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Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Buy Local Challenge

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Coming up on 20-28 July. Maryland has a Buy Local Challenge the last full week of July every year. What do you have to do to participate?

It’s easy. Go to the web site and register. Pledge to eat one local item every day during the challenge. These days, eating locally is pretty simple.

Some ready made ideas. Like honey, coffee, biscotti, bread, milk, ice cream, eggs, cheeses, jams and jellies, tomatoes, fruit.

Some that require a little cooking, like corn, meat, squash, potatoes.

Yesterday, my lunch plate was full of locally grown ideas.

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The blueberries from Larriland. Arugula and salad mix from Love Dove Farms, bought at the farmer’s market. The onion in the tuna salad. The potatoes, scallions and chives in my potato salad. The goat cheese.

This year’s theme for the challenge is to Enjoy Local Foods Outdoors. Picnic items like potato salad, deviled eggs, cole slaw, sliced tomatoes and onions on burgers made with local beef.

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Bread and rolls from Stone House, or The Breadery, or Great Harvest, or Atwater’s. Bowls full of fresh berries with ice cream from Misty Meadows, bought at the Friday market.

Grilled corn on the cob, with fresh butter and spice.

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Caprese style salad, with goat cheese from Firefly Farms, or fresh mozzarella bought at Breezy Willow. They also have ice cream, fresh Trickling Springs butter, honey, yogurt that is awesome.

If you are a CSA member, it is really a snap to beat this challenge.

Or, check out the local farmstands, like Clark’s or Baugher’s or Breezy Willow.

Buy some mint. Put it in a pot. Make mojitos.

The possibilities are endless. How about peach pops made with fresh local peaches, local yogurt blended and frozen?

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Are you up for the challenge? Register now, and think about what you can do to support Maryland farms and businesses.

And, come to our picnic on the 28th at the Howard County Conservancy. More on that later this month.


The Blue(berry) Plate Special

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Lunch after Larriland, and berry picking.

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We had considered a visit to Town Grill in Lisbon, but it was packed. So, we came home and made a salad that screams summer. More on the recipe in tomorrow’s post, but first some pictures from a busy Saturday on the opening day of blueberry picking season.

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No matter where you looked there were cars and people. Families, couples, singles, we heard all sorts of languages, too. Lots of people picking blueberries and tart cherries. We did see cars over in the strawberry fields, for what ended up being the last day for strawberries.

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The black raspberries need a few more days to ripen. We will be heading out there Tuesday or Wednesday if we hear they are ready.

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These are the black raspberries, just below some of the blueberry fields. We picked almost 6 1/2 pounds of blueberries.

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My final tally was 21 cups of blueberries. Seventeen bags in the freezer. One I gave to my neighbor and three cups in the fridge to make fresh baked goodies and to use on salads and cereal.

I also went up to the barn and got some sweet corn, and some sweet cherries. My husband is devouring the cherries but I did get two bags of a cup each, pitted and halved, to freeze. The rest. Being eaten every chance we get.

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Is there a better way to get your fresh fruit, than picking it and eating it that same day? Can’t wait for blackberry season.


From CSA to Markets to Farms

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Where I shop these days. In the summer, the vast majority of my food purchases come from these three sources. The only reason I hit the grocery stores or Costco is for bulk pantry items.

Like the nuts and olive oil for pestos. I am in pesto making mode. With the basil from the CSA, and arugula from Love Dove Farm, and mustard greens and carrot tops from the CSA.

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I saved the carrot tops from both weeks of CSA, and the mustard greens from a week ago. Add some arugula and scallion tops, some garlic, slivered almonds from Costco and Pecorino Romano from Costco. I don’t measure this at all. The carrot tops and mustard greens were blanched, then rinsed, then squeezed dry. I got two one cup jars for the freezer.

Pesto is one of those forgiving recipes. Add or subtract. Substitute. Be creative. My second pesto came from the CSA basil, with almonds, pecorino, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. The simple recipe. Two or three cups of basil. 3/4 cup almonds, 3/4 cup of cheese, three garlic cloves, drizzle in the olive oil while processing. Get the consistency you want. Season with salt and pepper if you need to. Put it in air tight containers, cover in olive oil. Refrigerate or freeze.

Pesto in the winter is a wonderful thing.

Next venture today was fava bean and halloumi.

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On the right, the fava beans in their pods, after blanching. Take them out and they are still in their wrinkled shells. Shell them and use them in all sorts of ways. This is one of my favorites.

I did not take pictures. Mine don’t look as good as that. I buy my halloumi at Roots Market. Had mint from the CSA. I used peas I got from Love Dove. They were snap peas but I shelled them.

Tomorrow we are hitting Larriland for the first day of blueberry picking. There will be pounds of berries brought home, cleaned and frozen, with some left out to enjoy. I just used the last of what I picked in 2012.

In the summer, hit the markets, the farms, join a CSA and the only thing you buy at the store may be toilet paper. And, other non food items. Really. We have an amazing variety of fresh foods here in Howard County.


Why I Like This CSA

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Week Six. It’s the unusual veggies that make my day, when the email comes and things like this are in the list.

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Fava Beans. Something you rarely see around here. I have a great recipe for grilled halloumi with fava beans and mint. It will be part of dinner tomorrow night.

The Complete List:

1 pack microradishes – Eastbrook Produce
1 bag green beans – Healthy Harvest Organics
1 bag fava beans – Bellview Organics
1 bunch chioggia beets – Plum Hill Organics
1 bunch blue hyssop – Lancaster Farmacy (swapped)
1 bag white cucumbers – Liberty Branch Organics
1 bunch carrots – Red Fox Organics
1 bunch sweet basil – Noble Herbs
1 head broccoli – Organic Willow Acres
1 slicing cucumber – Valley View Organics
1 bunch red kale – Sunny Slope Organics
1 bunch fresh red onions – Windy Hollow Organics

The total package:

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I also love the white cucumbers. A treat we get once or twice a summer. And, those microradishes. And, that lovely bunch of very fragrant basil.

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I am tempted to try and make pickles with the white cucumbers, but they are so good and so crunchy that they won’t make it into the pickling crock. I still have a week or two for my planted pickling cukes to produce. Lots of greenery and yellow blossoms, just a few tiny cukes out there.

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Transitioning from spring veggies to summer ones, and anticipating those first tomatoes. Tomorrow I will be putting together a post about what I have been doing with the CSA veggies, and maybe have pictures of my first garlic harvest. I think the garlic is ready to be dug out of the ground.

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Weathering the Storms

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All of them. Thunderstorms. Rain. Wind. Political. Seems to be a busy week around here. And then some.

Did you know we were almost 3 inches above normal for rainfall in west county so far this year? That would be a good thing, for our wells, but a bad thing these days for my tomatoes. They are way behind when it comes to blossoming and ripening. The good thing is the fact that I don’t have to water the garden. The bad thing is the yellowing of the vines from too much water.

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I know this is affecting the farmers. I see our emails from CSAs about what we can get. And, how far behind the crops are. Last year I had cucumbers. This year. Not even close. Maybe in a week or so.

I also only have a few small cherry tomatoes on my plants. Lots of blossoms. No real production. Should be interesting when the county fair rolls around, to see what survived.

I have blogged often about the stormwater fees too. Nice to see that they are somewhat on hold while assessments are made. I have seen lots of stories and lots of comments.

Like the Green Central Station update.

And, hocorising had a good piece, but with an interesting comment from a reader of his blog calling us names out here in west county. So much for civility and #summerofneighbors. Now, we are bullies.

Just a little clarification, though, from my perspective. Yes, many of us out here have more impervious surfaces. But, as a percentage of land, it is minuscule compared to what we had when we lived in Columbia.

My fee for stormwater would have been $30 when I lived in the townhouse. A house on a cul-de-sac. 100% of our stormwater went into swales or drains that emptied into a stormwater management pond that when it was full, drained off into a stream that fed the Patuxent. With a $30 fee, do you think I would have been really gung-ho to spend money to mitigate the run off?

Out here, we were going to be assessed $165 for our 5500 square feet of impervious surface, none of which enters any streams, drains or ponds. A large fee, with property that does not impact the Bay. Lots of our neighbors facing even higher fees because of the length of their driveways. But, we have no curbs. No drains. No streams within a mile.

Out here, water is precious. Without it, our wells run dry in drought years. Plus, if the farmers’ ponds run dry, it affects irrigation and the health of their livestock. Not to mention the fact that those ponds out here are a large source of water if you have a fire. No hydrants for the fire trucks. Finally in the past few years they have put in underground tanks to store water for fire fighting.

If you have ever replaced a well, or dealt with problems with your well, you would understand better why we resent being taxed for something most of us don’t do. Which is encourage run off. Price the cost of drilling a new well and you will see why.

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Our current well is 487 feet deep. Just this exercise, when the wire to the pump shorted out due to nicks and cuts and had to be replaced was an eye opener as to expense. I don’t want to have to drill another, deeper well to find water. We are very careful about keeping our ecosystem healthy. The trees, the meadows, the grading, all of the contributors that help us retain water.

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It is lovely out here, even when it storms. And, we are not bullies. Many, many of us are stewards of the land, and we care deeply about it. I have to admit, it annoyed me to be called a “bully”.

Thanks, Greg Fox, for caring about the farmers, the long time residents and everyone else, including us, that live out here in wide open spaces, lovely spaces, even with all the rain.

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Fiddlers and Fireflies

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This Thursday night.

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Description from the Conservancy Web Site.

JUN 27- Thursday 6-9pm Fiddlers and Fireflies- Bring your family and picnic dinner to the Conservancy as Fiddlers and Fireflies, one of our most popular programs, returns this summer. As the fireflies begin to flicker in the tall grasses around the property at Mt. Pleasant, listen to great performers of fiddle music, Steve Hickman’s band, who have electrified audiences for close to thirty years. Children and adults alike will join in the dancing with the fiddles and the fireflies. Kids will also learn interesting facts about fireflies and are invited to make a firefly craft. Bring your own picnic blanket or chairs $10/car

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Last year the crafts tables were really popular. Making fireflies, coloring activities, other crafts. Along with the picnicing and dancing.

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As you can see, the little ones were the first ones up enjoying the music. And, last year a surprise visit from one of the two goats who are part of the Conservancy “family”, being friendly and getting fed leaves by the children.

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Lots to do. Great music. A bargain for a family at $10 a car to cover the musicians’ fee. Even a bargain for a couple, or a group of friends, who could set up their picnic anywhere on the hillside and listen to the music while watching the sunset and look for the fireflies to come out. Or, maybe play a game of catch. This is one of my favorite summer traditions.

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Givers and Takers

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This weekend I spent time with loads of givers. People who give of their time, their investment, their heart, soul, money, you name it. I am so amazed at the passion and dedication of my fellow “hams” and their spouses and families.

There have been calls for this to be the #summerofneighbors by a local Columbia blogger. Where you connect with your neighbors and post it on twitter. I would think I could overload twitter with the sheer volume of “neighborliness” found in the amateur radio community.

Look at this picture.

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Filled with givers. Father and son. Jon and Dave. Others who were there from beginning to end.

I look at the food board. Full of contributions from wives and families.

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And, there are club members like Dave, checking in even while attending family weddings.

I heard conversations over the weekend about other community events. Bike race support. Non profit board meetings. The next big radio contest where we will be using the national call sign to represent the US in an international competition.

Here in our hobby, long time leaders teaching new volunteers. Like Maurice teaching Melanie.

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Getting the newer members interested and active in our organization is something we know is important to our continued success.

When we look at what we accomplished, another successful, safe and enjoyable event, we realize it is all because we are surrounded by Givers. Not Takers. Not people who sit on the sidelines and criticize or expect something for nothing. GIVERS!

I blogged last year how I thought the motto on those bumper stickers “Choose Civility” didn’t go far enough. You really need a community mindset to make a difference.

CARA and PVRC exhibit this every year for this national event. People give time, money, and passion to make it successful. I realize now, after a few years of volunteering, that I can look at all the pictures and I know the names of everyone in them. Isn’t that what neighborly really means? Is just going somewhere a neighborly thing?

Isn’t immersion in your community to the extent that you know the people, know their children’s names, know their food preferences, their favorite things, important?

Are you a giver? Or, someone watching on the sidelines? Step up. Find your passion. Invest in Howard County. Your home.


Wrapping Up Another Year … W3AO

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Every year the list gets longer as more and more people support the two local radio clubs, CARA and PVRC, in making the annual Field Day bigger and better.

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Watching W3LPL roll up his cables, this year with the help of KD4D, I think to myself, they are walking two miles combined. After operating their radios for most of the 24 hour contest period.

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They, along with about a dozen other very tired, but elated, participants, took down all the towers, all the wires, all the computers, a half dozen tents, and all those other little jobs that would leave the school field looking just like it did when they arrived.

Earlier today, it was cooler, a little overcast, but then the wind kicked up, the flags showed the weather changing, and everyone thought we would be tearing down the setup in bad weather.

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Jim, N3KTV was prepared for a rainy tear down, but thankfully after an hour of drizzle and some heavy rain, it did clear up in time for the grilled lunch. Unfortunately, hot, humid weather made it a bit uncomfortable to work out there. I think we went through dozens of bottles of water, and lots of watermelon, bananas, and grapes.

At one point, I was driving around the fields giving out water bottles and offering more sun screen. We had multiple teams pulling down antennas, cranking down towers along with the dismantling of the operating tents.

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Here I do want to pay tribute to the sometimes unsung heroes in any endeavor, like this weekend event. Those members of the clubs and their friends and families who spend hours after the end of the event cleaning up and putting it all away until next time. Even after long hours. And, to KE3Q, for making the Get On The Air (GOTA) station a much used and appreciated station for young and old alike to be introduced to the magic of contacting someone anywhere in the US and Canada.

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Without the dedicated team players, any organization, non profit or otherwise, can’t succeed. I think W3AO succeeds because of all of those dedicated people. Glad that they are our neighbors and friends. It was another great event. Safely conducted. Can’t wait to see the final results and looking forward to next year, our fifteenth anniversary of operating here in Howard County.

All Fun and Games, But Still Serious … W3AO

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Yesterday I blogged about setting up for the annual Field Day for the local radio clubs. Today we finished set up and started the event. The pictures show much more about how much fun this group has, in all we do.

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The not so serious team picture, after the official one. Where one of the puppies escaped. One of our club members comes up with his family and camps out. They bring the dogs, as our “security system”. They bark up a storm if someone wanders on the site at night, letting all the campers in the tents know we have a visitor. Including of course, all the deer out here.

This year, we have puppies on site. Including escaping puppies. Who delighted our local state delegate, Gail Bates, who came out at our request to fulfill the condition for club points that local officials attend our event. Gail comes every year, as we set up in her district.

She enjoyed talking to everyone and also loved the puppies, even recording them on her phone.

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This event is a huge undertaking, and yesterday I made a mistake. We actually ended up with more digital stations than in the past so we are on the air today as 29 Alpha. Twenty nine set ups capable of simultaneous transmission.

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Thankfully, Dave who handles all our IT can make sense of this.

Prior to starting the event, K3RA, Rol, gives us all the last minute instructions. He does quite a bit of the planning, along with other long time club members.

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We had lots of visitors out at the school site today, since you can’t miss all those rows of AB-577 crank up masts with huge antennas mounted on them.

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FEMA came to visit too. They were really impressed. They even took pictures of our food tent, teasing us about the flowers. They are visiting field sites all across the USA, and talking to amateurs about how we support with communications during national disasters.

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Audrey, who is K3RA’s XYL (she prefers YL) but the amateur traditions that wives are X-young ladies, now that we have married the OMs (old men), is in charge of the food tent.

All armies, including our amateur radio one, march on their stomachs and we feed them well. We do lunch on Friday. Lunch and dinner on Saturday. Breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Right now, four pounds of bacon are in my ovens, being cooked for tomorrow. Thankfully, I live just up the road from the site. I will be taking bacon, eggs, and coffee up there at 7 am.

As for other notable characters at our event, I don’t think there are many in the amateur radio world that don’t know W3LPL, Frank.

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Frank brings two miles of coaxial cable to the event, and most of the antennas for HF (high frequency).

People are out there tonight making contacts. I need to get my husband up so he can relieve the 40 meter phone operator at midnight.

One more day to go. We can sleep Monday. Come visit us tomorrow. Dozens of people were there today.


Back On the Air Again … W3AO

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Field Day Weekend. What is it? Why are all these people out in a field putting up antennas? Two local Howard County based clubs join forces every year to put on an amateur radio extravaganza. Exhibiting a “Can Do” attitude with respect to creating and operating a major emergency communications capability.

Think amateur radio isn’t necessary anymore? Ask those who need help after major disasters when cell towers are down, or inoperable due to damage, or overloaded. Ask after Katrina and other natural disasters. It is a good thing to have people capable of erecting temporary towers to assist local emergency teams.

Once a year, the fourth weekend in June, clubs all across the United States participate in this exercise. It allows club members to practice their skill at antenna erecting, generator based operating, and it builds a sense of community across the clubs and their respective local authorities.

The clubs that put this effort together are the Columbia Amateur Radio Association (CARA) and the Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC). My husband is a member of both clubs. CARA focuses quite a bit on community service, supporting biking and running events and assisting at the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) during severe weather events.

PVRC is a contest club, mainly. A group of very dedicated seriously competitive members spanning a few states with the center of the club radius here in central Maryland. Put the contesters and the community service supporters together and you get one huge effort to be the biggest and best station on the air this weekend.

The clubs put up eleven crank up 50 foot high portable towers. String wire antennas between them as well as put up some monstrous beams to transmit on single frequency bands.

Bring in generators, tents, and we will go on the air tomorrow at 2 pm, for 24 hours of seeking and contacting other clubs and individuals across all 50 states. You want the Taj Mahal of radio stations, how about an air conditioned tent?

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When you bring all the generators and most of the VHF/UHF gear, you can also bring your own A/C unit.

As for the antennas out there, most of them come from one member. How about one huge 20 meter beam?

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Besides the antennas, the club uses miles of coaxial cable to tie all these stations to their operating tent. All of the towers must exist within a set radius. The club is operating 28 Alpha this year. Twenty eight simultaneous stations on the air. Alpha means powered by generators. Twenty eight times hundreds of feet of cable. Twenty eight beams, dipoles, wires and other types of antennas at all frequencies available to the amateur community.

We know they have finished set up of the towers when the flags are raised.

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Tomorrow morning is computer and radio set up morning, and all must be done for start at 2 PM. If you want to see something awesome, head out to Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School and visit. You can even operate one of the stations dedicated to getting new people on the air.

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See you tomorrow?