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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Hanging Out at the Swap Box

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Or, how I’m spending my Thursday afternoons.

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The swap box is where you exchange an unwanted item from your produce delivery in Community Supported Agriculture. I expected that there would be weeks where Lancaster Farm Fresh (in my half share) and Friends and Farms (in my individual basket) would overlap.

I pick up my Friends and Farms basket first. We know in advance what we are getting.

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This week, the vegetables included spinach, red onion, red potatoes, cucumbers, asparagus, lettuce, rhubarb and collard greens.

Heading over to Columbia to get my LFFC box, I knew I was at least going to have some similar items. Our advance email told us the half share would be getting this.

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Half shares get four to seven items. This week there were five. Kale, green leaf lettuce, chives, red scallions and collard greens. I swapped the chives. That would be an obvious swap for me since this is what I have in the community garden.

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I think I could supply the 44 members of the Columbia pickup with their needs for chives, and then some. I usually swap herbs because I grow them.

I really wanted to find some lovely little Hakurei turnips. The full shares got them. But, no joy. I settled for another green leaf lettuce.

Besides the veggie share, I started my monthly cheese share this week. Every four weeks. Three varieties.

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The chevre. Raw milk cheddar. Sheep’s milk soft cheese.

After seeing the incredible cheeses last year in other people’s boxes, I sprung for cheese this year. I don’t regret it at all.

I also get three pounds of free range chicken every week. This week: one pound of boneless skinless chicken breast, and two pounds of chicken wings. I wrote about the wings yesterday.

Changing topics here, and returning to Friends and Farms. The protein this week. Cod and hanger steak.

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Just enough cod to make fish and chips one night. And, hanger steak. Hard to find as there is only one per cow. I never knew that before I started getting more unusual cuts of meat from Friends and Farms.

Bread and eggs this week in my individual rotation. And, as usual a few add ons.

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Butter, and plain yogurt. The butter, to make chive butter to freeze in cubes to use next winter. The yogurt. To make tzatziki with one of those cucumbers, and some dill from my garden.

All in all, a good start to the summer season, for eating regionally and seasonally. And it is still cool enough to do something with those collard greens. I seem to have an excess of them this week. There could be worse things in life. An excess of collard greens just means bring out the bacon.


Rhubarb on My Chicken Wings

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A marriage of one item from both of this week’s baskets. Rhubarb from Friends and Farms. Chicken wings from Lancaster Farm Fresh.

Tomorrow, after I recover from all the wonderful food, wine and beer at Wine in the Garden, I will talk more about the other items we got this week. But now, let’s just talk savory rhubarb.

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Last summer I made RhubarBQ sauce. This is the last jar of it.

There will be more of it made with the rhubarb we got today. I think I have enough to do half the recipe that’s on the link above.

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We also got two pounds of chicken wings.

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The chicken is an add on item in our Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative CSA delivery.

What could be better for a lovely summer dinner? Grilled chicken wings served with a dip of savory tangy barbecue sauce that invites you to venture outside that strawberry rhubarb rut we fall into whenever we get rhubarb.

Believe me, this sauce is worth the time to make.


It Takes a Community (garden)

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I didn’t realize the social aspect of having a community garden plot. I really enjoy being able to stop and talk with fellow gardeners. Taking that break when you feel that weeding is way too hard in high temperatures.

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There are always people up there. Some of them gardening. Some fulfilling their service hours.

Last year, the community gardeners donated over 1000 pounds of vegetables to the Howard County Food Bank. About 800 square feet of garden space in the plots is dedicated to the Food Bank Garden, and other gardeners donate their excess crops.

Every Tuesday morning is Food Bank harvest. This week they harvested greens, as it is still early in the growing season. I got there a little late, as I was caught up in family things. I missed them by a few minutes.

So, I puttered around. Fed my plants. Picked potato beetles off my cucumbers and zucchini.

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Zucchini is one of those love-hate plants. Love them when they produce, and hate them when they over produce.

This year though, I have to admit, I inherited the Godzilla of chives.

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Now, I love chive blossoms but these are out of control. I also have one amazing common sage plant.

Along with, believe it or not,

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Early girl and supersweet 100s. Both have tomatoes on them.

Life is good. There are tomatoes in the future.


Markets, Farmstands, CSAs and Cooperatives

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Somewhere along the way during the past three years, I replaced the grocery store visits with fresh, regional, seasonal foods bought in four venues.

We started with vegetables and fruit.

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Sunday mornings at Olney, or Saturdays at Glenwood.

Add to that our visits to the local farmstands and local farms, for dairy, meat, cheese, bread and other goodies. As well as the veggies and fruit.

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You can go online and find year round open farm stands. Like England Acres, Breezy Willow or Copper Penny. I have been keeping track of the locations on my Farms page, and my local resource page.

There are at least six CSAs in this area. Some of them year round. Others, eight or nine months a year.

There are buying services. One, Friends and Farms uses regional suppliers. The other, South Mountain Creamery, delivers all sorts of items beyond milk, right to your door.

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Now, I have also expanded my garden.

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Add to that the pick your own sites, like Larriland, Butlers and Baughers.

It is pretty simple around here to replace grocery stores for most of what you eat.

Over these four years we have done just that. It took a while to find sources, but it is so satisfying to have really fresh foods. And we know the people that supply us with most of our food.

I just visited the new Ellicott City Farmers Market last Saturday. This is what I love most about farmers markets. The best things to buy and use.

I came home with two really great salsas. Some romaine. Radishes. Apples. A half dozen plants for my yard. I was tempted by the pizza, but had enough at home to pass it by this time.

I will be going back for more of that salsa.

Have you replaced the stores with your local businesses? The buy local challenge in July isn’t the only time to support your local farmers, vendors and small businesses.


Strawberry Season

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Officially opened today at Gorman Farms. You do have to check to see when they are open. They had some hail damage.

As for us, we got strawberries Thursday from Miller Farms in our Friends and Farms basket. They are also open for those who live south of us.

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These berries made it into three different meals already.

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Strawberries with greens. Such a simple great salad. I used arugula, romaine and the pea shoots from our baskets. A very easy yogurt dressing. Scallions from my garden.

The second use.

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Berry yogurt. Besides some of the strawberries, I used a few defrosted blueberries. The plain yogurt from Pequea Valley. A little agave for sweetness. That small care package in the fridge went with my husband for his 12 hour shift in an amateur radio contest. A few hardboiled eggs, and some penne pasta I made the other day.

The last of the strawberries from Thursday? I ate them. What can I say. I love fresh berries.

Besides Gorman, there are other pick your own farms around here. Depending on where you live, you can find one not far away.

Like Larriland, or Baughers in Westminster, or Butlers Orchards in Germantown. They are all saying early June opening.

Berries are a fruit that we enjoy picking. Our freezer was stocked with berry syrup cubes, and frozen berries.

We will as usual go out to Larriland and pick at least 20 pounds. You can’t beat the price.

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Mangia Italiano!

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Italian feast. That’s what we can make with this week’s Friends and Farms basket.

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Within this basket is a serious baseline for “gravy” or as known here in the States, tomato sauce.

Tomatoes. An onion. Garlic. Carrots. Basil. Sweet Italian sausage. Mushrooms. Really, you can have one very interesting experimental session making your own version of an Italian staple.

But, you know you can add that Swiss chard.

As for other meals, this is my egg and bacon week.

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Eggs and bacon. There is probably not much else that just jumps up and makes us happy.

Well, maybe strawberries.

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We all got a quart of strawberries. This should do well with finishing off that yogurt I bought last week.

And, the chicken.

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This weekend. One spatchcocked grilled chicken coming up.

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I forgot! Those pea shoots. You know, I definitely love pea shoots. But, they have to be eaten soon.

Great Memorial Day basket! Time to get grilling!


Lunch From the Garden …

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… and a few regional farms.

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In the process of making lunch, the picture above shows some of the kale and chard from this morning’s thinning of the garden. Dressed with a simple yogurt dressing. Shake yogurt and lemon infused olive oil with some garlic powder, salt and pepper.

An apple from last week’s Friends and Farms basket, served with some of that provolone that we got, too.

Homemade peach yogurt.

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To share, we used one cup of plain yogurt. One defrosted peach, from my stash in the freezer (courtesy of Larriland picking last August). A 1/2 tsp squirt of agave. That’s all. I control the sweetness when I start with plain yogurt.

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This yogurt is available at Friends and Farms. At Breezy Willow Farm store. And at England Acres in Mt. Airy. Best yogurt we have ever found. No web site, as they are an Amish farm.

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As for the rest of this bag of peaches. Destined to become peach pops. Simple to make. Blend the peaches with yogurt. To fill my popsicle molds I need about 32 ounces in the blender. If I get a little too much, the rest goes in a small plastic jar and becomes frozen yogurt. I am using whatever I have to give it the amount of sweetness I want. Currently I have agave, but I also use honey or maple syrup.

On a related note, I harvested a few more white onions today.

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Including one very large one, that was too crowded in the middle of the rows.

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And found the beginning of an onion scape on the largest one. Now, I need to head back up there and pinch off scapes to let the onions put more energy into the onions and not the shoots.

Back on the home front, though, my garlic out in the back yard hasn’t begun to produce scapes yet. They are getting really large finally, so I hope to get at least one dozen large heads of garlic in a few months.

So far, a good start to the harvest of spring vegetables. Now, if only the strawberry picking season would begin. Gorman Farm projects that they will open Saturday the 24th of May. Larriland is still posting “late” May. We are almost out of the last of the frozen berries, and can’t wait to get out in the fields and bring in this year’s berries. The freezer is getting empty now.


Having a Meadow

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Since we moved from Columbia to the western parts of the county. One of those things that just boggles my mind.


Having a meadow, that is. I am a city girl. Born and raised in Baltimore. In a row house. It most certainly is different to live where I can’t see my neighbors. Where I can have coffee on my patio in my nightgown.

I am lucky, I know. But, where did it come from? My mom hates it out here. Too dark and quiet for her. She is also a city girl. Born and raised just west of downtown B’more.

Why do I love it so much? Maybe a throwback to my great grandparents who had a small farm in western Baltimore County. Who knows?

Three times around our property line is a mile. A far cry from the 1/12th acre of our townhouse in Columbia.

All in all, it is something that interests me. That sense of doing something new. Of changing my comfort zone. Of growing even after retirement.

We all need to find those areas that challenge us. That make us different than what we were when we were young.


Me, I’ll just be happy out here in the boonies. If only those people who are running the triathlons these days would only clean up their trash.


Sure Signs of Spring

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Around here my favorite sign of spring is the blooming of two of my plants.


The rhododendron. Every winter I try and protect them, to whatever extent I can. This year, the deer decided to chomp on one of them. The snow cover prevented them from eating on the ground, so they chewed up the bottom of one of these plants, as well as a few evergreens.

Thankfully, they did OK overall. The other two are a darker color.


And not as quick to flower.

My second indicator is the tangerine azalea.


Almost blooming. This year I have about a dozen blooms on this plant. Some years it flowers more than others.

In the spring, too, the hostas are incredibly pretty. They are a nice contrast to my north facing azaleas that bloom last.


Along with the azaleas, the lace maple in full color.


The lace maple is one of those trees. It just leaps out and captures your attention.

Springtime. When the plants renew themselves. The trees turn green and the shade returns.


The backyard is green and shady.


And the meadow is full of buttercups.

Spring in this part of the world is the reason we stay here. Lovely weather. Beautiful surroundings and lots to do.

The First Harvests

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It’s always exciting when we switch from planting to harvesting. This year I am keeping a record of what we get, from the multiple sites where I have vegetables and herbs growing.

My favorite microsite is my foraged asparagus.

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At the top of our driveway, where the asparagus is growing wild. Today, I got one new spear, added to the six already picked. Last year I think I counted 42 spears. Let’s see what this year produces. And, yes, that is crape myrtle, with the asparagus firmly entrenched under it.

Up at the community garden, it was time to thin the greens.

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By the way, three inches of rain will penetrate the heavy row cover. The weeds are coming in, so I weeded and thinned today.

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I have mostly kale and chard up there, but did add some recently sprouted arugula. Today’s take. Two ounces. They will grace an omelet this weekend.

Notice the chive flowers. I inherited massive amounts of chives, and a few varieties of sage in our plot. I took the best flowers to use in that omelet, and admired the bicolor sage that recovered after the winter.

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This sage is tiny but my common sage bush is doing well also. I love sage when I make pork dishes, and in tomato sauce with sausage.

Today I was also fighting the pests. On the cucumbers and the eggplant. Potato beetles on the eggplant and cucumber beetles chewing off my young cucumber shoots. Garden Safe to the rescue, we hope. I am on a 7 day schedule with this OMRI approved insecticide. These pests already killed off four cucumber plants, and made a mess of the leaves of the rest.

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If you look behind the plant stick, you will see one of the potato beetles. Soon to meet his maker, like his brethren I squashed that were noshing my pink eggplant leaves. I think I do need to cover the eggplants. And, those are weeds you see. I am trying to keep up with them, but this blasted rain just makes everything grow so fast.

I came home with this.

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Some greens. A few blossoms. The one two foot long asparagus from the driveway.

Tomorrow, I may head out to the garden in the yard and harvest spring garlic. At least three of the eighteen plants in the back yard aren’t that big, and they won’t mature enough before the heat of summer. They will flavor a few meals this week.

Not bad for mid May. I can’t wait for tomato season, but this is a good beginning.


Trying to garden organically is tough, but I will prevail (I hope).