Sow: storm’s coming

The sky’s been dark and ominous for a big chunk of today. Can’t blame the end of Daylight Savings Time either—everyone’s anxiously awaiting the storms that are supposedly coming over the next three days. Today we have a 30% chance of rain, but I’m willing to bet it’s higher. Tomorrow it’s at least 50%.

Can you see me doing my rain dance? You see, I always know when a big thunder-boomer is coming. Besides George pacing, panting, and needing his Thundershirt, my noggin’ tells me so. I get these weird little headaches that don’t go away, no matter how much water I drink or what kind of headache pill I pop. It’s very common here—several of my coworkers have the same thing happen to them. And they don’t let up until the storm is well underway.

Still, a bit of pain is no big deal when it means 1) full rain barrels, 2) free water from the sky, and 3) happy plants.

Speaking of happy plants, I’d really like the spinach to get going. The little teeny sprouts are super cute and all, but I’d like them to be bigger and heartier before things start getting colder around here. I planted them in the stock tanks to help protect them from the cold a bit. And of course, I’ve got frost cloth for the entire set up.

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Spinach sprouts, a few days ago

The Malabar spinach is definitely on it’s way out and needs to be pulled out. I was hoping that there would be a bit of cross over between the two so we’d have a constant supply of spinach but alas, that is not meant to be. Good thing the chard is doing its thing. After such a weird summer, the fall veggies seem to be taking their own sweet time.

Perhaps the lesson for this fall is patience.

Gratuitous dog photo of the day:

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Gidget sleeps well anywhere and everywhere

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Sow: signs

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Photo by Bruce

Sign of the times. Follow the signs. Here’s your sign. If you flip through my iPhoto library, you’ll see that signs frequently capture my eyes. I like ’em rusty. I like ’em slick. I LOVE them when they’re funny (at least to me). And I really love putting fun signs amongst the veggies and flowers of the Mortroski Midcentury Urban farm.

Our latest arrival is the word “Garden.” Made by a metal craftsperson, it caught Bruce’s and my eyes when we were out looking for some planters for our patio last weekend. Needless to say we never found the right pots, so the search continues. Maybe we’ll just go for some smaller format stock tanks…

Here’s the sign on the wall of the new part of the garden (Fig tree is just out of frame to the right):

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Raised bed #4 has the out of control salad greens, the power greens (kale, spinach, chard), and the rogue tomato plants. A pot of mini roses that are not doing great and a pot of mint are also in this photo. And the little wood square on the fence is a window so our little kid next door neighbors can watch the garden and the Gs. Photo by Bruce

I love how happy it is—so cheerful and fun. And the primary colors are really nice on the wood fence.

One more happy addition is our new garden owl. Not only is he a wise old welcome sign, he’s also a rain gauge (the yellow glass tube) which will be fun to see fill up during our wacky Texas downpours. Here’s hoping for rain very soon!

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Wise old rain gauge • photo by Bruce

Slowly, but surely, we’ll collect more fun stuff to brighten up the plants. I am looking forward to seeing the evolution. After all, change is the only constant, in life and in gardening.

For today’s gratuitous dog photo, I thought I’d share that Bruce informed me that the Gs are being very lazy today. Clearly Gidget needs a nap:

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So tired • photo by Bruce

Sow: better than baking

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Ingredients for life: bok choi, mint, spinach, and salad greens


Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my neighbors. She lives in the next little town over and is another Duck Team 6 outreach volunteer (she is in charge of donation collection). And I surprised her with a big bag of produce that I picked minutes before she arrived.

Mindy and I don’t know each other. She and Bruce work more closely together so I had heard her name but never met her. But she had come by the house the night before to drop off a couple hundred pounds of donated dog food and she and her two kids had been in driveway (it’s in the backyard) and saw the Urban Farm. Bruce said the girls were really excited about the idea of growing food. He showed them how to pick a radish to take home and told Mindy that she should also throw the greens into that night’s salad (try it, it’s delicious if the greens are super fresh). He was happy that the kids showed so much interest, but didn’t think anything more of it, since our next door neighbor kids love looking at the garden too — he even cut them a window in the wood fence so they can see the garden and the Gs playing.

Well, that night, Mindy texted Bruce to say that her kids are bugging her to start a garden! They never had a vegetable so delicious! They wanted to get right to it on the weekend! Unfortunately, it’s too late for that, unless all they want to grow is Malbar spinach, okra, and black eyed peas! But they had the right idea.

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I had to do something to keep those kids loving vegetables. So I picked gallon ziplocs of bok choi, salad greens, and spinach. Threw in a bouquet of mint. And when Mindy showed up with more dog food yesterday morning, I had a nice surprise waiting for her. She was thrilled and knew the kids would be too. And I told her if she let me know when she was coming to drop off food, there was more where that came from (at least through the very hottest part of the summer).

Used to be when I wanted to make friends with a new neighbor, coworker, or volunteer, I’d bake something. I dare to say, that a big bag of just picked organic produce makes people even happier than cupcakes these days. You should see people’s faces light up when I share the bounty. I have my “regulars,” like Tracy, the lady who looks after the Gs. She also looks after the Urban Farm when we travel so it’s only fair that she gets a weekly delivery. Same with my sweet admin who makes my work life so easy and keeps me running smoothly. But dropping off a veggie treat to someone who’s not expecting it is almost more fun for me than the person receiving it. I love to hear how they enjoyed it and the recipes they made.

And now for your gratuitous dog photo of the day:

Duck Team 6 Volunteer Guinness taking guarding the donated dog food very seriously • photo by Bruce

Canine Duck Team 6 volunteer Guinness taking his job guarding donated dog food very seriously • photo by Bruce

Even if all you can grow is a tiny planter of herbs on a window sill, next time you go to dinner at a friend’s house, cut a tiny bouquet and tie it to the ubiquitous bottle of wine with a bright ribbon or rustic cord. I’ll bet you a quart of okra, you’ll get a similar reception.

 

 

 

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

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: summer’s here

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It was 98 degrees F at 9 pm so you know summer has arrived. As my coworkers and I left the restaurant tonight we all remarked that it felt cooler than when we entered. Maybe we hit 100 today.

But this morning the urban farm was nice at 6:30 am. Lots of anaheim chili peppers and okra picked, with tons on the way. Looking forward to grilling these veggies tomorrow! I’m thinking of freezing some of the peppers, then pickling the next batch. Anyone have good recipes? My pal Ed has also suggested that I make some green chili pork.

The Malabar spinach is already growing. It seems to like the trellises and it’s already climbing. It’s fun to watch already.

It was a long work day and there will be two more this week before I’m off for 10 days. Eye is on the prize so I’ll plow through the work, head down, nose to the grindstone.

Sow: photo essay

Not writing much today because the urban farm looked so pretty this morning. So I captured it for you.

Enjoy the views:

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dePierre spinach (heirloom variety)

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Purple pole bean seedlings

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Spinach

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Arugula flowers

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Mixed lettuce

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Ladybug on chard

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Chard

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Snow peas

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Zucchini

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French breakfast radish

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Gratuitous 3G photo (thanks Bruce)

Sow: bugged

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Even though it was Monday after a long weekend, I wasn’t sad to get back to work: my muscles and back needed to rest!

Even better: today was like my birthday all over again. Whoohoo! Two shipping delayed gifts arrived and I enjoyed a fun online shopping spree (thanks, Reesa) and sharing (and eating) delicious chocolate during conference calls (thanks, Mel)!

I also saw my sweet boss for the first time in a week or so and she gave me gifts for the urban farm!

She is an avid digger in the dirt too and found a super cool ergonomic shovel from Canadian retailer Lee Valley. Now I can’t wait to plant something this coming weekend — or sooner if I can figure out what container plants to add to the patio. And I have on my calendar that this weekend is time to plant okra, a plant that apparently does awesome in our surface of the sun summer temperatures.

She also found me a new bug for the garden (photo at top of page). Isn’t he cute?

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He’s going to live in the stock tank with the spinach and red velvet lettuce. Both are growing like crazy! I guess they’re happy with the weather change. So am I!

Sow: crop update

collards: it's time for them to go

collards: it’s time for them to go

This morning’s watering and romp around the garden with the squirrel hunting posse of labradorian descent gave me lots to think about. As our days are getting longer and warmer, some of the fall stuff must go to make room for the new spring crops.

The brussels sprouts have made it clear to me they need to go so they’ll be on the plate this weekend. And so the collards must go too. They are on the verge of flowering and my guess is if I let that carry on much longer, the plant will be inedible. Then again, who knows? I never really ate collard greens much until I started growing them. And they rewarded me by being easy and providing lots of good eating!

So bye bye collards! You have grown well and provided us with plenty of vitamins, tons of fibre, and lovely greenness. But you’re at the end of your life cycle and it’s time for you to make room for new veg. Maybe the zucchini will go here. Or some lovely peppers. Not sure yet. For now we salute you and bid you adieu. We’ll grow more of you next fall.

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all of the spinach is growing beautifully

Our salads these days are mostly spinach, arugula, kale and chard. A deep green and very tasty mixture that holds up pretty well even if you dress it in the morning before work.

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red velvet lettuce is getting bigger fast

But I’m starting to dream of the other lettuces that are sprouting up. The red velvet lettuce looks really pretty in its small state. It’s going to be just gorgeous when it’s bigger.

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snow peas are getting going quite well

The snow peas are bigger than the English ones. I took shots from two views so you could see how cute the little pea shoots are. I’m excited to see how big they get—and I can’t wait to pick the peas. They are reminding me that I can get pole beans in the ground starting now. If I can find the space, that is…oh wait, maybe they can go where the collards were.

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see how nicely spaced the peas are

Today’s gratuitous dog photo (you’re welcome, Julia):

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This morning, my 4 legged “helpers” chased each other around the raised beds and hunted squirrels (don’t worry no woodland creatures were harmed) while I watered. Bruce is considering putting up a low fence (2′ high maybe) around the farm to keep the straw mulch in and keep sunbathing hounds out because I’ve found a couple of holes where snouts may have pushed their way into the dirt. And George keeps trying to sneak digs. He has a nice hole started on the opposite side of the yard. And when I yelled at him to stop, Godiva started sulking. Maybe she’s thinking he should help us expand the Urban Farm.