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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Commitment

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For those of us who volunteer. Not just for a few hours. For the long haul. Those of us who dedicate dozens of hours, if not hundreds, in some cases.

Yesterday I saw three different groups at work. One, doing gardening. One, readying a food bank site. And one, helping influence our next generations, at an Extreme Weather conference for 9th graders.

I got to the Conservancy at 8AM. There were about a dozen of us supporting the 3rd annual weather conference. For 9th graders from four local high schools. I greeted a bus from Long Reach and then watched the Office of Emergency Management bring in their Command Center.

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While we were setting up, a half dozen volunteers arrived for the regularly scheduled Wednesday morning drop in gardening session. They were working on the herb gardens outside the historic farm buildings on the site.

We, at the time, all 12 of us volunteers, were getting ready to host the various stations that the students would visit. I got to moderate the Tree Maintenance station, manned by Bartlett Tree Service.

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They were giving a demonstration on how they take care of trees, those damaged by the weather, and those that are healthy, to protect them from high winds and other weather events.

Marty Adams and Victor Nakashima captured the interest of the students, with their stories, their information, and that climbing ability of Victor.

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They were impressed with the bucket truck, as well.

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Lots of fun questions. From fear of heights, to animal attacks, to foul weather gear, to what is an arborist, the students were engaged and interested.

After six hours there, I headed over to the Food Bank garden site. Where three volunteers were still planting spring plants in the newly tilled plots. They had been there since 10 am, when my husband came out to till the plots. The other volunteers, part of a core group that donates dozens of hours to food bank plot maintenance and harvest, were still hard at work.

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Today as I popped out to Sharps for a few things, I found that a food bank volunteer had been there picking out warm weather seedlings. Next week they will be planted. Our first harvest will be the end of May.

One day. Two dozen volunteers. I am so impressed with the commitment of my fellow Howard Countians, who donate their time tirelessly, doing what they love to do.

I’m working on recruiting Marty to be a subject matter expert at our May BioBlitz at Belmont. He would be such an asset with his knowledge of plants, trees and insects.

Have you made a commitment? Do you give some time or effort in areas that interest you?

Weather and Wool

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Tomorrow I am volunteering for the third extreme weather event held for Howard County High School Students. It should prove to be another fantastic event and I hope to get many pictures of the participants learning from all the amazing companies that give their time to expand the knowledge of our students.

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As usual, the Howard County Conservancy field trip managers have put together an exciting array of activities, demonstrations and speakers to present for this day long event.

A few days later, I intend to immerse myself into the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this Saturday and Sunday out at the Howard County Fairgrounds. I have never been around to take in the festival. One of the largest and best sheep and wool festivals in the USA and Canada.

Many farms in the area participate in this event. Like Breezy Willow , Catoctin Creek and Shepherds Manor Creamery.

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Medomak Retreat Center has a booth. I so want to spend a week there at one of their “summer camps” for adults.

Landreth Seeds will be there. I hope to find something rare from them.

And, Greenbridge Pottery. Another local favorite when it comes to looking for unique gifts.

That’s all I recognize in this year’s catalogue but I probably missed a few more local farms and vendors. This festival is huge so if you want to go, be prepared for very large crowds.

I do intend to check out the lamb cooking demonstration, and maybe make the Sunday Brunch. See you there?

Transitions

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Winter has finally left the building.

It is almost farmers market season. The spring and summer Community Supported Agriculture deliveries will soon begin. Our Friends and Farms basket will have ASPARAGUS!!!!!! in it. Do I sound ready for something other than root vegetables?

We got a mixed basket last week.

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The good additions. Lovely leaf lettuce, hydroponic tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, cucumbers. Good things to grill too, like country ribs.

I am so happy that the markets are about to open. The week of the 4th of May. The same week we get our first CSA delivery. There will be seven markets in Howard County this year. Three on Saturday. That should prove interesting. For us, the return of Glenwood is awesome. We love having a local market. Where we can run over for bread or fruit or plants. As for veggies, not so much. Between my garden and the CSA, we won’t be buying many veggies.

We are transitioning to a full share in our CSA. Transitioning to a protein and dairy bag from Friends and Farms. That should provide us with the right amount of food to keep us out of the grocery stores for a while.

I also structured our garden planting to be able to provide us with the ingredients necessary to make sauces and roast tomatoes to fill my almost empty freezer. This year I made it to May with my frozen sauces and tomatoes. I say May because I have three containers left of sauce.

The sauce has found its way into many meals. Like those killer lasagna.

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Tomatoes from my freezer. Peppers from the CSA. A slight tweak on the traditional lasagna.

Besides the large amount of tomato sauce in the freezer, there was quite a bit of pesto. And herb butters.

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Nothing like pasta with pesto.

Here’s to celebrating spring. And all the goodness it brings.

The Winter That Won’t Quit

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It may be April 25th, but winter hasn’t given up yet.

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If you look closely, you will see the sleet coming down. It later turned to big fat snowflakes but I was driving when it did that. Not the best time to celebrate Earth Day with outdoor activities, but we made it work up at the Conservancy. I went up to buy some heirlooms from the Master Gardeners and to put my shallots and rainbow chard into my newly tilled garden. I got a couple of my favorite tomatoes.

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Those two teeny plants on the bottom left are Purple Calabash. I bought my first seeds of this heirloom at the shop at Monticello.

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I won my first ribbon at the Howard County Fair with this variety. Haven’t won an heirloom ribbon since. Maybe they will make me lucky again this August.

As for the tomatoes, they are overtaking my kitchen, along with all the other seedlings I have.

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We need it to warm up. To get these plants in the ground. We still have two weeks before we can safely plant tomatoes. They need soil temperatures greater than 50 degrees, and we aren’t there yet.

I will be planting on Mother’s Day weekend, when I am one of the volunteers for our Mother’s Day garden party. Saturday, May 9th at 10 am. Tea, scones, gardens in bloom. Come visit us. There are numerous garden clubs who maintain areas out at Mt. Pleasant. You can talk with garden club members, and learn a few “tricks of the trade” while enjoying freshly baked scones.

Check out the web page for details. In the meantime, cross your fingers that we will get warmer weather.

Blue Bird Visits

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We tilled our community garden today. Time to get more vegetables in the ground. Tilling turns up bugs. That attracts the blue birds.

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First, they check everything out by perching on adjacent poles. This is the male. The female was too flighty to stay still long enough for me to photograph her. I didn’t have my good lens on the camera either, so no close ups.

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I also caught him on the ground grabbing whatever little critters he could.

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He had lots of territory that he could check out. When we left the two of them were flitting around and looking for more.

Tomorrow is the Earth Day celebration at the Howard County Conservancy. I will be up there with many of our gardeners. Finishing the early plantings. Buying some plants from the Master Gardener plant sale. Doing some basic maintenance on our pathways.

If you attend, even if you miss the 8 am bird walk, you are bound to see the blue birds. The hawks. The killdeer. And much more.

Rites of Spring

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Opening Day at Sharps Farm.

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They even have a new sign. The road wasn’t as bad as it sometimes is. There was a field trip there when I arrived. Ran into four people right off the bat that I know from gardening and farming. The greenhouse is the place to start.

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There were strawberries out front. And lots of plugs and pots inside.

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Plugs are 65 cents each, five cents less once you reach 24. Many pots as well.

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I came home with 36 plugs and a dozen pots. Mostly tomatoes. A few zucchini. Plus a new one. Mini-white cucumbers.

Many heirlooms. Like Goliath. Black Prince. Purple Cherokee. Yellow Brandywine. Sugar Lump. Box Car Willie. Pineapple.

A few standbys. Like yellow plum, plum dandy, supersweet 100s, sungold and Carolina gold.

The farm is open Tuesdays through Saturday, 9-6, and Sundays noon til 4. They also sell row cover and hoops at very good prices for those who want to protect plants from bugs or frost.

As I said, it is definitely spring when Sharps opens.

Friday Night in Old EC

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Main Street Ellicott City. Not a destination as often as we lived in Columbia. But we really need to remedy that.

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Friday we headed there to drop off a rug to be cleaned. And decided to stay for dinner. Our first visit to Pure Wine.

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It will not be our last. What a fun place to have dinner. Particularly if you can snag an outdoor table overlooking the main street below.

And whatever is above the old Earle theater.

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We also could see the new site for a second Mutiny Pirate Bar.

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This could be interesting in the future. Wine Bar and Pirate Bar. Right across the street from one another.

Everyone who knows us is aware that we love the family owned businesses. Not the chains. We are happy to report that we loved Pure Wine.

We started with rockfish tacos. One for each of us.

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Paired with a Falanghina del Taburno.

Followed by this.

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Truffle fries. OK, we could eat these all night. Perfect with the wine.

Finally, we decided to have some pinot noir with a charcuterie board. I love the fact that these small plates don’t stuff you and you can pick and those and match food to wine. They offer 2.5 ounce, and 5 ounce glasses. Some half bottles. And, of course, full bottles. Great wine list but a little sparse on local wines. Their only flaw in my world.

As for that board.

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The current selection has six meats. Six cheeses. You can pick a board of three or five. We picked wild boar salami, smoked prosciutto, and smoked duck breast, plus two cheeses. A crotonese and a chandoka.

We are planning our next visit when we pick up our rug from its cleaning. You know we like a place when we plan a return visit.

I do love old town Ellicott City.

Spring Things

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Just the beginning of an activity packed week, in and around our home. All things spring.

Starting with Greenfest. Tomorrow at the Howard Community College. Living with wildlife. I’m not sure how our CSA fits in with the theme, but we will be there.

Then, on my plate, a trip to Sharp’s Farm on Tuesday to get my vegetable seedlings to put in the garden. This year I am also looking for some annuals for the yard. To fill in where we lost some plants.

As for flowers, this post by UKDesperateHousewifeUSA caught my eye the other day. In it, Claire talks of the lack of flowers in her Columbia neighborhood. I thought, hmmm, she needs to look elsewhere in the county. There are loads of flower gardens out here.

She misses cut flowers. I should bring her some. This is today’s haul from my yard.

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The early blooming tulips. The yellow daffodils. The white ones are almost finished. I don’t pick the hyacinths, though. They stay in the yard. After the month of tulips, we will have day lilies and star lilies. Then, gladioli. Black eyed Susans. Sunflowers. Mums. All summer and fall, my flower beds produce.

Today, I was happy to see the cherry is blooming.

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Not at peak yet, but soon.

Getting back to the week ahead. Wednesday is Earth Day. It is Twenty Minute Clean Up Day in the county. I will be cleaning up the road side and our property lines.

Next Saturday the Conservancy celebrates their Earth Day. With a bird walk. Service projects. And a plant sale by the Master Gardeners.

Well, that only leaves me with a couple of days to get work done around here. I did take the time today to test a new recipe to use up the last of the peaches in the freezer.

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You can call it peachy pecan bread. Or pecany peach bread. Simple to make. I will be taking some for those of us working our table tomorrow at Greenfest. Made with CSA peaches that I blanched and froze last summer. A sign of things to come. Peach season is right after strawberry season. Can’t wait.

Parsnip-ity

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As in parsnip overload. By my choosing.

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Today was my last week of the winter CSA. Three weeks until the spring/summer season begins. I decided to load up on parsnips from the swap box. Good thing our site host is a friend and lets me swap more than one item if I give her some stuff she likes. I swapped kale and cabbage today to get a triple share of parsnips. They keep well. I like them. I even have made colcannon with them.

These are destined to become roasted veggies. Colcannon. And, I am thinking parsnip and sweet potato fries. I have quite a bit of both left.

Enough to take samples to Greenfest this Saturday. Our site host and I are staffing a table to promote our CSA. We need to guarantee our pick up site by recruiting a few more members.

Our Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative CSA is one that provides us with so many great vegetables. Fruit. Meat. Cheese. Eggs. Bread. Herbs. Milk. Tofu. The list seems to be endless. They have grown by leaps and bounds. Now delivering to six states and the District.

The rest of this week’s final basket.

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Spinach. Chard. Mushrooms. Aeroponic butterhead lettuce.

Add ons.

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The pantry item was mint tea. The cheese was a raw milk farmer’s cheese. The meat share was 1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast.

In three weeks, we will begin the next season. Six months of food. I ordered a full vegetable share. Bread. Cheese. Fruit. Meat.

All I need with the exception of staples to keep us supplied with fresh organic non-GMO food.

Now, off to find new recipes for those sweet parsnips.

See you Saturday at Howard County Community College. Look for the Lancaster Farm Fresh table and stop to say HI to us.

Main Streets

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I grew up in a city. Baltimore, to be exact. Living on “Main Street”.

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On 144 just east of Catonsville (yes, I know Candlelight Lodge is now a funeral parlor instead of the restaurant it was).

Saturday I drove that main street. Starting in Ellicott City.

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Filled with family owned businesses (except for that stupid Subway they added).

Heading east to Catonsville.

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Home of Atwater’s. One of those amazing bakeries around here. Where you can buy lunch and head upstairs to comingle with others at the tables while having lunch.

They have a couple of farmer’s markets right off Main Street aka Frederick Avenue. One on Wednesday and one on Sunday. They also are the home of an icon.

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Bill’s Music House. You have to see it to believe it. It’s huge, and a landmark to us.

I love heading off the highways and traveling the Main Streets in our area.

Take a trip on Rte. 144. Part of the National Road. Worth the time to park, explore and discover.

If you keep heading east you will hit the Inner Harbor. Frederick Road becomes Pratt Street. I couldn’t have grown up in a better part of this state. So much history. So many stories to hear.