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:

123 Product Photos, LLC (http://www.123ProductPhotos.com/)

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:

IMG_4983

malabar spinach growing like weeds

IMG_4981

beautiful rosette bok choi with a two radish photobomb

IMG_4985

baby bell pepper, all shiny and new

IMG_4986

more bell peppers, a bit bigger though

IMG_4988

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

IMG_4989

wacky spiky lettuce!

IMG_4994

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:

IMG_4980

Gidget enjoying a weekend morning belly rub.

Advertisements

Sow: late start

Perhaps it’s not the best idea to plant the fall carrot and radish seeds before work. I’d like to think that it wasn’t that. Maybe it was the garage door not wanting to open (worked fine for Bruce tonight). Or the strange melted-looking blue-green plastic that was adhered to the side of my otherwise clean and wrinkle-free pants (not sure how that happened). I couldn’t go to work like that! And then, well, Gidget was out too long with me and the rest of the Gs while I was planting those seeds. So she didn’t want to pee when I let her out before I left (ah, puppies).

You get the picture. Clearly, I was working something out in my head this morning. And puttering around in the garden needed to happen. I’ve been a bit out of it. Lots of learning happening at work and maybe it’s sucking up all of my energy. And I’ve been a bit foggy for at least a week.

Fall allergy season seems to be hitting me harder than usual. Luckily I’m not snotty or sneezy. But I’m terminally itchy. Throat and skin definitely, but my eyes especially. That’s a problem for looking at a computer screen after a work day of looking at the computer screen. All in all, this sort of discombobulation is no good for making regular blog posts.

As I’ve said before, I’m not usually a procrastinator, but tonight when I said to Bruce, “I think I’ll write a post in the morning,” he gently reminded me that I’ve been saying that all week. And it’s Wednesday, in case you haven’t noticed.

So this morning while I was puttering and trying to get the synapses firing, I tried something new with the carrots and radishes. Remember all that seed tape that I made back in February? I made too much and said that I’d use it in the fall. Well, today it got used!

carrot seed tape in stock tank #3

carrot seed tape in stock tank #3

Notice I’ve used a different approach. In the spring, I planted long rows of carrots with radishes in between, since they come up first. Bruce took one look at it and said, “Why did you do it that way?” He had envisioned the carrot tape going from side to side, with radish seed in between, because he was sure that I’d do it that way to maximize the harvest. Well, duh! Of course, my brain didn’t work that way. Should have waited to do the planting when he was around!

But this time, I realized the error of my ways and got it planted this morning. It’s a little late, but given the wacky weather we’ve had all summer, it’s probably ok.

the seeds under the dirt, the recycled skewers mark the carrot rows

seeds under the dirt, recycled skewers mark carrot rows

Looking forward to seeing the radishes come up soon. I also threw some free thank you mesclun seeds that came with my Botanical Interests seed order in the front part of the stock tank. Never can have too much salad, right? Not in this household!

In the meantime, Bruce and I’ve been doing a lot to spruce up the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. In fact, we’re about 2/3 of the way done. We’ll finish up the first fall improvement on Saturday and then I’ll post the photos. Believe me, it needed it, especially since the temperatures are headed down to the cooler 80s and that means time to enjoy more time on the patio.

Are you looking forward to cooler fall weather where you are? Or is it already there?

The Gs are looking forward to more time outside when fall and winter come. Here are your gratuitous dog photos for today:

our supervisor for last weekend's improvements

our supervisor for last weekend’s improvements

IMG_3806

camped out in the kitchen, hoping for fall out

Sow: huge harvest

It was a good day at the Mortroski Midcentury. George got braver. Bruce installed more trim. We all have a very packed fridge.

George is very afraid of sounds of the air compressor and the chop saw. That’s why we decided that I’d spend time outside with the Gs (Godiva and Guinness could care less about tool sounds) while Bruce installed trim.

Of course I spent the time on the urban farm. Here’s the harvest:

20130511-204223.jpg
1/2 lb snow peas

20130511-204309.jpg
English peas

20130511-204405.jpg
First carrots plus a second crop radish

20130511-204456.jpg
First real harvest of chioggia beets

20130511-204619.jpg
Spinach, I ended up harvesting another container the same size as these two

And here are some harvesting shots:

20130511-204735.jpg
Picking chard

20130511-204849.jpg
Lots of chard

20130511-204949.jpg
The urban farm today

The fridge is packed with gallon size bags of spinach, chard, mixed greens, beet greens. It looks like I barely made a dent!

Sow: progress report

20130425-211257.jpg Mixed lettuces

A week can bring tons of change to the urban farm. As you can see from the lettuce photo, the plants are bushy and somewhat wild. This weekend the harvesting needs to be pretty hardcore. That’s ok, I’ve lined up some friends to help us enjoy the bounty next week. There will be lots of lettuce, spinach, chard, and an assortment of herbs in their care packages. Mmmm salad!

Weeding needs to be hardcore too. I pulled some out this morning but they have snuck in while I wasn’t looking.

And I wouldn’t mind stopping by North Haven Gardens to see if they have any raspberry bushes left. That is if it fits in with the carpet removal…

Here are a few more visual progress reports:

20130425-211643.jpg
Red romaine

20130425-211725.jpg
Red velvet lettuce

20130425-211801.jpg
Beets

20130425-211850.jpg
Beans

20130425-211928.jpg
Artichoke

20130425-211954.jpg
Carrots radishes carrots

20130425-212030.jpg
Tomato progress–getting bigger and getting more flowers

20130425-212119.jpg
Black diamond watermelon from Lisa

Cilantro and parsley are on their way out. Bok choi needs to get harvested too.

And I also need to hang up a cute garden sign Bruce found while I was away. I’ll post a photo when it’s up.

Looks like a good time outside is on the horizon.

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:

photo[5]

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.

photo[6]

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.

photo[9]

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.

photo[7]

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…

photo[8]

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: seed tape

Tomorrow is President’s Day in the U.S. and Family Day in Canada. In Canada, it’s a statutory holiday so everyone will have a long weekend. In the U.S., the banks, some schools and apparently a few advertising agencies have the day off. Bruce does not (yes, he is bitter).

Tomorrow is also a big gardening day for the spring 2013 Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. Seeds are getting planted. Including so very tiny seeds.

The snow and shelling pea seeds are nice and big.  Mache and the various lettuce seeds can be scattered and still look nice and grow just fine.

But I want to have better carrot, radish and beet crops than I had in 2012. I just threw seeds in the ground and hoped for the best (ok, I did read the packets a bit, but honestly not well enough). Surprisingly, we actually had produce to pick and eat. But this go around, I really want to have TOO MANY carrots, radish and beets to eat. I want to have plenty to eat and give away.

IMG_2317

Beet type #1: soaking for 24 hours

IMG_2318

Beet type #2: soaking for 24 hours

 

So I tried something new this time: I made seed tape.

IMG_2321

Well, I made carrot seed tape, the radish seed tape will have to wait until tomorrow.

First thing I learned was that I should have started making all of seed tapes months ago when I first bought the seeds and was dreaming of the spring garden, not the day before I planned on planting. A lesson to apply for the 2014 spring garden I guess!

I had looked online to get advice on how to do it. Several sites recommended one-ply toilet paper. Since we use a fancier product, that wasn’t really feasible without going out to purchase special t-p for the garden. Seemed a little silly.

Then others recommended newspaper strips. One problem there: few people I know, including myself, actually read a paper newspaper these days. I thought about asking the guy in the red SUV that delivers the newspaper when we’re walking the 3G Network, but he really seems like he’s in a hurry in the morning for some reason. Then I remembered one of my coworkers gets the Sunday paper because he likes to hang out and drink coffee and get inky fingers. I got him to donate some newspaper to the cause (thanks, Wardo!).

IMG_2320

this stuff is newspaper. I’m going to save what I have in case it becomes more difficult to find next time i need to make seed tape.

 

I cut the newspaper up in thin-ish strips. Then I measured off 1 inch marks since carrot seeds need to be planted 1 inch apart.

After that, I made some homemade paste:

IMG_2319

1/4 cup regular old white flour and enough water to make a paste. I thought the pastry brush would be a good idea but it was not. neither was the spoon.

Basically planting carrot seeds (very small! a big pain to count! hopefully worth the effort!), requires 4 seeds every inch. Each row needs to be 6 inches apart, although apparently you can plant radish seeds between each row.

My first efforts used too much paste and once the newspaper strips dried, they curled up:

IMG_2323

don’t worry, I got better at making seed tape

The 3G Network was curious since I was sitting at the dining room table doing this and I’m guessing the flour/water paste smelled like human food. First, Guinness showed up, though not because he was hungry:

Guinness is feeling much better and insisted on a short walk while I was making seed tape

Guinness is feeling much better and insisted on a short walk while I was making seed tape. So we went.

Post-walk, George wanted in on the action:

George in his supervisory role

George in his supervisory role

He was mostly looking for handouts. When he realized that I wasn’t baking cookies or something equally delicious, he finally laid down. Boring!

Here you can see me working to perfect my tape making method. I really don’t know what I ever did without Sharpies. I really love them and they were a big help today marking 1 inch increments. Notice my paste applicator. Yes, a finger worked best for making a nice little blob of paste to hold four tiny seeds. No need for fancy tools.

IMG_2331

Applying glue

Did I mention how small the carrot seeds are? I think that is the #1 reason the fall carrot crop ended up so crappy. Because the seeds were so small I put more than 4 seeds every 1 inch. And because it makes me sad to thin out three carrot seedlings and only keep one, I had a low yield. Not this spring. I will be ruthless with my scissors and to make one beautiful carrot, I will eliminate three seedlings. I know better now.

tiny carrot seeds, tweezers to help move them around

tiny carrot seeds, tweezers to help move them around

using tweezers to get the optimum number of seeds/glue blob

using tweezers to get the optimum number of seeds/glue blob (I am about to reduce the number of seeds in the blob to 4)

So I have made a ton of carrot seed tape, probably more than I need for tomorrow. Supposedly I can roll it up or put it in a plastic bag and it will keep until fall planting.

I ran out of steam in the seed tape making after all those carrot seeds and moved on to helping Bruce with other things. So tomorrow morning first thing, I really need to do some seed tapes for the radish seeds. They are bigger so it shouldn’t be as difficult. Same goes for the soaked beet seeds.

It’s time consuming, but I hope it will be worth it because I really want to do all I can to make the crops successful. And make the raised beds look pretty this spring. Tomorrow, I plant!