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The Garden 2017 Edition

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Been a while since I posted. Things get in the way of sitting down to write.

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I finally did get my garden planted. My full plot in the community garden. Where I am now a co-manager, which has taken up quite a bit of my personal time. I did post once about the asparagus. The 24 foot by 3 foot section that produces copious amounts of asparagus. Last year 360, yes, 30 dozen spears of asparagus. This year, I am already at 200 spears and June isn’t here yet. Let’s just say we eat more than our fair share of asparagus in many ways. Salads. Frittatas. Pasta. Grilled. Baked. Steamed. Whatever. It is interesting to me to watch an invasive, more or less, take over larger areas along that row of the garden. It propagates underground and there is no rhyme or reason as to where it will emerge.

I have been selectively ripping grass out of that area and trying to tame the rest of the stuff surrounding the largest, most prolific plants.

This has been a strange spring. We tilled later than usual. And, planted much later than I normally do.

I moved my tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and onions. Rotation in the soil is one very important aspect in gardening. This year, my latest addition, okra. Why? I have no idea, but we like to grill it, and I put in four plants. There are also tromboncino. Let’s see how they do this year.

I mean, they have done well in the past. I like them for baking and for fritters. They do not have many seeds in the neck, and they are definitely less moisture laden. They are a challenge to keep in line in the garden, but I have them in cages.

So, here it is, the 28th of May and I finally have all three rows finished. A small bed of arugula. Onions. Three kinds of cucumbers. Zucchini. A dozen different varieties of tomatoes. The okra. Whoops, no peppers. I suppose I should put in at least one type of pepper. One more trip to the farmer’s market to pick up a plant, or two.

Crossing my fingers for a good season this year. Please make the rain stop for a while. The weeds are starting to win again.

Sure Signs of Spring

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When spring is truly here, in Central Maryland, there are those annual rituals in which I participate. You know the ones I mean. The annual visit to Brighton Dam to assess the azalea gardens.

The search for those first wild asparagus to forage. Or the first fat bundles at the newly opening farmer’s markets. Or, in my case these days, the first asparagus from my garden plot.

The dogwoods blooming everywhere you look. The progression of springtime blossoms here goes pretty much in this order. The forsythia, the daffodils, the tulips and the cherry blossoms, the azaleas, the dogwoods and the rhododendron. Mixed into these, it’s somewhat random that the other bushes and trees flower and then leaf out.

We are only a month away from the first strawberry picking.

Jenny’s Market should be opening next week. Then, I won’t have to drive far to get some fruit, particularly citrus which I always need for cooking.

Grilling season is about to commence in earnest. Not just the occasional good day to uncover the grill, but the long stretches of time when every night is perfect to eat al fresco. Not yet buggy season, or high humidity to interfere with the enjoyment of the outdoors.

I noticed this year. My asparagus came in three weeks earlier than last year. The azaleas are already peaking out at Brighton Dam. Weeks before they normally do.

The weeds are early, too. And prolific, due to our relatively mild winter. No long hard freezes that would kill them off. I will be battling the bittersweet much earlier, as it threatens to invade my flower beds.

Next week, my spring/summer CSA starts. The farmer’s markets aren’t far behind it. Can’t wait to visit the new one in Clarksville Commons or my favorite one down at the Wine Bin in Old Town EC.

This coming weekend is supposed to be lovely. Check out the azaleas if you get a chance.

Whither Winter?

To paraphrase the Elvis quote, “winter has left the building”, or has it? Rumor has it that we will get another Arctic Clipper blast a week from tomorrow. Hopefully, that won’t be the case, but it certainly doesn’t feel like winter anymore around here. I had the French doors open all day today, and it is T-shirt weather.

I seriously considered heading up to the community gardens and clearing up the asparagus beds. I almost took the tomato seedlings out of their warm spot in the laundry room and moved them out for fresh air.

I went back in my old photos to check out the four previous February files. I found quite a bit of bad weather this week.

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Two years ago, on the 22nd. Frantic birds chowing down on the hastily thrown seeds on the patio. It was too deep to get to the feeders.

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Last year, the day after Valentine’s Day.

Other years I also had the mad rush for fresh water from the cedar waxwings, and the pileated woodpecker working on a possible new home (or food source in my dying tree).

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I think the birds tell me when the seasons are changing. That means right now, since the juncos are still here, that winter has not left the building. Spring will be here when they leave and the hummingbirds show up.

Now, if only we don’t get weather that is too harsh, because the daffodils are coming up and the tulips are just popping through the soil. I hope the dogwoods and the cherry trees don’t suffer from too much cold. They look to be close to budding.

Climate variance. Around here, we measure things like bud break. Soil temperatures. The farmers can tell you all about weather and climate variance. They have large amounts of data tracking the weather. It’s the only way to know when to plant.

One. Perfect. Weekend.

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I don’t know where to begin. Maybe it’s the fact that weekends like this one are the reason we don’t move south. Those absolutely breathtaking weekends, with foliage, crisp temperatures, sunshine and beautiful places to visit.

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My weekend began out at Sharp’s Farm, for a Conservancy sponsored event. Denise Sharp, who is absolutely amazing and passionate about her farm, and farming in general, led 43 people on a tour of the farm. It was an event we asked her to create and lead.

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It’s the third time that I know of, where the Conservancy sponsored an off site event. This time, the premier event showcasing Howard County farms. It also was created to use the off site due to the construction at Mt. Pleasant.

I had the pleasure of partnering with Denise, setting things up and leading the scavenger hunt. Denise, she got the fun job. Taking them on a hayride through the farm, including a creek crossing.

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Off they go, to tour the property.

My favorite part of Saturday morning, watching the children feed the animals.

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They fed the goats, the chickens, the cows and the bunnies. And they loved it.

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So did the farm animals. All that attention and extra food.

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After all, when was the last time you got to pet a cow.

This weekend was the last one at the farm. Just like Larriland, who closed today. And, I believe, Clark’s. It’s the end of the season, except for the local wineries. That’s the other thing we did on this perfect weekend. Headed out to Black Ankle to pick up wine.

Along with hundreds of others, we sat outside and enjoyed the view and the wine. Didn’t even take the camera. It was just a lazy afternoon surrounded by fall foliage.

Every year this early November lovely weather, accompanied by the changing leaves, makes us love the state of Maryland even more.

Rainy Days

Finally, we get a good soaking rain. Good enough to give the sod a fighting chance to survive.

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Although it also kept the carpenters from working on the deck.

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I will be happy when they get done with the work and we can finish seeding the sodding the yard. The mud runs are getting a wee bit eroded.

The good news also, the tomatoes in my garden got much needed relief from the heat and drought conditions.

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I am running low on ripe tomatoes, and there are many green ones on the plants up at my garden.

Today though was cooler, dreary, just the type of weather that screams “SOUP!” and has me reaching for the pans and the crock pot.

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I dug into the freezer and took out a package of my Maple Lawn turkey drumsticks. The last ones from my visit at Thanksgiving. I freeze them with two to a pack. Just the right amount to make turkey stock, and crock pot soup.

Don’t make the mistake that I made and put frozen turkey into the crockpot. It could crack your ceramic from the thermal shock. I started my stock this morning on the stove.

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The turkey will defrost, and you should take it out and let it cool down enough to shred. What you see above is the bones, skin and tough pieces, used to make a hearty stock. Those shredded pieces?

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Went here. In the crock pot. This is a two step process, but yields at least four meals.

In that stove top pot, I placed the legs with carrots, onions and celery. Tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. I forgot that I didn’t have carrots in the freezer, so Jenny’s came to the rescue here. I will miss the market when it closes in five weeks.

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When she opened this morning, I bought enough carrots to use today and to cut, blanch and freeze some for when I need them in the winter. The freezer is getting back to being ready for the end of the markets.

In the crock pot, I put water, the better parts of the carrots, celery and onion (I use the ugly stuff in the stock, and then discard them). After I got the turkey ready, I shredded it to remove all those pesky little bones that turkey drumsticks have. Seasoned and left to slow cook all day. I just added the egg noodles at 4 pm, so they will be perfect when we are ready for dinner at 6.

A nice bowl of soup. Some of our awesome CSA bread.

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Last Tuesday we got a loaf of miche.

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One of my favorites from She Wolf Bakery. I definitely will be getting bread in my fall CSA share, as I love the vegan breads we get. They stay fresh all week. No mold. Don’t get hard and stale. Bread and butter, with soup. A perfect meal to herald the change of seasons.

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The flowers? Just a bit of sunshine on a rainy day.

High Maintenance …

… or what I did on my summer vacation.

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Storm water management, and failing infrastructure. As in 29 year old patio and deck. We decided to bite the bullet and conquer our aging outdoor areas while dealing with longstanding water issues surrounding our house. Not sexy. Not fun. Not cheap. But, they had to be done.

Our house will be 30 years old next year. Columbia, right down the road, will be 50 years old next June. As in any aging area, there are always places that need attention. That old movie, The Money Pit, comes to mind. No matter how you look at it, you need to fix what is broken, and deal with design/build problems.

Our patio bit the dust last winter. Big time.

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Before.

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After. Well, almost after. We still have to do landscaping, and they did do sod up to the deck.

The deck contractors, who also do our maintenance cedar staining start tomorrow. Hopefully, in two or three weeks we will have a new composite deck and freshly stained siding, garage doors, porch furniture, front door, and trim. Someone please remind me we bought a brick house. Where did we go wrong? All this trim to keep up.

As for the storm water management, we decided to bury all the downspouts and tie them together, create a slit drain to carry water off our driveway, and dump all the water out into our field. So far, so good. With all the evening showers after the install, we have seen massive improvement in drainage. Finally. After many attempts to deal with keeping water out of the garage, and away from the foundation. It has been a long learning process, and we think we may have finally solved our water problems. I will know for sure this winter, when snow melt from the roof and down the drive test the limits of the new system.

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Eight inch sewer pipe being laid. The system starts with four inch pipe from a slit drain. Goes to six inch around the house. Where the downspouts and sump pump hose meet, it bumps up to eight inch. It all comes out about 300 feet beyond the house, into a rock lined swale.

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The slit drain.

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Thankfully, our pretty much rotted deck was slated for demolition this summer. Even the pressure treated footers are reaching the end of their lives. Hello Azek, goodbye cedar.

This was not my favorite summer. We didn’t go anywhere. I just wrote checks. Many checks. Rhine did a great job with the drainage, sidewalk, patio and will finish the landscaping after our deck is done.

I hope to get the grill up and running, before it gets too cold to enjoy the patio and deck.

Melon Season

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Here we are again, in the abundance of summer Community Supported Agriculture world, where all of a sudden a fruit or vegetable dominates your weekly allocation. These past two weeks? Melons.

All sort of melons.

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Last week there were three of them. This week, four. YES, FOUR!!!!

Those melons in the picture above included an heirloom cantaloupe. A “modern” cantaloupe. A yellow seedless watermelon.

As for the difference between heirloom and modern cantaloupe. Just a touch different in terms of acidity.

And, a soft fragile rind.

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I remember from my childhood, only having cantaloupe in the summer. Getting them fresh from the fields on the way to or from the ocean. Maryland Eastern Shore cantaloupes. They were a breakfast treat. Sliced into quarters. Sprinkled with salt.

Now, we get more creative with melon. I have become enamored of this recipe lately. It is very similar to my watermelon, feta and mint salad, but with a more complex dressing.

As for what we are doing with this week’s watermelon. I am thinking melon margaritas, if the weather stays this hot.

This week’s basket included four melons. A French Chanterais. An heirloom cantaloupe. A “baby doll” watermelon. A regular cantaloupe.

Anyone have other ideas for what to do with all this melon?