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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Breezy Willow Farm, In West Friendship

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I know I first encountered Breezy Willow at the Glenwood Farmer’s Market, but I don’t remember when. The market was small when we first moved out here, but as a Saturday market it was easy to attend while we still had day jobs in DC. I buy quite a few veggies from them on Saturday mornings and still do much of my purchases of items I don’t grow in my garden from their stand. Things like the sweet corn, the radishes, the summer squash, peppers, and more. And, of course, their lovely free range eggs.

market closing day 2012

market closing day 2012

Breezy Willow offers all sorts of items, including eggs, honey, breads, soap, herbs, rare veggies, and fruit. They are a certified organic farm. Here is a very detailed description from their website.

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Besides, who can resist the alpacas? And, the sheep, the chickens, the dog, any or all of them will greet you when you pick up your Community Supported Agriculture “basket” in the farm store. Visits weekly to the farm really do create that connection between us and the source of our food.

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They also make and sell other goodies, like handmade jewelry, alpaca scarves and socks, felted soap balls, scented soaps, the list goes on. It is truly a labor of love on a family run farm. I love to buy the soaps to give as Christmas gifts.

RJ, Ken, Casey and Jason are all out and about. You may run into them at the markets, on the farm, and CSA pick up points beyond the farm. The farm does offer work for your CSA options, for those who staff the CSA pick up points, or the market. They work for their share, instead of paying for it.

This is an incredibly popular CSA in the county, one that has been adding pick up sites every season, and now has more than 700 members.

For the summer and fall CSA, which runs 24 weeks, starting in June, the vast majority of your items come from surrounding farms and from Breezy Willow. They do bring in goodies like mushrooms from PA and a few farms are outside of the county. To me, that is a good thing.

The success or failure of CSAs depends on happy customers. Some people are leery of taking risk if weather could wipe out part of a harvest, and the only source of their veggies is one farm. By diversification, and use of a cooperative venture among small regional farms, CSAs like Breezy Willow are a very good value for those looking for healthy foods to serve themselves and their families. The diversification mitigates some of the risk, and by paying up front for your future “shares”, you assist the farm in getting cash flow in spring when they need it for planting. It is a good thing for both sides of the transaction.

In the early spring, Breezy Willow added an “early bird CSA” a few years ago. It runs 12 weeks from March through May, and supplements cold storage fruit and vegetables with greenhouse grown, high tunnel grown, and some shipped in items from the South. Items like fresh Florida citrus at the height of the Florida growing season. For those of us weary of winter and ready for spring, this CSA gives us really fresh outstanding veggies and fruit from small farms along the coast. I can’t wait to see if we get some early berries from Carolina or Virginia.

Breezy Willow also works with the other farms in the area to offer their dairy products, and meats out at the farm. I am partial to the yogurt, and if they have Bowling Green Farm feta in the fridge, I grab it. The farm store was open on Saturdays this spring from 10-2, and is open for CSA members on CSA pick up days.

Now that they have added an extension to the farm store building, we were told that the CSA will pick up in the extension and the farm store will take over the entire original section.

If you want a real treat find out what flavors of ice cream are in the cooler. My personal favorites, salted caramel, honey graham and maple bacon. Yes, maple bacon ice cream. The sweetness of maple with the saltiness of tiny pieces of bacon.

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If you get the chance, check out the farm on one of their open days. Call ahead if there isn’t a notice on the web site. You can see what they offer by browsing on the site, and if you want to order, they will arrange a convenient pick up time.

You can’t miss them on Old Frederick Road (Rte 99), just west of Rte. 32 and the West Friendship fire station.

Or, stop by when they begin their participation in the Glenwood Saturday market at the library and community center parking lot. Last year, they started selling in early June, once they had a good supply of veggies to bring to market.

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Week Six of the Breezy Willow CSA

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Tomorrow I will be writing about the farm, today was CSA pickup day.

Week Six. Halfway through the Early Bird. I know why people love this CSA. The trip to the farm alone is worth it. The sheep need shearing! It was 88 degrees up there!

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This week we got some new items. I know this value added CSA for early birds brings some items in from farms further south of here, but I have no problem with that as I get very fresh veggies that haven’t been sprayed or transported thousands of miles from foreign countries.

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We got:
1/2 pound salad mix
1 pound bean sprouts
1 pound brussels sprouts
2 pounds beets
1 bunch rainbow carrots
3 pink grapefruit from Florida
1 bulb garlic
1 pound collard greens
1 bunch radishes
1 dozen eggs
Toasted Sesame Seed Bread

We could have swapped eggs for cheese, and of course, there were at least six different bread choices out there. I already used some bean sprouts with the last of the spinach, the last of the sugar snap peas, some garlic and onion to make a stir fry for dinner tonight.

I will be making pesto. Sort of like this one. I will be using the carrot greens, the radish greens, some basil from my windowsill pots, and maybe some of my baby arugula from my seedlings in the patio doorway.

basil growing on the windowsill

basil growing on the windowsill

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The picture directly above is my starter tray that contains arugula, kale and mesclun. If I thin out the arugula, it will add a touch of that peppery bite. If I wait only three or four days to make this, I will also have enough mint in the pots out on the deck to add. Pesto just needs that ratio of greens mixed with the nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil. I started experimenting using this post about not wasting food as a starter.

I also picked up a container of blueberry yogurt today, to mix with some of my Butler Orchard blueberries picked last summer and frozen. I am using these berries in all sorts of things.

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Spring is definitely here. My cooking will be getting lighter. More salads and less stews. Grilling quite a bit, too. This week’s basket will easily get consumed with little leftover. We already started nibbling those gorgeous radishes as an appetizer tonight.

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Signs of Spring in Woodstock

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Actually, that would be “THE” sign of spring.

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The OPEN flag at the Woodstock snowball stand. Trumpeting to one and all that warm weather is officially here. Peaches and cream, heavy on the syrup, marshmallow in the middle. How do you like your snowballs?

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After a morning of training, hiking at the Conservancy, I had to stop to bring home a snowball for my husband who was cleaning out the debris from the property edge. OK, I confess. I ate the top inch or so of the snowball. Didn’t want it to spill in the car.

We had a lovely morning, planning for an eighth grade pilot trip to discuss history and the farm circa the Civil War era. The barn was on the tour.

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The Montjoy barn, moved and reassembled on site. I believe we were told the old site of the barn is now the Chick-fil-a on Executive Park Drive off Route 100. I know the Montjoy farm was over there, as the Elms at Montjoy apartments now occupy part of the farm land. Since the barn was probably built in the 1800s, it fits in well with the lessons we will be teaching the eighth graders. We have hands on projects for them to do, in the barn, the smokehouse, the blacksmith shop and the farmhouse.

Eighteen of us were out training today and enjoying the blossoming of the shrubs and flowers on the Conservancy grounds.

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Any more speculation about the holes in the fascia of the smokehouse. The most plausible is pigeon roosting cubbyholes, so the family could capture the eggs and use them in cooking. Maybe, maybe not. Still a subject of discussion.

In my farm series, it wouldn’t be complete without these references to Brown’s farm, or Mt. Pleasant, the site of the Howard County Conservancy, where I volunteer.

As for the last spring image, I give you the “pot people” decked out in spring gear and Orioles hat.

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On one of these lovely days, you need to come out and walk the grounds, feed the goats some twigs or leaves, ogle the chickens and guess the flowering shrub none of us knew.

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The answer is quince. Thanks to the staff for looking it up and posting it on facebook.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane – Clark’s Farm

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First and foremost to me these days it is all about the Enchanted Forest. Seeing this image when I drive down Rte 108 brings back amazing memories.

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I was 2 1/2 years old when the Enchanted Forest opened. I don’t know how many times we went there. The Clark family preserving these magnificent fairy tale figures and buildings is truly impressive.

But, this is still a farm. A great farm. One that has been here for more than 200 years. I also can’t remember when we started buying sweet corn and tomatoes, almost weekly on our way home to our house off Cedar Lane. Clark’s farm is a working farm surrounded by Columbia.

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Sweet corn. Something my parents bought on the way to and from the ocean. Something we found at small farms all over Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. The produce stand was how many Columbia residents first learned about Clark farm. Incredibly fresh, just picked, sometimes the pick up truck full of corn arriving when we did.

Now, they have diversified, like the smart farmers around here do. Some do CSAs, some do farmer’s markets, Christmas trees, tours, pumpkin patches, pick your own, mazes, you name it.

Clark’s. being very close to Columbia, has an advantage. Come see animals, ride the ponies, take a hay ride, walk the new pine tree maze.

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The maze is fun. I found the black goose, the tortoise and the hare, the teakettle and teacups. Hickory dickory dock.

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Besides all the attractions at Elioak, the farm is selling pasture fed meat. The castle store has their beef and Bowling Green Farm cheese for sale. You can pop in and get meat, now expanded to include lamb, pork and chicken. Twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays, they sell eggs from free range chickens.

The produce stand is open July-September. You can get meat year round. This is a farm nestled right up against Columbia. Thriving, due to Martha and Nora. Take some time and stop in. If you grew up in Maryland, pay that $5 for a trip down memory lane. I just crossed another childhood memory off my sixty@sixty list.

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There is an old lady who lived in a shoe …

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The Sunday Night Eat Local Report

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It’s Sunday, the day our small group of bloggers puts up our latest meals made using mostly local ingredients, bought from farms and artisans in our 100 mile radius.

As for the farm reports, which I am working also, I hope to do at least two farms a week, and make them part of my Eat Local Challenge. They will be spaced out to take advantage of visits once they open for the spring and summer seasons.

Tomorrow I will talk about Clark’s and later this week, Breezy Willow. Clark’s just opened their Elioak site last week, and I stopped by today to see how they were doing. Busy, busy, busy. As I said, more tomorrow, but how can you resist such a beautiful scene?

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Today I want to showcase some local foods from my Breezy Willow Early Bird CSA, which found their way into dinners the past two nights.

And, since wineries are farms, too, I will touch on the wines from VA that made their way to the table.

Friday night stir fry.

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The Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, onions and spinach all came from Breezy Willow. The Canadian bacon in there came from Orchard Breeze Farm in PA, bought at the Olney indoor winter market. Orchard Breeze raises Berkshire hogs. This bacon made its way into many meals the past few days. The Japanese sweet potatoes that you see in the pan came from my fall CSA, Sandy Spring, which uses Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, a nonprofit Amish coop from PA (80+ farms). I divide my CSAs between the two, using the strength of each one to keep me in fresh foods most of the year.

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Looks good, doesn’t it? The shrimp came from the new Harris Teeter in Marriottsville, and the noodles are from Nature’s Yoke. I picked them up in the farm store at Breezy Willow when I got my CSA.

Served with one of my favorite wines for slightly spicy dishes. Since this dish also included some of the red peppers from the olive bar at Harris Teeter, some garlic from last week’s CSA, and grated ginger (another Harris Teeter purchase), it had a little kick to it. Enter Linden Vidal Riesling, a slightly sweet yet acid balanced white perfect for Asian styled foods.

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I include Linden and his wines in my farm categories, as if you ever meet the owner of Linden, Jim Law, he will introduce himself as a farmer. To him, growing the grapes and tending his land is extremely important in the success of his winery.

Last night we had another local meal. Venison tenderloin. From my stash of venison. The farm across the way from us. My neighbor helps them in herd management and we got one of them for the cost of processing. This was the tenderloin, a prized part and one that demands careful handling.

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I did a dry rub with RubJoeMeat. I can’t explain it. Read it on their web site if you really want to know. Trust me, though, it is a great rub for beef and for venison. I found the recipe to use for the tenderloin here.

I did not use a BBQ sauce, I made my own sauce from my berry vinaigrette, local PA maple syrup, balsamic, cinnamon and cayenne. Grilled it on that lovely evening yesterday.

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The sweet potato is from last week’s CSA. The salad made with eggs, spinach, mushrooms, onions, all from Breezy Willow, the last of the bacon from Orchard Breeze. Perfectly cooked venison, not tough or gamey at all.

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It looks great, doesn’t it? I will definitely use that web site again, for other venison recipes. As for the wine last night, I mentioned wanting to use a really good wine, and decided on a very old lovely Barboursville Octagon. From 1998, as a matter of fact.

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Luca Paschina makes exceptional wines near Charlottesville. And he is one of the sweetest people to talk to, we spent 15 minutes in a buffet line at RdV last fall talking about his winery and his love of Virginia, coming here from Piemonte to be the winemaker at Barboursville.

1998 was the vintage year for the third edition of Octagon. Beautiful wine, that stood up to the venison and had that smokiness that matches grilled food so well.

You don’t have to buy imported wines, or food shipped halfway around the world to have first class meals. This weekend we celebrated the arrival of spring, using some of the best in the area.

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From Farm to Freezer – Larriland

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I don’t remember when I first heard about Larriland Farms, in Lisbon. They have been there for 50 years, ever since they sold their Guilford farm which became part of Columbia. They started the pick your own farm ten years later in 1973. We rarely got out there, until we moved here to west Howard County.

Now, they are just up the road.

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I was there for opening day of strawberry season in 2012. School was out that day and lots of families with their children were having fun picking strawberries.

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This was the year we picked strawberries and blackberries, and visited a few times to pick up goodies in their farm store. You don’t have to do all the work, you can just stop in and buy already picked delicacies. I picked almost 10 pounds of strawberries. You get the price break at twenty pounds.

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If you don’t have a garden and want to freeze veggies or fruits, this is the place to go. The Moore family runs the farm. It is so organized, and the fruit is amazing quality. Plus, they encourage noshing while you pick. This is close to ten pounds of strawberries.

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What did I do with them? Besides the fresh salad that day for lunch?

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Whole strawberries, strawberry puree frozen. I put the puree in wine, or club soda, or sangria. The jars I use to make berry vinaigrette. The frozen whole berries I drop in smoothies or juices. Same with the blackberries. This year, though, with my smaller garden I am looking to pick veggies. Can’t think of a better place to spend a few hours. I have begun monitoring their website to see when the 2013 season will start.

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Follow their site, or sign up for email newsletters. Anyway you look at it, these lovely fruits could be in your freezer.

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England Acres

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One of my favorite farms to visit. I am going to profile local farms, why I shop at them and what they offer. I first found England Acres during a visit to South Mountain Creamery and Wegmans in Frederick. Driving home the back way I ended up going through New Market on Rt. 144 and found a sign.

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I never got back to check it out until June 2012. It was love at first sight. The house is one of those very old farm places that kept expanding as the family grew, and the market was just next to it. I fell in love with the house.

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Judy runs an amazing business. Partners with lots of local farms and artisans. If you want really good farm raised meat, or free range eggs, this is the place to go. How about duck eggs? They just starting selling those for a local farm. They have all sorts of sources. Cheese, yogurt, spelt flour, homemade baked goods. You name it. She works to bring it in and make it available. I love the fact that they are open year round, and that they really do support small local farms.

In February, Super Bowl weekend, I found.

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Popcorn and cookies.

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Salad mix and mushrooms.

The meat is amazing. Chicken soup from their chickens. Awesome.

Eggs, I can’t begin to describe. Between Breezy Willow and England Acres, the eggs from free range chickens have spoiled me, and I won’t ever have to buy grocery store eggs again.

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The size of these eggs. If you love sunny side up eggs, this is the only way to go. How about a double yolk egg?

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We just ordered a side of lamb from them, to be picked up in two weeks. I have to admit, their meat is by far some of the tastiest we have found. A half a lamb. 20 or so pounds, at a price that makes it so worth it. You get to customize your cuts, specify how you want it, boneless or not, and you have a ready source of food not tainted with hormones or antibiotics.

Tomorrow they are having a crafts swap at the farm. I will probably pop out there to leave my stained glass equipment and supplies for swap or barter. If I can find them tonight.

The farm does lots of fun things. Feed the chickens. Picnic on the property. Come to a corn freezing party in late summer. Local farms are the life of our area. Check them out.

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The Demise of the Dark Days Challenge

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And, the rise of local choices year round!

It was a great idea six years ago. To start a challenge for the dark days of winter. To try to find local ingredients to cook one meal a week for four months. Not Dabbling in Normal hosted it last year, and it is where I began my journey to look for locally sourced foods. It is what inspired me to start my local resources page, and to change what I ate, where I bought it, and how I prepared meals. It was not that difficult, thanks to all the resources here.

It seems to have outlived its usefulness, and it no longer was a challenge to cook a local meal in February. It became very easy in this area. High tunnels, greenhouses, hydroponic growing. Year round markets, indoors and outdoors. Farm stands open all winter. CSAs that deliver in the winter. Residents of Howard County are indeed lucky to live surrounded by farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs that keep us in local ingredients.

The challenge is gone, except for the few of us who still keep in touch, and blog every Sunday about our latest local meal. With me, most meals contain at least one locally sourced item. Breezy Willow CSA and Sandy Spring CSA provide me with fresh veggies and fruit for 44 weeks of the year. My freezer does duty to preserve some items so they are available in winter. The farm store at England Acres, the indoor market in Olney, and I don’t have to travel far to get what I need. For only ten weeks a year I don’t have local veggies provided to me from a CSA (yes, I can count, 44+10 equals 54 but my CSAs overlap). Look at these lovely winter selections, begging to make a chicken soup.

February Zahradka half share CSA

February Zahradka half share CSA

I think it is amazing that every year we expand the times for the Howard County markets, and add more farms. There are now five days of markets here in the county, from May until Thanksgiving.

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We have at least eight CSAs dropping off boxes at pickup points, or being picked up at farms like Love Dove, Gorman, Breezy Willow, Shaw Farm and Roundabout Hills. Sandy Spring drops off in Columbia. Zahradka has at least two pick up points in the summer, and delivers to your door in the winter. One Straw Farm has been here a long time, too. People pick up at MOM’s or a private residence.

Add to that, South Mountain Creamery delivering milk, meat, eggs, other local products every week year round, to your door. And, now Friends and Farms is actively adding to the choices to find year round.

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When I started all this writing, I didn’t know it would take me on a path to a new way of shopping, cooking and caring about the small local businesses here. Glad I took the challenge, and so glad I found all these wonderful people to sell me my food.

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Ah yes, bison and polenta. Gunpowder Bison short ribs, Burnt Mills roasted corn meal made into polenta, one of those carrots from the above CSA delivery picture glazed with local honey, and the ribs topped with McCutcheons tomato preserves. Think eating locally is hard? Not here in HoCo, it isn’t!

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Colcannon on CSA Day

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It’s week five of our Breezy Willow CSA. Mostly spring veggies with a little fruit and citrus. I did need to use up older stuff so colcannon came to mind.

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I’ll add my recipe at the end of the post, but let’s start with what we got today.

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Six juice oranges
Four Fuji apples
One pound sugar snap peas
Half pound white mushrooms
Two pounds onions
Three pound sweet potatoes
Half pound salad mix
One pound spinach
One dozen eggs
Sesame Seed Bread

This value added CSA brings us local veggies and fruit, along with not quite local but still not across the southern hemisphere when it comes to sourcing the items. I can handle that. It is all so fresh. It lasts all week and then some.

After picking up our veggies and checking out the alpacas, we headed off to Marriottsville. My husband does think the alpacas are amazing.

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They are cute, aren’t they? So, we went off to the new Harris Teeter, that opened last night. The one in the west edge of Turf Valley. I used to go to Maple Lawn after picking up my summer CSA in Columbia, so this is a welcome addition to west county.

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I wanted some seafood to pair with our latest veggies. And, to use up those older ones. The sockeye salmon on the plate above was picked up today. I also had considered getting some spring rolls but the sushi counter isn’t open yet. They were making balloon animals for the little ones, and doing a brisk business in VIC card sign ups. Even at 3 pm, it was crowded. Lots of checkouts open, though. No wait. I picked up seafood, olives, a red onion and fennel bulb to use with those gorgeous oranges for a salad.

They are 7 miles from us. Giant is 5.5 the other way. Looks like this Harris Teeter will be my local store for staples, seafood and those items I need to round out real food recipes with my CSA foods. Convenient, too. Double that trip. Conservancy and HT. Or, landfill and HT. Or, Woodstock snowball stand and HT. I can see the possibilities.

As for the colcannon recipe. I had two ounces of spinach left from last week. Six Brussels sprouts. Two parsnips. I also had six tiny new potatoes bought at England Acres. Potatoes and parsnips parboiled until tender.

Pan started with butter, olive oil and onion. Shredded sprouts and spinach added. Garlic, three cloves grated over them. A pinch of salt. Let it all cook down. Add the potatoes and parsnips. Mash them and add another pinch of salt and of pepper. And a splash of milk.

With dinner, we opened a bottle of Rappahannock Meritage. Old red wine goes well with salmon. It does have that characteristic cab franc nose from VA, but still a lovely bottle.

Mostly local for the veggies. Local wine. Great CSA. A good Wednesday night.

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Busy, Busy!

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April is the first of three consecutive months where activities crowd the calendar. Can’t believe all the options for things to do, weekends, and weekdays.

This weekend the Baltimore Farmer’s Market opens for the season. Under the overpasses, down by the Jones Falls Expressway. A few of our favorite vendors are regulars there. South Mountain Creamery, Zahradka Farm, Knopps Farm, all farms that we buy from.

Sometime this month we will wander down to have our brunch, enjoy the festivities and wish we had something this awesome in Howard County. We have a month to wait before our markets open.

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We have lots of opportunities to enjoy farm fresh goodies. Clark’s advertises that they have meat and eggs available now that they are open for the season. The farm is open Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Greenfest is the 13th this year, the same day as the housing fair. The 20th is Earth Day, with a bird walk and activities at the Howard County Conservancy.

Sharp’s Farm opens for those of us looking for heirloom seedlings, on the 19th. My tomatoes come from Denise, at the farm. And a few from the Howard County master gardeners who sell at Earth Day. Last year I found my favorite red fig heirloom tomatoes there.

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The 18th is twenty minute clean up day. Last year I spent time cleaning up down by our road.

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That same night is the art auction at the Conservancy. Some really nice items this year. I checked them out while doing training for my volunteer activities. This year’s theme is Connections.

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There is also a wonder walk, an event featuring box turtles, on the 13th, at the Conservancy. And, a training session on the 9th to teach the volunteer naturalists about History during the Civil War, on the farm where the Conservancy now stands. We are going to pilot this program with the Howard County schools later this month.

There is so much going on, I need to pick and choose what to do. Don’t you just love spring?

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