RSS Feed

Category Archives: Community

Coping With the Cold

Posted on

Cold weather is returning, after a nice couple of days. My little bird friends are hitting the water heavily.

In particular, my friend Flicker. Definitely here because of the heated bird bath. If you have feeders, make sure they stay filled, as the birds depend on you for food.

My bird bath isn’t pretty. But, it’s functional. I need the brick and rocks there to keep the insert from blowing away in high winds.

The blue birds are back, too.

They don’t use the feeders, only the water.

Other things I have paid attention to, as the temps dipped to single digits last week.

Letting the water drip at the most vulnerable place in the house. That bathroom where a pipe burst four years ago. We use the hall bath in the worst weather, just to keep the water flowing. Our master bath is protected. The hall bath is on the west side, where the winds blow and the walls are always cooler.

We also now keep the panel off the access to the crawl space, allowing warmer air to get in there. On the coldest days, I do laundry and run the dryer on high heat, raising the temps in that unheated crawl space full of pipes to the kitchen, laundry room and mud room bath.

We were told a long time ago, do not turn on a gas fireplace, or light a fire, while keeping the glass doors closed. They can shatter from the thermal shock. We have heard of many places where this has happened.

Also, do you know where your main water shut off valve is? Find it out. It makes a huge difference, if a pipe bursts, to be able to stop the water quickly.

We are weathering these cold temperatures so much better, since we took the time to beef up all our insulation. The house is warmer. We are happier for it.

We insulated the attic,

and all the dormers.

Last but not least, for me, the cook. I keep using the oven on slow cook, making soups, pasta meals, and stews, which are comfort foods.

 

Good News Bad News

Posted on

Well, the good news is the easy repair of our washing machine. Just the switch which says the top is down and the motor can run.

The bad news. Our internet died Tuesday. Much drama. Two visits. Trucks with buckets trying to access connections in brutally cold weather. No internet and suggestions that we need a new cable run. Then, OMG, the internet returned at 11 pm last night. Magically. Now, we have no idea if we need new cable runs from the main road. I am just frantically paying bills and answering emails in case it dies again.

It is amazing how much we now rely on internet to support us.

My volunteer work, at the Conservancy, for example. I need to publicize upcoming events like the renowned owl expert with incredible information about one of our favorite predators. Paul Bannick, on the 12th of January. Ranger will be there. This event may sell out. Go online and book quickly. His event on the 13th in VA has already reached its limit at 175 participants.

Another fun event on the 13th, we have a haiku writing fest. With crafts by Columbia Families in Nature. Come out and banish those cold weather blues.

The last bad news in our area. The closing of Casual Gourmet. I will miss Alexandra’s shop in Glenwood. They are retiring and no one wanted to buy it from them. For the rest of this month, they are liquidating their inventory. Stop in, help them out, and say farewell.

All in all, this brutal winter is knocking us down. We just need to find things to keep us occupied and WARM.

Thankful

Another year. More to be thankful for. This year, watching the natural disasters around the North American area, including the Caribbean islands, I am thankful to live in a relatively benevolent region. Think about it. Houston. Florida. California. Montana. Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands. Smaller islands, belonging to other nations.

We can’t forget that those people lost their homes. Their livelihoods. They are still struggling to recover, and it will take a long time. It took a year around here to recover from the Ellicott City floods. Even more for some businesses.  I see that Portalli’s is finally going to open again. Sixteen months since the floods.

When we give thanks tomorrow, we should think of those who still need help. If we can, we should step up on “Giving Tuesday” and find those still trying to put the pieces back together.

Happy Thanksgiving for those fortunate friends and family. Hopefully, a better year for those still digging out.

Preparedness Bootcamp

Did you know that our county is having an emergency preparedness “bootcamp” on the Office of Emergency Management Facebook page?

Not a bad time for us to review what we need to do, to remain prepared for possible extreme weather. With Hurricane Irma out there, and maybe more behind it.

I can’t believe it has been five years since Sandy came through. I remember being a new blogger and writing quite a few posts about preparing for it, and how we coped.

We are much more prepared these days, making it simple to ramp up if we need to do it. Always have extra batteries. Have all sizes of containers around to stockpile water, if needed. We know where to get the largest bags of ice, and we have four coolers for food.

We hope that Irma will somehow miraculously take a hard turn and go out to sea, but if not, we are ready.

Around here, it’s that massive deluge of rain that worries all of us the most. As big as Irma is, it will be hard to avoid getting drenched somewhere along the East Coast.

For those interested in weather, and wanting to learn more about preparedness, check out the OEM page. And, be prepared.

Finally, one simple tip, and a recipe. Make sure you have a good hand can opener. Power outages, you know. For us, the simplest meal. Canned tuna in olive oil, canned chickpeas, a white onion, salt and pepper. Drain the chickpeas. Dice the onion. Mix tuna, chickpeas, onion and salt and pepper. Add a bit more olive oil if it needs it. Serve over lettuce.

Stay safe!

Hurricanes Past

I hate hurricanes. For us they are the largest and most frequent weather events that bring damage to our area. For us, looking at the remnants of Harvey, the hurricane that won’t go away, it is difficult.

Our hurricanes almost never drive us out of our homes. They just hang around, knock out power and dump copious amounts of rainwater that flood those in low lying areas.

A few days of inconvenience for most of us. A minimal number with tree damage to their homes. A handful of flooded basements. Annoying. Yes. Catastrophic. No.

We have many friends in Texas. One in Port Aransas. If he still has a home there. They are in our thoughts. That landing area. Where homes were leveled, and recovery will take years.

Not unlike what Ellicott City had to do, after the floods a year ago. Muck. Bacteria. Mold. Throwing everything away. Wearing respirators to clean up. Fighting with the Flood Insurance People. And more.

If you can, give money to help those who need it in Texas.

No Bones About It

Posted on

Bare Bones, that is. A local restaurant that hosted the blogging community and what seemed like a boatload of politicians from our county.

There were over 100 people at the popular “ribs” bar on Monday night. An opportunity to schmooze. Catch up with old friends. Meet people running in our next election in 2018.

Scott Ewart and Bill Woodcock hosted the event. They found sponsors that helped make the night special. A big thanks to Performance Tinting, who brought goodies to share, and who conducted a raffle of baskets with many of their auto-related products offered at their business. We use them to detail our cars. They did an amazing job on our pickup truck, getting those fabric seats beautiful and stain free. To support them, we bought a few raffle tickets, and then, surprise, we won the big basket. All sort of cute little items including some potential Christmas stocking stuffers.

Thanks to those who made the night out so special. And, I have to say, they still have some of the best BBQ ribs. We stopped visiting after an hour and sat down to indulge.

The Monday night special. A rack of spare ribs. Two sides. I picked their butter beans and corn fritters. Brought home half that rack, which became dinner the next night, along with my better half’s leftovers. Not a bad deal for $18.99.

Bare Bones also has their own beers. We enjoyed a pint while talking to some of the long time bloggers.

Eat In or Carry Out. Really good ribs. Trust me.

Rain or Shine

Posted on

No matter the weather. Harvest goes on. That includes those of us who volunteer weekly to harvest vegetables at our community garden. Perishables destined for the Howard County Food Bank.

We line up the wheelbarrows and get to work. 26-28 weeks total of harvests beginning in May and ending in late November. I am so thankful that we have a dedicated core of volunteers. It makes no difference if we get wet, or if we have to start really early to beat the heat.

I have learned much in this endeavor. What works. What doesn’t. What is best to grow. What won’t be used. It isn’t easy to cook healthy meals with limited resources but we try to grow items that lend themselves to simple preparations. No need for ovens, big pans, spices, etc. We know some of the recipients are living with a hot plate and maybe a microwave.

Greens are always welcome. Simple to prepare. Tomatoes are a treat for all of us. Nothing like juicy, ripe, sweet heirlooms, bursting with flavor. This week was one of our best for tomatoes, as we had three other gardeners away on vacation, and their tomato plants were overloaded with ripe fruit.

For the past month or so, we have had harvests of over 100 pounds weekly. We have these overproducing eggplants, which is a first for us. We have peppers that are full of blossoms and then are weighed down by the load of peppers, particularly our jalapenos. We also were very lucky with leeks, garlic, and of course, the tromboncino.

We have taken to calling them Italian squash, in order to get them accepted. They are the absolute best “zucchini-like” vegetable we grow. They get huge, but those long thin necks don’t contain seeds, which can be bitter. They slice and cook easily, and they also (for those of us with the utensils to do it) make wonderful fritters, breads, cakes, muffins, and more, when shredded. We have been getting dozens of these weekly, and they really do taste so much better than zucchini that have been left on the vine too long.

I get out a frying pan. Put in onion, pepper, tromboncini, cherry tomatoes. All in a splash of oil. Add salt. Pepper. Oregano. Cook until your house smells like spaghetti sauce. Serve over rice. Pasta. A “nuked” potato. It’s so good.

Now, where was I? I got off the subject, which is the garden. We are in the midst of planting for fall. The collards, kale, cabbage, carrots, beets, broccoli, and chard, all going in this month. We have 2000 square feet at the moment. 1000 square feet of the original food bank plot, plus 500 square feet being used where current gardeners had to take a year off for health reasons, plus 500 square feet where gardeners moved away during the season.

It means we may hit 2000 pounds this year. Which would be a record for us. Our highest total two years ago was 1700+ pounds.

Oh, and I forgot. Two of us put in a couple of butternut squash seedlings a while back. They went nuts and are advancing beyond the plots into the bench area. They are in an area of my plot that I didn’t use. There must be 20 of them ripening now.

They are another squash that goes a long way and is really easy to cook, once you manage to peel it. Can’t wait to have them ready to harvest.

Here’s to our volunteers, and here’s hoping the weather cooperates and gives us a good fall season, since summer has certainly been a good one for us.

 

 

 

Fifty is Nifty

Posted on

If you are a city, that is. Even though people think that 50 years is a long time, it certainly isn’t when it comes to cities. The place I lived the longest, Columbia MD, turns 50 this summer. The celebration started last weekend.

The storytelling event this Friday night at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center will feature many long time residents. Who may remember the tiny little town of the 1960s and 70s. When there were just two lane roads, and not all that many traffic signals.

It was an interesting place to live, but it certainly isn’t old, even now. Heck, I might have a pair of boots or two older than Columbia.

I grew up in Baltimore, in a house built in 1920. I considered it really old when it was only 50 years. Back when I started college. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move to the New Town. The one with the cool people tree.

And the even cooler downtown, that included a lake, instead of high rises and congestion.

I remember ice skating on that lake. Spreading blankets on the grass before the fireworks. Making reservations at The Tomato Palace, to have dinner and watch the fireworks (in the years after I made enough money to do that).

Still, it isn’t really old. Sitting out here with a next door neighbor in a renovated farmhouse that was built in 1894, I have a different perspective.

No matter what. It’s been my home county for 42 years. Columbia was the town I lived in for 30 years, so there are lots of memories.

You bet I will be enjoying the storytelling events. And many of the other events celebrating the occasion.

I think I’ve even gotten used to this no longer being the Rouse Building.

Telling Tales

Posted on

Storytellers. A couple of dozen of them. A dozen at each of two very special evenings here in Howard County.

Did you know Columbia MD turns 50 years old this year? And, many of its long time residents are telling tales, so to speak, at the first of two events sponsored by the Howard County Conservancy, the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department, and the Columbia 50th Birthday Celebration Inc.

You can register at the Conservancy website, for tickets to one or both of the storytelling events. And, for those wanting to learn how to better their skills at telling tales, either spoken or written, you can sign up for a day long workshop, too.

Last year was the second time the Conservancy sponsored a storytelling event. The first time for a workshop. The event was an overwhelming success. Standing room only. So, for those of us who love to hear all about the past from our friends and neighbors, signing up early is the way to get a seat.

Joining the Fresh Revolution

Posted on

I have been pretty vocal about missing Friends and Farms. They were like a second family. I loved the concept, the execution, and the amazing vendors. I know that Phil is trying to establish a buying club, for meat and seafood. We have been early adopters, so to speak. Buying some lovely seafood for the Thanksgiving holidays.

We got another email today. To order meat, poultry and seafood for Christmas and New Year’s. Really awesome stuff for a very good price. A couple of pick up options or a delivery to home choice (but you have to be home to accept).

Link is here. Hope it works.

You could also email Phil to get added. His email is phil.freshrevo@gmail.com and he would love to add you to his growing list of people who loved what we received from the suppliers like Nell’s Butcher and Reliant Seafood.

In January they are holding a meeting to see if we can make this buying club permanent. There will be more information on the blog next month, but the meeting will be at St. Agnes in Catonsville.

If you would like to join us, we would love to expand the audience for locally processed proteins. And no, I get no monetary or complimentary perks from this. I just want to see it succeed, so I can continue to get quality foods from local vendors.

faandf-and-conservancy-garden-shots-002