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No Bones About It

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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

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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.

 

 

 

The Buy Local Challenge

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Today is the kickoff day of the annual Maryland Buy Local Challenge. Simple. Pledge to eat at least one local item every day for nine days. It’s just 1/40th of the year. It should be so much more.

How about taking it up a notch. Pick nine items to buy locally for the entire year. At least buy most of those items, even if you don’t do 100%, a significant commitment to supporting local businesses is well worth it.

Things like these. Wine, beer, jams, ice cream, bread, meat, cheese, distilled spirits. Maybe fruit for as long as it’s available. Eggs. A Community Supported Agriculture share. Locally roasted coffee, or chocolate.

In other words, help the local small businesses who could use the support year round, and not just for nine days in July. If you eat out, make the small restaurants your favorites, and stop going to TGIF or Applebees.

Do you go to the farmer’s markets? Buy more from them. Go to the Breadery. Or Atwaters.

Head over to the Breezy Willow Country Store in Ellicott City, and see what they are selling. Go to The Rooster and Hen in Catonsville.

What other ideas do you have to put more money in our local economy?

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?

Fifty is Nifty

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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

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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.

Too Many Vegetables?

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I am still trying to wrap my head around that statement.

My CSA site host went to a conference last week, to meet with CSA management and talk with the dozens of local site hosts in the DC metropolitan area. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has thousands of members in seven states and the District. Using over a hundred local small farmers to offer us vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, bread, “farm”aceuticals. You name it. Mix and match. Customize the size. Everything but home delivery and choose your own, like you would at a market.

They brought back the small share. Four items. Because people thought 7-8 items for $23 a week was too much produce. Really? Are we still putting 8-12 ounces of meat on a plate and saying we only want a couple of ounces of vegetables on that plate? I thought we were getting away from meat-centric meals.

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Obviously, we aren’t. Many of my local farming friends are seeing a decline in membership, and in purchases at markets. Companies like Blue Apron are replacing CSA shares. According to the CSA management, briefing the site hosts, people want recipes. They don’t know what to do with the vegetables they get.

Never mind the fact that our CSA has a huge web site devoted to providing that information. We seem to have created a generation of people who want to be spoon fed. Tell me every week what to do with corn. With cauliflower. With fennel. With leeks. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I know. I am whining here. I just really don’t get it. We have so many choices around here, and yet, people aren’t staying on as members, with many of our local farm CSA options. Membership is declining. Friends and Farms folded. The Glenwood Market isn’t opening this year.

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I hope we have our CSA again this summer. We can’t seem to find 30 people in a town as big as Columbia who want inexpensive very fresh organic food. From people who care about what we eat.

Crossing my fingers and hoping our local sources remain.