Food Friday: Making Sweet Memories


Last weekend I scampered out of town to visit with nine dear old friends, for our almost-annual get together of laughter and food. We met in college, and though the years we have kept tabs on each other. What started in freshman orientation at a small college has persisted through boyfriends, husbands, grad schools, world travels, weddings, divorces, careers, children, opening nights, and marathons.

We started gathering steam as we congregated in an airport bar where loud shrieks of laughter and warm embraces greeted each newly arrived traveler. The weekend’s moveable feast commenced in stages. We shared onion rings and fries; then chips and salsa. Then a fish sandwich and a salad. DuClaw Venom Pale Ale, Diet Cokes, Bloody Marys and waters.

After some fun finding our cars in the perplexing parking garage, our designated drivers headed north on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We rendezvoused in a grocery store parking lot to hunt and gather our weekend provisions: Utz Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, pretzels, rotisserie chicken, salad, tomatoes, celery, garlic, bread and Bergers cookies. We also made a stop at a liquor store. Of course. Our host nation greeted us with a bowl of fruit salad, an apple pie and a strawberry pie, freshly cut tulips and open arms.

We were staying in a cottage, perched on a hill that overlooked a picturesque valley of farms, where we could see ambling horses and gamboling goats. The tree next to the scenic overlook was covered in glowing, burgeoning buds, which seemed to swell and grow by the minute. There were drifts of daffodils and clouds of forsythia, and two roosters to keep it real; there would be no sleeping late when there were heartfelt conversations to be had.

At good gatherings, most of the time is spent in the kitchen. This is where we milled and cooked and washed up and served each other meals. There is nothing like spending time with people who think you haven’t changed much since you were eighteen. Consequently we fell back into the behaviors of eighteen year olds, though, of course, we are responsible adults now.

The dependable ones chopped tomatoes and basil and fresh mozzarella for a killer salad. (Here is a real culinary hint: add a little olive oil and chopped garlic to the mixture, cover and let it marinate for a couple of hours. POW! So delicious!) The former RA cut up rotisserie chicken with her customary efficiency and aplomb. A chopped kale salad was uniquely dressed, and a new crowd pleaser was born. Wine was poured. Pies were divided and conquered.

It was a weekend of sweet indulgences. “Yes, thanks. I think I will have a margarita at lunch. With salt.” And, “Yes, I will have a Bergers cookie. For breakfast.” We cherish these reunions, which is why we spent two hours one morning discussing eye creams. Where else would we find an interactive audience for our opinions about the Duchess of Cambridge’s hats? Who else has the skill set for ear candling?

These are people who love you despite your bad boyfriends: they patiently waited for me to get over a poetry-spouting narcissistic actor once. We love each other despite our big hair in the 80s – and have we got the photos to prove it! Many a time, as we tried to master smartphone selfies this weekend, we thanked our lucky stars that there was no Internet – or digital photography – back in the day. Better to have our hilarious memories (without photos) of the rubber cement incident…

How did we know then that we would still love each other now? Warts, toenail fungus, bad perms, and the acres of stretch marks are all there – and up for discussion. We aren’t too sentimental, but for people from such diverse backgrounds, who fell to earth together in a tiny little spot, we feel pretty lucky.

Consequently, we will share the recipe for Bergers cookies with you. Be warned – home baked Bergers will be like bagels outside of New York City, or pizza outside of New Haven; they probably won’t taste exactly like the Bergers you remember from Baltimore, but they will give you some new, sweet memories, and leave you hankering for more.

Cherish the memories. Now go kiss someone. Don’t waste any time.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
― Jane Austen

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Soil Tests, Lilacs, & Attracting Birds

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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: I was hoping you could help me understand the process of soil testing. My neighbor told me that the University of Maryland tested his soil a few years ago. I went on your website and found the publication on the subject but it looks like all of the labs are out of state. I really want to test the soil in my vegetable garden before I plant. Can you help?

Answer#1: The University of Maryland soil testing lab closed many years ago. As you mentioned we have lots of information on our website about soil testing. When you are on the home page look for the photo of a man’s hand holding a handful of soil. Watch the video as it helps to clarify the process. Under resources look at HG 110 and HG 110a (list of recommended labs). The lab’s website will explain how to take a sample and will provide a submittal form for you to print off. Your sample can be mailed to the lab in a self-closing plastic bag. Please contact us again if need help interpreting the results.

Question #2: Many years ago I planted an old fashioned lilac. It appears healthy but it has not bloomed well for the last couple of years. I asked at a garden center and was told they like alkaline soil and to use a fertilizer high in phosphorus. Can you provide any more information? I really miss the flowers.

Answer #2: There are many species and cultivars of lilac and we do not know which one you are referring to. The last few years we have had questions from homeowners very similar to yours. Ruling out other reasons why lilacs do not bloom which include, too much shade (planting sites can become shadier over time), too much nitrogen fertilizer (which promotes leaf growth and not flowers), improper pruning (pruning in summer, fall or winter removes flower buds), the most likely reason is that lilacs prefer cold winters. With the exception of this year our winters have been warmer than normal. So chances are good that your lilac will bloom well for you this spring. We do not recommend applying fertilizing but a layer of compost around the root zone would be helpful.

Question #3: We moved into a senior garden apartment complex this winter and are not allowed to put out bird feeders. Our apartment is on the first floor and I have an area out back where I can plant flowers or some shrubs. Would you have any suggestions of something I can plant to attract the birds?

Answer #3: A water source really attracts birds to a landscape. Are you allowed to put up a bird bath? It does not have to be large or fancy. A large saucer (you can even use one that is made to be placed under a container) placed on the ground would work. Keep it filled with fresh water. Change the water on a regular basis in the summer to prevent mosquitoes. Some perennials that attract birds are Coreopsis, Liatris spicata (gayflower), Echinacea (coneflower) and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan). It is best to plant a group of three or more. Birds love to feed on the berries of many shrubs. Some examples include, American cranberry viburnum, winterberry holly (you need a male and a female plant to produce berries), chokeberry, and blueberries which need well-drained, acidic soil.

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

Making the Most of Your Small Garden

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Neoma Rohman

Neoma Rohman

Neoma Rohman, a Master Gardener and urban homesteader, will speak about “Intensive Gardening: Making the Most of Your Small Garden” at the St. Michaels Library on April 12 at 10:30 a.m. The talk is sponsored by the St. Michaels Community Center Community Garden and is free and open to the public.

Rohman lives in downtown Easton on a 1/5 acre lot where she and her husband produce most of their food in raised beds full of vegetables, on espaliered fruit trees and egg producing chickens. The purpose of an intensively grown garden is to harvest the most produce possible from a given space. Methods used include raised beds, wide or multiple rows, vertical trellising, intercropping, and succession planting.

The St. Michaels Community Garden is entering its third year. Forty raised beds are tended by local residents whose excess produce is distributed locally by Union Memorial Methodist Church and the St. Michaels Food Pantry. For more information contact: Mala Burt at or 410-745-6950.

Food Friday: Loving Lemons


Spring! It’s out there. It’s tantalizingly close. Spring! And with it, in come rushing all the cloying clichés: the spring in your step, and hope springing eternal, neatly spring to mind! Now that we have dispensed with that, it is a relief to open the windows, even if just for an hour, and have the breezes billow the wafting draperies over and through the agitated dust bunnies.

This is my house, not Martha’s, after all, and I have yet to eagerly embrace the notion of spring-cleaning. I wait until all the dog and cat fur clump together, and it gets back-combed into black, big-haired, tumbling tumble weeds before I bother to get out the Hoover. There are too many flowers about to burst onto the scene to worry about the mundane and the nonsensical cleaning up after the perpetually shedding animals! Although, perhaps, I should speak with my staff…

It is time for us to start going sockless. It is almost flip flop season, although Easter is awfully late this year – April 20. Not that I am dying to pull out the linen, just yet. I have gotten tired of being bundled up every minute of the day. It would be nice to sit in the yard, with a book, and feel the sun on my face. I was out back earlier this week observing the signs of life in the garden (see the photo of the lettuce) and the birds were swooping with grace and abandon. I watched a twittering band of goldfinches the other day streaking around the back yard. (I just looked up the collective noun for finches, and it is “charm”; a charm of finches scissoring merrily through the neighborhood.) It looked like such fun.

Yellow is truly a springtime color – not a pastel watery yellow – but something with vigor and brass – like a daffodil trumpet. Those perky little goldfinches flashed their yellow bellies. Fosythia bushes will soon burst into yellow flaming clouds. And the crocuses are defiantly gamboge YELLOW, when they are not purple or white, that is.

There are so many variations of yellow, and the names are quite evocative. You can picture each color: goldenrod, jonquil, school bus, straw, gold, day-glo, butter, butterscotch, mustard. Those names lead us to lemon yellow. And to lemons and all the miracles lemons can cause in our cooking and baking. We can make lemon bars, lemon curd, lemon cookies, lemon cake, lemon pie – all perfectly splendid and spring-y.

I like to bake a friend’s lemon cheesecake for Easter. The hoary family legend always demands full disclosure about the first lemon cheesecake I served up for the holiday. That year I prettied it up with some nasturtiums from the garden, being an edgy food experimenter. We all looked askance as a large spider skipped out from under one of the blossoms and trekked across the surface of the cake. The children were scarred for life. From the thought of ever eating spider-infested nasturtiums; not cheesecake. Never that.

I am looking forward to trying the preserved lemon recipes. The zing of the lemons will add piquance to my more mundane meals. I like a little lemon butter with steak; the light citrus taste elevates the ordinary without taxing my negligible Béarnaise abilities. And lemon butter, continuing with our springtime theme, is quite cheerily yellow.

Adding lemon to our comfort foods isn’t an extraordinary or original idea, but it will add layers of flavor and tone and subtlety. Having a jar with fat preserved lemons is some handy insurance that we can add a little sparkle to our lives, as we leave the drab winter, and head confidently into the spring-y sunlight.

“We live in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavoring and furniture polish is made from real lemons.”
MAD Magazine

That is a sign – do not give into spring-cleaning! Take off your socks. Go outside.

Here is an encouraging springtime quotation:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
― Margaret Atwood

Food Friday: Pasta Primavera


There are tiny, little trace elements of spring green under the remains of snow in the bottom of the garden. If you scape carefully you might be rewarded with a handful of snowdrops or even some gaudy crocus. The first indications of spring are starting to emerge, despite the perverse pleasure winter has had in extending its stay. There is a little corner in the side yard that gets sun, and is sheltered from the wind by the garage, and there you can see some white striped crocus leaves. Ha! Take that, Winter!

Botticelli’s painting Spring (La Primavera) is littered with flowers and symbolism. It is a large, lively allegorical painting with nine figures almost floating in an orange grove. In it Botticelli has painted 500 separate plant species and almost 200 different kinds of flowers. It is a celebration of love and spring. You can see myrtle, oranges, hyacinths, iris, periwinkles, violets, anemone and cornflower blossoms among the many plants depicted. He even wove some strawberries into a head wreath. (These are spring plants that bloom in Tuscany in May, so we still have a little time to catch up.)

As promised last week, yesterday I sowed about three dozen lettuce seeds in two straight rows in an old window box planter on the back porch. I have 464 seeds left. I want to see if I can improve my ROI. I paid about $5 for the seeds, which I am comparing to $4.09 I almost paid for a bag of pre-washed organic salad greens last week. I have planted heat tolerant loose-leaf lettuces, because I probably should have started a couple of weeks ago. If I get two salads out of this experiment I will be ahead of the game!

I was puttering around my humble container garden, having a seed catalogue-induced fantasy about how great it is all going to look in a couple of months. Surely the new hydrangea will be blooming, and there will be lettuces enough for Peter Rabbit. In that dreamy state I thought that a little taste of Italy was just what I needed. Airfares being what they are these days, I opted for a homemade Italian pesto. Luckily, it was time for a basil harvest.

I have four basil plants in a big pot out back, and another smaller plant on the windowsill over the kitchen sink. Sometimes I like to just crumple a leaf and smell warmer weather. This fiction comes to you courtesy of Bon Appétit magazine. Just look at that color. Practically chartreuse! It is an early spring in a mouthful of pasta with garlic and Parmesan cheese.

We have just gotten back from a stroll through the Uffizi Museum, where we wandered among the Botticellis and the beauteous Donatellos, and now we need to offset Stendahl Syndrome and feed our springtime appetites. Delizioso!

The photo from the Bon Appétit test kitchen looked so beautiful. And inspirational. But instead of spaghetti or linguine I used some fresh (although I had stashed it in the freezer last week) sausage. Some days I will do almost anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store. Imagine how great it will be when the lettuce plants are ready for harvest!

Here are some other spring-y variations:

And who says that pesto is limited to adorning pasta?

And here are some great ideas for freezing pesto! You can keep a few cupsful of Italy on ice, to bring out at whim. Or when you cannot fathom another trip to the store.

“There is no technique, there is just the way to do it.
Now, are we going to measure or are we going to cook?”
― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

Rye Whiskey Returns to Maryland

lyon whiskey

The Lyon Distilling Company, Maryland’s premier craft distillery, is proud to introduce the state’s first rye whiskey in over 40 years. The Maryland Free State Rye Whiskey is named in a nod to Maryland’s defiance of Prohibition by refusing to pass a single state enforcement law in support of the Volstead Act.

“It is an incredible honor to revive the state’s long history of producing this fabulous style of whiskey,” said co-founder and distiller, Ben Lyon. Once the fifth-largest spirits producer in the country, Maryland’s distilling industry steadily declined following Prohibition and ended in the 70’s, taking with it the beloved rye whiskey. “While there are a couple Maryland-style rye whiskies on the market, unless it is made in Maryland, it’s not a true Maryland rye,” noted co-founder, Jaime Windon.

From L-R: Maryland Free State Rye Whiskey, New Make Corn Whiskey, White Rum, Barrel-Aged Rum, Seasonal Dark Rum

From L-R: Maryland Free State Rye Whiskey, New Make Corn Whiskey, White Rum, Barrel-Aged Rum, Seasonal Dark Rum

The whiskey is available only at the distillery, and is produced in limited batches, with the current expression a raw white spirit, highlighting the spicy characteristics of the rye, and balanced by a subtle sweetness from the corn. The mash bill is 55% rye, 35% corn,10% malted barley. In coming months the distillery will also release lightly aged versions, currently resting in new American oak barrels.

Lyon Distilling Company also produces a white corn whiskey, along with a series of signature rums, all of which are distilled on site in traditional pot stills. With the introduction of whiskies, the distillery is pleased to note partnerships with Homestead Farms, an organic, 1st generation family farm in Millington, MD, and Slaughterton, a 14th generation family farm in Sudlersville, MD.

For more information, please contact the distillery at 443-333-9181 or

Author Ruth Kassinger to Present “A Garden of Marvels” at Adkins, March 30

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RUTH KASSINGERIn A Garden of Marvels, author Ruth Kassinger introduces the basic botany of plants—flowers, roots, stems and leaves—and explains how they function together. Combining science and botanical knowledge with reflections on her personal quest to become a better gardener, Kassinger reveals a journey of discovery that offers fresh and unexpected insights into the natural world.

On Sun., March 30, Kassinger will present A Garden of Marvels at Adkins Arboretum. This witty and engaging history traces the progress of early botanists who discovered that flowers are all about sex, leaves eat air, roots choose their food, and other secrets of plants. The talk is interwoven with stories of today’s extraordinary plants, including one-ton pumpkins, truly black petunias and the world’s only photosynthesizing animal. The talk begins at 1 p.m. and is $15 for Arboretum members, $20 for non-members. Light refreshments will be served.

In addition to penning A Garden of Marvels, Ruth Kassinger is the award-winning author of eight science and history books for young adults. Her first book for an adult audience, Paradise Under Glass, chronicles her journey of creating a conservatory at her suburban home. Her science and health writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, National Geographic Explorer, Health magazine, Science Weekly and other publications.

Advance registration is requested for this unique and fascinating program. Register online at or call 410.634.2847, ext. 0 for more information.

Maryland’s First Craft Distillery Opens On The Eastern Shore

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Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 1.48.39 PMAfter successfully navigating small town zoning, lengthy permit processes, and a government shutdown, the Lyon Distilling Company of St. Michaels, MD is proud to be Maryland’s only full production distillery to open in nearly half a century.

Ben Lyon and Jaime Windon, both spirits enthusiasts and young entrepreneurs, wanted to revive Maryland’s illustrious distilling history with handcrafted spirits. “Many distillers bat around the terms ‘craft’, ‘local’, and ‘handmade’ without any actual meaning. For a small distillery, it’s all about quality and integrity, so everything in the bottle we make here, starting with the raw ingredients. To be the only distillery in the state producing spirits in this way is exciting, especially for people who have never seen the process,” said Ben Lyon, co-founder and distiller at Lyon Distilling Company.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 1.48.45 PMLyon Distilling Company launched with three varieties of rum: white, seasonal, and barrel aged. “Made with a combination of cane sugar and molasses, and distilled with traditional style pot stills, the base spirit has a complexity and body which simply don’t exist in commercially available products,” said co-founder Jaime Windon. “Our rum has already opened eyes about what small batch distilling is all about – from the first sip, there is simply no comparison to what most of our visitors are used to.” In addition to making Maryland’s only known rum, the distillery will also be releasing a series of whiskies and liqueurs in the coming months.

Lyon Distilling Company is open from 12-6 every day for tours, tastings and sales.

For more information, please visit, or contact the distillery through or (443) 333-9181.

Stoltzfus Outdoor Living Declares the End of Winter!


Press Release Easton—What better way to say goodbye to a long winter than to enrich your daily life with the transformation of your outdoor living environment?

Stoltzfus Outdoor Living—now at the Amish Country Farmer’s Market in Easton—showcases a wide selection of industry leading, high quality storage sheds, wooden and vinyl gazebos, cupolas, play environments, leisure lawn furniture, exclusive animal structures, and fencing and gates.

The days of the bland, plywood shed are over. With features styled to resonate with your home, Stoltzfus sheds offer models designed for work, rest, or play—from utility storage for your lawn equipment to a sunlit office or hobby environment with a loft. From a gem of a pool house to a 12’ x 24’ retreat, Stoltzfus offers five series of designs to compliment the ambience of your home.

Planning for those weekend afternoons on the porch?  Stoltzfus offers maintenance free all weather Poly Lawn Furniture. Handmade and hand cut, this exclusive outdoor furniture is offered in styles ranging from the classic Deck chair to the West Chester porch swing and English Garden style. There’s a perfect look and feel to add to any porch theme or environmental mood.

Adults aren’t the only ones looking to enhance their outdoor fun. Stoltzfus swing sets are a world beyond the typical children’s swing—these elaborate playsets can include open or tubular slides and combined mini-houses all guaranteed to open up creative possibilities for endless hours of enjoyment in a “hideout’ constructed from the highest quality materials and designed for safety and longevity.

For added home elegance, Stoltzfus has an extensive collection of weathervanes, cupolas and sophisticated birdhouses all highlighting an artistic combination of wood and lustrous copper topping. All cupolas are offered in select grade wood (cypress or redwood) or maintenance-free AZEK material. Over forty styles of cupolas are available or bring your own design. We can build it for you. It’s that final touch you’ve been wanting.

Don’t leave out an important part of your family when you enhance your outdoor living environment—Stoltzfus dog kennels are available in all shapes and sizes. Aesthetically pleasing in design and crafted to be maintenance free, these kennels will provide years of satisfaction. Chicken coops and post and beam equine stalls and run-ins are also available.

For more variety, on display, everyday see our enormous Chestertown outdoor location at 6408 Church Hill Road.

Faint when you received your electric bill this winter? Stoltzfus’ state of the art Sunrise Solar services can transform your energy resources to the point of even selling electricity back to the grid! Using the highest rated solar components by SunPower, Sunrise Solar will design and install your new alternative energy system to generate more power with the smallest footprint possible for your structure, all with industry leading product and workmanship warranties and the highest of construction standards.

Solar is not just for home energy independence—it’s fulfilling a wide array of energy needs within the Eastern Shore agricultural environment. A solar array capable of powering entire agricultural operations is possible with a minimal foot print. Ask us how at our Solar display at the Amish Market in Easton or our Outdoor Living location in Chestertown.

Now, bring on the Summer.

Stoltzfus Outdoor Living is a family owned business serving the Eastern Shore since 2006. Its two stores are in Chestertown (address if needed) and at the Amish Country Farmer’s Market, 101 Marlboro Ave., Easton. For further information go to or call 410-810-1504;







Food Friday: Spring into Salads!


Spring is sprung!

I want to retire the crockpot, stash the Dutch oven, put the lasagna pan out to pasture and start digging into light, healthy, crispy fresh green salads. With crusty French bread and sweet butter and a glass or two of cool Chardonnay. In my bare feet. In shorts.

I am heartily tired of the winter weather and snowy concerns. I am ready to spend some time in my humble little container garden. How about you? The more organized among you have probably thumbed through all the seed catalogues, marked your favorites with Post-its or have cleverly started your salad gardens in tiny peat containers or out in your cold frames. Obviously there was enough time with all the snow days this winter to linger with pleasure over the many tantalizing illustrations and photos of giant tomatoes and mouth-watering melons. I fell into the Burpee catalogue and just placed my order online, so when the seeds arrive I’ll have to get cracking on the Spring Salad Project.

March is a good time to get a jump on cool-season vegetables. You can start the annual competition with the deer and rabbits for the finest lettuces, broccoli and spinach. We are going to try some mixed, loose-leaf, heat tolerant lettuces this year. I want to enjoy the practical, health conscious and economic concepts of growing our own lettuce, with an eye to the decorative. I envision my ecclectic collection of odd terra cotta pots brimming with a array of colorful, wafting lettuce leaves. A veritable cornucopia of renewable crunchy salads!

That is always the best part of gardening, seeing everything in your mind’s eye in the gauzy Technicolor future. Somehow there I am always wearing a float-y white outfit as I drop my bountiful harvest into my antique English garden trug, clipping merrily (and with surgical precision) with the vintage secateurs. Reality won’t elbow that fantasy out of my suggestive and malleable brain for a couple of months…

I was appalled to see that the cheater’s way of buying lettuce at the grocery store has gotten so expensive – $4.09 today for a single puny bag of pre-washed mixed spring greens! I have had enough! Enough of the madness! I am fighting back. I have just spent $5.95 for 500 lettuce seeds. Let’s see what my actual return on the dollar is, at roughly 1.2¢ a seed…

Here is Burpee’s perky and unintimidating video for growing lettuce.

While I was earnestly researching lettuce seeds I was diverted by the fantasy that I am able to grow hydrangeas, which are my favorite flowers (after violets, daffodils and lily of the valley) but which I can never seem to grow. Maybe this year I’ll be lucky. I have just ordered a Nikko Blue Hydrangea, as well as the lettuce seeds. And pole bean seeds, morning glory seeds and some half price vinca seeds. Obviously, I will have to regale you with some gardening stories later this season, as I watch them all grow. With crossed fingers.

I have just given a self-pollinating blueberry bush. That will be another gardening experiment. I am planting it on the east side of the house, where it can commune with my spindly hydrangea-wannabes.

But back to the matter at hand – salad: as usual, we are hoping that the basil container farm will be busy and bushy this summer, as well as the annual tomatoes, which I hope won’t wither on the vine. We are also considered trying to make our own fresh mozzarella cheese. Maybe it would be easier to just move to Italy. But that depends on the lottery officials, I am sad to say.

My mother was always fond of ordering from the kind folks at Burpee, so give them a whirl. She always had an amazing garden.

“It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific’.”
― Beatrix Potter, The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

Here are some tasty salad recipes, which will be all the more deelish if you grow your own this year. Drop us a line, or a photo or two, if you take up the salad challenge. It’s time to enjoy spring, no matter what those naysayers at the National Weather Service say about the storm that is due to hit next week!