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Disaster Relief

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It’s been six weeks since the EF-1 tornado ripped through our property and took out 90% of our conifers and half our deciduous trees. Four full days of a seven man team with skid steers, chain saws, a 22 inch chipper, stump grinder and other noise making machines and we still aren’t done. One more day to go, but we have a break. We need to stabilize the soil and clean up the debris.

We found the barbed wire fencing from the 1890s farm. Our home sits on an old pasture, next to a century old farmhouse. Our neighbors live there. Our property was a pasture, horses in it for decades. The tree line is gone now and the posts and fencing were uncovered, under those annoying poison ivy vines that wound around the trees and bushes.

For a few days, the deer enjoyed the tasty leaves now in reach.

We just cope. Every day another task. Three cars into Chandler for auto body work. Next week Absolute Landscaping comes in to try and clean up clay, wood chips and the accumulated trash found under the tree line. Cutting Edge did all the tree work. They were awesome. We still have to replace the chimney cap, repair the roof, repair the deck, inspect the radio tower,and work toward the landscaping necessary to repair the groves lost.

Me, I turn to cooking comfort foods when I need to decompress. It is my favorite time for fresh vegetables. I did get some gardening done. I hope to get tomatoes soon. Meanwhile, I have made those things I love.

Loaded potato salad. With fresh green beans and baby red potatoes from our CSA. Fresh dill from my garden. Whole grain mustard.

One giant zucchini fritter. I was too lazy to make little ones. This was an adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s fritter with sweet red pepper in it.

I also turned to Ottolenghi for a new recipe. Kale, asparagus, edamame.

With a killer topping. Pepitas and sunflower seeds baked with a maple syrup glaze.

This recipe came from Simple, the latest Ottolenghi cookbook. I have all of his books on my iPad and use them often. Cooking keeps me sane while working through the recovery from the tornado.

My husband? Is back on the radio once we got all the trees off his guy wires and the small tower up and running. That’s his outlet.

We will get back to normal someday. But right now, we just are lucky being retired, we can dedicate the time to “disaster relief”.

Weathering the Storms

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The Mother Nature kind, and the personal ones.

The personal storm is winding down. A health related issue, now manageable.

Then, out of nowhere, Mother Nature kicks us when we are recovering. Maryland is not known for tornados. Hurricanes, sometimes. The rare earthquake. A derecho. But now, tornados are coming on a regular basis.

On the 30th of May, we got ours. A direct hit. EF-1. 100 mph winds. No warning. The alarm on the phone occurred exactly when the power went out and things started swirling around our car. No time to react.

I should feel lucky. We were under it but it wasn’t on the ground. The chimney cap was ripped off. We lost one roof shingle. The satellite fin on my SUV was lifted and flung across the yard. Trees started breaking and falling in every direction.

We lost over 100 trees along our property lines. Small cherries and one massive pin oak. Almost every white pine.

My favorite weeping cherry took out a corner of our deck.

We just finished day three of tree removal. I am dealing with noise from chippers, stump grinders, chain saws and heavy equipment. Eight hours straight.

And welcome to the insurance world. Finding out that tree removal isn’t covered except in very specific circumstances. Juggling repairs on three vehicles. It’s a full time job, almost.

Well, at least Bambi is happy.

She doesn’t need to reach high to get those tender tasty tree leaves.

Lessons Learned? Check out your homeowner’s insurance to see what the difference in price is, between a dollar deductible and a percentage deductible. Consider cutting down diseased trees. Replace the developers’ trash trees with better ones. Avoid white pines, Bradford pears, and river birches. They are all weak trees.

We now have lost our screens. From neighbor’s sheds to highway noise to wind screens, we lost most of our privacy and sound barrier.

The good news? Less leaves to rake. Less pine needles. More sun to reestablish my garden.

We were also lucky with a less than 24 hour power outage. But we did miss this TV picture taken from a helicopter.

Ninety percent of the trees in this picture are gone. They were toppled.

Hopefully I can get the county to help us replace the canopy. They have a program to plant trees. We can certainly use them.

Mother Nature really is a five letter word beginning in B.

Omnivore It

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It’s been a while since I highlighted my farm share contents. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative is the source of most of my produce year round. 48 out of 52 weeks we get some sort of vegetable share and a few add ons.

This winter I added an option that included one cheese, one pantry item and one package of meat every week. It is called the omnivore package. For those inclined, they also offered us a veganize option, which was bread, tofu and pantry item.

This was a recent weekly selection and I want to feature it because I am so impressed with the Soom product. Locally owned in Philly. Sisters. Our co-op contracts with them. Besides their regular tahini, this week we got the chocolate version. Which is destined for a cookie recipe I found.

Other local products have shown up as pantry items. Like this garlic pickle relish.

I have been using this everywhere. In egg salad. Making a shrimp scampi last night. Mixed with some chili sauce to cover polenta which I then baked in the oven. The Sweet Farm is located in Frederick MD.

But the biggest surprise had to be the whole turkey legs last week. I kept thinking when I saw the email announcing the three items for the week that they can’t mean multiple legs. I thought “whole” turkey legs, really? Not drumsticks?

Nope, they were whole turkey legs.

Two of them. Total of 6.85 pounds. These were broad breasted black turkeys. A hybrid breed that can reach 40 pounds in weight.

When I buy a fresh turkey from Maple Lawn Farms, I get a 12-14 pound bird. These legs were humongous. I kept them in the freezer because it looks like I will be grilling them. Together they would overflow my large roasting pan. I also think I may have to figure out how to separate them while frozen and only make one at a time. They are much too large to make soup.

Thankfully, we both favor dark meat in turkeys. But even one of these legs will feed us for days. At about 4-6 ounces a serving and discarding the bones, there are easily 6 servings here. Any and all suggestions for what to make with these behemoths are welcome.

All in all, I believe we are getting our money’s worth from the omnivore add on. We paid $26 a week for this share. The combined value of the products we received definitely exceeded the amount paid. We have gotten lamb, bison, turkey, chicken, pork and beef during the winter. We have gotten honey, tahini, sauerkraut, maple syrup, chocolate tahini, herbal teas, jam, dried mushrooms, AP flour, scone mix, pasta and that awesome garlic pickle relish. We get goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses – my favorites are the aged goat cheeses.

I am about to begin my 9th summer season with the co-op. Still happy with the quality and the quantity. They also still amaze me with the occasional completely new produce item, even after all these years.

Now, I just have to conquer those turkey legs.

 

 

Cravings

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It may be spring, literally, but for me it isn’t really here until the farmer’s markets and the Snowball Stand open, and until the fresh spring veggies arrive.

For example, the arrival of asparagus in my yard and in my garden. And on my plate.

Simple eggs and asparagus. A perfect brinner. Breakfast for dinner.

My other favorites? Ramps. A trip to Silver Spring market in April will get me a few bunches to satisfy that spring craving.

Another? Morel mushrooms. Usually found at Jenny’s Market, when she opens in May.

Then there’s garlic scapes. We grow garlic at the food bank garden and we bring home the scapes since they aren’t an item the food bank wants. They make great pesto, mixed with almonds and Parmesan cheese.

Saying farewell to root vegetables for a while and welcoming those vibrant greens. Herbs. Lettuces.

What goodies would this inspire? A few side salads.

That reminds me. Baby veggies. Micro greens. New potatoes. Scallions. All those things that we harvest while thinning the gardens.

Time to put away the stew pots and bring out the salad plates.

Springing Forward

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Not my favorite time of year. Adjusting to the time change.

I am working on so many projects and just can’t get motivated to get up when I should, as my brain keeps telling me it’s too early.

Are you like me? Wishing they would just pick a time, one or the other, and stop the switching back and forth. You know, standard time is only four months long, and the daylight saving time is now eight months of the year. Why is the standard only 33% of the year?

For us, we like to have dinner as the sun sets. We tend to be busy outdoors and come in for dinner when we have to stop working in the garden, or maintaining the property, or in my husband’s case, working on his antennas and towers.

Enough complaining. I have to admit that today has been beautiful. Temps in the mid 70s. No rain. It all missed us. I headed into Clarksville earlier to do a few errands and I could see that the businesses are taking advantage of the weather. The windows are open at Food Plenty. I bet there are a few people already out on the patios. Maybe I should fire up the grill. After I move it back where it belongs. The wind storm a couple weeks ago actually pushed it around a bit.

This may be just a short taste of the coming spring, but it is most welcome after a wet miserable winter.

I am thinking about that summer trip to Charlottesville and the view from Barboursville.

The octagonal ruins designed by Jefferson. Made me think of the tomato seedlings growing in my kitchen. All heirlooms from Monticello. Prudens purple, purple calabash and red fig. Hoping that this summer will be kind to my veggie garden, and not drown it like last summer.

What signs of spring make you happiest? Flowers. Gardens. Outdoor activities. Grilling. Dining al fresco. That’s my short list.

Fourteen Years

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Time flies when you’re having fun. This week it’s been 14 years of living here. I actually find that hard to believe. Nine of those years I have been retired.  Looking back I wonder where the time went and what did we do during those years.

I was a city girl. Now, I just can’t imagine living someplace not surrounded by nature. I don’t miss the smog, the congestion, the hurried pace, the light and the noise. I really like the peace and quiet, and the darkness. Sitting on the porch on balmy evenings watching the sun set. Getting up early and watching the animals at the feeders and the bird bath. Battling the squirrels as they try to destroy my feeders. Moving the occasional snake.

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The first time I saw the sun turn the trees to “fire” I was hooked.

We have been lucky out here. The chance to put up the radio towers for my husband’s hobby. The garden, for about eight years. Then I did have to move to the community space which keeps me involved with others in a social gardening setting. And giving me protection from the deer who tried constantly to defeat my fencing in the yard. I still put certain things in the small enclosed space in my yard, like potatoes, garlic and herbs.

I have become a homebody. Not wanting to leave for extended periods of time. Letting the passport lapse for the near term.

While decluttering, I found a box of old government papers that included many travel forms. I estimate I spent years of my career on the road. Easily five years, maybe more. I don’t miss it at all. We still take overnight or weekend trips but being cramped in an airplane isn’t my idea of a fun time. Give me a B&B in the country and good restaurants and I am happy.

The outdoors and the weather drive our activities these days. There’s garden season. And the prime time amateur radio season. Let’s not forget mowing season. We fill our days with activities and projects, and keep relatively fit taking care of things.

I also don’t think I would have gotten into cooking and baking if we lived in an urban environment. Certainly the way we eat has been influenced by the farms and family businesses in our area.

Fourteen years have flown by. We are happy we took the plunge and moved out here, and look forward to many more years in our peaceful place.

Zero Point Seven

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Degrees. Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature here in the boonies, measured just south of us in Dayton at the RIMPO weather station. This was Thursday morning at 4:52 am while we were still all bundled up and warm, sleeping.

I am so glad I don’t have to commute in this weather. At that hour, before retirement, my husband would have been leaving to catch the commuter bus.

We haven’t ventured out much and we have been taking care of the birds and squirrels that live in our pine trees. I did find out that my bird bath heater doesn’t do ZERO degrees. The water was frozen Thursday. It was OK this morning so it hasn’t bit the dust.

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This is what it should look like. It was a solid sheet of ice and I did not try to take pictures in that temperature.

It does pretty well in snow, like during Snowmageddon a few years back.

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Having fresh water is the most important service I can provide them.

Since I have been stuck at home, I have been following social media using the neighborhood pages. Many requests for plumbers, or HVAC people. I have to say that periods of bad weather are not the time to go looking for immediate help if you haven’t already established a relationship,  A plumber who knows you and your property will fit you in. Ken Griffin did a same day service call when we had a bathroom pipe freeze and break five years ago. Environmental Systems Associates has come in less than 24 hours when our heat pumps have failed. We use both of these local businesses for work when it isn’t an emergency so we aren’t looking for recommendations on line during a crisis.

Right now it is still snowing. There’s at least three inches out on the benches. This wasn’t predicted to happen. Looks like tomorrow we will be clearing the driveway and the cars. I have to go pick up my monthly meat share delivery at the Wegmans parking lot at noon. Evermore Farm has about 20 of us on their delivery route throughout the area and I am fresh out of eggs. Looking forward to the chicken too. I pick up three dozen eggs, a chicken, and 7-8 pounds of Angus beef and Berkshire pork. I could have home delivery but this gives me an excuse to shop once a month at Wegmans.

I think I will stop by Mother Natures in Snowden for bird seed. My supplies are dwindling. They are right down the road from Wegmans.  Might as well make this an efficient trip.

Stay warm everyone.