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Energy Savings (Or Not)

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We have these periods of time here where we live. Called “Energy Savings Days” by our local gas and electric provider. They happen to fall during my food processing times, at least twice this summer they have.

I then have a dilemma. Don’t use the stove, oven, crock pot or dishwasher to process these mountains.

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Yes, both those pictures were taken the same day. Yes, I have to draw down some of these tomatoes. I just change the A/C setting in the house, and then do what I need to do to process foods. I can’t give up six hours of productive time when I get anywhere from 10-20 pounds of tomatoes a week.

I am crossing my fingers and hoping I get good tomatoes next week, as the Howard County Fair opens on August 8th. On the night of the 7th I will be delivering herbs, onions, tomatoes, peppers, an ornamental basket, and this year, some of my canned foods.

Like my pickles.

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And some fruit preserves. And, hopefully a pepper jelly if I get it done this week.

If we get another energy savings day, I probably will be working through it. As the harvest doesn’t stop just because it’s hot out there.

Oh well, at least we aren’t using our cars much when I’m processing foods. Heck, I even improvised on this tabouleh.

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I used Israeli couscous instead of bulgur because I ran out of it. This was a quick simple lunch dish. A cup of couscous simmered in chicken stock. Parsley. Mint. Tomatoes from the garden. Lemon juice. Olive oil. Salt and pepper.

Gotta use those tomatoes everywhere I can.

The Best Of

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Those lists. The best this. The best that. I take them all with a grain of salt. So when I saw a Facebook feed from Black Ankle about the “101 Best Wineries in the USA” I thought, OK, another popularity contest.

Seems this list is a bit more than that. They use chefs, wine writers, sommeliers, wine experts and more to pick wineries of good value, consistency and great taste.

We have enjoyed wines from at least half the wineries on this list. They really did a good job of picking places that make wines of distinction, and their write ups are spot on. Yes, Black Ankle makes one awesome Syrah.

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It made us open one for our final night of the Buy Local Challenge. Served with a lamb loaf and local veggies.

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Sunday night dinner.

The wine is simply elegant. If you haven’t had the chance to head out to Mt. Airy and visit Black Ankle, you should. Besides the syrah, they make some interesting whites, like Albarino and Gruner Veltliner.

A perfect place for a Friday night picnic while listening to the music. Take a basket with you, or buy from the winery. Buy a bottle to compliment your meal. Enjoy!

HALO

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The Howard Astronomical League Observatory. Officially opened last night at Alpha Ridge.

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The long awaited observatory that Joel Goodman has been talking about at every opportunity we see him, finally is done and open. It was a lovely night. Many, many people of all ages came out for the ribbon cutting followed by tours followed by a star party.

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I love going out there for any reason. I also enjoy every event that “HAL” puts on. Like the transit of Venus a few years back, at the Conservancy. Where hundreds (we think 500-600 based just on the cars) came out to watch the last transit for 104 years.

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The sheer volume of people interested in watching the heavens is to me a sign that we in this area really do love science and nature and discovery. Yes, I know, a run on sentence. But, it does feel like we seek opportunities to learn more, and see more.

There were many speeches last night. Lots of people who made this happen. Still, I love to see the children get into it.

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My vantage point didn’t let you see the children doing the ribbon cutting. Not the adults. Not the politicians. The children.

Thanks, Star Doc, for your vision. For your leadership. For helping us out at the Conservancy in setting up our “star parties”, like the upcoming Perseids meteor event on August 12th. For all us night owls.

For those looking for the HAL star parties in the new observatory, the next one is August 22nd. Check out the HAL web page for details.

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Come on in. The viewing is awesome.

Portalli’s in Old Ellicott City

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The scene of a farewell party for a fellow local blogger.

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My first visit to their upstairs outdoor dining area. Real Al Fresco dining without looking at a parking lot or storm water management pond.

Overall, impressive. And the food is good. I judge a restaurant sometimes by how well they execute calamari. Theirs was lovely. Lightly battered. Not greasy. Good marinara. Enjoyed with some blogging friends, and a very nice glass of pinot grigio with it.

We were sending off Claire, our UK Desperate Housewife, who is headed back across the pond after three years here in Howard County.

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She probably has seen more in Howard County than many permanent residents, as she definitely gets involved and has loved the experience.

This was a hocoblogs party. Our local blogging “newspaper”. I love going to the parties to meet fellow writers, and to catch up on what is happening around the county.

I was impressed with Portalli’s. It, along with Pure Wine, are now two more destinations on my somewhat small list of restaurants I like. Just don’t make me go to a chain restaurant. I love these individually owned places.

Thanks again to Portalli’s for hosting a party for the community. Ellicott City is one of our treasures. The feel of small town Main Street. Nice place with a view.

Code Red Days

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The temperatures are soaring. It was supposed to rain today and cool it off, but so far, no such luck. Sunday and Monday the temperatures were in the high nineties and the heat index in triple digits.

Just think how hard the farmers have it, dealing with heat while trying to harvest, feed the animals and do all those other chores. If your days are spent going from A/C home to A/C car to A/C job to A/C car to A/C restaurant to A/C home, you have it easy.

We spent part of Sunday (early) dealing with some yard things. Not too long. Monday I had to go weed, harvest and water my garden. That hour and a half was brutal, so I can’t imagine having to spend hours getting things ready for CSAs, markets and deliveries.

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Not to mention working in steamy kitchens in the restaurants. My hat is off to those who have to work outside in this weather, and to those working the line making your farm to table meals.

If you hit any of the markets this week during the Buy Local Challenge, or go out for Restaurant week, take the time to thank those who make it possible. They aren’t sitting in front of an A/C vent. Also, take time to vote for your favorite adult beverage, and go try a few at the local restaurants. They have a “Garden to Glass” competition going on.

No matter what, keep supporting our local small businesses. And let them know you appreciate them.

Remember the saying, If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher.

How about —- Before you eat that, thank a farmer.

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The Protein and Dairy Bag

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Next up on the #buylocalchallenge front. Meat. Seafood. Dairy. Eggs.

All readily available here, with just a little searching. Or, by subscribing to the weekly bag from Friends and Farms.

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I get the weekly bag during the summer and fall, when I like to get much of my produce from the Community Supported Agriculture source I have used for years. I also have the garden, and I like to buy fruit from the farmer’s markets. I did customize my bag to include produce instead of the half gallon of milk a week.

The eggs are from Miller Farm in Clinton MD. The chicken is Locust Point in Elkton MD. The other meat items we get are from an independent butcher in PA. He buys from surrounding farms.

Besides using a service like this, there are many other ways to find fresh protein items in Maryland. On my Local Resources page you can find many of the ones I like. I have meat, dairy, and cheese categories on the page.

As for seafood, a wee bit more difficult, but not impossible. The seafood market in Jessup (Wild Seafood) always has something from the Bay, just not necessarily the Maryland portion of the Bay.

Whatever way you find to add some local flavor to your meals will reward you with fresh home “grown” tastes. I have not missed those grocery store packages at all. Sometime during the challenge taste the local offerings at your nearest farm to table restaurant. Many of them have local beef, lamb and pork.

When you get hooked on the taste, you can find a source that works for you.

BBQ ribs with grilled squash and potato salad

BBQ ribs with grilled squash and potato salad

Like I did in last year’s challenge.

Breaking Bread

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#buylocalchallenge.

Starts tomorrow. I have been talking about options above and beyond the standard fruit and vegetables. Like cheese. But, what’s cheese without good bread? Did you know many of our local bakeries source ingredients from Maryland farms? So, you can support local farmers, and small businesses, by buying their breads during the challenge. Or by eating at their bakeries.

Like Atwaters. In Catonsville, near us, and in many places across the Baltimore area.

Here is a link to their sources. Here is a link to their current menu in Catonsville. I have blogged many times about the quality of Atwaters. You can also buy their bread at many markets, like Olney.

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Moving on. Closer to us. The Breadery. In Oella. So many things to find there. They also come to local markets. On a recent visit to the store in Oella, we found their stash of olive oils. Perfect for bread dipping.

Great Harvest Rosemary Lavender Focaccia. Discovered at Breezy Willow. Made with the herbs from the farm. Nothing like it toasted with a creamy fresh chevre.

Stone House Bakery. Another local bakery that sources items from the surrounding farms. Check out their ingredients. Doesn’t get much better than that.

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There are even more local bakeries in the state. Far better products from small businesses.

And if you want to bake your own using local grains, Next Step Produce can help you with that project.

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou. I’ve covered the first two. On the third, you’re on your own.

Next up. Meat, seafood and eggs.

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