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Real Hams Don’t Use Cranes

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They build towers by hand. This has been a real education for me. Watching a master at work. The tower is now at 72 feet. How do you get those pieces up there?

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You send them up by pulley. This tower is erected in small pieces. Diagonals. Steps. Vertical supports. All sent up by hand. Placed and bolted in.

I have been really impressed to watch it. My husband has been ground crew. And engineer of guy wires.

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Slowly but surely the tower is going up.

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This is from 62 feet. The tower will go to 82 feet, then the mast will rise up to 97 feet with an antenna on the top. With our elevation of 630 feet out here where we live, and this tower, my better half will have no problem talking to hams on the other side of the world.

When it’s done, it will be awesome. Can’t believe we have been working towards this for over a year. Finally he is close to having a bucket list item checked off. One kick butt station. Now, we just have to get all those antennas and the cables done.

Thanks to W3LPL, a master at tower climbing and assembling.

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A Watched Fritter Never Browns

Eventually I do get around to making those recipes I intended. Like fritters with the tromboncini. Thankfully they keep well in the fridge for two days after grating them.

Life gets in the way of planning sometimes. Little things, like a root canal. Three days ago I was going to make fritters but an aging crown with a problem messed up my week.

As for the fritters, they all got done today.

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The best way to make these fritters is in cast iron. It retains the heat better and you can use less oil. This time I measured nothing. I did it all by sensing the consistency I wanted. The batter?

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Made with those two large troboncini, grated. That yielded a couple of pounds of shreds. I added flour until I liked the coverage. One heaping teaspoon of baking powder. Six small eggs. Four scallions. A sweet red pepper, diced. A shallot. Salt. Pepper. Thyme.

In other words, I used what I had and what I like. These fritters puff up nicely because of the baking powder. After browning, I put them on parchment paper in a 225 degree oven to finish their centers without burning them.

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I made different sizes. Some to use as appetizers and some to use as a side dish with dinner. Most of them went into a container in layered parchment, to be frozen. All winter long I can enjoy these just by pulling out a layer or two and reheating them.

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Now, it’s off to the garden tomorrow to see if there are a few more to harvest. All that is left in my garden are herbs, tromboncini, one pepper plant, and a half dozen struggling tomato plants. This summer here with the latest lack of rain had pretty much devastated the water loving plants.

This weekend I will do a tally of what succeeded and what failed in this very weird summer. At least those tromboncini did well.

Abbondanza!

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An abundance. A very large amount. A very heavy CSA basket.

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It is obvious that this is the height of harvest for our supplying farmers. When they said eggplant, they meant two. When they said mixed cherry tomatoes, there were two boxes. When they said red cabbage, there were two of them also.

As for the rest of the stuff, we are again blessed with watermelons. For I think the fourth week in a row, twice we had yellow seedless, once a monster regular and once a smaller seeded variety. And at least a half dozen cantaloupes this summer. Even our newsletter called this the summer of the watermelons. The weather cooperated in making them large and juicy.

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Have you had the pleasure of tasting a yellow seedless melon? They are simply awesome.

As for what we are doing with this bounty. How about baked casserole?

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Layered eggplant, yellow squash, onions, red pepper, tomato and goat cheese. Covered in a light vinaigrette and oregano. Baked for an hour until absolutely delicious. Served over this.

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I heated a few naan after sprinkling with za’atar and scallions. Roasted chicken legs and boiled some corn. What a wonderful Sunday night dinner. Nothing like fresh vegetables a few days out of the ground. If you haven’t been taking advantage of the many farmers markets, you should. Or, if you are blessed with a CSA that gives you fresher than grocery store produce, you know what I mean.

Now, tomorrow, I need to make fritters from the latest tromboncini I got from my garden.

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Zucchini on steroids. The Italian heirloom is still producing in my garden.

Anything interesting growing in your garden?

Good Neighbors

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We love living out here. The people surrounding us are so friendly, helpful, and just a joy to have as neighbors and friends. After all, where can you easily put up a radio tower with loads of help, and neighbors who aren’t opposing your construction?

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Bit by bit, my husband’s radio tower is taking shape. With more than a little help from our friends (and neighbors).

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Drive over our yard to get to yours? No problem.

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Help drop 12 feet of tower into a hole? Three people show up to help.

Borrow your truck to pick up concrete? Sure.

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Dig the hole for you? Yep, did that in a past career and happy to help you.

This whole tower project had been nothing but a collaborative effort. Even down to neighbors lending hoses to get out that 400 feet from the house.

I really can’t remember that kind of help back when we lived in Columbia. Just another reason I like living in the “outback”, where friendship and sharing is the norm.

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Almost have a tower. We need another county inspection followed by the erection of all the sections. We are slowly but surely getting to the goal.

Underachievers

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That would be us. In the energy world. At least according to our latest and not so greatest report from our “Smart” meter. I have a hate-hate relationship with that meter. It only gives us bad news. Like this.

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Basically telling me to stop making home cooked meals for us.

My peak load on electricity. Dinner time. I suppose to become an overachiever we need to hop in the car nightly and head out 20-30 miles round trip to buy a dinner at a chain restaurant that would feed a family of six in a developing country.

In other words, we don’t do as well in energy consumption as 70 of our closest “neighbors”. We ranked 71st in the latest mailing, out of 100 people around us. It does NOT include any of the local McMansions. Since they heat with natural gas, they aren’t compared to us. Only the older homes that are cursed with heat pumps.

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We have two of the beasts. They work well, since we can tailor the output for bedrooms versus first floor, but still they consume beaucoup energy. Particularly when you are retired and home all day. Yes, we could crank that temp high and swelter in the house, since we no longer head off to government jobs in ice boxes that are set low to keep the computers cool.

All of those energy saving suggestions are tailored to those who leave their homes every day to go to work. Not to those of us who are here when the temps hit the high nineties.

But really. How is it more energy “efficient” to not use our stove or oven. Or to get rid of the chest freezer with all our home processed fruit and vegetables in it. Should we be buying all those quick fix meals that can be nuked or heated quickly? What about all the energy waste in the packaging and the transport?

None of that is counted for those of us who cook from scratch nightly. Who don’t do the carry out or fast food or restaurant hopping that keeps our kitchens clean and spotless. That minimizes those loads in the dishwasher. That lowers that “bump” from 5-7 pm in our energy curve.

Really. I want to believe that buying local food and making it myself is better for us. But is it? How much do we really save? Honestly, I think we are doing a better job in many ways, but it certainly isn’t reflected in the reports we get monthly.

How do we measure what our real carbon footprint is? I can’t easily answer that, but it is a good question.

Something to ponder on a Monday night.

Back To School

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Not just for the students who go back into the classroom on Monday, but for those of us who volunteer to lead field trips, we begin our fall learning series next Tuesday out in Woodstock, at Mt. Pleasant. The private nonprofit where I volunteer, Howard County Conservancy has a large and interesting series of trips that need hike leaders.

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Our schedule for fall training. Including our ever popular potluck luncheon.

We begin with the Watershed Report Card Program. Which was a huge success last year. Results are here.

Volunteering is easy. You can do as many field trips as you want. They request a minimum of three, and there are dozens of days that children are on the Conservancy grounds at Mt .Pleasant and/or Belmont. Sometimes we even head out to the schools to lead trips. This year I see we are going to practice the Stream Survey Program over at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Glenelg.

I also see a new preschool program on the calendar. I like working with the younger children. They are incredibly inquisitive and just really enjoy being out in the fields and woodlands. Particularly in the lovely weather that autumn brings to our area.

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It’s not hard to join us as a volunteer. Email volunteer@hcconservancy.org or call 410 465-8877.

Last year, over 10000 students came to the properties for trips. There are many, many opportunities to help.

See you on Tuesday or Thursday next week?

A Tale of Two Counties

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Specifically …

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… suburban Howard County.

And …

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… rural Howard County.

What prompted this post was an editorial in the Sun during the Howard County Fair. Not far off the mark, about the differences between those two worlds. Also I was intrigued that the county will be offering a Farm Academy starting in October.

The first session is out at Triadelphia Lake View Farm. Details to sign up will be on the Live Green Howard page next month.

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I wrote about them in my Farm series. They are known throughout the county due to their participation in a number of farmer’s markets and their pumpkin fields and cut your own Christmas trees.

For many people moving out of Columbia into the new developments all over the once rural west county, learning to live with combines, tractors, manure spreaders, noise from machinery and the other everyday occurrences on the farms has been enlightening to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people saying that the surrounding rural lands have unsightly buildings or fields.

We don’t all live on manicured lawns, and many outbuildings get a bit rusty. There are no covenants or HOAs out here in the older areas. Which is why many of us live here.

Learning to respect those who have farmed or who run businesses here is important. Trying to force the farmers to restrict what they do isn’t the way to peacefully coexist.

Yes, cow manure reeks. It’s a spring ritual out here to fertilize the fields. It isn’t noxious. It isn’t hazardous. It is necessary to maintain good soil for planting. Yes, we need tall strong fences to keep livestock in. Strength is more important than looks to keep horses, goats, sheep, alpacas, cattle, dairy cows and hogs where they belong.

Yes, there are naturally growing meadows that get harvested when the weather cooperates. I just close my windows and turn on the A/C if my allergies go a little crazy when my surrounding neighbors bring in the equipment to cut and bale hay.

If you ever wanted to learn more about how people live out here beyond Clarksville, check out this new initiative. And thank TLV when you see them at the markets for volunteering to be the first host.

And if you really want to know why we love it out here so much, scenes like this are way better than all the words I could write.

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