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Monthly Archives: October 2012

1 2 3 Eyes on Me

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Now, that phrase comes easily to me. The way to redirect 9 first graders from 9 different places to look, at me. Today I found how easily I have slipped into “teacherspeak”. Yeah, thirty five years ago I was a teacher. Now, I am a volunteer leading field trips.

Today, 110 first graders came to visit us at the Howard County Conservancy. I think I can say it is successful when you hear things like we did, when a first grader runs excitedly up to his teacher and exclaims, “This is so cool!”. Maybe it was petting our corn snake. Or jumping in the puddles from the well water hand washing station. Or, just everything he got to do today.

First graders are studying rocks, fossils and extinct animals in their earth science curriculum. Today, they got to identify animals, touch fossils and use magnifying glasses to study rocks.

bank barn foundation

They also got to see foundations, walls, roadways, sidewalks and all the other ways rocks are part of our lives. Oh, and they found woolly bear caterpillars, fed the goats, and some of them got to see a baby eastern worm snake (no pics, I didn’t have the camera with me).

Holly, our pygmy goat

In other words, they had a blast outdoors on a perfect fall day.

By the way, we could use a few more volunteers. Today, two called in sick. We had to expand the number of students we each had assigned to us on the hikes. Spring training takes place in March. We are a bit short on numbers, since the Howard County schools are increasing their enrollment. 80-90 students we can handle easily. When you hit 110 or 120 like some of our schools, we need 8-9 volunteers each field trip.

If you want a really rewarding way to add interest to your life, if you work at home and are flexible, or are retired like many of us, this is a no brainer. A great way to spend crisp fall and warm spring days making a difference.


The Dark Eyed Junco is Back

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I know the seasons are changing when the juncoes return to my yard. We saw the first one this morning. Not the one in the picture below, because it disappeared too fast to capture. They become less jittery when it really gets cold and even my coming outdoors doesn’t bother them while they feed. Here is one very inquisitive bird from last winter.

dark eyed junco

They feed on the ground, and wander around under the bushes and the feeders. The chickadees and finches push the less desirable food out of the feeder to get to their favorites, and the juncoes get the leftovers that drop. Their return reminded me to look and see if the Centennial walks are up on the Howard Bird Club site.

It is fall birding season and yes, the Howard County Bird Club is again offering their weekly walks in November in Centennial Park. It is where we first learned to identify new birds, by sight and sound. It is also where we are learning more about waterfowl, as a change from the birds that visit our yard feeders.

These easy walks good for beginning birders start at 8 am. in the west area parking lot, entered off Centennial Lane. They are the 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th of November. Club members bring scopes to let you get really good looks at the birds. It is 2-3 hours at a leisurely pace, and a great way to spend a November Sunday morning.

Some pictures from two years ago. The trip reports, available on the web site, show you what we found that November day in 2010.

great blue heron over Centennial Lake

3 male and one female mallard on a pond off the main trail

Oh, and when we go off the main trail, we often flush out other inhabitants of the park, like this young buck.

The buck, mallard and heron pictures were from the 14th, a day we did not see the cedar waxwings that were there on the 7th.

cedar waxwings

This is fall migration season. It is interesting to see what birds will stop at the lake on their semiannual flights. The bird club does these walks every spring and fall. Put them on your calendar and join us.


Howard County Farmers Markets

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Good News! Three of the five markets will be extending their season until the week before Thanksgiving. That’s right. East Columbia Library on Thursday, Glenwood on Saturday and Oakland Mills on Sunday.

The hospital market ends this Friday, and Miller Library next Wednesday. Make sure you stop by and buy from Love Dove at their last two markets.

When we were at TLV two weeks ago, they told us the weekend markets were extended. Add to it the Thursday one, and I don’t have to go to Catonsville to get meat from the local farmers. I can get it from TLV. Plus eggs from Breezy Willow. And, cheese from Bowling Green. And fruit from Lewis Orchards. With my CSA and these markets, we can continue to eat fresh food grown or raised locally.

Obviously, this news makes this locavore very happy. Make sure you head out and visit the markets to get really fresh lovely veggies for your holiday meals.

Oh, and by the way, make sure you order your Maple Lawn farm turkey soon. We order ours to be picked up at Boarmans. They start taking orders on November 1st.


The First Fall Clean Up Day

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At least the first major clean up. We have been puttering around doing little odd jobs, but today it begins in earnest. I have been researching the long term effects of using pine needles to mulch areas of the plant beds in the back of the house. Today I wanted to gather pine needles to create a winter bed over the rhododendrons and the azaleas. This analysis that I found a while back is what prompted me to look into pine needle mulching in certain areas. We certainly have enough pine needles.

carpet of pine needles

The leaves are just starting to come down. Add to that, the grass under the shrubs and around the raspberry bushes needs its final cutting of the year. We use a clear bag method to collect green material, brown material, and pine needles. Then, using the county rake and take program to be matched to a neighbor we divide the bags to use in our compost piles. Getting that right mix of browns and greens. This is our second year doing rake and take. We get enough from our trees to keep many compost piles going. If you want a way to see your leaves put to good use, consider contacting rake and take.

As for the rest of my clean up I went into my neglected garden to start pulling out the tomato cages, and to bag the tomato plants to take deep into the woods to leave them. They do not get into the compost bins, as they can spread disease from year to year. For example, from late blight. I hadn’t been out there for two weeks, and surprise, there were dozens of green tomatoes all over the garden.

I think I will put these away in a paper bag and let them get close to ripening, then make one last batch of green tomato pasta with pesto.

Tonight dinner will be fairly simple. Although we had to resort to plan B. I had intended to pop a chicken in the crockpot to cook while we were working outside. They don’t make them like they used to. The crockpot gave up the ghost. Would not let me program the temperature and turn on.

As soon as you let up on the button, the lights went out. And, you could not advance it to the longer low cooking times. Thankfully, I never gave up my original crockpot from my first apartment thirty some years ago. You know, one of these antiques.

So, I loaded it up with half a chicken in tomato garlic sauce, over collard greens and onions. Let it go, and soon dinner will be ready. This chicken is falling off the bone, and I started it at 10 am, directly from the freezer. The best way to cook chicken.

Now I need to find a good programmable replacement crockpot as ours gets lots of work making soups, stews and chili. This old one is too small to do brisket, or turkey, which we like to make also. I also like the programmable options not found on my original. I am glad I kept it around though, to save the day today. Off to dinner and to watch Monday night football.


Eating Locally: Zuppa!

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Accidental soup. That is what happened. It started out as sausage and cabbage. A little too much liquid in the crock pot. It ended up a lovely local soup served with a Maryland wine. The summer local challenge is in its next to last week. The ten of us are still using market and CSA veggies, plus what we grew, to make local meals.

Here is mine. TLV Farm sage sausage. Cabbage, turnips, purple potatoes from the CSA. Apples from Lewis Orchards. Cider from Lewis Orchards. Chicken stock from the freezer, made from TLV chicken. Canela bread with South Mountain Creamery butter. Most of the ingredients can be sourced by following my local resources page.

sausage and cabbage soup

The spices and seasonings were the only non local items in the soup. The wine. A Viognier Gruner Veltliner from Black Ankle, a MD winery.

The crispness of the wine cut the sweetness of the soup. I did add caraway, nutmeg, seasoned salt and pepper to the soup, but the cider really kicked it into more of a sweet zone. VGV, from Black Ankle is an interesting blend. The Gruner tones down that tartness of the Viognier.

This dinner is my weekly contribution to the Southern SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) Food Challenge with my cyber “sisters” that I talked about in a recent post.

One week to go in this current challenge. I believe we decided to continue working together to show how we source and cook from local ingredients all winter long. For me, come January, I have no winter CSA. It is freezer, farmstands and the two local year round markets.

I will be able to pick up things at our winter market fest at the Conservancy in January, and at the couple of farms that will be open on Saturdays. One or two trips to Silver Spring should round it all out. Eating locally is so much easier in this area than it was a few years back. Add to that, I will be doing the Early Bird spring CSA with Breezy Willow. Local cold storage veggies and green house lettuces, citrus from FL and all I need to do is survive January and February without a CSA delivery.

I have become so used to weekly boxes of fresh organic veggies, those two months will be an experience. But, I can still eat the rainbow. Use those frozen goodies like my pesto and my tomato sauce, and plow through my massive amount of potatoes sitting out in the cooler part of the mud room. Who says we have to suffer with processed foods in the winter? I remember getting root veggies like these last December.

Here’s to local eating!

Woo Hoo! Black Walnuts

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Without the hassle of shelling them myself. I know I could forage them, as they are everywhere in this area. But, Baugher’s does the hard work and I get the walnuts.

Baugher’s black walnuts

They have a very different taste. They make wonderful cookies. I will be putting these away in the freezer for a few weeks until I do the Christmas cookies. If you have seen black walnuts on roadsides or in fields, you know how hard they are to crack. Plus, the stain on the outer parts of the nut will take weeks to fade from your skin. They are all over the conservancy. I am amazed at how the squirrels manage to get into them.

Here are some of the walnuts from the conservancy, that the squirrels have been working open. There is a large tree on the entrance walkway where the staff does occasionally pick them up and take them. The ones all over the fields are left for the animals. The ones on that pathway become a hazard if you step on them. They are like big marbles and you slide over them. Not fun when covered with leaves.

We saw a huge pile of them on the side of Rte. 340 in Virginia last week. If we weren’t heading for the wine tasting at L’Auberge, we would have stopped and gathered them. Any of them on the right of ways along the highways are perfect for foraging. Like we do in the area when we find wild asparagus in the spring.

Besides the walnuts, today I got the box full of feed corn at Baugher’s. This box is a bargain, and I will be using some of it at an event next month at the conservancy. Right now though, it needs to stay out in the garage. Protected from the squirrels but allowing all the tiny moths to leave and find their way elsewhere.

feed corn to use for a craft project

It was a lovely fall day in Westminster. We headed out early to catch an amateur radio hamfest at the Agricultural Center. It was mostly local radio amateurs tailgating. Sort of a “vintage electronics” flea market. Just so you know, if you ever need tubes for old electronics, these hamfests are the place to find them. Oh, and lots of military surplus stuff. We met numerous friends from local clubs, had breakfast and coffee there and picked up the last of the cable needed to bring all the feeds back from the permanent and the crank up towers that are being assembled on our back meadow.

“hard line”

It was pretty popular there today. Lots of people browsing the tables on a sunny cool morning. With beautiful views of the countryside, and the adjoining farm museum.

All in all, a good day. I found walnuts. They also have chestnuts for those who love to cook with them. I picked up some mutsu apples, a variety that isn’t all that common around here. Got a few small spaghetti squash, as we are having them with dinner often, and I did pick up this winter’s supply of roasted corn meal. The walnuts and corn meal are available in the produce market by the restaurant and not out at the farm. The corn meal showed up last year in one of my “Eat Local” challenges. It makes a killer polenta. Plus, I used it in making scrapple.

roasted corn meal polenta with bison

If you want a day trip about 30 miles north of Columbia, Baugher’s is worth the drive. If only for their homemade ice creams. I was looking for their holiday ice creams, but they still have peach and berry ones in the case. Have to get closer to Thanksgiving before you see peppermint.


A Fall Saturday in West HoCo

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Just some random pictures and suggestions for fun things to check out, and some of the early leaf pictures. With all the festivals out there, we could pick and choose what we would like to do today. Don’t forget the local farms still have mazes and pumpkins galore, through the rest of the month.

I started out the day organizing the groups out at the conservancy for a family hike. We had about three dozen people show up this morning, including a dedicated group of volunteers. Dividing the attendees up into age appropriate smaller groups is the way we conduct these fall and spring family wanderings. No real topic for these. Just an appreciation of what you can find on the trails.

A recent addition to the natural play area is the carved owl. The detail is stunning.

Two of the naturalists took families with little ones on a loop around the farmhouse and out on the edge of the grasslands. They got an up close look at one of the abandoned nests in the bluebird boxes. They could see exactly what birds use to make their nests.

They all visited the barn and learned more about the local farms, as there are now exhibits of early farming tools inside, courtesy of a local Girl Scout troop.

The farmhouse is surrounded by brilliant fall color. We seem to be getting near that peak where the colors are brightest.

It seems everyone had a great time. There were also other small groups of visitors, going birding, playing in the field, gardening, having engagement photos shot by a photographer, and checking out the building for future use for a wedding. It was a pretty full parking lot this morning.

After I left at noon, my husband and I decided to indulge in a Saturday brunch at Bistro Blanc. Marc, the chef, started at 3 am today to roast a suckling pig. He really has a great time doing special events like this. They had a wine tasting and a wine sale going on today. We enjoyed the “pig” buffet. It was set up with some interesting, seasonal mostly local side dishes, like Southern style greens, some biscuits, root veggies with chestnuts. Casual, informal and a chance to see some of our fellow west countians.

Then, home to do some minor clean up. We will be doing major leaf clean up this week, with the leaves going in our compost, and some for the rake and take program. Our partner in this, a neighbor down the road, comes and gets what we don’t use, for her compost piles. The yard really exploded in color this week. That frost a week ago is what did it.

Unfortunately, my mums got beaten down by the rain.

There were lots of runners and bikers out on our roads today, getting some exercise while enjoying the scenery. It will get better out here for the next few weeks, so head out and visit the local farms, or just take a ride. Me, I am waiting patiently to capture this year’s peak at sunset, like this one I got a few years back. I need the perfect light to do it though. It looks like the woods are on fire.

Have a great fall weekend, wherever you wander. We are off to Baugher’s tomorrow to pick apples. A bit beyond west hoco, but still a great place to visit. Particularly if I get some of their black walnuts for baking this fall.

Leaf Peeping and A Winery Visit

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In the Shenandoah. Near the Appalachian Trail. The leaves are in full color these days. A good weekend to enjoy them. We had a date to meet a fellow radio amateur to pick up a crank up tower. He lives near Manassas. I don’t need an excuse to head west on I-66 and find some fall color.

the view from Linden

And, of course, add some chardonnay and rosé to our cellar. I like to get rosé to take to my brother’s for Thanksgiving. He cooks. I bring wine. Nice arrangement we have. The day started out a little dreary but got better as we drove west. I love sitting in the enclosed sun room and taking in the views.

Have a little cheese and sausage, with a Hardscrabble Chardonnay. Believe it or not, it does well with the sausage. The cheeses and sausage are local VA made. And, the 2009 Hardscrabble is a huge chardonnay. The type you want to put away for a few years. It will only get better.

The vineyard itself was lovely, as the grape vines are turning color as well as the trees and shrubs. The parking lot was full, so we were down in the overflow. Lots of leaf peepers out. Everyone was pouring wine today, including Jim and Shari. Haven’t seen Shari since the barrel tasting so it was nice to visit today. I bet the coming weekends are going to be crazy with the weather prediction of sunny and 70s. We did check out some of the grapes near the winery. Still a few clusters hanging. I know the late harvest grapes are still out there. The rest have been harvested.

We took the back roads home. Loving the views along the way.

leaving Linden

somewhere near Rectortown

Trying to identify what this is — have not seen it before. Off to check out my naturalist books.

Unidentified plants, all along the edge of a property near Purcellville

All in all a great day. Oh, and the second time near Atoka where an eagle flew over us. As usual, too fast for me to grab the camera, but that white head is so distinct. If you have time this weekend head west and check out the foliage. Even better, check out a winery. Grape vines are beautiful in the fall.

Week 24 of the CSA with Alien Potatoes

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Yes, last week the potatoes were cute. This week a few of them were strange, and one was downright alien looking. The potatoes this week are purple majesty, one of my favorites. They make great chips, and with red and white potatoes make a very patriotic potato salad.

We can certainly eat the rainbow this week. If I add nuts, beans and grain to the menu, I have all the other colors represented here.

The list:
1 Bag Mixed Sweet Peppers – Maple Lawn Organics
1 Head Green Escarole – Windy Hollow Organics
1 Bag Purple Majesty Potatoes – Transitional – Family Cow Farm
1 Bunch Baby Hakurei Turnips – Echo Valley Organics
1 Head Bok Choy – Bellview Organics
1 Head Broccoli – Soaring Eagle Organics
1 Green Acorn Squash – Railroad Organics
1 Bunch Red Radishes – Soaring Eagle Organics
1 Bunch Leeks – Rolling Ridge Organics
1 Bag White Hamon Sweet Potatoes – Sunrise Ridge Organics
1 Bunch Red Scallions – Sweetarie Farm
1 Bunch Gold Beets – Windy Hollow Organics

As we get into fall, the box gets heavier, with squash and potatoes adding most of the weight. Loving all the peppers. I need to make chili with them. Plus, all the greens. Getting the turnips, beets, radishes and the escarole makes me think I need to make a soup. I love using the greens on these organic root veggies, as I know they haven’t been sprayed.

My other veggie here that I find interesting and quite delicious is the baby hakurei turnip. It is sweet, and can be eaten raw. A little seasoned salt is all they need.

Heading over now to link up with In Her Chucks, and get inspiration for what to do with my veggies.


Another Busy Weekend Around The Area

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I am prioritizing where we will go, as again, there are multiple events that interest us this weekend. I have a definite commitment to host the Family Hike this weekend at the Conservancy. Spring and Fall, we have a special hike, with naturalists leading groups, through the trails and the property. The fall colors are just beginning to paint the hillsides. Who wouldn’t want to follow this trail down to the creek on a lovely fall Saturday morning?

grasslands trail at Howard County Conservancy

The Family hike begins at 10 am on the 20th of October. The conservancy is on Rt. 99 a few miles east of Marriottsville Rd. After the hike, the Woodstock snowball stand is open, and with temperatures in the high 60s, not a bad choice for a treat.

Now, us? After the hike, we will be heading back towards home to catch the pig roast at Bistro Blanc. Marc is roasting a whole pig. They have a wine tasting and wine sale as well. 11-2 on the 20th. Bistro Blanc is our favorite local hangout for a great meal. Marc does incredibly good dishes, using many local foods. This pig roast should be a fun event.

Sunday, I will be tagging along as my better half is off to the Westminster Carroll County hamfest, with his amateur radio buddies. After the event, we are heading for Baugher’s to pick apples, and to get the supplies I need for an event in November at the Conservancy. I need corn cobs for the children to use to make bird feeding stations. Baugher’s sells large boxes and bags of feed corn, which works perfectly without great expense. And, one of my all time favorite roasted corn meals. I use this to make cornbread, and a killer polenta.

roasted corn meal

There are corn mazes and fall festivals again, all over the area, if you haven’t yet picked up your pumpkins for cooking or decorating. If you get the chance, head out to one of the local farms and get into that spirit. If pumpkins aren’t your thing, apple cider, heated and spiced, is a perfect choice to eat locally. Or, pick up some fall squash to make soups.