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Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Rainbow of Ribbons

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All the colors. This year the third and fifth place ribbons rounded out my collection.

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It is satisfying as a gardener, to be rewarded that your efforts mean something. That all the weeding, watering (well, not this year), and worrying were worth it.

I went to the fairgrounds this morning to pick up my entries, my ribbons, and my check. It is fun to go and visit with others. While in line at the fair office, or just wandering through the farm and garden building to pick up your veggies.

This year, most of my tomatoes survived the week. The weather was kind to us.

I got to bring home my orange roma tomatoes and oven dry them.

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I added a few from the windowsill, then slow cooked them in olive oil, salt, pepper and a touch of sugar. Off to the freezer they went.

As for the Paul Robeson, there was one there. The other one was eaten during the judging.

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With a second one from the garden, some mozzarella and basil, they became part of dinner tonight.

Twelve of the fifteen cherry tomatoes survived and we had them with our lunch salad. The herbs, nope, they wilted, and were sent to the trash at the fair.

It is not that hard to grow something for the fair. Herbs are the easiest.

Now, to cash that check for $7.50, and plan for next year.


Three Times a Lady

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Lionel Richie.

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Thirty four years ago tonight, this song was the one that I remember from a get together of a church social group. The one that my now husband, then newly met acquaintance, asked me to dance to, at the California Inn.

Thirty three years ago, yesterday, we danced to it at our wedding.

Tonight we went out for our anniversary. We had a gift card for Ruth’s Chris.

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Not that a gift card will cover your meal there, if you get drinks, dessert and wine. But, still, a chance to have “date night” and compare restaurant food with my own.

The tally. I do better steak. Better salads. They do one awesome seared ahi appetizer with Asian accents. They also rock the creme brulee.

I told my husband we need to reserve somplace special on December 9th. On that night we will have been married a third of a century (I know, I am a math geek).

Not a bad Saturday night. By the way, the Ruth’s Chris in Pikesville is quite nice. The closest one to us. Small, but very nicely done inside, and with an outside dining area. Service was excellent. We will go back. Maybe just for appetizers, interesting cocktails, and killer desserts. Try the cucumber collins. It was impressive.


Food Processing Friday

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Well, we didn’t make it to the auction tonight. I just finished processing food for the freezer, and it has been a crazy day weather wise. I still need to handle the beets for the fridge, and the eggplant for the ajvar.

Almost another half inch of rain, and we had some outdoor work that needed to be done this morning.

Add to that a power glitch right in the middle of roasting veggies.

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The eggplant is destined for a small container of ajvar, that I thought didn’t have the smoky charred eggplant flavor I wanted. After roasting, I am letting them cool and will mix them in the spread. The two red peppers I used for them were a bit more than I should have used. Live and learn.

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As for tomatoes, there were three batches done today. Two blanched to be frozen, and one batch for sauce.

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After blanching, I peel them. Squeeze out the seeds, and pack them tightly in freezer bags. I do not use the food saver on tomatoes. Too much liquid in them. I do make sure to remove those damaged areas, the ones where you see the stink bug holes.

As for the romas from the CSA, they became a tomato sauce. A chunky tomato sauce with sausage bits (just enough for flavor).

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Sweating the veggies first.

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Peppers, onions, garlic, carrots in olive oil.

Then, add the peeled squeezed tomatoes. I don’t worry if there are still some seeds in it. I just try to get out the big stuff. Let it simmer on low for at least an hour, until you can completely smash the tomatoes into pulp. I add just salt, pepper, oregano and fresh basil to this sauce.

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I got two one quart plastic freezer containers full of sauce out of this batch.

Now, if my paste tomatoes will just get on the ball and start turning red, I should be able to put up at least another six or eight quarts of this type of sauce.


Tomato Sauce Boss

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Week Twelve. Halfway through the summer CSA. An overload of tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes. Slicing tomatoes. Roma tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes.

Here is the entire list.

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1 pint Red Grape Tomatoes – Breezy Morning Farm
6 ears Sweet Corn – Farmdale Organics
1 bag Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes – Freedom Acres Farm
1 container Microgreens – Eastbrook Produce
1 bag Red Slicing Tomatoes – Green Valley Organics
1 bag Garlic – Valley View Farm
1 bag Purple Viking Potatoes – Bellview Organics
1 bag Rainbow Carrots – Cherry Lane Organics
1 bag Sweet Onions – Cherry Lane Organics
1 bag Red Roma Tomatoes – Healthy Harvest Organics
1 bunch Pistou Basil – Kirkwood Herbs

My microgreens were microradishes, which we love. You will notice the missing basil in my picture. I swapped for some eggplant sitting in the swap box. It will be part of a new batch of ajvar. I now make it in small quantities.

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But, this is tomato sauce base. Tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, basil. Since I grow four varieties of basil, I decided the swap was worth it.

Besides what the CSA gives us, we have my windowsill full of tomatoes, and my garlic that has cured.

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Some of the tomatoes from my garden.


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cured red and white garlic hanging in the mud room.

I figure the next few days, there will be sauce making. There will be pesto making. There will be blanched, peeled tomatoes to freeze.

I did make it all the way through last winter and this spring with the sauces and oven roasted tomatoes from last summer. Sure beats jarred sauces full of sodium and sugar.

Here’s to my favorite fruit, tomatoes.

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Life Skills

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Every year we spend more time at the Fair watching the 4H club members show and care for their animals. Every year I marvel at just how mature, responsible and talented these children are. I can’t believe how poised, articulate, and unflustered they are, even when their animals don’t always behave.

Today we watched the junior swine judging.

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These are the eight year olds.

The other day we watched the Jersey cattle show.

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Tomorrow we will be there watching the sheep. Today there was quite a bit of grooming going on.

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I also had to wander over and take pictures of the pygmy goats that are being raised by friends of ours.

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If you go to the fair, don’t just spend time on the midway. Head down here.

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Stop in and watch the 4Hers take care of their animals. They are truly learning life skills. How to be responsible. How to gracefully lose. How to gracefully win.

Worth the price of admission.


Stretch Goals

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Making the most of our lives. Finding something new and exciting that continues to inspire us.

There has been quite a bit of discussion within the Howard County blogger community that reflects this. Posts about Comfort Zones by Julia. About volunteering by Tom. About connecting with neighbors by Bill. About community by Lisa.

It was Bill who proposed the #summerofneighbors and I wrote a post about being neighborly. It sparked some of this discussion.

For me, I found that pushing the comfort zone after I retired meant learning to use and understand the connective tissue known as social media. It also meant pushing my hobby to a higher level, by entering the county fair. Not being afraid to fail with my tomato entries. Learning and growing and every year doing better. Meeting and talking with the people who make this county fair so special.

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It meant taking responsibility for some large events at my volunteer location. Like bringing together farmers for a panel and an opportunity to connect.

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It also meant changing how we cooked, ate, shopped and traveled. Locavore, locapour, foodie. All those interests merging into a driving force that influences us.

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In other words, “Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night” (Dylan Thomas)

For both me and my husband, retirement was the entry point for doing those things we never had time to do. Things like his pursuit of DXCC (an amateur radio program that credits you for contacting each separate entity around the world).

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And, his desire to have the time to do home projects, and bird watch, and take trips, and just walk in the woods. The slow pace outside that commuter world. The time to read. Books, newspapers, magazines.

For me, it has been the hobbies and the volunteering. The cooking and the writing. The garden.

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We will probably spend four days at the fair this year. Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Talking to friends there. Watching the auction. Checking out the exhibits.

Tomorrow we will be learning more about county history at the fair. Later this month I will be volunteering to clean up the CAC garden. Next month leading family hikes at the Conservancy. In October taking the social media class offered by David Hobby.

After all, isn’t what makes life interesting is the constant challenge, the “stretch goals” that keep us active and involved? I have to admit. Howard County certainly has enough going on to keep us busy.


Before and After

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For my red pepper eggplant spread. Ajvar. Serbian, Hungarian, Balkan, whatever. All over Eastern Europe, this spread (with all its various versions) celebrates the pepper harvest.

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This is the “Before” picture. Before blending, that is. Two eggplants and two large red peppers. Sweat the eggplant first to pull out moisture. I slice it and drizzle it with salt. Then roast, in a very hot oven or in a gas grill. I used the grill today.

The peppers went into a paper bag to steam after roasting, and then were easily peeled.

All into the food processor with five or six cloves of roasted garlic, half a cup of olive oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

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The “After” picture. Garlicky, rich, yet smoky and sweet, all at the same time. A celebration of summer harvest.

Try it sometime. It is addictive.


Day Trippin’ Again

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Almost a ritual now. Hamfest followed by winery. Today in Clarke County.

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Berryville VA. One of our favorite “hamfests” to attend. Small town. Ruritan BBQ. Lots of radio tailgaters, selling everything and anything.

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We pair the visits. He gets to wander around the antique equipment aisles and I get to visit a winery later, for lunch.

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Today it was Doukenie, a new one for me.

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After all, you can’t beat the view. Doukenie is just east of Charles Town WV and south of Lovettsville, across the Potomac from Brunswick.

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We did a tasting, bought some sopressatta, smoked cheddar, a baguette and a couple of glasses of red wine, and watched the geese on the pond.

Took home a few bottles of their sauvignon blanc, which is nice, and some riesling and chardonnay. They have nice clean wines, and a beautiful site for picnics.

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Yes, it was 75 degrees, no humidity, perfect weather. Are you sure it is still summer?

Opening Day at the Fair

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My favorite day to visit. There aren’t large crowds yet. Things are getting organized. But, our favorite part of the fair are the young farmers and the animals.

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There are still more than 300 farms in Howard County. Over 300 members of 4H clubs specializing in agriculture. Over 600 if you include other interests.

I love watching the little ones handle their livestock.

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Today we were watching the 4H and open Jersey cattle show. And waiting for the farm and garden building to open after judging. Talked to a number of friends who farm, including friends from the farmers markets.

A trip down the midway to watch those on the rides, even though it was drizzling.

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Then off to see how I did. I had four entries this year. And, THREE RIBBONS. OK, batting .750 isn’t bad. I got my highest ribbon in tomatoes this year. A third premium for my orange romas.

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A fifth for my heirlooms, and a third for my herbs. Not bad for a rainy frustrating year. In four years, I went from four to seven ribbons this year.

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The herbs.

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The Paul Robeson. One tomato is eaten. The other left for display. Heirlooms are judged on taste more than looks.

This year the grand champion veggie was a really nice specimen of squash.

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We will be out at the fair at least three more days this week. Lots to see and do. If you have never watched the 4H shows, you really should take the time some year to watch.

And we will be there to cheer our friends on, at the shows and the auction Friday.


Planning for the County Fair

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Every year the fair coincides with our wedding anniversary week. Usually it means we are working our anniversary dinner and maybe a short road trip around drop off and pick up of entries. Add to that my mom’s birthday the same week. This year is no different.

There are events at the fair that we regularly attend. Like the 4H auction. This year it is scheduled on our anniversary. Plus, this year my husband gets the senior discount for the first time, and we won’t be buying a “season pass” for him anymore.

I am stressing over my tomatoes. Forty eight plants and almost ZERO heirlooms ripe. I finally got two Paul Robeson a few days ago.

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The good thing about heirlooms. They are judged on taste, not appearance.

I have been busy collecting Supersweet 100s, sun sugar and large cherry tomatoes the past week. I need 15 good looking specimens to enter. Looks like the supersweet 100s will be entered.

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The sun sugar are pretty but I don’t have 15 of them.

As for roma tomatoes, I grow three varieties. Orange roma, Polish linguisa and Amish paste. Right now, only the orange roma are close. I have five gorgeous ones, and four sitting there almost to ripeness.

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They go from green to yellow to orange. I have five bright orange ones. Four yellow ones. Out on the vines, about 40 green ones.

This will be a late tomato year.

As for herbs, I have six choices to make three herb selections. I have cut all of them and they are “perking” up in the water getting ready for tomorrow.

I have to drop off by noon. This stress is worse than when I worked. Who knew the gardening hobby would be so stressful?

See you at the fair?