Sow: perfection is overrated

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

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

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Garda Dibble: a fun and brightly colored garden tool

 

So how does the Spring 2014 garden grow?

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

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

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

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malabar spinach growing like weeds

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beautiful rosette bok choi with a two radish photobomb

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baby bell pepper, all shiny and new

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more bell peppers, a bit bigger though

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

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wacky spiky lettuce!

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

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

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

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Gidget enjoying a weekend morning belly rub.

Sow: new growth

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herbs!

Now that I’m an avid (perhaps even extreme) urban food grower, I love March because it means that it’s time to get the spring seeds and transplants in the ground—and it’s time for me to spend more time outside. While my allergies don’t love all the pollen in the air, I feel a whole lot better when I have vitamin D fresh from the sun coursing through my body.

Today the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm looks a little sad. We’ve got a bit of hardscaping happening in the backyard since we decided to extend our patio to make more room for seating, entertaining and eating (and of course, dog lounging). We are hopeful that the concrete will be poured this week and we can start thinking about fun things like building our wine barrel Muskoka chairs and side tables (thank you for the barrels, Marc Pistor!) and how many chairs we’ll want around our new outdoor fireplace (thank you, Grandma!). Even when it’s super cold or super hot, people love to be outside and this will give us much more entertaining space for our dog park dinners and our growing list of Mortroski Midcentury Bed & Breakfast guests for 2014.

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this will be a patio soon

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another view of the soon-to-be patio

But back to the farm: from a distance the raised beds and stock tanks look really empty. When you look closer, there’s no need for sadness—in the Power Greens bed (Raised Bed #4) we’ve got all sorts of salad-y stuff sprouting. Arugula! Spinach! Kale! Chard! All sorts of different lettuces! In two weeks, it will be beautiful and full of baby salad stuff.

Stock Tank #3 is teeming with French Breakfast radish sprouts. They are my absolute favorite radish so I’m pretty excited for the radishes but also for their yummy sprouts. As more sprout, I’m going to have to thin out the Stock Tank so we can have the sprouts on our lunch salads.

Raised Bed #3 got planted with three varieties of beets, two types of bok choi, plus a trellis row of pole beans (green beans) on Sunday. I saw bok choi sprouts this morning but nothing else is up yet.

Stock Tank #2 got a full packet of that beautiful Red Velvet leaf lettuce. I just love how it looks in salads and its big leaves are great for sandwiches and burgers. Plus it seems to like the North Texas temperature fluctuations.

That’s the secret to my planting this year: I’m growing what likes to grow in North Texas. So bye bye tomatoes and hello tomatillos. I’ll be growing tons of peppers. Tons of leafy green stuff. Okra galore. Black eyed peas in the heat of the summer.

Okra will go in after April 1 and it will produce until October or until we get sick of okra and I cut it down and put something in it’s place. I’m growing a whole bed since I like it pickled and several of my coworkers and friends have put in requests for more okra. It’s gratifying because the blooms are pretty and it grows so darn fast.

Tomatillos are this year’s experiment. I have seeds but if I see transplants when I get the peppers (jalapenos, naheims, and bells) I will probably go the instant gratification route. We have made a green chile chicken stew a Boxing Day tradition at our house and it would be really awesome to say it’s from our tomatillos and peppers verses the cheater jar version that we use. It’s delicious, but I bet I could make it from scratch with a little practice.

I re-seeded the cilantro pot although after I cut it back post-freeze, it is coming back like a weed. Same with the mint, oregano and thyme pot. Unfortunately, the kitchen herb garden that has been with me since we moved to the MMC croaked except for the chives. So I replanted with sage, parsley, oregano, golden oregano, basil and thyme. I’ll put more basil in the raised beds once I get everything else in, but I love having the planter right off the kitchen to grab a little of this and a bit of that while I’m cooking dinner.

And I think I mentioned that I’m branching out to flowers and decorative patio plants this year.  I will still keep tucking flowers to attract bees into the raised beds, but I am going for backyard beautification now that I’ve kind of got the hang of the food crops.

Bruce surprised me with an amazing b-day present for the crazed veggie grower: a full-on professionally installed  irrigation system for the raised beds and stock tanks. Yeehaw! It’s pretty awesome and I hope it makes a big difference in how well everything grows. It’s even more awesome than my birthday present from last year (remember the twin spinning composters?).

See why March is such a great month?

Here’s your gratuitous dog photo for today:

sisters!

sisters!

PS: For those of you who are curious, the Lacey dog is doing just great. The folks at Take Me Home Pet Rescue have reported that she is adjusting nicely and even attended their board meeting the other night. Of course, she charmed everyone with her sweet snuggliness.

So: 3-day Guinness celebration

Let Guinness eat cake -- it's his birthday!

Let Guinness eat cake — it’s his birthday!

(WARNING: this post is pretty much all gratuitous dog photos with a little bit of garden and DIY commentary thrown in just for good measure. If you’re not a fan of my dog discussions, you may want to skip this one. It’s been very canine-focused around here for the past week.)

St. Patrick’s Day is a rather big deal in North America, so it’s only fitting that we gave Guinness, a great big black lab, a day of massive celebration for his made-up birthday. Guinness was a stray so we don’t really know what he thinks of the name we gave him, but we know he’s appreciated the three days of celebration he’s had in 2014.

First, on Saturday, the Gs all got a delicious buffalo shin each for their chewing delight.

We were hoping to distract them from being a little sad since their new pal Lacey went to her real foster situation on Saturday afternoon. We all really enjoyed having Lacey around. She was a wonderful houseguest and a super sweet dog that will make her new family very happy.

Once she warmed up to having four larger dogs sniffing her and trying to get her to play, Lacey enjoyed being around everyone. She was great on the leash too, which was surprising for a street dog. She tried really hard to fit in and even slept next to the Gs when we all were watching tv in the office. She loved her crate and went in it on her own (probably to escape Gidget).

Guinness especially enjoyed having a new lady friend. He was quite smitten with her.

A few photos of Lacey during her stay at the Mortroski Midcentury Doggie Bed & Breakfast:

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pre-bath: Lacey was a real trooper and once she got in the shower seemed to enjoy soap and hot water, but she loved the fluffy towels the best. Her new family will be thrilled with her bath time manners and fast drying time.

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We weren’t sure how Lacey would get along with fellow former street dog Gidget, but once they got to know each other, the girls enjoyed each other’s company

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being too big to be a lap dog didn’t stop Lacey from wanting to be held — or wanting to sit in chairs with people before they had their coffee

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Lacey was great in the car and was pretty chilled out as we headed to Take Me Home Pet Rescue, the group that found her foster

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Carpool buddies

At Take Me Home Pet Rescue, we took a last photo with Lacey (we are in our Duck Team 6 shirts):

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We all had fun together and while we were a little sad to see Lacey go, we know she’s going to be an awesome addition to another family. 

Well, with Lacey gone to her new life, the Gs have had to deal with going back to “normal” at the Mortroski Midcentury. Weekends are made for DIY projects! And digging in the dirt!

This past weekend we did a bit of both. Gidget the garden dog was very curious about the dirt digging (a favorite activity of hers).

Guinness spent his time rolling in the not yet green grass (and in the part of the yard which is being turned into a patio this week):

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Guinness, post rolling (he got up covered with little bits of dead grass and dust)

So far for Urban Farm spring 2014, we’ve got sprouting mixed greens, kale, swiss chard and spinach in Raised Bed #4, radish sprouts in Stock Tank #3, three kinds of beets, green beans, and two kinds of bok choi seeds in Raised Bed #3, red velvet lettuce seeds in Stock Tank #2. I replenished the kitchen herb garden this morning (yesterday was too cold for transplants) and have my fingers crossed that we will have lovely weather from now on. This weekend I’m going to get bell pepper and jalapeño transplants in the ground. I promise food pictures as soon as there’s something more to show.

Our DIY project is to get the office/tv room and attached bathroom finished up. We have a cool panel treatment that we’re going to continue throughout the office/tv room and a wall treatment that we need to install in the bathroom. We purchased the wood and metal tracks yesterday, then cut the panels tonight. We’ll install them tomorrow and then Bruce can paint them while I’m traveling for work on Wednesday and Thursday.

In the meantime, we have some outdoor work going on and will have an expanded patio in the near future. I’m excited about adding some flowering plants in planters and maybe some fun lighting. We love being outside.

After Sunday’s wood getting and seed planting, Guinness’ second birthday treat was an extravaganza for the entire family, 4-leggeds and 2-leggeds: steak eating! Yes, it was the people’s dinner and the very spoiled Gs all got meat juice and a fair portion of meat along with a bit of their usual kibble. We don’t have red meat that often around here anymore so it was a real treat.

After we cut the panels for the office tonight (table saw! lots of saw dust! minimal cursing!), Guinness had his third treat: Peanut Mutter Bars from Three Dog Bakery. Yes, it’s a bakery for dogs. You could eat the “cake” if you wanted, but it is not sweet, even though it’s made with all sorts of good ingredients like yogurt, carob, peanut butter, whole wheat flour, etc. Guinness shared with Godiva, George and Gidget but our old man would have loved to have all the treats for himself.

We figure Guinness is now about 10 since we got him 4 years ago in January. At the time the vet figured he was 4-6 years old. We really have no idea. His chin is getting whiter and he’s got more sparkly hairs on his face, but Gidget has brought out the puppy in him and he plays like a maniac with her. Hopefully he gets to enjoy many more St. Patrick’s Day birthday parties.

 

Sow: here comes the sun

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Final carrot harvest. While these are super cute, carrots are another vegetable that I’m buying from the store.

Finally, a weekend filled with lots of things that I like best (and some housecleaning). It was a big gray and cool on Saturday, but everything worked out fine since that was the day when Boy Scout Kyle who is trying to raise money to fund his Scouting activities delivered, yes, delivered 10 huge bags of compost and 18 huge bags of mulch. Sweet Kyle even stacked them neatly. And delivered they were cheaper than the place where I have gotten compost and mulch in the past. Best of all, Bruce and I didn’t have to load and unload it. Score!

While the mulch for the front planting beds will wait for another weekend, after cleaning up what was left of the winter garden (lots of death and a few fancy mini carrots), I made quick work of getting the compost into the beds. 8 of the 10 bags of compost were added to the raised beds and stock tanks.

In case you’re curious, my faithful birthday composter is still doing it’s thing, breaking down scraps and keeping them out of the landfill, but it’s not ready yet for the garden. I’m thinking I was a big overzealous with the size of the peels and scraps. But the composter beasties seem happy enough with the variety. So they’ll need to get busy and the compost will wait in the composter until fall once it’s ready. That’s where all of my sad and very dead kale, collard greens, and cilantro went. (They looked beautiful and then the sleet got them.)

The other two bags of compost will be great for helping along the flower planters that I intend to get for our patio and the kitchen herb planter which has been 80% wiped out by the weather. All that’s left are the chives and truthfully they look like they may have finally succumbed to the awfulness of this winter. And yes, I did say flowers. They may be edible or just pretty. I’m not sure what I want to get yet, but I would like them to be attractive to both butterflies and bees.

And because I couldn’t help myself when my hands were in the compost and my face was smudged with dirt, I went ahead and planted spinach, mixed salad greens, kale, chard, and cilantro seeds. Beets will be this weekend, provided I remember to soak them on Friday night and I think it’s nearly time for beans. Hopefully we will not get any additional freak ice storms or sleet. I’m really thinking about getting a bunch of herb transplants this weekend at the local yuppie-hippie store. I was tempted Friday night when Bruce and I went on a pizza run, fueled by exhaustion and dinner ennui and then on Saturday morning I kicked myself for not getting them (they were a really good price and organic too).

To top it all off, Sunday marked the day when we spring forward. While plenty of my friends and coworkers complained about the loss of one hour of precious sleep (I went to bed deliciously tired at 9:30 pm), I rejoiced. It makes me so happy to have light when I leave the office and it’s much nicer for our dog walks in the evening.

So not only is it so sunny that at 5:30 pm I thought it was 3:30 pm, it’s also TIME TO DIG IN THE DIRT! I have missed it so. Seriously. I was wondering what was wrong with me in January and February and besides the broken ankle bone, I think that might have been one of the reasons I was so blah.

Blah no more. I am excited about the promise of beautiful plants. Time to spend outside even if it’s weeding. And so many good things to eat.

One more thing made me excited this weekend: my neighbor’s little French bulldog puppy Sophie. Don’t worry, I’ve already offered to puppy sit so I can snuggle that sweet little snorter. We lent her people one of our doggie gates so I had two chances to see her: once on Saturday to meet her and then the excuse of helping to install the gate on Sunday to see her again.

If she goes missing, her people will certainly come looking for her here. So without further adieu, here is today’s gratuitous dog photo:

Sophie

Sophie

 

So: welcome back

Hello! I am officially starting my 2014 today. I realize that it’s March. So far there’s nothing about 2014 that’s been a normal year. Sad things have happened (will get into that another post). Things are looking up, however. My ankle is healed (though it hurts with weather changes). Good news abounds. And there’s so much to look forward to.

It’s going to be an awesome year.

First, the Mortroski Midcentury is going to have a ton of visitors. Many dear friends will be coming for quick visits and long weekends. It’s going to be fun to catch up and hang out. The first visitor of 2014 comes this Friday for dinner. I have not seen her in many years, perhaps since she graduated from college (she was one year ahead of me). I love that Facebook has helped us reconnect after all this time.

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the last polar vortex incident

Second, it’s almost time to get outside and play in the dirt. Today I trimmed the fruit trees and cleaned up the front beds, but I am yearning to plant the spring seeds for the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm. Perhaps next weekend. Planting would have happened sooner, but we’ve had a thing called a polar vortex this winter—it’s returning tomorrow to bring frosty temperatures (below 32° F/0°C) to North Texas. A winter advisory on March 2?!?Early appearances of the polar vortex (with accompanying snow and ice) pretty much wiped out all of the winter crops. Kale, carrots, and collards are all that’s left. Coincidence that they all start with the same sound?

As you may have guessed, I’ve officially given up on tomatoes in 2014. If you are in North Texas, I will trade you some of my salad greens, green beans, herbs, kale, collards, peppers, spinach, okra, or black eyed peas for successfully home-grown ‘maters. Seriously. I’m done.

Third, Bruce and I have ramped up on our volunteer activities with Duck Team 6 so you’ll hear more about it.

Fourth, we are taking off on a little adventure in April. Just a long weekend, but we’re treating it as a scouting mission for retirement. And we get to spend some quality time with family members that we rarely see.

Fifth, Bruce has a big birthday this year and decided that he really wanted to attend a big UK 80s music festival in August. So we are in the process of planning a trip to London and then a train journey to the north for a weekend of “glamping” (glamorous camping) at the Rewind Festival.

Sixth, I am going to be an aunt again. My brother, his wife and their darling twin 4 year olds are adding a little sister to the family in September. I’m excited about the princess party potential!

See, 2014 is going to be awesome! And while I will definitely get the sowing going as soon as it’s safe to put the seeds in the ground, I’m also planning to finally get the sewing going. So, please stay tuned and Happy 2014 to you!

Gratuitous dog photo of the day: Guinness enjoying the last polar vortex

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frosty paws for Guinness

 

So: winding down

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pepper haul (from top): bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapeño peppers

2013 is winding down and this lucky, yet turbulent year is promising to end on the same chaotic, always changing, yet exciting note that it started.

First, a quick Urban Farm update: After last week’s earliest freeze in 13 years, I lost pretty much all of my pepper plants. They were covered with peppers so we were able to save the peppers even though the frost killed the plants.  There are two which are now cut down to tiny things and one that was more protected that’s still looking nice and bushy. We’ll see what happens in the next week or so since we have snow predicted. After I harvested all of the peppers, my plan was to can “cowboy candy” aka pickled jalapeños this evening to give out as holiday gifts, but the powers that be had other plans and I was not in the right frame of mind to can. Spending a chunk of the afternoon at the vet, giving the old credit card a little bit of a workout will do that to a gal.

I also lost the beautiful malabar spinach vines, but not the plants. They’re still hanging on and I’m hoping they hang on through the winter and do their thing all spring and summer again, even though Bruce really isn’t all that crazy about their thicker, more juicy than North American spinach leaves. The haricots vertes aka green beans were also murdered by the frost. The last ones were quite good and worth planting again in the spring. One hidden basil is hanging on, though it will most likely be a casualty in the coming weeks. Still I supplied many people with tons of basil this summer/fall and that was really gratifying. Plus, we have a bunch of pesto in the freezer.

On the plus side, we are having a lovely bok choi harvest, growing plenty of leafy salad greens for lunches, and enjoying the beauty of tons of bushy kale and brightly colored chard. The radishes were also quite good, though they are done. Hopefully the carrots they were planted next to can do their thing. The beets are pitiful compared to the spring ones, but I’m hoping that the ones that are there are at least delicious. Snow peas are slow growing for some reason. They are not loving North Texas fall. The herbs are all growing like champs.

The Gs are also in rare form these days. The cooler weather is bringing forth some rowdiness and naughtiness, although you wouldn’t guess it from the dogs spread out across the kitchen floor at the moment. But they’ve had a tough couple of days.

You see we’re trying to give Gidget more freedom and less crate time. Yesterday’s weekday attempt was a bit of a fail. Notice in the photo below that there are little yellow-orange half-chewed pumpkin-y things lying on the dog beds and floor. Those are the decorative gourds that I’ve had kicking around since Canadian Thanksgiving and was hoping to keep around until American Thanksgiving (a week from Thursday). That is not to be since George and Gidget think they are delicious. George greeted Bruce at the back door with one in his mouth last night. Godiva also took several dainty bites out of a bright orange mini pumpkin looking gourd. Needless to say, we have no more gourds lying around the house. And I’ve moved my big pumpkin and anything else that might look tempting to Gidget to higher ground. At least no one experienced any GI issues due to the gourd consumption.

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the Gs gourd-ous handy work

And then there’s the vet. He has just joined the practice and the 4G network just might be his opportunity to put his kids through college. Last week it was Guinness with an ear infection. He is prone to them and no matter what we did ourselves to doctor him, it wasn’t enough this time, despite training from the vet, consultation from our vet tech friend, and OTC products. He’s now doing much better with special ear meds and a prescribed course of hard core cleaning. Cha-ching!

This week (today) it was Godiva. Cha-ching! I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, she must not lick a certain body part for the next 3-4 days so she’s going to wear the Cone of Shame when she’s not being supervised by us. She is on some serious antibiotics and steroids to get the itchy situation under control. And she’ll be hanging out with me at work for the rest of the week, since leaving her at home in the cone, puts her at a disadvantage with the rest of the Gs. It also makes her very sulky. And that in turn, has made me feel rather sulky. Or maybe I am just suffering from lack of natural vitamin D.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day is of disgruntled Godiva:

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poor Godiva

So: great house

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Pretty in pink (photo by Trish at Three Dog Bakery Plano)

As you can guess by the big smile on Gidget’s face, she’s pretty happy that Bruce bought her a puffy coat last weekend in preparation for the earliest frost in 13 years that came on Tuesday night. Buying dog jackets/dog clothes of any kind is new territory for us since our bulldog didn’t need any additional insulation and the other 3Gs have thick natural coats. Poor Gidget doesn’t have a lot of insulation and her white coat is very short. Now she’s protected from the elements and won’t shiver during her twice daily walks with the rest of the pack. And believe it or not, she really does seem to like the jacket.

Other dogs are not so lucky. While our Dallas weather is unpredictable at best, sometimes it gets below freezing and that’s not good for outdoor dwelling dogs. So this week, Bruce built a dog house for Duck Team 6‘s Outreach Team to give to a nice dog named Goliath (and I helped). On Monday evening after work to be exact. For about 4 hours until we figured our neighbors would call the cops on our use of power tools in the later hours of the evening. Should have started on Sunday!

This dog house was different than other dog houses. You see, Goliath is a senior Great Dane who has lived outside his whole life. And like most GD’s, he’s very tall. So he really needed a mini shed. Unfortunately, a mini shed wouldn’t fit in Bruce’s truck assembled. So Bruce designed a modern dog house that was made of a preassembled floor, walls, and roof which could be joined together in Goliath’s yard.

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The floor: plywood base with deck posts to raise the plywood off the ground and keep Goliath warmer

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Bruce assembling the frame for the first wall. He attached plywood to one side of each frame.

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Test filling the walls together. The back wall is higher to allow water to drain easier off the single sheet of plywood roof.

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One wall done, on to the opposite wall.

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Gidget making sure Goliath’s house will be sturdy enough.

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Two walls done, on to the sides

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Framing up the side walls

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Final assembled house with Goliath inside—he likes it! It just needs a coat of paint.

More photos are available on Duck Team 6’s Facebook page Operation Goliath if you want to check them out. Bruce got Goliath setter in before the temperature dropped and he said Goliath seemed very pleased with his new digs.

However, on Tuesday night, one of the Gs was not so pleased with her home:

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Naughty Gidget decided to remodel.

And while I did have a lovely harvest on Sunday afternoon:

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Sunday’s harvest from left: bok choi, tons of basil, mixed salad greens, Russian kale, Swiss chard, nero kale, haricots verts, Malabar spinach, bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapeño peppers

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salad greens growing away

it was not a great week for the urban farm. With several very cold days and frost, some plants couldn’t handle it. I have yet to assess the damage thoroughly (I was traveling for business starting early Wednesday morning and got home late last night), but it looks like even with the frost cloth as protection, several of the pepper plants and the Malabar spinach have bit the dust. Oh well, more compost for the spring!

Today’s gratuitous dog photo features four familiar mugs:

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4G Network on a coat buying mission (photo by Trish at Three Dog Bakery Plano): Guinness, Godiva, George, and Gidget

Sow: mulch better

Sorry, folks. I know I’ve been MIA for much longer than normal. My feeble excuse is work’s been pretty intense and snuck away to the Great White North for a much needed girls’ weekend with two of my pals.

While I was gone, Kate from the yummy foodie blog Tea and Tamarind nominated sowsewso for the Shine On Award. (I’ll take care of the formalities of accepting later. Maybe on the weekend.) Thank you, Kate! I appreciate your kudos and I thank you for the nudge that got me to write today’s post.

But in the interest of catching you up on what’s been happening on the Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm, I need to show you a ton of photos:

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ugh. untidy garden.

Summer’s been rough in the aesthetics department. The pine straw mulch looked great for a while, but then it seemed to help the grass grow back in the places where we didn’t want it.

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth

So we started ripping up the landscaping cloth around the raised beds and stock tanks. Notice who appears to be doing most of the work.

 

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I read that many people use newspaper to more successfully smother grass and weeds, so we got several coworkers to save their papers for us

once we got all the old stuff up, we could put down the newspaper

once we got all the old stuff up, we could put down the newspaper

then it had to be soaked so that it stuck to the ground better

then it had to be soaked so that it stuck to the ground better. again notice it’s Bruce doing all of the work.

mulch applied over the wet newspaper

mulch applied over the wet newspaper. it already looks better, right?

 

we ended up doing about 1/2 of the garden on the first day because we ran out of mulch

we ended up doing about 1/2 of the garden on the first day because we ran out of mulch. still it looked much better.

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it’s a little hard to see everything, but once it was done, it looked awesome. thanks to Bruce for all the help.

It’s been about two weeks since we completed the mulching. I’d like to say that the grass/weed mixture is 100% smothered and the mulch looks perfect. I’m afraid that this weekend, I’m going to need to pull out some grass. But still if I’m vigilant, I’ll be able to keep things looking nice.

That’s important since it’s patio season again in North Texas. Time for sitting on the patio enjoying adult beverages with friends as we watch the 4Gs and their doggie pals romp around the yard. I can’t wait. It’s really lovely.

As for the urban farm, my kale seeds haven’t sprouted and after a few weeks of waiting and watching the chard sprout and thrive, I’m giving up and picking up some transplants this weekend. Bok choi is growing well. Beets are a little disappointing so I’m going to plant more seeds. Beans are doing their thing and flowering so I’m hoping for a bumper crop. Various salad greens are growing well.

Tomatoes are a disappointment once again and may get pulled out. They are a complete mystery to me. I tried everything, fertilized as directed, watered, and the weather wasn’t that hot. But some of the plants are flowering again so maybe there’s hope.

Snow peas seem to be taking their own sweet time, but maybe they don’t like being so close to the okra. The okra may get pulled although it could still keep producing until the frost kills it. I’ve been giving it away and I have a huge bag of it in the freezer. I’d love to make some pickled okra but that is a little more of a time commitment than I can do. I’d like to get some collard greens growing. Peppers are going crazy. Basil too. Radishes are turning into cute little seedlings. Malabar spinach is thriving and so pretty. And the peaches I froze back in the spring are reminding me that it’s time to make jam.

You’ve probably gathered that I haven’t been spending much time with urban farm. Hopefully I get a bit of time out there this weekend.

And now it’s bedtime.  So I bid you goodnight and leave you with a gratuitous (and nap-tastic) 4G photo:

"hey people, where are you gonna sleep?"

“hey people, where are you gonna sleep?”

 

 

 

 

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

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camped out in the kitchen, hoping for fall out

So: out of shape (extra long post)

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I worked 62.5 hours last week. I know that, because in advertising, creative folk like me must complete timesheets (we do it via web portal these days, not paper or clock punching). In this photo, taken by Bruce on Friday night, you can probably tell that it was a tough week. (He also has video because apparently my snoring was so impressive. My whole body moved with each snore. Pretty.)Don’t worry: George was just being an opportunist for a human pillow and a sleeping snuggler.

The week consisted of important meetings in small rooms. Plane rides galore, mostly in the commuter jet kind of plane. Hotel beds, some better than others. Late nights. Early mornings. Lots of writing at the ends of already long days.

Needless to say, after last week, I recognize that I’m painfully out of shape for that kind of marathon. At one time in my career, weeks like that were fairly  normal. And it was exhilarating. Exhausting. Exciting.

There were definitely parts of last week that I loved. I did some solid work. I got to tap dance and sell my little heart out. I did my best to educate and entertain.

Like anything else, unless you use it, you lose it. And I must have lost my stamina and ability to keep that pace for 5 days straight or more about 5 years ago. By the time I arrived home on Thursday night, I was done.

But the week wasn’t over.

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It was so nice to get home and see how much had grown on the Urban Farm. Okra, sweet 100s cherry tomatoes and Anaheim chiles that were marked as poblano transplants were harvested. Good thing they are also delicious. The okra and tomatoes were rehomed since Bruce had been picking tomatoes diligently while I was gone. Several friends and neighbors have been enjoying this spring tomato crop — certainly our most successful so far, despite the weather issues.

And I didn’t want to disappoint this week’s canine coworker:

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Last Friday was Guinness’ turn to go to work. During the summer, we have Summer Hours which means that if you work your 40 hours before noon on Friday, you can head out and enjoy your afternoon. I like to bring a dog along because often I’m one of the last people in the office because it’s nice and quiet, making it the perfect time to get caught up.

Of the three Gs, Guinness is the best office dog because he’s a great listener (Sit. Down. Stay.) and he’s very chill. Plus, he makes every single person he sees feel like a million bucks. He wags his huge puffy tail for everyone like they’re his long lost best friends, sits on feet to keep people from leaving, demands to be petted by putting his big noggin in naps, and lies down on command during meetings, staying put through the whole thing, though he’s very bored. My boss, who isn’t the biggest fan of our dog-friendly office policy (it’s one of the reasons I chose to come to the company), loves Guinness’ well-behaved, laid-back vibe. Although she’d never admit it, she’d be cool if I brought him to work every day.

Friday was actually National Take Your Dog to Work Day in the U.S. I had no idea, honestly. I just planned to bring the Gs into the office one by one this summer and see how they did so I’d know if I’d bring them in again.

The photo above was sent in to a contest that The Three Dog Bakery was having — you just needed to show your dog at work and you could be chosen to win a gift card (the Gs love TDB so it would be awesome to win). I like that Guinness blends in with the office carpet, like he’s in camouflage. He slept under my desk when I wasn’t in meetings. I only knew he was there because I’d hear his soft snores every so often.

Godiva was very put out that again, she wasn’t the office dog, but she’ll be going next. I promise. When she was an only dog, she started coming to work as soon as she was potty trained pup. She had a travel crate, a bed, lots of toys. People bought treats and kept them at their desks just for her. And they bought her fun toys and balls. They had Godiva breaks. Then Guinness came along and separating those two wasn’t a good thing at all.

You already know what I did on Friday night. It’s also what I did on Saturday night. And Sunday night. I can’t remember being that tired in I don’t know when. It reminded me of times in high school when I had to pull all nighters to get the school paper out and study for an exam. Or when I had two finals on the same day in college because of my poor planning. On the plus side, three days later, I now feel back to normal.

Never fear that I rested all weekend. Saturday we needed to get countertops ordered for all of those cabinets. This photo kind of shows what we’re getting, although the photo is too dark. Ice snow is the name of the color:

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It’s whiter but this photo shows all of the flecks in it. The substrate is called caesarstone—it’s quartz and reminds me of travertine which was a popular flooring choice in mid-century homes. The installer will be coming out to do final measurements next week and hopefully it will be installed by mid-July.

It wouldn’t be a weekend without time digging in the dirt. I found out about this cool plant on Saturday morning while I was drinking coffee and reading gardening blogs:

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It’s not really spinach, but a juicy leafed plant that is grown in India and Africa for it’s spinach-like qualities. You see, salad isn’t really a summer food and leafy greens don’t grow very well in the North Texas surface of the sun heat. But apparently this stuff does. I’ve eaten a leaf and it’s delicious. A little citrusy in addition to spinach’s green iron-y taste. And it is a vine so it can climb the trellises that Bruce picked up for me. The photos of it are gorgeous and it would bring lots of visual interest to the months where not much is happy to grow (except okra). Stay tuned for further details.

photo[6]By Sunday I was feeling much better rested. Although it was very hot (98°F), I spent some time outside and did another big beet harvest, which I promptly roasted. We had lots of yummy tomatoes and some additional okra. I peeled, chopped, and froze the remainder of the peaches, although I saw a few in the tree up fairly high this morning. I guess it’s time to get the ladder out again. The jam will get made when it’s cooler.

I’m also thinking about making some pepper jams. Down here in the South, people pour pepper jam over cream cheese (or baked brie) and serve it with crackers or baguette slices. Since I couldn’t make plum jam, it might be nice for gifts.

Bruce made dinner (and extra dinners) on Sunday night. We’ve been enjoying the okra grilled. It’s very yummy and a quick side to just about anything.

photo[4]If we get enough okra, I’d love to pickle it, but we’ll have to see how it grows.

Last night I also ordered the fall seeds: beets, spinach, lettuce, collards, mustard, bok choi, snow peas, kale, chard, arugula, carrots, radishes. It’s funny to think about fall when it’s finally summer and it’s predicted to be over 100°F this week.

Yes, it’s back to “normal” for me. Get ready for more “sow” posts.

And I have something exciting to look forward too. Bruce and I will be starting a stay-cation on Friday (through the entire July 4/Canada Day week). Between now and then I have the usual work, plus a day trip to NC on Thursday.

I must rest up since we are going to use the time to get more of our projects completed. I want to break out the sewing machines. And plant the fall tomato crop. Don’t worry, I’ll post photos.