view counter

Features (Good Living)

Net a Crab

Our beautiful swimmers are starting to run

Dennis Doyle’s cautious Sporting Life report that crabbing finally “may be improving” is seconded by commercial crabbers, who are notorious pessimists. Better still, we’ve seen chicken-neckers pulling in crabs at local piers.
    Chicken-necking for Chesapeake Bay blue crabs requires you spend a quiet morning or afternoon alongside the Bay or one of its rivers. It gives you the fun of catching wily crustaceans. Then you get to eat them.
    You don’t need any fancy equipment or permits. Maryland allows catching up to two dozen crabs per angler per day without a license, and a dozen crabs is a generous meal for just about anyone.
    What you do need is a ball of cotton twine for your hand lines, a package of chicken necks (easily acquired at most grocery or bait stores), an inexpensive, wire crabbing net, a ruler to measure your crabs and a basket to hold your catch. A pair of tongs or some thick gloves are also helpful for handling your feisty catch; their claws can pinch hard.
    For each of your hand lines, strip off about 15 feet of string and tie a chicken neck securely to one end. Tie the other end to the pier or on some shoreline structure. Throw the neck into the water. You can use any number of baited lines.
    When a crab happens upon your chicken neck, it will immediately attempt to swim off with it, and your line will straighten out. Gently take the string in your fingers and slowly pull it back. If you’re careful, the crab will hold on until it nears the surface of the water. You or a companion must be ready with the net at that point.
    Position the net in the water a foot or two down below where you believe the crab will appear. Note that a crab will always flee downward. Pull the crab up until you can see it. Then scoop from below as quickly as you can.
    If you’ve been successful, measure the crab before you put it in your basket to be sure he’s legal size, at least 51⁄4 inches from tip to tip. All females, distinguished by their triangle-shaped apron on the underside, must be returned to the water.
    In Anne Arundel County, Sandy Point State Park has a nice crabbing pier, as does Carr’s Wharf in Mayo, the latter with no fee. There is also good free crabbing at Jonas Green Park at the Severn River Bridge. In Calvert, chicken neck free from piers at Solomons and at Kings Landing Park in Huntingtown.
    Find information on where to crab, regulations on sizes and seasons at Maryland Department of Natural Resources website: dnr.state.md.us/fisheries.

When you’ve found a Chesapeake beach, you’ve found a treasure

From shells to polished pebbles to driftwood to fossils, Bay beaches aren’t just for sunbathing and fishing.
    To dip into Bay waters in Anne Arundel County, start at 786-acre Sandy Point State Park. As well as the big beach (with lifeguards at prime hours) and great views, including Sandy Point Shoal Light House, there’s room to picnic, play, fish or crab and launch a boat. No camping — except June 27-28 for the Great American Campout. No dogs in summer. 6am-sunset; $4 to $7 per person: 410-974-2149; www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/sandypoint.asp.
    At the other extreme in Rose Haven is Anne Arundel’s smallest public beach, a stretch of Bay beauty on the corner of Albany and Walnut avenues. At the park, created under the county’s Open Space Program, you can sit on the beach, get into the water, launch your kayak or walk your dog. Parking, like the beach, is small. 877-620-8367.
    Other small beaches have very limited access because of open hours and parking (see aacounty.org/recparks/parks/community). Mayo Beach, for example, is open only one day a month, which happens to be Sunday, June 21, for a Watersports Fun Fest. See 8 Days a Week.
    In Calvert County, the North Beach boardwalk separates the Bay from Bay Avenue. Boardwalk is free for all, dogs as well as people. Beach and fishing pier are more restricted: people only with fees for out-of-towners, a high $15 a day. Kayaks, paddleboards, umbrellas and chairs rented. Season passes and Calvert resident discounts. 301-855-6681; ci.north-beach.md.us.
    Chesapeake Beach’s Bayfront Park offers a small beach, big boardwalk and Calvert Cliffs, so it’s a good place to hunt sharks teeth. Bring your dog — as long as you bring waste disposal bags. Free to townies; $7 to county residents; $16 for others. 6am-dusk: 410-257-2230; chesapeake-beach.md.us.
    At Breezy Point you’ll find a half-mile of sandy beach plus swimming in a netted area to reduce the risk of those pesky sea nettles, a 300-foot fishing and crabbing pier — plus picnicking, fishing and camping by tent and RV. 8am-8pm. Rt. 261. Beach admission: SaSu $10; M-F $6; season passes available: 410-535-0259; co.cal.md.us/residents/parks/getinvolved.
    Flag Ponds Nature Park has a fine beach, fishing pier, good fossiling, great Bay views, nature trails and picnicking, all with easy access for handicapped drivers. Leashed dogs welcome. SaSu 9am-8pm; M-F 9am-6pm; $6; season pass $20: 410-586-1477; calvertparks.org.
    It’s a 1.8 mile hike to the fossil-laden beach at Calvert Cliffs State Park in Lusby, but you can bring your dog for company. Don’t walk on or beneath the cliffs — they’re unstable but offer good fossiling. Also nature trails and picnicking. 301-743-7613; dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/calvertcliffs.asp.
    At Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary’s County you’ll find long sandy shores and great Bay views plus tall pines, fishing and picnicking areas, campsites and cabins, Civil War historic sites with powerful history and Point Lookout Lighthouse. Dogs allowed in some areas. dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/pointlookout.asp.
    Beaches belong to all of us up to median high tide line, so they’re yours to enter by water. Wherever you find it and however you arrive, treat your treasure with loving care. Leave no litter behind.

A fresh-cut Douglas fir is the safest tree you can buy

Believe me when I say that not all Christmas trees are created equal. I know because I was assigned to set fires under the five most popular Christmas species.
    In 1995, I was asked by the Maryland Christmas Tree Association and the State Fire Marshall’s office to research the most fire-resistant species. I tested white pine, Scots pine, blue spruce and both Douglas and Frazier firs. The State Fire Marshall set the rules. I rolled a single sheet of newspaper into a ball about 10 inches in diameter. I placed the ball against the lowest branches of the tree, then set it afire.

Ancient Ailing Oaks

Q    I live in the St. Margaret’s area near the Bay Bridge. In my neighborhood, many, if not most, of the old oak trees are dead or dying. These are original trees in an area that was never farmed; I’m sure many of them are well over 100 years old. It is so distressing since they are beautiful and I love them and because it costs $2,000 to $3,000 to have them cut down. Do you know why they are dying? Is there anything I can do to save them? I think they are red oaks, though my tree identification skills are poor.
    Thanks so much for your help. I read your column every week and thoroughly enjoy it.
    –Linda Williams, Annapolis

A    There is no way that I can determine the cause of death without seeing the conditions in which they are growing. I have cherry bark oak trees in my yard that are over 150 years old. I keep them healthy by vertical mulching every four to five years. When I moved here 22 years ago, they were in a severe state of decline, but after being vertically mulched, they revived. I suggest that you contact Mark Emmel at 301-345-2981. Mark is a good arborist and is familiar with vertical mulching.
Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

    Fresh-cut trees of each species were delivered to me at Upakrik Farm and stored — some with, others without water — at 70 degrees with lights on for eight hours. Trees were held in storage for three and six weeks prior to testing.
    We set the fires in the Fire/EMS Training Academy’s burn building at Cheltenham, with several Christmas tree growers watching. Each variant of the experiment was replicated three times and videotaped for evaluation by fire marshals from three counties and from the state office.
    White pines generated lots of smoke regardless of the amount of time in storage. They were immediately rejected by the fire marshals.
    Frazier firs were also rejected. Stored without water, they burned readily after three weeks of storage. After six weeks, they exploded into fire.
    Douglas fir was approved as the most fire-safe tree because even after six weeks of storage without water, it did not ignite. Scots pine and blue spruce were also approved.
    We repeated the experiment in 1996 with exactly the same results.
    As a Christmas tree grower, I attribute the Douglas fir’s fire-safe performance to its low resin content. My knives and pruners remain clean even after days of shearing. This is not true with the other species tested.
    As a result of this study, the State Fire Marshal established COMAR 12.03.04, allowing only Douglas fir, Scots pine and blue spruce in public buildings. Each tree must be accompanied with a tag identifying the farm where it was grown, date of harvest and species. Before the tree is moved indoors, two inches must be cut from the base. Tree stands must hold a minimum of two gallons of water. The tree must stay indoors no longer than four weeks.
    To keep your house fire-safe this Christmas season, follow these recommendations.

The interloper visits Spica and Mercury

Mercury is putting on its best pre-dawn show of 2013, more than doubling in brightness this week, from +1 magnitude to –0.5 (each order of magnitude is exponential, so an increase from +1 to 0 is a doubling). Monday marks the innermost planet’s greatest elongation — its farthest point away from the sun as seen from earth and its highest point above the horizon. Mercury rises a little before 6am and climbs nearly 15 degrees above the southeast horizon before the sun rises more than an hour later. Ten degrees above Mercury is blue-white Spica, but even this first-magnitude star pales compared to Mercury this week.
    First discovered last September, Comet ISON is heading into the inner solar system for the first time, coming within 700,000 miles of the sun November 27. If the comet survives that close encounter, it could live up to the comet of the century billing. If not, the next two weeks are your best chance to spot this long-distance traveler.
    With binoculars or a small telescope, look for ISON one degree to the west of Spica Sunday before dawn and less than one-half degree to the east of the star the next morning. By next Thursday and Friday, ISON will be within 10 degrees of Mercury — well within your binoculars’ field of view. Perhaps by then it will be bright enough to see with the unaided eye.
    Sunday marks the full moon, the Beaver Moon and the Frost Moon according to lore. The full moon floats just six degrees below the miniature dipper-shape of the Pleiades star cluster, while Monday night it is even closer to Aldebaran, the red eye of Taurus the bull.
    The full moon’s glow washes out all but the brightest meteors in this year’s Leonid shower, which peaks between the 16th and 18th. Still, the Leonids are active through the month, so patience or luck will likely reward you with a few of these shooting stars.

Find a Fossil

Bay beaches keep a record of natural as well as human history.
...

There’s history in them thar shards

Bay beaches keep record of history. Some of these bits are treasures.
    Look and you may find not only sea-washed glass but also pieces of pottery from the China trade, bits of everyday ceramics from the early 1900s or clay pipes from the 1700s.
...

Four easy recipes to savor into darker days

Summer produce has arrived in abundance. Now’s the time to preserve can, pickle and ferment to keep your table local long past summer. Preserving is the trend of the times, and for good reason.
...

It’s hard work, but someone has to do it

This is one of those tough jobs. Tougher than ever now that crab catches are no longer abundant so that you’ll pay for the luxury of eating a Chesapeake Bay crab cake. But somebody’s got to do, so it might as well be you.
    Start with a notebook for recording your tasting results. Here are your judging guidelines. Rank each crabcake you taste from 1 to 5:
    1. Most important: Is it made from Chesapeake Bay blue crab? Ask!
...

Put up some Dilly Beans

At the farmers market and in the garden, summer has boldly arrived. Succulent cucumbers, herbs and peas are ready for a feast.
    Take some time to put up that abundant harvest. Can it, preserve it and ferment it in ways that will save and enhance the flavors of summer. Preserving provides quick, easy toppings and snacks that are a bright reminder of summer freshness for months to come.
...

From Major League to local teams, the nation’s pastime is alive and well

“I see great things in baseball,” wrote America’s poet Walt Whitman 169 years ago. “It’s our game — the American game.
    “It has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere.”
...