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Category Archives: Howard County

Rites of Spring

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Opening Day at Sharps Farm.

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They even have a new sign. The road wasn’t as bad as it sometimes is. There was a field trip there when I arrived. Ran into four people right off the bat that I know from gardening and farming. The greenhouse is the place to start.

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There were strawberries out front. And lots of plugs and pots inside.

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Plugs are 65 cents each, five cents less once you reach 24. Many pots as well.

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I came home with 36 plugs and a dozen pots. Mostly tomatoes. A few zucchini. Plus a new one. Mini-white cucumbers.

Many heirlooms. Like Goliath. Black Prince. Purple Cherokee. Yellow Brandywine. Sugar Lump. Box Car Willie. Pineapple.

A few standbys. Like yellow plum, plum dandy, supersweet 100s, sungold and Carolina gold.

The farm is open Tuesdays through Saturday, 9-6, and Sundays noon til 4. They also sell row cover and hoops at very good prices for those who want to protect plants from bugs or frost.

As I said, it is definitely spring when Sharps opens.

Friday Night in Old EC

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Main Street Ellicott City. Not a destination as often as we lived in Columbia. But we really need to remedy that.

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Friday we headed there to drop off a rug to be cleaned. And decided to stay for dinner. Our first visit to Pure Wine.

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It will not be our last. What a fun place to have dinner. Particularly if you can snag an outdoor table overlooking the main street below.

And whatever is above the old Earle theater.

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We also could see the new site for a second Mutiny Pirate Bar.

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This could be interesting in the future. Wine Bar and Pirate Bar. Right across the street from one another.

Everyone who knows us is aware that we love the family owned businesses. Not the chains. We are happy to report that we loved Pure Wine.

We started with rockfish tacos. One for each of us.

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Paired with a Falanghina del Taburno.

Followed by this.

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Truffle fries. OK, we could eat these all night. Perfect with the wine.

Finally, we decided to have some pinot noir with a charcuterie board. I love the fact that these small plates don’t stuff you and you can pick and those and match food to wine. They offer 2.5 ounce, and 5 ounce glasses. Some half bottles. And, of course, full bottles. Great wine list but a little sparse on local wines. Their only flaw in my world.

As for that board.

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The current selection has six meats. Six cheeses. You can pick a board of three or five. We picked wild boar salami, smoked prosciutto, and smoked duck breast, plus two cheeses. A crotonese and a chandoka.

We are planning our next visit when we pick up our rug from its cleaning. You know we like a place when we plan a return visit.

I do love old town Ellicott City.

To The River

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The annual trek. A favorite hike. Done almost every year at the Mt. Pleasant site of the Howard County Conservancy. This year’s hike is Saturday April 11th. At 10 am, the volunteers will lead groups eastward from the Conservancy parking lot, head up to the fields and then down to the river.


This picture is from one of the fall hikes. We now do the hikes only in springtime to avoid picking up wavyleaf basket grass seeds on clothing and spreading this annoying invasive plant.

We now take the hike before the trails become covered and impossible to easily navigate. Once we crest the hill behind the buildings and start through the fields, we generally stop to admire the view out towards Woodstock.

We’ll also stop to check out the second largest yellow poplar in Howard County.

Poplar, Yellow
Liriodendron tulipifera
20 feet 3 inches-circumference
98 feet-height
87 feet-spread, 362.8 points
Howard County Conservancy


Crossing a few more fields, we then move into the woods and follow the stream down to the Patapsco River. Carefully investigating around some old foundations, and looking at the signs of spring along the river. Maybe a train will pass when we are down there. The railroad that follows the Howard County side of the river here continues down through Ellicott City.

This hike is free. There will be many volunteers to keep groups of similar pace together. If you want to enjoy the change in weather and enjoy being outdoors, come join us.

Details here, on the Conservancy web site.

Love for the Gateway

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I have to admit. There was a time 40 years ago when I moved here that I would have thought an office park wasn’t fitting of praise. Back then it was GE’s Appliance Park East. My first room mate worked there in 1975 when I moved to Columbia right out of college. Now it’s Columbia Gateway.

Today, the Maryland State Highway Administration in its abbreviations calls it Col Gateway Drive, and Col is not a recognized abbreviation of Columbia, but Colonel. It has become a destination for some of us looking for decent small business restaurants.

Like Aida Bistro. Rudy’s Mediterranean Grill. Flavors of India.

With last night’s celebration of all things Gateway, it reminded me that you can find really great ethnic foods in these small businesses. We don’t need to eat at chain restaurants around here. Yes, maybe in the middle of nowhere on an interstate you are forced to endure Applebees or TGIF, but here, there are great small businesses at every turn.

Not just at the Gateway. All over Howard County. Check them out. These three restaurants are worth it. And, you can thank Colonel Gateway for reminding us about it. Check out @colgateway to see how awesome this location is. As are its inhabitants.


Totally HoCo

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Continuing my discovery of places to take friends and relatives in Howard County, I want to highlight a fairly new asset to those of us connected to the internet as a source of things to do, places to visit, and people to see.


An online calendar chock full of activities for fun, learning, arts, and so much more. For example, this week. Did you know you could meet the (in)famous COLONEL GATEWAY at a Meet and Greet this Wednesday. One of the whimsical aspects of living here. Finding those characters that bring the personality of an area to life.

You can find lots of inspiration in this calendar.

But, that’s not all you can use to find ongoing events most weekends. If you do have guests, and even if you don’t, you can count on having some unique experiences in the area.

How about a Yappy Hour? Or, maybe an outdoor movie in Old Town Ellicott City? Both are standard spring, summer and fall events at the Wine Bin.

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Yappy Hour starts this weekend. Movie schedule should be coming soon. We discovered the Wine Bin at one of the Saturday morning markets last spring. Some of the nicest people there. Also, a great selection of wines and beer.

The markets on Saturday morning are also one really great way to start the day. They open the first weekend in May. Breakfast pizza anyone? Music. Barbecue. Strolling Old Town and taking in the atmosphere.

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Other options for things to do that don’t cost an arm and a leg? Second Saturdays at Mt. Pleasant site of Howard County Conservancy and third Saturdays at the Belmont site. Free events.

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Visitors in May. If they are here the first weekend in May, you must take them to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. There is no easy way to explain how popular this festival has become. It is now huge. The largest and longest running festival of its kind in the United States.

Just keep Totally Hoco in your bookmarks to see so many options for getting out of the house without leaving Howard County.

America’s Main Street

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Second in my series of posts on where to take visitors to Howard County. This post focuses on one of the two historic roads that travel through the county. US 1, the original “Main Street” from colonial times onward in the development of the United States.

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Inspired by the book I found at my mom’s a while back. I decided to head out yesterday and document some of my favorite places, present and past, along the stretch of US 1 from Savage to Elkridge. Including Jessup, the third location located in our county. As usual, I will include some of my favorites to get breakfast, lunch or dinner, to keep my recommendations in line with my locavore tendencies.

US 1 isn’t the prettiest road in America, but for those of us born and raised here before the advent of super highways, it was certainly familiar to us for trips and for services. I lived within a few miles of Washington Blvd, in Baltimore. From a business standpoint, there were many places we frequented using that road. I even worked for a while after college in a bookkeeping and tax accounting business in Elkridge. Proximity to Baltimore and Washington. Elkridge was a convenient midpoint.

But, I am going to start with Savage. You could easily spend many hours with friends in Savage. One of the mill towns. It is home to a very significant historic landmark, the Bollman Truss Bridge.

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The bridge is adjacent to Savage Mill. Restored and now a destination. Home to a few spots I enjoy, like the Bonaparte Breads and Renata’s Tasty Bites. Renata is only there a few days a week. Her savory pastries are awesome. I discovered both these vendors at farmer’s markets. Bonaparte at the Dupont Circle market, and Renata at the Owen Brown library market.

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The Mill also has many shops to browse. Check out the Family Game store. For those inclined to work off those pastries, outside you can partake in Terrapin Adventures.

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On the river side of the mill, there are walking trails. You can walk across the Bollman Truss bridge.

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North of the Mill, Savage Park has wooded trails and is also connected to the Patuxent Branch Trail, which can be hiked all the way to Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. This is a very popular site in the summer, and parking can be a bit tricky. For us, we like to go there in the off season.

Getting back on US 1 and heading north, you pass through Jessup. Lots of wholesale food companies here. Including a newly reopened seafood market, which used to be Franks Seafood. Now, according to our friend HOWCHOW, it has become Wild Seafood, but still retains many of the former employees. Getting fresh crabs here, to serve to out of town guests, is another great thing to do.

Breakfast or lunch at the only Food Network covered “Diner, DriveIn or Dive”? Can be had at R&R Taqueria. If you have any relatives that are fans of the show, you can take them for some of the best grilled lamb tacos we have ever tasted. Or, maybe breakfast like their huevos rancheros or chilaquiles con huevo. Numerous times we stop and grab tacos to go. One of us staying with the car in the adjacent lot while hoping a legal spot by the Shell station opens up. We have been warned not to leave a car in the crowded strip mall lot. It may be towed.

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R&R is technically in Elkridge, as Rte 175 is the dividing line for Jessup/Elkridge. Yes, hard to get in to the deli sometimes. This is our second gas station favorite in the county. The other one is Town Grill in Lisbon, that I mentioned in my previous post. Don’t count out these small family owned sites. Way better than a Taco Bell taco.

Further up just before crossing the Patapsco River into Baltimore County, turn right onto Levering Avenue to head back to the Elkridge Furnace Inn. Civil War History Marker just before the parking lot.

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The Inn itself is now a fine dining establishment, where we tend to celebrate major milestones. They also have afternoons teas periodically, and are open for lunch. A good place to celebrate a special event with out of town relatives. OR, for history buffs they often have suppers with a speaker, like the upcoming 150th anniversary Lincoln dinner.

And, speaking of the Thomas Viaduct. The B&O railroad, so important in the development of this area, is highlighted again in the Patapsco State Park area reached from just across the county line by way of South St. $2 a car to enter. The Viaduct looms ahead of you as you enter, the oldest multi-arched stone railroad bridge in the world.

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There are miles of trails in the park. My favorite is the loop to the Swinging Bridge and back. Half in Baltimore County and half in Howard County. This park, when I was growing up, was the location for school picnics, for reunions, for birthday parties and much more. River Road unfortunately was never fully restored after Hurricane Agnes, but it is still a walking trail for those who love the river as much as we do.

If you’re lucky you even get to see the commuter trains on the viaduct, proof that when it’s built right, it can last for centuries.

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US 1 may be a hodgepodge of many “flavors”. It still inspires us to get out on those lesser traveled roads. I haven’t even touched on Ellicott City, or the other national road in the county — US 40. More to come this weekend.

Happy traveling!

Spring Visitors

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Just a while back, the local online papers, Columbia, Ellicott City and Elkridge Patch asked readers to recommend places to take out of town visitors to Howard County.

Want a locavore take on this? I thought of so many great places not included on their list. After all, how could you not recommend Clark’s farm? Or Larriland? Or Brighton Dam? Or Oella? Or, the other dozen I will cover in some future posts.

Let’s start with Clark’s Farm. Adjacent to Centennial Park. The walk through the Enchanted Forest Tree Maze is worth the price of admission. As well as the petting zoo, the wagon rides, the “Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe” and much more. Nora and Martha have made this place special for children, and adults who carry that sense of whimsy found in those old fairy tales.

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I did a post the day I visited the farm in April 2013. The farm is open April through October.

My second favorite springtime place to take friends is Brighton Dam. On the county line. The azalea gardens are legendary. Part of the Triadelphia Reservoir land, the 5 acre gardens are the place to go in late April and early May. The water authority, WSSC will publish a news release on their home page that documents status of the azaleas. You can picnic below the parking lot on the downstream side of the dam. The gardens have trails that work well for strollers, but a little tricky for wheelchairs. Still, this place is full of couples, families, individuals, bird watchers, photographers, and those just wanting to take a stroll on the beautiful spring days.

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It doesn’t get much better than this.

Moving on to May, strawberry picking at Larriland. A trip to this family owned farm is a real treat. Weekends there will be wagon rides, food, things for the families to do. We go out to Larriland at least six times a year. We do strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, tomatoes and apples. Sometimes more. Like flowers. Or beets. After picking fruit, we head up to the Town Grill to sit outside and eat their wonderful messy barbecued pork.

Berry picking. We love to do. Bring them home. Clean them. Freeze whole berries to add to a glass of white wine, and it feels like spring no matter when you have them.

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Finally, in this post, head over to Oella. Walk the Trolley Trail. Visit the Banneker Museum. Have lunch at BricknFire Pizza, at the Breadery.

Pick up Angus beef steaks at JW Treuth, a traditional butcher shop just down the road from the Breadery. Wander the tiny roads that lead down to the Patapsco. Just across the river from Old Town Eliicott City. Which will be the subject of my next post later this week.

Oh, and if you want cherry blossoms? Howard County has those too. Check out Blossoms of Hope events. And, we haven’t even made it to summer yet. You have lots of exploring to do.


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