Sow: voluntold

In the gardening world, there are plants known as “volunteers.” These sneaky little devils are not planted by human hand. They just show up and take root. They could be “planted” by the wind, dropped from a bird’s beak, carried by naughty squirrels moving yummy seeds to their eat later stash, or even hidden in the depths of a compost pile.

In my case, it’s possible they’re here to test my sanity, patience, and goodwill to plant-kind.

After my terrible luck with tomatoes for the last two years I vowed that I would NEVER EVER grow them again. And I meant it. Well, I guess I’ve been “voluntold” by the wind, birds, squirrels, compost or something else to grow them this spring. Maybe rejecting tomatoes will be the best thing that ever happened to my tomato farming. Teaches me to give up on a type of plant.

See, two volunteer tomato plants have appeared in Raised Bed #4, where I grew tomatoes last year. They’re nestled in between the thriving power greens: spinach, kale, and chard. Sneaky bastards. Of course, I didn’t have the heart to pull them out once I realized what they were. They’re doing quite well, flowering, growing,  and enjoying the new irrigation system. They even have nice red cages to protect them as they get bigger. Maybe if I continue to ignore them they’ll be fabulous. I can almost taste the ‘mater sandwiches now…

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Volunteer tomato #1, barging in on the spinach

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Volunteer tomato #2, crowding the kale

My other volunteers cheered me up. I was really sad when the beautiful Malabar spinach got hit by the first frost and croaked. Two little plants provided lots of people with green leafy goodness and looked so pretty covering the trellis at the back of Raised Bed #2 all summer and fall. Well, I guess it’s a perennial or it’s decided to be zombie spinach because it’s back. And it looks like it’s more determined than ever — the little plants seem to be doubling every day. Hopefully it doesn’t squeeze out my one surviving bush bean that’s just starting to get close to the trellis. Or bug the okra. But I know I’m going to be happy to have it around when North Texas’ crazy summer temperatures get too hot for regular spinach. I bet it makes great green drinks.

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Malabar spinach is back! Green drinks for everyone!

But I can’t really complain. Even though I wasn’t planning for them, these volunteers are all doing great. And they were 100% free. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.

 

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Godiva decided to see if Gidget’s crate was good for naps. Photo by Bruce

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Sow: spring 2014 update

There’s something so amazingly satisfying about popping out the back door right off the kitchen and picking a super gourmet salad right out of your yard. So far in spring 2014, the things you’d want in a really good salad are growing like gangbusters.

We still have the same set up: 4 raised beds and 3 stock tanks plus a few large pots.

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This is my master planning document. My pal Lisa gave me the PDF with all sorts of gardening planning stuff for Christmas 2012, but this year, I’m only focused on filling this out.

It’s so hard to read so here’s what’s where:

Raised bed #1:
-Pole beans at the back on the trellis
-2 poblano pepper transplants
-2 yellow bell pepper transplants
-2 bell pepper transplants
-2 tam jalapeño pepper transplants
-2 larger basil transplants

Stock tank #1:
-1 poblano pepper (accidentally got an extra)
-tomatillos from seed

Large pot in front of stock tank #1:
-cilantro

Raised bed #2:
-Pole beans at the back on the trellis
-Clemson spineless okra (same kind I grew last year)

Stock tank #2:
-Red velvet lettuce (another favorite from last year)

Raised bed #3:
-Pole beans at the back on the trellis (and last year’s Malabar spinach seems to be coming back)
-bok choi
-Detroit dark red, early wonder and chioggia beets (more favorites from last year)

Stock tank #3:
-French breakfast radishes (a personal favorite)

Raised bed #4:
-Bloomsdale spinach
-Nero toscanakale
-5-color silverbeet chard
-Arugula
-Mixed salad greens (Q’s special medley, gourmet baby greens)

Whew! It’s busy on the urban farm this year and everything’s been growing like crazy.

So without further ado, here are some photos of stuff growing:

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French breakfast radishes: 73 harvested so far!

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chioggia beets: first one picked on 5/4/14

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first bok choi: picked 5/4/14

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a sample salad green harvest — I’m giving it away too!

This weekend we also did a few improvements to the urban farm in preparation for fencing off the urban farm from the rest of the yard:

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mulched and added pavers in the weedy part of the yard. fence is going where the grass starts.

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Guinness “helping” in the back of the truck with the mulch. Gidget is eating dog food that spilled in the bed.

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The rest of the urban farm

Hopefully I’ve caught everyone up enough! Harvesting is underway and each night I look forward to seeing what kind of growth happened while I was at work.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Gidget “helping” me lay sod in April


So: back in the infinite game

Hello again! I’ve missed you. No, really, I have. I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass like that long lost high school boyfriend that finally connected with you on Facebook a few days before your 2oth reunion. I don’t need to know if you still love me after all this time. That’s because I don’t have any guilt about breaking your 15 year old heart or not taking you to the prom, because that’s not what we have.

However, I do have a twinge of guilt for not writing a damn thing since March 19, despite polite prodding from friends near and far (sorry, Laura, I’ve been very lazy lately!). I finally realized today just how much I’ve missed my little virtual soapbox and the nice folks who’ve been entertained enough by my (mis)adventures to share their thoughts, kudos, feedback, and other comments with me.

So welcome back! And thanks for considering my little piece of the blog-o-sphere worthy entertainment for your weekend.

I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say, there was a disruption in the force and I was missing a critical factor. Call it schedule. Call it habit. Call it routine. Whatever it is, I need that magical ingredient, because without it, I have no discipline for posting in a timely fashion.

Something else kept stealing my time/energy/sleeping hours/brainpower/writing ability/goodwill. I could blame any of the following characters that live in my personal time vortex: Any of the 4Gs. Work. Volunteer work. Visitors. Foster dog. Bruce. Growing stuff. Picking stuff. TV. Books. Magazines. Cooking. Eating. Grocery shopping. Cleaning. Landscaping. Chilling out with a glass of wine. Work writing. Florida. Spontaneous adventures. The BigFix for Big D. Rotten allergies. Writing letters. Making plans. Rashes and being really, really itchy. Visiting friends. Creating travel itineraries. Dinner parties. Pinterest. Washington DC. Concerts. Facebook. Organizing. Making love connections. Checking stuff off my to do list. Doing nothing. (I know, that last one really isn’t that believable, but honestly, doing nothing was sucking up a lot of time.)

You get the picture. My well was a bit empty and yet, even rest, different activities, or a change of scenery wasn’t replenishing it.  That’s because rest or downtime really wasn’t the answer. But I didn’t know what was.

So this morning, while I was drinking my breakfast, I read Seth Godin’s latest post.

Green drink made from pineapple, apple, pear, homegrown spinach/kale/chard

Bruce tested, George approved breakfast green drink made from pineapple, apple, pear, banana, homegrown spinach/kale/chard. Photo by Bruce.

(Did you read it? I hope you did. It’s short and sweet, like me when I’m at my best.)

Thanks for the kick in the ass, Seth. I don’t even know you but your blog makes me think. Thanks to Hilton for introducing me to it.

So it’s time to get back into the infinite game. And put my thoughts out there no matter if the post is a photo, a quote, a story, or one of my long-ass descriptions of the mundane. I’ve missed doing it, more than I thought.

And yes, I’m going to deal with the one post that I’ve been writing in my mind for several months now. It’s blocked me a bit because I want it to be appropriate. But now I have a date to publish it in mind. A deadline (which is an interesting turn of phrase since the post is about a person who is no longer living).

You can take the girl out of advertising, but you can’t take the advertising out of the girl.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo (because George photobombing his own photo isn’t epic enough):

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You'll love the post I'll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

Meet Murphy. He was our foster dog for 3 weeks. You’ll love the post I’ll be writing about him (hint: it has a happy ending). Photo by Bruce

And a new seasonal feature — today’s gratuitous garden photo:

 

French Breakfast radishes! Yield is now up to 66 with more still on the way

French Breakfast radishes! Yield is now up to 66 with more still on the way. The Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm has been producing so much good stuff this spring. Anyone know if I have time to reseed and get another ton of radishes before it gets too hot?

 

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: 2013 lesson

Patience. Stillness. Acceptance. Calmness. Since the 23rd of December, I certainly haven’t been up to my usual tricks.

There’s been no way to cram my Christmas break chock full of visiting, errands, crafts, gardening, organizing, sewing, DIY projects, or really anything that requires lengthy standing. Instead I’ve gotten well acquainted with my insurance company’s online portal, watched a lot of HGTV and the Cooking Channel, reconnected with the sofa, cuddled with all of the Gs, slept way more than I have in years, and sat. And sat some more. And sat some more.

I’ve gotten pretty good with the crutches (Bruce constantly tells me to slow down).

It’s not what I planned.

Looking back on 2013, there’s plenty that did not go as planned.

Take the Urban Farm. Try as I may, I just cannot make tomatoes happen here in North Texas. Cherry and grape maybe, but certainly not anything larger. Same goes with squash, cucumbers, English peas, brussels sprouts, and pumpkins. But okra? Peppers? Kale? Lettuce? Malabar spinach? Swiss chard? You better believe I’ll be planting tons of all of those in 2014. Alas, the big ice storm at the beginning of December while we were off in Palm Springs celebrating our 18th anniversary pretty much wiped the winter veg out. Hindsight being 20-20, it’s a good thing. There’s no way for me to tend it or harvest at the moment and veggies don’t generally wait around 4-6 weeks to be picked. But that said, all the time spent in the garden was very well-spent and I look forward to February when I’ll be back in it.

Take sewing. It’s in the name of the blog, but after February, the machine has stayed ensconced in its case and resided in the spare bedroom closet instead of on the dining room table as I planned. And given my mishap, no sewing is happening any time soon (can’t use the pedal/presser foot). But while I’ve been sitting around, I’ve been surfing Pinterest for inspiration. Looks like I’ll be busy in 2014 if I attempt even 1/2 of what I’ve pinned.

Take work. The end of the year (aka Q4) was as busy as always. (PS: I learned at my management training session that life-work balance is a complete myth and that striving for it just makes people crazy. Don’t do it). Other than writing for work, I did a few pro-bono animal rescue press releases. Doing necessary household chores was exhausting. The dog hair tumbleweeds grew. There were few Christmas decorations this year. Luckily I had made most of my Christmas gifts throughout the year, dehydrating, preserving and saving the harvest, so packing them up was nice and easy.

At this point, I’m guessing Fransi is saying “I told you so.”

You see, my lesson for 2013, delivered at the very tail  end of 2013  is obvious to everyone, including me: slow down.

I’ve always had tremendous energy. The stamina to stay awake and working for days. The ability to throw myself into many different things at once and get it all done. The desire to see things completed and delivered neatly. In high school, my parents worried that I was over-programming myself. I told them I was just fine, but fell sound asleep on family vacations. Like the time we went to Yosemite. Surrounded by beauty, I had to be awakened at every stop. Sitting still in the car, seatbelt on, just shut me down and sent me to Slumbertown. The same thing happened in college. After final exams, I knew better than to start a job right away. The batteries needed to be recharged.

We had a mini-vacation in early December. In Palm Springs, we walked, went on an amazing mid-century architecture tour, rode cruiser bikes, hung out with my parents, went swimming, chatted with strangers at happy hour, visited with Bruce’s aunt, uncle and cousin. I marveled at how well I slept in our cool little mid-century boutique hotel. And I was surprised that things like canceled flights, having to change airports three times, middle seats, and unexpected expenses including plumbing issues and arborist bills from the ice storm didn’t phase me. Why? It was completely escapist. I went with the flow. But I guess it wasn’t enough of a recharge.

And so, here I am again.

This physical break in my foot and the break I’ve had from work and the usual responsibilities have brought me rest, though I can’t say relaxation, exactly. It’s more medicinal than soul-feeding. Even with our annual Boxing Day party, I just sat. It was really all I could do. And poor Bruce had to carry on with the party preparations, running around and picking stuff up. Still, I have to say it was the best one we’ve had. I really had a chance to visit with our guests and catch up with dear ones we don’t see often. And I relished each and every hug. Of course, I parked my butt on a chair near the door so no one could leave without me seeing!

Lest you think I’m ending 2013 on a sour note, let me assure you I’m not. It was a fantastic year. I reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in years (yes, you, Ida-Rose and Laura). I spent loads of time outside. I got to see my best friends (Reesa, Clair, and Simone) much more often than we thought geography would allow. The Gs, Bruce and I fostered and kept a puppy (Gidget) and found volunteer work that we really love (the Gs especially enjoy it when we are bagging dog food).

Gratuitous dog photo:

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It’s definitely cold enough for Gidget to put on her puffy pink coat tonight

We got to see a fair amount of far-away family members. My grandma turned 99 on Christmas Eve! Work was great. We spent more time discovering Dallas and are inspired to try lots of new stuff in 2014. We hung out with Fransi (one of my advertising idols). I read so much great writing—especially blogs. I ate lots of great things, including stuff I grew. Whew! 

As the last few hours of 2013 happen, my wish for you is that you appreciate all that you have right at this moment. If you’re making resolutions, think about what you’ll gain, not what you’ll lose. 

As for the residents of the Mortroski Mid-century, to celebrate the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, we’re going to make a pizza, then I’m going to put my foot up, watch a little tv, call some friends and family, and probably hit the hay long before midnight. Remember the Gs don’t really get what all the fuss is about — their tummies will tell them it’s time to wake up long before this human is ready to rise. Bruce is walking all 4 at once for the next few weeks, so please think positive thoughts for his poor back!

Cheers to you all and Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year, y’all!

 

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