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Category Archives: Nature

Dreams vs Dreary

OK, after buying a ticket like millions of others, I didn’t win MegaMillions.

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It would have been nice, wouldn’t it? Maybe I could fix dreary Columbia!

If you haven’t followed the latest local drama, the “dissing” of Columbia Gateway as dreary, by a New York writer, then you have been out of the local news loop for sure.

Personally, I agree the Gateway area leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe the Columbia residents need to pressure businesses to stop calling something Columbia when it isn’t.

Me, I think I will continue to love my part of the county. Make cookies again tomorrow.

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Toll house, and then my mom’s sugar cookie recipe.

And, enjoy my tree from Greenway.

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I think I did an awesome job decorating it.

Oh, by the way, much of the area is pretty dreary in the winter. Unless you love sunrises and sunsets, which are the heart and soul of the solstice.

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Lovely, isn’t it? And, no, we didn’t win the money.

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It’s Been A Soup Sort of Week

Seems to be the norm this week to have soup for lunch or dinner. What with a second snowfall today.

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At least we got the snow thrower some hours. I think it hasn’t been used in two years. My husband had everything done in about an hour this afternoon. All told, between the two storms we had about seven inches of snow on the ground.

It even brought the red bellied woodpecker up close to the house, something she rarely does.

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While we were out there, the crockpot was on, with my latest version of cauliflower leek soup bubbling away.

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The secret to my soup? Garam masala. It makes it much more complex in flavor.

The recipe:
1 small head cauliflower, broken into pieces
4 medium leeks, sliced, white part only
2 scallions, sliced
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, parboiled first
1 pint stock (I used turkey)
1 pint almond milk
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Everything in the crockpot except for the almond milk, for six hours on high, or eight hours on low. One hour before serving, I pureed most of the mixture, leaving about 1/4 of it in its chunkier form. After pureeing it, add the almond milk for the last hour to give it the creamy texture.

Tonight we dressed it up a bit.

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I had a package of Copper Penny Farm mini chorizo in the oven on slow cook (250 degrees) for that last hour. Placed a few of them, with some of their juice, over the soup.

A mostly local meal tonight. Just the spices and the almond milk, not local. Warm, satisfying. It’s interesting how soup is one thing we love to have when the “weather outside is frightful”.

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Holiday Crafts Fair

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Another first Monday. Another program committee meeting. Where I spent this morning on last minute planning for this Saturday, and on longer term planning for our 2014 programs.

The fair at Howard County Conservancy. Have you ever been to it? For those who live in Howard County, this weekend marks the beginning of what I call holiday fair overload. There are certainly enough of them out there.

Why is the one I volunteer for so unique? It is a natural crafts fair. One where local artisans like GreenBridge Pottery from Dayton, and Breezy Willow Farm from West Friendship bring items they have crafted.

There is also a demonstration by a master gardener, on how to create greenery. And a critter craft table for the little ones to keep busy while their families shop.

Want local honey?

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Or alpaca wool clothing? Or children’s books and puppets? Or pottery? Or, much more!

The fair has no charge to attend. It takes place from 10 am until 3 pm. Come visit and browse the collections. Have a holiday cookie. Partake in some awesome hot chocolate.

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Get in the holiday spirit with us. And, don’t forget to pick up our new bookmark with the list of our 2014 programs on it.

Our creative committee came up with some amazing new programs for next year. You will be surprised and we hope you are delighted with what the volunteers are offering.

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Wazzup in West County

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Friday with lots of options of things to do coming up, as well as just the best time of year to live out here.

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My day started out leading a field trip at the Howard County Conservancy. Teaching second graders about soil (as compared to dirt). I will be back there tomorrow for the Hike to the River at 10 am. Volunteers will lead groups on a long hike down to the Patapsco River using trails at the conservancy and through Patapsco State Park. You have to admit. This is peak fall foliage week in #hocomd.

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Add to that. Thanksgiving and then Christmas will be creeping up on us. What better way to get ready for Thanksgiving than to order your turkey, your sausage and your oysters at Boarman’s. I stopped there today to put in my Thanksgiving order. A Maple Lawn turkey. Boarman’s bulk sausage for stuffing. Oysters to make an oyster stew. We like standing in the line the day before Thanksgiving and talking with all the neighbors.

Oh, and out at TLV.

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Cut your own tree. The day after Thanksgiving. Instead of Black Friday at the mall, how about a day at the farm cutting a tree.

We are fast moving from late fall to early winter out here. Loving the weather and those crisp cool days, and not so cold nights.

I do need to get the garlic planted though. Before that first hard freeze.

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One Hot Commodity

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Dry leaves and pine needles. “Who’da thunk it?”

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We certainly have enough of both of them.

When I wrote my leaf raking post a few weeks back, I didn’t expect to find out my pine needles and dry leaves were such sought after items.

Two friends asked to be included in the distribution. One, we could easily handle. The other, we may be able to work into the rotation.

Currently, we put some yard waste on our own pile of composting material, but we haven’t gotten serious about it. We have two Rake and Take partners. One permanent, the other a fill in when our first partner isn’t around.

A good friend wants dry leaves for their chicken coop enclosure. The chickens love to scratch and peck at what they can find in that treasure trove of leaves. They also have blueberry bushes. One of the types of plants that loves pine needles as mulch.

We use some of our pine needles for our azaleas and rhododendron. The Master Gardeners that take our pine needles use them for the same acid loving plants. Azaleas, berry bushes, do well with that covering of needles.

Another friend just started composting, and doesn’t have adequate “brown” material, so is also interested in leaves. We hope to have enough around later to help them out.

What does all this mean? It means with just a little effort, you too can provide material to help a friend or neighbor.

Rake and Take is here.

Don’t put your yard waste in a trash bag and let it go to “waste”. Lots of people out there would be happy to take it from you.

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Leaf Peeping Weekend

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This has been the best week when it comes to the fall colors around here. We headed out with friends for a leaf peeping trip through the back roads of VA.

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I think most of the DC area also had the same idea. On our way through Front Royal the traffic was crazy. Skyline Drive was absolutely lovely above us as we sat outside at Glen Manor Vineyards.

we also took them to Linden to have some cheese, sausage and baguette while sipping some 2009 Avenius red.

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The colors of the vines in the vineyard brought back memories of our trip years ago to Sonoma and Napa in November. Those same deep red vines.

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All in all, we had one relaxing sunny afternoon. The clouds seemed to come and go, revealing shadows, highlights and patterns across the Shenandoah mountains.

Around here, we still have lots of leaves to come down. We can see some similar sights just up the road. We really need to head out for a lunch or maybe a picnic at Black Ankle. After all, it is just up the road west of us.

Or, we can hang out on the porch. Maryland is certainly showing our colors of fall.

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Want to enjoy the colors on a leisurely hike. Come join us at the Conservancy Saturday morning to hike to the Patapsco River. More on that tomorrow.

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The Week Ahead

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Another busy week ahead. Not so much out of the area (or out of the house for that matter) but just enough to keep busy.

If you are looking for something meaningful and fun to do next weekend, consider coming out to the Conservancy for Come Get Dirty! Day
Here are some facts about it. 9 am until 1 pm on November 2nd.

– Conservancy patch for all scouts that participate
– Native plant seed giveaways
– Helps meet requirements of Soil and Water Conservation badge and Flowers and Gardens scout badges
– Come for some or all of the day
– Bring a picnic lunch and stay for the day

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I still have to complete my photographing and manipulating photos to create my husband’s QSL card. We are looking for really great fall foliage shots from the local area. Here is a sample card similar to what he wants me to design.

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I want to use the Dayton post office in his card. We have a few shots, but are looking for better light.

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I want to also get the trees in full color. We are close this week to having those conditions.

I also was considering running up to England Acres later this week to get a chicken for the crockpot. Their latest batch of fresh chickens will be ready after the 28th. They are usually open Friday through Sunday.

Add to that Halloween (we never get trick or treaters if I buy candy). I bought one bag, which guarantees no one will drive up our long dark driveway.

Plus, the last of the ripening yellow tomatoes need to be roasted and processed.

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I have ten of them sitting on the windowsill. The beets are done. The apples are done. I do have a boatload of broccoli, so I was considering breaking out the food saver and freezing some.

Who knows what our last week of the CSA will bring, on Thursday? I do hope we get a good sized cooking pumpkin as I want to make hummus.

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Sweatshirt Weather

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That’s what my husband calls it. The first frost of the season. Although it will warm up again, and today was lovely. It was cold overnight.

Today we headed out on errands, and a picture taking mission. I needed to get rid of some old pain meds at the county take back prescription drug program, at the site of our Saturday market. Unfortunately, TLV was out of eggs, but I knew if I was lucky I could get them at England Acres.

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My husband wanted farm scenery pictures to use for his postcard design that highlights living in farm country in Maryland. The “QSL” card is what is exchanged by radio amateurs to confirm contacts. He wants one that highlights farmland, so we have been taking pictures, like these.

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The fields that are part of the farm west of Mt. Airy. The farm where I love to get meat, dairy, eggs, and love to see the new animals.

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Like their guinea hens who were checking out their reflections in the hub caps of our truck. Interesting animals.

We came home to see our newly resident black squirrel checking out the bird bath. The heating element is in. Getting ready for winter.

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Finally, in the end of a busy day, I did manage to make a frittata using techniques learned from Marcella Hazan, to participate in a web based tribute, where bloggers and others cooked Marcella’s recipes and either tweeted or blogged about it.

Hashtag — #dinnerwithmarcella

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Spaghetti frittata with parm and pepper.

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Confessions of a Leaf Raker

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In response to HoCoConnect’s post this morning.

I admit. We are leaf rakers. Of course, some of it becomes compost. Some of it is given away to our Rake and Take partners, and some of it (occasionally) goes to the landfill in the pickup truck.

It is easy to say “let it stay on the lawn”. Until it gets to be 4-6 inches deep and it is killing the green stuff that grows in our yard. I hesitate to call it grass, since we have all sorts of unconventional green things growing out there. Like clover, chickweed, buttercups, dandelions, crabgrass, moss, purslane, parsley. Whatever. Oh, and corn, from what the squirrels bury.

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We do have resourceful squirrels out here. Smart, too.

Our grass isn’t fertilized, treated, cultivated, manicured. The deer love it.

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We do have to deal with it taking off in strange directions, and unless we want mud out there, we have to pick up the leaves. When you have 150+ trees on the property, some of them 50 feet high, and many of them 40+ feet high, you can drown in leaves. They smother the green stuff and make it die.

We do a mulching leaf vacuuming every week. It results in 15-20 bags each time. Our Rake and Take partners take some for their compost piles. We put some out by our shed in our compost pile.

If we didn’t have a Rake and Take partner, we would head off to Alpha Ridge and put it in the yard waste piles that will become compost to sell by the county.

Until we came here, from a town house in Columbia, we had no idea how much work a large property can be. It does keep us in shape, all that raking, leaf blowing, vacuuming, mowing, mulching, snow blowing, tree cutting, pruning, gardening, weeding.

Actually, we like what we have out here. Particularly with sunsets like this.

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One Busy Saturday

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Saturday in this part of the world can be lazy, frantic, or somewhere in between.

Today was pretty busy. Conservancy, Breezy Willow and home, cooking and cleaning. At least cleaning up the mess made when cooking.

Today we had one absolutely amazing morning (me, the presenters and 74 other visitors) where we shared snakes, turtles, worms and owls with the guests at our monthly free event.

I’m not sure what I liked most. The snakes, or the owls.

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The snake was pretty impressive, but so was the screech owl.

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After I left there, I headed up to Breezy Willow to get some things, including eggs and cheese (oh, and killer ice cream) to supplement the CSA.

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I now have a new favorite flavor. Honey Lavender.

Back home, to do some clean up after all the rain, and to make something new for dinner.

More on the food tomorrow. Today, it was all about the creatures.

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So. Who’s cuter. Ranger or the alpaca?

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