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For their dogs, Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland will do just about anything 

         The conundrum of beagle love: bright loving eyes, silky tri-color fur, endless cuddling and a white-tipped, eternally wagging tail — all wrapped up with a deafening howl, the search for mischief and stubborn independence.

         When the beagle’s nose is engaged, the dog will track a scent unabashedly. Beagles are notorious for leaving the hunting pack, or digging under a standard fence, or breaking through an electric fence if they find something interesting and worth pursuing.

         Yes, the traits that make a beagle adorable often fail to outweigh the qualities that land dogs in a shelter. Without angels of rescue, a beagle in a shelter has a grim plight.

         The Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland exists to save beagles in need of a get-out-of-jail-free card. Mara Melton founded the non-profit in 2001, selling her house to help fund it.

         The first call to Melton’s shelter alerted her of eight beagles scheduled for euthanization. Melton wasn’t ready for business; she had no website and no advertising. Yet she came home with all eight dogs, one pregnant, which gave birth that evening, nearly doubling her pack of rescues from eight to 14 and jumpstarting Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland. Sixteen years later, Mara’s nonprofit is going strong.

 

Fostering the Pack

         “We learn about the dogs, love the dogs and ensure they’ll go to good homes,” said Patti Jakusz, fosterer and board member. “Some fosterers also train the dogs and help them get adjusted.”

         Many of the rescued dogs need training for domestic life. About half were hunting dogs, with little experience of a home shared by humans and pets. Others were surrendered by owners, while still others came into shelter by accident, perhaps led astray by an over-eager nose. “A beagle will follow its nose if owners don’t secure the yard well enough,” Jakusz warned.

         Regardless of the dog, open admissions is the policy at Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland.

         “We also take sick and older dogs that other rescues may pass over,” Jakusz said. Young, cute dogs are easier to rehome. But if an adopter is willing to take a dog that needs medications or treatments to stay healthy, Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland will help with expenses.

 

A Clean Bill of Health

         Getting each dog from rescued to rehomed is a feat achieved step by laborious step. Each rescue team is responsible for picking up and transporting the beagles from a shelter, then getting each dog to its foster home. Fosterers work with local veterinarians to ensure the beagles are healthy and up to date on their vaccinations, too.

         Most of these volunteers have other jobs. Yet they make the dog their first priority.

         “Often,” Jakusz said, “fosters pay for vet bills and other needed items out of pocket.”

         Young or old, every adopted dog is in peak shape before Beagle Rescue puts it up for adoption. Healthy dogs come relatively cheap to their new homes. But getting a dog healthy is anything but cheap.

         “Any dog heartworm positive is going to cost $800 to $1,000,” Jakusz explained. “Many of the older hunting dogs need dental cleaning and extractions, procedures that can cost from $200 to $1,000. Even a perfectly healthy young dog can produce vet bills beyond the $300 we request as an adoption donation.”

         Rescue organizations must also advertise the dogs up for adoption, keep up their websites, answer hundreds of emails and phone calls and ensure that adopters meet qualifications.

 

Fostering the Cause

         Rescue organizations always need more fosterers and more donations.

         It doesn’t take much beyond heart to be a qualified foster, according to Jakusz. If you have a good fence and other pets who are up to date on shots and heartworm prevention, you are well on the way to being accepted.

         Rebecca Crumlish has fostered eight beagles.

         “I had a beagle, and it passed away,” she explained, adding that her first foster was a “failed foster, meaning I fell in love and kept him.”

         She continued fostering. “It’s wonderful when the dogs find new homes.”

         That experience is part of the reason why most of Beagle Rescue’s 35 active foster homes have at least one dog, some several.

         Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland raises money by hosting adoption events and other dog-friendly activities, Jakusz said. “But our donations are primarily from people.”

 

Learn more at http://beaglemaryland.org/. Or see for yourself Sunday, September 17 at the 11th Annual ­Beagle Bash, 11am-3pm at Countryside Kennel, Owings: 301-855-8303.


Rescued by a Rescue

         Almost 1,800 beagles have been successfully rehomed through the work of this all-volunteer organization. Here’s how one of those rescues worked out.

         Six years ago, I was searching, writes Lia Keston. I knew something was missing from my life, but I never would have guessed that the missing piece was a little beagle.

         Jake was a stray rescued by ­Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland. Our connection was immediate, and we took him home.

         One night last September, Jake woke me around 1am. He pawed me, then stood on my chest and whined until I finally got up. Only then did I see that my cell phone was vibrating, notifying us that a tornado was headed directly for our home.

         We grabbed the dogs and ran to an inside room. Moments later, our house was torn to pieces. We were all unharmed. Jake saved our lives that night.

         The phrase Who rescued who? has taken on a whole new meaning for us. I am ­eternally grateful to Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland for saving Jake and for bringing him into our lives. We couldn’t know it at the time, but Jake’s actions set off a chain of events that saved another very special soul.

         Jake also brings joy and laughter and boundless love to our home. Not a day goes by when he doesn’t make us laugh, and that alone is a blessing.

Atomic Blonde

Charlize Theron beats her way through Berlin in this fantastic spy thriller

Ten days before the Berlin Wall falls, the KGB kills MI-6’s best agent. The list he acquired of all the operatives working on both sides of the Iron Curtain is in the wind. The list also identifies Satchel, a notorious double agent who plagues the British government.
    MI-6 sends their best agent, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron: The Fate of the Furious), to straighten out the mess. Her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy: Split), an agent who’s found the sex, drugs and punk attitude of Berlin more appealing than conventional spy work.
    To save her fellow agents, Lorraine must fight her way back to London and expose Satchel. Along the way, she cuts a bloody swath across both sides of the Berlin Wall.
    A stylish spy thriller with marvelous action, Atomic Blonde is a blast from start to finish. Think of it as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold for the John Wick generation. Director David Leitch, a former stuntman making his feature directorial debut, creates a fast-paced thriller with visceral action. Leitch has a talent for capturing the flow of a fight, with sequences that are brutal but peppered with humor.
    Leitch embraces the pop-punk aesthetics of 1989 Berlin, using spray paint title cards and muted tones with bright pops of color. An 80s’ synth-pop soundtrack gives the plot and action a frenetic quality that intensifies as Lorraine becomes more frantic.
    Theron offers a brilliant performance as Lorraine, whose ferocious physicality paired with her cool, collected demeanor make her a formidable character. Adding authenticity, she does most of her own fighting and stunts.
    As a corrupt MI-6 agent who may or may not still be working for the crown, McAvoy is a delight. He is a snarling, posturing mess of a man, who is far shrewder than he lets on. His dynamic with the more restrained Theron is both hilarious and fascinating.
    Wildly entertaining, action-packed and utterly watchable, Atomic Blonde is the popcorn flick of the summer.

Great Action • R • 115 mins.

Osprey chick population at a record low

May on the Patuxent River — Weeks of harsh weather and rain hammer a lonely tower, resolute like a final soldier in battle. A mother osprey braces in her nest, doing everything she can to protect her offspring. Little does she know, it is too late. No chicks will hatch in her nest this year, and she and her mate will have a ­lonely summer on the river.

This season has not been kind to osprey, but at first glance, you wouldn’t know it.

v  v  v

When I accompanied Greg Kearns on an osprey-tagging trip, nothing about the sunny July day seemed amiss.

Jetting about the Patuxent River in a motorboat with a makeshift osprey research sign duct-taped to the side, I joined a team of eight researchers, checking every osprey tower within a 10-mile radius of Brooms Island.

From our boat, it was difficult to see the near full-grown osprey chicks, flat in their nests above the water. Harder still, as we’d come to find, because nest after nest was empty.

“This is unusual,” said Kearns, naturalist and environmental educator at Patuxent River Park. “Normally we’re tagging dozens of chicks in a day.”

That day, after eight hours on the river, we checked more than 100 nests — and tagged only 18 chicks.

Tagging the birds was surprisingly easy. Armed with a ladder, tagging equipment and an eager crew, we approached the nests over the water. Kearns steered the boat as close as he could, and using a line, we tied the boat to the posts.

One of the researchers climbed the ladder, reached into the tire-sized nest and grabbed the chicks by the talons. With careful hands, he passed them down to us for tagging and weighing.

It was a windy day, and at times the boat rocked perilously side to side. But we couldn’t wait for better weather to tag these birds. As Kearns explains, osprey follow a seasonal pattern that makes timing crucial.

Parents lay their eggs in the early spring. Hatching begins around May. Newly hatched chicks fit easily in the palm of your hand. At six weeks, they are big fluffy birds almost the size of their parents. At eight weeks, they can fly.

Kearns tags the chicks just before they are mature enough to fly away. That way, the tags, like metal bracelets, fit easily around the birds’ feet without sliding over the claws. Go out too early, and the tags won’t fit. Wait too long, and the birds will fly away.

At six weeks, the unfledged chicks lay flat in their nest, playing dead as we advanced. Ferocious as they look head-on, here they are helpless. Despite their deadly talons, they will not attack.

Protecting the Species

Folks on the river get defensive about osprey. More than once, residents approached us from their docks to watch. Some were hostile, but their attitudes changed when they saw what we were doing.

Mostly, people wanted to know why Kearns tags the birds.

“I’m leaving behind a very detailed collection of data showing a long-term print — more than 40 years,” he said.

Kearns has been in charge of the project for most of those 40 years, having taken over after the founder, Steve Cardano, retired.

“Tagging birds is going to leave behind a legacy of information for researchers,” Kearns says. “Ten years from now, if the population keeps going down, they’ll be able to look back and see when it began.”

But Kearns hopes the population will rebound. There’s no telling whether this year will be an outlier or the start of a devastating trend.

Kearns is not even sure what caused so many nests to fail, but he has a hunch.

 

“My belief is that it coincides with the weather,” he says. “In May, during critical hatch time, we had a long period of cold and rainy weather. If a mother gets agitated and gets off her nest, her eggs are ruined.”

Other possibilities are predation, disease and declining food supply. While the nests, in towers over the water, are safe from raccoons and other land predators, they still must contend with aerial foes.

Great horned owls pose the biggest threat to osprey, plucking chicks from their nests like apples from a barrel. Kearns says between 10 and 15 percent of chicks fall prey to owls each year.

Kearns speculates that increased boat traffic might also have been a factor in the ospreys’ poor luck. Any disturbance might cause a mother to temporarily flee her nest, leaving the eggs exposed.

Interestingly, the osprey fared worst in the more open parts of the river. In Jug Bay and other narrow parks downstream, the birds’ success rates were higher.

Still, when Kearns is used to seeing 75 percent or more of nests with healthy chicks in the summer, the 50 percent success rate of Jug Bay seems like failure.

In total, 107 chicks have been accounted for this year. In previous years, that number exceeded 200.

Time will tell if the numbers will rise again. Next year, you can join the osprey saga. Every June and July, Kearns takes up to 450 citizens out on the water to see the beloved birds up close.

“I try to accommodate everyone,” he says. “It’s important to get people excited about nature. When they’re out there getting their hands on a bird, it’s a totally unique experience.”

v  v  v

Throughout August, the newly fledged chicks will soar over the waters of the Chesapeake and its rivers, practicing independence. Some time during these weeks, their parents will wean them. After six weeks or so flying and fishing, their migratory clocks will go off, urging them on an overland and water-journey of thousands of miles. These chicks are the hope of the species.

Compost works for us at construction sites, landfills and wastewater treatment plants

Silt-laden water from construction sites and poorly managed farm fields are notorious for contaminating our streams, rivers, lakes and bays. Silt fences are mandatory at construction sites, but even when properly installed they do not hold back clay. Adding wood chips or straw bales won’t help.
    However, adding a berm of compost a foot tall on the lower side of the silt fence will stop the clay. Filling Filtrex-Sox with compost is an excellent solution. Compost works because of its high exchange capacity. Yet many state and county regulations still specify only silt fences.
    Seeding the berm with vigorous grasses such as tall fescue or rye makes it even more effective. The roots of the grasses not only stabilize the berm but also absorb nutrients both carried by the surface water and released by the mineralization of compost.
    Compost is also an effective filter for covering landfills. Research done in Australia and replicated in the U.S. has demonstrated that compost prevents methane — generated by decomposing organic waste under anaerobic conditions — from escaping into the atmosphere. The microorganisms in the compost convert the escaping methane gas into carbon dioxide.
    In composting biosolids using forced air, finished compost filters the air exhaust and controls odors.
    All of the progress we have made and knowledge gained is due to the Clean Water Act, enacted by President Lyndon Johnson. The Act established the USDA Biological Waste Management Laboratory in Beltsville, where I had the honor of working.
    At the Biological Waste Management Lab, we developed the science of composting, maximizing the rate of composting and assuring that composted biosolids are safe to use. I worked there from 1972 until it was disbanded in 1980 by President Ronald Reagan. My research contributions were developing uses for the compost in nursery, greenhouse crops and landscaping.
    I later became involved in developing composting systems for yard debris, crab waste, paper-mill sludge and garbage. I also established the first commercial composting school, The Better Composting School, which attracted students from across the country and world.


Help with Rot and Blight

Q    I need help with two problems:        
    1. All of my squash, yellow summer and butternut, are developing blossom end rot. I added calcium nitrate upon seeing the first blossoms, but that has not helped.
    2. I have a spot in the Goshen Farm sharing garden. My tomatoes look like they have blight. These tomatoes have been stalked and lower limbs removed about eight inches up. Forty yards away in what they call the slave garden, I planted three tomatoes but had no stakes. These tomatoes are lying on the ground and have no signs of blight. Am I correct in assuming there is blight in my own space? If so, how do I get rid of it for next season?

–Paul Bunting, Annapolis

A    When was the last time you had the soil tested?
    If the squash is having blossom end rot, I suspect the calcium level is low or there is a calcium/magnesium imbalance. Applying calcium nitrate after you see the symptoms may help in reducing the problem for the rest of the summer, but it will not eliminate the rot.
    Have your soil tested by either Waypoint in Richmond or Ag Lab in Delaware.
    With regards to blight, I strip the foliage at least 12 to 14 inches from the bottom stems and also limit the number of stems at the bottom to three to promote good air circulation. The tomato plants that are not staked most likely have better air movement. Are both tomatoes the same variety? Some varieties are more susceptible than others.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Include your name and address.

The crabs were fat, plentiful and willing to be caught

I had violated my sacred rule never to promise blue crabs before they were caught. To further increase the danger of a dinner failure when an ever-growing number of people was expecting to be fed, I had not run a trotline in more than a year. Now, at well past dawn, we were only laying out the baited line at the mouth of a neighborhood creek.
    Friends from New Jersey were staying with us, and, while I had been intending to celebrate my 75th birthday with them as quietly and inconspicuously as possible, other influences were at work. I foolishly had not factored in my children, some of their friends and, not the least, my long-neglected and forgotten Facebook account, which had automatically spewed a birthday announcement far and wide.
    My wife had asked the night before, as Vincent Ransom from New Jersey and I were baiting my 600-foot line with chicken necks and sipping adult beverages, “what happens if you don’t catch enough crabs?”
    I answered that pizza would just have to do. She gave me the old arched eyebrow and stalked off. I was beginning to get a little tense and could only hope that my premature promise of enough jimmies for dinner would not jinx the crabbing.
    Adding to my growing terror, I had no actual idea where in local waters the crabs were. Luckily my charter captain friend Frank Tuma had given me a good idea of a nearby site to lay our line.
    The results of our first run of the baited line dispelled a great deal of my trepidation. With Vince manning a trotline net for his first time ever, we managed an even dozen fat jimmies that didn’t even need to be measured. After that, crabs kept flying out of his net and into our basket.
    Within an hour and a half, we were over the three-quarter bushel mark and lauding each other for our skill and luck. Of course at that same point the tidal current died, as did the crab movement. It took more than two hours to finish, but we were back at the ramp by noon with a bulging bushel of the blue beauties.
    Back at the house, Vince and I accepted our spouses’ surprised congratulations, settled our gear and cleaned up. I took a birthday nap, leaving the interim preparations in the hands of my sainted wife, Deb, and Tarin, the other half of the couple from New Jersey.
    Eventually, growing crowd noise and a constantly ringing phone woke me from my decadent mid-day slumber, and I was forced to rejoin the world below who were slowly accumulating to remind me how ancient I had become.
    My youngest son, Robert, who had flown up from his place in Florida, had taken on the task of assembling the propane tank and gas burner, tongs, cardboard platters and adding in just the right mixture of beer, vinegar and water to the crab cooker to steam the tasty devils just the right amount. Just as the feast was almost ready, our middle boy, Harrison, and his partner, Jerica, arrived from Baltimore, having finally extricated themselves from the weekend traffic.
    The pile of hot, fat crabs, heavily dosed with that familiar, steaming spice mixture, was soon heaped on the newspaper-covered dining room table, a sight as beautiful and fragrant as anything ever beheld.
    Somehow we all got seated, a platter of steamed corn and salad miraculously appeared, cold beverages distributed, a bottle of birthday champagne popped and the meal commenced. As I glanced around the room at what had transpired in my home, I wished that living on Chesapeake Bay would forever be just like this for all my family and friends.

That’s what we do by telling your stories

Every summer, usually around the All Star break, we watch our favorite baseball movie, Bull Durham. Many of the lines in that good-hearted and now only slightly daring 1988 movie have become quotable, at least by fans.
    Lines like How come in former life times, everybody thinks they were somebody famous? How come nobody ever says they were Joe Schmo?
    That line paired, spontaneously and irreverently, with my reflections as we headed to Orange, Virginia last weekend. That’s Civil War country and Revolutionary War country, too, where everything is named after patriotic heroes of war and independence.
    How much devotion is lavished on so few people, I reflected. How little we know, or care, about the Joe and Jane Schmos who were trying to get by — and incidentally making the nation — while the big names were making big decisions that might well crush them.
    That’s not how it’s done, silly, Susan Sarandon laughs back at Kevin Kostner, who shines as bright as the full moon reflecting her sun.
    Except at Bay Weekly, that is how we do it.
    Our chronicle of life in Chesapeake Country isn’t ­fixated on the half-dozen big names repeated in

48-point type

across most pages of our big newspapers. Washington politics we don’t mess with; celebrity either.
    You don’t have to be famous to appear in our pages. Yes, you might meet the governor. But you’ll meet him as you would anybody else, as a citizen of Chesapeake Country engaging with the world.
    Not all of us are setting the course of our state, and not all of us got to figure out how to spend $43.5 billion last year.
    But all of us are making human history, in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
    This week, for example, we feature Greg Kearns who each year invites hundreds of people to close encounters with hawks so fierce they can knock eagles out of the sky.
    “I try to accommodate everyone,” Kearns says of his trips to band juvenile osprey. “It’s important to get people excited about nature. When they’re out there getting their hands on a bird, it’s a totally unique experience.”
    One of those who got excited was reporter Sarah Jablon, who tells that story to you and thousands of other readers in this week’s paper.
    That’s extraordinary.
    At the other end of the spectrum is Charlotte Delaney, whose claim to fame so far as we know is as the mother of oddball Allen Delaney, Bay Weekly’s resident humorist. Spurred on by the many brides and grooms who sent us their wedding pictures for our July 13 Wedding Guide, Charlotte sent us her story with photos (below).
    Most Americans — about 75 percent — get married. So weddings are an ordinary story. Yet each one meant the world to a couple of us, and when we read those stories, the top-of-the-world expectations are as clear as on the very day.
    Certainly they are in Charlotte’s story of marrying on “June 4, 1944, during the war years. We had three weeks together before he, who was the pilot, flew off with his crew to Italy.”
    We especially like to tell the stories of young people’s engagement with the world.
    Last week, you’ll remember, it was the Elkie girls of Deale finding their way into the world with cameras.
    This week, reporters Kathy Knotts and Pam Shilling tell the story of two ensembles of young actors and dramatists, The Talent Machine and Twin Beach Players Kid ­Playwrights. Both reporters let the kids tell their own stories, so you’ll hear their voices loud and clear as they “say what they’re thinking.”
    If this is who Joe and Jane Schmo are, I’d be them for a life or two.
    Enjoy their stories.
    And remember, you can see those kids at play this weekend and next in North Beach and at St. John’s ­College, Annapolis.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher
email editor@bayweekly.com, www.sandraolivettimartin.com

No scares, but plenty of philosophic pondering

Death comes calling on the ordinary life of M (Rooney Mara: The Discovery) and C (Casey Affleck: Manchester by the Sea). C dies in a car wreck, leaving M alone in the world.
    Only she isn’t alone.
    C has followed M home. Covered now in an autopsy sheet, C is witness to M’s mourning, grief and eventual acceptance. Clearly, he is seeking closure with his wife. Yet when M moves, C stays behind.
    Now alone in the house, C passes the time chatting with the ghost next door, who has been at it so long its human name is forgotten. As he waits, other people move into the house. C sometimes tries to interact with the families, other times ignores them. Decades sail by.
    Is C doomed to haunt a shell of a home until he can remember nothing of his own existence?
    Borrowing from director Terrence Malick, writer/director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) creates spectacular visuals and an obscure, metaphoric story in which concept dominates performance and plot. Centering a movie on a man under a sheet is a bold cinematic choice.
    C is basically a silent observer, a witness to the passage of time and the lives of others. In spite of the title, this is not a typical ghost story. The dread that builds here is existential, as C learns how inconsequential his life was. Expansive vistas demonstrate the miniscule place humanity holds in the vastness of the universe.
    Lowery is committed to languid pace and tone, and his Ghost Story takes a while to get going, with long stretches of silence and scenes that seemingly go on forever. For the first 20 minutes, you sit in a soundless theater, watching Mara gorge on a pie or Affleck stare sullenly. Expect awkward laughter from some audience members and perhaps a few glances at your watch.
    But the film eventually finds its feet, and if you’re willing to put in some mental effort, you’ll be rewarded. A Ghost Story reflects on our place in the universe, our need to be remembered and the billion joys and tragedies that unfold over the years in the same space. Don’t expect anything simple, including answers.

Good Drama • R • 92 mins.

Holly Lanzaron’s picture tells a whole story of a new family

Amid the ordinary, Holly Lanzaron chanced upon the extraordinary. In a shopping center parking lot in Deale, on the crushed stone, a mother killdeer sat hatching four speckled eggs.
    “We didn’t know that she was nesting right away,” said the Southern Middle-Schooler on Deale Elks Club’s sponsored photo safari with Muddy Creek Artists Guild mentor Bea Poulin and Hannah Dove. “At first we thought that the bird was wounded and could not fly.”
    Strange as the sight seemed, it’s not strange for killdeer. The mid-sized plover whose name imitates its cry loves open areas. You see these long-legged birds scampering across lawns, golf courses and, yes, parking lots. For nesting, they like the ground, dirt or rocks and belly out a little depression to which twigs might later be added, as you see in Holly’s photo.
    To protect her open-air nest, Mother Killdeer uses several strategies. Thus, as she noticed the approaching trio, Holly recalls, “she let out a really loud scream that hurt our ears.”
    Another strategy is the broken-wing feign, also displayed in Holly’s photo.
    “We did end up spooking her,” Holly says, “but she did not want to leave her eggs.”
    To photograph the brooding bird, Holly “shot from a distance and zoomed in really close.
    “It was one of my best photographs,” says the young shutterbug, “and I am proud of it. The bird has eggs under her, and this shows she is starting a family.”
    Look at Holly’s picture, and you’ll know exactly how killdeer look: red-rimmed eye, mottled brown head and wings, white breast, two distinctive black neck rings and unfeathered three-toed feet. You’ll also see her habitat and brooding behavior. It’s quite a story this picture tells.

Hannah Dove, Bea Poulin and Holly ­Lanzaron. While on the Deale Elks’ photo safari, Lanzaron photographed this mother killdeer in a parking lot.

Turn on the blooms with Bloom

To keep plants in hanging baskets growing and flowering for two months or more, dump one-half cup of Bloom in a single lump on an eight-inch diameter hanging basket, or one cup for a 10-inch basket. At each irrigation, pour water onto the mound of Bloom. As the water flows through the Bloom, it absorbs nutrients and makes them available to the roots of the plants.


Trying to Make a Better Rain Garden

www.bayweekly.com/RainGarden-072017

Q    I just read your July 20 column Make a Better Rain Garden and have a couple of questions.
    I built a pond, near my house in rural Prince Frederick about 20 years ago. It is 100-by-60 feet and has a heavy-duty, one-piece, rubber liner under a foot or two of sand (and now, an additional 20 years of organic muck). The depth varies from one foot (a ledge along the edges) to six feet in the middle. It has two pumps, and I planted it out with native plants — arrowhead, pickerelweed, spatterdock, native water lilies — and added fish.
    I have been renting the house for eight years. The renter (with my blessing) has ignored the pond. It still holds water but is a slimy mess, has shrubs and small trees crowding around the edges and is basically going back to nature.
    I will be moving back soon. I am older now and have no interest in the maintenance required to keep the pond healthy. I have been thinking about my options: from doing nothing to filling it in and planting grass on top. Then I read your article … maybe a rain garden?
    I also don’t have the energy or budget to do it right (as you describe in the article). Is there a quick and dirty option? One that will require minimal work and still provide some of the benefits?
    For example: what if I cleared the jungle from the edges, drained the pond, let the muck dry out, drilled some holes through the liner, filled the hole with decent soil and planted native plants?
    If I go the rain garden route, do you have a list (or website) of native plants that might work in a Maryland rain garden? And maybe where to buy them?
    I always enjoy your articles.

–Steve Farrell, Broomes Island

A    My suggestion is to drain the pond, use a power auger to drill holes through the membrane and below and fill the holes with pine bark mulch. Based on your submitted pictures, I would plant bald cypress, available from the state forest nursery, deciduous holly, alder and cattails.


Grass Isn’t Always the Answer

Q    I need your expert advice. I have a street strip of grass nine feet wide and 18 feet long, separate from other parts of my yard that have pretty grass.
    I have been very frustrated watering that strip. A little silver dollar-size sprayer attached to a hose sprays a circle in one spot and takes forever to water areas like this.
    I looked at hoses with holes in it that I could use in the center of the area.
    What would you suggest?

–Ruth Gross, Bowie

A    Why don’t you forget about growing a lawn between the sidewalk and the curb and plant ground cover — junipers or Saint John's Wort, vinca major or vinca minor — something that will not need to be irrigated or mowed. Ground cover juniper is extremely drought-resistant, likes full sun and is nearly maintenance free. If you plant through landscape fabric, you will not even have to weed.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Include your name and address.

Though not Bay natives, channel catfish are worth an angler’s time

Despite a firm New Year’s resolution to rise earlier during the hot summer months to take advantage of the cooler dawn hours when the rockfish are on the hunt, I once again failed to get out of bed and on the water until 8am. The day by then was already heating up and the striper bite a memory.
    Unwilling to brave the heat and the daytime crowds chumming, I decided to focus on white perch with ultra-light tackle since the tides would remain favorable until at least noon. I was only a little sorry I wouldn’t be tussling with some heavier adversaries. But surprises were in store for me that morning.
    I was casting along a rocky shoreline to the remnants of an old lengthy bulkhead that had succumbed to storm erosion and age. Submerged rotting wood attracts grass shrimp and small minnows to feed on the decaying timbers, and that attracts and holds white perch.
    Having already put two or three bulky white perch on ice and released another half-dozen lesser-sized scrappers, I was settling into a relaxed rhythm of casting to clearly visible areas near the more substantial bulkhead remains and enjoying the action. Then my spinner bait stopped dead from a heavy strike.
    Lifting my rod smartly and expecting another spirited tussle, I was met with a strong and determined run against my firmly set drag. For the first few seconds I dreamed of a state-record white perch. When the run continued into the distance, I began thinking of a hefty rockfish. The power and determination of a striper’s run was there, but not the speed, so eventually I had to cross a keeper rock off my list of possibilities.
    When the fish finally paused, I recovered some line. Almost immediately, it took off again. Trying to slow its progress stretched my six-pound mono dangerously close to failure. Eventually the fish paused, only to continue resisting with intermittent rushes in random directions.
    I took my time. When the fish made a rush anywhere near my direction, I applied as much pressure as I could to lead it closer. Then the beast started crossing, again and again, under my hull, using my own boat against me.
    I could do little to stop that tactic. It was only chance that kept my line away from my outboard. I was on borrowed time. At last, stressing my light five-foot spin rod till its cork creaked, I netted a fat and healthy 25-inch channel catfish.
    It was the first of three I would put in my cooler that morning, losing a fourth to my outboard.
    The most numerous catfish in North America, the channel cat’s wide popularity as a sport and table fish has made it the official state fish of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee. Channel cats have whiskers, deeply forked tails and golden brown flanks with small dark spots. It’s a species introduced to Maryland via the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers but becoming an increasingly appreciated addition to the Chesapeake’s seafood cornucopia.
    The Maryland record of 29 pounds 10 ounces is held by Kevin Kern at Mattawoman Creek, but the whiskered rowdies can reach up to 60 pounds. Channel cats are generally caught in the three-to-five-pound size on the Chesapeake, but their average size is likely to increase as they become more numerous.
    The Chester is the most highly regarded river for chasing catfish in this area, but cats are found with increasing frequency in all of the Chesapeake’s tributaries, particularly around laydowns (fallen trees) and derelict docks and pilings. They also show up in mainstem chum slicks — much to the surprise of those targeting rockfish.
    Cleaning these catfish for the table requires a different technique than most of our sport-fish, as all catfish need to be skinned rather than scaled. These fish produce thick, succulent and boneless fillets with little effort.