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

 

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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: overnight

It’s amazing how quickly plants grow in optimal conditions.

Here are the tomatoes today:

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They have overtaken their cages. Bird net is eminent since our bird friends are checking out the plants. The Gs are fine with the birds looking, but not visiting the beds.

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Everything is looking pretty awesome. Fingers crossed for the zucchini:

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I am hoping that the squash borer of last year was only last year’s pest! Fingers crossed that the metal stock tank high above the ground keeps the zucchini going and that the yellow squash that is somewhere under the tomato forest is immune to pests.

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The watermelon has doubled!

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I took a photo of baby bells but we have an impressive habanero forming also. A photo for another day.

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I’m amazed that the peas are growing so fast.

So far this week we’ve had snow pea salad, chard salad, stir fried bok choi (on the bitter side so it’s on it’s way out), salads galore.

I’m thinking we are not going to be buying many veggies for the next little while. There will be salads. There will be peas. There will be beets. And soon beans. Anyone got okra recipes to share?

Besides enjoying the growth in the garden, I grew too. We had a fantastic presentation training course today. The main message, of course, was simplicity. But it was also this, a quote I have loved for a good chunk of this year:

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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: resow

Today, life’s full of…

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

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

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

important reminders: Like reading is fundamental!

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

notice the important instructions...

notice the special germination instructions. doh!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Sow: unseasonably warm

Our schizophrenic North Texas weather is in full on spring mode this week and it’s definitely unseasonably warm.

I went out at lunch to do an errand and had the windows down and sunroof wide open. As I told my boss upon my return, I wanted to keep driving. It was that kind of California-esque bright, sunny day. Truly all we were really missing were some mountains and a few palm trees and I would have sworn I was in Northern California.

This morning as I harvested lunch, I had a familiar indication today would be one of those beautiful golden days. It was slightly foggy and misty, almost raining, just like many of my mornings when I lived in Berkeley or Los Gatos. In Northern California, it’s important to keep extra clothes in your car. You never know when you might need a sweater or jacket, a pair of pants, socks, because the weather can change throughout the day. And if you drive any distance, you could encounter a completely different weather pattern. All bets are off if you go to San Francisco. Unless it’s September, it’s going to be chilly. You will need a sweater or jacket.

But I digress.

The salad greens are impressing me with their output and I believe these abnormal early springtime conditions are helping a lot.

February 6, 2013 salad harvest

February 6, 2013 salad harvest

I harvested on Sunday and then again today. I could have easily harvested twice as much, but there was no need. Today I only harvested from the main salad plots, but I think before the week’s out I’ll need to get picking the washtub on wheels. I’m looking forward to the mache getting big enough to pick. Until last year, I had never purchased it in the store, maybe I tasted it at a restaurant. It’s not a particularly common green here in the U.S. but you can find it at Whole Foods when it’s in season. I’m hoping to be able to grow it when I like—as long as the washtub rolls into the garage when the weather is too cold and heads into the shade when summer’s heat threatens to bake the mache.

This weekend I intend to seed an entire raised bed with a variety of salad green seeds. I’m hoping that it’s as pretty as it will be delicious. You may have ascertained that we eat a lot of green stuff at the Mortroski Midcentury. You would be correct. Generally our lunches are salads with some sort of protein, no matter what the season. We’ve experimented with lots of different salad greens so that’s the other reason we’re so excited — when you take shipping out of the equation, there are so many different types that you can grow.

A packet of organic lettuce seeds is about $2.50. So far all of the lettuce that I planted for fall has provided us with plenty of salad stuff since about September. Only during a particularly cold few weeks did we purchase any (one container of organic salad greens is about $5). Yes, I know I am not calculating the cost of the raised beds, the various components to make soil, organic fertilizer, and water. I didn’t add in the cost of my labor. I also didn’t add in something that’s priceless: the daily physical and mental benefits the 3G Network and I get by puttering around in the garden.

And I hope the weather we had today sticks around through the weekend.