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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Almost Forgot It Was Halloween

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With all that was happening I completely forgot about Halloween. Not that we get any trick or treaters. In all the time we have been here, we can count on one hand the number of children who showed up at our door.

Way out here, driving miles to hit a handful of houses isn’t appealing, and there is no way you can walk from house to house. We buy a bag of candy but end up taking it to work or the conservancy, usually full.

Since we had pumpkin hummus left, we celebrated with an appetizer of really decent falafel chips bought at Roots last week, and the last of the hummus.


Hoping we get a CSA delivery tomorrow, as that means our farmers did OK after the storm. It is the first week of our fall CSA.

Happy Halloween!



Making A Difference

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LisaB, Mrs.S had a great post about how lucky most of us were, when it came to the end of the wind and rain. In her update she mentioned The Volunteer Center and what they recommend in terms of helping out in the aftermath of the storm. I am monitoring that site to see when they get requests for help, and will post any opportunities I find.

I agree we were extremely lucky. A little bit farther south if the storm had turned up the Chesapeake Bay instead of going at New Jersey, and we could have had more damage across the area and the state. Right now, as I write this, 50000 people in the BGE coverage area still have no power 48 hours after the beginning when the earliest bands of bad weather started hitting Maryland. Anything we can do to assist our neighbors in the county and state will be helpful.

I agree that any financial help we can give the organizations that regularly assist others is the best way to help. But even little things mean quite a bit, and helping the other organizations in the area as well as the disaster relief organizations is just a way to give back if you were one of the lucky ones.

I will take some of my items to the Food Bank. They always need assistance, County residents who could use the help whether or not the storm affected them. I spent some time this morning looking through the pantry for items I bought and didn’t use, and to gather up those tuna cans and other staples that I can easily spare, and replace later, like pasta and sauces.

a bag for the food bank

I will also finally get the bag together for the local clothing collection bins, like the St. Vincent de Paul bin down at Kendalls Hardware. The contributions to them go to local residents in Maryland. I really do need to let go and donate all those extra work clothes I no longer need. I mean, one or two blazers, a few skirts, that’s all I need. Not the huge work wardrobe I still have sitting in a spare closet. Gloves, hats and shoes, too. I had way too much stuff left after retiring. Time to have it help another, who would like to have nice work clothes, or dress clothes.

Besides all that, I will make a point to help the disaster organizations with a donation. If you, like us, were relatively unaffected by this disaster that hit the east coast, consider helping out in whatever way you can, even if it is something as simple as helping an elderly neighbor clean up debris, or giving blood, or writing a small check.

Making a difference. Here at home.


Surviving Sandy

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Lessons Learned for the next crazy weather we have in this area.

Only buy a UPS if it has a mute capability. The UPS devices we have, on the TVs and the computers and the phone and the chargers, all six of them, are not all the same. We have three different models. One model muted. Two won’t. We got to listen to chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp for about 9-10 hours until they finally died. They were the ones that lasted the longest though. They were APC XS 1000’s. We had the iPhone on one of them until 11 am today when it finally died. The internet and modem one died about 9 hours in, but since Comcast stopped working five hours before our power went out and just came back thirty minutes ago, so much for having internet on the iPad.

Modify the bleeping cellar area where the sump pump is installed so a battery backup unit will fit in it. We procrastinated after the derecho and didn’t do this modification and spent most of the night with two hour sleep intervals interspersed with bailing sessions. Five gallon buckets every two hours, more after the wind shifted and rain ran down the south wall of the house into the cellar drain at the bottom of our basement stairs.

Always go to Giant and buy ice as soon as you can after the storm ends. It will guarantee that the power comes back in a few hours. We lost power last night at 11 pm and got it back today at 3 pm. Six hours after going to Giant and getting four bags of ice. Now, I need to find a permanent place for it, or let it melt in the coolers.

The seven cubic foot freezer did well. It was full, and when the power came back and I went down to check the temperature inside, it had only risen from -2 to +10 degrees. We had packed it with everything we could including plastic containers of water frozen solid. It worked well.

The fridge and freezer did OK. Not stellar, but OK. Fridge got up to 46, but the only things in it were fruit, veggies, a couple of bottles of wine and iced tea. Oh, and weird condiments like tabasco and some flavored vinegars. All the perishables were in the two coolers with bags of ice on top and they stayed below 40 degrees.

The freezer in the kitchen unit got up to 26 degrees, from the setting of minus 6. Still haven’t opened it, and the meats are buried below four bags of ice. Before the power went out, I did lower the temp settings on the fridge and freezer by four degrees more than the normal settings, so that helped.

I left one small feeder out for the birds, which got quite a few visits before, during and immediately after the storm. I went out this morning and brought back the big feeder, and it got mobbed almost before I could get inside. We even had a rare visit to the vertical of a hairy woodpecker, bigger and with the long beak, but looking just like our regular downy woodpecker visitor. When I grabbed the camera to photograph the hairy woodpecker he flew far up into the cherry tree.

the feeder I left up, with our resident downy

The weather radio and the iPhone were invaluable once we lost power. I am so thankful we only lost power for sixteen hours this time. The derecho 24 hour power outage was our worst experience here. This was the second longest. For us, we still have to decide if a generator is needed as long as we don’t get multi-day outages.

NOAA weather radio and iPhone, our links to the world for 16 hours

We used none of the bottled water as we had filled pitchers of water and put them in our small beverage fridge with containers of ice. We went through them. Never used any of the water in the tubs, as we were sleeping downstairs where it was quieter and we weren’t far from the sump pump. The well pump actually held pressure for about six hours and made it through quite a few cycles before finally cutting out. Now, we get to clean up and dump buckets that were sitting in the powder room.

enough water when you have time to prepare

Now, it’s back to cleaning up, and eating all this weird stuff I made in case our power stayed out. I have lots of egg salad and potato salad and tuna to make salad. Fruit, yogurt, and granola. I do think we are extremely lucky and am grateful for the dedication and professional attitudes at both Comcast and at BGE. I never expected to get a live person on the line at 1115 pm from BGE, but we did. She asked if we knew if any of our neighbors were out, and explained why they couldn’t do estimates due to the uncertainty of when they could begin. Plus, the Howard County government twitter updates kept us informed all night.

Just glad we did OK and that we live in such an amazing place, even with this strange weather. Now, we get to go out and clean up leaves and pine needles and tree branches for a few days, or maybe a week. At least I get exercise. Here’s to living in Howard County and enjoying fall even when it is chaotic.


Odds and Ends from West County

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Just some random thoughts as we head into the storm. Not many cars on our roads. Usually there is some traffic in the afternoon.

The mailman came early today. Out here with unprotected mailboxes, it is important to go out and get the mail before it blows out of the box. During the snowstorms a few years back, the boxes blew open and we had mail scattered all over our neighbor’s fields.

We got a few emails today about CSA’s. Sandy Spring canceled Tuesday deliveries and have no idea if the Thursday or Saturday will happen. The farmers all will be affected by this rain, in many low lying fields. They can’t pick in this weather either. We hope they come through with minimal damage as we know how hard they work. There are 80 farmers in the cooperative, but all of them in the same area of PA.


We also received an email from Breezy Willow, as we have signed up for their early bird CSA starting in late winter. This week is canceled for them in their summer/fall CSA. Keep our local farmers in your thoughts as this weather affects them just as they are finishing up their harvests and heading for winter.

We had two quick power glitches so far. Taking our oven off line while I am slow cooking dinner in it. Crossing our fingers here, that my pork and roasted veggies get done. Right now, we still have power. Winds are whipping trees left and right. Thankfully, we had a local business, Oasis (Ten Oaks Nursery), aggressively cut back our property line trash trees after they were damaged during the derecho.

We did put ice in two coolers and moved the fridge items there. The meat in the freezer is covered by six bags of ice, and I am freezing plastic containers with water to move over to the coolers if I need to replenish. Dumped all the ice maker ice in the fridge cooler since I learned after the derecho how much mess we get with melting ice. Ice maker in the top fridge is a pain sometimes.

On an interesting note, my Menu magazine from Wegmans arrived in the mail. With Christmas cookies on the cover. And, a recipe for honey glazed roasted root veggies. That is what I did with all the turnips, beets, a rutabaga and a sweet potato from the CSA.

I will try and keep posting what is going on out here as long as we have power, or I may do short posts from the iPad. See how well the UPS up here keeps my iPad charged if we lose power.


A Chicken in Every (Crock) Pot And Ready for Sandy

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While we run around filling bath tubs and clearing leaves out of the rain gutters, and positioning a trash can near the sump pump, and all those lovely other things, my crock pot is happily making dinner. I put half a chicken in it with CSA veggies and it is close to being done. I will microwave a few potatoes and we have a quick easy dinner before getting back into the waiting game. I will have a local dinner tonight. Open a VA wine and relax now that all the preparations are done.

frozen half chicken from tlv tree farm

I need to thank howchow for letting us know Harris Teeter wasn’t crazy crowded. We decided to err on the side of caution and get six more gallon jugs of water. Some fruit, since I didn’t get to the farmer’s markets, and a gallon of honey crisp apple cider from Zeigler’s. Not local, but still family made. The bath tubs will be filled tonight with water to flush toilets, and the coolers are ready to go if needed. Ten bags of ice are in the freezer now. Two will come out tomorrow into the cooler with the refrigerator foods we want to consume if the power goes out. That way we won’t be opening the refrigerator at all, or the freezer if we lose power.

All day today the birds went nuts trying to buzz feeders that aren’t there. Finches were sitting on the patio chairs (left out there since we can’t carry them far and there is no free place to put them) looking for the bird bath and the feeders. Ever watch a bird make a beeline for the feeder pole, then find nothing there but the pole. Very confused. The furniture was all moved over to the far edge of the patio near the area where the feeders and bird bath were located, and which now are all safely in the shed. I did remember to spread as much food as I could on the ground so the birds get something. They really are accustomed to coming here for food in the fall and winter.

The antennas are all down. The side of the house looks weird with no wires. This is the view from a few months back. Spring when the cherry trees were blooming. All the wires had to come down and tension taken off the ropes so they won’t snap. Here’s hoping the trees all hang in there the next two or three nights.

amateur radio antennas off the attic

On the local 2 meter repeater, we are reminded that CARA will appropriate the frequency tonight to support RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service). Amateur radio operators will be supporting the county in emergency communications traffic during the storm. We will have our hand held transmitters here at our house available with charged batteries so we can monitor communications (and communicate if we need any assistance in our area).

All in all, we are now even more resigned to a long, frustrating, series of days watching this storm cross over the east coast and impact our lives.


The Waiting Game

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So now, we wait. Will we get slammed with 8-10 inches of rain? Should I get all the 5 gallon buckets I can find and just recycle the sump pump water for the toilets, or do I count on the tubs doing the job? Everything with the exception of the last two bird feeders and the bird bath has been brought in or lashed down.

It is the waiting for a hurricane that drives you nuts. Days of countless emails, weather reports, emergency notices, and then there’s the people out everywhere. Trying to get gasoline. Long lines. hitting the stores. I have stockpiled 8 bags of ice in the kitchen freezer in order to cover over the meat in there. If the power stays off too long, I will transfer all the meat to the heavy coolers if necessary. Interestingly enough, people don’t buy ice in advance. I made room for the ice in the freezer and cranked the temperature down a few degrees. I know we can drive west of here and load up coolers with ice, after the rains and wind stop. What is in the freezer now will keep it for at least two days.

TP and Milk. I love it that those two items seem to be the most popular before storms. Do people really think they will run out? Weird. Neither of them are on my preparation list.

The birds know something is happening. They are noisy, and flying back and forth to the feeders. Today, the nuthatches are back. With the downy woodpeckers, they are all over the suet and peanut feeder.

The nuthatch is on the suet while the woodpecker waits patiently. The finches and other birds have been coming in looking for the thistle feeder and the small hanging one, both of which are already down. The last one to take apart will be the primary feeder, which would be blown over. I really need to anchor that permanently now that we found the site where the squirrels can’t leap across the deck or jump from trees.

I also took fall folliage pictures today, figuring that the leaves will get blown away and we will come to an abrupt end of leaf peeping. This view today reminded me of how quickly the leaves changed this year.

Here’s hoping I get to see the gorgeous red colors of our maple in the back, which hasn’t turned yet. That may be good, or not so good. With the leaves on the trees, they tend to crack under their weight with heavy winds and rain. The maple is my birding tree, and one of the prettiest in the fall.

The view of it last November. We generally get the peak of the colors the first week of November. I just hope we don’t lose any more of our mature trees in this storm. It has been a pretty rough couple of years, when it comes to wind damage. Trying to sleep at night while trees crack and fall is not fun. This past two years we have hauled away at least a dozen trees from the property line, and we lost a few conifers in the ice storms before that. Besides the cover they give us, they are home to the birds and squirrels, which is why we have so many birds visiting us. They love the conifers.

Good luck all the east coasters in harm’s way. Stay safe.


Finishing the Eat Local Challenge

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Monday is the last reporting day for our Summer Challenge, to eat at least one meal a week using locally sourced ingredients. Who knows how crazy it will be around here by Monday, but at least I know there will be a number of local meals consumed by us. Many of them involving local eggs.

farm fresh eggs

I made eggs for breakfast today and used up the last of the Canela wheat bread for toast. I will be hardboiling a dozen eggs and putting them aside to make egg salad in case we lose power. We set up a small cooler for lunch foods, placing all the condiments and salad makings in it, the way we ate breakfast and lunch after the derecho in June.

I always have my tuna, cannellini bean and onion salad ingredients on hand, but they aren’t local. Well, the onions are, but not the rest.

Tuscan tuna and bean salad

Hmmm, Tuscan tuna and bean salad, served with local breads and a few of my dill pickles from the jars. Mostly local. I have a loaf of potato onion bread in the freezer from Stone House. I can warm it in the oven tonight to defrost it and save a few hunks to have with a simple salad. Egg salad, or tuna salad. I have celery from the CSA. The only non local items as usual will be condiments like mayo or olive oil.

I am cleaning out the most perishable (and the more pricey) items in the meat/fish freezer, so I will be baking a large whack of wild Alaskan salmon tonight. Since I have been so diligent here in getting ready for this storm, the odds keep getting higher that it will pass us by.

It is only when I have no ice, no water, no batteries and ignore the frantic admonishments on the TV, that we end up with no power. Still, we are crossing our fingers. At least the temperatures aren’t bad. No real high temps, and no subfreezing temps in the future that would make us miserable without A/C or heat.

The SSFC Eat Local Challenge is ending, but the ten of us are talking about how we will address winter eating, using locally sourced items. Sometime in the future, our google reader will have the details, and we will continue finding ways to eat local foods year round.


Hurricane Prep, The Smaller Items

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Everyone always tells you what to do with the large ticket items. Water, ice, batteries, medications.

What about those little things? Like having a real phone in the house. All those fancy phones aren’t hardwired and require the power to be working for them to operate. My antique phone 😉

We also use UPS’s throughout the house to be able to charge cell phones and run small lamps with CFL bulbs. And, to run the cable modem and wireless router. At least for a short while.

How about the weather radio? And, of course a smart phone to check on things even without power. Like how long BGE will take to get power restored.

We have flashlights of all shapes and sizes in every room we use regularly, like the family room, kitchen, bath and bedroom.

We hope this storm will blow out to sea, but who knows. I suppose the more we prepare, the greater the possibility it will all be for nothing. It seems that only when we are caught unaware, like with the June derecho, that we have problems.

Thankfully, we are at one of the higher elevations in the county so we will be spared from flooding. And, with a new roof and a solidly built brick house, we can weather the winds. I spent all day today bringing in items that may blow around, with the exception of the bird feeders. They will come down at the last moment. Those squirrel deterrents will blow everywhere.

Here’s hoping this hurricane will miss us.


The View from 20,000 …

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… views, that is, not feet. 20,000 views. Yesterday morning the geek in me saw my dashboard on wordpress read 19,999 total views. I was going to write a post next Friday when my blog is one year old, but who knows, with Sandy heading in our direction, and the talking heads on TV telling us power outages possible past November 5th, I may or may not have power next Friday.

20,000 views in less than a year. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it does tell me that there are definitely people reading what I write. I am also happy to say I still have new things I want to write, and have been pretty good at posting almost every day.

I was a mathematician (my degree major) for many of my early career years, and numbers fascinate me. Statistics of course can always be interpreted the way we want. Still, it is nice to see my numbers increase as my blog “ages”.

Thanks mostly to hocoblogs and to howchow, in the beginning, who linked up my blog when it was just one month old. HOCOBLOGS is where I went to find local readers.

And, there was the Dark Days Challenge, where I found fellow locavores.

local ingredients for dinner

Setting up a local resources page was a good move, too. I found many people came there to search for grains, products, and farms in the area.

local foods

I have to admit though, being interested enough to check out my most read posts, that I did not expect which ones continued to gather views. If you are new to blogging in Howard County, and want people to find you on google or other search engines, I can tell you two phrases that guarantee traffic around here.

brighton dam azalea gardens


tractor supply baby chicks

The most read posts on my blog. I still get hits every week on the tractor supply post. And, I had hundreds of searches registered for azalea blossoms being at peak, or still blooming. Weeks went by and they still were being viewed. I know that I will be monitoring those blossoms again next spring. They are only five miles down the road and we go there often.

Besides those, the series on amateur radio in Howard County got a huge number of views thanks to being placed on a feed for amateurs around the country and the world to see. W3AO gets lots of hits still, when clubs and operators look to see the Field Day records for one of the biggest radio operations in the country. Right here in Howard County.

Here’s hoping this hurricane fizzles out, far from land, or just glances us. Now, off to fill up a spare propane tank and get a few more gallons of spring water. I know if we are totally prepared for “Frankenstorm” as they are calling it, then it will definitely become a non event. It is only when we don’t get ready, that we get slammed.

Stay safe and dry, all our friends near and far.


The End of the Summer … CSA

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Week 25. The last week of the summer CSA from Sandy Spring. It ended with some really good stuff, although I am not sure what I will do with the rutabaga.

what Lancaster Farm Fresh gave us the last week

The list:

Bunch Celery (we got two bunches)
1 Pint Mixed Cherry Tomatoes (I swapped Chinese cabbage for a second pint)
1 Bunch French Breakfast Radishes
1 Bunch Baby Scarlet Turnips (OK, if these are babies, I want to see the big ones)
1 Bunch Green Mizuna
1 Head Broccoli
2 Leeks
2 Rutabaga
1 White Kohlrabi (humongous)

OK, this kohrabi is huge. It was interesting as the swap box was full of kohlrabi and mizuna. I must be weird. I love both.

kohlrabi and heirloom cherry tomatoes

As for the tomatoes, what can I say? My husband was eating them out of the box, until I made him take them over and wash them. Since they are organic, I don’t worry about pesticides, but they do need cleaning. There is nothing like a treat of tomatoes in October. These were probably green house grown. They still have oodles of flavor. They showed up in dinner tonight, along with a few of those lovely breakfast radishes.

As for the turnips, as I said above, if these are babies, wow. I found a recipe for winter root veggies with polenta. I will be breaking out the roasted corn meal this weekend. Stand by for pictures and recipes.

As the wrap up, I also am preparing a summary of what we got this summer. Here’s to many more happy years in CSA, and to the eight weeks of fall CSA still to come. Off to In Her Chucks to link up my CSA post.

The Peaceful Mom