Category Archives: maryland

back in the d

i’m happy to be back in the d, happy for leah picking us up from the airport, happy to have eaten pupusas with leah as a thanks for picking us up, happy to be unpacked, happy to have gone though my mail and sitting at my desk, and happy to sleep in my bed tonight.

i’m feeling a little extra sad about leaving my folks house.  we had over a foot of snow and i enjoyed playing in it, sitting and reading by the fire, and cooking for my family.  i think as i get older i realize that the reason i feel so much connection to growing, making and eating food is because it connects me to my own personal history and my family.  i really can’t think of a place that i feel more grounded than in my parents kitchen cooking with my mother.  no matter how many times i cook with her, i always learn some new tips – and was happy to get a refresher on hand kneading dough, i’ve gotten a little soft, using the dough hook on the mixer for the last couple of years.  i made a batch of foccachia and oatmeal bread with her.

this trip included it’s fair share of difficult times, as family trips are prone to.  without any idea of what else to do to support those in need, cooking seemed like the right thing to do – at least i could do what i know how to do and keep everyone well fed.

with over eight inches of snow on the ground and a ton coming down most families would stay indoors, but not mine, we walked to the grocery store and video store.

back in the d, i marveled at just how overcast, grey, and stinky detroit can be, but i was also genuinely happy to be home, and thankful to have such a wonderful family.

more of the eastern shore

more time on the eastern shore – still less interest in writing.  actually plenty of interest in writing, but i want to spend time with my family and have plenty of homework to do.  but i still feel like sharing.

a dogfish or sand shark

the view of the ocean from the top of giant dune at cape henlopen.

giant artillery in a bunker at fort miles

tower at fort miles – there are many of these towers on the delaware seashore.  i’d always wanted to go inside – so it was very exciting to be able to climb to the top.

oysters!

the beach for the solstice

ma and i have this tradition going on – every winter holiday when we come home to visit our folks we take a day or two for ourselves, and have a little stay in rehoboth beach.  pretty thoughtful huh?  this year is no different, and we are able to enjoy the lovely offseason beach, some tasty food and a trip to dogfish head brewery.

i’m not feeling too much like writing right now.  even though i’m on vacation i’ve still got lots of work to do, been working on grant proposals and reviewing papers all morning.  so i’m just gonna share a few shots.

sun setting over the ocean

crab chips – within our first hour ma and i had already split a bag.  my friend leah claims that folks in maryland don’t know what crabs taste like cause we cover ’em in so much old bay.  ma’s response – we do to know what crabs taste like!  they taste like old bay!

tanker ships in the chesapeake bay

samples at dogfish head – we had some seriously strange offerings – an egyptian beer made with wheat, palm fruit, chamomile and zatar – a belgian golden flavored with cardamom and aged for 6 months in brandy barrels – an imperial porter with smoked malt, shiaz grape juice and juniper berries – and an imperial stout with honey and gesho.  only one of these clocked in at under 7.5% alcohol – which is why we got the little samples.  after all these years of folks trying to push the extreme beer envelope, i’m looking forward to folks trying to out do each other though simple tasty beers that are light in alchol and pair well with food.

and we leave off where we started, the moon over the ocean.

crabs

is there anything more symbolic of summer on the chesapeake than crabs?  i certainly can’t think of anything, and considering how much i have been eating this trip i can feel my mercury level or what ever other toxin that crab accumulate rising in my body.  it is surly worth it, if only for my attachment to tradition than to the actual flavor.  but oh what a flavor.

a crab

picking crabs

my family met up with ma’s family and we all had a good time sitting around the table eating crabs.  for those not familiar with the tradition big piles of crabs are dumped on the middle of a table covered in craft paper.  then using mallets and knives the crabs are disemboweled and the meat removed and eaten.  one crab is hardly enough to fill a person up – and i think i at 3 or 4, which would hardly have impressed my teen self as i’m pretty certain i could eat at least a dozen.  but it’s quality not quality that counts, and these were by far some of the best crabs i have consumed (all thanks to ma’s brother david), and i had other things to eat beside crabs, namely corn.  we had acquired corn from greenbranch farm and it was great.  crabs, corn and beer the great maryland tradition.

summer on the eastern shore

the first summer in long time that we have visited back to the motherland – the eastern shore of maryland.  i certainly don’t miss the oppression of the warm weather and humidity, but still it’s nice to enjoy home with plants growing instead of the cold dreary weather of december.  ma and i split up with i visiting my folks and she hers and meeting up again on the 4th.

few locations are as ingrained in my psyche as much as pemberton park, a small stand of woods that my family and i would go for walks at almost every week.  i don’t think i have completed a visit to my folks house without at least one walk there, and often multiple walks.  so we had to take a walk there.  always on the look out for food – we foraged on black berries.

blackberries

warm from the sun, and complex flavored – not just sweet, but with some tartness, and a little bitter flavor of tannin.  i think i’m coming to realize that i like black berries much better than black raspberries, or perhaps it is just that the flavor of cultivated varieties lacks complexity – it’s flavor profile reduced to little more than sweet.

after pemberton and a lunch time meal of crab cakes (you have to gorge yourself on the crustaceans when i can), we headed out to visit greenbranch farms.  the owner/operator – ted also used to work for my farming mentor jay.  i wanted to check out his operation and see what other organic farmers were doing in the area.

i have to say i was impressed.  ted had a really nice farm stand, and a very diverse farm.

produce

price list

in addition to produce he also offered beef, chicken, pork and eggs from his farm plus milk and cheese from a local dairy.  ted was kind enough to take a bit of time to talk about his operation and the lay of the maryland organic land – at least as he saw it.  Seems that there is still a huge amount of demand, and in talking i saw several gaps in the food system mostly in processing and in distribution.  the same gaps that you see in urban areas you seem to be seeing in rural areas.  part of the reason f0r this is that both communities are trying to create system that are based on local small scale processing.

my folks and i took a quick tour of his farm.

a view from the south end of the fields.

about half of the fields were in diverse vegetables and the other half was in pasture.  these get rotated every couple of years so that the area that was in pasture turns into vegetables.

broilers

out in the field he had about a dozen chicken tractors with broilers in them.  these are moveable coops that each day get dragged to a bit of pasture that has not yet been grazed on yet.

eggmobile

in addition to the broilers he also had this movable coop for laying hens.

chickens

the livestock operation seems to be somewhat modeled after joel salatin’s work at polyface farm.  in the wood lot were pigs but they were not interested in anything to do with me.

later that night my mama

and i put together a peach cobbler – easily among my favorite of treats – peaches just somehow lend themselves to being cooked with dough so well.  i mostly just listened and took pictures.  this is from my grandma’s recipe.

the filling for the cobbler

mama making cobbler

the finished cobbler

look at it glistening – looks like something that should be featured in magazine or something like that.  when ma was recommending that we take a quick trip home for the fourth of july weekend, i thought it was much to short of a trip to travel that far, but even just one day with my folks is worth the trip.  what fun.

best of

today marks the 1 year anniversary of this blog, when i posted the first post.  and while i wouldn’t recommend going back and reading that first post, i did spend a little time and reviewed some of my favorite posts or events of the last year.

for those coming in late, or wondering what i took the most joy in…

among the better articles i’ve been interview for and the one that paints me as a jackass and yet somehow wise all at once was linked to in this post.  be warned the article is long – if you only want to see my quotes scroll to the end.

my post about my work on the edible detroit map which i’m mainly bring to your attention to get more folks to help out with it

my attempts to get folks to think that riding the bus was cool and fun, i’m finding myself questioning my own wisdom as lately i deal with late buses, those that simply pass me by, and ones that fail to pull over due to faulty signal cords and drop me off several blocks past my stop.

this well produced al jazeera film – the financial times and al jazeera in one year – mama must be so proud

the first morels i’ve ever found before.  and oh boy were they good.  looking forward to more this year.

my documenting the lives of backyard poultry

the u.p. trip part 1 and part 2

the guest blogs i was asked to do for metromode

the short film made over the summer by sara cross detroit: green

the series of posts from the eastern shore but especially ones about assateague, the westside, and walking in the snow.

the new program we are unrolling at work this year

and finally the high lite of the year is the picture ma made for me linked to in this post

thanks for all the kind words and encouragement.

old skool garden

so i’ve had a new computer for i think 3 years now, which means it’s not new anymore, but considering that the last one i got was in 1998, it’s gonna be a long time before i think of it as old.  you can do a file transfer of all your stuff from one computer to the other when you first set it up, but i knew i had a bunch of junk that i wanted to get rid of before i transferred anything over so i didn’t bother.  i had one of those thumb drives that i was using to transfer over – but it only held 128 mb on it.  at the time of acquiring this thumb drive 128 mb seemed like a tremendous amount of memory to have on such a little thing.  trying to transfer all the files in 128 mb chunks proved to be a chore and i soon gave up in frustration.

over the holidays ma’s mom was kind enough to give me a new thumb drive that holds a gig worth of stuff.  a gig –  just sit back and ponder how much memory that is.  i remember having a computer with a 512 mb hard drive and thinking that there is no way they could every make a bigger hard drive.  there is no way i will ever be able to fill that thing up.

moving the files over from the old computer has revealed some gems – including these from about 12 years ago.

the east side of the garden

the west side of the garden

the garden that started me down this journey, the garden that made me want to quit my job the go work on a farm.  and man is it unimpressive.  well actually the little borders made of boards from pallets and the pins holding them in place made of bamboo are pretty impressive.  but nothing else looking to impressive.  many things were learned in this garden playing on my own.  my first battles with squash vine borer, my first battles with woodchucks, my first expose to quackgrass, my first exposure to fusarium wilt.  it’s a wonder i kept going.  i think i was a little over excited to use photoshop to label everything in these photos – a bit busy.

in the background you can see the vacant lot next to the garden where the billboard company used to store supplies.  i would collect black walnuts from the yard, take out the five iron i found in a closet when we moved in and hit them as hard as i could into the vacant lot.  the goal was to try to hit the metal billboards which would make such  a delightful thud noise when the walnuts struck them.

one day i came home from work to discover that the billboard company had gotten its revenge, they had expanded their parking area into my garden, grading the little hill i used to hit walnuts off and covering in black top.  wasn’t the first garden i’d lost to building, and it wasn’t the last.