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Creatures of Habit

If it’s Tuesday it must be food bank harvest. Except it’s December, and after seven months of Tuesday harvests, our season is over. It feels strange not having a standing date with a few friends and fellow gardeners. I have to find another way to fill those mornings.

I have been considering how to continue getting vegetables to the food bank through the winter. Our CSA ends for the fall season next week, and doesn’t start up again until mid-January. I thought I might work with my site host to get those swap box items that seem to accumulate in large amounts. It is interesting to see what doesn’t get taken every week.

Last week for example, three people didn’t take their apples. They were all “appled out”. I wonder how many massive butternut squashes weren’t picked up from the bulk bin yesterday. Every one of us got a massive squash, and all the large shares had a “bonus” item. Sweet onions.

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The two humongous onions alongside the regular ones on my counter.

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As for squash, we got another one of these. I have to say, even I can’t keep up with processing such a prolific harvest.

What’s the take away from this post? The decision to make a New Year’s resolution to find sourcing to give at least something to the food bank twice a month over the winter. I know there won’t be much in the way of fresh vegetables, but I should be able to put together some of my site host’s “leftovers” along with some simple staple items from the local stores. Or maybe find a way to volunteer some time to the main site, or the pantry sites.

I need to pop over to the food bank’s new distribution site and see what they will need after the holidays. When contributions fall off. After all, the need doesn’t disappear during the dark winter months.

Giving

It’s not just for Tuesday.

There are so many worthy causes that can use our help and our monetary support all year long. One “Hallmark holiday” day may be cute and trendy but the reality is this. The other 364 days of the year (OK, 365 this leap year) we can still make a difference.

Give time. Give money. Give publicity. Help in any way you can. Share a Facebook post from a nonprofit. Support an event at local charities and nonprofits.

Just recently I saw requests from places locally. Like:

How Girls Code
Howard County Conservancy
Howard County Community Action Council
Voices for Children

Today I realized I supported the food bank three times before 11AM. Once by pulling some items from my CSA share, to take up to our community food bank garden. Then, by harvesting collards and cabbage to add to my contribution. Then, at Harris Teeter, donating to give them money. It’s easy to do. It’s those little things that add up.

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It’s the season of giving. Find something that you believe in. Something that ignites a spark within you.

Every little contribution is worth it. I got hooked on food bank gardening years ago. It’s one of the most rewarding things this old lady can do. I can still harvest veggies.

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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.

Five Years Old

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I made it to five years writing this blog. On November 2nd 2011, I opened a WordPress account and started writing. Somehow I have gone from a handful of readers to over 500 followers. Amazing to me that I continue to find topics that interest me, while plodding along in retirement. Keeping busy. Still dedicated to eating well, volunteering, gardening, and not quite as dedicated to remembering to write about it all.

My second post. About my fall CSA. Which just began again yesterday. I have continued my commitment to eating from small farms, local and regional, as much as I can.

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This fall I expanded my options to include flour and grain. I hope to bake more than I used to do. I do know that the flour will find its way into holiday baking, and that cornmeal just inspires me to make polenta more often than I did.

As for new exotic things to discover, we found a Thai Kang Kob squash in our box. I just made squash lasagna from the triamble squash from a few weeks back.

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It was a good dinner last night for us, and leftovers will feed my better half while I am out with the local bloggers checking out The Turn House, a new restaurant that took over the space in the Hobbits Glen Golf Course.

Both the squash recipe and a report on the blogger party will follow in a few days.

I also need to write about the construction at the Conservancy, and about two great events in the next week.

There is much happening around here. Definitely enough topics to continue my blogging. Think I can keep this thing going until it’s ten years old. Let’s see.

Anyway, I will be seeing the locals tonight in Columbia. Can’t wait to try out a new farm to table option, with a locally raised chef.

Food Insecurity

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The harvest season is coming to an end. Those of us who work to provide fresh produce to our local food bank are taking out the last vegetables in the garden.

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This is the time of the year when we get slammed with greens, and not much else. The cabbages are winding down.

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Once you harvest a large head of cabbage, it tries to make more but you get mostly cabbage leaves. You can still harvest them, and make soup, but this is the beginning of the end.

We only have carrots, beets, collards, lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard left to harvest. Just about a month until we finish. Then, the fresh produce dwindles down at the Food Bank. In November and December many people donate, but those long months after the holidays are pretty grim. The gardens and local farms donate between the months of May and November. After that, it’s mostly canned goods.

I get an immense satisfaction in harvesting for our local food bank. They are about to move into much larger space, where they can process more fresh foods and hold them. That is good for the gardeners, the farmers and the local CSAs, like mine. Our site host wants to give more to the food bank but the limited storage and the limited days to accept non-perishables has hindered us in the past.

Every week when we drop off our community garden bags, we ask when they will be moving. Hopefully, it will be soon.

In the meantime, if you can, be sure to help by donating. Head over to the bulk stores and pick up some staples. Beans and canned proteins like tuna are always welcome.

Here’s the link to our local food bank. Take a few minutes and find yours.

A Few Good Volunteers

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Actually, a few hundred to start. The clean up effort of public and private lands ravaged by last weekend’s flash flooding continues. Now, looking for people to help in teams with leaders. Currently, just show up at the volunteer tent on North Ridge Road, Walmart parking lot. Daily. 8-4:30. Teams will be assembled and sent where needed.

Ellicott City, my county seat and one of my favorite places to shop and eat locally, was pretty much devastated with the massive flooding Saturday night. Tomorrow, access to areas that need to be cleared of run off and debris has been granted.

The efforts are coordinated through the county Recreation and Parks department. Registration is required. Minimum standards must be met. Age, physical ability, and proper clothing are listed in the web announcement.

As someone who frequently volunteers, and also leads volunteers, at my “job” at the Howard County Conservancy, I can offer some practical advice for those willing to volunteer their time. I have four things I stress when looking for people to help.

1. Dress for Success
2. Be Prepared.
3. Safety first.
4. Know Your Limits.

We lead groups on Earth Day doing clean up. I lead service learning groups from the local schools. We have work days on food bank gardens, and over the years I have gotten better at volunteering and at making volunteer efforts of others much more enjoyable, because we learn what works best. After all, a happy volunteer comes back over and over. A stressed, or unappreciated, or underutilized, or overworked volunteer doesn’t.

Dress for Success – the announcement from the county asks that you wear long pants, closed shoes, preferable boots, and that if you can, bring work gloves.

Dressing right is really important. You don’t want to get scratched by thorns, get wet feet, or blisters, by not having work clothes.

This is mosquito and tick season. It’s also the time of year those annoying little bees come out of the ground and want to sting you. Also, hats are a big help, to provide cover from the sun, and to keep little pests out of your hair.

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I am showing a picture of a construction crew on site at our house (installing part of our storm management solutions, more on that in another post), but they absolutely demonstrate what works best when working outdoors to avoid problems.

Long sleeve lightweight shirts. Hats. Glasses. Boots. Gloves.

The second item on my list. Focus on basic supplies to help you. I carry sunscreen and bug spray. Bandaids. In my car, when I get out for my volunteer work, I have spare shoes, socks, and a change of shirts in my car.

Safety. I never try to do things I can’t control. No attempts to climb over obstacles. I wear safety glasses. I use heavier gloves. I try to avoid contact with poison ivy, or if I know I have carried logs covered in vines, I never wipe my face with my hands. I carry a bandana, just in case. I also come home and immediately put everything in the wash, to avoid carrying ticks around.

I always take the face masks if offered, when dealing with excessive pollen, which drives my allergies nuts, or when handling debris that may include insulation fibers or other possible inhalants.

My limits. I know what I can’t pick up. I don’t qualify to help with the Ellicott City clean up efforts right now, because I can’t lift 40 pounds. I can’t carry heavy items. Back surgery put an end to those days for me. The days of lugging 35 pound bags of mulch or top soil.

I know I can’t volunteer to help with the current clean up efforts. Somewhere along the way, they will be looking for help disinfecting or scrubbing down cleared out spaces. I can do that. Patience is a virtue, they say.

As for right now, my help will be in supporting fund raisers. And, finding out when my favorite places find temporary or new homes, and giving them as much business as I can.

If you do volunteer, you will know the satisfaction of making a difference. Just be an asset, follow directions, and realize you are appreciated. Like those groups that help us at the Conservancy.

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Here’s to better days ahead, and the return of our favorite places.

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Guys With Trucks

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A few weeks back I talked about volunteers with trucks helping the Conservancy staff when they heard of items they could use, items that needed to be hauled in trucks.

The last few weeks? We need guys with trucks to help those neighbors whose properties have been trashed in the wake of the tornado. There are volunteer helpers to cut down trees, into manageable pieces.

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At the Town Hall the other night, there was discussion of the need for trucks to haul debris. Commercial trucks are charged when they enter the landfill. Private citizens aren’t. The county promised to look into the creation of a solution to help those who are cleaning up. Cleaning up on our own dimes. Insurance does not cover tree removal, if the trees don’t threaten your home, or block access to your property. Many residents are paying up to five figures for tree removal. Which is still going on, two weeks after the tornado.

We have made eight trips to the landfill. Thankfully, they are open late.

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The lines aren’t too bad to dump tree debris. But, it is a very busy place.

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When your yard looks like this. It takes many days to get it cleaned.

It’s why the volunteers at the Mid Atlantic Baptist Network could use guys with trucks.