Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Around the Yard

Often, there is no need for words, just images.
This is one of those times – a walk around the yard. Enjoy!
IMGP0180IMGP0213  IMGP0317   IMGP0324 IMGP0164bee balm0624 (1) IMGP0217 IMGP0321     IMGP0208 IMGP0344 IMGP0251 IMGP0191 IMGP0366 IMGP0170 IMGP0343 IMGP0315 IMGP0333 IMGP0309 IMGP0318 IMGP0350 IMGP0276 phlox0624 (1)
Colors are the Smiles of Nature

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For the Birds – and NOT for Some

safflower seed Safflower is one of mankind’s oldest oilseed crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the 12th dynasty identified dyes made from safflower. Garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Safflower oil is used in painting to replace linseed oil, particularly with white; it doesn’t have the yellow tint common to linseed oil. In textiles coloring, safflower's dried flowers are used as a natural dye.safflower

Safflower oil is flavorless, colorless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil. It is used as a cooking oil, in salad dressing, and for margarine  production – think YELLOW!

So WHY is there a photo of safflower birdseed at the top of this post?
seed_safflower Glad you asked, since this white, shiny conical safflower seed is popular in wild bird feeding – it’s good for wild birds since it has a  high fat, protein and oil content. Cardinals like it and so do others: chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, grosbeaks.
So, you might be thinking. Wild birds like safflower seed, and it’s nutritious for them, that’s nice.

WHAT’s important is what ALL birds DON’T like it 
Most nuisance birds – starlings, grackles – feeder hogs dislike its
finches in feeder 0908 (2) bitter taste and will (usually) avoid feeders with safflower seed. Most squirrels don't like it either. The operative word here is “most” because there will always be spoilers. But, unlike squirrels, chipmunks DO like safflower seeds, so if these ones are a problem, put a baffle on any feeders with safflower seed.

Wonder WHERE to find?
Not in those cheaper birdseed mixes you find in grocery stores, hardware stores or other retailers. Safflower seeds are found in quality wild birdseed mixes – ones that cost more. Last weekend, I bought a 7 lb bag at Tractor Supply for $7.

Does it WORK?
Yesterday, I put some in the tube feeder – not  a single starling or grackle perched on it as before when using cheaper mixes. Lots of sparrows and wrens came by to feed, even fighting for space. When using the cheaper mix, grackles and starlings emptied the feeder within hours (often less). Safflower seed is costly, but it’s also costly to replace  cheaper mixes often because of “feeder hogs".”

Today, I noticed that the safflower seed was on the ground and seems to have been shaken out of the feeder. Not sure if the feeder hogs were the culprits, but I’m going to watch from the kitchen window on Wed and find out.

Here’s a colorful  cardinal couple – also our state bird.
 IMGP7828 cardinalM lite 012009

Cool thoughts on a Hot Day

I was rummaging around in my hard drive and found a little gem i wrote in the winter before i really got into the blogging thing. This was written last February during one of our few snow storms.
It snowed today. We got about 10 inches which is a big deal for the Eastern Shore. No I didn’t go out and measure it yet (see tomorrows post). Most folks Mailbox here DO NOT go out in the snow… ‘just them damn come-here’s from Jersey go out in the snow…. Damn fools will go out as long as the snow ain’t over their headlights. And then they just throw their SUV’s in four wheel drive and keep on going. They’re a real mess, bless their hearts’.
Well not all the Jersey come here’s go out. Some of us who have lived through many snow storms and near blizzards, some lasting three daySeaman Ave.s and leaving three feet of snow, have actually found that sitting back and enjoying a snow fall can be a wonderful and enjoyable pastime. Of course this is not something we learned in our younger years. Back then, before four wheel drive, we just put the snow chains on the rear wheels and got on with business, as long as the snow wasn’t over the headlights.
But the meshing of Jersey Shore and Eastern Shore philosophies has helped me create a unique individual philosophy.
This afternoon I started worrying that I needed to get out there and clear the driveway bFront 1efore the town plows came through and mounded us in. Mounding is a phenomenon that occurs when the town plows go by and deposit hard frozen snow, grits, sand, salt and road debris across the opening of your driveway. This deposit is usually two or three times higher than the beautiful white snow on your lawn and requires heavy machinery, flame throwers, or high explosives to remove.
Then I remembered that our town has NO plows. And if we did we would not be allowed to use them since the town does not own the roads. Front 2 They are the sole property of the Commonwealth of Virginia. That same Commonwealth who is getting ready to again slice VDOT with another massive budget cut.
So what did I have to worry about? The 10 inches of snow would surely melt before I would ever see a plow. This led to a truly relaxed day of Banana Pancakes, some blogging, snow pictures (from the window of course), two naps, reading some wisdom from Dave Barry with hot chocolate, a wonderful Chicken Rice casserole with fresh French bread (made by me. Not a chance you would find that here), some delicious red wine, and the wonderfully romantic company of my Beatrice.
Sorry but the photos are from a blizzard we had in 2003 while living on the Jersey Shore. I hope you enjoyed some chilling thoughts on a hot afternoon.

It’s Breaking!!!!!

No not my heart,,,, the heat. Today is a mear 87F and a HI of 90F. WOW what a cake walk. AND we got a big .12 inches oIMG_0502f rain over night (hey don’t knock it). Speaking of walks here are some pics from my garden walk this morning.

The strawberry patch is moving slow but sweetly. The asparagus patch is ready for cutting down soon. Next year we get to eat it for a month. And the never ending IMG_0504Rose Mary bush is still chugging along after a major transplant a year ago.

IMG_0503The rest of the crops are doing well. Of course the Cuc’s are over doing (and i thought i had killed them when i moved them to weed).

Onions are onioning along with the beans and zuc’s and tomatoes that are still a little slow but reddening up.



IMG_0508 IMG_0510 IMG_0505

But the best picture of the day was our purple martins. They are a prolific bunch as this is the third brood of youngun’s they’ve had. Now don’t get me wrong, i love them since they are bug eaters and catch dinner ‘on the wing’. Here is Mom and Junior.


The caption for this should be “Doesn’t he ever get full????”.

Speaking of full,,,, time for a snack,,,, maybe a cuc sandwich (what a novel idea).

Monday, June 28, 2010

Smooth & Easy Breakfast

smoothies stuff062310 (1)
Breakfast the past couple of weeks has been a variety of breakfast smoothies using the immersion blender  bought this month with proceeds from a May yard sale.

With the recent HOT weather here, these smoothies have been  delicious and easier than making a fruit salad, which is the way we used to enjoy fruit at breakfast – BIB (before immersion blender).

As for recipes, there are countless variations available in books or on smoothies062310 (3)the Internet. A few were included in the blender booklet, but it’s usually been a case of what’s in the fridge or on the countertop as far as the ingredients list.  Some basics include” blueberries, strawberries, banana, yogurt, vanilla, honey or sugar or sugar substitute (optional). Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, the sweet items can be left out.

Here are some Frog & PenguINN favorites.

Orange Banana-Berry Smoothie

  • 1 large banana, peeled and cut up
  • ½ C hulled and halved strawberries
  • ¼ C orange juice
  • 1 tsp honey
Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana Smoothie
  • ¼ C strawberries, hulled and halved
  • ¼ C blueberries, washed and de-stemmed
  • 1 C cold milk
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla flavoring
Peach, Strawberry, Banana Smoothie
  • 1 large banana
  • ½ C strawberries
  • 1 large peach cut up
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
With all the above variations:  Place ingredients in blending container. Blend for a few seconds to chop and then an additional 10-15 seconds until smooth.

Update:  It sold – the Nordic Track, that is, NOT the house. An earlier blog post told how the posting of a For Sale by Owner sign brought unexpected reactions at the yard sale.

Breakfast  Smoothies – Perfect for Summertime

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Strawberry Capital – Marion, MD

strawberriesThis weekend’s day trip on Saturday was to Marion Station, MD for  the “Inaugural Somerset Strawberry Festival” which featured: strawberry jams and jellies contest, Little Miss & Mr. Strawberry Pageant, non-motorized Festival parade , country music performance, crafts vendors and festival food – fries, BBQ chicken, homemade ice cream and funnel cake.

Marion Station (Marion for short) is in Somerset County, MD – about  an hour drive from the F&P. In the early 1900s, Marion was labelled the Strawberry Capital and regarded as the largest shipper of strawberries in the world.

street views (2)  contest winners0626 (3) contest winners0626 (1)

  parade float 

   stilt walker (1) stiltwalker   

Any guesses as to what this guy does for his work?

fire hse dining funnel cake (1)

 kids play smallest car

strawberry costume (2) frog-berries


bait-snack shop old HW store (2)

Strawberry trash can art . . .

trash can ART (5)  trash can art (6)

trash can art (7) trash can art (8)

From the 1900s through the early 1920s, buyers converged on Marion old photos0626 (4) to buy berries shipped in ice-refrigerated RR cars at the rate of several hundred cars daily in peak season. Trucks and wagons lined up to go through the “largest strawberry auction block” (see vintage photo). Marion (formerly Coulbourne Creek) was named for the daughter of John Horsey who paid for the right-of-way for the RR and station. In its prime, Marion was a bustling town with a hospital (first in Somerset County),two doctors, two restaurants, three schools, canning factory, candy factory, community hall, bicycle shop, movie theater, several blacksmiths, two barber shops, post office,  railroad station, and two banks.old photos0626 (5) Strawberry farming poured money to buyers and farmers. Many farmers depended on this one crop for their cash income and lived through the winter on credit to be paid at the end of the next season. Land prices rose due to the demand for growing fields. Marsh areas were used; forests and pasture lands were converted to strawberry fields. Farm equipment was purchased on credit to increase production. The sales height was during WW I when berries sold at the auction block for up to 30 cents/quart. Aside from this boom, farmers never made more than a normal living; the more berries they produced was more income for brokers and buyers.

old photos0626 (1)Here’s how it worked: Local Marion businesses owned the auction  block and restricted the buyers to locals who could financially guarantee payment to farmers. Out-of-area buyers would buy through local brokers on a 5-10 cents per crate commission. Local brokers owned or controlled the local household, fertilizer, farming equipment, and crate supplies which were sold on credit at top prices with up to 6 per cent interest added to the total annual bill. Brokers profited – assured an income from brokerage, from profits on sales to farmers, plus income from interest rates on credit. It was easy to collect payment from the farmers – the brokers bought berries their berries and deducted for the credit before final payment.

The down-trend started in the 1920s when increased acreage, improper crop rotation, plant disease, blight, and insects doomed berry production. Growing one crop continuously over an area (monoculture) exploited the soil; berries became costly to produce. The 1929 depression ended an industry near collapse – farmers went bankrupt; farms were auctioned for unpaid taxes or lost because of unpaid interest on mortgages. As strawberry production dwindled, the auction block was discontinued. Marion’s “Strawberry Capital” title  became memory.  Empty farmhouses, reminders of  prosperous times, are now “tombstones.”

Today, Marion Station has another distinction – its been named an official “ghost town” – the only one on the Eastern Shore by an internet site that monitors ghost towns in America.

old train stn

bank old old grocery (2) old grocery (1) old post office (2) old post office (4) old P.O. vines (3) old P.O. vines (2)

It’s been noted that the current annual rate of berry marketing in the U.S.does not equal one day’s marketing at Marion Station over 100 years ago. How times have changed.