May 2 2010

Wool, Sheep Herding & A Hidden Cemetery


It was a busy day for country things here in greater Sykesville, where the weather felt more like mid-August than the second of May. We started the day at the annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival at the HoCo fairgrounds, billed as the nation’s largest. We saw every imaginable kind of raw wool, felt, and yarn in every imaginable form, including a number of beautiful finished products.

We browsed the livestock barns and watched part of the parade of breeds. The highlight, though, was the herding demonstration with border collies. Simply amazing beasts that were able to move a mini-herd of four sheep with precision wherever the handler directed. Great, smart, focused dogs. We’re thinking maybe we need to buy a sheep farm for our Blue.

I bought a super-duper tomato cage I couldn’t resist. It’s really heavy duty, an ingenious hinged design, and I got the “extender” so that it can be, like, 8’ tall. I love a challenge! Don’t dare ask me what I paid for it.

We had met some friends at the festival who stopped by the house for a quick cold drink. Then, after a brief nap, we kept a hiking date with some neighbors we had met at the Howard County Hospital emergency room (all ended well for all of us). They live directly adjacent to Patapsco State Park, and had promised to show us a small family graveyard they had found there.

Most of the hike was places we had already been, but we did go up to an old barn we had only seen from afar, which was an amazing log construction now frequented by teens who favor Budweiser. The graveyard was not far away, and had three impressive headstones, including one that was hand-chiseled.

Blue and our neighbors’ three dogs had a blast swimming in the river, chasing deer and generally romping in the woods. Blue was totally hot and tired. Near the end of the hike, he decided to lay down, yes, lay down in a little swamp pond. I thought we were going to be lucky and finish the hike with a relatively clean dog, but no luck. I had to give him a bottom wash when we got back.

Out in the garden, things are beginning to hop. We have peas, kale, spinach, lettuce, green beans, lima beans, turnips, beets, radishes, cucumbers, blue potatoes, hyacinth beans, zinnias, and gladiolus coming up. Tonight, we had our last salad with store-bought lettuce for a while. We have some beautiful Red Tiede, Cos, and Simpson Elite just about ready, and a bunch coming along behind them. I plan to put out tomatoes and peppers the second weekend of this month.

I have to admit, seed starting was a bust this year. I don’t think I’ve ever had poorer germination. Less than 50%, I dare say. Perhaps the basement was too cold, and I started too late in the greenhouse. In any event, the seedlings are small, but we should still have everything we need to plant.

Jan 24 2010

Terra Cotta Warriors Exhibit


Terra Cotta Warriors 2Terra Cotta warriorsThere are plenty of adventures that begin with “I wish I hadn’t planned this months ago because now it will take up so much of my day.”  C.J. didn’t want to go.  I was worried about leaving the puppy home for so long.  A day later, after having seen the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, I’m sorry the experience is over.  The tour, for us, lasted about 90 minutes–we rented the $5.00 audio tour.  I would have learned a great deal without the audio information, but I’m glad we paid the extra $5.00.  It was fascinating, and I can say that I learned a great deal more about China in one visit than I knew about the whole country in all of my reading.  This First Emperor’s innovations rival anything the ancient Romans established.  I don’t think there’s middle or high school student who wouldn’t find this amazing.  In fact, I caught myself repeating “unbelievable” in every part of the exhibit.  Some of the members of our group had seen the exhibit in the past–even one couple had seen it in China.  I can see why they wanted to see it again.  I will be looking for videos or interactive websites so that I can share the with my nieces and nephews.  (Ah, always the teacher!)terracotta-warriors-8

Dec 6 2009

Happy St. Nicholas Day!


Just returned from the annual family trek to see the lights at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.  It’s $20 a car load this year but very much worth the expense.  The train garden, a miniature replica of familiar sights in Montgomery County, is worth the price alone.  We didn’t have time for the train scavenger hunt, but Nicole did find a live snail.

Sep 21 2009

Well Is Almost Well Again


We’ve had a swamp in the back yard that looks a little like the opening of the Beverly Hillbillies when Jed Clampett discovers oil on his land.  This wasn’t oil–just water from a broken pipe.  Feezer is here, and we’re glad it’s getting fixed. 

Check out our first Flip camera video!

Aug 27 2009

Autumn In The Air


350 miles here to the north, in Syracuse, a preview of the season to come. The morning and evening air has that touch of crispness and freshness that says Summer will soon be on its way out. A new grandson, a daughter off to college – this week surely is full of transitions. Thank goodness I have such a pillar of support in Natalie, and in such good family and friends.
(posted from the iPhone)

Aug 12 2009

Flower Show Winners


I insisted that Roger enter his flowers in the flower show at the fair.  He asked me if we needed glass containers.  I said not to worry. We could recycle plastic water bottles for vases.  When I arrived with our flowers, I was confronted by the site of many gardeners and their carefully arranged and labeled flowers in delicate little glass bud vases and containers.  Yikes!  Did I miscalculate!  One woman was misting the flowers as she was checking them in with the judge.  Still, we won second place for our dahlia, third place for our zinnias, and third place for our marigolds.  The beautiful white gladiolus that I entered looked sad next to the winners, but, that’s just fine.  Wait until next year. . .

Aug 9 2009

Home Arts Winners at the Fair


I’m very proud of my nieces and nephews.  EVERY ONE of the entries won a prize ribbon.  Tobias and Elliott each took first place.  Nicole had a total of 10 entries in fine arts, woodworking and arts and crafts this year!  She earned ribbons in both the 8 – 11 age group and the 12 – 18 age group.  Our youngest fair participant, Oliver, submitted a fruit label box that took  fourth place.  Katie’s magnificent purse won a third place.  Garrett, who had a very difficult craft, took third place.   I’ve already started making a list of possible fair projects for 2010.  Yikes!  Watch out for this group of competitors!

Jul 30 2009

Make Rt. 32 Safe


Tonight, Roger persuaded me to attend the community  meeting to voice our concerns about safety on Rt. 32 from Rt. 70 to the Carroll County line.  All of us have trouble entering and exiting the neighborhood, sometimes waiting 6 – 8 minutes at the entrance before pulling out onto the busy highway.  We encourage our young drivers to take River Road to Sykesville to avoid pulling out onto the highway.  C.J. and I stopped riding our bikes on Rt. 32 because of the dangers.  Most of all, every neighbor or friend has a near-miss or accident story to tell.

Roger and I took our neighbor, Leo, to the meeting.  There were 200+ community members, and the entire event was civil and well-organized.  I was impressed by the statements made by our neighbors, the politicians, police and county and state officials.  Roger had urged me to bring C.J., and I was sorry that I did not require his attendance. 

Howard Blackman, a community resident, has put together a website,  Please help by communicating to our county and state officials, urging them to support increased safety measures.  You can contact county executive Ken Ulman and other officials using the information supplied at Blackman’s website.

When traveling on Rt. 32, use your headlights and travel the posted speed limit:  50 mph.  Take your time, and be aware of other drivers around you.  Tonight we learned that our section of Rt. 32 carries 24,000 vehicles a day.  The volume on the road makes for impatience.   One speaker said it best.  We’re angry and frustrated, but we’re also very scared every time we travel on this road.  Cindy Haller, our neighbor, reminded all of us that children have their bus stops on Rt. 32.  Rt. 32 is the major road in our “neighborhood.”  It’s not just a highway from Westminster to Columia.

Jul 7 2009

Orchids at University of Maryland


photo_070709_001I took the boys (C.J. and his friend, Tyler) to check out University of Maryland, College Park.  After the tour (which took us all over that enormous campus), we had ice cream at The Dairy (which is now the official Visitor Center, too).  There was a lovely display of orchids.  After doing some research, I learned that the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, has started raising these exotic flowers.  Check out this article,  Still, they can’t compare to the orchid in Uniontown.  (I bet it dies as soon as we tranplant it to Sykesville.)

Jul 7 2009



Keeping up with tradition, Roger and I picked 18 lbs. of blueberries on the morning of July 4.  I’d rather pick blueberries at Glade Valley Farm than attend any picnic or fireworks.  Problem is, I skipped breakfast, so I ATE 18 lbs. of blueberries and picked the same.  This is a photo of the bounty.  The employees said that blueberries will be ripe until the end of July.  We may have to go back.  Leo helped me to wash them and put them in quart freezer bags.  I made blueberry scones (outstanding) and blueberry/peach cake (so, so).  It’s a good excuse to make and eat sweets.photo_070409_003

May 22 2009

Skeeter’s Produce


Skeeter’s Produce, a local vegetable stand, opens in Ijamsville on June 5.  I’m looking forward to stopping there on my way home from school.  I caught a picture of Skeeter today getting the ground ready for the beautiful sunflowers he grows each year.  skeeter