Sow: do over Sunday

This weekend was not particularly good for productivity. Saturday, we plowed through all of the chores by 3 pm and decided to chill for the rest of the evening. And there was a great rainstorm.

Sunday, neither of us wanted to do anything. But after all the rain, our rain barrels were all full (overflowing actually), except for one. It was the one that we have been talking about moving for a while now—it was over by the peach and plum trees. So first, Bruce needed to move a sprinkler. Lots of digging. In the heat. And a trip to the local big box home improvement store for more PVC pipe than we actually needed.

Once the sprinkler move was done, we moved the rain barrel. Which also meant changing the gutters. While Bruce worked on that, I was in charge of leveling the ground, putting down stone, and leveling the blocks that the rain barrel sits on. The photo below is a bit misleading—it needs to sit on blocks for gravity help the water flow from the hose when you’re filling watering cans and buckets.

We have two of this type of rain barrel. Photo from http://www.suncast.com/productdisplay.aspx?id=534&pid=137

We have two of this type of rain barrel. Photo from http://www.suncast.com/productdisplay.aspx?id=534&pid=137

Anyway, once we had it in place and the downspout was fixed, we filled it up with extra water we captured from the overflowing rain barrels (we used big buckets and our reno trash can). Well, it promptly sprung a leak! And it had a hairline crack. Ugh. Bruce has repaired it temporarily with silicon and I ordered a replacement this morning. One step forward, one step back.

As if that wasn’t a big enough trial in the triple digit heat and soggy humidity, I noticed that Stock Tank #3 wasn’t draining properly. Malfunction! For some reason stock tank 3 was not draining at all and turned itself into a tomato and pepper killing, foul smelling swamp. After digging up and moving the transplants that were drowning, I dug out a quarter of the wet dirt and mixed it with dry dirt from an empty planter then cleared the drain. It seems to be on the way to drying out. Fingers crossed. It did look better this morning.

Both Bruce and I were exhausted from all of the digging and the heat. But I have to say after being covered in mud for the better part of the afternoon, it sure felt great to shower.

As for the do over, even though it’s Monday, I’m going to treat tonight like it’s Sunday. Water the garden. Putter around. Watch a little tv. Turn my brain off and rest my sore muscles.

Sow: pop-up pepper pickles

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Today I realized that we had a lot of jalapeños and Anaheim chilis to harvest and I needed to do something with them. So I decided to pickle a pound of peppers. Say that 5 times fast just for fun.

I pulled up a refrigerator pickle recipe my co-worker Lisa recommended (pinned to my pinterest board “can”). I made the recipe last fall with some of our pepper bounty and everyone who tried it, liked it.

Most people around here will eat a jar of pickled peppers so fast that refrigerator ones are the best way to share the bounty.

If you want to try it, check it out here: http://www.sippitysup.com/sippitysups-selection-of-a-pound-of-pickled-peppers/

It’s a delicious pickled pepper in my opinion. And Bruce and I really like them with fish. I put a bit of extra onion in each jar since everyone who tried them remarked that the onion was delicious too. One of my friends said the brine would be good for pickling carrots too.

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It’s a quick recipe if you have the ingredients. I picked up the vinegar at the local yuppie/hippie grocery store today. And as you can see from the photo, I was ready to make 5 good sized jars, some to keep, some to give away.

While I was pickling, we got a big surprise: a pop up gully washer (Texan for flash flood) thunderstorm! Yes, more rain.

When I checked the rain barrels today and added the mosquito dunks (organic mosquito prevention disc you add to rain barrels), three of the four were full.

So when the storm happened today, Bruce ran out and put buckets, the plastic liner for our garden wagon (looks like a kid’s wagon except with all terrain tires) and anything else he could find to catch water. He also had to get a broom to push water off the patio since it was coming down so fast and hard and flooding in places.

Power went out several times because of the lightening. Surprisingly, George was not scared at all.

Very odd weather for July in North Texas. When I checked the garden today and harvested okra and peppers, the ground was still saturated from yesterday’s popup storm. Obviously the Malabar spinach likes it:

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Peppers turned out very well. Now they need to marinade for about a week before tasting them. Hopefully they’re as good as last fall’s version.

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Sow: wet

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It’s been raining since Sunday. This is not normal for North Texas. It should be blazing surface of the sun hot and so dry that I’m thinking of watering the urban farm at dawn, at dusk, and right before bed. At least the fall tomatoes (only 1 casualty so far) are growing like crazy.

But the rain barrels are full again. The grass is green again. The garden is lush and everything is huge. Picking lunch was a real pleasure today and by tomorrow, we’ll have enough okra for dinner.

And Guinness is grumpy. Really grumpy.

He hates water of all kinds, but dislikes rain the most since it may mean no W-A-L-K, especially if there is lightning or hail. He’s also aggravated his neck/back injury that was originally caused by wrestling with a much younger (and heavier) dog. Yes, George.

So Guinness is lying on the sofa (yes, you will get dog hair on your clothes if you sit on our furniture) with a microwaved sock full of uncooked rice on his shoulders. He’s also pumped full of rimadyl and tramadol so he’s a little sleepy/dopey. He’s finally comfortable. Yes, he has pottied, eaten and drank water so we are sure that he’s thrown out his neck/back. Again.

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It may be weather related. He may have over exerted himself trying to impress Ollie the chihuahua on Saturday. Or maybe he and George had a good wrestle.

But it’s G resting time since the humans are plinking away on their phones while the washer is spinning and the tv is yammering on the background.

Special note: Tomorrow’s post could be a blast or a bust. I have jury duty.

Sow: beet it

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Yesterday morning was lovely. Cool, bright, and slightly breezy. A perfect morning to poke around and harvest stuff.

Beets have been one of my favorite vegetables to grow, mainly because they are such a leap of faith. You soak the seeds for 12-24 hours. You plant three or four seeds per hole. Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Maybe it’s me.

I’m learning patience when it comes to sprouting. Moving beyond the instant gratification of transplants which look nice the minute you pop them in the dirt.

You can’t grow beets from transplant. And you have to thin them if you want to be successful in the size and shape of the beets. If all three beet seeds sprout, you have to eliminate two. And how do you decide which two? Luckily you can enjoy the beet sprouts and leaves on a salad. Still it makes me a little sad as I wonder if I’ve made the right decision.

Since they’re something that I love to eat, I planted lots of them this spring because we went through fall’s beet supply so fast. This time I planted 1/2 of a 4″ x 8″ raised bed of chioggia and 1/3 of a 4″ x 8″ raised bed of Detroit reds.

We’ve had 6 harvests so far with more to come.

My friend Clair tells me they’re excellent for gall bladder health. She juices them.

I prefer to roast them in my handy dandy toaster oven so as not to heat up the house. Wash well and trim. Rub a bit of olive oil over them, then salt and pepper well. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F or until you can stick a knife through. Let cool and peel as needed.

Last night I made a salad that used all the parts of the beet. I took a mixture of torn up beet greens (chioggia are light green and Detroit red are dark red), put them on a plate, added a sliced roasted chioggia beet, sprinkled it with a bit of goat cheese, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of garlic vinaigrette. Delicious and a great use of the whole plant.

Today it’s rainy so no harvesting will happen this morning. We woke up at 6:20 this morning to a thunderstorm and heavy rain. It continued until about 9.

Everything is wet and very green. While the Gs are a bit miffed that it interrupted their walking schedule, I’m sure the beets are happy for the free water.

Sow: friendly harvest

Today’s weather has been very ominous, but no rain at the office during work today. Hopefully at home, we got some free plant water this afternoon—there was a 30% chance, but that’s turning to 70% later tonight. In any case, tonight (or tomorrow morning if it rains before I get home) I’m going to do something that I absolutely love to do: pick stuff for my friends.

 

Filling a grocery bag with gallon Ziploc bags of freshly harvested stuff from the Urban Farm and knowing that other families will enjoy it makes me really happy. It’s a great gift that I’d love to receive (hint to all of you local readers with gardens and/or chickens). Hopefully soon I’ll be able to better predict what will be available so that I can give people a heads up of what’s coming. This week, they’ll get lots of leafy green stuff: red romaine, red velvet lettuce, green leaf lettuce, beet greens, rainbow chard.

Sometimes I accompany the produce with recipes. Here’s one of my favorites to give when I share kale and/or chard since many people aren’t too sure if they’re going to like those hardcore green leaves: kale and rainbow chard salad with peaches, blackberries & pine nuts.

kale and fruit salad

Photo from Napa Farmhouse 1885 blog. It’s a great source for ideas of what to do with a bounty of produce.

I’ve made it in the winter with pears and apples instead of peaches and no blackberries. The other day, I ran out of pine nuts so I used sunflower seeds (quite good). Experiment with the fruit and seeds/nuts you have and I’ll bet you come up with a great combo—let me know what you do and any fruit/nut combos that work especially well. I bet pomegranate seeds would be a good addition or different dried fruit. I like to make it before work on weeknights when we have dinner guests—it’s a big time saver since it’s supposed to marinade all day. Delicious with things from the grill or even by itself. Yum!

Since we’re eating so many salads, I’ve started making a salad for dinner when I make our work lunches. Wash and cut once, eat twice! Another huge timesaver when throwing together dinner on a weeknight. Tonight’s salad will be 85% from our garden. Only the goat cheese, sunflower seeds and vinaigrette are not from the land in our backyard. That gives me lot of happiness (although I’d love to have goats, but that’s a story for another day). And since it’s already done, there’s no post-work thinking involved.

Can you tell that I need a little break? Yes, me too. It’s definitely time for a mini-vacation. While the long weekend was fabulous, this weekend’s wedding in Niagara-on-the-Lake will be more of a getaway and bigger break from day-to-day reality. And the plane time will give me some uninterrupted reading time. I’ve been hording magazines and downloading books. I hope to cruise through lots of words. And not be online very much. So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days, please don’t worry. I may not have wifi and I’m not paying for international data roaming.

But if you have a moment, let me know your favorite green leafy salad recipe. As I mentioned we have a lot of green leaves to eat and George is the only four-legged family member who helps.

George: the newest member of the 3G Network

George: mouth full of tennis balls, not salad

 

So: pancakes and pedicures

Too wet to garden. What’s a gal to do on a long weekend Sunday?

I slept in. Of course I went to bed at 1 since we had dinner guests (humans and 4 extra canines of a variety of ages and sizes) so it really wasn’t sleeping in exactly, it just felt like it.

Several large cups of coffee and a bit of NYTimes online. Then there were multigrain pancakes, a human and G favorite on long lazy Sundays.

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And now bliss o bliss: a much needed pedicure. The place I’m at has fancy massaging chairs so I’m taking full advantage and getting the works done. Extra massage, parafin, hot stones. It’s a lovely, extra indulgent treat on a gloomy and wet morning. And due to a scheduling mix up, my service was delayed by 30 minutes so they threw in manicure too. Whoohoo!

Not sure what treats the rest of today will bring with our uncertain weather, except a bit of dark chocolate and perhaps some wine on the patio if it’s not too humid or damp. In any case, I’ll be sporting fancy feet.

What are you doing to relax and treat yourself today?

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

So: excuses excuses

Yesterday, I was traveling and I was supposed to arrive back in Dallas at 8:30 pm. Plenty of time to write my post. Or so I thought.

Our flight was delayed over an hour due to weather (storms in the midwest). It was turbulent. My fellow passengers were cranky and inconsiderate to each other. I finally arrived at home around 10:45 pm, much too tired to write anything coherent.

That’s why yesterday I broke my “rule” about writing every day. I could give you all of my excuses: I was traveling with a colleague (my boss) and wanted to talk with her so I couldn’t write in the airport when we were delayed (like I usually do), the plane was too small to have wifi, my laptop battery was dead, I was tired. All of those things were true. And pretty weak excuses.

In the past, none of that would have stopped me. I would have found a way somehow…or stayed up a bit later to write. I would have pushed myself just to do what I was supposed to do. But I just didn’t have it in me. There was nothing to push through, no energy reserves. And unlike some of my blogging pals, I don’t have a stockpile of awesomely entertaining posts waiting in the wings ready to go. (Perhaps now I’ve learned and I’ll create some to keep handy.)

My point of writing this blog was to be daily. I wanted it to be like hearing from a friend, catching up, checking in. Conversational. Last night, I wouldn’t have been a friend you’d want to hear from. Trust me, if you saw my number light up your cell phone last night, you should have hit “ignore”.

I was exhausted. Spent. Tapped out. I dozed off on the plane for a while and I never am able to sleep on the plane. Turbulence woke me up. Hopefully I didn’t snore as I usually do when I’m worn out. Or grind my teeth. I was almost too tired to drive myself home from the airport. I barely managed 30 minutes of niceties with Bruce while petting each of those needy Gs and making sure everyone felt enough love so that they were not jealous that someone else got a belly rub when they only got a ear scratch.

I was out cold as soon as I hit the pillow.

It was hard to wake up and motivate. Even today, I’m not exactly a sparkling conversationalist. And certainly not filled with writing prowess or creativity (a slight problem given my line of work). I’ve been dragging all day and I don’t know when I’ve been this tired after a business trip. It wasn’t even the usual cram-packed meeting-a-rama marathon I usually have. And although it’s Friday afternoon, I’m not thinking about our exciting weekend full of projects, the Urban Farm’s weekend harvesting, going for a walk with the Gs, sitting on the patio relaxing, errands, friends I might see, my to-do list, what’s for dinner. None of that.

I’m thinking about pajamas, a pillow and a solid 8 hours of glorious shut eye.

And so, I’ll conclude this excuse-ridden post with a gratuitous dog photo of the Mortroski Midcentury’s favorite patient:

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Guinness is feeling much better.            Apparently he chewed on a bone last night.

Hope you have a relaxing weekend. I’m going to do my best to start it well-rested.

Sow: sod it

my opponent for today

my opponent for today

Today was a holiday, but there was no rest. You see, today’s planting was to sow grass. I planted sod for about five hours to give the Gs a cool place to sleep during the summer months and to prevent muddy paws.

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doing battle with the pallet

It’s a lot like doing flooring. You start with a single line, preferably against a straight edge. And then you keep going for 4 hours. It’s important to stagger the seams. And it’s important to make sure the sod is tightly butted up against each other. And that you water it A LOT.

just in case you were doubting that it was a big pile of sod...measured against my car

just in case you were doubting that it was a big pile of sod…measured against my car

But the pile shrank.

much smaller

much smaller

And finally it was done! Looks a lot better than dirt. Fingers crossed that it rains all weekend as predicted (even though it will effect the Easter parades and outdoor brunches—sorry!).

new sod installed

new sod installed

Of course, the Gs were pretty excited about having more grass. They love hanging out under the live oak tree, but I don’t really love that they’re rolling in the dirt. Now we can all be happy (and less muddy).

George liked it (a lot)

George liked it (a lot)

 

splendor in the grass G style

splendor in the grass G style—they’re thrilled to have grass to lie on under the live oak

Lots of watering happened when it was all down. And there will be more watering in my near future. Unless the predicted rain comes. Fingers crossed!

If I can actually cross my fingers. Gotta say that I’m exhausted and plenty of muscles hurt. I took a shower and lifting my arms high enough to wash my dirt-covered hair was a struggle. I’m proud of myself for actually being able to type. And form sentences. It’s going to be an 8:30 bedtime night if I can make it until then.

Most of all, it was awesome to be outside most of the day. Even if I do have a boo boo:

ouch! war wound from today

ouch! war wound from today—palm blister

Today’s DIY adventure definitely made me appreciate the effort it takes to have nice grass. And how much labor is required to plant it.

 

 

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!