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Rural Development

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The Fairy House Version. Yes, it is fairy house development season out at the Howard County Conservancy this Saturday the 23rd at 10 AM.

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I mean, if you were a woodland fairy, wouldn’t you enjoy this waterfront property complete with outdoor seating and water features? The imaginative homes crafted by our local children are always fun to explore.

This event is immensely popular.

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For all ages. And, all skill levels. Just bring your love of the outdoors, and let your children create memories in the forest.

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Details here.

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.

The Great Backyard Bird Count

I do it every year. Count the birds in my backyard. This year the snow made it interesting, and slightly different. We always get a massive influx of starlings when the snow falls. But, I did capture my friend flicker.

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This Northern flicker hangs out all winter at my suet feeders. He is also a resident bully, chasing away smaller birds. Sort of how the mockingbird acts, but with that long beak, he is definitely intimidating.

Since the weather has been cold, snowy, windy, and the birds are struggling, I always give them extra during this time. I even add peanuts and corn for the squirrels, like this rare black squirrel who hangs out here too.

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Last item that attracts birds to your yard. Berries.

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The robins love the nandina. We also have crabapple trees.

Keeping the birds fed and hydrated.

Ice Station Zebra

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That’s how our next door neighbor answered his phone when we called earlier this evening.

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It certainly felt that way when we opened our front door this afternoon. Trust me. Four hours later. It’s higher than that. As for the back of the house, facing east (where we usually never get slammed), here is the back wall.

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This is also worse. It is touching the six foot high light fixtures outside our kitchen and family rooms. I suppose I should be happy. The insulation properties are impressive.

It will be days before we get this snow knocked down. Add to that. A heat pump failure. The upstairs one. Thankfully, the main floor is still working. The county estimates that we will be all plowed out by Wednesday. Living on a snow emergency route means they keep trying to plow our road. It just keeps getting covered in drifts.

I may pop down and take more pictures tomorrow morning, while three of the four “heads of households” around here do the snow thrower thing and get us down to the rural route where we live. Me, I will be attempting to slowly shovel out to replenish my feeders. Where those alpha male birds are fighting for supremacy.

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It has been contentious all day. Jays vs Cardinals for domination of the feeders.

Fishing Lessons

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We have the talon method.

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And we have the beak method.

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Which do you prefer? The parents out there seem to be teaching their juveniles how to fish.

This is in downtown Columbia MD. Wilde Lake. It seems the Triadelphia Eagles have relocated to become the Wilde Lake Eagles. I have heard there were as many as 20 out there. Today, we found 4 or 5.

The juveniles …

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… haven’t developed that white head and white tail.

As for mom or dad …

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… rather obvious, aren’t they?

I took my pictures today with my puny little D90 and a 200 mm lens. There were quite a few avid bird photographers out there.

If I win Powerball, maybe I will get one of those $2000 lenses, to do the up close shots. Still, all in all, it was just amazing to watch the eagles fish.

We hear that they are on Wilde Lake because of work being done out at Triadelphia, where they normally hang out. Eagles aren’t thrilled by all the photographers, walkers and bikers that ring the lake. While they are trying to get a meal.

If you get a chance, pop down. Morning or afternoon. They do like sunny days, though. When they can see the fish more easily.

Wildflowers in Winter?

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It may be cold outside but inside this Saturday you can be transported. To visions of the flowers that bloom naturally, here where we live.

Are you like me, who just waits for that first carpet of blooms, telling us spring is coming?

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Besides buttercups, and dandelions, what do you know about those perennial flowers (and weeds) that mark the changing seasons here in Maryland?

Do you know what these are?

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Would you like to hear more about the flowers you see in your travels, on your hikes, or your commute?

Come to the Howard County Conservancy Mt. Pleasant this Saturday morning at 10 am for one of their free events. A second Saturday “Wonder Walk”, except that in the cold dreary winter, the walks turn into talks.

Jo and Bob Solem, known to many who are active Howard County birders, are also avid recorders of the wildflowers that grace our area. They are presenting some of their finest pictures and talking about the lure of these flowers.

It may be cold and rainy outside Saturday morning but in the Nature Center, you can think about spring.

The New Kids in Town

AKA the new local bloggers. I have been updating my page with the blogs I read, most of which I find on hocoblogs.

We have all sorts of new writers joining our small focused community. Like a really good friend and neighbor who has started a blog about her birding passion, while juggling her life as a mom and wife. Mom’s Big Year.

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I can really relate to the thrill of making sightings of rare or special birds. Which we enjoy from our vantage point in the woods.

Or another favorite. Threw Mike’s Eyez. Mike is a very talented photographer who posts his take on the local “stuff” here in Howard County. And his wonderful pictures.

I still follow most of the locals using hocoblogs, and I still have a blog that I keep open for reading, to use as inspiration, to get ideas. I am still wading through David Lebovitz . Definitely my inspiration to bake, and to find new places to explore. To write more about the journey and what I see. I do enjoy chronologically following a blog to see how the author adapts, how they mature their writing, how they tackle new subjects, new ideas and new techniques.

Sometimes I think the bloggers are replacing the contributors to magazines. There was a time that I loved to read stories in Gourmet by their best writers. Now, I can find good writing in a few select blogs. Ah, technology and what it has done to us. I’m not complaining. Just adapting.

Check out a few of the blogs on my page that I am reading. Like the Slow Cook. Or Dinner: A Love Story.

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Because, you know, I think it may all begin at the family table.

Standing Room Only

I love it when the free programs out at the Conservancy far exceed our expectations. Like today.

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Fifty two people. Ten of them little ones. For Frank Marsden’s talk and walk about finding wildlife in winter.

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Frank told us everything we always wanted to know about scat, but were afraid to ask. Like determining the diet from the color, texture and “ingredients” found. Like how grey fox and red fox are different. How we never see grey fox as they sleep in trees.

We went out for a ninety minute hike, looking for signs of wildlife. We did find deer tracks.

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We also found out that our former ground hog habitat, a large number of interconnected holes up in the meadow, have been abandoned by the ground hogs, and are now inhabited by fox. How do we know that? The smell of fox urine, a sure sign that fox have moved in and are marking their territory.

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We had a lovely day out there, even if it was a bit windy.

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The meadows are lovely this time of year, and by taking a leisurely hike, you can find many signs of the wildlife living here. Take a hike some day. There are four miles of marked trails, and with no leaves on the trees, you can see far across the ridges to neighboring towns.

Planning Ahead?

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Just a couple of really interesting programs are coming up next weekend over at the Howard County Conservancy Mt. Pleasant site. Followed by one of the very popular meteor shower watches on the following Tuesday. Here are the details for those planning their weekends in advance.

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Spotting Wildlife in Winter – Saturday morning the 14th at 10am. For the hikers, photographers, and nature lovers who want to learn how to see more during the winter, Frank Marsden is leading a hike through the fields, woods and along the stream out at Mt. Pleasant. Frank has been taking amazing pictures out at Eden Mill Nature Center in Harford County. He is coming into our woods to show us what to look for, and how to increase our chances of seeing wildlife in their natural habitat.

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Then, on Sunday, another very special program. Do you know where Patterson Park is? Have you ever heard of Miracle Pond? Middleton Evans had made over 600 trips to this pond in a wildly overgrown section of the park. His visits, and his amazing photographs, span 15 years. He is giving a presentation in the Gudelsky Center at 4pm on the 15th of November. It should be something special.

Planning to check out the Leonids? Want to do it with some of our talented astronomical experts, like Star Doc (Dr. Joel Goodman) and Dr. Alex Storrs from Towson University? They will be bringing high powered scopes, but on a dark night like the 17th, you should be able to sit back in a lawn chair, bundled up against the cool weather, sipping some hot chocolate while looking for meteors shooting across the skies. This is always a popular event, with many attendees. Sometimes we’ve had over a 100 people out there. They will be there from 10pm until the wee hours of the morning.

This trio of programs should give us a few good reasons to “Get Out There”. Details on the Conservancy web site, under upcoming events.