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Choosing Community Again

I really do dislike that slogan around here. The “Choose Civility” one. As if civility is all we need to show to those we encounter. Whether on the roads, in the stores, in our neighborhoods.

For us. A sense of community is what is important. A sense of neighbors helping neighbors. Of being there for each other when we need them. A civil nod, and “Have a Nice Day” doesn’t resonate.

Case in point. This past weekend, and that overachieving snow.

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For us, it couldn’t have come in a worse time. Our snow thrower bit the dust.

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Last week, during the minor snowfall (how many of these buggers are we going to get?), the cable that turns the augur, broke. On order. Slated to come in tomorrow. Enter Saturdays 10 inches of snow.

We called two neighbors. And, one of them, we called their son’s cell. Sunday morning, bright and early we get a response. The son, on the RTV helped us clear out. He had just come from the widow’s property up the road, where he plowed her driveway for her. After ours, he did another neighbor.

Later that day, his parents did get back to us. They checked their messages from their vacation in Hawaii and wanted to make sure we could get in touch with their son. Later, our other neighbor came over to tell us, in the future, when they are away, which they were, we should just go in the barn and take their snowthrower to use.

Now, that’s community. Not being civil. But caring about one another.

I do love it out here. The people make it special.

Notify Me Howard

OK, we have to do something about Howard. He keeps emailing me. SEVEN times in the last 24 hours. And, he keeps changing his mind. 6-10 inches. Followed by 4-8 inches (just a few minutes after the previous prediction). Now, he’s back to the 6-10 inch thing.

So, will he be right or wrong? Will we wake up to this?

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Notify Me Howard sends us emails. Mostly about weather and cancellations and notices. When the weather is about to go ugly, they can overdo it.

I am so tired of winter. Tired of the cold. The wind. The snow. I keep hearing Jimmy Buffett in my mind. You know, BOAT DRINKS!

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I haven’t shot any holes in our freezer. Well, because we haven’t got any guns in the house, and the freezer is safely in the basement.

Time to go make something good to sip while waiting for the snow to really arrive. Can you tell it’s frustrating around here?

One Wild Weekend

Never a dull moment around here. Even when we do stay home.

Valentine’s Day is a day I cook a special dinner paired with an old wine. We don’t fight the crowds in restaurants. And, since the weather was awful, we had our romantic feast without the worry of trying to drive home in the snow and ice.

All that running around Wednesday for the CSA and Friends and Farms, and Thursday for the lamb and shrimp in Mt. Airy meant I could cook at leisure, and savor our dinner.

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Who knew things would get real exciting a few hours later. Looking out the window of the dining room from the kitchen I see a line of flashing red lights at the end of our driveway. What is going on? I call down to my husband who is on the radio looking for a rare contact, and head out into the wind.

What do I find? A car in the driveway. That, I see, is OK, as they are assisting a friend in emptying their car before a tow truck arrives. The paramedics are putting people in the ambulance, from the other car, the one we couldn’t see, as it was dangling over the embankment held up by trees and our mailboxes. Well, what used to be our mailboxes. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt but my other neighbors spent this morning trying to find mail all over the fields across from us. We, being home all day, had retrieved our mail before our mailbox went bye bye.

Sheared off at the base. In freezing weather. Now, we are searching for someone who can put a new one into the frozen hillside. Until then, mail will be forwarded to our PO box, which my husband uses for radio contact cards.

Adding to all the other excitement, we were awakened at 3 am by what sounded like banshees howling. 60+ knot wind gusts. For a very very long time. Sleep? Who could sleep through this? At least the hexbeam held up on the tower. Another milestone for the tower. Surviving winds of that speed.

This morning. I was lucky. The bird feeders survived. But, the bird bath was empty. All the water blew out. I had to go out, fill it up and spread seed for the very cold birds out there. This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, and today, I counted a gazillion juncos out there. Really. I couldn’t count them all. The ground was covered in them.

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Along with the cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, starlings, woodpeckers, robins, finches and crows, I think I got a good count as everyone hit the seed and the water.

I am so tired of winter. Spring needs to get here soon.

Nearly Impossible?

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Local Produce? In the winter? Around here?

A few years ago I may have made that statement myself. Now, I know better. There was a long discussion on one of our local facebook pages, Clarksville Happenings. About rotten produce (and meat) at our community grocery store. Lamenting the apparent lack of quality control, and attention, from the big chain.

Lots of discussion about using Roots, Wegmans, Boarmans and Harris Teeter as alternatives to getting less than stellar fresh foods.

One comment struck me. A good thought. Using mostly local foods instead of those flown in from far away. Eating locally and sustainably. But, the caveat. That it was nearly impossible to find local produce in the winter in the Northeast.

Dark Days Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Dark Days Homemade Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Before I took the Dark Days Challenge in 2012, I didn’t know what was available locally. I signed up for a winter CSA. Lots of root vegetables and a few flash frozen fill ins. I found DuPont Circle, Silver Spring and Tacoma Park year round markets. You could make that once a week challenge meal using those sources.

Now, there are many more options for fresher better foods. I get 90% of my food from Friends and Farms (which sources regionally) and Lancaster Farm Fresh (which delivers a CSA to Columbia while dropping off wholesale foods to MOM’s, Roots, David’s and Friends and Farms).

A December CSA Delivery

A December CSA Delivery

All my meat and seafood except for specialty items I get at Boarman’s. Dairy. Bread. Produce. Pantry items. Every week. Fresh from the greenhouses or high tunnels.

It means eating seasonally. There aren’t many choices for fruit. There are quite a number of flash frozen items to fill in the gaps. Still, I can eat most of my meals without going to a store. For those who are ready to use local produce, check out my local resources page. Besides my two current suppliers, there’s Breezy Willow Early Bird starting next month.

My carbon footprint is smaller too. Even if it includes citrus from Florida. Which is awesome by the way. Something about grapefruit in a salad that makes cold weather recede into the background.

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Well, time to check on dinner. In the oven on slow cook. The tri tip roast from F&F. Fingerlings from LFFC. Carrots and onions. A mushroom gravy I made from two weeks worth of mushrooms. That soup I made the other night. I thickened the leftovers and made the gravy for the roast. It smells wonderful up in the kitchen.

Local meals. In February. Not impossible at all.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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On a Tuesday afternoon. About that snow?

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We did get the 3+ inches predicted for our area. Even though I know the southeastern portion of the county didn’t get much at all. Maybe we need to divide the county in half in order to have two school districts. Then, those unhappy about the schools being closed because of us could not miss another day. I have to wonder though. What do they do at the end of a school year if one half the county doesn’t meet the minimum number of days? Interesting.

We got enough snow for our neighbor’s little ones to build a snowman. We even used the snowblower on the driveway today. So, the storm wasn’t a bust out here. That extra couple of hundred feet in elevation from here compared to the southeastern county makes a difference in temperature and snowfall.

In other news. They postponed the volunteer fair at the Howard County Conservancy until February 3rd. Same time. Same players. If you have the time, and want to hear more about volunteering, come join us. They need office support, event support, field trip leaders, animal feeders and more.

Finally, one more picture from this morning. I have learned how to keep the birds happy without having to go too far into the yard. I also learned to use mess free bird feed on the patio. No hulls or shells.

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The red bellied woodpecker even came up closer than normal.

Storm Hype

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It never fails. They predict snowmageddon. We get nothing. They miss it completely and call for insignificant snow. We get blasted.

Who knows what Monday and Tuesday will bring. Will our volunteer day at the Conservancy get canceled? I hope not. I was looking forward to REI’s presentation, and to that free breakfast. The Conservancy is looking to add volunteers. You know, for when we aren’t :rolleyes: snowed in.

Just in case though. We are prepared. Snow blower ready.

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Comforting food made this weekend, like this split pea soup, so we can easily heat food while trying to deal with the weather.

It was 2010 when we got slammed. Twice in one week. Right before I retired. Open your door to this.

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Try to find the grill in case the power goes out.

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It is under there somewhere. I swear.

We won’t be getting this kind of snow tomorrow or Tuesday. I wonder if New York and New England will. No matter what. I hope they have staples to eat while they deal with snow.

Now, what was this nonsense about Thursday night?

Meesy Micey

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A fact of life out here in the rural communities. Field mice. This year I thought we had thwarted them. We did make it much farther into the winter before they struck.

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A brand new bag of tortilla chips. Of course, we had become complacent. Forgetting to put everything in jars of canisters in the pantry. We thought that our two resident hawks, and the neighbor’s outdoor kitty, who pops through daily to check out the bird feeders and anything else that looks interesting would take care of it.

The cooper’s hawk hunts daily in the meadow. For long stretches. On the tree. On the ground. On the tree. On the ground. I can empty the dishwasher and watch him hunt. He isn’t interested in our birds.

But, one little field mouse (hopefully just one) managed to infiltrate this past weekend. We found the evidence Tuesday. Besides the tortillas, they got into a brand new bag of rice flour I bought for a cookie recipe I found.

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This was on the second to top shelf in the pantry.

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At least the brown sugar is still intact.

We haven’t trapped him yet. He eats the peanut butter right off the trap. Three times now.

Ten years ago on my first evening coming into the house. Right after settlement. I saw my first field mouse who had squeezed up through the opening where the water line feeds the refrigerator. The laundry room and the dishwasher connections, and sometimes the downdraft vent opening under the stove. All have to be protected. We have stuffed steel wool. We have plugged holes in the crawl space. They still manage to squeeze in. At least this year we made it two months farther into winter than in the past.

I will win this battle. It may take a few more days.

Just another fun week in the country. Oh yeah, it’s going to snow and sleet again twice this weekend. I am so ready for spring to get here. How many more weeks to go?

Plus, somebody has to start doing a better job around here. They show up nicely against a snow covered landscape.

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Yes, you. Mister sharp shinned hawk. Keep those mice out of my house.

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