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Category Archives: Bucket List

Baby Chick Days

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Yes, it’s that time of year again. The baby chicks (and ducks) are back at Tractor Supply.

This time we were in Westminster running errands and stopped in for some bird food, and the cheeps from the chicks always attracts us.

They had laying chickens and meat chickens, and they had baby ducks. I really wanted the ducks, but I can’t convince my husband to turn my old garden into a home for them. I mean, after all, duck eggs are amazing.

You have to buy a minimum of six chicks. There are signs everywhere telling people these are not Easter pets. These are farm animals, which you can raise in a fairly limited space if your county regulations allow it.

For us, we would have to do some serious planning. Just to keep them safe from the occasional fox, and the resident hawks.

Still, it is something I would love to do. I don’t know, I could use subterfuge and blackmail, like telling him I will buy one of these instead.

Hey, they are only $199.99 and just think what you could do to drive your HOA crazy with one of these babies in your front yard. Out here, though, no HOAs, so I could make it my new driveway guardian. Do you think it would scare the hawks?

A Very Merry

Holiday Season. Beginning and ending, and all those days between. By now, many friends and relatives have done the eating, drinking, giving, and receiving as they celebrate this weekend.

Here, I suppose I can say we are celebrating. All I wanted for Christmas was the decision, and planning, to tackle our biggest painting and updating project. Namely, my kitchen. The heart of our home. The place we spend the most time, and the room that made me want to buy this house a dozen years ago.

cookie central before

cookie central before


cookie central Friday

cookie central Friday

When I said that’s what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, I didn’t mean it literally, but surprise, that’s how it is turning out. It seems that in order to have my favorite painter and carpenter doing our job, it was best to fit it between some major work that our general contractor has in 2017. And, of course, December and January are slow times in the construction and renovation business.

farewell, pot rack

farewell, pot rack

So, last Thursday it began. Stripping wallpaper borders. Tomorrow, and most of this week, dry wall repair, priming, and the earliest tasks. While waiting for the electrician to give me new (please non-humming) overhead lighting. Sometime later next week, ceiling painting, then final painting of all the walls.

the usual spot for the tree

the usual spot for the tree

This means that I am seriously not thinking straight. To tackle this during the holidays. That’s what I get, I suppose, for saying I don’t want presents anymore. I just want to finish all the laundry list of projects that still need to be done.

Crossing my fingers that the 30 year old stove continues to work, until I get myself ready to tackle that really large item on that list.

Everyone. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, etc. I may not have decorated much this year, but I did get the poinsettias.

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Come Monday

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Peace and quiet. No alarm clock. For the first Monday in about six weeks we haven’t had to set an alarm and wake up ready to go with painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians or other subcontractors.

I realized that six years ago today I set an alarm and got up to go to my last week of work before retiring. My last Monday wake up, for the commute and the stress. Most of the time now, we get up when the sun wakes us. Being on a schedule was almost alien.

I look back on these six years. People told me, you will get bored. You will want to go back to work, if only for the social aspect of it. Interestingly, we have found our social circles in fellow retirees who are active in our hobbies.

Gardening. Ham radio. Volunteering. Cooking and baking. Blogging. Day trips. Wine tastings. We haven’t lacked for things to do.

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What have we done? In 2010, I went through naturalist training and started leading field trips at the Conservancy. I signed up to take the Howard Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment and became part of that community of “senior” volunteers.

I joined my first CSA in 2011, and became very interested in changing what we ate, and how we cooked it.

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In 2012, after surgery, I got back into my garden, and my kitchen, and slowly recovered from spinal fusion. It took a while but now I hardly remember the long road back.

We do so many things with the local amateur radio clubs. Dinners, contests, lunches, picnics, field day weekend.

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In 2013, I became even more active in giving programs at the Conservancy. I got into preserving foods, and totally changing what came into this house. Eliminating most heavily preserved and processed packaged foods.

We have tackled some major renovations here. Making the house a more energy efficient and “senior friendly” place to live.

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We put up a radio tower, no, two of them.

So, I have to say it hasn’t been boring. I have never even once considered working again. Don’t have time for it. On April 1st, I will raise a toast to commemorate that last day of working. And the beginning of my journey, which thankfully almost never needs alarm clocks.

Real Hams Don’t Use Cranes

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They build towers by hand. This has been a real education for me. Watching a master at work. The tower is now at 72 feet. How do you get those pieces up there?

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You send them up by pulley. This tower is erected in small pieces. Diagonals. Steps. Vertical supports. All sent up by hand. Placed and bolted in.

I have been really impressed to watch it. My husband has been ground crew. And engineer of guy wires.

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Slowly but surely the tower is going up.

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This is from 62 feet. The tower will go to 82 feet, then the mast will rise up to 97 feet with an antenna on the top. With our elevation of 630 feet out here where we live, and this tower, my better half will have no problem talking to hams on the other side of the world.

When it’s done, it will be awesome. Can’t believe we have been working towards this for over a year. Finally he is close to having a bucket list item checked off. One kick butt station. Now, we just have to get all those antennas and the cables done.

Thanks to W3LPL, a master at tower climbing and assembling.

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Yes You CAN

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If I can can, you can can.

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My first entries into the canning arena at the fair. Cherries and dill pickles. I got a fourth place for the cherries. Nothing for the pickles but I am still learning. I saw the better jars did spears. I did slices.

I knew I wanted to learn how to can more fruits and vegetables and I finally got the courage to enter the fair. So glad I did. You never know until you try.

These luscious cherries. From Larriland. Picked in June.

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I separated them before making the preserved batches.

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This was a very simple cherries, sugar and water mix. No pectin. No hard work other than pitting all those cherries. Water bath processed. I got 5 pint jars of them.

As for the rest of the fair. Two blue ribbons, plus one third and one fourth place

Herbs. This may be the third blue ribbon for herbs. I have to look at the records, as I have never gotten a blue ribbon in anything other than herbs before this year.

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And, onions. They got me my other blue ribbon.

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Those onions. Lots of work to dry. But, oh so worth it.

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The five selected hung out in a closet in the laundry room, on hangers and string, until I was ready to enter them.

I didn’t take pictures of my third place basket. I need to go back and document that for my records. My final ribbon, for yellow slicing tomatoes. Somehow I missed taking that picture too.

As usual, I struck out with my heirlooms. They just lacked the intense flavor they need in order to win a ribbon. But, there is always next year.

If you have never had the courage to enter items in the fair, you really should just throw caution to the wind, and get in there. Easy to do. Really. Every year I learn more, and the people I meet are all very helpful.

Next year, I may even overcome my inexperience in baking and enter my zucchini bread. Or, take the time to enter some of my photography. There are so many ways you can participate.

Opening Doors

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And discovering the world.

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In two days a blogging friend who also volunteers with me at the Conservancy is leaving on a one YEAR trip around the world. Something many of us dream of doing. She is starting in Istanbul, one of my absolute favorite cities that we visited during our travels in the past.

I am following her family’s journey on their web page. I admire their quest to travel the world with only a backpack a person. Husband and Wife. Three girls. Their nanny.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Travel to places where they speak a different language. Eat different foods. Live their lives in totally different ways than we do.

Their journey reminds me to dust off my bucket list. Look for those things I want to do, but haven’t yet. I’ve done quite a bit of it, but there’s always more mountains to climb. Seas to sail. History to discover.

In the meantime, those grounded items on my list keep getting checked. The garden. Check. The house in the country. Check. That radio tower for my husband. Getting closer.

First prize for my heirloom tomatoes at the fair. Sometimes I think it’s unattainable. The weather keeps conspiring against me. But, the search and the challenge is what keeps us going.

I wish Lisa and her family fair winds and following seas. We will be following their adventure, and maybe planning a dream trip of our own.

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Another Trip Around the Sun

Title credit to Jimmy Buffett.

One more year down. Another big birthday. Can you say “Eligible for social security”? I find it a bit hard to do so. Sixty two years old. Ten years in our “new” house. Almost five years retired.

These trips around the sun just keep getting more interesting.

And, I really do detest making resolutions. But, they seem to help me focus, even if just for a little while.

I did pretty well for what I wanted to do in 2014. I moved my garden. We took a few trips.

I haven’t done that baking thing yet. I have, though, continued to read new blogs for inspiration. I made it all the way through the Smitten Kitchen archives.

This year, I am reading David Lebovitz. I will either get an ice cream maker as a result, or I will book a week long trip to Paris. Amazing what kind of inspiration you can get by just reading something.

Now, I need to get that local business page done. No more procrastination. It will be up and running soon (famous last words).

As for that birthday. The dinner was spectacular. Again, home cooked. Locally sourced.

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With a wine that has local connections.

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Axios means “worthy”. Axios wine is a product of a Howard County resident, Gus Kalaris. Those of us who frequent Iron Bridge know Gus quite well. He has a release party there every year. Gus is following his dreams. To make amazing wines. I think of people like him, as I consider that we can always find new challenges. New passions. New endeavors.

No matter how many trips around the sun we take.

Here’s to another awesome year. What will 2015 bring?

Making Resolutions … Or Not

Last year I replaced resolution making with my “Sixty@Sixty” challenge to do in my 60th year. I found it was much more fun but still productive.

Like in my rightsizing challenge. Taking on the kitchen and pantry, the overload of books not needed, the work clothing we had in the closet.

I made it through most of those categories, failing when it came to finishing six items in traveling, birding, festivals and diners.

I blogged a few days back about whether I would forego resolutions again in the upcoming year.

I decided on a hybrid of the two. A couple of challenges, mixed with some real resolutions.

We need to clean out our garage of things that don’t get used. Or that should be stored elsewhere. I think it’s one doable goal. That we can get done.

I want to expand my baking. Using yeast for things like bagels, pretzels, and some other challenges brought about by reading Smitten Kitchen after finding that great granola recipe from Deb’s cookbook.

I am also committed to break out of my rut and get us to those new destinations, even if just for an overnight trip.

I want to redo the garden, and I have seeds for some challenging plants, like cardoons and Malabar spinach.

I want to go to The Common Market once a month and bring home something from the bulk food bins that I have never cooked myself, like those exotic rices, beans, grains and nuts.

As for blogging, I made it through the year (well, I have three days left) with blogging daily. Sometimes it was posted after midnight, but there are posts for every day.

Next year, cutting it back, to eliminate some redundancy, to 4-5 times a week and focusing on local things to do, places to go, and my farm series needs to be resurrected.

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I also need to update those pages here on the blog, and finish the two draft pages I want to add.

As for time volunteering. The big challenge this year is the food preservation program I am working on. Plus, more time out on the trails around the Conservancy.

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It is good to be busy. To have goals. To keep retirement interesting. 2013 has been pretty eventful.

Here’s to turning 61 in a few hours. That’s not old. That’s just getting started in the seventh decade. And, soon it will be 2014. Amazing how time flies when we’re having fun.

Resolutions

I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions last year. I decided to challenge myself in my 60th year to do sixty things.

It was interesting. Fun. Not totally successful. But fun. I may try something similar this year.

Like finish the list in the areas I didn’t do very well in accomplishing.

My list —
Visit six festivals and/or fairs that are new to me
Taste at six new wineries never visited before
Seek out six new farmstands or markets to expand my locavore network
Do something different or visit someplace new in six states other than MD
Eat at six small business restaurants and/or diners
Eat/drink or experience six childhood memories
Log six new birds not seen before
Cook and eat six new proteins, i.e., meat, seafood, beans or nuts
Grow and/or eat six exotic fruits, veggies or herbs
Tackle six rightsizing projects

I am proud of myself in really taking on those rightsizing projects and pushing myself to get rid of things.

I hit more than enough wineries. Getting out of the rut of going to the same places. Discovering new and not so new places in MD and VA.

Farmstands and markets were successful too. Fruits, veggies and herbs, yep, did those too.

Where did I fail? Not getting out of MD, VA and PA. I really have become a stick in the mud when it comes to traveling. We did the trip to Roanoke and a few trips to PA. Found a few new towns in MD.

Never made it to DE or WV or NJ or NY, like we planned.

I was lucky in getting three new birds. Not by traveling, though. What were they? The guinea hens, the screech owl and the great horned owl. Thankfully, the program on creatures got me two close encounters with delightful creatures.

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Cooked with some new grains like wheatberries.

Hit more than enough childhood memories, too.

I should take inventory of how much I did. And, decide what to do next year. I am a firm believer in challenging myself, so as not to get stodgy and set in my ways in retirement.

After all,

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cooking with chayote was a highlight of my adventures into new foods.

As for wine, we can add Big Cork, Old Westminster, Early Mountain, Doukenie, Port of Leonardtown, St. Michael’s, Villa Appalaccia, Ankida Ridge and Valhalla to the list of new wines and wineries discovered this year. Not bad.

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Here’s to a great year. And many more adventures.

A “Twofer”

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That is, checking two things off my Sixty@Sixty list. Today being Friday, it’s a day we tend to take day trips. It’s also an errand running day, so we combined the two things. We also gave the pickup some needed mileage. It doesn’t get used much in the winter. We set the GPS today to do back roads, going and coming.

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You know, shortest distance, avoid highways. One of our favorite ways to explore. I was on a mission. I wanted to get to Catoctin Mountain Orchards before they closed for three months. They close February, March and April every year. I wanted to pick up some salad dressings and salsa to use a basis for making my own. I wanted to see the ingredients. Compare the taste. Use my frozen fruit from Larriland and Butler’s. I have peaches, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries in the freezer.

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We also found a bonus for my husband. Venison sticks and sausage. We get venison sausage when we visit Linden, and here was a version from Pennsylvania, for him to try. Not sure where we will use it, but what the heck.

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We also found cow’s milk feta from Hagerstown. Time to compare to our favorite from Bowling Green Farms. After leaving Catoctin, we decided to stop at a market we never visited. Gateway. One of my goals on my challenge. Visit new markets and farm stands. Nothing like a candyland, farm market, convenience store and liquor store. Gateway is truly interesting. If you are into candy making, they have one incredible wall full of molds, ingredients and other things you need to make candy.

They also have bins full of penny candy. Not that it is a penny anymore, but these fulfill my challenge to relive childhood memories.

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These are the candies we bought before going to the movies. They bring back memories of Saturday matinees, and bad for your fillings chewy candies. My husband has already gotten into them. I did pick up a few other favorites. Rock candy and coconut slices.

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The rock candy will be used two ways. In tea, in place of honey. Really strong tea for when you feel under the weather. And, with some Pikesville rye. Making memories like my dad did. Rock n Rye.

The coconut slices. Yum! An old friend. Something that just makes you smile.

All in all, a good day tripping Friday. Here’s to more adventures in the coming months.