Volume 1 Issue 16 1993
November 18 - December 1

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week! Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

Swans Return
Turkey to Go
World’s Eyes on Chesapeake

Burton on Lures and Allures

They don’t grow turkeys the way they did in the old days.
Editor Martin is the other character in this 1948 picture.

1. Winter’s warm on the Chesapeake if you summer on the Tundra

2. The Chesapeake’s ahead of many coastal seas on restoration, but we still have miles to go (Eco feature and

Laughing Gourment. If not cooking’s reason for you to give thanks, here are some choices

4. Bay Life
Everybody says Chesapeake Country is pretty as a picture. Barbara Noel puts its pictures on Christmas cards.

Dock of the Bay
Editorial | Appreciation | Who's Here | Diversion & Excursion | Green Consumer

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The World Learns the Bay Way
From Eastern Europe to Western Australia, they gathered in Baltimore to see how we do it

by Carolyn Martin
New Bay Times Environmental Correspondent

Chesapeake Bay restoration is an environmental model of international scope. Chapters of our success story went under the magnifying glass recently during an international coastal seas conference in Baltimore. Over 500 people from 45 countries eyeballed the Chesapeake Bay Program from every angle—science and technology, governing and citizen involvement.

The four-day meeting, called the Environmental Management of Enclosed Coastal Seas Conference, was an earthwide forum on water ringed by people—among them the Indian Ocean, Baltic Sea, North Sea and Gulf of Mexico. As hosts, Chesapeake Bay keepers set the table.

What could scholars and scientists from Australia, Germany, Sweden and Estonia learn from our local experts? Lots—from such basics as setting and implementing goals to the intricacies of developing computer programs.

Nutrients aren’t just a Bay problem; they’re also a worry for Australia’s western coast. Hugh Kirkman traveled to Maryland from Western Australia to learn about controlling nitrogen. He says that by the year 2020, metropolitan Perth will be dumping 9,000 tons of nitrogen into the Indian Ocean each year.

“Our pristine coastline is a whole series of reefs,” he explained. “On the inside of the reefs are seagrass beds, the largest and most diverse in the world. We want to know how much nitrogen can be put into the marine environment without causing an unacceptable change.”

Chesapeake Bay Program scientists used years of experience to instruct how to set up scientific models to measure destructive nutrients. You also need tough national laws, they observed. As much as 20 percent of the Bay’s nutrient problems drop out of the sky, and the federal Clean Air Act will help reduce about 4 percent of airborne nitrogen, said the EPA’s Lewis Linker.

“We spend considerable time, effort and money trying to reduce nutrients from sewage treatment plants,” Linker said. “With the Clean Air Act, now we’re taking the smart move of starting to reduce nutrients from smokestacks and car exhausts.”

From Stockholm, Sweden to Houma, Louisiana, everybody wanted to know how to organize and involve citizens—virgin territory for many environmental efforts.

“This is a new thing I've found out here,” said Ingrid Jansson of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, “the way you talk to people and make them interested in these projects.”

Sharing Tactics
Once again, the Bay story was recited, no punches pulled. Lobbyists, activists and state employees sometimes seemed to grit their teeth behind forced smiles when asked about forming coalitions.

“Decide, announce, defend ... that’s how we used to do business,” explained Timmerman Daugherty of the Maryland Department of the Environment. But that course of action made public enemies rather than allies. Now the environmental agency “strives to include citizens as partners in the early stages rather than opponents after policy is set.”

Ann Powers, a lawyer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, argued the citizens’ part. “Having the ability to hold the government’s feet to the fire is crucial,” she said.

She urged citizen organizers to hire their own experts to watch government. But she cautioned them to seek every opportunity to negotiate, not litigate. Educate people if you want to make progress, she said. Over half of Foundation programs, including its Save the Bay skipjack, are educational, she noted.

Ctizen advisory groups are one way to involve regular folks in environmental policy-making. But first, policy makers must remake attitudes.

Fran Flannigan of the Alliance for Chesapeake Bay observed that “the objective is not to make everybody happy. It’s to make the government process work better so that points of view get represented.”

That’s the kind of advice Lynn Woods came to hear. She used to “raise Cain” down in the bayous west of New Orleans. Now, the former citizen activist works in Louisiana for the National Estuary Program. She calls the Chesapeake’s keepers “old hats” at creating success stories and says she turned to the pros to learn how to turn around the Bayou State.

“I’m hoping to go back and change the world,” she said.

Tom Horton, author, Bay expert and Baltimore Sun columnist, explained that he tries to blend passion and fact to involve readers in scientific information and “give a voice and purpose to nature.”

World Wildlife Fund vice president William Eichbaum suggested the arts and environment panel which included Horton. Eichbaum credits books like Chesapeake and Beautiful Swimmers with creating a new sense of responsibility among Bay area residents.

“Suddenly, people in Maryland and Virginia were confronted with the fact that this is not our little piece of water in our backyard that we can trash if we want to,” he said.

~This is a resource that seems to have enough interest that people write books about it that sell pretty well around the country. Maybe we have a responsibility that’s a little bit larger here.”

Maryland Lends a Helping Hand
Taking responsibility is a new concept to Eastern European participants who’ve only recently acquired that right. And environmental cleanup is a top priority for the Slovak Republic, which is turning to Maryland for help.

During the conference, Jozef Zlocha, Slovak Republic Minster of the Environment signed an agreement to work with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

As a first step, a list of 500 Maryland environmental companies has been given to the Slovaks, who want help with air pollution, water quality, waste management and public involvement. “I’m convinced your approach to protecting the Bay can be used in the Danube River basin,” said Zlocha.

Of course, the Bay story is not the be-all and end-all of environmental successes, and what works for the Chesapeake may not necessarily work for the Caribbean.

Donald Boesch of the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies observed: “It’s the best thing we have going nationally, but that doesn’t mean it is the model, that it can be extended and placed elsewhere...We need to continue to modify.”

Throughout the conference, Bay experts reminded their national and international colleagues that our restoration is a work in progress. Locals came to learn and listen as well as to teach and talk. For instance, scientists in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea lead the way in fighting toxic algae blooms. Researchers at the Baltic Sea can teach how to reduce levels of DDT, a banned pesticide and toxic PCBs.

Is there room for improvement in the Chesapeake Bay Program? Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary David Carroll doesn’t hesitate.

“Sure, always,” he said.

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Swans Return to the Chesapeake
by Bruce Bauer
Special to New Bay Times

It used to be called Armistice Day, November 11. At 11 o’clock, schoolchildren stood silent for a minute to commemorate the end of World War I. Now it’s called Veteran’s Day on calendars and few schools commemorate it. But November 11 is traditional Tundra Swan day to me and some of the other watchers around the thousands of miles of the Chesapeake’s shore.

These great white birds drop down from high altitudes in a maneuver called “swanfall” by Tom Horton, Eastern shore native and Baltimore Sun columnist, in his beautiful book by that name. They “whiffle” down, spilling air from their wings by rocking from side to side. They are not observing any period of silence but making raucous whoopings and howlings, seemingly in celebration of the end of a long voyage.

Once down low in a landing pattern, they straighten out into the wind in formations of two’s and three’s (for they are strong on family togetherness), boring in like heavy seaplanes or—better—like the space shuttle on touchdown at a high angle of attack. At the last minute their shiny, black, Ping-Pong-paddle size feet are cocked up to breaking position. Then the splashy touchdown.

I’ll admit that some advance elements of migrators might arrive ahead of schedule. Last year Joe Moriarty of Masons Beach saw three or four birds on November 4, but I didn’t see any until the seventh. This year I saw three adults and two characteristically sooty-looking cygnets on the first, and by the third there were 17 Tundras bobbing about in Herring Bay. By the eleventh, they were arriving in batches. Then arrivals taper off in a couple of weeks. Last year I counted swans a couple of times a week all season, and my high total for Masons beach was 160. The size of the flock fluctuates as individuals visit around other coves and creeks such as Fairhaven and Parkers.

These Tundra swans are among the largest of all flying birds, with the males about 22 pounds and the females two pounds daintier. Less common Trumpeter swans, the largest waterfowl, get up to about 30 pounds. While domestic turkeys, ostriches and cassowaries get considerably bigger, size has cost them the power of flight. Tundra wingspan is about six feet, compared to trumpeter seven to eight, condor eight and great albatross at 12. Only four yards.

Tundras were formerly called Whistling Swans, although among the wide range of sounds they do make, nobody ever claimed to have heard a whistle. Someone explained, unconvincingly, that they cleave the air in flight so fast that it whistles.

Just how fast they go is known by computation of distance and time while migrating. From sightings and distance measurements, experts have figured that they travel about 50mph during transits. Top speed is harder to determine, but pilots report considerably higher speeds when an airplane approaches them from astern. Aerodynamically, the swan’s body is of superior design, better even than the hawk’s and other fast flying raptors’.

Tundra is really a better first name for these swans because that’s where they are hatched and spend summers, way up near the Arctic Circle in the northern extremes of Alaska and Canada’s Northwest Territories, in the western hemisphere.

Tundra is Russian for marshy plain. It means treeless, soggy, grassy plain with mud, ooze, mosquitoes, predators such as fox and weasel, high winds and excruciating winter. Young swans are born there on a little mound of mud and grass in mid-summer and have a remarkably short time, say 60 days, to grow feathers, strengthen wings, take flight lessons, solo and get out of there before the weather shuts down flight operations. Long-termers and slow learners are lost.

Of the 90,000 or so estimated North American Tundra swan population, about two-thirds winter on the East Coast of the United States. The long migration proceeds in stages down the continent. Swans stop over in lake areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada and along the northern U.S. border in places like Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

They lay over for a month or so somewhere enroute, stoking up on several pounds a day of pondweed with its high energy food value. Calories are crucial not only because of the rigors of the long jump to the Chesapeake but also because the food supply here over the winter is, let’s face it, slim.

Then, too, there’s that long northward spring trip, perhaps against the wind, to plan for. Tundras lose as much as 90 percent of their stored body fat during wintering over. Thirty years ago, in the period known as the good old days, shallow water in places like West River was choked with seaweed. Swans must have been much better fed on their preferred foods.

Swans differ from Canada geese in flight in that they don’t use that large, regular V flying formation but straggle along in twos and threes—families we think, or like to think. Individual birds can be distinguished from geese because their necks are longer, about two-thirds of total flying length. The windpipe looped within that neck is about four feet long stretched and is further remarkable because it is designed to conduct air two ways at once. The Tundra is constantly taking in and expelling breath when flying.

What swans find to eat in Herring Bay these days is hard to say. In front of our house at Masons Beach in November when the tide is out and northerly winds help push ebb tide water down the Bay and retard the flood tides, the mud bottom may be exposed out for 200 yards or more. A few rocks have some small amount of a sort of leafy weed attached, but there is no widespread crop of anything looking edible.

Swans are known to eat soft-shelled clams sometimes in some places, but a long tramp on the bare mud flats reveals no traces of them in water shallow enough for swan feeding.

Dr. Bill Sladen, formerly of Johns Hopkins and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, preeminent swan expert and founder of the swan monitoring and adopting program, tells us that the scarcity of Bay grass has been forcing swans into the cornfields in increasing numbers. But while Canada geese are happy munching on the 10 percent of the corn crop lost on the ground by automated harvesting and have been wooed away from traditional feeding by it, Tundras don’t like grubbing around in the stubble. For one thing, the lack of protective water makes them nervous. In fact, they usually spend nights afloat even if forced to dine ashore.

Quite a few people along the shore feed the swans, usually dried corn which they can apparently find on the muddy bottom without difficulty. Early in the season, they are shy and will not approach the corn flinger on the shore. After a few weeks, they will paddle right over when called if they recognize a benefactor. With their astonishingly keen eyesight, they can tell from a long way off if your are carrying a container. My wife, Nancy, gets them to come flying in from half a mile away if she’s carrying corn. I have tried to get them to come if I just hoot swanlike sounds at them, but it doesn’t work. When a Tundra gives you a disgusted look, it’s devastating.

How migrating fowl navigate has been a topic of interest for many years, but we still don’t know much about it. One theory alleges that they sense the earth’s magnetic lines of force, and for general navigation they may.

Another theory is that they keep on course by observing the sun and stars. A few years ago I saw a sight over on the Eastern Shore that made me think there’s something to it. A heavy fog was hiding the sun and whole sky. Swans and geese by the hundreds were dropping down into a barren field, not to feed or to visit or because this was their destination. It was clear that they were waiting for visibility to improve so they could navigate. I have read that they will still fly on cloudy days, as long as they can get up high enough to break out on top.

Last year when we had about a hundred snowy white Tundras in Herring Bay, one day there appeared among them a coal black swan with curly feathers on his back. White flashes show when the wings are extended, and the bird is somewhat smaller than the noble Tundras. Black swans from Australia were carried back to Britain for decorative reasons and have been raised in the states in recent years. After many phone calls to bird experts, I was referred to Aubrey Collinson of Mayo, who raises waterfowl.

Earlier that summer, the male of a pair of black swans, wings unclipped, had gone over the hill. The black swan followed the Tundra flock around for a month or so, then was seen no more on Herring Bay. Collinson said he had heard reports of it from time to time but had no hope of getting it back.

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Green Consumer
by Joel Makower

About a year ago, Yvon Chounard, founder and owner of Patagonia, the mail-order clothing store, made a rather extraordinary statement to readers of his company’s fall/winter catalog. After undergoing an environmental product audit, Chounard had come to the conclusion that “Everything we make pollutes.”

As a result, he said, the company “decided to make a radical change: We are limiting Patagonia’s growth in the United States with the eventual goal of halting growth altogether.” The company dropped 30 percent of its clothing line in that catalog.

Patagonia’s latest fall/winter catalog arrived recently, and this year Chounard offers another intriguing essay.

Among other things, Chounard discovered over the past year that despite Patagonia’s efforts to simplify production and materials in order to minimize its environmental impact, things just weren’t that simple. “To make beautiful things that work well and use a minimum of materials requires greater, not less, complexity in design, demands more human intelligence, attentiveness, and effort,” he says.

Chounard points out that the same level of complexity, intelligence, attentiveness and effort are required on the part of those who buy his company;s clothes. “As individuals we face complex environmental choices about the clothes we wear,” he writes. “The first question is not whether our new pants should be carried home in a bag made of paper or plastic (their harm, too, is about equal), but whether we need the pants at all.”

He concludes: “To fully include environmental concerns in our ordinary work is to give something back to the planet that sustains us, and that we have taxed so heavily. It’s a complex process, but the simplest of gifts.”

Chounard’s wisdom comes at a fitting time: just as we prepare ourselves for what has come to be called the “holiday season,” a time of giving—and of buying. It is an apt time to take a hard look at what we buy, from whom, and why. What are our purchases made from? Who makes them? How far must they travel to reach you? How long will the product last, and what will happen to it after that? Are there better alternatives? Is this purchase really necessary?

This is not to say that every potential purchase needs to become an exercise in introspective agony. And this is by no means an argument for opting out of the holiday season by not giving gifts at all.

The choices aren’t always easy ones, and you may at times find yourself with more questions than answers. But what’s key is to try.

That just might be the most precious gift you give all year.


2,001, A Train Odyssey?
Imagine hopping a train in Washington and stopping in Baltimore 16 minutes later. Or making it to BWI airport in nine minutes.

No, you’re not traveling on the starship Enterprise; you’re flying just above ground at 300 mph on the proposed high-speed magnetic levitation train.

“Can you imagine what it would do not only to travel, but to residential living and to shopping patterns?” asked Jack Kinstlinger, chairman of KCI Technologies, Inc. of Towson, the organization that will earn $900,000 for consulting on the project.

KCI is studying the so-called Maglev train for Maryland, which is competing with other areas to become the site for the prototype of the futuristic train.

Congress has authorized spending $725 million, and the Baltimore-Washington route is one of several in the country hoping to be chosen in the next several years by an office in the federal Department of Transportation that hasn’t been created yet.

Also in the running are routes in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Las Vegas. Kinstlinger believes that the Baltimore-Washington area has built-in advantages, among them guaranteed ridership and revenues from two major cities situated close to one another.

Choosing Washington—where many foreigners travel—could be wise from the standpoint of exporting the technology, Kinstlinger said.

“Countries around the world will be building these trains some day,” he predicted.

Of course, there are a slew of obstacles on the track. The technology could have many bugs. Enormous political pressures will be exerted on Congress and the White House to win the project. Naysayers will see a boondoggle rather than a boon to local economies.

Environmental impact studies could take years; construction may not begun until the year 2,000.

Nonetheless, travelers, train lovers and, of course, consultants are tantalized by the potential.

“It is exciting,” observed Kinstlinger.

Smithsonian Deere (No, Make that Deer) Season to Open
The virgin 2,300 acres of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center will be paradise to 272 hunters during Maryland’s 1993 hunting season, November 27 to December 11.

Deer are so thick on the lower Anne Arundel County property that they’re making it hard to get work done or crops harvested. Thicker still are deer ticks, tiny, notorious carriers of dreaded Lyme disease. “Complaints of Lyme disease in the area have been inordinate, including a number of infected Smithsonian Center employees,” says Maryland Natural Resources spokesman John Verrico.

With no natural predators left but humans, deer populations are checked only by environmental conditions which, at the Center and its surrounding farm land, are apparently ideal. The Smithsonian herd has grown to about 1,000.

Lured by abundant deer, about 780 hunters applied for a single-day permit to join the upcoming “managed” hunt. The 272 lucky winners were chosen by drawing on November 16.

Other hunting conditions will also be prime. Only 20 hunters will be allowed each weekday, with the number growing to 24 on Saturdays, when the Center is closed. Sundays are no-hunt days at the Smithsonian.

As well as plenty of deer and little hunting pressure, safety also attracted hunters from both Maryland and neighboring states. Each hunter has to be a safety-certified graduate of a course teaching ethics and weapons and hunting safety. Both the Natural Resources police and sporting organizations offer such courses. Each hunter or team will also have to set up a stand 10 to 20 feet up a tree. The safety factor in height is that missed shots will head to earth.

Since we don’t expect this hunt to give us reason to report our favorite hunting story, we’ll tell it to you now.

Back when hunters were untrained, a farmer we know dreaded what hunting season would do to his herd of cattle. After too many early losses, he painted the legend “c-o-w” in big white letters on the flank of each remaining bovine. His solution seemed to be working pretty well till he went to start his John Deere tractor and found it riddled with shotgun pellets.

Water: Gold of the Future
Are we taking our water for granted?

Two heavyweight organizations—the National Geographic Society and Population Action International—published reports this month warning that water scarcity could soon become a fact of life. A very scary fact.

National Geographic announced that besides bringing us their fine magazine, they will be sounding alarms about coming shortages of fresh water in the United States within the next decade.

“The bottom line,” said society president Gilbert Grosvenor, “is that Americans squander water at an alarming rate. Waste and abuse occur in all facets of our society, from American homes to billion-dollar projects.”

Population International is a non-profit organization that looks at threats from the growing numbers of people on earth. The group reported that in 35 years as many as 3 billion could have problems finding enough pure water to live.

These are more than numbers; water problems could provoke wars in our lifetime, the study said.

Robert Engelman, director of the organization’s environment and population program, says that few Americans—even our State Department—understand what’s at stake.

“Water is an incredibly precious resource, a life-sustaining resource that can be abused,” Engelman told New Bay Times.

He sees lessons for the Chesapeake Bay. “The mid-Atlantic area is abundantly endowed with water. But because of things we do, rain runs off the land collecting pollutants and carries them straight to the Bay.”

Everybody’s Doing It
Recycling’s become so popular that Henri Bendel of Fifth Avenue, a top-dollar New York parfumerie, now refills empty perfume bottles. “How about a refill … on us!” they advertise in the New York Times. “Bring in your empty Annick Goutal bottles (or any other fragrance bottle!), and we will refill them with Annick Goutal Eau de Toilette at no charge. Receive one refill with every $70 purchase.”

Way Downstream...
Experts tell us that when the economy is bad, people care little about the environment. The economy must be getting better, judging by this month’s election results. Eight statewide bond issues and conservation measures were up for a vote and all eight passed. Nearest to us was Pennsylvania, where voters approved $50 million for nature preserves, parks and historic sights ...

In New Jersey, officials have proposed that state’s first limits on crabbers and their gear. Crabbers there have it especially bad because you can’t eat crabs from polluted Newark Bay. We on the Chesapeake ought to take that as a lesson ..

Would you rather have the boat of your dreams or a giant tuna? A rare, 660-pound bluefin tuna sold for $80,000 in Tokyo. The record sale was recalled in Madrid last week when the World Wide Fund for Nature said we need to dramatically cut quotas for the threatened bluefin in the Western Atlantic. Since 1975, the bluefin breeding population has plunged to 22,000 from 250,000.

“This is worse than the situation of the great whale or of the African elephant,” asserted Michael Sutton, of the Fund ...

In Arizona, it's Squirrels 1, Scientists 0. Environmental advocates convinced the University of Arizona to scrub placing a giant telescope on Mount Graham because the commotion could damage the mountain’s rare red squirrel...

Our Creature Feature this week is left over from Halloween. But hey, it takes news a long time to travel from the Arctic Circle.

Up in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States, folks on trick-or-treat night worried about more than tainted candy: six polar bears were spotted prowling around the outskirts of town.

Twelve foot-tall polar bears get mighty hungry (they love candy), have nasty dispositions and run the 100-yard dash in less than eight seconds. No wonder moms and pops, besides bundling up the kids, set up Halloween patrols to guard them.

Next time we get to Alaska, we plan to give six year-old Perry Nageak a wide berth. Perry, who dressed up like the devil, was asked what he'd do if he encountered Mr. Polar Bear,

“If I have my pitchfork, I’ll poke him in the butt,” he replied.

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Say No to Incinerator Trap
In Southern Maryland, the Regional Solid Waste Task Force has recommended building an incinerator to handle garbage from Calvert, Charles and St. Marys counties. The plant could cost over $200 million.

We applaud looking ahead for solutions to future waste needs. But incinerators are bad ideas for many reasons.

We wonder if the task force paid attention to what’s happening elsewhere. Across the country, communities are finding themselves stuck with these white elephants belching smoke and leaving behind ash with heavy metal pollution. Arsenic, cadmium and lead, to name some of the leftovers in the ash, which may require special, costly landfills.

The Wall Street Journal—no den of radical thinkers—has chronicled plights of towns and regions that have fallen into the incinerator trap. Taxpayers have shelled out billions for these new burning plants but can’t find the trash to keep them operating full-steam.

Recently, the average incinerator disposal fee was $56 a-ton, double the $28 average paid at dumps—according to the Solid Waste Price Digest. Truth is, there’s far more landfill capacity than predicted just a few years ago.

Communities that put the lug on taxpayers to build these monstrosities are begging for trash to avoid going deeper in the hole. Locals are paying sky-high rates to use the incinerators they built while outsiders—who share none of the risk or the construction costs—get cut-rate deals.

Towns are told they can cut costs by selling energy made from burning the trash. This argument has holes, too. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases that could end the practice of forcing utilities to buy power from incinerators at above-market rates. So who buys the power?

And who wins? The consultants who recommend incinerators and the corporations who build them—the same corporations that brought us nuclear power plants.

The task force ought to scrap its report and start looking at success stories in Europe—whey’re they’re composting 40 percent of solid waste, recycling another 20-40 percent and skipping heavy burdens on taxpayers.

Welcome Mickey, Don’t Be Goofy
We’re excited about the new Walt Disney theme park coming to our region. New Bay Times promotes recreation and family fun, so we’re pleased to see a world-class outlet coming our way. Disney’s massive new park in Prince William County, Virginia, will be within easy reach of Baysiders.

We can load up our kids, buzz over for the day and be back by evening at our own dinner tables and in our own beds.

We’re happy they’re building it on the other side of Washington, not this side. We can do without the confusion and the hordes.

We’re pleased, too, that Disney’s American history theme will include exhibits on slavery, the American Indian experience and the Vietnam War.

Could it be that Walt Disney will offer reality while our textbooks deal in fantasy?

So, Walt Disney, we expect you to bring the same progressive attitude when it comes to the environment. Sure, your park will be a billion-dollar boon for the region. But you’re bringing in zillions of cars with tailpipe emissions. You’re carving up and rooting out thousands of acres. You’ll be making mountains of garbage.

So, borrowing from Disney’s old theme song, we sing:

When you wish upon a star,
Bring folks in buses, not in cars
Go easy on the land, recycle too;
And your dream will come true.

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A Toast to Gene
by Sandra Martin

Gene Martin won’t eat oysters this Thanksgiving.

It’s not the Bay’s oyster famine that will stop him. No, even though a 250-acre farm in Washington State now produces more oysters than the whole Chesapeake, we’d find oysters. We’d hound Bootie Collins till he handed over a freshly tonged bushel. Then we’d array them out front on the picnic table and hose them down, washing away Chesapeake bottom mud and thin, wiggly oyster worms. Finally we’d scrub them with a brush for good measure. Only then could they come indoors for Bill and Alex to shuck, me to wash and jar, and everybody to eat—raw, steamed, stewed, fried, and as the jars filled the freezer, in lots more creative ways.

When we drove back to the Midwest for Thanksgiving and my father’s birthday, our cooler would be full of Mason jars—both pints and quarts—of frozen oysters, the world’s best-traveled sea food. Dad’s house in St. Louis was the end of the line. We wouldn’t be in his and Violet’s warm, lived-in kitchen for much more than a minute when I would unpack the cold but now unfrozen oysters and Dad would say, “Let’s see how they taste.” He’d eat a whole pint jar out of a bowl until I made him an oyster plate so he could enjoy them in style.

Gene Martin had been swallowing oysters with gusto for most of 85 years. When he was a boy in Chicago, when Chesapeake oysters were just a little down from their 1880s’ peak, iced oysters in the shell traveled by freight to the Midwest, where they were a darn sight more popular than prairie oysters. Everybody ate them, from childhood on. Everybody of Dad’s generation still did, though their children and grandchildren might gag to see them do so.

I grew up eating oysters as naturally as I ate ice cream. I’d probably just seen Dad eat one when I swallowed my first one back in the early ’50s. (As Mother used to say, “Gene Martin could serve you **** on a shingle and make it look good.” In my personal memory is the day he sliced himself an onion and made it into a sandwich with mustard. He carried it to the bar to eat and every customer in the place wanted one, too.)

I can tell you just where we were when I ate my first oyster: The oysters rested in chipped ice back in the hot kitchen of our St. Louis restaurant, the Stymie Club, and when anybody ordered a half dozen or a dozen, the salad man would shuck them to order. When he wasn’t busy, he’d shuck them one at a time for me until I’d eaten my fill. That was usually closer to a dozen than a half dozen.

So I was proud when it became my turn to bring oysters to Dad, and I wanted to serve them in style and abundance.

Style and abundance … those are the qualities I was proudest of in my father.

As a restaurateur, he was a professional host, and I’ve never met a man better suited to his calling. Of all my million memories of him, the stereotype is Gene Martin behind a bar pouring a drink, taking a bet, smiling a little cynically, telling a story, riveting you with his cool blue eyes and the symmetry of his narration. “Everybody loved Gene Martin,” my mother, Elsa, would say. From the early ’40s to the early ’60s, she was Gene’s straightman, as well as business partner and wife, in that order. “He could shoot a man in front of a full house and everybody would swear Elsa did it,” Elsa insisted.

No wonder the bar at the Stymie Club was always full. At Gene’s place, you always felt at home. Looking back, I have to think most of our customers felt better at the Stymie than they did at home, because they spent a lot more time at our bar and in our booths than they did in their living rooms.

The years I was his little girl, the Stymie Club was Gene’s home, too. He wasn’t much of a family man in those years, and when Mother and I moved to a house a mile away, he didn’t join us, though he did, even after Gene and Elsa divorced, continue to eat his Sunday meals at our house. That Elsa could sure cook.

But Gene couldn’t stay home, even when home was a supper club and cocktail lounge. He liked to go, and I loved to go with him. Eating out at friends’ restaurants … celebrating summer with extended-family picnics … visiting race tracks and once the great racing country around Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky … touring his home city, Chicago, and its hot spots … night clubbing: Dad introduced me to the world and made me comfortable there. Like a good date, he never left you uncertain or on your own.

In his mid-50s, Gene married Violet, the love of his life, and slowly settled into the family routine. He even cut the grass. I’ve had fewer shocks in my life greater than finding my father in his kitchen pasting in green stamps. For those 30 years, his and Violet’s house was open to me and my friends and my children. We’d appear out of the blue carrying gifts and all of us, no matter how many, would crowd around the table, eat a meal and drink the sweet, forbidden wine that Dad loved but reserved for holidays because, after all those years of drinking, alcohol made him sick as a dog.

But that would be the day after. Now, we’d exchange news and—if college football wasn’t on television—soon we’d be after Gene Martin to tell stories. Sometimes, when he was sick or grouchy, he’d shrug off our pleas, scolding, “How can you expect me to remember that? That was 75 [or 50 or 25] years ago!” But more often, he’d agree, and moments later, after he’d arrayed the facts and composed the structure in his own mind, he’d begin:

“When I was a little boy”—sometimes it was as a “little girl” that he’d say he’d been a firefighter or a hobo or drove a car. That’s how Dad’s stories often began when I was a little girl.

But in later years it was truth, not fantasy, we craved, and Dad was famous for it. He might take us back to Chicago, in the century’s teens, to show us how and at what Lakefront beach his brother Jack had sustained the freak injury that would kill him just as he reached manhood. Or with him we might tour the campus of the University of Illinois in the twenties, watching Dad and his pals swallow goldfish as casually as we did oysters. A few years later, we might ride the rails with him—that was Alex’s favorite, and in college he wrote a short story recounting how his grandfather learned first hand the rules of segregation.

Each decade of his long life had its stories: St. Louis gambling in the thirties; wartime Key West—a wide open place where you lived hard and fast and loved it—in the forties; prosperity, dice and diamonds in the fifties.

Once he settled down, toward the end of the sixties, news and observation replaced adventure in his stories. Nothing got by Gene Martin: no new business, sports statistic, nor bit of city, state, regional or national news. Though I’ve not yet ridden St. Louis’ new light rail commuter train, I can tell you all about it because Dad—months after the joints in both his knees had been replaced—rode the route from start to finish. His disappointments—whatever they were— never made his stories.

Yes, Elsa said, “Gene Martin had kissed the Blarney stone.” Listening, I drank in the stories and the art of story telling. Rule 1, I observed, was the storyteller’s absolute confidence in his tale. Though Gene made barely a gesture—nothing more than the arc of a hand—he set the stage. Underway, he never hesitated nor faltered: relentlessly and artfully the logic unfolded. Nobody whispered when Gene Martin told stories.

Hence Rule 2: Revere your story’s structure.

Rule 3 insisted that a story be chockful of facts, and accurate ones, at that. The storyteller must recall and recreate times, places and people, even to the numbers on the street and the clothes the characters wore. Dad showed that same startling memory in giving directions or going out for rides. You never got lost following his directions. Long demolished city neighborhoods came back to life on his tours.

Rule 4: Quit when your story’s over. “That’s the way things were back then,” Dad would simply end—and all would believe him. Then he’d say, “Come on, let’s have another glass of wine.” Or we’d all pile in the car and drive to the latest ice-cream store for a cone.

His last rule is why—after I swallowed the news of Gene Martin’s quiet death from heart failure, in his bed, Saturday morning November 6, 20 days short of his 86th birthday—I ate close to a dozen Chesapeake Bay oysters in his honor.

— Sandra Martin

Gene Martin was New Bay Times’ pater familias: his daughter, grandsons, and son-in-law are its owners and editors.

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Reflections and Rock Warm a Cold Day’s Fishing

November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.

That observation of poet Emily Dickinson was appropriate the recent day my party set out from the Rod ‘n Reel docks at Chesapeake Beach for a day of fishing for late season rockfish.

Like me, the eccentric lady of poetry lived in New England, noted for fierce weather changes in the eleventh month of the year, but her words apply to much of Chesapeake Bay country this fall.

As Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodericks, Wye River seafood entrepreneurs Joe Bernard and Mike Rossbach, and I boarded Capt. Richard Coleman’s Flying Tern, it was obviously a Norway kind of day. Maybe Siberia!

The weatherman had been right. Incidentally, he usually is, despite all the ridicule to which he is subjected. My friend Fred Davis who heads NOAA at BWI Airport tells me that studies indicate National Weather Service reports are right 80 percent of the time.

Skippers, take that to heart. It’s a pretty fair average, from my point of view, for predicting something as intangible as what it will be like on the water in a day or two—or even more.

Back to the rockfish hunt. After leaving a warm auto and a drive of more than an hour, one isn’t immediately impressed by adverse weather conditions. But, almost sliding into the drink on a thin coating of ice on the finger pier alongside the Flying Tern, I was brought back to reality.

It was early morning, so the predicted winds of 20 to 25 knots weren’t evident. But not infrequently those who have spent much time on the water can get an idea of what lies ahead by scanning the skies.

Observations were ominous. It was a bleak morning, the sky a mix of shallow brightness with a dark overcast above and beyond it. And it was cold. The lazy flapping of a few nautical pennants nearby alerted us to a slight breeze from the northwest.

But I have a philosophy about fishing. One never cancels until the obvious becomes reality. It appeared we had a few hours before the weather turned from frigid to ugly.

“We’ll have some time to try to catch a few fish before things get bad,” said Capt. Coleman as he rushed us aboard, and mate Ernest “Hutch” Hutchison stowed our gear.

We knew that chumming had been the most effective method of catching rockfish for weeks thereabouts. But the previous day, chumming had been disappointing. We also knew that with winds expected to erupt, and with the water doing the same, trolling was a better choice.

So, well dressed for cold that intensifies with high winds, we cleared the inlet and headed for the Winter Gooses, a lump southeast of Rod ‘n Reel. There are two Gooses somewhat between Chesapeake Beach and Tilghman Island. One is the Summer Gooses, often referred to as just the Gooses, and the other Winter Gooses.

Anglers decide which to fish by the time of year implied by their names. The Winter Gooses are made up of lumps on the bottom—years of coal, ash and ballast tossed overboard by mariners. Rockfish often frequent irregular bottoms, which are, thus, the best bet for fishing.

The breeze had picked up appreciably by the time we reached the Winter Gooses, where probably 30 boats were congregated. Had we decided on chumming, we’d have moved closer to the Stone Rock off Tilghman Island, where chumming with ground-up alewives had been the most productive method for taking rock for weeks.

Most of the boats were chartercraft, many out of Chesapeake Beach, though a few were private boats, some of not much more than 18 feet.

What were they thinking of, those small boats, I thought as I detected more whitecaps building up on the dark waters.

As we tossed our lures overboard, I looked to the stern where a charterboat was trolling 100 yards from our stern. It was riding with the wind at its stern. Atop a staff it had a large American flag.

Normally, a flag flutters back toward the stern, but this morning that flag was straight out towards the bow. It was not flopping; it was bristling straight ahead—contrary to expectations.

I wondered if those aboard small boats had seen it. I’m one who always tries to get the most out of a fishing trip, but had I been in a small boat that would have convinced me it was time to consider heading towards the docks. Bay waters are chilly this time of year.

The ride became bumpier as the lures worked down where fish are unaware of what things are like on the surface. Out in mid-Bay, rough waters have little effect on fish. They are down below the turbulence of the surface waves.

What difference does it make to them?

Occasionally we saw a fish taken here and there; no real action, but enough to let us know fish were around. All were rock, all appeared to be of the 18-inch minimum, and a few were of better than 30 inches.

We were in the right place; it was worth the increasingly rough ride. Sooner or later we would be on the right spot—a small patch of fish—at the right time. That’s the way trolling goes.

The skipper keeps his eyes glued to the electronic fish-finder for signs of fish and hopes the lures are at the right depth—and the fish are hungry. Capt. Coleman saw fish, but only a few scattered ones. There was no mother lode.

Eventually one came aboard, a 22-incher reeled in by Rossbach. It struck a Parachute lure. It had little choice; that’s all we were using. There were seven lines overboard, all rigged with Parachutes.

Putting all our eggs in one basket? Yes, but for good reason. For all trollers in the mid-Chesapeake, many in the upper bay, and a few in the lower bay, the Parachute has been the deadliest of all lures for rockfish—especially in a luminous green.

This large bucktail-like lure is something akin to a traditional bucktail. However, where the conventional bucktail has feathers protruding from the back only, the Parachute is a, shall we say, a two-way lure.

Picture the feathers replaced by flowing soft plastic strands. Also, picture at the head of the bucktail and covering the lead head another arrangement of plastic strands flowing ahead. It’s weird to look at when held.

But, once it’s in the water, those strands pointing ahead are forced by the resistance of the water to fold over and head backwards. You’ve got a conventional bucktail rig, but with an overlapping second arrangement of strands covering those to the rear.

On the hook is a long Twister tail or large soft plastic Sassy Shad, which must be attached so the bite of the hook is exposed sufficiently that the barb can set in the fish. If there’s anything wrong with the Parachute, it’s that many fishermen insert the hook too deep in the trailing soft-plastic enticer that they miss setting the hook.

Parachutes came on the scene in the waning days of the spring trophy season and were immediately successful in sales as well as in catching. But few fishermen thought they would be the ticket for fall fishing when both fish and legal length limits were smaller. In the spring, a fish must be of 36 inches; in the fall only 18 inches.

But some fishermen decided to try them in the fall—and they proved just as effective, if not more so, than in the spring. From then on, it was Katie bar the door. Everybody in the mid-Bay wanted them.

Tackle shops couldn’t keep up with the demand. The Anglers on Route 50 in Annapolis sold 200 dozen in less than two weeks and had scores of fishermen’s names on waiting lists. It was the same at many more tackle shops. Much demand; few supplies.

In nearly 40 years on the Chesapeake, I have seen only one lure come near the Parachute in instant popularity, and that was the Rag Mop about 28 years ago—in which lies evidence of great misjudgment on my part.

The makers of Tony Accetta Spoons had come up with a lure atrocious in appearance. It was like a long chain on an old-fashioned toilet, and to the links of that chain—from head to tail—were attached colored strands of soft plastic, which barely fluttered backwards when trolled.

I knew the people at Tony Accetta well, so as they were field testing and preparing to market the Rag Mop, they sent me several large cartons of them, more than a gross—enough to fill a bushel basket.

I tried them a few times without success, advised the Tony Accetta’s research team they weren’t promising for the Chesapeake, and set the supply aside in my tackle room where they languished for years. I didn’t even want to give them away; eventually I tossed them out with the garbage.

Only several months later, some lower Bay fishermen with more patience or knowledge that I used them and caught both blues and rock in great numbers. The rush was on. Tackle shops couldn’t meet the demand. Up and down the Bay, fishermen wanted Rag Mops, but couldn’t get them. I had kept only a couple as a reminder of ideas that went sour.

Some purchased toilet chains from plumbing supply houses and inserted plastic strands. A fellow with a real Tony Accetta Rag Mop could sell it for several dollars back when a good bucktail or spoon sold for two bucks.

I had tossed out a small fortune. For a couple of years, the Rag Mop performed well, then lost its popularity. Sometimes it is found aboard ocean charterboats today, but I haven’t seen one used on the Chesapeake in at least a dozen years.

Maybe the Parachute will go the same way, but consider it for the waning days of the fall rockfish season that ends Sunday, Nov. 21, or the spring season, which unofficially is scheduled for next May. Incidentally—though this has not been announced yet—in the spring season DNR plans to reduce the minimum length from 36 to 34 inches. Instead of one fish a season, the limit would be one a day.

That length limit reduction is important. Many fish last spring were between 34 and 36 inches. Next spring they could be kept.

As for the Parachute, go with luminous green with green Sassy Shad, or white with white Sassy Shad with red head. They produced for us.

We didn’t get our charterboat limit of two each, but we each got one, the best of which was Rodericks’ 34-incher on a green Parachute. We might have taken more had we stayed, but even in fishing, things can get uncomfortable enough to head for the docks earlier than scheduled.

The headboat out of Rod ‘n Reel and the charter fleet will continue fishing through the remainder the season. Call 800/2080, or 301/855-8351.

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For Barbara Noel, Christmas Lasts All Year
By Sandra Martin

Quaint Bayside villages … narrow streets lined with historic houses in soldier-straight rows … rolling hills of hardwoods waving gloveless fingers: this is Chesapeake country, as pretty a picture.

When holiday card designers go to heaven, they’ll find it’s Chesapeake country.

Barbara Noel doesn’t have to wait. Bay country is her neighborhood, and inspiration her neighbor.

This is a woman whose hands won’t keep still: she’s gotta be doing something, making something. Pens, paints, clay, needles are as natural as fingers to her. So, back in the mid-70s, her custom frame shop in Crofton couldn’t contain her. She started sketching and hand-coloring local scenes: Crofton’s Village Green, Annapolis. Then, in ‘78, a satisfied customer pushed her a second step: Could she draw a Christmasy Washington for a holiday card?

Her Washington Wreath was an instant hit. It’s still #1 on her list and her all-time best seller. “I thought if it would work for one card, why not 15 or 20?” recalls Noel, whose self-selected middle name is her nom de card.

Maybe her Christmas eve birthday predestined her success as a holiday card artist. Maybe her signature style was irresistible. Maybe she was just lucky. More likely, Barbara Noel’s a hard-working perfectionist with talent, luck and fate on her side.

Her cards clicked almost immediately. Garfinkel’s picked up the line, then composed of less than a score of Washington and Annapolis sketches. Woodies and Hecht’s naturally followed. Each year she added more cards and cracked more retailers. Her list has now grown to 156 cards, though not quite all of them are available each year. Her sister, Lee Summerall, contributed 18 designs. She hired sales reps. “Christmas Cards by Barbara Noel” are now distributed as far south as Charleston, in Williamsburg, in Annapolis, Washington and its suburbs.

But while a month or so of ho-ho-ho is enough for most of us, Barbara Noel has got to think Christmas all year long.

“I eat, sleep and dream about these cards,” she says, ruefully. “It’s a 12-month-a-year creative effort, starting in November when I begin working on the following year’s ideas. After the holidays, the actual work of photographing and sketching begins.”

Some designs take four hours, some 24. While she sketches, her sales reps make sales calls. But the big business is multiplying, say, 125 designs by thousands. By late June, she’s anticipated the size of her print run and sent her order to the printer. Cards are delivered around Labor Day. Lots of cards. About a quarter million of them.

Not everything goes right, sister Summerall recalls: “I’ll never forget the day her favorite cat died. She’d had Scotch since kittenhood. She comes in from digging in the pouring autumn rain, burying her 17-year-old cat to find the printer’s delivered a quarter million cards using a violent lime-green ink instead of the fir-green she’s ordered.”

Half a dozen high school kids sign on for the boxing (cards are sold in single-design boxes of 10, with envelopes). Then the shipping starts. Cards reach the stores by mid-September. Then the cycle starts all over again.

Browsing through Barbara Noel’s line of cards, you’d think she’s hunted out every quaint spot in Bay county from north of the Susquehanna to south of the James. About 60 percent of her cards picture the Annapolis-Washington area, with Baltimore and the Harrisburg-Philadelphia corridor next. With Noel, who now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, her cards have moved northward.

Noel’s “signature style” makes her cards collectable beyond early January, when many holiday cards go into the “office paper” recycling bin. That style combines several elements. First, an eye for characteristic place: a row of homes in Baltimore’s Little Italy, Annapolis from the water, a field of corn with Canada geese, the White House. Next, verisimilitude for what we would see day by day—if we looked. Then, controlled tenderness, the gentle idealization of fond memory. Finally, whimsy, the touch that finds Santa in the corn field feeding the geese, flying with sled and reindeer over Annapolis or flying over the Washington Monument; or decks the familiar halls with wreaths of holly. When Summerall fills in, she adds a extra dollop of cute: that Santa feeding geese is hers.

Dressed up in its holiday best is how Barbara Noel sees Bay country. That’s a good way to show it to your faraway friends who don’t—unlike lucky you and me—live in holiday card artists’ heaven.

Locally, Christmas Cards by Barbara Noel are distributed at Woodies, Hecht’s, A.L. Goodies, Annapolis Country Store, Annapolis News Center, Banners Hallmark, Beverly’s Christmas Spirit, Fawcett’s Boat Supplies, Golden Gull, Historic Annapolis, Manor House, Pris’s Paper Parlor, Sign of the Whale, Total Crafts, and the US Naval Academy gift shop.

Little Sidebar:
Happy Chanukah?

With a name like Christmas Cards by Barbara Noel, you’d expect this Bay country line to lean to Christmas, and it does. Secular Christianity—Santas, wreaths, Christmas trees and holly—lends the holiday touch to these familiar places. However one sideline, exclusive to Woodies, adds neither text nor Christmas touches: they’re pure place. Other cards sold widely skip Christmas symbols and carry the line’s typical message: “The Season’s Joy and a New Year of Happiness.”

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Photographers, Wanderers Delight in Soldiers Delight
story and photographs by Steven Anderson

Go take a hike!

If you can find Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area, part of Patapsco State Park, you’ll be seeing civilization return to nature.

During the Civil War, the territory was a camp for Union soldiers, who delighted in the cakes and food brought them by local farm wives. Today the Maryland Department of Natural Resources runs the 2000 acres as it is. Visitors are welcome four days a week, but you won’t find food, bicycling, picnicking or camping. Your pets can’t come, either.

What you will find are secrets of earth, history and—if, as I did, you join a photographer’s workshop—of picture taking. Photo workshops are offered in spring and fall. Other events and hikes, including full-moon nighttime hikes, are offered throughout the year.

Start at the volunteer-run visitors center to get an overview of the park. Here, too, you can learn to tune your eyes to samples of the rocks the park is full of. After you’ve taken a good hard look, convince one of the skilled people hereabouts to guide you in a hunt for talc (which is the mineral version of the talcum powder familiar to urbanized persons like myself), serpentinite or even chromite (from which comes the chrome trim on the car you drove up in). Naturalist Jack Wennerstrom showed me serpentinite and convinced me that serpents aren’t made from it.

Trails range from a bit under one and one-half miles to a shade over three, so pack a power bar or two and maybe some trail mix. We passed the Red Dog Lodge, a restored hunting lodge, down the serpentinite path into a large pasture where a little cabin sits. We crossed the field to a mine tunnel, then moseyed on and off the marked trail across a small creek.

On the far side of the creek is a small Indian shelter created by two rocks fallen together many years ago. On the other side, we followed a hand-laid rock fence up a steep grade. At the top of the hill almost hidden by the trees were two more mine shafts.

We were looking for wildlife, which include salamanders, Virginia deer rabbits, opossums, squirrels, raccoons, deer mice and deer. We didn’t see much this day, but in the visitors center there’s a picture of a doe sleeping a couple feet off of one of the trails. When you visit, see if you can find her head.

On a single visit, all I could do was try to soak the scenery into my brain and get a few pictures to share with you. I’ll have to visit Soldiers Delight again now that I know what to look for.

Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area lies between Owings Mills and Randalstown, Md. The least confusing, but slowest way, from the Baltimore Beltway is Rte. 26 (Liberty Rd.) for five slow and grueling miles. At the intersection of Deer Park Rd. turn right and drive about 2 miles. The sanctuary is on the left. Come between 9am and 4pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or on Sundays between noon and 5pm (410/922-3044)

On the Road
This is the time of the year when we need to be especially wary of deer on roads.

White-tailed deer breed from late October until early December, and in rut they are unpredictable and not so cautious.

Last year, nearly 2,000 deer were reported killed on Maryland roads, an increase over the year before.

“This can be attributed to a rising population of deer in the state as well as the further encroachment of development on deer habitat,” said Robert A. Beyer, chief of wildlife in the Department of Natural Resources.

Hitting a deer can be like hitting a wall. And if you see the reflection of your headlights in the deer’s eyes, watch out; it may be just about to freeze right in front of you.

And if one deer crosses the road, don’t assume it’s alone. “Chances are good there may be others to follow,” Beyer said.

On the Water
Those marvelous swans aren’t our only winter visitors from the North.

They are joined by flocks of boffleheads, also known as Old Squaws, the distinctive, black-and-white ducks that you see skimming across the water.

These swift and skittish little sea ducks jet through the air in broad flocks and drop down like undulating carpets on the blue water.

Keep your eyes and bird book open, too, for Canvasbacks, Redheads and Bluebills.

In the Water
These final days of a bountiful rockfish season are swiftly drawing to a close (Nov. 21). A month ago, the fish could be snared in the shallows on light line. Since then, they have moved into deep water in search of baitfish.

Deep water—out near the shipping channel—is where you’ll find the charters and serious fishermen, many of them deploying wire line and downriggers.

In recent days, the Bay has been giving up quite a few trophies, often in water 55-100 feet deep.

“We’ve been catching many big fish this fall,” said Capt. George Prenant, skipper of Stormy Petrel, a fishing charter out of Deale.

Capt. Prenant advises that parachutes, large bucktails and medium-sized spoons are the most productive baits in the season’s waning hours. And many would agree with the captain about this season when he observes: “Excellent rockfish have been had by all.”

(For one last weekend fling or to book a charter for next year, call Capt. Prenant at 301/261-9075.)

On the Beaches
Great blue heron been surprising our morning meanders these fall weeks. For two reasons: Most of these graceful giants head a little farther south about the time swans reach our for-them southern waters. Stranger still, our favorite bird normally is a tide walker, coming to land only on piers and other promontories to, we imagine, get a bird’s eye view of the fish.

But now we’ve been surprising them yards inland on our beaches. One moment we’ll see nothing, or at most some old piece of driftwood. Next moment, we’ll hear a great flapping and see Big Bird stand on tiptoe, leap, lift, straighten up those long legs, and arc into graceful flight.

We think they’re hungry now that fish are moving to deeper water, and they’ve come ashore for grasshoppers, maybe worms.

What do you think?

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“Severely degraded.”

Those words still describe the Chesapeake Bay, according to one of its toughest watchdogs, William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Recently, the Foundation reviewed the Chesapeake Bay Program’s first decade and made recommendations for the next one.

The Program is a unique coalition of state, federal, citizen and scientist groups convened to restore the Bay. Baker praised the Program’s efforts, saying that after years of decline, the Bay is improving. But a challenge lies ahead, he asserted.

Actions speak louder than words, and the Foundation wants more movement. They made four main recommendations:

  • Continue the nutrient reduction plan—on schedule;
  • Fully implement a grasses and wetlands policy;
  • Strengthen programs for reducing toxics and saving oysters, then get busy enforcing them;
  • Develop a population growth strategy.

Baker stressed that merely maintaining the status quo won’t be sufficient to balance the expected development of this region.

On the receiving end of the foundation’s report card was Governor William Donald Schaefer’s office and the U.S. EPA, which provides staff for the the Bay Program. Some of the representatives smiled while getting their report card and one of them called the assessment “clear, articulate and professional.”

Cecily Majerus, the governor’s Bay Coordinator, asked the Foundation to help with recruiting public participation and finding new funding. Majerus called money the “biggest new challenge.” Right now Maryland spends $100 million a year on efforts to restore the Bay. That money comes from taxpayers, bonds and special fees.

The Foundation will continue working with the Program to follow through on its recommendations.

“We want to hold out the potential for a much better Bay,” Baker said. “It’s not pie in the sky, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. We want to make sure people don’t say that where we are now is simply okay.”

China-Chesapeake Connection
It wasn’t the usual lunch crowd at Hemingway’s on Kent Island.

Recently, a delegation of Chinese economists and engineers met with EPA officials to learn how to combine economic development with environmental protection.

Meeting in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, the delegation from the China State Planning Commission was particularly interested in transportation, shipping, bridges and dredging. After lunch at Hemingways, the guests toured restoration efforts at Poplar Island. There, they saw how dredging materials will be used to fill in and recreate the island, which is an important waterfowl habitat.

The Maryland visit was one stop in a 12-day tour that included Washington, D.C., New York City, Allentown, Penn. and Honolulu. It’s not clear how much of the information the Asian visitors learned will be applied on the other side of the world.

It is clear they’d like to use the lunch recipes back home. Before leaving the Eastern Shore, the Chinese visitors gave a thumbs up to the crabcakes and crab soup.

Green Chocolates
Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. When you buy an “Environmint,” the quarter you spend for the chocolate candy goes to a new company in Seattle, which then donates part of its profits to environmental organizations.

Back home in Maryland, Walt Czerwinski at the Herald Harbor Mini Mart near the Severn River is known for wheeling and dealing in exotic goods like canned celery. When Walt came into a box of the “green” candy, he thought it was a good idea, and put the mints on the checkout counter.

It didn’t take long until the little squares were gobbled up. “I love them. As a matter of fact, I buy a lot of them,” confessed Mini Mart clerk Lori Callis.

Callis ikes the tiny trading cards of endangered animals inside and the fact that her money goes “towards the animals, rather than toward more candy.”

The Envionmintal Candy Company in Seattle started making the little goodies in 1990. Company president Lumiel Dodd told New Bay Times that after 15 years as a professional fund-raiser, he was looking for innovative ways of “not begging people for money anymore.” Dodd started making the mints with just $5,000 and his company of six employees will gross about $1 million this year.

According to the wrapper, 50 percent of profits are donated to charitable wildlife causes. But the charities can’t just sweet talk their way into the cookie, rather, candy jar. Dodd says environmental organizations must submit a proposal outlining their projects and budgets. So far, the chocolates have fattened up the coffers of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society and International Snow Leopard Trust. No local Bay area organizations have applied for the mint funds.

If your chocolate craving is looking for a good excuse to binge, good luck. It’s difficult to say where the little mints will turn up around here. Although word around Herald Harbor is Walt may order more.

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If you'd like to serve or simply sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner of the same quality as the ones your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents used to make without all that fuss, this article is a must-read. As the years pass so do the days of June Cleaver and Aunt Bea. Fortunately, the working parent, the working student and the working-parent-student can rely on growing support from restaurants and groceries now open for Thanksgiving in rapidly expanding numbers through town and country.

Among them lies a Thanksgiving dinner to match every individual's tastes and the tastes of their families. Can you believe it? Different sizes—big, medium and small; main courses—turkey, smoked turkey, Maryland stuffed ham, glazed ham, even regional seafood; sides—baked, mashed and sweet potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, turkey giblet gravy; salads from artichoke-mushroom to the gooey holiday kind; bread and oyster stuffing and leave room for dessert. Dining out allows a lavish variety that surpasses the traditional pumpkin and apple pie without sacrificing homey atmosphere, occasionally right down to the fireplace.

In Annapolis, Carrol's Creek (410/263-8102), Governor Calvert House (410/263-2641), Annapolis Waterfront Hotel (410/626-0004), Fran O'Brien's (410/268-6288) and the Holiday Inn (410/224-3150) all offer Thanksgiving Day buffets.

The Treaty of Paris in the Historic Maryland Inn (410/263-2641) and Reynold's Tavern (410/626-0380) offer fireside Thanksgiving Day dinners.

Harry Brownes adds a special Thanksgiving menu to supplement their regular menu specialties. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner, served from 12-5 comes to $17.95 (410/263-4332).

Fun and music complement an unconventional Thanksgiving dining at Mums Grill for young families and loners from 8pm-2am (410/263-3353).

Coming into the country, traditional meat and potatoes meet regional seafood favorites at Paul's Restaurant in Riva for $17.95 per adult and $7.95 per child from 12-5:30 (410/956-3410).

The fireside Thanksgiving buffet at Bay View Inn in Shady Side comes complete with desserts for $15.95 per person from 11-6 (410/967-7171).

Pirate's Cove on the West River furnishes a Thanksgiving buffet with both turkey and country ham and all the trimmings for 14.95 per adult and $7.95 per child from 11:30-8 (410/867-2300).

Bring a healthy appetite to Happy Harbor in Deale. Their all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet costs $10.95. Also available, a specially prepared Thanksgiving dinner to take home priced at $28.00 and serving six to eight people from 12-close (410/261-5297).

In Friendship, Herrington On the Bay's Thanksgiving buffet includes: turkey, oyster stuffing, country ham, mashed and sweet potatoes, pasta, potato and artichoke-mushroom salads, cheesecake, pecan pie and more for $16.95 per adult and $8.95 per child. With four seatings between 12 and 8 (410/741-5101).

For doubly-hard-to-satisfy appetites, The Maryland Way Restaurant at the Holiday Inn in Solomons meets the challenge with a 70-foot-long buffet competitively priced at $15. 95 per person (410/326-6311).

Family Style Thanksgiving at Rod 'n Reel in Chesapeake Beach comes in two varieties, with either regular or smoked turkey. Both include cream of broccoli soup, stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes and green beans. At $15.95 per person you can take home what you don't eat. But for a dollar less, $14. 95 per person you must give up the lingering leftovers (410/855-8351).

Want to carry out to your own cozy home?

Safeway offers 3 take-home turkey dinners: regular turkey ($29.95), smoked turkey ($29.95) and turkey breast ($25.95) and a honey glazed ham dinner ($35.95). Sides vary somewhat with some additions and subtractions but generally include: cornbread dressing, turkey giblet gravy, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce and stuffing.

John's Open Pit Barbecue (Huntingtown) will smoke a 12-14 lb. turkey for you and 5 guests. Or, for an extraordinary treat, ask Calvert Meat Market (Mt. Harmony Rd.) to help you prepare a Maryland stuffed ham. Divide the work in any of three ways: for $2.59/lb. they'll bone and brine the ham; for $2.95 lb. they'll stuff it with cabbage, kale and onions; and they'll cook it too—with a 20-plus pound ham needing to boil for about four hours, preferably outside since the cabbage-heavy stuffing has an aroma—this must be the best bargain of all.

This Thanksgiving you may have yet another thing to be grateful for: a no-fuss feast. Amazing!

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