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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Friday Morning Garden Report

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The tomatoes have finally arrived for real. That is, the big ones, and not just the cherry, grape and plum tomatoes. I harvested the first orange blossom and Amish paste tomatoes the past two days.

Now, I just need those chocolate stripes, or the legend, or great white to ripen, to see what will be submitted to the Fair in three weeks. These tomatoes need to move into high gear. I know they shut down and go into survival mode during excessive heat, which is what they did for those 90-100 degree days we had. After a quick start, they are moving along at a snail’s pace. I did get the first of the red fig tomatoes, a very interesting heirloom I bought from the Howard County Master Gardeners on Earth Day this spring.

The rest of the little tomatoes continue to put out new growth and are giving me a few a day. I got the first green grape tomato today, in the middle of the sweet olive, yellow plum, yellow pear and red figs in the bowl, there is a lone green grape, just about ripe. I pick these just a bit early to minimize pest damage, like stink bugs do.

They will ripen on the windowsill. As for other garden goodies, the stealth cucumbers are still out there. This one was hidden down in a crevice behind all the tomato plants. The vine had climbed over the bunny fence and dropped down into the fence post corner, where it hid until it reached mega size for a pickling cucumber.

We are actually attempting to make this monster into a dill pickle, which should be interesting.

On the flower front, the gladiolus plants are winding down, but hanging in there. The first marigolds have bloomed, and this one was saved after the bunnies chomped it off its stem.

Herbs are doing well in spite of the heat. Hope we get a little more rain to get the gardens around here in better shape again. I know there are water restrictions due to the water main break repairs. That doesn’t bode well for gardens in intense heat. Being on a well with a high water table right now, I am thankful to be able to water the herbs in the pots and keep them going.


Summer CSA Week Ten, The Greens are Gone!

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Yes, we seem to have survived greens season, and even though our email said FIVE MORE zucchini, thankfully, they lied.

There was only one.

What did we get? The list is below. I swapped cilantro for what looks like white wonder cucumbers, ten of them to use in salads and to pickle.

1 Bag Rattlesnake Beans–
1 Bag Green Beans–
1 Bag Jalapeno Peppers–
1 Green Zucchini–
1 Bag Purple Viking Potatoes–
1 Bag Fennel Bulbs –
1 Bag White Garlic–
3 Slicing Cucumbers –
1 Bunch Thumbelina French Heirloom Carrots–
1 Bunch Red Radishes–
1 Bunch Cilantro –
5 Ears Sweet Corn –

We also got our first five ears of corn for the year. One big one, and four smaller ears, that will be grilled tomorrow night. The rattlesnake beans are new to me, as are purple viking potatoes. The carrots are getting bigger, too.

This week I know with twelve items we will be far ahead again on value. I really need to hit the market tomorrow before deciding what the savings are, as some of these items are new.

As for what I did to use up most of last week’s haul, I made Use Up the CSA Stew the other night, and also made couscous salad, and a potato salad. The salads are going with me to the Conservancy tonight.

There are potatoes, onions, carrots, kale, chard, beet greens, carrot tops, garlic and a couple of farmer’s market tomatoes in the pot. A little chicken stock for liquid. Herbs from my garden. Topped it off with some Boarman’s short ribs. Let it cook for eight hours. It ended up looking like this.

The short ribs fell off the bone. No need for a knife. Served with an Allegro Merlot.


Tonight We Fiddle, Saturday We Farm, Later We Look for Fairy Houses

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My volunteering schedule is pretty full this week. We held a planning meeting Wednesday for upcoming events at the Conservancy, and this is the busy part of the summer.

Fiddlers and Fireflies, a picnic with music and crafts, is tonight starting at 6 PM. It costs $10/car, and the music is great. Bring a blanket, chairs and a picnic dinner. The event is held in the lower front yard, where the sisters had their garden.

This Saturday, the 14th, there will be one of the monthly Wonder Walks, that focuses on living and farming on the 230+ acre property. We will be leading groups down and around the buildings and talking about what it was like to live here from the early 1800s until the time that the sisters gave the property to the Conservancy.

Naturalists will be leading groups. The event starts at 10 am, and is no cost. I will be leading a group and we will be visiting the out buildings, the barns, the gardens, and take a walk down to the grasslands to see how the farmers used their land to the best advantage to grow crops and keep their farm animals.

A little farther out this month there will be another special event. Looking for Fairy Houses in the forest. It is on the 28th of July. Another free Wonder Walk that is geared towards the little ones, ages 4-10.

It looks like there’s lots to do around here, and I am certainly not bored in my retirement.


The YEMMies are Coming!

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What’s a YEMMie? A new term I found reading Barron’s last week. It seems many younger mothers are becoming selective about buying unprocessed and natural foods, instead of highly refined or processed items to serve their families. Barron’s calls them Young Educated Millennial Mothers, or YEMMies.

Updating to say that clicking on Barron’s takes you to a preview page. The article is from July 7th, so you have to click again on the correct date to get it to open.

From Barron’s perspective, it is a reason to seek out investments in areas like Whole Foods and Hain Celestials.

From the healthy living perspective, I know I have seen this attitude in those who belong to the CSA with us. Many mothers making their own baby foods from the organic veggies we get every week. Trading for things like squash and sweet potatoes, to puree for strained foods.

The popularity of smoothies. It is another reason people join CSAs. Organic produce, without waxes or sprays, chemical free, allow you to use the entire vegetable and not lose the nutrients found in the skins. When I make cucumber salad, for example, with my own cucumbers, or those from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, I can leave all or part of the skin on them, without having to eat waxed cucumber skins.

Organic oranges, lemons and limes give me wax free and chemical free zest.

Later this summer I will be pickling watermelon rinds, and I will also be making preserved lemons. In both instances, I search out organic. Now that Wegmans has arrived, with over 100,000 organic items, they will be my source for what I need to cook and preserve.

Those of us who have changed our habits to buy more raw ingredients, and cook more from scratch, are finding lots of company among the younger adults. Add to that the resurgence in young farmers and the explosion of farmers markets, and it seems maybe better food and more choice for organic is the result.

If you attend Miller Library or Howard General’s markets on Wednesday and Friday, say Hi to John Dove, of Love Dove Farms, who was profiled in the Howard Magazine lately. He is just one of the local farmers growing things without chemicals. The article mentions TLV and Breezy Willow, two other good sources for veggies, meat and eggs.

It is almost Buy Local Week here. the last week of July. Are you supporting the Buy Local challenge? I am. Make at least one local meal or item in a meal from foods bought from a Howard County Farmer!

Local greens, radishes, cheese and blueberries in salad


Fiddlers and Fireflies

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At the Howard County Conservancy Thursday night, starting at 6 PM. $10/car. What a bargain for a lovely evening of music, crafts and the magic of the farm in the evening.

Bring a picnic. Watermelon, feta and mint sounds good.

There will be fiddlers to dance to, fireflies to chase and crafts for the children to make. The grounds below the farmhouse are the location for the event.


Summer Harvest Feasts

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Glenwood Market was a good place to be this morning. Lots of activity. Breezy Willow the place to get organic veggies.

Like fresh sweet corn.

Zahradka had gorgeous tomatoes.

Triadelphia Lake View Farm had baskets of fingerlings, my favorite potatoes.

Guess what is going to be in dinner tonight?

Next weekend there will be a family fun fest at the Glenwood market. Check it out.


Eating Locally: Ratatouille

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A go to veggie side when we drown in zucchini and eggplant. We don’t have eggplant yet but lots of zucchini and a few yellow squash Thursday in the CSA box.

I wandered into Wegmans after having the pickup serviced over at British American, to get some organic tomatoes and two small eggplant, to use with the squash, a yellow pepper from the farm stand, onions from the CSA and my basil pesto. All mixed up in a pan, roasted, and served with local beef sausage, the last of the deliveries from Zahradka in April.

The beef sausage is a good fit with the ratatouille. We also opened one of the Glen Manor 2010 Cabernet Francs that was left up in the dining room wine rack. A good match because the wine wasn’t overwhelmed, nor did it upstage the ratatouille. A simple rustic dinner.

This week’s contribution to our Southern Sole Food Challenge, using sustainable, organic, local and ethically grown or raised veggies and meats. The ten members of the challenge use Google Reader to keep track of what we are making using our local bounties, all of us living south of the Mason Dixon Line.


The Attack of the Monster Zucchini

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CSA Week Nine. Five more monsters in the box. It is officially zucchini season.

Ratatouille is baking as we speak, although I had to get an eggplant and some tomatoes to do it. None yet from the CSA. This is the list. The green beans were MIA, so there were only nine items, not ten. It happens occasionally that an item won’t get selected for some reason, and not get packed.

The haul spread out on the counter looked like this. I saw a red cabbage in the swap box, so made a swap of the huge green cabbage for this more compact red one. Cabbage three weeks in a row. Cole slawed and sauerkrauted out at the moment, so this will make a cabbage apple slaw next week sometime.

The price analysis continues, using some Wegmans organic pricing I saw today. And, yes, we left before the fire in the kitchen caused an evacuation. Must have been interesting, although they were not that crowded at 10 am.

Red cabbage, two pound head, cost $2.49 a pound, which is $4.98. Yellow squash, $2.49 each, so $4.98 there. Zucchini, $1.69 a pound. My five weighed four pounds total, so $6.76. Cucumbers were $2 each for large ones. I have seen them for $1.50 each for the smaller ones, so my three should total $5. Leaf lettuces $3 each, but half the size of mine makes $6. Kale and Chard were $2.69 each at Wegmans, for stalks half the size, so four times that will total $10.76. Beets $3 a bunch, smaller so let’s say $4 for the large ones we got. Heirloom carrots, again, but more of them, $3.50 let’s say, since I can’t find these anywhere. Total this week in value for equivalent organic veggies would be approximately $46 for the whole haul. $16.25 more than my weekly tab for the CSA from Sandy Spring.

Add that to my surplus from the previous eight weeks and it totals $80.15 that I am ahead after nine weeks. I knew last year that this was a great value for organic foods, but didn’t take the time to look at prices in stores and at farmers markets. This is such a great deal for getting organics, and getting some very unique ones as well.

I will be linking up with the linky party at In Her Chucks, what’s in the box. Check it out to see what people make from all over the USA, and in other countries with their CSA veggies.

Gotta go. My ratatouille is smelling wonderful, and I need to grill those local Italian beef sausages for dinner. And find a local red wine, as this is my weekly local meal. Only the tomatoes and eggplant aren’t local in this dinner. Posting about it later.


Stealth Cucumbers …

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… again, and other things found out in the garden. I posted a while back about cucumbers having a mind of their own and trying to escape. My garden in west Howard County is a source of many home grown meals in summer. Cucumbers and tomatoes will make great gazpacho, if the tomatoes will start coming in before the cucumbers stop.

The cucumbers are still going crazy, and still trying to escape the garden confines, only now in the back of the garden. This one was outside the fence hiding under a sticker bush.

I get weeds between the bunny fence and deer fence, which I leave alone as a deterrent to little critters trying to squeeze in. This cucumber plant decided to plow through two fences and climb the sticker bush. I didn’t find it until it was this large.

I have others coming through near the gate, and also winding their way into the tomato garden, so this year they are taking over. That does give us enough cucumbers, though, in order to make lots of salads, pickles and to can some. Not a bad year for them.

As for tomatoes, they are getting bigger, and the small ones continue to ripen. They were all lined up on the windowsill waiting to become part of last night’s dinner.

The gladiola have exploded. Never have they given me this much bounty. Maybe two or three per plant, but not there are dozens. In the heat, they will wilt quickly so I have been cutting them and keeping a large arrangement on the table.

Tomato update shows all but three plants with tomatoes, two pineapple tomato plants and one of the great white tomato plants. A few are suffering in the heat. The yellow pear, last year’s big producer, both plants look a little ragged. At least this year, the green grape, sweet olive, red fig and yellow plum plants will keep me in tiny salad tomatoes.

Sweet Olive tomatoes, lots of them

The chocolate stripes are getting bigger. And, on the three plants there are dozens of them.

While out there, I spied a visitor. A spicebush swallowtail. We have one Carolina spicebush, and two butterfly bushes in the yard, so butterflies are frequent visitors.

Plus, one little pest, who is probably mamma to the babies who are eating my herb garden.

At least she can’t get through the bunny fence. Her little ones still do, though, so I have to be vigilant for a few more weeks. It’s not like there isn’t enough other things out there for them to eat. The garden seems to be doing well, so far this year, and I hope to start seeing big fresh Maryland grown tomatoes soon. I will be out there with a bucket of water and a salt shaker soon. Nothing like fresh tomato, rinsed clean and lightly salted, eaten minutes after picking. Best lunch I get in west county!


Location, Location, Location

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That’s what all the real estate agents tell you. But, what about location? What is important? Peace and quiet? Access? Amenities?

Out here in West HoCo things are different. Slower. More people are self sufficient and don’t rely on outside services. We like it out here but you have to be prepared. We thought we were in pretty good shape. Wood stove for heat in the winter. UPS’s for power glitches. Gas grill. With a little advance notice, fill the tubs with water to flush the toilets. We should get a small generator to keep the freezer and sump pump powered but haven’t done it yet.

Our worst outage before last weekend was 16 hours long during the ice storms a few years back. After Irene, it was only 10 hours while they repaired the sub station down the road. Saturday was 23 hours, and we expected quite a bit worse than that.

But, we were lucky. The gas stations up the road became important. Diesel for utility trucks. Gas for people’s generators. One by one, other stations ran out of gas and the ones in the Triadelphia circle, Shell and Royal Farms, had gas but no power. As we came home Saturday night, we saw trucks run up the road.

That Shell station was the reason we had power, since we are on the same feeder. They got power. So did we. Location. Just lucky while other houses around us were still without power. That was one of those Ah Hah! moments.

We had another of those moments during Snowmageddon. That Royal Farms on Superbowl Sunday was the closest source of food for the snow plow drivers coming out of the Dayton shop. They plowed the local roads down to blacktop on Sunday morning while all our friends in Columbia were snow bound. We only had to get to the road from our driveways and we were out and about.

I remember standing out in the road taking these shots on Saturday the 6th, but by Sunday we were clear and running around.

When we bought our home, we didn’t think of some of these things, but now we are very grateful that buying on a through road, heavily traveled by plows and utility trucks wasn’t that bad of a choice. Sometimes Mother Nature tells you what is important.