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Category Archives: Farms

Low Hanging Fruit

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The Maryland Buy Local Challenge began yesterday. An annual event that encourages people to buy from our local farms and small businesses that support farmers in the state.

With all this heat around here, who is in the mood to cook? Still, you can participate in the challenge in cooler, creative ways. Like visiting local wineries.

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We visited a new one for us, last weekend. Up in Thurmont. With weekend music. Catoctin Breeze.

A bonus up there is the relatively close location to a covered bridge over a babbling brook. A perfect place to get you toes wet, and cool down.

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On your way to or from the winery, you could stop in at Catoctin Mountain Orchards for some fresh fruit and other homemade goodies. Made with mostly local fruit, they have all sorts of desserts you could bring home.

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Or, you could head out on the Maryland Ice Cream Trail.

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Other options. Visit a brewery.

Or, pick berries at Larriland, or another pick your own place.

Hmmm, berries, ice cream, wine, beer, desserts, do you need anything else?

Film Feastival

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The 7th annual festival at Clark’s Elioak Farm. Next Tuesday night from 6-8 pm. This year’s film is “Just Eat It“. Focusing on food waste. The film will be shown in the barn at 7 pm.

The event is free, with a suggested donation to support Days of Taste. The Howard County program is held at the Fairgrounds usually. Every spring. A very worthwhile immersion for our school children.

So, come out to the farm Tuesday night, the 19th.

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Wander through the old Enchanted Forest. Visit the petting area. Sample foods from local restaurants. See the film.

Going for the Green

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In wineries. Black Ankle Vineyards is an amazing place to visit if you want to see a “green” winery.

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Sitting there on the patio, looking up at the living roof.

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Noting the solar panel, on your way down to the building. Once inside you can see the straw construction, and the reclaimed material in their counter tops, along with many other examples of how they continue to reflect their love of the land, and their dedication to sustainability.

We hadn’t been there in a while. It is one of the closest wineries to our home. One of the priciest in Maryland as well. They tend not to participate in festivals. They do a very good business with sales on site. In the past, we found very few wines available year round. They often sold out of the most popular varietals.

Friday night music, with hundreds picnicking on the patio and the lawn.

This visit, we went on a Sunday. Still, one very busy place.

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They are adding a new outdoor tasting area, to handle the crowds on popular days.

We did a tasting, and rejoined their wine club.

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Sat outside and enjoyed a glass of rose and of the Reserve Chardonnay. With a local cheese, from Cherry Glen. One of the two great goat cheese producers in Maryland.

Glad we took a day trip out there and reconnected. They are still making outstanding red and white wines from estate grown grapes.

In Search Of

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Replacements. For my favorite restaurant and favorite food source.

I was pretty shocked and, for lack of a better word, bummed, when Bistro Blanc closed. It was our “Cheers”. Our local bar, where we could order a burger and a bottle of good red wine, not expensive. We could sit and chat with the locals. We could banter with the bartenders and the owner.

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We celebrated many special occasions there. My husband’s 65th birthday, with all the trimmings. Prepared to what I wanted, by Chef Diego. Paired with wines from my cellar. Surrounded by close friends.

I really hope Raj finds a new home soon, and opens again. But it won’t be walking distance from my home, like the old location.

Then, another hit.

Friends and Farms ceased operations. That was a real blow to us. We have been customers for 30 of their 46 months of operation. Phil and Tim created a friendly family style business. Personal service. Care for the customers. Some of the best meat and seafood we could buy.

I miss them greatly. That weekly visit to tease the staff, and pick up their specials. And my staples.

I know I won’t find another one stop shop to fill that gap.

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We did visit Local Homestead Products in New Windsor yesterday. They could satisfy my local cheese, dairy, egg and meat requirements. But not the seafood.

I have been buying at Annapolis Seafood when visiting my mom in her senior apartment. Good stuff there, but not the same as that freshly prepared fish from Reliant, that Friends and Farms provided.

Homestead sells beef, chicken, pork, lamb and goat. Once I work my way through my freezer, they may be my go-to source for meat. They also sell Pequea Valley yogurt, Shepherd’s Manor Sheep Cheese. Trickling Springs dairy. All sort of eggs, including quail eggs.

Yesterday we picked up some sausage, wax beans and ice cream. Just to try them out, and establish a baseline.

Those other really great products from Friends and Farms. Like the peanuts, the rice, the tomato puree, things we enjoyed and bought regularly. Now, back to markets and farms. No longer a one stop shop.

Why is it that we don’t support local businesses? Chains stay around, while good small businesses struggle. I suppose cheap does beat out quality around here.

Needless to say, it is sad we can’t keep the small places in business.

The rumor here. Dunkin Donuts will go in where Bistro Blanc was located. Great. Another chain to hurt K9 and Coffee next door to it.

Le Jardin

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I finally got my garden in. The community garden plot, all 500 sq ft of it.

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This picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s hard to get a good shot beyond the row covered section. Which is about to be removed since the arugula under it didn’t do very well. I will probably add a row of green beans there.

There are four rows. The first one.

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Tomatoes and rhubarb. Two young rhubarb plants at the end. Twenty four tomato plants. This year it is about 50% heirlooms. German Johnson, Abe Lincoln, Brandywine, Rainbow, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee and Black Cherry. The rest. Old standbys like Big Boy, Early Girl, Supersweet 100, Carolina Gold, and Beefsteak.

The second row.

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Under the row cover, is some Bibb lettuce. It was also supposed to have arugula, but it never germinated. There are shallots along the edge, and four rows of onions. White, yellow and red. Tucked between the cover and the onions is some dill and my favorite African blue basil.

The third row.

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These three are zucchini. Above them is a grouping of three kinds of cucumbers. Pickling, slicing and bush crop. Today I put in two pepper plants at the very tip of that row. They are yellow sweet peppers.

The fourth row. Asparagus, mostly. It is currently slowing down just a bit, and I am letting about 20% of it go to seed.

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I still am getting beaucoup asparagus, though.

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As of today, 208 spears harvested.

I didn’t plant any canning tomatoes. I expect to get them from our CSA. They offer bulk buys of Amish paste tomatoes. 25 pound boxes. Last year they were $30 a box. I could also get them from Breezy Willow Farm. They offer bulk as well.

This was the latest date I have ever finished the garden. I don’t know if I will have tomatoes in time for the Howard County Fair. That would be a first. I have always done OK in the tomato category.

As for my freezer here from last year. I am down to one bag of blanched tomatoes. Plus, three jars of sauce and two bags of oven roasted tomatoes. I got about the right amount processed last year. Time to start replenishing the freezer.

… Plus You Get Strawberries*

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Strawberry season is upon us.

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Gorman Farms opened this past week. Details on their web site. TLV Tree Farm is bringing strawberries to the Howard County Farmers Markets in Oakland Mills, Miller Library, Maple Lawn and HoCo General Hospital.

Larriland has a notice up on the web site. Look for picking to start sometime next week. I will probably be there, as usual.

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It doesn’t take long to fill a basket.

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One basket is roughly ten pounds of berries. Two baskets make twenty pounds, where you get the price break. I come home and start processing. This is the easy part.

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Just hull them. Clean them up a little. Flash freeze them and put them in small bags or containers in the freezer. Perfect to drop into lemonade or wine or a cocktail.

A little harder. Make puree and freeze it in ice cube trays.

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Put one of these in a glass of wine. Chills it perfectly and makes your own wine cooler.

When we are ambitious, we make crisps and crumbles and pies and shortcake, but mostly we just enjoy the fresh berries.

*The quote from Ron Finley’s Guerrilla Gardener TED talk, a favorite of mine. “gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city, plus you get strawberries”

Hot House Tomatoes

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Not something I expected from our CSA.

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We have gone regional. I assume it is to keep customers who want vegetables all year round, and not just in season. If you watch, the Community Supported Agriculture model keeps changing, to compete with the regional food source companies. Who get more customers than the traditional models do.

I can’t say I blame them. There doesn’t seem to be an exponentially growing market out there for real food, grown locally and provided fresh in season.

Lancaster Farm Fresh has thousands of clients. Besides the CSA members, there are restaurants, schools, hospitals, grocery stores and small farms buying their produce, herbs and fruit. Some weeks our email tells us we are getting the regional LFFC labeled food, instead of the local farm food.

Toigo Farms. In Carlisle PA. Home to what they say is the largest greenhouse in the USA. Video here.

Toigo Orchards is familiar to us. We bought their fruit at the Dupont Circle market. They seem to have constructed a massive greenhouse to grow tomatoes.

Don’t get me wrong. They were OK. But not as good as vine ripened tomatoes in season. And, not as good as what we get from Hummingbird Farms in MD. Maybe I need to let them hang out in a sunny window for a few days. Yeah right. Like we actually get sun around here.

All in all, today’s basket from our CSA wasn’t bad.

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It was springtime in a basket if you looked at the green garlic, the romaine, the radishes and the rhubarb. I did a few swaps this week. I really wanted good salad material, and those greens will make a killer pesto.

Still, I will wait for this type of tomato.

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Those heirloom tomatoes.

I did make a nice Caprese salad tonight. Tomaotoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. Balsamic and olive oil. Salt and pepper. IT just didn’t have that in season taste.

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