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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Don’t Forget the Twilight Hike

Sunday the 22nd. At the Howard County Conservancy.

It is the fall equinox this weekend. And, a harvest moon to boot.

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There will be two hikes down to the campfires, taking advantage of the light of the moon. Cross your fingers that the weather cooperates.

From 5-7 pm, there is a family hike. Stories and songs, roasting marshmallows for s’mores over the fire, and hiking back in time to watch the sunset at 7:05pm.

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For the adults, from 7:30-9:30pm, there will be a hike down to the campfire where volunteers will lead songs, tell some stories about the autumnal equinox, and you can also indulge in marshmallows and s’mores. Bring an acoustic instrument if you have one. Impromptu music making.

The cost of this event is $5/person or $10/family. The registration online closes 24 hours before the event.

Last year’s first twilight hike was a huge success, so preregister to guarantee a spot. Check the web site Sunday for an update if the weather doesn’t cooperate.


Another Baker’s Dozen

Week 18 of the 24 week CSA. Thirteen items again in the box. A couple of fairly odd ones, and I didn’t swap anything.

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We got:
1 head Bok Choy – Friends Road Organics
1 bunch Pink Beauty Radishes – Friends Road Organics
1 container Microgreens – Eastbrook Produce
1 head Green Romaine Lettuce – Bellview Organics
1 bunch French Sorrel – Kirkwood Herbs
1 bag Mixed Hot Peppers – Outback Farm
1 bag Mixed Mustard Greens- Organic Willow Acres
2 piece Gold Acorn Squash – Windy Hollow Organics
1 bag Red Potatoes – Green Valley Organics
1 bag Orange Carrots – Freedom Acres Farm
1 bag Shallots – Shady Brook Organics
1 bag Green Okra – Life Enhancing Acres
2 pieces Heirloom Tomatoes – Crystal Springs Farm

The odd one — the okra. I think we got it once last year and I swapped it. This year, I didn’t.

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Okra can be done very well, with a little effort, so I guess the cookbook will be coming out for it. I also thought the mixed mustard greens were interesting. I feel like we have a real Southern basket this week.

As for all those peppers …

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… now that I know I have conquered that fear of canning, there may be some pickled peppers, or some hot relish being made. I have some wax beans, and those teeny carrots in here. I could do a pickled veggie mix.

I may take a few of them and hang them to dry out, like I did a few years back.

But, the truth about not swapping okra. When I got there, the swap box was already overflowing with hot peppers, since the full shares and the half shares all got peppers, so if I put the okra in the swap box, I could have had twice as many peppers, or another couple of heirloom tomatoes, or the French sorrel. Not much of a choice left.

I feel for our hosts. They will be drowning in peppers tonight. They get to keep whatever is finally left in that swap box after all of us have picked up our shares.

By the way, I love French sorrel. Another fairly unique item we get. There may be a quiche in the planning for this coming week.


The Fear of Canning …

… doesn’t have a name in the Phobia list, but it probably should.

I did find, in a Google search, a long list of blogs that used Fear of Canning in their title. So I was not alone when it came to having misgivings about canning.

I conquered that fear Monday morning. With Pineapple Habanero Jelly.

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The recipe said it would make six 8 ounce jars, but I ended up with an extra pint of jelly. Thankfully I had a large jar in the dishwasher with the six jelly jars, so I could cope.

I found the recipe here.

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And I promptly modified it. Here is what I used.

2 cups pineapple juice
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 jalapeño pepper, halved, seeded and with ribs removed
10 small orange habaneros, halved, seeded and with ribs removed
5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 (3 fluid ounce) pouches liquid pectin
1 teaspoon pickled beet juice (to replace red food coloring)

Put the peppers and the cider vinegar in the blender and pulse until peppers are minced.

Pour this mixture into a heavy saucepan. Add the sugar, pineapple juice, and salt. Mix until all is dissolved. Add the beet juice to make it a deeper color. You can increase the amount of beet juice to get it darker. Bring to a rolling boil. Cut the heat back just a bit and cook for about 10 minutes stirring it constantly with a wooden spoon to keep it from sticking to the bottom. I think I didn’t keep the heat high enough so I didn’t get the evaporation to draw it down to 48 ounces.

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Add the two pouches of liquid pectin and get the mixture back to a boil again. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until thickened and syrupy. Mine didn’t get really thick, but it seems to have congealed OK in the jars. I checked them all today and they are no longer runny when I tilted them.

Before I put the liquid into the jars, I did skim off the foam, and I strained much of the pulp out of it to give me a fairly clear jelly.

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For the canning, I followed the recommendations in the Ball Blue Book of Canning. Used the dishwasher to sterilize instead of the canning pot. I filled all the jars, and put the six small ones in the pot.

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Processed them for ten minutes, and they all sealed properly. Put the large jar in by itself and processed it for 15 minutes. It sealed fine as well. That one will end up in the fridge and be the first one used. I intend to use it on a soft creamy goat cheese and crackers. And, I intend to mix it with butter to coat chicken wings to make a hot wing appetizer. I will report back to see how it tastes, and how it works in recipes.

All in all, this was pretty simple. Now, to be brave enough to move on to that green tomato bacon jam recipe I want to try.


Life Goes On

Even though I did lose a few coworkers. Yes, I knew some of the victims.

No, I don’t want to talk about it. Privacy and respect trump anything else.

Tonight we did honor our reservations at Iron Bridge. The Axios release party.

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We tried the wines. We loved the wines. Another relaxing evening at the Bridge.

Sometimes a night out is what you need to decompress. Iron Bridge is one of our favorite restaurants in Howard County. I had a great lobster tail entree and my husband had a perfectly prepared rockfish.


Prayers for My Colleagues

Today was really a lovely day, until I turned on the news and heard about the shootings.

As more details became known, I saw that the gunman was positioned on the same deck (floor in non-Navy speak) and not far from my cubicle overlooking the atrium in Building 197 of the Naval Sea Systems Command. People who worked for me, and worked with me, still work there now.


I am hoping I don’t find any of their names on any lists tomorrow.

This horrible shooting, and the lock down, brings back way too many memories of 9/11. We were in lock down that day too. Then, we watched the smoke from the Pentagon drift past our windows looking out towards the Potomac. We were locked down for almost four hours, not knowing that people who worked with us who had offices in the Pentagon, and who we met in meetings and talked with on the phones, perished in that attack.

Working for the Navy was truly a wonderful career. I could say I made a difference when building new systems for ships and subs. I loved all the years, in all the different locations.

I moved out of that location ten years ago. My boss, and most of my closest friends there, are all retired, but the younger generation, who was moving into those offices of leadership, is still there.

Football Weather

Clear, sunny, perfect day for the Ravens to open in Baltimore. Good to see that they won.

We did lots of things outdoors today before and after the game. Some wire maintenance for my husband.

Me, checking out the lone squash in the garden, and bringing in almost all the remaining tomatoes. This year, they seem to be slowing down a bit early.

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I only have about eight green tomatoes left on the vine.

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The freezer is almost full. Today, between games, I cut up the habaneros and the jalapenos for the jelly. Found all the material to do the canning. Tomorrow will be canning day. I have to decide how hot I want this jelly to be. I got about 10 habaneros from the CSA. The recipe calls for 6-15 depending on what level of heat you want.

I also roasted the remaining paste tomatoes and put them away in the freezer. Took all the pesto out of the ice cube trays and divided the cubes up into small containers to keep.

Roasted three more heads of garlic, resulting in a full jar of soft tasty garlic to use in recipes.

Tomorrow there may be showers. That will be good as we are crossing our fingers that there will be no restrictions for the Equinox Twilight Hikes at the Conservancy, next Sunday night, the 22nd.

They should be fun, if the weather stays this lovely. Family hiking ending at the campfire for stories and s’mores. Followed at twilight by the adult hike.

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It’s a “bring your own” hike. Musical instruments to play. A few snacks to supplement the s’mores for the adult crowd.

Check out the details on the Conservancy web page. If you want to enjoy the changing of the seasons.


A Picture Perfect Fall Day

That’s what about 70-80 people decided who came out to the Conservancy to join our family hikes.

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We had four hike leaders and each one of us had 15-35 people. The largest group was with our preschool leader. She had at least 35 people on the short tour around the farmhouse and down to the play areas.

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I took about 15-20 people on a couple of loops to show them all the cool things we teach the children on the field trips. Almost 90 minutes out there.

Then, we found dozens of families down in the nature center checking out Maize, our corn snake, or reading books, or looking at all the exhibits. Into the midst of the chaos, a family showed up to tour the facilities for a possible wedding in 2014. I got to take them for a tour and show them the grounds, as Alison was out and about with all the visitors and handling the snake. We didn’t think the mother of the bride was into snakes.

I finally left there at 1:00. Too late to hit Breezy Willow or Larriland so I ran over to Harris Teeter to get pectin, pineapple juice, sugar and a few boxes of cereal for my better half. I missed my chance to pick up my favorite yogurt at Breezy Willow so it will have to wait until next week.

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Turf Valley is coming along quickly. The outdoor seating at Facci is there. Looks like they are very close to opening, and you could smell wood smoke (maybe the pizza ovens?) and someone in a chef’s cap was out in back, taking a break, talking on his phone. They look to be the first to open.

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Petite Cellars and Grille 620 are hiring, if anyone is looking for a job.

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Mimi’s was being worked too. The cleaners have opened.

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We may finally have another fully occupied shopping center in northwest HocCo, with new restaurants. Woo Hoo!

Tomorrow is pineapple habanero jelly making day. Stand by for the report on how well it goes. If I don’t seriously hurt myself handling the habaneros I will have 6 jars of jelly to use for appetizers, glazing, and I think, to make some killer chicken wings.


Update on the Farms

Just in case you want to get out and stock up for winter, there were a few emails lately with what is happening at local farms.

England Acres announced a new batch of fresh chickens for this weekend. The market is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10-6. If you have never made fresh chicken, using these lovely birds, you are in for a real treat if you head out and buy one or two of them. They can’t keep them in stock for long. They just fly out of the refrigerator at the farm store.

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As for other goodies available, Breezy Willow still has their 25 pounds of tomatoes for $25 special. If you are inclined to make tomato sauce to freeze, this is the way to get good organic tomatoes for a great price. The farm store is open tomorrow from 10-2. I may be stopping there to pick up some yogurt and cheese, as they have some of my favorite vendors in their store.

Last, Larriland.

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All sorts of specials, like tomatoes in the field by the barn. Otherwise, here is the latest chart.

Opening Saturday, September 14, 2013
1. Jonagold apples: picking is good. Jonagolds are sweet/tart, large, greenish with a red cheek, all purpose apples. Jonagolds are a cross between Jonathan, a tart apple, and Golden Delicious, a sweet apple.

2. Spinach and Swiss chard. picking is excellent. This year we planted “Rhubarb Chard” which has red stems and looks just like beets but no bottoms.

3. Tomatoes: this is a new tomato field with garden tomatoes, roma/paste tomatoes, grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.

4. Blackberries: picking will be fair. The blackberry season is almost over.

Ripening Soon:
1. Apples: there are 14 more apple varieties to ripen throughout September and October. Click on the Fruit Harvest Calender below for varieties and ripening times.

2. Broccoli will be ready in late September.

3. Beets will be ready to pick in October.

4. Pumpkins will be ready to pick in October.

5. Cauliflower and cabbage will be ready to pick in late October.

I love heading out to Larriland. I may be stopping there tomorrow also, as I need pectin and apple cider to make my habanero jelly. More on that later.

Fall is coming, that’s for sure. Today was just a lovely day. Cooler, breezy, sunny after the rain headed out. Can’t wait for pumpkin season.


Falling Behind

In the CSA consumption. Week 17 crept up on us before we finished week 16. Another Baker’s dozen this week.

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1 Spaghetti Squash – Riverview Organics
1 bag Bintje Potatoes- De Glae Organics
1 bag Sweet Onions – Liberty Branch Farm
1 bag Garlic – Friends Road Farm
1 bag Habanero Peppers – Tasty Harvest
1 bunch Dinosaur Kale- Farmdale Organics
1 head Green Leaf Lettuce – Green Valley Organics
1 head Green Butterhead Lettuce – Maple Lawn Organics
1 stalk Edamame – Liberty Branch Farm
1 head Curly Endive Meadow Valley Organics
1 head Baby Bok Choy – Plum Hill Organics
1 bunch Italian OR Curly Parsley – Noble Herbs
1 pint Gold Grape Tomatoes – Chiques Roc Organics

The new one here is the Bintje potatoes. Who knew potatoes could arouse such passion and controversy. These are the famous Belgian potatoes used for frites, according to the WSJ article about them.

So now I need to find beef drippings?

Then there’s the edamame. Which we love. Simply cooked. Boiled in heavily salted water. Squeezed out of their pods as the perfect appetizer to accompany gin and tonics on the patio.

But then, there’s those killer habaneros.

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There are eleven of these things! I can handle one or two, but ELEVEN! OK, time to find a hot pepper jelly recipe. Stay tuned to see how this works out.

I do love the return of the greens. We got butter lettuce, endive and leaf lettuce. Plus the kale.

Fall is definitely coming. I do need to get out of garden processing mode, and start eating the CSA bounty a little quicker.


Take A Hike

Not just any hike. A hike that has one of the volunteer naturalists at the Howard County Conservancy leading it. A family hike.

Or maybe, a hike with friends. Or your little ones, like the grandchildren.

This Saturday at 10 am, we are putting on one of our semi annual family hikes. It is leader’s choice. We take age appropriate groups out on the various trails.

If you have little ones, the hike leader for that age group, a retired preschool teacher, enthralls them with stories, games, visits to the chickens and goats, on a hike that won’t tire out short legs.

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Other hike leaders may wander off down to the streams, and look for wildflowers, birds, black walnuts, maybe take you to see our chestnut trees. Maybe identify trees or flowers, who knows.

Black Walnuts

Black Walnuts

This is one of our popular free second Saturday programs at the conservancy grounds, a farm just up the road from the Snowball Stand (a great place to recover from all this walking).

You don’t need to preregister for the free events on the web page, if you don’t want to, but it does let us know roughly how many volunteers we need.

This farm is my favorite place to volunteer. It gives me so much pleasure to hike the trails, look for birds and other little critters. Feed the goats. Visit the barred owl.


There are over four miles of trails on the property. They are open from dawn to dusk every day. These guided hikes give you insight into what is hidden in the fields, or the woods. Or the theme gardens.

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The weather forecast is looking wonderful. A high of 70 degrees. Clear, sunny. The introduction to those lovely fall days.

Come join us.