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Category Archives: Nature

Heading Back Out There

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Putting together my spring calendar, in hopes of the weather changing. As usual, the Howard County Conservancy and my volunteer work will keep me busy for the next few months.

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How?

A hike and lecture this Tuesday. For naturalists and potential new volunteers and our friends.

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A lecture on the history of Belmont. The site over in Elkridge that the Conservancy will be managing. Where there will be events and summer camp and future field trips.

Saturday the 15th, we are celebrating the lunar New Year with a free event highlighting Chinese and Korean traditions to celebrate. 10 am.

Naturalist training begins in a few weeks. Field trips in April and May. I can’t wait to get outdoors and look for emerging signs of spring.

That’s because I am so tired of winter.

Anyone else ready to get outside?DSC_0012

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Ice Isn’t Nice

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In the ongoing saga known as the winter of 2014. Now, we get ice.

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It was close to half an inch on every surface around our house. Now, as I write this, the wind is howling. I hope not to hear the CRACK, THUD we heard all day today.

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Only a fraction of the evergreen damage. Our property is surrounded by mature pines, spruce and fir trees. 20-30 year old trees. These by the driveway were many of the Christmas trees bought with the root ball and planted after the holidays by the original owners of this house.

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The tops still looked fragile, and the warming temps made us feel a little better. We have cleaned up huge amounts of branches over the nine years we have been here. It was nine years ago today that we moved our first things here and spent our first night out here.

Back then, we learned about the wind across the fields. How it blasts through these wide open spaces. How it is colder here than in Columbia. Whenever I venture into town, the temps in my car will rise 3-4 degrees sometimes.

Thankfully, my favorite tree, the lace leaf Japanese maple, is doing OK. Just don’t go near it, or the branches will crack.

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If it ever does stop raining, snowing, sleeting or freezing, we will have our hands full doing clean up.

Just another crazy winter week in the west parts of Howard County.

And, a lead in to reminding people to sign up for a very interesting program this Saturday night at the Howard County Conservancy. “Seeing Trees” — appropriate for what we are doing here. All of us “tree huggers”, and nature lovers.

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Back In The Swing of Things

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A full month of good things to do where I volunteer. At the Howard County Conservancy, there are a number of days we have events. I volunteer at a few and attend others when I can.

This Saturday Ray Bosmans is coming back with his snakes. Always a very well attended free event. At 10 am.

Next Tuesday, we begin our series of volunteer winter hikes. New friends are most welcome. Hike at 9:30. Lecture at 11. The 14th we will learn about the soil at Mt. Pleasant presented by Dean Cowherd, NRCS.

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Then, same time on the 28th, Kerry Wixted or DNR will present Exploring Maryland’s Biodiversity.

February 11th, over at the Belmont site, The History of Belmont.

For me, these continuous learning opportunities keep me engaged. Learning more and becoming a better leader of field trips.

But, my favorite upcoming event is the Storytelling Event.

JAN 19- Sunday 3-5pm Tales of Nature: An Afternoon of Professional Storytelling with Adam Booth, Diane Macklin and Marc Young. An afternoon of storytelling that will delight and enchant both children and adults. Tales of earth’s creatures and Mother Nature will be among the stories told by three different professional story tellers from three different traditions: Appalachian, American & African Griotic, and Jewish. $5/person; $15/family. Space is limited, registration required!.

The description from the web site. If you have never seen truly talented story tellers, this is a must attend event.

Wow, add to that my program committee meeting, and I will certainly be busy in the New Year.

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Frigid Weather

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The next few days are going to be tough to deal with, around these parts. Temperatures below zero degrees tomorrow night.

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We have snow on the ground and the birds are pretty active looking for food under the patio table and around the deck. We have unfortunately also had a number of hawk attacks. Lost a few small birds.

I am keeping the bird bath full. It is amazing watching them get into the basin and fluff up their feathers after dunking themselves a few times.

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We now have quite the collection of red bellied woodpeckers. There were three out there yesterday. I refilled the suet holders for them.

Tomorrow (today by the time I post this past midnight) is Little Christmas, the day I usually take down the decorations. I think that will occur later in the week when it warms up.

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The tree needs to be taken out to the landfill later also. They recycle them into mulch. As for the garland, it will become a bed around the rhododendron, where the pine needles can continue to add some acidity to the soil.

I have been heavily using the crockpot, making another batch of venison chili today. I learned a lesson though. My method of putting frozen items in the pot has resulted in a hairline crack in the ceramic insert.

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Thankfully, I do use the liners. Still, I have to buy a new insert. And stop putting the pot on high.

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I am slowly making my way through the Larriland tomatoes in the freezer. Next year I will be getting many more than this time, as they make a world of difference when used in soups and chili.

As for the next few days, I think we will find some indoor projects to tackle. Until it warms up a bit.

Stay warm, and watch out for black ice. And, think of spring.

hocofood@@@

Dinner With A View

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Sunsets out here are often spectacular, and I sometimes think I should time dinner to take advantage of them.

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That was the view from our dining room, but I was still cooking dinner, instead of sitting there enjoying the view.

It is brutally cold. Soup weather. I did make chicken soup today with the remnants of a CSA chicken.

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After roasting the chicken last night, and eating the legs and thighs, we cooked down the wings and saved the breast meat to make soup. I made a very rich stock from the bones, innards and skin and put some of it back in a pot today with carrots, celery, onions and half the soup fixings from our trip to Manheim market last month.

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A little salt and pepper, some parsley. Lots of low, slow cooking and we had one awesome chicken soup. Served with some local bread picked up at Roots today.

I put away two pint jars and another cup container of stock for the freezer. I used one of the Freedom Rangers. A small heritage chicken we get in the CSA. We have enough soup left for another lunch.

Two dinners, one lunch and chicken stock for three meals. Not a bad “Return on Investment” for the chicken.

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The First Snowfall …

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… of 2014. We had more than enough already in December. Now, we are getting another dump of snow.

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It is lovely out there, although quite cold. I like the fact that we aren’t far from the gas stations where the county and state plow drivers like to get their coffee. They do keep the roads around here fairly clean, as they stop in for food while working.

I didn’t blog yesterday. The first day in over a year. I wanted to take that internal pressure away. Since I blogged every day in 2013, I felt compelled to sit and write, even when not inspired.

I still have that urge to compose things. Write about living out here in the west county. Where some people don’t get it. Where it is quiet, and sometimes scary. Like every time our lights dimmed today. I kept thinking I need to fill the bathtubs with water, in case we lose power.

And, turn up the heat. To get it really warm. In case we lose power.

Can you tell I don’t want to be out here with no heat. At least we have a wood stove, but not much dry wood.

Plus, the grill, to cook. If you like cooking outdoors in single digit temperatures.

I did figure I could use melted snow to flush the toilets. If I had to. And, no worries about the freezer and the fridge, if it is that cold. I won’t have spoiled food.

We really do need to look into a generator. At least to power the freezer, sump pump, well pump and fridge.

I do love snow. And the Christmas decorations, all shiny and bright.

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Happy New Year from west county.

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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”.

hocofood@@@

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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