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Regulars

Ideas, research and preparation

      It’s about that time of year when parents come to me seeking ideas for their child’s science project. Most of the time, they are desperate because their children procrastinated in announcing they had to turn in a project idea yesterday.        Here’s what I tell them:

The best comes from your own patch

        Once you have eaten fresh homemade horseradish sauce, you will never want to eat the store-bought brands. It’s even better if the roots come from your own garden.        If you grow horseradish plants, now is the time to convert the roots to sauce. The hard freeze a couple weeks ago killed the foliage, and that dieback is essential to making a horseradish sauce that has the kick of a mule. 

This time of year, a bird eats what it can get

      Great blue herons in the Chesapeake Bay area do not migrate in the winter. They struggle to find food when the waters freeze. They will look to areas of flowing water and sometimes stake out grassy fields to catch mice and small birds.        Herons from the snowier north usually migrate to warmer climates.       This Chesapeake heron has caught a hogchoker.

Is January 23 just another so what, like National ­Popcorn Day?

       It was no fun writing lessons in cursive, and no better in the hybrid connected printing I developed in obedient defiance to the nuns’ complaints of my handwriting’s illegibility. My mother couldn’t read anything I wrote, either, which may be why she insisted I take typing in high school summer school. On my own, I signed up at the same public school to learn Chancery script, a pretty Renaissance cursive. I’ve used both skills throughout my life.

Here’s how to water and repot them

     Orchids are so popular nowadays that they are being offered for sale not only in garden centers but also in drug stores and grocery stores as well as big box stores.          As houseplants, they have the advantage of producing flowers over a long period of time. They tolerate shade and perform well even when abused. They are also light to ship.

Most Baltimore orioles head south … Not this one

     This Baltimore oriole failed to migrate. Orioles usually fly down to Central and South America and winter in the warmth. Occasionally a bird will stay behind and tough it out in the cold. I think this is the second year for this bird to winter-over; one of its stops is my backyard in Riva.

It’s not always a straight path 

      Like a holiday box of chocolates (thanks Bill Vance, Betsy and Alex), this week’s paper brings you a variety of choices, all I hope to your taste. (And none, I hope, that sticky cough-medicine flavor that makes you say yuck!)

There’s a lot of work if you’re going to harvest your own fruit

      A Bay Weekly reader bragged to me that he’d created an apple orchard by planting a single tree.       “So you purchased one of those trees with four to five varieties of apples,” I replied.       He was crestfallen at failing to fool me.

Not so good? We’ve got you covered there, too

      Very often, my newspaper gives me just what I want. Plenty of puzzles to work over the splendidly empty days after Christmas. Insight into the world around me, from my community to the cosmos. Advertisers to fix what’s broken and bring me unexpected benefits, like the Pashmina shawl from Green Phoenix that’s kept me warm since Christmas.

Some of what you see is too good to be true

      Seed catalogs fill my mailbox every day. If you’ve ever ordered seeds or plants, I bet yours is filled, too. Every picture and possibility looks good this time of year. But can you trust everything you read in these appealing pages?