Sow: seed signage

Must be something in the air. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have any kids that are in a Texas high school and need me to make a homecoming mum. You really must watch this video to understand this state’s fascination with something so ugly, huge and ridiculous:

Yes, I have a glue gun and I recently picked up a laminator. That’s why I decided to make some fancy-ish garden signs so that I remember what plants are which when the seeds I planted on Labor Day start springing from the ground (so far bok choi, snow peas, and mesclun are winning for speed).

First, I grabbed the seed packs (yes, they are all Botanical Interests) and made color copies of their pretty fronts.

lots of seed packs

lots of seed packs

You may wonder why earthy-crunchy me didn’t just reuse the seed packs. Two reasons: I haven’t necessarily emptied each pack and there’s important growing info on all four sides so I like to keep them for reference. And I suppose the third reason would be that I’m not sure the laminator could take the thickness of multiple layers of seed packet paper.

Second, I fired up the laminator. It’s only the third time I’ve used it. It’s not a very fancy one and cost less than $20 including 100 sheets of laminating plastic. A bargain! It has two settings: cold, which is for fragile items like old photos and hot, which is for paper things like my seed pack fronts.

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laminator

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The first package going into the laminator

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Laminated radish seed pack front right after it came out of the laminator

It was super easy so I just kept feeding the plastic covered seed pack fronts into the laminator. It really didn’t take very long. I trimmed off the excess plastic and was left with the seed pack front signs:

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A few laminated seed pack fronts 

Third, I wanted a post for each sign so I grabbed my glue gun and fired it up. I picked up some craft sticks, aka popsicle sticks, at Target. They’re inexpensive and I think they’ll be durable enough to stand up for the season. And if they don’t stand up to water and soil well, I bought 60 so I’ll have replacements available.

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the sign posts

When the glue was flowing, I made a thin line on a stick:

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the thin clear line

Then I slapped on a laminated seed pack front and pressed down for a second or two:

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voila: a little seed sign!

Here’s one for the arugula washtub:

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the arugula feels special now

It didn’t take very long and I had a lot of fun with this little craft. Best of all, anyone who looks at the washtub, planters, raised beds and stock tanks will know exactly what’s growing there. It was a great Thursday night activity.

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lots of seed signs ready to plant

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

sow: dirty gardener

 

IMG_3758Guilty as charged! It was a fantastic Labor Day long weekend for getting stuff done—with plenty of time for relaxing. Although I slept in for the first time in eons, I spent most of Monday afternoon outside digging in the dirt. Perfect timing too since it rained on and off all morning long—a lovely way to start the day lounging about and drinking coffee, although Guinness was not impressed with what the wet weather did to his morning walk.

Monday’s harvest was pretty awesome (notice the seed packet next to the pile of produce):

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The chard is the last of what I planted last fall. As you may have gathered from the seed pack, I planted more. The peppers are all still going strong as is the okra (it’s all as tall as me now so it’s getting harder to pick) and they’ll keep going until the first frost hits them. I decided to freeze the nearly 1.5 pounds of okra I gathered up since it will be nice to pull some out in the middle of winter and use it in soups or stews.

But picking wasn’t the most important part about Monday. Serious digging happened. And I’m not talking about the hole that Gidget and George have been making next to the driveway when no one’s looking.

Why? Well, because fall’s here. Ok, truthfully, fall’s not really here until September 21 or so and it’s still close to 100°F almost every day, but it’s time to get fall seeds in the ground. So I started by soaking some snow pea and beet seeds on Saturday evening. The snow peas are already sprouting and they were planted on Sunday afternoon!

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Monday, I dug, added compost and soil, pulled weeds. moved stuff around. And I did a lot of squatting which is why my body was a bit sore yesterday—and my brain was too tired after work to blog.

But not too tired to get one more thing done. Bruce and I worked on clearing out the flooded stock tank (#3) last night. I used about 1/2 of the dirt to augment the other beds and tanks on Monday, then he finished clearing the rest of the soil out into two wheelbarrows. We added three bags of crushed stone, then tested the draining (works fine now). So we loaded the 1/2 of the dirt that was left back in and I’ll get more dirt on the weekend so I can plant carrots and radishes.

Can you tell that I’m excited to get new stuff in the ground? Here’s what what I planted on Sunday (all seeds are from Botanical Interests):

  • Oregon sugar pod II snow peas
  • French filet bush beans (had to plant more since I think the birds may have eaten some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago)
  • Gourmet blend beets (check out the seed pack above)
  • Detroit red beets
  • Five color silverbeet Swiss chard
  • Nero Tuscana kale
  • Red velvet leaf lettuce
  • Qs special medley mesclun
  • Cilantro
  • Italian parsley
  • Bok choi

Here’s what’s sticking around from the spring planting:

  • Malabar spinach (going crazy still)
  • Oregano (moved into a planter)
  • Thyme (moved into a planter)
  • Mint
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Anaheim peppers
  • Clemson spineless okra
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Marigolds (moved to the bed with the fall tomatoes, they help attract bees)
  • Black diamond watermelon (a gift from a friend that is finally just starting to produce watermelons)
  • some of the basil (see below for details)

My arugula patio planter experiment is going very well. We’ve been harvesting handfuls for sandwiches and burgers—it’s really yummy. Definitely going to do it again next summer and maybe try a couple of additional planters to increase the volume.

I picked up some sprout seeds over the weekend and will be trying out growing those on the window sill just as soon as I get some quart mason jars (I thought I had some, but I only have 1/2 quart jars). I really love them on sandwiches and am a little worried about all of the illnesses that store-bought sprouts seem to have. (The instructions explain how to properly disinfect the seeds so there is little chance of getting sick.)

The fall tomatoes are cranking away. There’s fruit on the Indigo Rose and Celebrity plants, flowers on the rest and I’m already dreaming of tomato sandwiches and caprese salads. The warm days and cooler nights appear to be working their wonders. I pulled a tomato (sweet 100 so Bruce won’t care) and a bell pepper (green) plant that were formerly in the flooded stock tank and really didn’t appreciate being moved. They weren’t doing well, so it seemed a better idea to use the space to plant something else.

I’ve had an exceptional season for basil. I’ve made pesto several times, frozen some, given tons away. Last Thursday I gave away 10 1-gallon bags of the stuff to some coworkers:

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I love basil and it’s so gratifying to grow—that’s why it makes me so happy to share it. While I have had great plans to make another couple of batches of pesto to freeze (I have everything I need, just need to do it), I haven’t gotten around to it yet. But I did make a lovely basil-watermelon-feta salad from a recipe one of the basil beneficiaries suggested (thanks, Lauren):

 

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Martha Stewart’s Basil-Watermelon-Feta Salad

 

It was pretty and delicious and I plan to make it many times—I even made a small batch of it for our work lunches today.

The basil is also doing double duty as housing. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see the toad that has lived in Raised Bed #4 all summer. He arrived when the tomato jungle was making tons of shade and has stuck around. Last night, I saw that he’s made a little hut from the mulch around the basil. Hopefully it keeps him hidden from Gidget (she keeps looking for him, perhaps because she has a taste for toads).

 

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Toad in a hole

But as cute as it is, a toad isn’t a dog.  And it won’t satisfy your desire to see gratuitous G photos from the long weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites of George and Gidget, who are quickly becoming best friends:

 

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George has a ball in his mouth that Gidget really wants

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Hope you’re having a great week!

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

 

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: a break + photos

So, you haven’t heard from me for a few days. Unfortunately life has a funny way of filling up all of my writing spaces when I skip a day. Or maybe subconsciously I wanted a May 2-4 weekend (aka Victoria Day weekend) last weekend instead of Memorial Day this coming weekend. Not sure, but all I know is sentences did not get strung together and very few photos got taken. But maybe this post will make up for it!

Friday night we went to the BARC (Build A Rescue Clinic) Gala for Mazie’s Mission, the awesome rescue organization that saved George. Since it was a 1970s party, Bruce and I put on our vintage best:

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100% authentic 1970s polyester, baby!

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many guys with real hairdos like Bruce’s chose to accessorize with big hair

The outfits were even more amazing than last year. Lots of tie-dye and polyester but also:

great shoes

great shoes (don’t worry, fishy isn’t real)

fun spinning disco ball centerpieces

fun spinning disco ball centerpieces

Mazie’s Mission needs $3 million to build their clinic. As I mentioned in last post, Mazie’s Mission was founded by veterinarian Dr. Erin Shults to bring a self-sustaining, focused approach to animal welfare with the purpose of eliminating unnecessary euthanasia. They provide medical care, expert forensic evidence and adoption assistance to shelters, rescue groups, first responders and other non-profit animal welfare groups. The ultimate goal of Mazie’s Mission will be to establish a world class hospital and lifetime sanctuary for the care of those animals that cannot find a home.

My photos aren’t great (lighting wasn’t ideal to shoot these photos), but they’ll give you an idea. And if you’re interested in learning more or making a donation, visit their website. Or ask me. I might be able to answer your question too.

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aerial view of the clinic grounds

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another view of the clinic buildings

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architect’s rendering of the buildings

It’s a great cause and one I’m definitely proud to support since George was a beneficiary of Mazie’s Mission and Dr. Schults’ skill as a veterinary surgeon. She is an amazing person and it would be fantastic to help her bring her vision into reality.

Speaking of George, he was a bit of a mess yesterday:

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poor Georgie hurt his toe! he’s wearing a human’s sock (mine) to keep from licking it.

Notice his “bandaged” right foot. We woke up to George licking his foot. Sometime between his final let out of the night and his first let out of the am, George was most likely bit by a bug. He licked his swollen toe until it was nice and red. Since it was Sunday, our vet clinic wasn’t open but luckily we have a good friend (hi Christine!) who is a vet tech. She helped us to figure out what we should do to make him more comfortable and also if we needed to go to the emergency clinic (no, thank goodness). Because we had a bunch of medications on hand (a benefit of having Guinness), we were able to get him somewhat fixed up and feeling better fast.

First, I soaked his foot in Epsom salts for 15 minutes. Then I applied some Tritop antibiotic cream, fed him a delicious Benedryl and Rimadyl (anti-inflamatory) wedge of Laughing Cow Lite cheese (the best pill hider for the Gs), and “bandaged” his foot with a sock (mine) and some paper painters’ tape (to keep sock on and prevent sock from getting wet from licks). There was no morning walk for poor George and he woefully waited at the big bay window for Godiva and Guinness to return. Even though he had no mobility issues, we thought it would be better for him to rest and relax (and he’s good at snoozing).

His foot got soaked 3 times yesterday (plus ointment application and a clean sock) and once so far today. His toe seems much less swollen and it is definitely not as red. I saw a bump that looks like an ant bite (itchy!) so maybe that was what happened. If it’s not better by tomorrow morning, our vet tech friend wants me to take him to the vet. They are planning the Mortroski Wing at the vet clinic, so why not, right? Seriously, he’ll be going if it’s not better tonight.

Other weekend highlights included braving the crowds at Costco on a Saturday (not recommended unless you pack your patience), cleaning the very dusty and dirty Mortroski Midcentury, continuing to put away the stuff relocated because of the flooring and trim installation, the usual assortment of household chores, and finally some cabinet installation that hit a speed bump (it has since been figured out so we can hopefully work on it more tonight):

getting the new dark wood cabinets in place -- they will have drawers so being light colored on the inside will help us see what's in there

getting the new cabinets in place

No time for harvesting except for the peas (tons of snow peas and a cupful of sweet English peas for Bruce) for Saturday night supper, a bit of spinach for Sunday morning’s omelette, some lettuce for Sunday lunch’s salmon burgers (nice to have a produce stand in the backyard), so I squeezed some in before work today. Other than a plethora of weeds, today’s haul was tons of rainbow chard, red romaine, lots of mixed lettuce of all types, baby carrots (the real ones not the shaved down large ones), radishes, and chioggia and Detroit red beets.

Check out my biggest chioggia beet to date:

beetzilla!

beetzilla!

Yes, I’ll be roasting beets when I get home tonight.

The tomato forrest was bird netted this morning. I was especially worried about the succulent little sweet 100s — they look like they’re potential bird candy. Found a bit of blossom rot on the Burpee Big Boys, but after some research they could be too wet or not have enough calcium to support themselves. I will pick up some calcium for them later this week and watch their water supply.

Other than that, it’s back to work. We moved floors on Friday so it’s been a bit chaotic in the office for the past few days and rather noisy today with drills, saws, etc. Kind of reminds me of home!

sow: composted

My birthday composter

My birthday composter

Going away on an extended business trip for a week meant that my birthday composter got an extra large helping of partially decomposing stuff this morning and multiple spin cycles.

(So happy Earth Week composter! Hope you enjoyed all of your treats! Kick back, relax, make some nice compost, and I’ll keep feeding and spinning you.)

Have you ever touched fuzzy zucchini? If you haven’t, it’s slimy and furry at the same time. Like it’s covered with soggy white hair. Now you can safely skip seeing it yourself and say “ew” with me. You’re welcome.

Same goes with celery that’s gone bad. It turns into a pile of limp, watery yet fibrous brownish slime. Again, thank me for sharing that visual. Hopefully you’ll never have to see it in real life. It’s not pretty.

But all those fuzzy and slimy veggies made the composter really happy. It’s been cooking away and breaking down everything I’ve been feeding it for the past month. No bad smells. No animals breaking in for “treats”. No unwelcome bugs (I’m hoping that earthworms find their way inside naturally).

The produce peels, tea bags, coffee grounds, parsley, egg cartons, toilet paper cores, napkins, dryer lint, dog hair, rotting produce, apple cores, banana peels, egg shells, grass clippings, leaves, pine straw, garden waste, tomato vines, newspaper, and paper towel rolls are turning into the stuff gardeners love. This batch is almost finalized (there is a limit to how much you can put in) and then it will sit for about a month until everything is broken down. I’ll start its twin and by the time that one is ready to go, the first one will be finished the process.

Yes, it is a little bit of work. Some re-training on what not to throw away. A trip out to the composter every other day or so. Washing out the little collection bucket when it gets gross. Spinning the composter. I think of all of those things as fun—and an investment in future crops.

It’s pretty exciting to think that what is basically garbage is turning into fertilizer and a growing medium for the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. It’s all going down in a very under-utilized part of the side yard by the plum and peach trees. And soon I’ll be able to load up the wheelbarrow and take freshly made compost over to the raised beds.

Composting is kind of like growing stuff. It’s dependent on a variety of factors (materials, weather, water, heat). Even if you think you’ve timed it perfectly, it may take fewer (or more) days than you think. It can be a bit dirty. But in my opinion, it will be well worth the effort—and the wait.

Sow: Earth Day delay

Have to say that after being gone from home for a week, I’m craving digging in the dirt, picking stuff, seeing baby fruits, buds and flowers, watching for new seedlings. As much as I love living out of a suitcase, airports, airline travel, hotels with closed kitchens, famous djs and forestry professors, and tons of meetings, nothing really beats the walking around the urban farm and seeing what’s going on.

Except this:

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the sensitive one

This:

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the strong and silent type, unless there’s someone in the front yard

This:

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the big mouthed goof

And of course, this:

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the handy romantic with a sore back

I’m really looking forward to the canine greeting committee since they’re really not all that fond of FaceTime, texts and cell phones, although I hope I don’t get knocked over. Apparently George has been a little mopey since he is not as used to me being gone as the others in the household. Hopefully they’ll be so happy to see me they’ll decide to forego sleeping on my side of the bed tonight. I could really use a solid eight hours of rest tonight. And some tail wags and snuggles.

And although Bruce’s jar of Kraft Peanut Butter was confiscated at the border (the nice Air Canada worker said she will use the offending “gel” and not throw it away unlike those a-holes in Canada’s version of the TSA were going to), I have a few treats and some nice gifts that I’m sure he’ll like, especially since they’re not available in the U.S.

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A nice light snack, anyone?

I think Bruce may have missed me just a little bit, especially this weekend as he moved 5,000 pounds of bamboo into our house to acclimatize. Apparently there’s quite a “honey-do” list waiting for me that involves relocating all of our furniture in the non-bamboo rooms to the two bamboo-ed rooms and the garage. Hopefully work cooperates this week and there no late nights. The rest of the rooms will be bamboo-ed (by the same professional crew who did the living/dining room) on May 4. After the dust settles, we’re done projects for 2013, well, except for finishing the others we’ve already started.

But I digress. While I’m zooming to Dallas from 10,000 feet or more above the earth and we’re not going to be delayed landing (shouldn’t say it, I’ll probably jinx myself), I’m not getting home until way after dark. And while I don’t want to wait, I’d like to see the urban farm for the first time in a week in daylight and not by headlamp.

So my personal Earth Day celebration will have to be postponed a day. I will celebrate the bounty and marvel at a week’s progress. Maybe I’ll pick something. Hopefully the beans and peas are higher up on their trellises and the tomatoes have moved up to the next level of their cages. I’ll inspect the peaches and plums. See if Lisa’s transplants are doing their thing. Learn if okra is taking over the entire farm. Perhaps join Guinness, Godiva, and George for a good roll in the grass.

You better believe that as soon as the Gs are walked and the sun comes up tomorrow morning, the urban farm will be my first stop. I feel a lunch salad that needs to be picked.

Happy Earth Day, y’all.

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: 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: brussels sprouts

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Harvested purple brussels sprouts

I think I mentioned that I accidentally grew purple brussels sprouts this winter. I should have been paying closer attention while plant shopping and read the plant descriptions instead of just mindlessly grabbing. But they were lovely. Purple leaves. Purple stems. Purple-green sprouts.

Even upon cooking they remained purple. I bet a fancy 5-star restaurant chef would have loved to cook them in some decadent way. They were even probably some rare heirloom variety. However, tonight I was very happy to cook them simply in garlic infused olive oil, a tiny bit of chicken stock and a bit of salt and pepper. They were delicious and the Gs also enjoyed a tiny taste. (Yes, all of the dogs like vegetables, though only George likes them raw. Then again, George will eat pretty much anything. Hence, my need for a fence around the Urban Farm.)

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aren’t they pretty cooked?

For those of you who are wondering why in the world I’d grow, much less eat such a vegetable, I must confess that I love brussels sprouts. For those of you saying ew, you must know that they are my absolute favorite side  dish vegetable and I will have none of that. I do love avocados and artichokes more, so much that they grace the Mortroski Midcentury kitchen’s walls, in both art and avocado green paint color. If you don’t like brussels sprouts, I’d suggest you’ve never had them fresh from the field or properly cooked.

One of the best brussels sprouts dishes I have ever had was a frito mixto combined with artichokes served with a delicious aioli at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco (it’s across from the Ferry Building where San Francisco’s best Saturday market takes place). I was there on a business trip and it was my fabulous room service dinner, eaten with a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Not only did I wish I could recreate it, I wished that I would have had someone to share it with. Bruce loves brussels sprouts too (I converted him, he did not grow up that way) and he would have been the perfect sharer, especially since he would have given me all of the artichokes.

Brussels sprouts have been my go to vegetable of choice since I was a teenager. My brother hated them and would feed them to our family’s beagle under the table. Like George, Rex would eat pretty much anything so my brother could clear his plate pretty fast.

In Northern California where I grew up, they are practically a native plant. They are cheap. You can buy them in winter at the farmers markets on the stalk. They last much longer in your fridge if you leave them that way. From the farmers perspective they are much easier to harvest if you just have to take a machete to a stalk versus pick every little sprout off the stem. Probably much less material to compost/dispose of too. And I bet the farmers laugh a little bit when the customers try to shove them into their market bags and baskets and wind up just throwing them over their shoulders. I know I would.

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growing

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perhaps a bit past due

But I have to say, as pretty as they were, the purple brussels sprouts were an Urban Farm failure. Most of that was due to my greedy desire to maximize the harvest which actually ended up minimizing it. I planted 5 transplants and lost 2 over the winter. Of the 3 that were left, only 2 produced. If I try them again next fall, I will make sure that I fertilize them several times, not just upon planting. I will also make sure that I carefully chart their time to harvest so that I don’t end up with only a small bowlful to show for my efforts.

But it’s spring tomorrow so it’s time to focus on the newly planted and the soon-to-be-newly planted. I’ve given myself Friday off so you can pretty much count on some planting about to happen. It’s time to get the peppers in the ground and I believe it’s safe to plant some basil too.

Happy Spring Eve, y’all.