Discover “Cultures of Crabbing” at CBMM July 26

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From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, Cultures of Crabbing brings the Chesapeake’s crabbing traditions and industry to life at the waterfront Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD. During the program, visitors will see crab-picking and harvesting demonstrations, with information shared on crab biology, packing house operations, and the growing Hispanic population’s importance to the local crab industry.

The event is free for CBMM members or with general, two-day museum admission. The program is part of CBMM’s summer-long Chesapeake People program, which gives visitors the experience of meeting local, maritime tradition-bearers and skill demonstrators every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 410-745-2916 or visit www.cbmm.org.

Crab-pickers Mary Helen Holmes (left), Sharon Young (right), and Minerva Nava (standing) demonstrating their techniques for Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum visitors. Cultures of Crabbing comes to CBMM on Saturday, July 26 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with crab-picking and harvesting demonstrations, as well as information shared on crab biology, packing house operations, and the growing Hispanic population’s importance to the local crab industry.

Crab-pickers Mary Helen Holmes (left), Sharon Young (right), and Minerva Nava (standing) demonstrating their techniques for Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum visitors. Cultures of Crabbing comes to CBMM on Saturday, July 26 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with crab-picking and harvesting demonstrations, as well as information shared on crab biology, packing house operations, and the growing Hispanic population’s importance to the local crab industry.

Food Friday: Fresh Picked Daily

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Our Pacific Northwest family vacation broke us out of our hamster wheel routine here at home, and plunged us into all sorts of new experiences, food and eating being tantamount among them. We trolled new grocery stores, strolled farmers’ markets and stalked the miles of corridors and underground passages in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in our quest for the Next Meal.

There was something new to be seen around every corner. Imagine – carrots that come in colors other than orange! We saw artful displays of asparagus that ranged in size from pencil thin to baobab-tree-trunk-thick. Pink radishes gleamed. Red raspberries twinkled. Blueberries were silvered and glistening. One rather imagined romantic interludes, sitting by the water, watching the sunset, tossing back Prosecco and nibbling on the day’s gathered goodies. It was our vacation, after all.

We spent a week on San Juan Island, in a house in Friday Harbor. There were all of the usual family squabbles but there was also lots of easy laughter. We were using a strange kitchen, searching the cabinets for salt and pepper and colanders, while preparing lovely fresh produce and washing buckets o’berries. We had the leisure to pause and carefully compose Instagrams of our meals. We also huddled silently together a couple of times to watch a delicate deer tippy toe her way up the verdant lawn, pausing to nibble along her leisurely way. We are such tourists. Never mind that the owners of the house would probably have been out on the porch raising the dead and pounding on pots with wooden spoons to spook the deer (and undoubtedly, her Lyme disease ticks) off the property. We were content to absorb the quiet and enjoy the novelty of wildlife .

One day we went on a hike that had us circling around through some fields down to the water, through fresh smelling, waving grasses. We kept sniffing an aroma that somehow reminded us of Thanksgiving while we trotted. We puzzled about this as we walked along and tried to identify songbirds, observing crop circles (seemingly) and we photographed a fox, unselfconsciously posing on a little mound. It wasn’t until we attended the San Juan Island Green Market the next day, with all of its thoughtfully labeled goods and wares, that we learned we had been striding through sage, which would explain our Thanksgiving fixation.

One plant booth at the market had clearly tagged plants, which informed this ignorant traveller some of what what we had been viewing: sage, wild ginger, Siberian iris, Alaskan yellow cedar, Asiatic lily and blue fountain iris.

Also carefully labeled, which I didn’t grasp at first, at a bakery booth, was a big fat “GF Brownie”. Luckily, the Pouting Pescatarian rescued me, and steered me to the other end of the baked goods table, and supervised my purchase of a good, old-fashioned, riddled with sugar, eggs, chocolate and gluten: a real, honest-to-goodness brownie. That could have been a good morning walk spoiled! Instead, it was a pleasant, warm and gooey event.

In addition to the brownie, we also bought a fresh, warm baguette from the Café Demeter Bakery, some heirloom tomatoes, fat radishes, plump strawberries, and heads of rich, dark green buttery lettuce, plus a few sausage rolls to keep the Tall One’s calorie count up, at least until lunch. The village was feeding our family, and very nicely, too.

We didn’t have the same sort of shopping experience once we got back to Seattle and its busy market. We were not hunting and gathering for dinner in the big city. We were touring the sights and sounds and smells without needing to do daily food shopping. We snacked quite liberally, though, which could explain why our clothes are a wee bit snug now. We visited museums and galleries and the aquarium, but kept returning to the market in Pike Place, which had the tantalizing allure of foreign movies, with bright colors and exotic people. It was truly an amazing spectacle.

Now we are home, and I say, “Get thee to a farm stand, a U-PICK-IT, the local farmers’ market and take a big bite out of summer!”

You can never go wrong with a nice sun-warm tomato, eaten like Harriet M. Welsch, sliced up into a good juicy sandwich with a little mayonnaise, but here are a few summer tomato recipes from our friends at Food52 and Bon Appétit. You’ll even get ideas for using up that leftover corn!

https://food52.com/blog/7782-9-summer-tomato-recipes

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-flatiron-steak-with-toasted-spice-vinaigrette

“The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?’ Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.
‘Tomato,’ said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.”

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Pecometh’s Sustainable Garden

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For the past two years, something has been growing in the middle of Camp Pecometh, located in Centreville, Maryland: namely, a 1.5 acre sustainable garden. This all came about almost two years ago when new chef Chris Shultz proposed the idea to Pecometh management of starting a sustainable garden. He also suggested that his brother Matt, a horticulturalist who works in tech services for an agronomic products supplier, be allowed to contribute to the project. An agreement was made, and the rest, as they say, is history.

New Pecometh volunteer Michael H. McGrath, AICP, also contributed to the beginnings of the garden. From 1983 to June 2011, McGrath managed the work of the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation and the Planning Section in the Delaware Department of Agriculture, where he led the Department’s efforts in statewide land use planning and agricultural development. He used this knowledge when his daughter Joy approached him about starting a new student garden project at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware. The school has a strong history, going back to the 1930s, of involving students in producing food for the school. In 2003, Mike and his daughter revived the program with a small garden which grew over a two year period into two acres. Since his recent retirement, he has passed on his knowledge to the next generation of students through the Penn Farm project, a collaboration with students from William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware. Pecometh management knew that they needed Mike’s expertise when starting the sustainable garden, and the results have been well worth it.

Chris’ brother, Matt, was very beneficial to the project in adding insects to increase the ecological diversity of the garden. Three weeks ago, lace wing insects were released for generalist control of soft bodied insects. These insects are nicknamed Aphid Lions because they have two large mandibles (mouthparts) that they grab aphids (small sap-sucking insects) with and take out the inside portion. Also, three different types of parasitic wasps were released into the garden. These wasps attack aphids. Finally, Orius insects, those that feed on other pests like thrips, were introduced into the garden’s habitat. The beneficial insects were produced and donated by Syngenta Bio-Line, an international leader in this cutting-edge approach to eliminating the use of harmful chemicals. Matt also secured significant donations from his own employer, Harrell’s, Inc. Donations have included nutrients, fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides, all of which are certified for use in organic gardening.

The primary use of the garden’s bounty is to supply the dining operation for Pecometh’s Riverview Retreat Center (RRC). This means fresh, local produce for the buffet meals served to adult retreats, meetings and conferences at the RRC. In addition, a large amount of surplus produce has resulted from the hard work that has gone into the garden. Chef Chris has been donating the fruits and vegetables to local shelters and food banks, including an organization that helps down-and-out men in Elkton. Donations have also been made recently to Centreville United Methodist Church in Centreville, Maryland, and other establishments. Chris adds, “We’ve donated 10 cases of lettuce, and there’s 3 pounds to a case.” Chris is also excited about the crop this year, and how it helps others. “We’ve grown tomatoes, cucumbers, beans… this fall, we’ll plant pumpkins. The garden also helps to inspire our campers and guests to start gardens of their own.”

You can be a part of this effort by attending Pecometh’s 2nd annual Farm to Table Dinner where you’ll hear more from Chef Chris himself. The dinner will be held on Sunday July 27 at 4:30pm. Seating is limited so make sure to purchase your tickets early by calling Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries at 410-556-6900 or visiting them online at pecometh.org.

Quentin Faulkner Receives Garden Club Scholarship

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gardenQuentin Faulkner, a St. Michaels High School graduate, is the recipient of the 14th Annual Garden Club of the Eastern Shore (GCES) Scholarship. The $3,500.00 merit scholarship was awarded to Faulkner in recognition of his outstanding academic record, strong work ethic, and commitment to environmental science.

“In a field of six very strong candidates, Quentin stood out because of his passion for marine biology and commitment to research,” Dr. Virginia Blatchley, scholarship committee co-chair says. “We believe that his passion and commitment coupled with his demonstrated leadership ability and strong work ethic will take him quite far indeed.”

The GCES offers a scholarship annually to graduating seniors from Talbot County public and independent high schools. Students being home schooled are also eligible. The scholarship is available to students with outstanding academic records, who are also considering careers in botany, horticulture, agriculture, landscape architecture or design, environmental science, or related fields.

The GCES is committed to promoting environmentally sound landscape practices and to providing programs for the community that explore conservation practices and environmental issues. It also maintains several gardens in the community including those at Thompson Park and the Academy Art Museum in Easton and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels.

“We chose Thompson Park in Easton as the setting for the photo commemorating Quentin’s scholarship to highlight the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore’s 50th Anniversary Project—the renovation of Thompson Park, says Sandy Kaufman, who chairs the project.

“Details of the project and information about how the community can support it will be will be unveiled soon,” she added.

For additional information about GCES programs or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, please call Dorothy Whitcomb at 410-770-9035

 

for pic:

Quentin Faulkner, a St. Michaels High School graduate, (center) is the recipient of the 2014 Garden Club of the Eastern Shore Scholarship.  Faulkner is joined by GCES members (left to right) Sandy Kaufman, Dorothy Whitcomb,  Linn Ong, & Dr. Virginia Blatchley.  The photograph was taken at Thompson Park in Easton, which is being renovated by the GCES in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

 

Pecometh Camp Offers Farm to Table Dinner July 27

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Join Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries for their second annual, locally- sourced, five-course Farm to Table Dinner on Sunday, July 27, at 4:30 pm. You’ll hear how Pecometh’s efforts to model sustainable living are bearing fruit and a whole lot more. Last year’s menu included such delights as grilled rockfish and peach cobbler, and this year’s menu promises to be just as superb. Vegetarian options will also be available.

Tickets are fifty dollars each. Proceeds support Pecometh’s Sustainable Garden. Seating is limited, so be sure to purchase your tickets early online at pecometh.org or call Dana Squares at 410-556-6900 extension 105.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Plant Pests & Watering Tips

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: My three year old Concord grape vine has lots of brown spots on the leaves. The fruit is also turning black and wrinkly like a raisin. What should I do? Are there any natural products I can spray them with?

Answer #1: Most likely your grape vine is infected with black rot, a fungal disease. This is a very common disease problem on grapes. Unfortunately it is already too late to treat the disease this season. Right now sanitation is important. All the diseased grapes, including the grapes and leaves that have fallen to the ground should be disposed of. The disease will not kill the vine, but next season you will need to begin a spray program to prevent this from happening again. Prune the vine in the dormant season and spray using a registered fungicide as soon as new growth begins to develop next spring. Sulfur and Bordeaux mixture are the organic options. Spray to protect the foliage before a rain event.

Question #2: What can I use to kill insects in my lawn that is safe to use around pets and children?

Answer #2: Other than grub prevention, which we only recommend in cases where a lawn has a history of grub problems, we do not recommend applying an insecticide to control insects in lawns. Many, if not most, of the insects in your lawn are beneficial and contribute to the overall health of your lawn and the soil beneath it. For example, ants are predators of termites, helping to keep their population down. Tall fescue lawns have few insect problems that cause any significant damage. If you suspect you have an insect problem in your lawn call our gardening hotline or send a question to us through our website.

Question #3: I am a beginner vegetable gardener and have a pretty basic question. What is the best way to water a vegetable garden and how much water should I give my plants?

Answer #3: Vegetables planted in average well-drained soil require about an inch of water per week from rainfall or irrigation (equal to about 62 gallons of water per 100 square). Gardens in sandy soil will require a bit more than that in the height of the growing season. Water is crucial during seed germination, after planting transplants, and during flower and fruit production. Avoid overhead and frequent shallow watering which encourages plant diseases and a shallow root system. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are the most efficient means of watering. They provide water right to the root system and minimize water usage. When using a hose, use a wand attachment so the water can be directed under the foliage directly to the roots. Water as early in the day as possible to allow the foliage to dry before evening. Add compost or other types of organic matter to increase the water holding capacity of the soil and mulch to conserve soil moisture.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Food Friday: Endless Possibilities!

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An embarrassment of riches barely describes what an extravagantly glorious place the Pike Place Market is! We crawled all over this 9-acre historic district for several days on our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I feel like we could have spent another few of days of exploration there. It is huge, sprawling, varied, multi-cultural, multi-leveled, colorful, loud and bustling with myriad folks of every variety. People watching here was a unique pleasure. Sometimes we forgot to keep up our end of the conversation as we gawped with abandon. We stared a lot. More importantly, we ate a lot, and often.

On our first morning in Seattle, jet-lagged and creaky, we stumbled over to the Market and posed for the obligatory tourist selfies in front of the large red neon sign “PUBLIC MARKET CENTER” that towers over the brick street. As it was quite early we did not annoy too many of Seattle’s patient drivers when we were striking poses in the middle of the Pike Street and First Avenue intersection. Later in the day it might have been a different story, although we never saw a single traffic casualty for all the frenetic driving.

For the record – I could never drive in Seattle – at least not in a car with a standard transmission. The roads are San Francisco hilly, and I shudder to imagine stopping at a red light, at night, the road slick with wet, fallen leaves. The mind boggles and the spirit shrinks. Cars must yield to pedestrians in Seattle, and jaywalking is frowned upon. Seattle is not like New York City where gonzo pedestrians dive into the rivers of traffic with center-of-the-universe impunity. In Seattle, as long as you are within the safety zone of the cross walk, you are well and truly blessed. And then you can explain to me how Seattle drivers can back into diagonal parking spaces, on inclines!

After indulging our tourist egos we had that enormous breakfast I nattered on about a few weeks ago at the Athenian, with its broad swathe view of Elliott Bay. It is only one of dozens, DOZENS I say, of restaurants at Pike Place Market. There are sit down fancy places, sit down casual spots, and you can sit down on Tom Hank’s stool at the Athenian. There are market stalls with take away food. There are strolling musicians of varying degrees of professionalism and skill. There are cafés and stands and storefront bakeries. There is a Starbucks whenever you hear the siren song. I am amazed that we were even able to roll onto our plane for the return flight.

There are Korean, French, Persian, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Kastoori, Irish, Mediterranean, Turkish, German and Chinese as well as standard American foods represented here. In no particular order, we visited many of the eateries:

I had an excellent buttery salty shortbread cookie at Le Panier. Le cookie était délicieux! http://www.lepanier.com/

We watched cheese being made at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. It explained once and for all the notion of “curds and whey”. Amazing! www.beecherscheese.com

We toured the Pike Brewery, had burgers and Dungeness crabs and revisited the Naughty Nelly. http://www.pikebrewing.com/
At the Shy Giant we had some locally made Snoqualmie gourmet ice cream. Not everyone can boast about that!

One of our best meals in Seattle was at the Virginia Inn: www.virginiainnseattle.com
I had an excellent bar burger. Good beer. Great wait staff. And a fab neon sign. Neon is something they do very well in Seattle. They are all very proud of the glassworks done by the artist Dale Chihuly and his workshop, but you’ve got to appreciate the abundance of great neon designs, which are cheerful beacons in the dark – when the sun finally goes down on these long summer evenings.

We queued up for Pike Place Chowder: http://www.pikeplacechowder.com/ A busker played his violin while we ate, with the sweetest saddest baroque piece I have ever heard, while we were watching the crowds swell and the line lengthen.
One memorable breakfast, later in our trip, was at Caffe Lieto, where we experienced the Biscuit Bitch. I stuck to my usual timid sausage biscuit, the Pescatarian had something healthy with veggies and eggs, but the Tall One out-ate us, as usual with his order for a Smokin’ Hot Bitch – biscuit and gravy smothered in cheese and topped with a grilled Louisiana Hot Link & jalapenos. You have to go there. The competition for an outdoor table with dueling mommies with double strollers was highly amusing. I guess the locals eat there, too! http://biscuitbitch.com/

We only had one grumpy indifferent meal in the Pike Place Market, when we were all surly, and feeling end-of-the-vacation-y with each other. It was not a reflection on the restaurant. But a few hot French fries and a Diet Coke later, I was my sweet middle-aged self again. You are never more than a step away from palliative food therapy here.

There is much to explore at Pike Place Market, and the prepared foods are just the beginning. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible displays of flowers, fruits, vegetables, Dungeness crabs and the amazing flying fish! Next week…

http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/

Here is a biscuit recipe from Food52 in case you want to make a nice big fat Seattle breakfast this weekend: https://food52.com/blog/7641-rosie-s-buttermilk-biscuits

“May I recommend three Maryland beaten biscuits, with water, for your breakfast? They are hard as a haul-seiner’s conscience and dry as a dredger’s tongue, and they sit for hours in your morning stomach like ballast on a tender ship’s keel. They cost little, are easily and crumblessly carried in your pockets, and if forgotten and gone stale, are neither harder nor less palatable than when fresh. What’s more, eaten first thing in the morning and followed by a cigar, they put a crabberman’s thirst on you, such that all the water in a deep neap tide can’t quench — and none, I think, denies the charms of water on the bowels of morning? ”
― John Barth, The Floating Opera

Food Friday: Naughty Nellies in Roche Harbor

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What can you do after you have taken a boat deep into gelid Canadian waters to watch a school of orca whales tear a seal apart? Why, drive to Roche Harbor, drop by the Madrona Bar and Grill, and sit on a sunny deck by the water, and drink a Naughty Nelly. Of course you do!

We spent an unforgettable morning on a 30-foot boat out of Snug Harbor in Mitchell Bay with Spencer, our knowledgeable captain and naturalist. He trolled the water, with his ear clamped to a phone, listening to other captains nattering about orca whale sightings, at the same time identifying landmarks, birds, and lighthouses, while blithely dodging the surprisingly heavy ferry traffic. We barreled through the water, past waterside houses and summer cottages with another couple who had recently moved to Seattle. They were quite nice people, who were genuinely interested in chatting with the Tall One and the Pesky Pescatarian.

After about an hour of zipping along Spencer slowed the boat down and we were all agog as we caught a glimpse of our first troup of dorsal fins, and then the graceful arching black and white bodies, diving and whirling and powering through the calm water. We tracked their movements for about half an hour as they swam here and there and hunted. And then the mob clustered, and hit. Television nature programs do not prepare you for the sight of red blood frothing and spreading in the water. I never even saw the seal, which the Nature Channel probably would have anthropomorphized thoroughly. Instead of watching through a HD filter, we viewed the actual messy circle of life out there, and were amazed. Even the avowed Pescatarian was gobsmacked.

Amazement is tiring, and hunger-making. We made our way back to Snug Harbor and bade our companions a fond farewell. We sought sustenance, and our pack circled through the landscape, and tooled over to Roche Harbor. Roche Harbor is an attractive, yet slightly old time-y, Disney-fied resort, perched on another vertiginous, rocky hill. You could smell fresh paint and we had to admire the faux Craftsmen architecture of the newly-constructed vacation homes that lined a street sloping down to the water. There were American and Canadian flags fluttering from every possible perch, and baskets of draping watercolor flowers festooning the lampposts.

We walked past a beautifully maintained garden at the gingerbread-clad Hotel de Haro, which had precisely trimmed topiaries and sweeping bowers of fragrant wisteria. And swathes of grass that must have been precisely hand scissored at night by garden gnomes with tiny little pinking shears. There were beds of nodding peonies, interspersed with artful clumps of bleeding hearts; all very romantic and sweet. In some ways the Pacific Northwest reminded me of England: cool temperatures, lovely public displays of flowers, spurts of gentle rain and lots of good beer.

We had a table overlooking the marina at Roche Harbor, outside in the sun, where we basked like that unsuspecting seal. Luckily, we were met with excellent nibbles and not predatory orcas. The ever-hungry Tall One swarmed this: the Field & Stream Club Sandwich – a “Flame-grilled fresh Columbia River Steelhead, crispy bacon, tomato, green leaf lettuce and caper and artichoke aioli on grilled Focaccia.” The Pescatarian nibbled like a bunny on a green house salad.

On vacations I collect French fries, and frites, and homemade potato chips, and hash browns. I ordered Steak Fries for us to share as an appetizer – Best Beloved and I were still on East Coast time, and couldn’t eat much, yet. I was allowed 2 or 3 of the crispy, delicious garlic-y fries that I wrested away from our own young orcas. (Russet Steak Fries with Roasted Garlic Olive Oil [Gluten free!] Skin on Russet steak fries tossed with Parmesan, parsley, and steak salt and roasted garlic olive oil. Yumsters. We make a variation on this with potato chips at Christmas time.)

Mostly I was happy with the brew and the view. Years ago Best Beloved flew into Roche Harbor by seaplane, and it has been the stuff of family legend ever since. We were all happy to have a shared memory of it now.

And really – next week – Pike Place Market and Pike Brewing Company…

Garlic Parmesan Potato Chips

I tried it out on the neighbors last year at our little New Year’s Eve fete, and it was hoovered up in record time.

1 12-ounce bag of potato chips.
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes.
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic

In a small sauce pan, or frying pan, warm the 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the 4 cloves of garlic-pressed garlic. Cook at a low heat for 3 minutes, until fragrant. There nothing like garlic to make the house smell divine. Let the oil cool for about 5 or 10 minutes.
Put the chips in a large, shallow bowl. Drizzle with the garlic-infused oil. Toss the chips, gently. There is nothing worse than tiny little mingey bits of chips when one is trying to impress… Add the parsley and half the Parmesan cheese.
Warm the oven to 350°F degrees.

Put the chips on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Warm in the oven for about 7 or 8 minutes. Put the chips back in the original shallow bowl, scatter in the rest of the cheese, and toss. Serve warm. Yumsters.

Serve with Naughty Nelly ale, cheap white wine, or our favorite tipple, Prosecco, which makes it all taste so marvelous.

Pike Naughty Nellie Ale
http://www.pikebrewing.com/beers_PikeNaughtyNellie.shtml

Roche Harbor
http://www.rocheharbor.com/

Madrona Bar & Grill
www.rocheharbor.com/dining/madrona

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea – or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put forward to explain why people took to living in communities: that they were driven to it by climatic change, or by a wish to stay near their dead, or by a powerful desire to brew and drink beer, which could only be indulged by staying in one place.”
― Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Impatiens, Composters, & Leyland Cypress

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: What’s the latest on impatiens downy mildew disease? Are you advising against planting impatiens again this year? Is there some way I can treat my soil so that I don’t have to worry about the disease next year?

Answer#1: There have not been any recent updates about impatiens downy mildew. But, we still are recommending that impatiens not be planted this season. Nursery growers have been producing fewer impatiens and they are not as available for purchase because of this disease. On our website we have information on impatiens downy mildew and a list of replacement plants. On our homepage click on ‘invasives’ then ‘invasive diseases’. It is not feasible to treat the soil to prevent the disease. There are no labeled fungicides for homeowners for this purpose and windborne spores can blow into your yard to infect your plants.

Question #2: I was wondering if you had recommendations for the best kind of backyard composter for kitchen scraps.

Answer #2: There are quite an array of enclosed bins and tumblers designed for kitchen scrap composting. We have not evaluated them but you can find this information online. It is even possible to make compost by simply burying the scraps with other organic materials like leaves or straw in an open compost bin. Check with your county Public Works Department/Recycling Division; some will provide homeowners with a free bin. Or if you wish to build one, you could purchase a 10′ length of 3′ high fencing material (having a grid system of 2″) and wire the ends together creating a cylinder. You could also use three or four shipping pallets wired together to form an open cube. The minimum size for good results is 3′x3′x3’. Another option for composting kitchen scraps is vermicomposting (worm composting) indoors. Look for publications HG35 Backyard Composting and HG40 Indoor Redworm Composting on the Home and Garden Information Center website, for additional information.

Question #3: Can you please tell me why most of the Leyland cypress trees in our area appear to be dying? Is there some kind of disease going around or were they injured by the cold winter? But, they seemed to have made it through the winter okay so I do not think that is the reason. Is there something that can be done to save these trees?

Answer #3: Many Leyland cypress trees in the Maryland area were killed or suffered winterburn from the severe winter. They can get diseases but the dieback we are seeing on a wide-spread basis this spring is because of the winter. Although Leylands are supposed to be hardy to Zone 6, some cultivars are not that hardy and are not labeled as such. Also, trees that might have been stressed or not growing vigorously, but didn’t show any obvious symptoms in the fall, may have been extra-susceptible to the low temperatures. Unfortunately winter damage is not reversible. If they are not putting out new growth and the dieback is continuing the trees probably cannot be saved. If they need to be replaced, plant Arborvitae ‘Green Giant’ instead.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Food Friday: On Vacation

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Vacations are wonderful things. We were lucky enough to get out of town, out of our routines, out of our crowded little heads and into a part of the world three of us had never before visited: the Pacific Northwest. We look back on it now, and are amazed that a mere three weeks ago we were enjoying wearing sweaters, sitting on a back porch of the house we rented, companionably chatting and laughing while thrilling to the unaccustomed view of a faraway snowcapped mountain, listening to song birds warbling with gusto and brio. Bliss.

We sat on the porch for breakfast coffee, for evening Prosecco, and for after dinner glasses of wine. We read books out there, took photographs and contemplated learning how to play Bocci, under the tangle of fragrant wisteria, above the long green sward that tumbled down to the steps to the beach below. We watched deer tiptoe across the damp lawn, nibbling on the shrubbery. We spent many minutes watching yellow striped caterpillars measure the porch railing.

One daily routine I was happy to abandon for the duration of our vacation was my usual panic about dinner. I am not the organized sort who sits down on Sundays with a grocery list and happily plans the week’s dinner menus. Sometimes we cook a chicken on Sunday and I stretch the leftovers out over another couple of meals. (Thursday night we did have cheesesteak sandwiches made from Tuesday night’s steak, so I’m not completely hopeless…) On vacation the endless possibilities are charming novelties with unfamiliar stores and packaging, instead of the constant repetition of the tiring variables that make up daily food prep.

Usually, along about 3:00 in the afternoon, I pause at my work at the drawing table and consult my watch. Then I research something quick and easy on Food52.com, race the dog up and down the block, and hightail it to the grocery store to pick up the suggested ingredients, along with the wine imperative, and a dozen tiny cans of expensive cat food hoping to tempt the taste buds of the ancient howling cat, who is always hungry and never satisfied with our cat food selection.

When we were on vacation, there were four of us who planned the meals, and cooked the meals. And even four of us who set the table and washed the pans and stacked dishes in the dishwasher. Finally, my fantasies come true!

There were also four of us who wandered the farmers’ markets, making purchases and testing samples and buying brownies and cookies and sausage rolls and artistic treasures. The San Juan Farmers’ Market in Friday Harbor (http://sjifarmersmarket.com/), Washington was a well-attended community affair. If you ever visit the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Friday Harbor, be sure to stop by the Quirk Farm Art booth and liberate a felted wool lamb. I did. www.quirkfarmart.com. (It has a terrible website, but their work is exquisite)

We enjoyed sociable strolls around the grocery stores and markets; drifting, observing and making droll conversation – something we don’t normally have time or inclination to do at home. Visiting the supermarket at home is always a swift race to the finish – not only do we have to get back home before the black, shedding dog climbs on the white sofa, we have to avoid the woman in Aisle 3 who was room mother with me when one of the children was in third grade. She continues her zealous, competitive mommy conversations even in these post-collegiate days… It can be dangerous if you pause for just a moment and appear vulnerable in the produce department!

Hellmann’s Mayonnaise is Best Foods west of the Mississippi, something I had forgotten until we were searching for condiments. Sticks of butter are longer and skinnier than we are used to. The Dungeness crabs were the crabs du jour for several lunches. There are many wonderful beers and wines produced in Washington State. And we ate lots and lots of crisp Washington State apples.

You would think that with one Pesky Pescatarian, one Paleo eater, one Who-can’t-stand-seafood, and one Agreeable Omnivore we would have had more arguments, but we were surprisingly conflict-free. Our little UN of tastes and appetites discovered that Paul Newman’s Hint o’Mint Cookies are quite yumsters, especially for breakfast. Who realized they are organic? And we learned that there is something for everyone when we all pitch in to cook a breakfast that includes eggs, bacon, chocolate pancakes, blueberry pancakes, plain pancakes and fresh local blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.

Dinner was when we had to do a little more dancing around. One night I had very tasty cheese and crackers with my Prosecco while everyone else was scarfing down cold, fresh, briny oysters. When they ate fresh sockeye salmon, I had a tasty little burger. We enjoyed lots of Washington State produce, and greens, and beer!

We did not have the Maine lobsters, although it was discussed. We posed for some silly selfies with the live lobsters, and then, politely, bought a dozen local oysters, which we managed to shuck, without any maiming or bloodshed. I am told they were quite deelish. So were my cheese and crackers.

Next week – the Pike Place Market. Holy smokes!

“There are two kinds of travel: first class and with children.”
― Robert Benchley, Pluck and Luck

“Really. Is there anything nice to be said about other people’s vacations?”
― Amor Towles, Rules of Civility