need to be thinned! Carrot shoots coming up in neat little rows (thanks, seed tape)! An almost full grown radish! Rose bushes greening up and getting leaves! Pea shoots starting to reach toward the trellises! Garlic sprouts! (All exclamation point worthy!)

I’ve been dreaming of planting jalapeño and bell pepper transplants. Getting the spring basil plants in the ground. Figuring out what to do with the patio pots (edible or just pretty? that is my question). I want to feel the soil on my hands (and face) and the sun blazing on the back of my neck. I want to yell at George for trying to catch butterflies and Guinness for trying to catch bees. I want to catch Godiva digging the hole she shares with George. I want to bask in the flowering beauty of the plum and peach trees now that Bruce added a gate to that part of the fence. I want to get the composter going  and turn those garden and kitchen scraps into this fall’s fertilizer. I want to wear flip flops and sit on the patio, cool drink in hand, watching the plants grow and the Gs roll in the grass. I even want to pull weeds in the front yard again.

(I’m itching to get outside if you can’t tell.)

Two walks through the neighborhood each day with Bruce and the 3G Network plus some weeknight watering and limited poking around in the raised beds isn’t doing it for me. I need more. And since my allergies aren’t going completely insane anymore (touch wood, right?) I am even more ready to plant some stuff and enjoy the outdoors before it becomes The Surface of the Sun (aka North Texas’ version of summer).

Luckily for me, it’s almost the weekend. Well, it’s Thursday, the Gateway to the Weekend(TM) and this week, it’s my Friday. You see, on Monday, I decided to give myself a little gift. I’m treating myself to a vacation day and spending Friday doing what I wanted to do. So I’m prepping for Spring, starting with a much needed pedicure to get ready for sandals and open toed shoes, then doing a little bit of wardrobe refreshing, topping it off with a visit to North Haven Gardens for some transplants. (I could do without the shopping but I really must go. I have a lot of client visits coming up and I need to look sharp. Ugh.) A perfect day that hopefully will go as planned and the shopping gods will deliver lovely work clothes and great bargains to me in record time.

So I’m getting up at 5 am as usual tomorrow. Starting my day as early as I can. No rest for the wicked. Or the spring feverish.

 

 

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.

Sow: resow

Today, life’s full of…

little victories: After yesterday’s dirt-fest-a-rama, seed planting-a-thon, and weed whacking,  this desk jockey didn’t wake up unable to move today or hobble around the office. Yay me!

big annoyances: Yesterday was the highest pollen count of 2013 so I woke up this morning with stuffy head and a snuffly nose that has remained with me until about 30 minutes ago. Boo!

words with friends: Not the game app, just quick connections. Lots of good news, hope, inspiring projects, adventures and tales of love about to happen.

important reminders: Like reading is fundamental!

You see, after yesterday’s fun, I was looking through the seed packs, mentally patting myself on the back for getting so much done, cleaning up the garden, harvesting a bunch of stuff, yada yada yada. Then I got to the pea packs:

notice the important instructions...

notice the special germination instructions. doh!

Oops. I remembered to soak the beet seeds because I did that last fall. At least now I know exactly why the fall pea crop never grew! I thought it was because the pole beans crowded and choked it out. Nope. I never soaked the peas. (I also don’t recall that instruction being on that particular packet—I got it for free by answering a gardening survey.)

So last night I made sure to soak the peas I had remaining (I had planned to use them in the fall).

I resowed both the snow peas and the shelling peas this morning.

In 5-10 days we’ll quickly know if soaking matters. I’ll either have exactly the right spacing of cute little pea seedlings 2 inches apart, ready to climb their trellis, or I’ll be pulling out a bunch of pea shoots (luckily you can throw them in salad)!

(I hope that we’ll get to eat some pea shoots.)