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Preventive Maintenance

I have the greatest respect for those who work outdoors in weather like this. Who don’t seem to care if it’s cold, windy, or there’s a foot of snow on the ground. They just do their job. And, most of them love what they do.

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Including climbing and pruning very large trees.

We have used Bartlett to do the really large jobs around here, for years. They have also climbed trees just to put antenna wire anchors into the very top of them. Like this one.

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At the very top of our boundary tree, you can see the ropes where my husband attaches the extremely long wires to use for the lowest frequencies for his radio contacts. Thankfully, today, in the snow, we didn’t need that level of climbing, but we did want the trimming work done before the leaves start coming in. This work has been moved more than once due to weather, but today, they thought, we can do this.

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Let’s just say one of the harder parts of this job was getting the truck in the driveway. Yesterday, my husband and Marty Adams, our local representative from Bartlett, cleared the driveway wide enough to make it navigable for the truck. Marty is a Howard County native who is great to work with.

For us, this work yearly by Bartlett is important to maintain the health of our largest and most valuable trees. They do the difficult stuff for us. Pruning out the dead portion of one of my prized Japanese maples.

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Shaping and pruning the ornamentals. Climbing and pruning the 50-60 foot tall hardwoods. Like the maples and the pin oaks. So far, crossing our fingers, we haven’t lost any of our largest shade trees in the hurricanes, the derecho, and the ice storms. Because we do take the time and effort to do the preventive maintenance.

Our trees are part of the charm of our property. They can’t easily be replaced.

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The maple in springtime. Here’s hoping it gets here soon.

Baby It’s Cold

Outside definitely. Inside, sometimes as well. Heat pumps can’t handle extended temps near zero degrees. We hit zero again on Tuesday morning. The heat pumps couldn’t hack that, so we had the resistive heat running continuously trying to keep it warm around here.

I decided, OK, I need to find something to do to keep us warmer, so I decided to bake and cook. All day. It kept the kitchen warm and made it easier for us to have quick meals the rest of this week.

At one point, I had both ovens going, and the large burner on the stove. Oh, and the dishwasher and the clothes dryer out in the mud room. All together, productive, while making it more comfortable in the house.

I hate heat pumps. Our house, like thousands like it in this area, was built during the moratorium on building using natural gas. Oil burners were also not used, as the price made them prohibitive. Heat pumps cannot take prolonged temperatures below twenty degrees, and we are suffering through the coldest February I can ever remember.

Two more days of this month. Today, even more snow came down. At least we got above freezing yesterday.

As for the cooking, what did I make?

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Apple cake. Adapted from the Not Without Salt recipe. I substituted my crock pot spiced apples for the two cups of apples.

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I like this recipe so much that I made a recipe card in Pages on my iPad. Since I like the extra spice, I used a pint jar from the freezer since I didn’t have any baking apples around. I also did decrease the sugar from the published recipe, to 1/2 a cup.

I had one oven making this cake, while the other made three things. At the same time. Beets. Chicken. Roasted root vegetables.

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I was cleaning out the produce drawer before the CSA came on Wednesday. There are parsnips, celeriac, sunchokes, carrots, sweet potato, turnips, white radish, scallions, yellow onion and a jalapeno in there.

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Heavily spiced.

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No measuring. More of what I like. Less of the stronger stuff. Olive oil. Mustard. White balsamic. All mixed up in a bowl and dumped on the foil. Roasted at 350 degrees for an hour.

Add to all of this, I was making chicken stock with the bones and skin from the whole chicken. I got a quart of stock, that simmered most of the afternoon.

After all was said and done, we had chicken and root vegetables for dinner Tuesday. The leftovers.

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Enough for a few days as a side dish.

Chicken leftovers for me yesterday while my better half went to an amateur radio club dinner. The last piece of chicken breast. Lunch today. The beets will be tomorrow’s salad. The apple cake. Dessert when we are in the mood for dessert. The chicken stock is in the freezer.

Not a bad way to spend a frigid Tuesday.

Cabin Fever

Are you tired of all this snow and ice? Ready to get outside and do something different? How about joining some of the volunteers at the Howard County Conservancy as we train to lead field trips for elementary and secondary school children?

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Next week on Thursday the 5th of March, the volunteers will be playing the “students” and learning the new kindergarten program. On the 10th, it’s the new 6th grade Storm Water program at Belmont. On the 12th, the new 3rd grade program training at Mt. Pleasant, followed by one of our famous pot luck luncheons.

Bio Blitz training at Belmont on the 17th. And, finally on the 19th at Belmont, refresher training for Wings, Stings and Leggy Things, the 2nd grade program. New volunteers will be joined by those of us who appreciate the chance to revisit the activities and get out with friends, old and new.

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This volunteer effort, which is fairly robust (the Conservancy hosts thousands of school children from pre-K all the way to high school age) is one of my favorite activities. Particularly, since we end up learning as well. The Bio Blitz is being done for the second time. It is one amazing multi-day program. I can’t wait to get outdoors in the meadows and the Patapsco Valley. Here’s hoping spring arrives soon.

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Choosing Community Again

I really do dislike that slogan around here. The “Choose Civility” one. As if civility is all we need to show to those we encounter. Whether on the roads, in the stores, in our neighborhoods.

For us. A sense of community is what is important. A sense of neighbors helping neighbors. Of being there for each other when we need them. A civil nod, and “Have a Nice Day” doesn’t resonate.

Case in point. This past weekend, and that overachieving snow.

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For us, it couldn’t have come in a worse time. Our snow thrower bit the dust.

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Last week, during the minor snowfall (how many of these buggers are we going to get?), the cable that turns the augur, broke. On order. Slated to come in tomorrow. Enter Saturdays 10 inches of snow.

We called two neighbors. And, one of them, we called their son’s cell. Sunday morning, bright and early we get a response. The son, on the RTV helped us clear out. He had just come from the widow’s property up the road, where he plowed her driveway for her. After ours, he did another neighbor.

Later that day, his parents did get back to us. They checked their messages from their vacation in Hawaii and wanted to make sure we could get in touch with their son. Later, our other neighbor came over to tell us, in the future, when they are away, which they were, we should just go in the barn and take their snowthrower to use.

Now, that’s community. Not being civil. But caring about one another.

I do love it out here. The people make it special.

A Night Out in Old EC

Ellicott City. The county seat of Howard County. Usually visited by us in much better weather than our current frigid wave.

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Main Street is almost always hopping at night, for the bars and the restaurants. Not so much for the small shops that line Main St. Last night we attended a get together at the Still Life Gallery. Hosted by the owners, Sara Arditti and David Dempster.

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The gallery has a lovely selection of art in many media, and some great jewelry as well. They also do custom framing. Something I need to do with some of my photographs that I want to display.

There was quite a crowd there last night. Artists, bloggers, friends and relatives. Enjoying the dessert brownies with wine and beer.

Thanks to the Wine Bin, just up Main St. for donating wine to the event.

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The merchants on Main Street are some of the small business sources that I recommend whenever people are looking for unique gifts or specialized services.

Ellicott City. One of the gems of Howard County.

Menu Planning

Sunchokes. For the third time this winter.

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It seems this seasonal vegetable is best after a hard frost. Heaven knows we have had enough of those around here. The sunchokes are a Northeastern US native plant. They are the tubers from a type of sunflower. A perennial and if not carefully corralled they can become invasive.

They are a great probiotic for most people. They contain inulin, are good at promoting the healthy “gut bacteria” we need, and keep your blood sugar under control. If you aren’t one of those people sensitive to them, and then they cause discomfort. We do OK with them, but this is the third week out of five that they are showing up in our food baskets.

This week, they were in my CSA basket.

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Our winter vegetable share. Week Five. Cabbage, sunchokes, portabellas, onions and garnet sweet potatoes. You will notice two cabbages, as I traded the black radishes. I am currently radished out, and we are in one of those food ruts, where we enjoy steamed cabbage as a side dish. Well, and making lots of cole slaw since we are drowning in carrots this winter. All this cold weather is good for certain vegetables. We seem to be getting quite a few of the hardy varieties that do well when the weather gets cold enough.

The omnivore share gave us these for a pantry item, a cheese and meat.

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Daisy flour. Linden Dale raw goat milk cheese. Ground beef. I love, love, love Linden Dale cheeses. We used to buy them all the time up at the Lancaster Market. I am so glad they became a supplier to the cooperative, and that we get these lovely goat cheeses brought to us. Daisy flour is also a treat. I first bought their flour at the Catonsville Atwaters Bakery, and they really are different than what you may be used to baking with.

Friends and Farms this week.

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This is the small basket, suitable for two people who eat at home four or five nights a week. The carrots, and those two turnips came to Friends and Farms via the same truck that delivers our Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. More and more, they are using the cooperative to supply fresh organic seasonal vegetables. Cremini mushrooms (there will be mushroom soup this weekend). Hydroponic lettuce. Eggs. Apples. Kale, another hardy vegetable that gets sweeter after a hard frost. I love to sauté kale with garlic and bacon to serve as a side dish.

There is also a quart of Atwaters chicken stock this week. A new supplier. From one of our favorite lunch places in Catonsville. We got short ribs this week. And ground beef for me, as the substitute for dairy. Oh, and shrimp. Which only survived two hours in the house, as it was dinner tonight.

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Shrimp over polenta. The last of the polenta from a very long time ago. Found it in the back of the little fridge, where I store flours and nuts, to keep them fresh. One cup left. Enough for two meals. Did you know polenta easily melts again when reheated. Tonight, I added some corn from an earlier basket. I store it in a container in the freezer, and pour out what I need.

What else will I do with this week’s stuff? Crock pot short ribs. Crab stuffed portabellas. Egg salad. Mushroom soup. Cole slaw. Spicy sunchoke dip. I will let you know if this dip is worth making. I wanted to try something new with the sunchokes.

Fresh vegetables all winter. Comfort foods. Who cares if we get negative temperatures the next few nights. We can be warm and have satisfying meals here at home.

Notify Me Howard

OK, we have to do something about Howard. He keeps emailing me. SEVEN times in the last 24 hours. And, he keeps changing his mind. 6-10 inches. Followed by 4-8 inches (just a few minutes after the previous prediction). Now, he’s back to the 6-10 inch thing.

So, will he be right or wrong? Will we wake up to this?

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Notify Me Howard sends us emails. Mostly about weather and cancellations and notices. When the weather is about to go ugly, they can overdo it.

I am so tired of winter. Tired of the cold. The wind. The snow. I keep hearing Jimmy Buffett in my mind. You know, BOAT DRINKS!

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I haven’t shot any holes in our freezer. Well, because we haven’t got any guns in the house, and the freezer is safely in the basement.

Time to go make something good to sip while waiting for the snow to really arrive. Can you tell it’s frustrating around here?

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