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Storm Hype

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It never fails. They predict snowmageddon. We get nothing. They miss it completely and call for insignificant snow. We get blasted.

Who knows what Monday and Tuesday will bring. Will our volunteer day at the Conservancy get canceled? I hope not. I was looking forward to REI’s presentation, and to that free breakfast. The Conservancy is looking to add volunteers. You know, for when we aren’t :rolleyes: snowed in.

Just in case though. We are prepared. Snow blower ready.

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Comforting food made this weekend, like this split pea soup, so we can easily heat food while trying to deal with the weather.

It was 2010 when we got slammed. Twice in one week. Right before I retired. Open your door to this.

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Try to find the grill in case the power goes out.

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It is under there somewhere. I swear.

We won’t be getting this kind of snow tomorrow or Tuesday. I wonder if New York and New England will. No matter what. I hope they have staples to eat while they deal with snow.

Now, what was this nonsense about Thursday night?

Meesy Micey

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A fact of life out here in the rural communities. Field mice. This year I thought we had thwarted them. We did make it much farther into the winter before they struck.

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A brand new bag of tortilla chips. Of course, we had become complacent. Forgetting to put everything in jars of canisters in the pantry. We thought that our two resident hawks, and the neighbor’s outdoor kitty, who pops through daily to check out the bird feeders and anything else that looks interesting would take care of it.

The cooper’s hawk hunts daily in the meadow. For long stretches. On the tree. On the ground. On the tree. On the ground. I can empty the dishwasher and watch him hunt. He isn’t interested in our birds.

But, one little field mouse (hopefully just one) managed to infiltrate this past weekend. We found the evidence Tuesday. Besides the tortillas, they got into a brand new bag of rice flour I bought for a cookie recipe I found.

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This was on the second to top shelf in the pantry.

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At least the brown sugar is still intact.

We haven’t trapped him yet. He eats the peanut butter right off the trap. Three times now.

Ten years ago on my first evening coming into the house. Right after settlement. I saw my first field mouse who had squeezed up through the opening where the water line feeds the refrigerator. The laundry room and the dishwasher connections, and sometimes the downdraft vent opening under the stove. All have to be protected. We have stuffed steel wool. We have plugged holes in the crawl space. They still manage to squeeze in. At least this year we made it two months farther into winter than in the past.

I will win this battle. It may take a few more days.

Just another fun week in the country. Oh yeah, it’s going to snow and sleet again twice this weekend. I am so ready for spring to get here. How many more weeks to go?

Plus, somebody has to start doing a better job around here. They show up nicely against a snow covered landscape.

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Yes, you. Mister sharp shinned hawk. Keep those mice out of my house.

Evolution

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Or, how the farming communities have changed their models to reflect their customers’ desires. It used to be the case that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs used one or two farms that pre-sold their crops. Buy in before the season started and reap the bounty of what was grown. Not much in the way of options, and very risky in bad weather years.

These days, things have changed. The models keep evolving. There are cooperatives. Home deliveries. Buying services. All sorts of sizes, add ons, payment plans and expansion of the definition of local.

Here in Howard County we have many choices in the winter. For us, finally, we got our winter CSA from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. The Coop has over 100 farmers in it now. And, they have expanded their options, offering packages and add ons. Today was our first pick up. What do you get in the winter?

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White mushrooms – Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms
Covington sweet potatoes – LFFC
Mixed winter radishes – Spring Valley Organics
Sunchokes – Lee’s Organics
Orange carrots – Rising Sun Organics
Parsnips – Rising Sun Organics

All of us who bought vegetable shares got these in our box. Some of us chose an omnivore package, with three add ons. Others may have chosen a Vegan package, which had tofu instead of chicken. They got bread, instead of cheese.

We got:

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Sauerkraut. Colby. Chicken breasts. I love the message on the sauerkraut.

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As for the other half of our winter food source, we still love Friends and Farms. Today is our one year anniversary of buying from them.

What is interesting today? The carrots in our Friends and Farms basket come from Lancaster Farm Fresh Wholesale. Many of the produce items come from the same cooperative that supplies our CSA.

As I said above, the evolution in provision of fresh local and seasonal foods has brought us many good choices. There is definitely a program and a package that fits a person or a couple or a family, a package that replaces mass market grocery store food.

Today, our small basket from Friends and Farms included the following.

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This was in our insulated bag. Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) green beans. Chuck roast. Eggs. Chevre. Cod. Ground beef. The ground beef was our chosen substitute for bread. The eggs. Our substitute for milk. What I love most about them is their flexibility to tailor your basket to your preferences.

For us, all the protein we need for a week comes in this basket, and in our CSA.

The rest of our vegetables?

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Sweet potatoes. Carrots. Thyme. Apples. Hydroponic romaine. Kale.

There are other winter options for food around here. Zahradka Farm delivers weekly. So does South Mountain Creamery. They both let you tailor your deliveries to include your preferences. This is so different from the days of rigid “Take it or leave it” CSAs.

Come March, add the early bird Breezy Willow to the choices.

We really are lucky. We can have fresh regional foods (mostly from a 150 mile radius). You can’t beat fresh produce. Way better than those cardboard tomatoes in the stores.

Tonight?

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I pan fried one of those cod fillets in some browned butter. Seasoned with bread crumbs and paprika. Served with those IQF green beans and a sweet potato.

A Lifetime of Service

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We lost someone special this month. One of “our” paramedics. Erik Steciak.

Photo from Firehouse.com

Photo from Firehouse.com

We live near West Friendship. They are our fire station. We support them and value tremendously their dedication to keeping us safe. Every time we hear the ambulances on Rte. 32 we know they are dealing with yet another crash on that dangerous stretch of road.

Erik gave his life to this vocation. He loved it and spent countless hours between his paid and his volunteer service. I found a remarkable blog post while researching mine. Here.

This quote stays with me. Thanks to Dan Ciarrocchi for writing this article.
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It’s a position that he hasn’t second-guessed often, but occasionally, that moment arises. If so, he defers back to one of his earliest memories, where the firehouse he worked at had an open house. Firefighters spoke to interested crowds, displayed their equipment and allowed children to explore the trucks and ambulances.

“There was a girl, she was about 4, maybe 5 years old, cutest thing you’d ever see.” Steciak said. “Her mom knelt down beside her, put her arm around her and pointed straight at me and said ‘Look. There’s a hero.’ And the look that kid gave me…I just keep telling myself I can’t ever let her down.”
________________________________

Erik was a hero. He went out and helped people no matter how bad it was out there.

For me, I want to honor this young man and all like him. They are our future. They are our unsung heroes.

Rest in Peace, Erik. Know that many of us who may look like strangers aren’t. We are all a family if we care about others.

The Counter

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At the Columbia Whole Foods. Diner not in the classic sense, but still a place with really interesting and satisfying diner food.

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Fries anyone? How about chickpea fries with truffle salt?

We were lucky enough last night to attend a media event that kicked off the new menu at the Counter, the instore diner at our local Whole Foods. For me, finding places that aren’t chains, that showcase local, seasonal, organic and/or sustainable ingredients is a priority. Having this counter as a choice now when I’m in Columbia and need a quick delicious meal is exciting.

The thing I do like most about this diner option is the juxtaposition of healthier choices with some favorite comfort foods, and standbys that will tempt the omnivore, vegetarian, paleo, vegan, or gluten free person who may be looking to eat out together without compromising.

Like Southern food?

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Chicken with a biscuit and sausage gravy. This was one of my favorite dishes last night. Good for breakfast or lunch.

Nodding to a love of kielbasa, and making a breakfast sandwich my husband really liked.

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Their breakfast menu has all sorts of options. A scramble that uses tofu. Wheatless pancakes.

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We got to sample many of the items from both menus last night. My favorites were the chicken and gravy, and the burger made with a short rib blend, the cacioepepe, and that kielbasa sandwich. I have to admit there were two that weren’t my cup of tea, so to speak. The curry dish just a tad too spicy. The avocado taco. It was OK but just a bit bland to me. Weird, how my tastes are somewhere in the range of spicy but not too spicy.

I have to stop in and try some things that look good but we didn’t sample. Like the falafelsammie and the crabcake (not the vegan “crab” cake). As a Baltimore born and raised lover of crabs, I have to see how this version stacks up to my all time favorites.

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Thanks to Chef Michael and his team for putting out great tasting fresh food. Thanks too to Mia the marketing team leader who put together this event.

As one of the local bloggers whose focus is on small businesses, local foods, organic foods and eating seasonally, I am pleased to see how Whole Foods is becoming integrated into our community. Many of the farms where I purchase cheeses, meats, produce and a few of the small specialty businesses are featured here at Whole Foods.

Check out their Maryland food vendor page for a list of those who supply the Columbia store. Many of them are on my local resources list, and I am discovering new ones all the time like Koinonia and Homestead.

So, try out the Counter someday. Like maybe a Sunday where another local blogger, Bill Santos, has a weekly get together for coffee and conversation. One of those biscuits would be great while discussing the latest goings on in Columbia.

Third Time Lucky

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With a winter CSA. We finally got enough participants to create a winter pick up spot for a 13 week Community Supported Agriculture program from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.

For those of us who like that weekly infusion of a surprise basket of vegetables, getting this off the ground meant quite a bit to us. I chose what is called an “Omnivore Package”. 5-8 vegetables. One pound of meat. One half pound of cheese. One pantry item. Every week. We may get bison. We will get raw milk or aged goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses. We will get staples for our kitchen, like honey or maple syrup or horseradish. All from right up the highway in Lancaster County.

They changed our pick up from Thursdays to Wednesdays. I like that too. Gives me more time to get things done before the weekend comes. Then, we can easily heat up and eat, with a good made from scratch meal.

During this four week hiatus from the CSA I have been cleaning out some items from the freezer. Like all the chicken wings we got last fall.

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Perfect for a play off game day. Covered in raspberry jam, sriracha, honey, onions and garlic.

Or my meat loaf.

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Made with a half pound of hamburger meat and a half pound of pork sausage. A couple of eggs. Bread crumbs. Onions. Salt. Pepper. Drizzled in ketchup. Do you remember your mom making meat loaf? Didn’t you love it? Leftovers made great sandwiches.

I have also been making chicken salad from the chicken breasts. Egg salad from my Friends and Farms eggs. Some days I do feel like we have regressed into that world from my childhood, with all our food made from scratch.

Can’t wait to see what we get next week. Between Lancaster Farm Fresh and Friends and Farms, I don’t need markets or grocery stores this winter. Well, except when we run out of toilet paper.

Fair Winds and Following Seas

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A phrase we used to send retiring or transferring coworkers on their way to their new assignments, or to their future as retirees.

Today, I want to send that message to two women who spent 18 years making farmer’s markets in the DC area some of the absolute best places to buy local and support small businesses.

Ann Yonkers and Bernadine Price announced their impending retirement as the directors of the markets. Freshfarm is one of my favorite market companies (for lack of a better word). They run 13 markets in the DC/NoVA/MD area. Two of them year round. Those two were my introduction to year round markets.

Silver Spring on Saturdays, and DuPont Circle on Sundays. They introduced me to Atwater’s. Mock’s Greenhouses. Smith Meadows and more.

Silver Spring also had the benefit for us of having Lebanese Taverna right there. For lunch.

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We spent many Saturdays in Silver Spring, before I found local farms open. For us, they were the source of local foods in the winter.

Besides, they have the best web site out there to tell us what is happening weekly.

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If you get a chance, head down there some Saturday morning, just down US29, and check it out for yourself. And, tell the workers at the freshfarm tent that you appreciate what Ann and Bernie started, 18 years ago.

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