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Tag Archives: gardening

Spring Cleaning

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In the herb and spice world. Do you clean out your spice jars? Buy new herbs to plant in your garden? Or put out a few pots on the balcony?

For me, spring is when I do my clean out of my spice jars. Creating mixes to use up the old stuff. Planting some standbys, and trying a few new items.

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You can get many potted herbs at our farmer’s markets and at the local spots, like River Hill. Which is where I usually get my African blue basil.

This year I found the basil at Sharp’s Farm.

Still, I use enough of the dried stuff in the winter to keep most of my supply fresh and the older spices and herbs, I have a perfect use for them. Sprinkle them on the grill, or dump a tiny amount of them onto your mosquito chasing candles. Either way, the scent makes any outdoor gathering so much better.

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Try something new and different. Grow a new herb. I am really liking the bay leaf plant that I keep outdoors all summer and baby all winter in a sunny window.

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If only the weather around here would cooperate so I can get my kitchen stools back under the counter.

All Over the Map Friday

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Because. There are so many things happening that I can’t focus on just one.

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Like how happy we are to have rhubarb and garlic greens and scallions to celebrate spring cooking.

Like the fun we have in the rain while leading field trips.

Like looking forward to grilling season with all the good food we get from local vendors.

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We’ve already done the hanger steak but if the sun actually hangs around, I will be grilling chicken wings. Drenched in butter and hot sauce.

Tomorrow, I will try to hit the River Hill and Ellicott City opening day. Glenwood, I’ll save for my regular weekend trips but I want to check in with Copper Penny at Ellicott City. Their market in AACO lost its site, so I am glad they found a new home next to the Wine Bin.

Speaking of the Wine Bin, we need Rose wine. And they have lots of it.

After I help with check in for Hike to the River at the Howard County Conservancy I am off to check out the markets.

Now do you understand why this post is all over the map? There is so much going on, and it’s that time of year when we love to get outdoors. Click on my links to hear more.

The King’s Vegetable

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Asparagus. Heralding springtime. One of the many names in Germany for asparagus is Königsgemüse, or King’s Vegetable. It used to be quite expensive and only the wealthy could afford it. This web page has some of the history, as well as many very nice recipes.

My new garden plot is giving me a prolific harvest of asparagus. I may be overwhelmed if the weather continues to be favorable.

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Less than a week from my first spears cut, and we are getting a good amount almost every other day. Yesterday my husband counted at least two dozen more that should be ready tomorrow or Friday.

Asparagus is a perennial. It needs at least three years from initial planting to produce. These plants are at least five years old, from my understanding when I consulted with the previous garden plot “owner”.

Nothing like asparagus just a few hours out of the ground. Just a simple steaming and a pat or two of butter.

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Last night’s dinner. Rice with mushroom gravy. Asparagus, and a couple drumsticks from my Friends and Farms basket.

Tractor Supply Chicks and Brighton Azalea Garden Update

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The new most searched topics for this blog. How much are those chicks? Are the azaleas blooming?

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First, the azaleas. Yesterday I was told out at the gardens that they are at the 35-40% mark for blooms. Tomorrow should be a good day to go, or next week, as more varieties respond to this warmer weather.

Oh, and take money. $6 per person to tour the gardens. Under 16, and 65 and over, don’t pay. This is new. I don’t know how rigorously they will enforce it during the week, but on weekends, they will be collecting money. I understand it. The gardens needed lots of work. Older plants died, and they have replanted extensively the last few years. The gardens are still lovely. Worth taking the time to visit.

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As for those baby chicks, not many left at the Mt. Airy store today, and they are on sale for a buck a bird. Yep, $1 each. Minimum of six chicks, unless there are just a few left. A couple of the tubs had sold signs on all the chicks in them. I suppose that when they get a few weeks older, they are eating more and the profit margin is shrinking.

While we were there today, I did pick up shallots for my garden. And, a bag of snap peas to plant. Tomorrow I will head up to my garden to continue planting. Not quite ready for the tomatoes for two more weeks, and the zukes and cukes won’t go in until the end of May. Too much of a risk. They don’t like any cold nights.

Spring is definitely hitting us hard now. If only the pollen would go away.

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Sharp’s Farm is Open

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The greenhouses opened today.

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If you have never visited the farm at Waterford, you have missed a great opportunity to purchase seedlings and plugs of heirloom and hybrid herbs, vegetables and flowers.

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Most of my perennial herbs behind my kitchen came from them. I buy my heirloom tomatoes there. They are conveniently located. A simple drive using scenic back roads. Head north on the Homewood, Folly Quarter, Triadelphia intercounty connector. Take a right on Sharp Road (named for the original family farm) and bear left onto Dorsey Mill which becomes Roxbury, and ends at Rte. 97. Head south (left) for just a few miles to Jennings Chapel. The alternative is the interstate but I find it more interesting to take that scenic route near the old location of the farm.

The farm itself is lovely.

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You may even spot the eagles nesting out by the lake.

I also buy my heavy row cover for my garden there. They have many unusual vegetables too. Like Malabar spinach. Or artichokes.

Not a bad way to spend a spring morning. We’ll be there sometime in the next two days to get tomatoes, herbs, cukes, zucchini and some supplies.

Grilling Chilling and Tilling

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Those three words sum up the weekend here. Ten hours in the garden. Three dinners from the grill. A couple of really nice wines and some kick back evenings watching movies.

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I did perfect those grill marks, didn’t I? A couple of very nice filets as an add on a few weeks back from Friends and Farms. A simple marinade of vinaigrette. A screaming hot grill. Baby rose potatoes from my last CSA basket. Carrots from Friends and Farms. Lettuce too. The tomatoes. Those were Hummingbird Farms hydroponic picked up at Roots. The same place I picked up this.

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Did you know Salazon chocolate is made just up the road in Carroll County? They used to have a shop in Sykesville, which unfortunately closed. All their dark chocolate bars have sea salt in them, and lots of flavor combinations.

Perfect to go with a duo of very old, very special local wines.

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1998. Yes, you read that right. Two of our favorite old local wineries. Allegro has changed hands since the Crouch brothers ran the winery a couple of decades ago. Their wine. Still absolutely drinkable, soft and great with the filets. As for the Hardscrabble, it still has tannin and can continue to age. Who knew? Almost 20 years old. They could compete with lesser growth Bordeaux, when it comes to matching your meals. We compared the two with dinner and later savored them with that awesome chocolate.

As for the garden, we did quite a bit of work the last two days. I finally got the onions planted, and the seeds for arugula and bibb lettuce under the row cover.

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My better half tilled the three rows I will be using for my community garden. One row, tomatoes will dominate. That middle row, greens and onions. A third row, cucumbers and squash. The already established fourth row is full of this.

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Asparagus. I have been carefully working around the tender spears that are emerging. I will probably add a few herbs to this bed, once I get it cleaned up.

And, for that final chilling part of the post, check out our resident killdeer, back and laying another four eggs.

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I took this from really far away and thankfully got to crop it without distortion. I hope to soon see the babies chasing mom and dad all over our community gardens.

The Four Seasons

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All in the same day. Or close to it. Within 48 hours, we get rain, snow, sleet, thunder, rainbows, sunshine, and a freeze warning for tonight again.

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Even the “pot” people at the Conservancy have reverted to scarves and hats, and ditched their baseball caps. Or they blew away in those gusts of wind we have been enduring.

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My lovely flowering cherry from a week ago has now lost all its blossoms.

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I cut many of the tulips earlier in the week and brought them in to bloom. The remainder, my later blooming varieties, are safely covered with row cover that I purchased at our community garden supply sale this morning.

It’s hard to believe it is springtime. Next week we will be going to Greenfest at the Community College. I hope to buy some sungold tomato plants from Love Dove Farm. In two weeks, it will be Earth Day celebrated at the Conservancy. More on that later. Also, Sharp’s Farm will be opening their greenhouses on the 21st of April. Time to get the rest of my plants for the garden.

I tried to get my plot ready for the onions to be planted, but the high winds drove me out of there. Trying to move dirt around while wind in whipping up the dust and pollen didn’t make for a pleasant gardening day.

Crossing our fingers that they are correct, and that the end of this coming week will indeed bring us higher temperatures and sunshine.

Wednesday Wisdom

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As opposed to Tidbit Tuesday. Just a few odds and ends about things happening around here.

Like a very special event this weekend at the Conservancy. How to build bee houses to attract bees into your habitat. To help the pollination process, for your flowers and vegetables. Build Bee Boxes with Paula Becker. Human beings have depended upon animal pollinators for millennia. With the loss of natural habitat for insects, birds, and other animals, we now have the opportunity to return the favor. Explore some ways in which our natural communities overlap, opportunities for conflict and co-existence, and discuss our perceptions and expectations of the natural world. We’ll also share ways we can adjust our landscaping so everyone benefits (and lawn care is reduced!). We will also make some easy bee housing, which doesn’t involve stinging.

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Bees are amazing.

The program, rain or shine, takes place Saturday morning at Mt. Pleasant in Woodstock. You can make your own bee box to take home and hang.

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.

Making Progress

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Today’s the first day of spring.

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My daffodils are blooming. Even that weird snow storm yesterday didn’t take them out. They are a bright spot in my cluttered kitchen aka renovation central. The only room on the first floor not being painted, it has become the storage site for all the dining room, foyer, powder room, closet and hallway stuff. Like dozens of pictures, fixtures, switches, knobs, hinges, etc.

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My family room isn’t much better. Chairs, table leaves, buffet contents, new light fixtures and mirror. The chaos moved from control to out of control.

I still have room to cook, and room to start the garden seeds.

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They are happily getting sunshine in the kitchen. I started arugula, dill, bibb lettuce and rainbow chard. If I get time to continue the spring cleaning of my garden plot, the onions will be planted later this week.

This egg crate method works very well for seed starting.

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I use a fruit box from Costco, covered in a layer of plastic and newspapers. Prevents leaking while watering.

All of these will eventually go into my community garden plot, sometime in the middle of April. Under row cover for the greens. The dill. It will be interspersed into my asparagus patch up there. I am really excited to have a two foot by twenty foot line of asparagus in my new plot.

And, in just a few weeks, I am off to Sharp’s Farm to get my summer vegetable seedlings. Spring needs to get in gear around here, and help us gardeners get plants in the ground.

Planting anything interesting this spring?