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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Finally! The Hillbillies Are Doing Something!

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Well, that got your attention. I am talking tomatoes, though. My heirloom hillbilly tomatoes. Part of the slackers in the garden. They finally started to produce.

Two of the four plants now have tomatoes on them. The only hold outs now are the pineapple and two of the three great whites. That makes six plants out of thirty two that have blossoms but no tomatoes. Every year a few of them blossom but don’t produce.

The hillbillies are a new heirloom for me. I saw them for the first time last year at the County Fair. They won, in the heirloom category. According to one of the judges, they are citrusy and full of flavor. We shall see. Not pretty, but supposedly very good.

I put in many varieties this year to see what does best in my garden. So far, the orange blossom and the chocolate stripes are putting out the highest amount of tomatoes. I may enter the chocolate stripes depending on their taste. I am also very encouraged by the amount of Amish paste tomatoes that are growing on those four plants.

I hope this is a good year for tomatoes. It certainly is a good year for my gladiolus. There are at least a dozen stems out there in my cluster of plants. I get new cuttings daily.

Are you growing anything for the Howard County Fair? I am entering tomatoes, herbs, and photographs. I don’t think the cukes will last long enough, and don’t know if the celosia will hang in there long enough either. They are pretty though.


It’s CSA Thursday, and It is Out of Control

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I should know that eating out more than staying home messes up the CSA share. Way too many veggies to eat when you aren’t having dinner at home.

Field Day weekend and a couple of dinner dates with friends put us deep in the hole for clearing out the fridge. Then, we get the notice from Sandy Spring that there will be 12 items this week. We haven’t finished six from last week.

I may have to get a wider angle lens to fit it all in the picture. Here is the list. I was all “kaled” out, so I swapped it for some extra pickling cucumbers. I know I can use them. I haven’t used last week’s kale.

The swap box is a wonderful thing. You may swap one item that you don’t want. There are two boxes at our pick up site, since there are 45 of us.

So, what have I done and what am I planning with all these veggies? I made rhubar-b-que sauce last week, which I haven’t used yet. Got the idea from our link up party of CSA members. They made pizza with it. The sauce is awesome.

Today I made pesto from the basil. I also roasted all the beets, this weeks and last weeks.

Two of the beets ended up in tonight’s dinner, along with last week’s Yukon gold potatoes, some greens, a pear and some Marcona almonds in the salad. This meal did not need meat to make it complete. It was pretty satisfying with just the veggies.

I drizzled some butter over the potatoes. We also had four ears of corn from a local farm stand. The wine. A Pearmund Petit Manseng.

Tomorrow I will be making some cole slaw with the cabbage and carrots. Maybe another frittata this weekend with all those lovely greens.

Analysis, all comparing to organic veggies: Cabbage $3. 12 Pickling cukes $6. 3 pounds red potatoes $4.50. 1 Pound young chard $5. Heirloom carrots $3. Heirloom beets, $3. Boatload of basil $3. Two large cukes, $3. Pak Choy $3.50. Radicchio $3. Five large zucchini $3.75. This week: $40.75. Cost $29.75. Excess is 11.00. Added to cumulative savings makes it $63.90 more than I spent to purchase CSA share. Seventeen weeks to go.

Check out this week’s link party to see what people from all over are doing with their CSA shares. In Her Chucks has created an amazing link up party that highlights what is in all our CSA boxes, plus what great recipes we have to use all this great stuff. My link will be there in a few minutes.

Lots of great CSA’s here in our part of the world.


Global Warming

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It has to be. Why else would I have ripe tomatoes in June? Earlier than I ever have harvested tomatoes? Last year I had yellow pear tomatoes on 1 July. This year, yellow plum harvested this morning. Here is the picture from yesterday morning.

Besides these, I have sweet olive tomatoes about ready. Maybe Thursday or Friday for the first of these.

This morning I went out to look for cucumbers. I had used many of them for salads, pickles and tzatziki for Field Day. I knew there were a few more lurking under the leaves. I was checking on the tomatoes and one of them fell off the vine, so I decided to take them to make breakfast.

I also pulled the last of the spring garlic in hopes of making some pesto. And pulled a few pole beans off. The take.

Breakfast came together easily. Some of those luscious eggs from my friend’s hens. Scapes from my spring garlic and my little tomatoes.

Added what I thought was the last of the foraged wild asparagus, but I found two more today. Trickling Springs butter. Some CSA yellow chard and Boarman’s bacon went in the pan also.

Let everything mix together and add some heels of bread to sop up all that good butter.

Yes, I broke one yolk. Remember ugly food tastes better. I just adjusted what I did.

Here’s to many more local meals from my garden, my friends, and the local farmers of Howard County. Any other tomatoes out there being harvested?


W3AO, It’s All About Logistics

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After sleeping almost twelve hours, we sort of feel like human beings again. One of the most important aspects of planning and executing an event of the size of Field Day is this. You can always improve your performance with advance planning and, when operating almost non-stop for 50-60 hours, you need to pace yourself and not overheat, dehydrate or work when you are exhausted.

There were many new helpers and many more people at Field Day this year. Lots of younger people, thankfully, for us old folks 😉 to help us out. And many interested dedicated workers who help make this event a huge success.

I already posted once the team picture just before the start of the event. There were at least 10 people not there, who were out in the field making last minute set up adjustments.

These did not include a large number of people who came Friday to set up, and who returned Sunday to tear down. Set up and tear down teams help relieve the operators who were there almost round the clock starting Friday.

Advance prep like having the more than 2 miles of coax ready to go, already designated for where in the field each roll is placed. At tear down, they are rolled back up meticulously and marked so that the following year there is no delay to figure out where they are placed.

AB-577’s otherwise known as rocket launchers, are pre-loaded for quick slide off at marked sites. Everything is ready to bring into the site with no loss of time for sorting or handling. This year, the club had volunteer help in sorting, repairing, lubricating and repacking all twenty-two kit bags that contain the guy wires, couplers, rings, cranks, stakes and nails that were dropped behind the launchers, presorted and ready to install.


In Process

Tower, gear and antenna arrive in sequence and are ready to assemble by roving tower teams.

We have an amazing member who brings all the generators and keeps us powered up for the 48 hours. Three generators. We even had the Chief of Howard County Emergency Management checking them out in detail Sunday while he was visiting the site. Sunday I ended up so busy cooking, I forgot to take enough pics of the event and tear down. But, without reliable power, this event could not take place.

IT support is also important. Networked computers. Coordination. Again, dedicated club members keep all this organized and use a system to track what gets down where and how.

And, all good armies march on their stomachs, right? My contribution to Field Day (surprised?) is assistance to the food tent, ably executed by the wife of one of the club members who organizes the event. I have been assisting now three years. Every year we get more efficient and make constant adjustments in keeping 50-75 people fed and hopefully, very happy. Enough of them say we do, so I think we succeed.

Friday Night Pizza while still setting up

Saturday Lunch

Saturday while last minute preparations go on, we set out a cold cut, sloppy joe, salad, veggies/chips and dip, luncheon bar for people to grab and go, or take a break before the two o’clock start. It is nice to have good generators to power the crock pot. And, to allow us to hook up a Keurig in the evening for all night long fresh brewed coffee.

Saturday during the most active ops time, we bring in Mexican food. Easy to grab and eat, soft tacos, beans and rice, brownies, grapes, strawberries, all minimally interfere with calling CQ. We even deliver to the operators at their stations if they are holding a frequency and don’t want to lose momentum by taking a break.

Sunday breakfast has become simpler, since I cook it at home and drive it up the road a mile to the site. The site is near the top of one of the higher points in Howard County. We live near there (so do lots of other club members since HAAT is important). It means many things can be transported to the site easily, and for me as cook, it means they get hot bacon and eggs on Sunday morning after operating all night. I cook four pounds of bacon Saturday night, and 4 1/2 dozen scrambled eggs Sunday morning.

Get it all there 10 minutes before the 8AM breakfast call. Coffee is perked. Toasters are ready. Love having enough generator power for fresh toast. We were so busy serving, I forgot again to take pics.

Lunch is grilled burgers, hot dogs, smoked chicken, salads, toppings, all the leftovers as well.

After 2PM, it’s off to tear it all down and put it away for next year. No pics of that either as we were all busy.

A few random pics of the fun times.

Jim, far left, happy after blowing the air horn for 1800 UTC start of Field Day

My OM taking a two hour nap before tear down. Behind him the trailer for the towers, and the camper that is parked right in the middle of it all on Friday night to provide security before everyone arrives Saturday morning to complete set up.

Some of the youngest GOTA operators enjoying themselves Sunday morning.

Another good year. Lots of memories. Tired but happy people from all around this area. Who says there’s nothing to do in Howard County? Anyone interested in joining the fun, check out the Columbia Amateur Radio Association for local club events, county event support, emergency service support and other interests. Potomac Valley Radio Club, more widespread than just Columbia but with lots of local members, does lots of contesting and has social events in the area.

73 de PVRC and CARA


Whiskey Three Atlantic Ocean

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The start of Field Day approaches. This is the second of three reports about how PVRC and CARA put together a large auxiliary communications set up and operate for 24 hours. W3AO is the call sign. Using our adaptation from the NATO phonetic alphabet, which would be Whiskey Three Alpha Oscar.

For those CW cognizant, we are:
Dit Dah Dah
Dit Dit Dit Dah Dah
Dit Dah
Dah Dah Dah

Let’s start with the team picture. Just before starting out. A few missing as we were still setting up minutes before the start.

Last minute set up still going on at the VHF tent.

We know we are ready when Maurice gets the flags raised at the VHF site.

The Calm Before the Storm. I even got LPL to smile. 🙂

And, they’re off. More later after we finish today and clean up.

Come out and visit. We love having the community there, and you can operate the GOTA station. Get On The Air. You can’t miss us. Look for all the antennae in the fields. Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School. Triadelphia Rd. off Rte. 32.

73 de W3AO.


CQ Field Day, CQ Field Day

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Sometimes I think this phrase is imprinted in my brain for weeks after we finish our annual foray into supporting a traditional and interesting tradition among amateur radio operators.

Field Day. A twenty four hour period where amateur radio clubs and individuals across the USA and Canada practice their communication skills using auxiliary power. It is meant to keep them capable to support natural disasters, loss of communications or power, or assist emergency officials in the event of a large scale incident that requires support of communications.

We have one of the largest and most innovative collaborations here in Howard County.The T shirt from 2010 shows 11 years of making the most contacts in our class. This year’s shirt is simple. Front and back alike with no scores. But, we are now at 13 years running of working the most stations and last year set a new record for number of contacts. This is pretty much a Type A personality group. Striving for better performance year after year.

The shirts include the phrase “48 hours” which means 24 hour set up and 24 hour operations. A few shots of set up are included here. I will have more when we finish tomorrow. I just fried four pounds of bacon and need to get up at 0 Dark Hundred to scramble 4 dozen eggs to take breakfast up there. They are set up a mile up from the road from us. Lucky me. I get to avoid the spot a pot.

This is Columbia’s club testing out our satellite communication capability to see if everything works.

This shot I like particularly because it shows how much fun the younger family members of current operators are having while learning to put up temporary towers. He was not the only young person we had out there Friday.

Yes, we are crazy. We put up eleven of these using old military surplus crank up towers. Here are a few. we had other wires and crank ups as well. We operate as 27A, which means 27 simultaneous transmitters using generators.

The clubs are operating until 2PM Sunday. Come out and check it out. Anyone can Get On The Air (GOTA) at our station designed to get inactive licensed operators on the air, and to introduce unlicensed operators to the hobby. We are at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School on Triadelphia Rd. just off of Rte. 32.


The CSA Box, Week Seven. Get It Before It Wilts

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Boy, it’s hot. Getting that CSA box early is a smart thing. The Lancaster Farm Fresh refrigerated truck was there when we arrived a few minutes before 1 PM. Lots of people arriving right after we did. Don’t want those veggies to wilt, do we?

The haul. It keeps getting harder to take the picture. I am glad I have lots of counter space to clean and prep it all. It takes about 20 minutes to process all of it.

I did one swap. Dandelion greens to get another bag of pickling cukes. The list.

The analysis. Based on organic pricing. Green Kale $3. Yellow Chard $3. Pickling cukes, eleven of them at 2/$1 is $5.50. Heirloom carrots (priceless 😉 ) where else do you find this sort of carrot — $3. Onions $3. Fennel $3.50. Zucchini $3. Two slicing cukes $2. A pound of rhubarb $3. Large green cabbage $3. Total is $32. $3.25 more than the weekly cost of the CSA. Running cumulative total is $51.90, with eighteen weeks to go and so much goodness coming into the house.

As for all these cukes, I am busy doing easy refrigerator and crock dill pickles. Check out the crock at the moment after I added new cukes to the mix. This is what my mom and my husband’s mom always did. Keep a crock of pickles “dilling” in a cool place in the kitchen.

You can see differences in the older pickles and the new brighter green ones, as well as some of those white cucumbers from last week’s CSA. I bought a food grade white bucket, sterilized it in the dishwasher and for these, used a prepared dilling mix that my husband wanted me to try. He thought my original pickling spice mix wasn’t like his mom’s, so we tried this one. It is OK, but I will be experimenting with fresh spices I grind myself to change it a bit. This is Mrs. Wages, bought at Butler’s Orchard in their canning section.

I just use a 2:1 water/vinegar mix and use the appropriate amount of spice, boil it quickly, cool it and cover the cucumbers. Put a plate on top and a clean dish towel and leave it alone in a corner. There is also a bowl full of sauerkraut fermenting next to it from the cabbage two weeks ago. It is coming along nicely and I will probably grill kielbasa and serve it over some sauerkraut next week. Another staple from my mom’s and my grandmom’s German influenced kitchens.

The sauerkraut is really easy. Cut up cabbage. Pack it into container layering it with salt and caraway. Get enough water in it to cover it. Add salted water if needed. Put a plate on it. Weight it down. Let it ferment its little self silly.

OK, all this talk of food has made me hungry. Time to go up and find my crock pot soup made with greens and bacon, using up all of last week’s leftover CSA greens. Veggie stock from the freezer. Greens, beans, bacon and onions. Herbs, salt and pepper. Two or three dinners. We may look like we are drowning in veggies but we do make a huge dent in them every week. Check out our What’s In The Box linkytools party to see how dozens of us are using our CSA deliveries. Bon Appetit!


The State of the Garden

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Other than slightly wilted. I have been good about watering it. The heat index today will make it difficult to keep the container plants hydrated, but I will get out there and keep them from scorching. I love the celosia that is blooming on the steps and I wouldn’t want to lose them.

I hope the heat doesn’t mess up the cucumbers. There are lots of little ones on the vines and one monster that was hiding under the fence. I usually like the pickling cucumbers smaller than this, but I think a few large dill pickles can be handled.

The tomatoes are coming along nicely. One large Amish paste, and lots of little ones on all four plants. I was worried about them at first because they seem to wilt more, but they are hanging in there.

Both orange blossom tomato plants have tomatoes now. The biggest ones are hidden deep down in the midst of the shady leaves.

The pole beans are over the top of the fence and climbing the extensions and even attaching themselves to fence posts.

With three or four slicing cucumbers ready to pick today and two coming in the CSA box, I think I will be making cucumber salad for the weekend. Hard to believe a few weeks ago the garden was just starting out, and now it is full of large healthy tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans.

Time to go mist the plants with a water bottle containing a little dish soap since I found a few aphids on one of the tomato plants. Can’t have them spreading. Have a good Thursday, and stay cool.


The Wegmans Effect, Part Two

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The past two posts focused on my initial visit to the new store, and what it was like to get there and back. A while ago, I wrote about what I thought might happen in the area once the store opened. I thought it might affect Costco or BJs, in addition to the chain grocery stores here in Howard County.

Since I only used Wegmans in the past for hard to find items, or specialty fish and meat, I never wandered their organic aisles, or their grocery and bulk sections. Now I have, twice. We went back this morning to pick up some items for my husband’s upcoming field day. Items for hydration. He also wanted to see the new store, and as retirees we can wander in at 10am when parking is relatively easy.

This is what we went to get. Bananas and oranges and vitamin water with potassium. Field Day set up in 90+ degree heat this Friday will be tough on the guys doing it. Hydration is important so we stocked up on supplies. I also found they got distilled vinegar in last night to fill the empty shelves I found yesterday. For pickling, I go through lots of this stuff and the price here was really good.

Of course, as usual, I got way more than what I needed as items tempted. Just what you expect when you go shopping.

Organic lemons and limes. Key limes. Meyer lemons. I always buy organic citrus so I can use the zest without worrying about what may have been sprayed on them. A couple of the key limes will be used for tongiht’s rockfish on the grill.

The Meyer Lemons! With my basil and some Aranciata and vodka, it will be Meyer Lemon Basil Fizzes on the patio while the fish cooks!

With all the organic foods there, I wonder how it will affect Roots, MOM’s and David’s. I found their prices to be better than Roots for organic dairy items. This will be an interesting evolution.

And, like Tale of Two Cities found out, take out dinner from there can be very reasonable, so how will this affect the takeout places near there?

We got in and got checked out very quickly today. And, stupid me. I forgot to give the cashier the two coupons to get the eggs and bread free. I bought them to use towards the field day egg and toast breakfast we make for the radio operators who work all night Saturday making contacts. No problem. As I started out, I remembered, turned around and headed for customer service where a roving employee took my coupons, walked behind the counter and gave me $3.48 in cash for my coupons. Didn’t even ask to see my Shoppers card. No hassle and great customer service.

Giant and Safeway will be affected by them definitely. Who else? Only time will tell. They also were giving out cups of iced water at the entrance for hydration. A map of the store. Free Menu magazine with $10 more in coupons good until September. The magazine had great recipes in it, like for grilled pizzas.

I actually watched one couple wandering the store with the magazine looking for items to make one of the recipes. Very slick marketing. The pizzas looked great.

Yesterday I picked up a loaf of their miche bread.

Their specialty breads will be giving the local bakers competition, that’s for sure.

I have to admit, I am seeing my habits change to use them instead of Giant or Safeway for the things I don’t get from the farmer’s markets, local farmers and dairies, my CSA and some bulk items. I used to drive to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods occasionally. I believe for me that will stop, as Wegmans becomes my substitute.

Now, if I can just figure out where everything is located.


Getting All “Dilled” Up at Wegmans

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As I said in my earlier post, I went to Wegmans for dill and got scallops.

The scallops are marinating in lemon olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. I bought the dill to use in my tzatziki and to add to my pickles.

The dinner tonight was exceptional, with the scallops the star.

They were grilled after the marinating, and served with my beans, farmers market asparagus, CSA carrots and English peas from Butler’s.

I made dill butter. It went over the steamed veggies and the grilled asparagus.

I also made the tzatziki to use tomorrow. Made with lemon juice, my cukes, spring garlic, my mint and Wegmans dill, and Wegmans Greek yogurt. I decided not to add the onion, and used only the tops of the garlic. The rest will be used later.

The dinner also included a local wine from Glen Manor, to complement the scallops. Citrusy, light and perfect for scallops.

And, since the dill butter was so delicious, we grabbed some Wegmans bread to sop it up.

OK, I could do carryout, or run to restaurants but this meal was incredible at a fraction of the price of dining out.