Volume 1 Issue 2 1993

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).

How Does Your Garden Grow? | Dock of the Bay | Bay Life | Editorial | Contest | Bay Reflections | Who's Here
Diversion & Excursion | Laughing Gourment | Earth Journal | News of the Weird

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How Does Your Garden Grow?
The seeds have been planted.…
…Planted on those few dry days in March by provident people who spent the deep season of hibernation planning and ploughing for a sweet, long season of harvest.

Soon you will eat … well.

Lothian organic farmers Pat and Bob Bramhall are provident people. Come late May, their providence will spill over into vegetable plenty for 26 other families, who buy shares in the produce of their 15-acre, Brookswoods Road farm.

“Feeding people is a mothering kind of thing,” Pat muses.

“Just like a mother, we’re convincing people what’s good for them and how to eat it,” laughs Deana Davis, an organic farmer in Upper Marlboro, who’s visiting the Bramhall Family Farm with her border collie, Ben, to exchange flats of Chinese cabbage seedlings for 100 pounds of red onion sets.

The Bramhalls have owned their farm for 20 years. For two years, they’ve devoted their land and labor to “community supported agriculture.” For 16 weeks beginning May 24 this year, their shareholders carry home vegetables, berries, and herbs and help, when they choose, in the growing. CSAs’ shareholders enjoy the bounty and diversity of a locally grown, strictly fresh, toxic free harvest at amazingly low costs. Bramhalls’ shareholders cost is $240, plus a little labor in picking such work-heavy crops as peas, beans, herbs, and berries.

“All the time and care the Bramhalls put in show in the quality of the food we take home. We got a huge variety from squash and tomatoes to gooseberrries. What’s more, we’re in touch with our food from seed to harvest; I like that and so does my two-year-old. Bob took him on tractor rides, and we fed carrot tops to the horse, Sonny. We’re in touch with food and involved with its growers,” says Jean Canale of Annapolis, a second-year Bramhall Family Farm shareholder.

Last year Clagett Farm Chesapeake CSA members each took home 56 pounds of tomatoes, 46 pounds of potatoes, 40 pounds of green beans, 23 pounds of corn, 21 pounds of sweet potatoes, 19 pounds of winter squash, 14 pounds of beets, 13 pounds of both lettuce and Chinese cabbage, and four pounds of basil. That’s just a short list.

CSA farmers enjoy their own share of rewards. Freed of every successful gardeners’ worry about who’s going to eat all this stuff— “I’ve sat in the cukes and cried, there’s been so many of them,” Pat Bramhall recalls—they’re growing for people they know, folks who often become friends.

Throughout the Bay basin, gardeners and farmers like the Bramhalls are finally in the fields, planting the seeds that will bless our tables and stomachs all summer long and into November.

Bramhalls’ 15 acres is a smallish farm. The average size of Maryland’s 15,600 farms, covering 2,200,000 acres, is 141 acres. While farm size is shrinking slightly each year, market gardening is increasing. Today there are as many as 400 fresh market growers in Maryland —double 1992’s two hundred.

Marylanders supported 48 organized farmers’ markets last year, with more appearing every season. Come summer, there’ll be as many fresh produce stands as turtles on Maryland roads. Baltimore boasts 75 community gardens, plus hundreds of backyard gardens. (Midsummer, come with New Bay Times on a tour of Baltimore’s vest-pocket gardens.) On scales large and small, for-table gardening is taking root in Maryland.

“People are eating more fresh vegetables. They’re more conscious of freshness,” says Maryland Department of Agriculture statistician Carroll Homann.

Table gardening is an occupation for all seasons. Back in February, Pat wrote to her shareholders: “We’re full of anticipation for the coming season. Broccoli, red and green cabbage, lettuce, kale, and onion plants have been ordered. Seed catalogues are covering the dining room table.; the field has been laid out in alternating contour rows for vegetables and hay, and 3 long rows (150 feet) have already been tilled for peas and onions.…”

Now the salad days are beginning. Spring onions are promising green filaments. Lettuces, started in greenhouses and set in as tiny plants, are burgeoning into juicy leaf. Spring-seeded spinach is not far behind.

Even now, the year’s earliest salads are ready for eating. First-planted radishes are crisp red globes; their early peppery greens are tender and good to eat. Perennial herbs—mint, garlic chives, and Amsterdam cutting celery—are jumping up. If, like Pat Bramhall, you covered last fall’s spinach, your leafy reward awaits you in your garden. Overwintered spinach shames anything you can buy by that name at your grocery store.

Asparagus stalks are pricking sunward. Pat Bramhall is expecting a bumper crop now that she’s fed her beds with mushroom compost, a rich, light mixture of horse manure, chicken droppings, and gypsum. She bought a 100-cubic-yard tractor trailer load last June from an organic mushroomer in Pennsylvania.

Its troublesome delivery was, Pat remembers, “really something to see: the huge truck jack-knifed across our road, disgorging an enormous, black, crumbly pile into our field.” But results justified all the trouble. Bramhall Family Farm’s asparagus is just “going crazy” this season.

Strawberries are coming on. Early Glow’s white flowers will be red berries mid-month. Late Glow will extend the berry harvest, and with it the shortcake and jam-making season, well into June.

Pies are at work in earth’s dark oven. Berry bushes are aleaf. Soon the canes will hang pendulous with raspberries, tart gooseberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Sweating pickers will reach with stained hands, past thorns (except for blackberries; modern ones are thornless), into the thickets for summer treasure.

Roots are exploring the thick, dark earth. Garlic planted in October stands 18 inches high. The leaf tips are bent and brown from overwintering, but the heads are fattening for fall harvest. Alongside the eager radishes, carrots, parsnips, and beets are swelling. Potatoes are opening their eyes.

Pat Bramhall’s back is still sore from planting 200 pounds of seed potatoes. Only the stooping was work; she bedded her potatoes in a thick cover of shredded leaves (scrounged from neighbors and neighborhoods as far away as Annapolis), where they’ll sprout effortlessly.

“If you use enough mulch, you won’t have to weed,” explains Deana Davis. Davis and her partner, Gina Russo, devote 5 acres of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Clagett Farm, in Upper Marlboro, to community supported agriculture. They feed a community of 70 families, who pay $495 (for a whole share) or $240 (for a half) for a longer season extending into November. They expect to open their season May 20, nature cooperating, with parsnips, carrots, scallions, and pots of herbs and flowers.

In keeping out weeds (and cutting down hoeing), mulch cuts a farmer’s work. In fact, a classic guide to mulch-assisted gardening has this encouraging title: The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book. Mulch also encourages growing plants by holding moisture in and moderating temperature extremes. Finally, decaying mulch feeds the soil, making it rich, light, and porous.

“Organic farming is taking 1,000 pounds of anything you can find and turning it into a teaspoon of soil,” Pat Bramhall quotes, loosely and laughingly. If the source has flown her mind, the substance has not. Leaves, mushroom compost, cover crops ploughed into the fields that grew them, wood shavings saved by an Annapolis cabinet maker—new earth ingredients are on organic farmers’ minds night and day. “We use loose hay, too,” Davis adds.

Organic farmers like to say they spend their time building up the health of the soil rather than fighting off disease and pests. As well as crop rotation and earth-conserving tillage, mulch and compost, they use fertilizers to fortify the earth. But only after they’ve had their soil tested so they’ll be feeding just what’s needed—not casting their fertilizer or their money to the winds. Fertilizers chosen will be organic—usually naturally occurring minerals or blood, bone, or fish meal. Avoided, on the other hand, are toxic and synthetic chemicals, especially petrochemicals.

Similarly, organic farmers discourage pests by strengthening their plants’ immune systems rather than by dousing bugs and blights. As well as breeding plants in healthy soil, they plant diverse crops that won’t be wiped out by a specialized pest. Pest eaters like nematodes, lady bugs and preying mantises find plenty of work on organic farms, as do noxious biologicals and chemicals.

Persistent pests inspire the organic farmer with some of the passion Bill Murray attacked gophers in the movie Caddy Shack. Pat Bramhall's moles and voles outwit her cat, don’t mind her mole plant (an herbal repellant), an ignore her “mole mover,” a sonic repellant. Now she’s sticking Juicy Fruit down their holes in hopes of gumming up their works.

Still, the seeds Bramhalls have planted are growing. Despite moles and voles, the season of plenty is at hand.

• Full and half shares in the Clagett CSA are still available: 301/627-4393.

We are very impt to them because we are means of spreading accurate and correct info in a world that d/n want to hear
series of articles under early harvest, cover crops d/n give that but 10 million advantages: bounty health hgihter quality fruit or product, most of all neglected aspect ag is a long term process not like industry mfg you make the product now yo have got to make 100 mil sales in 3 mons agi is slow which is wy tersm sustainable we’ve got to do it in a way we continue to be in procudtion and our children and gc afte us in the same soil for who knows how many thousands of yurs soil is not a commodity you can make over night it takes millions of years to make good fertile top soil but you can lose it in just a few years of mismanagement so one most impot things we overlook is what are we doing to soil as we grow veg or field crops as we use it year after year? Key issus is became soil is not a dead matererial micoroorb are living converting capturing converting sysntesiszing relesing breaking down a dynamic entity yet our mgn determines to a large exten whether our soil will be maintained fertile or become pooer and les productive

What’s important is not this year but continuing next 100 years high yield, since commercial fert in 30s with peptro producut natural gas, they started using it to make nitrogen fertilizer. People thought no matter how they handled soil they could bring fertility back w. thse wonder fertilizers. Wrong, other major components can be lost to eriosion, in spite of fact were applying more nitrogen than crops need.

So lets take a typical exampe. Vege grower on Ch Bay? April to August? 4 mos. After that, land is not in use, so you have 8 months of no due. Dange is in tose 8 mos when soil is not protected rains come wash it away, nutrients left after harvest eith washed away on surface with run off or go down deep into soil where roots cn reach and end up oin water table. Former: rivers, streams, ocen;’ latter, our water table.

Plant nutient usch as nitrants are major contaminents of our wate. What do we do to stop that loss? Put a cover crop in that field that will use leftover nutrients; klet a pllant take it. It makes biomass out of it brings it back to surface of soil as plant matter, and as you put resideu on surface it decomposes, making new food to next crop.

In addition, if your cover crop is a grass such as rye, it has such an excellent deep root system, efficient in intercepting nutrient, feeding them to leaves: interceptioon and recycling. Nutrients down deep captured and recycled and converted to biomass to add to fertility of soil.

However if you also combine grass and legume, say rye and hairy vetch or crimson clover (both in Bramhalls fields) legume in addition to recylceing has capability of fixing ntirogen directly! And this is something we are not paying any price for! We d/n ned any commercial fertilizer. This is nature’s way of enriching soil w. nitrogen since earth became suitable for growing green plants. Commerical fertilizer system 60 yrs old; legume nitrogen fixing system is millions of years old.

63 years old, talking out of experience. I have lived ag, farming, for 40 years and its painfut for me to see us drift too mush from bio systems that can do a lot of good for us. U of I masters adn PHD 100 yrs planting w/o fertilizer.

Sop from this system you intyercept, recycle, and FIX MORE NIT thru bacterial system in roots of legs. The problem w. our soil fertility is organic matter. Commercial fertilizers have none! They are inorganic. So when you have cover crops, you are 4th, as crops grow by end of season, the produce several tons of dry biomass per acre, and all of this organic matter is useful. Improves physical and chem prop. Waterholding capacity increases and it becomes much richer inm themicrobial systems which are useful to ag. Most impt: these cover crops, which we plant in Sepot no fertilizer no water grow all thus winter and in spring,we mow them and leave them as thick layeron surface of soil and plant right thru that mulch layer without plough inr or ccultivation> 2 benefits: weeds sufocate; you eliminate herbicides. You eminiate cost of cultavation, which exists to destroy feeds. 3. You cn use same field year after yr w/o machinery getting in and compacting field: No chemical no-till, and you can plant immediately in the system, savind waste of precious time.

More successful in veges than feild crops, because harvest comes too late to start cover crop in Sept.

Organic farming growing rapidly in MD; 2 articles last week in local papers (Cap April 15) and Sentinel

2 wishes:
1: whenevr I quote I would fax material to limit errors.301/504-5555: Abdul-Baki; can correct and fax back ASAP

2. Monday or Tues we are mowing and cultivating and planting

50 to Beltway North tabout three exist: Lanham, BW PKWY, to Beltsvilley which is also College Park. Stay right, about 200 yrds on US 1 to sttion on right in tall brick 14 stories, natl ag. and ON LREFT, office, middle of 3 brick white steple w. clock, in northern wing, veg lab room 210 bld 4 10 am tuesday cam era, in office or field where sects 220 and 221 will show me from window, about 1/2 mile.

Will give me list of 50 units and chiefs and he will help me write letter. Were addressing letter ot them as sci and adgs becauw you are more aware than anybody else =how important food safety is and because of your critical role in clean and healthy environment. We trust you will in touch w. us and providing us all sort of info on your researcgh that contributes to healtgh and natural env so we can put your result our newspaper where people can read them: farmer, consumer, and reader. OUr concerss and their one, they do research we are committed to making info assible to reader

Attorney General Alert
So how do you cool out when you’re the U.S. attorney general and you’ve spent the week explaining to Congress how your underlings blew it big time in Waco?

If you’re Janet Reno, you head to Annapolis and cruise the Bay.

Reno, accompanied by a friend and two Justice Department agents, was spotted at City Dock in Annapolis on that idyllic first weekend in May. She said that she had a wedding to go to but succumbed to entreaties for a cruise on a Department of Natural Resources boat.

How would you feel if you’re trying to catch a rockfish under the Bay Bridge and a boat sweeps down on you carrying the attorney general of the United States and two steely eyed FBI agents? Luckily for those stopped, they’d caught nothing that needed to be measured.

In Florida, where she was a prosecutor, Reno would hop in a canoe and paddle the Everglades. On the Chesapeake, she didn’t quite have her sea legs. She held tightly to a bar at the stern even when the boat was docked. Someone had to explain to her the definition of a waterman.

No one had the courage to bring up cultist David Koresh and the recent horrors in Texas. Reno was content to talk about tomato plants and to observe that political leaders need to keep in touch with the people of the Bay.

If you’re worried whether Reno took away a good impression of the Bay, rest easy.

“The Chesapeake is one of the ecological wonders of the world,” she remarked.

We’ll see if she remembers as much the next time the government prosecutes Bay polluters.

Invasion of the Grass Snatchers?
What bulks up to 50 or 60 pounds, zips through the mud and eats others’ food all day long?

An escaped pig, maybe?

Wrong. We’re speaking here of the infamous grass carp, which may be headed toward the Chesapeake Bay thanks to a panel in Pennsylvania.

The decision by Pennsylvania’s state Fish and Boat Commission to allow grass carp into their state's waters has Marylanders fuming. So much for interstate cooperation to save the Bay.

Pond owners in Pennsylvania want these huge, imported suckers as underwater weed killers. Pro-carp Pennsylvanians contend that the fish will be sterile and trapped. So don't worry about it, they tell us.

Down in the Chesapeake region, many aren't buying it. People who have worked to restore precious Bay grasses want no part of these hungry devils and their rapacious habits. Chemicals flowing down the Susquehanna are problem enough.

Maryland state officials and environmental advocates agree that grass carp carry too much risk.

“They're hearty rascals, they're quite tough and theyre prolific breeders,” asserted Bob Lundsford, director of Maryland's Freshwater Fisheries Division.

These aren’t the European carp that Americans have come to know and tolerate. They're a species hailing from the wide, fast rivers of eastern China and Siberia. Rather than lolling in the shadows, these water hogs are consuming everything in sight.

Their appetites are remarkable. Researchers say grass carp put away anywhere from one and a-half to four times their body weight daily. Figure it out for a 50-pound brute. Some will grow to 100 pounds and, in the right conditions, consume ten times their weight, a study in 1975 found.

This is more than theory. Well-meaning Texans rounded up a mess of grass carp in the late 1980s hoping to eliminate about 40 percent of the abundant growth in Lake Conroe, known for lunker largemouth bass. In 18 months, the lake was nearly devoid of vegetation and bass fishing was all but a memory.

There’s more. Because of short intestines, they don't digest much. So after hosing up all the plants, they disrupt the clairty and quality of the water. And they have no known predators,
chiefly why they're surviving now in 35 states.

Who wants to mess with a fat, dirty fish with lips, anyway?

Can they get to the Bay?

Flooding, common in Pennsylvania’s lowlands, makes escape a good bet. They can flop through washed-out fields to rivers and easily survive plunges over dams.

Maryland officials point to studies showing that sterilization methods are roughly 85 percent effective. Inspection afterward are rather crucial seeing as how a female can lay 2 million eggs.

But in checking for sterility, Pennsylvania examines only about 150 fish in batches of 5,000, Lundsford contends.

In other words, the prescription is in place for a new species in the Chesapeake Bay.

Dave Wolf, spokesman for the Pennsylvania commission, said that bureacrats there will consider flooding and potential for ecape when they start taking applications in January. “We’re not trying to go against our neighbors,” he insisted.

The Pennsylvanians are deploying this argument: The more carp you use, the less chemicals you may need to control growth.

“We see this as an alternative to chemicals which may harm the habitat more than the crass carp,” Wolf said.

Baysiders find little consolation and Maryland officials hint that they might try to use the courts to block the Pennsylvania ruling. But Lundsford, the Maryland fisheries director, believes that it may take a public outcry to keep these voracious whoppers away.

Bridge Surfing
If crossing the Bay Bridge bugs you, be warned: this cautionary tale is not for the faint of heart.

Scott Johnson, avid wind-surfer, was headed west across the bridge on a recent Sunday with two fine sailboards strapped on his wagon. One of them was his prized, never-used Mistral Explosion, which lists for about $1,700.

Johnson, a veteran sailor from Washington, had secured his boards with new marine-grade bungee cords. The wind blew and the traffic hummed along at 60.

He was mid-span when he saw trouble in the rear-view mirror: an auto swerving wildly. Things moved with terrifying swiftness after that.

A hook on the bungee had broken, unleashing his eight feet-long boards into traffic. What do you do?

When it happened on the bridge recently to a windsurfer friend of Johnson, Dan Marren, one of the wind-propelled boards sailed plum off the bridge. The friend sped to the toll area and police closed the bridge to retrieve its errant mate.

Johnson had a different instinct watching those vehicles swerve. Rather than let matters take their course, which may have included a collision at any moment, he jammed on the breaks and peeled backward. Dodging a 16-wheeler, Johnson snatched the crumpled boards and stuffed them into his wagon.

How did he feel? “I was ready to jump over the side,” he said.

Every tale has a moral, and Scott Johnson’s has two: use only the finest nylong cords to tie down your gear. And when you visit your insurance company later, make sure your broken boards show tire marks.

A Rose Not Always a Rose
Just about everyubody has called their boat junk at one time or another. The crew of the Tall Ship HMS Rose , which sailed up the Bay this week, says so truthfully.

Besides its reputation as the world’s largest seagoing wood sailing ship, the 179-foot Rose has a curious distinction: the sails are made entirely of plastic soda bottles and car fenders.

A few years ago, the Connecticut foundation that owns Rose got together with DuPont to plan this recycling marvel. They combined 126,000 soda bottles with the elements of new plastic fenders DuPont was designing for the auto industry.

From this blend, they extracted enough polyester yarn to weave 13,000 square feet of sails that have been sturdy enough to withstand squawls.

The real Rose was an 18th century destroyer used by England to boss the seas. It attacked New York during the Revolutionary War. The replica of the Rose, built in 1970, is used DuPont and the American Plastics Council to attack the perception of plastics as one of the world’s great waste problems.

The HMS Rose will be docked in Washington and open for public viewing on Saturday afternoon, May 8, and all day Sunday, May 9, at the Gangplank Restaurant and Marina on the Maine Ave. waterfront.

Rockfish and Fries: $510
Two seafood sellers in St. Mary’s County may need to change their bill of fare.

Maryland Natural Resources Police charged the two last week after discovering 464 pounds of undocumented rockfish and illegal bay delights.

Copsey’s Seafood in Mechanicsville and Captain Leonard’s Seafood in Oraville had freezers with whole rockfish and filets absent tags showing the fish had been caught in-season.

Delectable rockfish often sell for $6 or more a pound, In this case, each hunk of fish could cost the seafood sellers $510.

Way Downstream...
Old Henry David Thoreau is grinning is his grave and he has rock ‘n roll music to thank.

Walden Pond in Massachusetts, Thoreau’s sanctuary and inspiration, has been saved from developers after a campaign led by rock star Don Henley.

Henley went from the Eagles—their 70s hits included “California Hotel,” “Tequila Sunrise,” and “Desperado”—to envelope-licking and money-raising for the Walden Woods Project. He's put together $3.5 million, inclujding a $1 million state grant, to block an office building and parking lots.

“This is a critical step toward preservation of the Thoreau legacy,” Henley said a few days ago...

Golf-crazed Asians have a new hazard on the course to contend with —protesters. In densely populated Japan, non-golfers are teed-off about the spread of courses, their piggish use of water and the fertilizers and pesticides keeping fairways green and bug-free. Same goes for Thailand and Malaysia.

Get ready, hookers and duffers, it may be heading your way. Last week, activists in those nations announced that they had formed a new organization: the Global Anti-Golf Movement....

Finally, for those who think news of ozone holes in the atmosphere are some American hoax, you should know that people elsewhere are worried, too. First came reports that shepherds in
Chile put sunglasses on their sheep to accompliish what the ozone layer should do: protect eyes ffrom the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Last week, Czechoslovakia may ahve been the first country to direct its people to temporarily remain indoors. Conditions were such that ozone protection had plummetted by one-fifth, raising concern about an outbreak of skin cancers.

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“Bay Drench ‘93” carried trillions of gallons of so-called fresh water into the Bay. We also would hope to see a river of caution about letting down our guard when it comes to water quality.

We could be feeling the effects of last winter’s great blizzard for a long time. Not since Hurricane Agnes in ‘72 have we seen such a deluge. Indeed, this one may go down as the biggest flow on record.

Fresh water, they call it. Give us a break. We’re speaking here of sediments, farm chemicals and runoff of assorted toxics; erosion of construction sites; and overflowing sewage ponds.

All of this spells trouble, change and uncertainty .

Fish may not like it. Experts warn that bluefish and their salt water-loving brethren could be put off by the drop in salinity in the Bay’s upper regions. Let’s hope they don’t find their only comfort zones way south. And let’s really hope that spawning by “cow” rockfish hasn’t been disrupted.

Crabs? So many factors come into play here, but diminished oxygen at lower depths isn’t a good sign. Unlike crabs, oysters can’t scurry away from fresh water and low salinity, neither of which they can abide. And sediment smothers oyster bars.

Things may not be so gloomy. The Bay has prooved resilient before. But it needs our unflagging help.

Unfortunately, at this very time, environmental protection is threatened. These sentiments popped up in Annapolis earlier this year and they are sounding these days in Washington during efforts to preserve wetlands.

Using respectable-sounding phrases like “property rights,” agents of the self-described wise-use movement are chipping away at pollution control around the country. Along the Bay, updates of the Critical Area law in Anne Arundel County and elsewhere are inviting targets for them.

With the Bay especially fragile at this moment, we need to remember that the wise course is gentle treatment with no compromise of her health.

Thanks To All
We devote this space to say thank you to so many of you for making the inaugural of New Bay Times a big success. Thanks to readers, subscribers and advertisers as well as to shops and restaurants along the way calling to become distribution points for our new weekly newspaper.

Swiftly, our newspaper has become your newspaper.

We recall the words of an older gentleman in Edgewater. “Starting a newspaper in this day and age has to be a crazy thing to do. But I sure am glad you did it.”

Response has been enthusiastic all over, prompting an unexpected second printing of our premier edition. What you are telling us is that you agree with our mission: delivering news about the Bay and its fine people and promoting richness of life along her shores.

We will continue to bring you many stories and tips on boating, adventure, eating, gardening, festivals, children’s events and much, much more. With your counsel, we will write about living in harmony and protecting the fragile Chesapeake.

We encourage you to write us or to just stop in, as so many of you have. Tell us topics you want looked at and more Baysiders to meet. And we will give you the best stories you’ve ever read.

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I’m not certain to this day who had the idea to unbolt the outboard motor to get a better fix on the problem. And I can’t say for sure who was supposed to be holding it.

But I can still hear the splash and I remember vividly watching that motor sink in about 30 feet of water at the same moment that the sun disappeared on the horizon. Things got worse after that...

Confess. No matter how long you’ve been a boater, regardless of how many seasons you’ve conquered the Chesapeake Bay, you’ve had problems. Maybe big problems. Perhaps BIG BIG problems.

Even if you only had to be towed in a few times, you probably heard your buddies chuckling at the dock as they cleaned their fish and spanked their beers.

More likely, you’ve had harrowing, heart-thumping moments out there on the water because of breakdowns, storms or even something dumb that you did. You can laugh about them now, or at least smile. And that’s what this contest is all about.We want to hear your boating horror story.

That bilge pump was working awfully hard for a hot, sunny day. Soon I saw why; water poured in the engine compartment. And poured in and poured in.

Luckily, we were close to shore, and neighbor Rick was nearby with his trailer. Rick didn’t realize how big and heavy my cruiser was. But when you’re close to sinking, you give it a go.

So I ran my cruiser up on his trailer, and Rick pulled and pulled with his small Jeep truck,. He spun and he revved and he fishtailed and he grunted and finally, the boat began moving up the ramp. But truth be told, our problems had just begun.

As soon as he stopped to admire the rescue, the rear end of his truck hopped off the ground like a bucking mare and hung in the air. The tires on the trailer went flat and the dripping boat began to slip with the sound of a million fingernails on a blackboard.

An old sea dog wandered over from his stack of crab pots. “Boys,“ he said, “you got one hellacious mess on your hands.”

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Sounds of Lumpers, Splitters and the Baltimore Oriole that is No More
Very small frogs and very large birds, crying out together on a dark spring night just before the new moon, make a Chesapeake sound. Earlier in the year, the swans can sometimes be too silent
to be real.

When dense low clouds cover the ground and the Bay, and a white bird with seven-foot wings glides closely in and out of the winter fog without a sound, the moment is more like a photograph than a lived experience. More like a still photograph than a motion picture, and more like black and white than color.

But on the springtime pond, the Tundra swans—huge birds that used to be called Whistling swans—were noisy, restless, getting ready to fly back to Canada to nest. The name change is just as well, because the swans don’t really whistle much. They moan, chuckle, wail, and sometimes tremble like a clarinet trying to be a trumpet.

The change to Tundra swan was made by a committee of bird specialists who from time to time decide that bird names must revised. Because professional bird people are frequently Anglophiles, the Sparrow hawk has, for years now, been the Kestrel, as the bird is called in Europe by the English.

Becaus Anglophilic scientists have become sensitive to geographic chauvinism, the American egret, found through much of the western hemisphere, became the Great egret, and the Louisiana heron the Tri-colored heron.

Of course, the people who live along Guatemalan bays have their own names, in their own languages, for these same birds. If the people speak Spanish, the names, like our English labels, may reflect where, or in what kind of place, European settlers first noticed the birds, or may reference a similar-looking bird from Europe. Mayan villagers, still speaking their languages, will have their own names for the birds.

The United States’ name-changing committee, responding to new information and to cycles of scientific fashion, also decides when a bird is no longer what we thought it was. The Baltimore oriole is no more, and instead is just a variant of the Northern oriole.

The Myrtle warbler, flashing yellow signals from the waxmyrtle bushes throughout our winters, is not its own species after all and is now known to be the eastern version of the Yellow-rumped warbler, whose western U.S. variant was once named after Audubon. Another time, the scientists may change their minds and decide a warbler or an oriole is, once more, a separate species.

As they do to the birds, professional bird people do to themselves. Scientists who decide that an oriole is not a separate
species, even if it lives in one region and looks like no other bird in the world, are called lumpers.

Those who think differences are important enough to merit recognition as a species are called splitters. Sometimes lumpers become splitters, or vice versa. And the total number of recognized birds in the world goes up and down, not just in response to extinctions and new discoveries, but to new evidence about kinship among the birds themselves or to the prevailing political strength of different classes of scientists.

Many nature lovers show their age, or their lack of devotion to scientific dogma, by continuing to enjoy sparrow hawks and
Baltimore orioles. Like good Catholics who can’t give up favorite saints the church has disavowed, some people still hear whistling swans.

Of course it isn’t necessary to know correct animal names, or any names, to hear and appreciate nature’s music. Just get close to the Bay, on a spring evening, with marshes and woods and a meadow nearby, and listen.

The small frogs, spring peepers, are aptly named, sending reedy songs from reedy places. The swans are not so continuous as the frogs, but can be counted on for regular and impressive sounds, now mournful, then excited.

Contribution from different night-time soloists vary with the time and season. Where the deer are free to move in family groups, they bark like out-of-breath dogs, or make strong sighing cries like imaginary nightbirds. Barred owls play echo to each other with seven-hoot calls, moderately paced and pitched, sounding like big owls should. But sometimes they pierce the night with loud, wild, cat-like shrieks.

Mockingbirds, talented whenever they sing, seem more liquid, more varied, when heard against the stillness of the night. A great blue heron’s raspy growl travels far. Screech owls make their low trill infrequently, but much more often than they screech. For a few special evenings each year, at dusk and sometimes late into the night, the woodcock’s buzzing, ventriloquil whistle haunts the meadow.

In a spring by the Bay, the birds’ morning decibel level might violate many city noise codes. Mockingbirds are joined by two relatives, the ccatbird and the brown thrasher. Cardinals, Carolina wrens, and song and white-throated sparrows sing nonstop.

Towhees on the ground, red-eyed and white-eyed vireos and indigo buntings and robins in the trees, redwinged blackbirds from the marsh. In any ten minutes, a dozen different birds can be calling long and loud. Often, all or most of them sing at the same time.

As noted, you can hear and enjoy the wild sounds of the Bay country without knowing or caring who is responsible for
all the animal noises. And on a breezy day, you could press your ear to a cypress and listen to the hollow wind music coming from inside, without knowing what kind of tree you were hugging.

Like that shell at the beach that lets you hear the sound of the ocean, the trees and the birds can be anonymous, instruments that don’t matter so long as they allow us to capture nature’s music.

But there are reasons to identify the instruments, to learn their names and maybe a little more. If the songs intrigue you, the singers may be worth getting to know.

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Admit it. Baseball, with its poke pace in yuppie-filled parks, doesn’t really excite you. Pro basketball and hockey? How do you get turned on by seasons that never end.

But football....Ahhh, that’s the sport. All-American headbanging. The Skins. Guaranteed Sunday fun. You long for it, but what can you do this time of year?

If you’re Stan Chilcote of Deale, the World’s Greatest Redskins Fan, you get up in the morning and you hitch up your pants with a Redskins Super Bowl belt buckle. You climb under your sequined Skins cap. You pick out a T-shirt with, guess what on it. The Skins themselves regularly renew Stan’s wardrobe.

Then you hop in your famous Skins Mobile., emblazoned in maroon and yellow. Maybe you head to a lunch put on by Joe Gibbs, the recently retired coach and Redskins icon, as Chilcote did recently. Then again, maybe you drive off to help quarterback Mark Rypien run a charity golf tournament.

“Wherever I go, I’m like a celebrity in that car,” says Chilcote, 71, who owns the Deale Sign Shop.

Remarkably, the only Redskins home games that Chilcote has missed in over 50 years were played while he was in the Navy. Often, he’ll shine up the Skins Mobile and drive up to Philadelphia, New York and points farther away yet for games.

“I wouldn’t be fit to live with if I didn’t go to every game I could,” he adds.

Chilcote’s preoccupation formed back in the late 1930s, when he and his pals would drive down from Lewistown, Pa., to see their hero, quarterback Sammy Baugh. Now, as he puts it, every game is a highlight in his career as super fan.

For Chilcote and his wife, Jean, perhaps the only thing sweeter than football is living along the Chesapeake Bay. Twelve years ago, he moved his business from suburban Washington, where crime was such that customers needed to be buzzed in to his locked shop.

In Deale, he leaves his door propped open even when he’s out running errands.

And that car of his? It’s an ‘83 Olds that he turned into a Skins welcome wagon eight years ago. He changes hoods every year, enshrining signatures from players and coaches. Many recognize the car from seeing it at the entrance of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium or perhaps on national television.

“People go crazy when they see that car,” Chilcote says. “It’s honk, honk, honk. They want you to pull off to the side of the road and talk football.”

Well, how ‘bout it, Stan? Can we talk a little football this time of year? How will those Skins be, anyway, after losing Gary Clark, that gutty little receiver, and those defensive behemoths that jumped ship? And how are the Skins gonna get along with out Gibbs?

Chilcote says don’t fret. For him, Clark’s star dimmed last year after those sideline snits of his. And he reminds that new coach Richie Petibon, who ran the defense of late, was around Redskins Park even before Gibbs.

“They’ll be good because they’re a good organization,” Chilcote says. “You only go as far as your front office.”

He admits he’ll miss Gibbs, like he misses Sammy Baugh. To a fan like Stan Chilcote, heroes don’t come down the pike very often, and you remain true when you find one. Fortysome years have passed since Baugh threw his last pass. But Chilcote telephoned him recently at his ranch in Texas to tell him how much he enjoyed his play. Baugh got right on the phone.

And Gibbs? Chilcote is likely to see the departed Redskins coach occasionally; he does thousands of dollars of work free for Gibbs’ Youth for Tomorrow program.

Always Chilcote will remember the day Gibbs took him into the sanctum of his office after a game and handed him an autographed Bible.

What do you do when you’re not a churchgoer and your hero hands you a Bible? If you keep your faith in football, you do what Stan the Fan did: ask the coach for two more.

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Vera’s White Sands
As wide as a river, St. Leonard’s Creek shimmers, struck silver by the setting sun, and every new voice exhorts its companion to “look at that sun set, will you!” As the light dims, the creek puddles pink as Vera’s newly painted patio. Darkness creeping in, patio and creek glow lavender.

Vera, whose tastes were formed in Hollywood, has arranged this spectacle for you. “I didn’t find it like this 38 years ago. I made it this way,” says the ageless, charming, platinum-haired creator of Calvert County’s Shangri-la, Vera’s White Sands Restaurant and Marina.

She cultivates banana palms among the dogwood on her promontory that breathtakingly overlooks three sides of St. Leonard’s Creek. She has imported exotica from everywhere—especially the Pacific Islands she loves. She will garland you with leis—usually plastic, but some special night your garland may be orchids. Real orchids, colored pink or lavender.

Much at Vera’s is pink: the patio, the napkins and the women’s room, and, of course, your strawberry, whipped-cream adorned rum concoction that may accompany the sunset. Dare to order one, and don’t act surprised when it comes with paper umbrella or plastic orchid.

Everything at Vera’s is exotic. Carved goddesses with eager, bare breasts and sparkling nipples gird the dining room. Faux leopard covers the bar and its stools. Tropical hats, some from deep sea divers, ornament the bamboo-roofed indoor bar. Beaded curtains drape windows. Will the embroidered umbrella above your table protect you from the wild animal effigies on the prowl?

Most exotic of all is Vera, gowned in flowing, gold-threaded Bombay silk, bejeweled with gold and diamonds, diademed in shells. When she visits your table, as she surely will, you bask in the glow of her champagne-sipping celebrity.

Too few restaurateurs bother with the personal touch nowadays. Your homogeneous meals may cost you $15 or more and you go home with an impersonal flavor on your lips.

At most restaurants, you’re nobody. In a few, everybody else seems to be somebody, while you dine alone. Here, you’re somebody when Vera glides to a stop at your table—warmly and ingenuously. You’re Vera’s guest, and it’s for your comfort she has arrayed the treasures of her wide travels. (She recently returned from her seventh cruise around the world.)

The White Sands’ staff is just as solicitous as its creator, so if your waitperson forgets something, you don’t mind. You just ease into luxury and relax. As the cabaret pianist evokes mellow moods from the grand’s keys, everybody sinks into their own reverie.

I return to the supper clubs, cocktail lounges, and nightclubs of America’s 50s, when you left your everyday self at home, dressed up, and went out on the town for a good old time. Whatever their reverie, everybody has a good time at Vera’s.

It’s not for the food you go to Vera’s, even though you may be pleased with the White Sands’ special bouillabaisse or the ample portions on the mariner’s platter. Maybe it’s osso bucco, Italian simmered veal marrow bones, you’re after, or a rack of lamb, topped with Dijon and green peppercorns.

But you just may find that the reason you go back to Vera’s is for the illusion. For these treats, $12.95 to $18.95 doesn’t seem too much a price. Does it?

By land, enter Calvert County by Route 2/4, drive to Lusby, and turn toward the Patuxent River at Vera’s sign.

By water, follow the Patuxent to St. Leonard’s Creek, to Vera’s ample dockage.

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In the Water:
The opening of trophy rockfish season May 1 reminds us that big stripped bass are around. Any rockfish caught between May 1 and month’s end must measure at least 36 inches.

Bluefish, too, are entering the Bay. According to Maryland Fishing Report, the first bluefish of the season, a 10 pounder, was caught in the Lower Bay Mayday weekend.
In the Air:

The Bay region is bright with hundreds of new birds this season as migrators move through. Here’s a short list of favorites who’ll hang around.

I know winter’s broken when herons replace swans on the Bay. Herons replashowed up at Nanjemoy rookery in Charles County on Valentine’s day, as expected.

Adding to the number of Bay resident eagles are a couple on Herring Bay, who are still around watching me watch them this spring.

Humming birds are all about; sighters have dated their arrival from April 16 to 26.

In the Garden:
Perennial herbs are vigorous enough to add springtime spice to your cooking.

Though dandelions are now past their prime for salad, tougher mature leaves cook up into a fine mess of greens. Eat dandelion to pep up your sluggish winter blood.

Use overwintered greens to perk up your salads. Or add sprouts thinned from your garden; we’ve already gobbled up radish and arugula sprouts.

Rhubarb is about a week to plucking time, when stalks will be about as thick as a man’s thumb. Use this week to take off the crowns that would divert the plant’s energy from fruit to seed, advises Juanita Foust, wife of UMD historian Clifford M. Foust, author of Rhubarb: A Wondrous Drug.

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Due Insalate Italiane
Laughing gourmet’s family eats two kinds of salads. “Not Elsa’s Salad” is a simple salad to keep your mouth responsive to the more demanding courses of your meal. It’s far better if made from garden-fresh ingredients. “Elsa’s Salad,” called by many the best salad they’ve ever eaten, is a meal in itself. Its complexity will compensate for less-than-fresh ingredients, so you can make it from the garden or grocery store. Use lots of lots of goodies in this one.

Not Elsa’s Salad
Gather, wash, and dry a good size bowl full of mixed greens, preferably pungent leaves with decided flavor and crisp texture. Romaine lettuce makes a good base. Tear or chop with fresh herbs; which herb and how much is up to you. Add one or two of the garden’s other offerings. Very nice are sliced spring onions and new radishes with their tops. Fresh sprouts go well, too.

To dress this light salad, beat two parts Extra Virgin olive oil into one part vinegar (wine or herb flavored); the two will merge when you’ve beaten enough. Season with salt, fresh ground pepper, and, if you like, mustard or crushed garlic. I do my beating with a fork. Don’t overdress! Make only enough to coat the leaves.

Elsa’s Salad
In the biggest bowl you can find, break or cut a base of greens to two-thirds full. Then search out and prepare every vegetable you can find.

Cut the heart of celery and delicate stalks into half rings. Slice bell peppers in several colors into thin longitudinal slices. Break broccoli or cauliflower into tiny florettes. Slice cucumbers (peeled or not) and radishes into thin white winter moons. Cross section mushrooms as thinly as you like, tomatoes in wider sections. Slice red onions circles very thin. Continue as long as imagination and ingredients hold out, ending with a couple of hard boiled eggs, ideally sliced by egg wire.

Salt and pepper your creation; Then anoint with unbeaten olive oil and wine vinegar. Toss lightly with magic fingers to get the blend just right.

Eat with hearty appetite while remembering your mother.

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Dandelions Rampant
by Sonia Linebaugh
I wonder if the way to kill a weed is to love it to death. My friend eagerly pulls up dandelions each spring to use the tender green leaves in salads. This year she found only two dandelions in her own yard so she came to mine where, after some persuasion, I allowed her to pull up just a fraction of mine. I asked her why she pulled them out by the roots. “So I’ll be invited back.” Fair enough.

She pulled and tore and washed and tossed, so I held my tongue and tasted (quite a trick). Not bad. The slight bitterness of the dandelion leaves does add a new undertone to a salad with at least five other strong flavors.

Then I got into it. I picked my own dandelion leaves. I made my own dandelion salad. With spinach, baby lettuce that wintered over from the fall, olive oil, my brother-in-law’s mouthwatering rosemary vinegar, a generous sprinkle of black pepper and shredded romano cheese, the salad was a success. I’ll make it again next spring.

When my friend comes for the harvest, I’ll join her. In a few years we’ll move on to the next yard. In a decade or two we’ll clear out the neighborhood. In time people will have to buy packets of dandelion seeds at Homestead the way city folks now buy honeysuckle and mint. There will be new strains every year–guaranteed disease resistant. There will be gourmet varieties. There...

Dandelion Wine
By Lee Summerall
“George Walters was a real smarty-pants among us kids. One day, he wandered into the filling station where all the men hung out in the afternoon and wondered what was in the big stone crock behind the wood stove. Oh, he knew what was in it all right, but George thought he’d see what would happen if he asked for some. “It’s dandelion wine,” one of the men said, handing George a ladle full. He liked it “just fine,” George choked, especially the raisins. ‘Raisins,’ a man laughed, ‘that wasn’t raisins in there. That was flies!’”

Buss Chronister, an agile-tongued and -minded 70-year-old, tells that story. The stone crock, a big ten gallon one, was part of life in the city streets of the Pennsylvania town he grew up in.

Are you ready to share George’s surprise (without the flies, if you wish), and sample the tart, dark taste of wine harvested from the yards of spring?

Come with me.

On a sunny spring afternoon, just after a rainstorm, I nipped a bucketful of blossoms from my back yard. Following an old Pennsylvania recipe, I started my first batch of the intriguing tonic.

I don’t say ambrosial wine or world-class vintage, you know. More on that later. For now, here’s the recipe.

Dandelion Wine
1 gal. dandelion blossoms
1 gal. boiling water
1/2 C orange juice or, better yet, juice of 4 oranges
1/3 C lemon juice or, better yet, juice of 4 lemons
4 lbs. sugar (white granulated)
1 package active dry yeast

I picked my blossoms right after a rain on the theory that any dog residue would be washed off. After all, does a dandelion exist that a dog hasn’t lifted a leg over? But slugs love damp dandelions, and some blossoms offered a half dozen for me to flick off. So you takes your pick.

This is no ten-minute task, by the way. Count on 90 minutes or more. Once your gallon jar is full, dump the blossoms into a sink of cool water and swish them around to wash off slugs, sand, and things that won’t enhance the taste of your brew. If you’re a purist, two changes of water won’t hurt. Then put the drained blossom in a large pan.

Pour one gallon of boiling water over the blossoms. Let them set until they rise to the top; then remove the blossoms and strain through cheesecloth or a clean tea towel. (What properties make a tea towel so desirable? Beats me. I used a clean dishcloth.) Put the cloth in a strainer set over a pot. Pour slowly to catch sediment missed in washing; you’ll find most of it lurking in the last half cup, so skip it.

Stir in the juices, sugar, and yeast. After its long captivity in its little foil package, the yeast will go nuts over this sudden banquet and hiss wildly.

Now comes the fun, which will make your house aromatic for a couple of weeks.

If you have a stone crock, great; be authentic whenever possible. A stainless steel stewpot also works fine, and so I guess will a crab steamer. Let the mixture process: the yeast will crackle as it grows.
Stir the stuff at least 4 times a day. When the yeast finally consumes all the sugar, you’ll have wine.

Time now to bottle your creation. Use sterilized bottles and tightly fitting corks. Clear wine bottles and corks you’ve saved are best; after all this is, in theory, wine. Fill, cork, and serve with aplomb.

The taste? Dandelion wine was a spring tonic to a cold, semi-starving colonist, who had just put in a horrendous winter fighting off the wolves. Anything would have been a relief.

So, dandelion wine is … interesting. Loaded with nuances earthy and yet sprightly, with almost indefinable scents of sawdust, earth mold, a good compost heap, citrus (remember the juices), and the sharp, almost bitter, back-of-your-mouth taste of dandelion. Drink your creation eagerly; toss it down.

Share your bounty with your friends. They’ll never forget your generosity and, at parties, will whisper about your talents. Heads will turn as you pass, and someone may say with awe, “She makes dandelion wine!”

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News of the Weird

The Humane Society of Pasadena, Calif. used $4.3 million in private money to begin building quite a dog-and-cat shelter. It will have: towel-lined cages, skylights, “microclimate” air-conditioning, sculptured bushes and something called adoption counseling pavilions, where people can meet with their prospective “companion animals.” It will be done in “a very subdued, classical painting scheme.”

Critics observed that the U.S. has four times as many shelters for animals than for battered women..

Night Moves
Wausheka, Wis. police, responding to a domestic disturbance, confronted a man in the dark. They thought he had a gun when they heard clicking sounds. A flashlight revealed that the weapon was a staple gun and that the man had shot several staples into his eye.

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