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.

So: on the road again

Goodbye, North Carolina! This morning I’m off to the Garden State, an ironic nickname for the New Jersey I’ll get to see since I’ll probably be indoors except when going from airport to car to hotel to car to client to car to airport. More like the Fluorescent State or the Air Conditioning State.

Luckily my own garden is enjoying plenty of free water from the sky (saving Bruce from watering twice a day) and a bounty of tomatoes:

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Last night’s tomato harvest. Photo by Bruce

Those tomatoes would have been an excellent addition to my hotel buffet breakfast. Ever since the above photo sparked a discussion on Facebook last night regarding best ways to eat tomatoes, I’ve been thinking about a tomato sandwich. Yes, mayo, some kind of delicious bakery bread (sourdough perhaps), lightly toasted, thickly sliced, warm from the garden tomatoes, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, maybe a few basil leaves.

Or maybe some roasted sweet 100s, tossed in olive oil with slivered garlic, finished with some roughly torn basil, tossed with a bit of pasta. Or on top of some fish.

Now you know my dirty gardening secret: I’m only doing it because I love to eat good things. Growing my own lettuce has ruined most restaurant salads for me and tomatoes are consistently disappointing during my room service dinners.

As you may have gathered, I’ve been eating lots of room service and hotel food during this intense work week. But in addition to traveling to see clients and building powerpoint decks, I’ve dusted off my writing skills and I’ve been making copy late into the night.

Despite the crazy hours, it’s been a lot of fun sitting in my hotel room cranking out the work. It’s been a personal way back machine to late nights and amazing work–the work that was the path to getting to where I am today.

It’s been rejuvenating, exhilarating even.

Good thing I’m liking the pace: I get to do it all over again tonight.

Sow: peachy

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Yes, of course, tomatoes were harvested today (and were given to the Gs pal Tracy when she came by at lunch to let them out), but I discovered the next big harvest when I was out dumping my poor dead plants garden debris in the composter.

While I was sleeping or at least spending time worrying about the urban farm, the peach tree has gotten busy making peaches. I’m pretty excited about it especially since the plum tree hasn’t produced anything this year.

So tomorrow morning, I’ll start climbing the ladder and plucking down peaches before the birds, squirrels and perhaps even neighbors who know they’re there get them. It’s best to pick them a little green then let them ripen in a paper bag.

I’m hoping to have enough to make jam again. However, my plan is to blanch (skin comes off easier), peel, and cut up the peaches now and freeze them in gallon size ziplock bags. That way I can make jam in the fall, when it’s cooler. Closer to the holidays also.

Truthfully I just don’t have that kind of leisure time right now. It isn’t hard, just time-consuming because there are a lot of steps. But oh so worth it.

Last year I made a ton. In cute little jam pots with a fun label. Gave most of it away and it was a big hit. My grandma who’s 97 said it reminded her of the jam she had as a child.

I can think of no better compliment.

Sow: mort

These days, with North Texas temperatures headed back up to the 100°+ days, early morning is the best time to head out to the raised beds and stock tanks for a little harvesting, cleaning up, watering by hand, and digging before work. It’s getting closer to surface of the sun weather, by next month, it will be here and I’ll be devising shading systems for some of the raised beds. And even at 6 am, it’s still hot. But it’s cooler than at 6 pm so I doused myself with OFF, grabbed my buckets, garden scissors, watering can, and compost bucket and started to get busy.

It’s usually a good time to clear the mind and get focused for the day ahead.

Just not today.

While watering the tomatoes, I found something that made me very sad: a poor bird that looked like it died trapped in a bit of the bird net. The net covers the tomato plants but this bird was on the part on the ground. It’s the part that I pin down to keep the critters out.

I say it looked like it was trapped, because I have a feeling that it was dispatched by one of the Gs, most likely Godiva the Huntress, since she wasn’t coming near me or the garden. It didn’t look crushed or torn, but a little bit flattened, like maybe someone tried to de-squeak it. I’ve found dead birds before, killed by cats or other predators, dead on impact with windows or walls. But this one made me feel terrible as I wondered if the bird net wasn’t there, this little bird would have had a chance.

resting up for tomorrow

resting up for tomorrow

Death was a theme in the garden from that point on. As the weather gets hotter, the lettuce crops are on their way out. I pulled some that was going to seed and began to ready their bed for the fall tomato crop (yes, it’s almost time to start thinking about planting them). I noticed that all of the cucumber plants were toast except one (partially because of not getting watered while we were in Canada). I pulled out the dying and dried up pea plants. I pulled some of the brown bean stalks. I harvested the remainder of the 3rd crop of bok choi and put the stalks in the compost bucket. As the bucket got more full, I felt even more sad.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gotten really attached to these plants. Yes, of course, I talk to them and encourage them to grow and do their thing. I know they have a lifecycle and that when they reach the end, they have to go to make room for new plants.

Today it was a little like saying goodbye to old friends. The lettuce and all of the leafy greens have done so well for me. They’ve looked so pretty and brightened up the Urban Farm. And for just $2.50 a seed packet, they produced tons of green stuff since January. An excellent return on such a small investment. But they’re done.

today's leafy harvest: bok choi (right), lots of lettuce (left)

today’s leafy harvest: lots of lettuce (left), bok choi (right),

It’s really taking me a while to get used to the garden circle of life. Just when I get used to a rhythm and a routine, something changes. That’s life though.

But in the midst of all of this death, life. A small toad hopped by as I was doing my thing. He startled me out of my funk. I’ll take him as an omen of unexpected goodness to come.

Sow: happiest hour

Today was an excellent day.

George came to work and was a fantastic canine coworker:

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just hanging out with his toys

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all tuckered out from meeting and greeting

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George worked his jaws

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worn out from a hard day of work

And after a long day, Bruce brought home a pizza so after dinner, we all have come outside to enjoy the cooler temperatures and water the garden.

Here’s what we found today:

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much bigger harvest than Monday

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twice the size it was two weeks ago

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on the verge

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container watermelon

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cute baby watermelon

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okra flowers

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artichoke going strong

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purple beans

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weird heirloom cucumber

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zucchini

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more zucchini about to happen

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chile peppers

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jalapeños

And finally, one of my garden helpers:

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Perhaps I just needed to spend some time outside to get my super powers back.

Sow: first tomatoes

first tomatoes

first tomatoes!

When we got home from Toronto yesterday, I was anxious to see how the Urban Farm did when we left it alone for four days. Last week was very wet, but unfortunately the weekend was not. We watered on Thursday night and rain was predicted all weekend.

No such luck.

Everything got watered well last night and again today. I think everything will be mostly ok, although several plants looked a little crispy. The okra has tripled in size.

But best of all, the first red tomatoes have appeared. The tiny ones in the picture are sweet 100s. The heart shaped one is a Celebrity. We do have some casualties though: blossom rot. It appears to still be isolated to the Burpee Big Boy plants and maybe the plants that got frost bit. I need to get out there tomorrow and clean up—harvest and compost the bad tomatoes and clean up some of the yellowing branches.

On a separate note: the Gs are exhausted from their four days of playtime with four other dogs. Their humans tired too.

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: Welcome to Mayvember

I’m amazed that I can actually type after this evening’s smooth edge and trim removal. Bang bang bang with the hammer on the crowbar. For a couple of hours. My wrists are still vibrating. The good news is that there is officially no more trim or smooth edge to be removed. Tomorrow morning when it’s light, I’ll re-vacuum the floor with the shop vac and then the regular vacuum in that back bedroom to get up any remaining 47-year old dust and grime.

Tomorrow night will be about moving furniture out of the lounge and our mattress on the floor will relocate to the living room. We just need to make sure everything is ready for the bamboo dudes. Saturday everyone—Bruce, the Gs, me—will be outside. Except for the bamboo dudes.

I’ll be weeding the award-winning front yard because I’m a little embarrassed by the quantity and quality of extra plants in the beds. Maybe there will also be time to lie in the sun and take a nap or read a couple of magazines. It would be nice to relax a little bit and enjoy the patio.

That is, IF IT GETS WARM EVER AGAIN. Our crazy North Texas weather has sent the temperatures plummeting. Right now it’s 43°F (that’s 6°C), there’s a 40% chance of rain, big gusts of wind, and the temperature will drop to 40*F.

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Welcome to Mayvember                    (Image courtesy of WeatherBug)

The local news has dubbed this storm Mayvember (get it: May + November) because it is just like our late fall weather tonight. I’m a little worried about the Urban Farm, mostly because I saw three good sized baby tomatoes that weren’t there yesterday along with the bounty of blossoms. The plants are almost as tall as the tomatoes cages. They are beautiful and look like the harvest could be awesome.

We’ve also got snow peas now. It’s like everything is suddenly happening. And that’s why I’m stressed.

So Bruce and I covered everything with frost cloth. Those frost cloths are certainly getting a lot of use, unfortunately. We’ll just have to hope for the best (and no freeze) and for warmer days ahead.

PS: Guinness seems a lot better. The swelling on his mouth is down and he actually let me have a peek at the tooth. The antibiotics are working. I may need some of his giant anti-inflamatories tomorrow!