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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Abbondanza!

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An abundance. A very large amount. A very heavy CSA basket.

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It is obvious that this is the height of harvest for our supplying farmers. When they said eggplant, they meant two. When they said mixed cherry tomatoes, there were two boxes. When they said red cabbage, there were two of them also.

As for the rest of the stuff, we are again blessed with watermelons. For I think the fourth week in a row, twice we had yellow seedless, once a monster regular and once a smaller seeded variety. And at least a half dozen cantaloupes this summer. Even our newsletter called this the summer of the watermelons. The weather cooperated in making them large and juicy.

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Have you had the pleasure of tasting a yellow seedless melon? They are simply awesome.

As for what we are doing with this bounty. How about baked casserole?

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Layered eggplant, yellow squash, onions, red pepper, tomato and goat cheese. Covered in a light vinaigrette and oregano. Baked for an hour until absolutely delicious. Served over this.

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I heated a few naan after sprinkling with za’atar and scallions. Roasted chicken legs and boiled some corn. What a wonderful Sunday night dinner. Nothing like fresh vegetables a few days out of the ground. If you haven’t been taking advantage of the many farmers markets, you should. Or, if you are blessed with a CSA that gives you fresher than grocery store produce, you know what I mean.

Now, tomorrow, I need to make fritters from the latest tromboncini I got from my garden.

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Zucchini on steroids. The Italian heirloom is still producing in my garden.

Anything interesting growing in your garden?

Good Neighbors

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We love living out here. The people surrounding us are so friendly, helpful, and just a joy to have as neighbors and friends. After all, where can you easily put up a radio tower with loads of help, and neighbors who aren’t opposing your construction?

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Bit by bit, my husband’s radio tower is taking shape. With more than a little help from our friends (and neighbors).

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Drive over our yard to get to yours? No problem.

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Help drop 12 feet of tower into a hole? Three people show up to help.

Borrow your truck to pick up concrete? Sure.

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Dig the hole for you? Yep, did that in a past career and happy to help you.

This whole tower project had been nothing but a collaborative effort. Even down to neighbors lending hoses to get out that 400 feet from the house.

I really can’t remember that kind of help back when we lived in Columbia. Just another reason I like living in the “outback”, where friendship and sharing is the norm.

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Almost have a tower. We need another county inspection followed by the erection of all the sections. We are slowly but surely getting to the goal.

Underachievers

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That would be us. In the energy world. At least according to our latest and not so greatest report from our “Smart” meter. I have a hate-hate relationship with that meter. It only gives us bad news. Like this.

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Basically telling me to stop making home cooked meals for us.

My peak load on electricity. Dinner time. I suppose to become an overachiever we need to hop in the car nightly and head out 20-30 miles round trip to buy a dinner at a chain restaurant that would feed a family of six in a developing country.

In other words, we don’t do as well in energy consumption as 70 of our closest “neighbors”. We ranked 71st in the latest mailing, out of 100 people around us. It does NOT include any of the local McMansions. Since they heat with natural gas, they aren’t compared to us. Only the older homes that are cursed with heat pumps.

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We have two of the beasts. They work well, since we can tailor the output for bedrooms versus first floor, but still they consume beaucoup energy. Particularly when you are retired and home all day. Yes, we could crank that temp high and swelter in the house, since we no longer head off to government jobs in ice boxes that are set low to keep the computers cool.

All of those energy saving suggestions are tailored to those who leave their homes every day to go to work. Not to those of us who are here when the temps hit the high nineties.

But really. How is it more energy “efficient” to not use our stove or oven. Or to get rid of the chest freezer with all our home processed fruit and vegetables in it. Should we be buying all those quick fix meals that can be nuked or heated quickly? What about all the energy waste in the packaging and the transport?

None of that is counted for those of us who cook from scratch nightly. Who don’t do the carry out or fast food or restaurant hopping that keeps our kitchens clean and spotless. That minimizes those loads in the dishwasher. That lowers that “bump” from 5-7 pm in our energy curve.

Really. I want to believe that buying local food and making it myself is better for us. But is it? How much do we really save? Honestly, I think we are doing a better job in many ways, but it certainly isn’t reflected in the reports we get monthly.

How do we measure what our real carbon footprint is? I can’t easily answer that, but it is a good question.

Something to ponder on a Monday night.

Back To School

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Not just for the students who go back into the classroom on Monday, but for those of us who volunteer to lead field trips, we begin our fall learning series next Tuesday out in Woodstock, at Mt. Pleasant. The private nonprofit where I volunteer, Howard County Conservancy has a large and interesting series of trips that need hike leaders.

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Our schedule for fall training. Including our ever popular potluck luncheon.

We begin with the Watershed Report Card Program. Which was a huge success last year. Results are here.

Volunteering is easy. You can do as many field trips as you want. They request a minimum of three, and there are dozens of days that children are on the Conservancy grounds at Mt .Pleasant and/or Belmont. Sometimes we even head out to the schools to lead trips. This year I see we are going to practice the Stream Survey Program over at the Therapeutic and Recreational Riding Center in Glenelg.

I also see a new preschool program on the calendar. I like working with the younger children. They are incredibly inquisitive and just really enjoy being out in the fields and woodlands. Particularly in the lovely weather that autumn brings to our area.

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It’s not hard to join us as a volunteer. Email volunteer@hcconservancy.org or call 410 465-8877.

Last year, over 10000 students came to the properties for trips. There are many, many opportunities to help.

See you on Tuesday or Thursday next week?

A Tale of Two Counties

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Specifically …

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… suburban Howard County.

And …

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… rural Howard County.

What prompted this post was an editorial in the Sun during the Howard County Fair. Not far off the mark, about the differences between those two worlds. Also I was intrigued that the county will be offering a Farm Academy starting in October.

The first session is out at Triadelphia Lake View Farm. Details to sign up will be on the Live Green Howard page next month.

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I wrote about them in my Farm series. They are known throughout the county due to their participation in a number of farmer’s markets and their pumpkin fields and cut your own Christmas trees.

For many people moving out of Columbia into the new developments all over the once rural west county, learning to live with combines, tractors, manure spreaders, noise from machinery and the other everyday occurrences on the farms has been enlightening to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people saying that the surrounding rural lands have unsightly buildings or fields.

We don’t all live on manicured lawns, and many outbuildings get a bit rusty. There are no covenants or HOAs out here in the older areas. Which is why many of us live here.

Learning to respect those who have farmed or who run businesses here is important. Trying to force the farmers to restrict what they do isn’t the way to peacefully coexist.

Yes, cow manure reeks. It’s a spring ritual out here to fertilize the fields. It isn’t noxious. It isn’t hazardous. It is necessary to maintain good soil for planting. Yes, we need tall strong fences to keep livestock in. Strength is more important than looks to keep horses, goats, sheep, alpacas, cattle, dairy cows and hogs where they belong.

Yes, there are naturally growing meadows that get harvested when the weather cooperates. I just close my windows and turn on the A/C if my allergies go a little crazy when my surrounding neighbors bring in the equipment to cut and bale hay.

If you ever wanted to learn more about how people live out here beyond Clarksville, check out this new initiative. And thank TLV when you see them at the markets for volunteering to be the first host.

And if you really want to know why we love it out here so much, scenes like this are way better than all the words I could write.

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The Morning After

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The flag was still flying high on the crane when I got to the fairgrounds at 10 am this morning. Most of the rides were dismantled. A steady stream of cars arriving to pick up exhibits, entries, ribbons and premium checks.

I like watching the crews take down the fair. It’s interesting to see. I have been volunteering within the farm and garden building. Stacking up entries for easy retrieval. Helping people find their ribbons, and decide what to do with their vegetables and fruit, now that it’s been sitting around a week.

I started helping a couple of years ago. My favorite part of being there is watching the 4Hers come in to get their entries and their ribbons. It’s also watching children come in to our tables to find their entries, and in many cases their ribbons.

One little boy today was picking up a third, fourth and fifth place ribbon for biggest zucchini. One for him and each of his siblings.

I also enjoy visiting with my friends at the beekeepers’ tables, and just getting to talk vegetables with other gardeners. Commiserating about how our tomatoes suffered this summer.

I just wish we could find someone to take all the less than perfect food (and some that was still usable). There previously were people who took things home to feed pigs or chickens. Now, not so much.

The food banks can’t take them. They have been sitting out in the heat for a week. Most of the tomatoes were going south. The berries, really gone.

Still, it’s fun to help a little and see behind the scenes in tear down.

People were taking their animals home. The stalls were all cleaned up, and new mulch was in a humongous pile out by the show pavilion.

Another year. Another check. This one my biggest. Just about enough to cover what I spent to buy seedlings and plugs at Sharp’s Farm last spring.

Spec Ops

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Special Operations, that is. Did you know that Howard County has a special operations team in our fire and rescue services department? And that they are using a very versatile and energy efficient way to deploy their assets wherever they are needed?

They are using #PODpower. Platform on Demand.

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There’s a Collapse Rescue POD.

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A HAZMAT POD.

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And a Mass Casualty POD.

Tuesday we had the opportunity to attend a press/media/blogger event at the Howard County Fire and Rescue Training Center. I joined about two dozen others to hear how we are using this method to provide support all over the county using two transport vehicles. The units are stationed in Kings Contrivance, convenient to I-95, US29, and fairly easy access to reach I-70 as well. Last year they responded to approximately 160 calls, an average of one almost every other day (technically one every 2.25 days but only geeky mathematicians like me would calculate that).

It was a large initial investment, but it works very efficiently. Instead of having numerous single mission dedicated trucks spread all over the area, the county uses the transport vehicle to grab the necessary POD and take it to a call. You only have to license and insure that transporter as a vehicle. Maintenance costs are lower too.

We split up into small groups and rotated through demonstrations, including some hands on opportunities. Including running the remote controlled crane.

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This is the unit some of you may have seen in the news, rescuing a Clydesdale that was stuck in a ditch just over the county line in Baltimore.

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The above picture was from the county fire facebook page and it was in our handout.

The collapse unit was just recently used when someone drove an SUV through a sliding glass door entry in an apartment complex near COSTCO.

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The special operations team shored up the corner of the building which had been damaged by the vehicle, keeping the structure safe from collapse until it could be permanently repaired.

The mass casualty POD was really interesting. It gives the county the ability to simultaneously “triage” up to 50 people. The type of capability that could support a bus accident, or an incident at a business, for example.

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Every green container has the necessary equipment a paramedic could use for each individual victim.

This unit hasn’t used for any mass casualties, thankfully, but the ATV it houses has been utilized on the miles of trails throughout Columbia and the county parks.

According to their leader, LT Zimmerman, all of the team members are trained in HAZMAT ops, and there are members who support the other missions. They currently have 120 people who work in spec ops. Out of a 900 member force. I can remember when I moved here 40+ years ago, we probably had less than half that number and many of them were volunteers.

The fire and rescue services here have come a long way, with 12 stations, their own training facility that opened ten years ago, and so many other improvements. One near and dear to us out here in well and septic land, is the installation of all of the underground fire suppression tanks. Most are located at our schools but they are also found on some of the more rural roads.

I was glad we got the chance to see the new capabilities in action, and a chance to talk to those dedicated men and women who led the demonstrations for us.

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Thanks to all those in the Public Information Office who invited us and managed the event, and to those in the spec ops team, who provided us with insight into their role in fire and rescue services.