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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Much Needed Rain

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Rainy days like this make us happy. Soft gentle rain that greens up the yard, the field, and keeps my trees, shrubs, herbs and flowers healthy is always welcome.

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The lace maples went from budding to full glory in just a few days. These trees are my favorites. One in front and one behind the house. I now have to irrigate the front one as the underground drains carry water out to a grove with younger trees and shrubs that haven’t established their roots as deeply.

The crab apple has exploded with blossoms.

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This is one of those years where it is being covered in white flowers.

My second wave of tulips is loving it. The first bloomers are dropping petals but this variety is coming in with many flowers.

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When I planted the bulbs about six years ago, I used a variety of early and late blooming tulips to prolong their presence across the entry walkway.

This year so far only one iris came up on the side of the house. I think these were planted so long ago by the previous owner that they are pretty much wiped out, and the star lilies and tiger lilies have taken over. But, I did get this one blossom the other day.

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In a vase with a gorgeous deep purple tulip, the only one that color from out front. Sometimes it is weird to see a single bloom of a color that you don’t remember planting.

And, the dogwoods are at their peak. Two more trees that I take extra care to keep fertilized, pruned, watered and happy. Their colors just scream spring time.

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April showers bringing May flowers, and more. Here’s to erasing that deficit in our rainfall totals for 2013. In just a few days, I will be putting in the veggie garden, but still loving those flowers.

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To Forage, To Forage

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YES! YES! YES! The wild asparagus are back!

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I wrote about them last year, when I got at least 40 or so spears of asparagus that keep coming up under my crepe myrtle. Saturday there was nothing there. Today. I found four spears in various lengths.

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One white one buried in mulch. It will turn green as it emerges. Two more deep in the mulch although one looks a little ragged like something decided to chew on it. Maybe the bunnies.

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Today’s rain was welcome as it is nourishing my garlic, my herbs, my greens and these wild plants. Oh, and the tulips. I am lucky that the animals ignore them. I guess having a yard with clover, dandelions, chick weed and whatever else out there keeps them happy and away from my flowers. As I have said often, I am loving spring time.\

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Linden Spring Release Party

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The weather didn’t cooperate. Neither did my allergies and/or head cold but nothing was stopping us from attending a much anticipated case club party at Linden. This weekend and next, the 2010 reds and 2011 whites are being released at a special event at the winery. Anyone who reads my locavore/locapour writings knows that this is my favorite VA winery, and one where we have the longest association. More than 20 years.

The events are completely sold out with groups of eight people entering every fifteen minutes to space out the attendance. Outdoor and indoor stations.

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You started out on the crush deck with two different pairings of whites. 2010 and 2011 Avenius Chardonnay paired with almonds, then 2010 and 2011 Hardscrabble Chardonnay paired with salmon mousse. While enjoying the wines, you could check out the patio dressed up for springtime but not having any takers in the spring rain. The 2010 whites were our favorites, as noted below the frustrations of 2011 show in the weight of the wines.

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As many of us know, 2011 was a challenging year, with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee nailing the mid Atlantic and making the wines much lighter. In fact, inside the tasting room on the regular tasting menu, the newly released 2011 red, simply called Red, not even destined to be labeled Claret, is a simple elegant but not very weighty red. Water plumping up and diluting the juice in the grapes late in the season gives you OK wines, but not the big wines of 2009 and 2010.

We then ventured down into the stainless steel tank room, taking in the view of the vines below the vineyard.

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Here we found a new addition, a Cabernet Franc. This individual varietal bottling of franc, only done twice before at Linden was a pleasant surprise. None of that bell pepper thing found in so many VA francs, this is a very lovely wine. 50% Hardscrabble grapes and 50% Boisseau. Paired with lamb meatballs from The Whole Ox.

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Moving into the barrel storage rooms, there were three more stations. One, the Boisseau station gave us a treat. A change to the vineyards with the first cabernet sauvignon dominant blend from Richard’s vines in Front Royal. We tease Richard a bit about his “flea market red”, as his vines sit on a hill above a very popular flea market site in the middle of Front Royal VA. The 2009 was this blend. 43% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 26% Petit Verdot. The 2010 was 65% cab, and 35% merlot. What an interesting side by side comparison.

In the middle of the three wine stations, Margaret was set up with a charcuterie, olives and liver pate on toast. She did all the catering this year. This, along with her incredible decorating skills in the winery, inspire us to say (in my old Navy terms) Bravo Zulu! for accomplishing such a transformation in the winery, and for the wonderful food today.

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Margaret is in this picture, serving those tasty pates. There was also the signature huge wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano. Next stop, the Avenius Reds station. Another surprise for 2010. The Avenius is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, similar to the Boisseau in make up from vastly different due to the soil, growing conditions on the Avenius hillside, you know, the “terroir” that stamps itself into a wine’s nose and taste.

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Last we hit the Hardscrabble station, where Jim was pouring for a short while. The killer 2009, which we had for dinner last night, and the new elegant but not as weighty 2010 were poured side by side. We talked to Jim a bit about this “normal” spring compared to the hot and dry spring last year.

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A very successful event. Even in the rain, the place was hopping. They obviously have figured out what makes people happy. Outstanding wines, year after year. Lots of cases going out the doors while we were there.

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One last picture, the redecorated entrance, although too wet and cool today to enjoy, one of those reminders that this is a laid back quiet pleasant winery for those who seriously appreciate good wines that pair well with local foods.

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Stop in some day, do a tasting and see how good VA wines can be. Linden is ninety minutes away from Columbia if you head around the DC beltway and out I-66.

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To Market, To Market We Go

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The markets are starting up all over the area. For those who love the farmer’s markets and the farm stands, the season is beginning. Howard County opens their markets on the 8th of May, at Miller Library. They should have their vendor lists up soon. Most of last year’s vendors will be back.

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Besides these Howard County markets, if you live on the far edges of the county, there are new and existing markets just over those county lines. Like a new one in Burtonsville, just a few miles west of Rte. 29 on Rte. 198.

I haven’t checked this one out yet but I will be there soon. If you live in Fulton or Scaggsville in Howard County, this market is just across Rocky Gorge and a few miles up the road. Atwater’s will be there, and so will Orchard Breeze, where I get quite a bit of my pork products.

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Of course, for those on the west edge of the county, there are markets in Mt. Airy and Olney, as well as our Glenwood Market. For those in Ellicott City or Elkridge, you also have Catonsville markets near you.

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I can’t wait for the markets to open, because when they do, I almost completely subsist on market goods and products from local artisans. Avoiding those grocery stores all summer long.

Add to the markets the farm stands. I will be checking out the opening of the farm stands. Gorman, Baughers, soon should be getting early spring items.

As for my farm series, I still intend to review Gorman, Love Dove, Copper Penny, Bowling Green and Baughers. Maybe a few more. I am waiting to get their information once they open for the season.

Come on and join me. Take a pledge. Seven items bought weekly at any market(s). Essentially one item for each day of the week. Support your local farms and artisans by buying their products and incorporating them into your diet.

It’s easy. Items like honey, meats, eggs, greens, bread, jams, herbs, fruit.

We are lucky here. We have Great Harvest, Atwater’s, The Breadery, Bonaparte, Canela and Stone House, all making baked goods for us. We have many farms selling chicken, pork, lamb, beef, eggs and cheese.

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If we all just buy a little every week from our farmers, we keep them solvent. Not everyone needs to join a CSA, but for the six months of markets, you can do much better than that tired old stuff in a grocery store.

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Lovin’ the Springtime

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Finally, we seem to have stumbled upon a true spring time. Lovely sunny low humidity days. Perfect for al fresco dining. No bugs. No wind. Looks like a bit more of this weather in store also. Today we opted for dining outside as much as possible, and also spent time on the yardwork.

First, a report on our impromptu lunch on the patio. Using CSA items mostly, but making my simple salad as a topping. CSA greens with some scallions, baby turnips and red cabbage. A couple of pieces of that mozzarella I made. One of those huge spicy peppery radishes, and half a Valencia orange. Add to it some homemade vinaigrette. The topping is my Tuscan inspired tuna.

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In the little cup is a dollop of vanilla yogurt I picked up at Breezy Willow Wednesday, served with a few apricots and some frozen blackberries, left from my Larriland stash in the freezer.

Dinner is happily slow cooking in the oven, the last of the lasagne I made from my homemade sauce. Took it from freezer to oven. No fuss while we enjoy the weather in the back yard.

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I can hear the tractors, my husband in the field and my neighbor in his yard. Doesn’t everyone park their tractor by the patio while taking a lunch break?

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As for how things are developing in the flower and tree department. Azaleas really starting to flower.

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This purple one is really full of blooms. Also having a banner year is my crab apple. Within a few days, this should be a vision in white.

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Anything significant blooming in your space? Spring has definitely sprung in West Hoco.

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Under the Weather

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It never fails every spring, I pick up at least one cold while the weather keeps vacillating. Today after doing a fair amount of work in the gardens, I succumbed to that stuffy head, achy muscles and simply miserable feeling. Making me miss a hocobloggers get together at Xitomate. I judge a Mexican restaurant by their moles and their camarones dinners.

We will get there to try it with friends some night, just didn’t make it today. Besides, I can’t wait until they get to Turf Valley, much closer to our house.

Before crashing on the sofa with lemon water and rosemary crackers, I did get many of my herbs in the garden, and spent about an hour pulling up black fabric in the main veggie gardens. I will plant the tomatoes in three weeks, after the last chance of frost. Tell me, is there anything better than the scent of tomato plants?

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They are all happy in the mudroom under the window facing east. As for the flowers outside, the dogwoods are blooming. The early azaleas too. I will be taking a trip to Brighton Dam tomorrow if I feel better to see what is happening there.

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Yes, under the trees the dandelions are going nuts. So are all our other weeds, and the wild parsley that keeps the bunnies out of my herbs. Herbs planted and planned this year include blue sage, common sage, French tarragon, French thyme, African blue basil, marjoram and sweet basil. The chives and rosemary are coming back as well as that weed called mint. If you do nothing else, plant a few small pots of herbs. Thyme does very well around here.

As for the Thelma Sanders start from seed squash experiment, I ended up with one dozen plants from the saved seeds. Not a bad germination rate at all. There will be a section in the garden for the squash and cucumbers to hopefully happily coexist.

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Finally, one last thing about locally sourced meats. We got half a lamb last week from England Acres. Twenty seven pounds. Dressed the way we wanted it. At a fraction of the cost of buying it at the store.

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Next week is their first week for their chickens. Believe me, since there are none left in the freezer, I will be popping out to the farm for a couple.

I may be fighting a simple spring bug, but the weather and that beginning of growing season always gets me motivated to go out and enjoy my favorite time of year here in the midAtlantic.

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Early Bird CSA Week Eight

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It was a lovely day out at the farm today for CSA pickup.

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The addition to the farm store building is now our CSA pick up site. The smaller section is the store. Bigger, brighter, and filled with lots of great looking food. Plus, outside the animals were out sunning themselves and getting attention.

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What did we get this week?

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Two pounds of onions
Eight juice oranges
One bulb garlic
Two pounds zucchini
One pound spinach
Half pound salad greens
Three pounds sweet potatoes
One pound green beans
One bunch radishes

This week a non egg week. We had a choice of applesauce, cherry amaretto jam, or Monterey Jack cheese. I picked applesauce. And, a new bread for me. Already made my light dinner, tuna salad on it. My better half went off to a meeting and I was tired from running around in the sun at the Conservancy all morning, so made a salad and a sandwich. This bread is awesome!!!

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I also nibbled on two of the radishes. I love fresh radishes dipped in a little seasoned salt. I see radishes in the swap boxes often, and don’t know why people dislike them. I love them, raw or baked or sliced on bread with butter and salt.

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Eight weeks down, four to go. Breezy Willow continues to have a great mix of veggies. Perfect to pair things for recipes.

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