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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Field Day Part Two W3AO

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Wind and rain can not stop us from broadcasting. Even a “little” rain, like close to four inches on Saturday. Our annual weekend emergency ops practice, aka Field Day, went on as planned. Well, not quite as planned. There were quite a few adjustments being made just as we were ready to start.

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This was Saturday before the second deluge arrived, and after the first. Everything battened down.

As usual the club members managed to think ahead and make things work.

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A quick trip to Home Depot for 4’X8′ plywood and 2″X4″ boards to make platforms for under all the tables.

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Not the most comfortable conditions to cut wood, but you do what you have to do.

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They did keep the tables and chairs from sinking into the ground. Emergency preparedness is one goal of this weekend exercise. We certainly seemed to test that goal this weekend.

We had many people watching our operation. We had our contacts over at the County Emergency Operations Center prepared to let us know if high winds or thunderstorms were heading our direction. If they did, we would have to lower the antennas, disconnect the cables and hunker down in our cars and trucks. Thankfully, no thunder or lightning, and the winds weren’t severe. We had more wind on Sunday, but the towers did OK.

This year we used more of the heavier, more secure screw in anchors for the guy wires to the towers. Anyplace we thought the ground could saturate, and where we had the largest heaviest antennas mounted, we used those anchors.

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Above is what I am talking about. This picture is from our tower in our yard. We use these stronger, longer anchors.

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This anchor is what we usually put in for the 24 hour Field Day event. It can be installed in less time. The screw in anchors take more time and are definitely what you want in soft earth when you are putting up one of these.

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The twenty meter beams, two of them, are the heaviest antennas out in the field. All the work done by the set up crews in advance lowers the probability of failures during bad weather.

We had visitors on Saturday during some of the bad weather. Some Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) MD Joint Operations Center (MJOC) crew. How’s that for acronyms? Many county Emergency Ops Center employees, who all know the club members who volunteer supporting them.

A few special ones, too. Like our county executive, Allan Kittleman.

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He’s talking here to Dave Prestel, who leads our RACES efforts. They were talking about the ways our volunteers can get even more involved in supporting the emergency ops center and the fire department.

We even got him on our Get On The Air station.

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Since this event is somewhat competitive, as well as a public service event, we get bonus points for things such as attendance by elected officials, and attendance by those MEMA MJOC employees.

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This picture is a favorite of mine because it shows how Rich KE3Q is instructing the county executive in how to make contacts with other stations, while we have an OEM employee looking on.

Sometime soon I will get the email that was sent out with the final tally of how many stations we contacted. Even in some really awful weather conditions, the club hangs in there and searches for stations all across the country and north into the Canadian provinces.

We may be “amateur” in name but our volunteers are professional in their dedication to excellence in what they do. Plus, we have a good time doing that.

Field Day Part One W3AO

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Set up time. At least the weather cooperated and it didn’t rain at all on us Friday as we put together another yearly effort in emergency management communications. The two local amateur radio clubs here in Howard County pair up. A first class public service and emergency support club, and an elite group of “contesters”, i.e. radio operators who try to make the most contacts in a fixed amount of time.

The two skill sets can be important when we encounter real life emergencies that require additional communication support.

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These are our real unsung “heroes”. They come out in all sorts of weather to erect portable communications towers and antennas, unroll miles (two to be exact) of coaxial cables, install computers, three generators, sleeping, eating and operating tents, and so much more.

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I think this sums it up quite well. If we didn’t have awesome volunteers to do this work on their own time, we couldn’t operate a successful “Field Day”.

We always know we are ready to go when the flags go up. Which they did Saturday morning just before the deluge.

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I will be writing a second part about how this talented, quick thinking group of “hams” managed to continue operating in what could be considered emergency conditions. Like three inches of rain in a few hours.

Until then, after I go help make the grilled burgers and dogs, and we tear down our support tents while the volunteers take down the towers, here’s my interim “Thank You” again from all of us who appreciate the help.

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Thirty four people from Columbia Amateur Radio Club and Potomac Valley Radio Club worked on Friday to make this weekend happen.

The operation ends at 2 PM today. We hope the weather stays nice while we disassemble all this stuff and put it away again until next year, or until we need some of it, and the skilled operators, to support the county Office of Emergency Management, the fire department, and various bike races, foot races and other community activities.

Don’t Forget to Relax

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I need to keep repeating that mantra this week. There were (and are) so many events and activities in my life this week, I needed today to relax and get ready for Round Two, so to speak.

It’s the beginning of my harvest season. It’s the annual Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) emergency preparedness activity, otherwise known as Field Day this weekend. There were blogger parties, which I missed. A crab feast on Kent Island, that I did get to attend. CSA pick up. Friends and Farms pick up.

Making pickles. Making salads and sides for Field Day. Ordering ten pizzas for set up day tomorrow. Getting to Costco for my part of the provisions (oh, and add to that the fact the car broke down in their parking lot).

I also missed a Conservancy event, Fiddlers and Fireflies. Just too tired to get there.

I can’t believe how many things there are to do around here. This is such an active area. Lots of outdoor things to do. Today we got a note for volunteers to help with a Columbia Families in Nature event this Sunday out at Mt. Pleasant. I will still be tearing down our makeshift kitchen at our Field Day site.

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Plus. Squeezing in a visit to Lisa, a fellow volunteer and blogger, who is embarking on a trip around the world with her family, for a year. Bon Voyage to Lisa. Can’t wait to follow your web page with your journal.

By the way, we love visitors to our Field Day site. Have you ever wanted to contact someone from Canada, or Hawaii, or Alaska or any of the other states? We put up a fun station for those not licensed to try out their communication skills. Children love to come talk to people on the other side of the USA.

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The Field Day event runs from Saturday 2 PM until Sunday 2 PM. We are at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School. Our GOTA (get on the air) station is always a big hit with local families. Come see us. Maybe you will also see our satellite capability operators contact the International Space Station. They have done it almost every year.

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All in all, even though it is exhausting, I wouldn’t trade living here for anything. So many great things to do. Not enough hours in the day.

Zukes and Cukes

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A #grow100 update.


The major section of my designated #grow100 one hundred square foot gardening area. Covered in zucchini and cucumber plants. With shallots, leeks and onions farther down the row.

I harvested my first green cucumber this weekend. Plus, three more mini whites.

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There were also three more large zucchini out there this weekend.

And the onions. Wow, do we have onions. Want to grow something very easy. Put in onions.

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Most of these came from my grow 100 area. Reds. Whites. Goldens. The rain has been pretty relentless and I have to harvest those which exhibit signs of too much rain. Their tops droop over. If you try to pull them out, they break. These will not be candidates for curing. They will be eaten fresh. Many ways to make those onions. I made Ina Garten’s herb roasted onions for dinner.

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Only I jazzed them up with zucchini and garlic scapes. A simple vinaigrette made with honey mustard, olive oil, thyme, dill, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Baked until soft.

Head over to Grow It, Eat It to see how easy it is to start a garden.

Cherry Picking

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Out at Larriland.

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I got there Friday morning to pick sweet cherries. It certainly was busy.

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The parking area was full. Most people, though, were picking strawberries so the cherry trees were relatively quiet. I know it was the last day of school around here, but there were quite a few families out there.

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Cherries were $3.99 a pound. I picked four pounds. Knowing I was going to make jam, I wasn’t that careful about keeping the stems on the cherries.

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I came home, cleaned and pitted them. Prepared my canning stuff. Found a recipe I liked. And made five jars of cherry “jam”, which is actually more like a syrup.

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The recipe was a low sugar, no pectin, three ingredient one. Cherries. Sugar. Lemon juice. Not too hard to do.

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We are so lucky to have a pick your own farm right up the road. Larriland is a treasure in our county.


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Or lack thereof due to the high concentration of garlic in the house.

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After all, how many people do you know that are curing garlic in their laundry rooms? The garlic hanging there is destined for the Howard County Food Bank. The first of many harvests to give us about a month’s worth of garlic to donate. I took about a dozen heads of garlic out of the ground this week. The largest ones, which were already turning brown on their tops. The rest. Will get harvested as they dry out. If it ever stops raining. Garlic is easy to grow, but needs to be dried somewhere cool and dry.

Besides that garlic, I have scapes from the CSA and green garlic also. Green garlic are those immature plants that are culled out to make room for the more robust plants that will become mature garlic.

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In this picture you can see green garlic on the right and scapes all curled up on the left. I made some pesto. Cut some in pieces to use in stir fry dinners. I should have left a few of them whole so I could wrap bacon around them and grill them. Too late for this batch.

If you have never had scapes, I know that Love Dove Farms sells them at the various county markets. I used to buy mine there before the CSA started inundating us with scapes.

Tonight a few ended up in this meal.

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An almost completely locally sourced meal. The salad. Arugula and butter lettuce and chive blossoms from my garden. The main dish. Pappardelle’s garlic chive pasta from Secolari, served with shrimp from Friends and Farms. Pesto from my freezer (last year’s basil). Snow peas, scallions and scapes from the CSA.

With all this garlic, there will be no vampires in this part of western HoCo.

Tidbit Tuesday Again

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Just some random thoughts on a Tuesday evening.

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The zucchini are officially out of control already, less than a week after finding the first few. The behemoth in the picture weighed 24 ounces and was hiding (the usual ploy of zucchini not wanting to be harvested). All told. 84 ounces in 8 zucchini. And, this is just the beginning.

Notice the two little mini white cucumbers. My first cukes of the season. Pickling cukes. They are far ahead of the other cucumbers. All of these vegetables came from my #grow100 challenge area. What can you grow in 100 square feet? Obviously, beaucoup zucchini.

Moving on to other pictures from my camera since the weekend, congratulations to the volunteer of the year at the conservancy, Woody Merkle. We swear he lives there, we see him all the time.

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We had our volunteer appreciation strawberry social on Sunday. Well attended. Lovely berries from Baugher’s and ice cream from Hoffman’s.

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Today after harvesting for the food bank and for the winners of the auction basket at Wine in the Garden, I got those zucchini and cukes and headed off for my CSA pick up.

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Something new. Red Leaf cheese. Not just any cheese, but an award winning goat cheese with attitude. The joys of our CSA. Finding things like this.

This week we also got something new in our meat share.

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Country spare ribs from the heritage hogs at Razorbacks and Barbed Wire Farm. We have gotten pork chops from this farm. Very tasty. I am thinking ribs tomorrow night.

As for the fruit share.

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Stayman apples and strawberry jam. I just finished the raspberry jam from the winter CSA. Am so happy to see a new flavor to try. Heaven on toast in the morning.

My veggie share?

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Completely insane. Almost too much to photograph. There will be lots of cooking going on. I am thinking of using the massive escarole in a soup with the last of the green garlic. Romano beans and snow peas.

OK, another new one.

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Dandelion greens.

We are slowly transitioning into summer, with a mix of squash and beans, and many different greens.

Lovin’ Summertime

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Summer has arrived. Really arrived. Hot, humid, perfect weather for the garden to flourish.

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The first zucchini. Out of that 100 square ft area in my garden. I like to pick the earliest ones when they are small, and do a simple dish with them. The massive zucchini will come later when I find them hiding under the leaves.

We got some really good stuff in our Friends and Farms basket Thursday. Atlantic Bluefin and ground lamb are the stars.

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We did the tuna Thursday, and made mega meatballs tonight from one of the packages of lamb.

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I do a “no measure” meatball. Putting in bread crumbs, an egg, za’atar and cumin, salt and pepper, a few scallions. Baking at 350 degrees until perfectly browned.

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A few meatballs. Sautéed zucchini. New potatoes from up at Jenny’s market.

Followed by one really great dessert. Strawberry rhubarb dessert bars.

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Not too bad for a hot humid Saturday. Here’s to more meals from local foods. Here’s to celebrating summertime.

Scapes Season

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It has arrived. Garlic scape season.

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That first bunch of scapes in the CSA box from Lancaster Farm Fresh. Time to head over to the recipe page and start browsing.

It was a great transition box this week.

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Strawberries and rhubarb in the fruit share. Spring onions. Baby fennel. Greens. Beets. Cilantro and mint.

The meat share.

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Beef stir fry. Pork links. Boneless pork chops.

Tonight I was just in the mood for a stir fry. Using quite a bit of the box, and one of those precious scapes.

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Scapes, scallions and chard stems. In the wok with some light olive oil and toasted sesame oil. Fresh ginger.

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Add beef, soy sauce, straw mushrooms and curly kale.

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Served over brown rice. With a very lovely Linden Rose.

Get yourself to the local farmers markets and see if Love Dove Farms has their usual supply of scapes. So many ways to make them. Not just in pesto.

A short season, but a flavorful one.

Words of Wisdom

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Sometimes it’s the simplest advice that means the most. Like how gardening can be the trial run for someone who wants to open a winery.


We were sitting on the deck at our favorite winery, Linden, looking at the incredibly scenic view while enjoying a glass, some cheese and a baguette. When we first arrived, we watched the owner/winemaker Jim Law head off on his zero turn to cut some of the paths through the vineyards. He has always maintained that he is a farmer first and foremost. Growing grapes.

Of course, from those grapes comes great wine. He is a master. One we have known for 25 years now. He always stops by to talk if we are visiting. We like to talk about his old wines. Like the 2005 Cabernet Franc we opened for dinner last week.

He and I like to talk about growing stuff. Me, my garden. Him, his grapes.

He made a comment Saturday about what he tells those who think it would be great to start a vineyard. He asks if they garden. For those of us who do, we understand. Gardening is hard. We have pests. The weather drives us nuts. The weeds. The bugs. The heat and humidity. Lack of rain. Too much rain.

If you have gardened, you get it.

Growing things isn’t always easy. Making great wine, like Jim does, takes that extra effort of understanding your climate and living with it.

His vineyards look awesome right now.

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He gave me great advice once for my gardening. I grow heirloom tomatoes. He told me. If it rains too much, don’t weed. Let the weeds soak up all that extra moisture that would otherwise water down your tomatoes.

If there’s a drought, definitely weed like mad. The secret to a great heirloom tomato is very similar to the secret to great wine. Concentrated flavors, not watered down, make the taste.

Here’s to making the best we can. And to great friends. And great wine.