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Category Archives: Howard County

A Decade of Summers

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Our tenth summer here. Time flies. The trees are much larger. The bushes growing together. It is even more private than when we arrived. Not quite as quiet, though. More development brought more traffic.

But still, summer out here is lived outdoors. Either mowing or weeding or trimming or harvesting or eating or drinking or whatever. I spend so much time outdoors. Watching the animals. The birds. The snakes. Yes, the snakes. Life in the country is always an adventure.

We also eat more meals at home. Shop closer to home. I almost titled this post, summer salad days, because we have transitioned into the summer routine of salads for lunch, and a big component of dinner.

It’s too hot some days to cook. Or, our appetites are affected by the heat.

We stopped up at the garden after dinner at Iron Bridge tonight. Tried to decide if we wanted to stand in that long line at the Woodstock snowball stand. Decided instead to come home for leftover crumble with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

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Blueberry season opens this weekend at Larriland. I never went to Larriland when we lived in Columbia. Now, it’s a couple of times a month. Peaches and blackberries after the blueberries.

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Getting ready for field day this weekend with the radio club. Hoping we don’t get storms.

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Tomorrow I need to go and vote. Thursday is Fiddlers and Fireflies, a summer staple in this part of the county, out at the Conservancy. Things don’t always slow down around here when it’s warm.

Here’s to summertime. Officially here last weekend. To lazy days with minimal fuss.

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To that perfect Caprese salad.

To Life in the Slow Lane.

#hocoblogs

Sunday Night Tidbits

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Us and Them. No, the answer is WE.

At our planning meeting for Howard County Conservancy events for 2015, we discussed the addition of the Belmont site to the Conservancy venues. Trying to remember to say “WE” instead of “US or “THEM”.

It has been interesting to observe the expansion of what my favorite non-profit organization manages and offers.

Like this event Tuesday night at Belmont.

JUN 10 – Tuesday 6pm Saving the Places We Love: Belmont, Howard County and Beyond: Come out for an evening with Ned Tillman, award winning local author of The Chesapeake Watershed. Ned will lead a 40 minute walk around the estate followed by a presentation on his latest book: Saving the Places we Love: Paths to Environmental Stewardship. Walk begins at 6 pm at The Carriage House followed by the presentation and book signing. Rain or Shine! FREE.

If you have never been to Belmont, it really is a treasure and worth a visit.

That brings me to a request of fellow countians. Please consider joining our cadre of volunteers. We now have so many cool opportunities to make a difference in a child’s or a family’s or a fellow adult countian’s life.

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I just feel as if I drop all cares from my shoulders when I drive up that driveway and enter that quiet lovely farmland.

I like leading field trips. I like heading up events. Heck, this summer I am leading geocaching, and an ESOL hike, and a food preservation class.

I don’t think they collectively fall into the same box, so to speak.

Anyway, if you can’t make Ned’s event Tuesday, you could join us on a history geocaching scavenger hunt on Saturday. I have all sorts of surprises in store for the participants.

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Saturday 10 am at our Mt Pleasant site.

Pre-register if you want to be guaranteed one of the loaner GPS units.

#hocoblogs

Strawberry Fields

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I can’t resist Larriland for strawberries.

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This year the fields are south of the main farm. The price went up. $2.75 and $2.25, up 16 cents from last year. We only picked 14 pounds this year. Well. at least so far this year. I might go out again later this month.

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Here’s to the first strawberry margarita of the season. One part Triple Sec. Two parts tequila. Six parts strawberry syrup, made using pure cane sugar to taste, and a couple of limes squeezed in. A handful of crushed ice. Blend. Enjoy with the salsa from the Ellicott City Market.

The rest of that juice.

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Poured in ice cube trays. Resting in the freezer as we speak. These cubes go into many things. Once they have frozen, I put them in a container in the freezer. Pop one in a glass of iced tea, or lemonade. Or make a sangria. Or, melt one to make a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. I am just finishing up last year’s stash.

The best berries.

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Washed, stemmed, dusted with sugar. Frozen until solid. Packed away to come out in cold months. Defrost and make your own strawberry yogurt.

And, it figures. Saturday we saw we are getting strawberries from Friends and Farms. Today, our Lancaster Farm Fresh newsletter predicts strawberries, too.

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There can never be too many strawberries.

#hocofood

Fish On …

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… the grill.

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There is something about halibut. One of my favorite fish to grill. And we can’t go to Annapolis to visit family without stopping at Annapolis Seafood for something. It was a stop for shrimp but the halibut was calling my name.

The shrimp, also bought, was used today in a shrimp curry with Thai Spices Matsaman curry, fragrant with cumin and cardamom.

The halibut, grilled last night with some Friends and Farms vegetables.

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Asparagus and red potatoes.

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All seasoned with one of my pesto concoctions, defrosted from the freezer. This one was a mixed greens pesto, made last summer. Since it is almost garlic scape season, I need to finish off the last of the pesto containers from the basement freezer.

To complete that local flavor.

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Maryland chardonnay, from Big Cork.

Here’s to many more locally inspired and small business supplied dinners. It’s grilling season, big time.

#hocofood

Inspired By

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The Ellicott City Farmers Market.

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Just a simple salad. Baugher’s strawberries. Breezy Willow arugula. Shepherd’s Manor Ewe Cream Cheese. What you can do after a quick walk up Main St. on a Saturday morning.

What would you pay for a salad of this freshness at a restaurant? Not the small amount necessary to make this one.

We bought a quart of strawberries (OK, two quarts). They were $5 a quart if you bought two. The cheese.

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$7.50 at the market. Sheep’s milk cheese. To. die. for.

Arugula. $2 for 1/4 pound. We bought half a pound because I love it.

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Breezy Willow’s organic veggies are awesome, to say the least.

We added a simple cream dressing. This was Newman’s creamy Caesar.

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You could make at least six salads with what we bought. $16.50 total in cost. We are greatly enjoying the bounty from the market.

As for dinner that night.

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I grilled those Lancaster Farm Fresh wings and served them with that rhubarb sauce.

And the wine. From the Wine Bin.

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How great to have wine right next to the market. The better to complete your meal choices.

I could get used to finding Saturday dinners at this market.

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#hocofood

Markets, Farmstands, CSAs and Cooperatives

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Somewhere along the way during the past three years, I replaced the grocery store visits with fresh, regional, seasonal foods bought in four venues.

We started with vegetables and fruit.

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Sunday mornings at Olney, or Saturdays at Glenwood.

Add to that our visits to the local farmstands and local farms, for dairy, meat, cheese, bread and other goodies. As well as the veggies and fruit.

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You can go online and find year round open farm stands. Like England Acres, Breezy Willow or Copper Penny. I have been keeping track of the locations on my Farms page, and my local resource page.

There are at least six CSAs in this area. Some of them year round. Others, eight or nine months a year.

There are buying services. One, Friends and Farms uses regional suppliers. The other, South Mountain Creamery, delivers all sorts of items beyond milk, right to your door.

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Now, I have also expanded my garden.

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Add to that the pick your own sites, like Larriland, Butlers and Baughers.

It is pretty simple around here to replace grocery stores for most of what you eat.

Over these four years we have done just that. It took a while to find sources, but it is so satisfying to have really fresh foods. And we know the people that supply us with most of our food.

I just visited the new Ellicott City Farmers Market last Saturday. This is what I love most about farmers markets. The best things to buy and use.

I came home with two really great salsas. Some romaine. Radishes. Apples. A half dozen plants for my yard. I was tempted by the pizza, but had enough at home to pass it by this time.

I will be going back for more of that salsa.

Have you replaced the stores with your local businesses? The buy local challenge in July isn’t the only time to support your local farmers, vendors and small businesses.

#hocofood

Lunch From the Garden …

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… and a few regional farms.

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In the process of making lunch, the picture above shows some of the kale and chard from this morning’s thinning of the garden. Dressed with a simple yogurt dressing. Shake yogurt and lemon infused olive oil with some garlic powder, salt and pepper.

An apple from last week’s Friends and Farms basket, served with some of that provolone that we got, too.

Homemade peach yogurt.

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To share, we used one cup of plain yogurt. One defrosted peach, from my stash in the freezer (courtesy of Larriland picking last August). A 1/2 tsp squirt of agave. That’s all. I control the sweetness when I start with plain yogurt.

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This yogurt is available at Friends and Farms. At Breezy Willow Farm store. And at England Acres in Mt. Airy. Best yogurt we have ever found. No web site, as they are an Amish farm.

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As for the rest of this bag of peaches. Destined to become peach pops. Simple to make. Blend the peaches with yogurt. To fill my popsicle molds I need about 32 ounces in the blender. If I get a little too much, the rest goes in a small plastic jar and becomes frozen yogurt. I am using whatever I have to give it the amount of sweetness I want. Currently I have agave, but I also use honey or maple syrup.

On a related note, I harvested a few more white onions today.

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Including one very large one, that was too crowded in the middle of the rows.

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And found the beginning of an onion scape on the largest one. Now, I need to head back up there and pinch off scapes to let the onions put more energy into the onions and not the shoots.

Back on the home front, though, my garlic out in the back yard hasn’t begun to produce scapes yet. They are getting really large finally, so I hope to get at least one dozen large heads of garlic in a few months.

So far, a good start to the harvest of spring vegetables. Now, if only the strawberry picking season would begin. Gorman Farm projects that they will open Saturday the 24th of May. Larriland is still posting “late” May. We are almost out of the last of the frozen berries, and can’t wait to get out in the fields and bring in this year’s berries. The freezer is getting empty now.

#hocofood

Having a Meadow

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Since we moved from Columbia to the western parts of the county. One of those things that just boggles my mind.

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Having a meadow, that is. I am a city girl. Born and raised in Baltimore. In a row house. It most certainly is different to live where I can’t see my neighbors. Where I can have coffee on my patio in my nightgown.

I am lucky, I know. But, where did it come from? My mom hates it out here. Too dark and quiet for her. She is also a city girl. Born and raised just west of downtown B’more.

Why do I love it so much? Maybe a throwback to my great grandparents who had a small farm in western Baltimore County. Who knows?

Three times around our property line is a mile. A far cry from the 1/12th acre of our townhouse in Columbia.

All in all, it is something that interests me. That sense of doing something new. Of changing my comfort zone. Of growing even after retirement.

We all need to find those areas that challenge us. That make us different than what we were when we were young.

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Me, I’ll just be happy out here in the boonies. If only those people who are running the triathlons these days would only clean up their trash.

#hocoblogs

Sure Signs of Spring

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Around here my favorite sign of spring is the blooming of two of my plants.

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The rhododendron. Every winter I try and protect them, to whatever extent I can. This year, the deer decided to chomp on one of them. The snow cover prevented them from eating on the ground, so they chewed up the bottom of one of these plants, as well as a few evergreens.

Thankfully, they did OK overall. The other two are a darker color.

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And not as quick to flower.

My second indicator is the tangerine azalea.

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Almost blooming. This year I have about a dozen blooms on this plant. Some years it flowers more than others.

In the spring, too, the hostas are incredibly pretty. They are a nice contrast to my north facing azaleas that bloom last.

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Along with the azaleas, the lace maple in full color.

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The lace maple is one of those trees. It just leaps out and captures your attention.

Springtime. When the plants renew themselves. The trees turn green and the shade returns.

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The backyard is green and shady.

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And the meadow is full of buttercups.

Spring in this part of the world is the reason we stay here. Lovely weather. Beautiful surroundings and lots to do.

Event Overload Again

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The third weekend in May. Absolutely one of the most overbooked event weekends around here.

Wine in the Woods. Both days, Saturday and Sunday.

The Preakness. Saturday is the race in Baltimore, and the Balloon Festival at Turf Valley the 15th-17th if the weather permits it.

The Columbia Triathlon is Sunday morning. Our love/hate relationship with this event depends on whether we need to get anywhere by car that morning. We live right off the bike race route.

The EC Tasting Gallery Pop Up at Bistro Blanc is Sunday night.

There is a Family Open House at Belmont Saturday morning 10-12, with guided hikes and other goodies. The Howard County Conservancy is providing environmental educational programs at the Belmont site.

We are volunteering for Big Cork at Wine in the Woods.

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Been fans of their wines since they opened the winery. Love the chardonnay, and really am looking forward to the release of their first red wines this fall. And, their new building out in Rohrersville.

As for that pop up dinner, we will be there. I can’t wait to see what the EC chefs and Chef Johnny at Bistro Blanc create in a culinary culture tour.

If I can drag myself out of bed Saturday morning to see the mass ascension at Oh-Dark=Thirty up at Turf Valley, I will be doing that too.

Belmont does interfere with Wine in the Woods. Darn. Van Wensil is leading two guided hikes which should be wonderful to do.

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Sunday morning finds us cheering on the leaders in the triathlon as they pass the Royal Farms at the circle where Dayton and Glenelg meet. We like heading up there for coffee and bagels and to watch the world class athletes as they head out, and then back, from their loop out to Triadelphia.

And, can’t forget to sit out and watch the Preakness while sipping a Black Eyed Susan. Last year they changed the recipe for the cocktail. Sounds really interesting, if you have St. Germain around the house.

What are you doing this weekend? Are you guilty of event overload, too? I’ll need a week to recover from all this entertainment.

Oh, and the azaleas at Brighton Dam are still blooming. If the rain the next two days doesn’t mess them up.

#hocoblogs

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