Still seeking a winner in the Tuesday Trivia Contest!

P.C. ZICK

It’s time again for June’s Route 66 Tuesday Trivia Contest. Post all three correct answers here, and I’ll gift you with an e-book of Live from the Road. I just need your email address. Here goes:

  1. How many miles of Route 66 passes through Kansas?
  2. What state is home to the Gemini Giant, a fiberglass rendering of an astronaut?
  3. Why did the Joad family take to the Mother Road in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath?

Good luck!

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An Almost All Homegrown Dinner!

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

Last night we managed to eat a meal, mostly provided by our garden, with a table graced with flowers from plants and herbs gone to seed, along with a very few wild irises growing at the edge of the woods in our backyard.The tall purple flowers are radishes; the long drooping yellow flowers come from our oregano plant leftover from last year; look very closely to see the basil leave peeking out from the front of the vase. Beauty graces our home and our plates.

A zucchini greeted me yesterday morning when I did my daily walk around the perimeter of the garden. At eight-inches, this lovely vegetable was the perfect size for grilling. I found one small cucumber to provide a little bit of crispness to our meal.Preparing the bounty

We picked enough beans for a small serving each. The onions are just popping up out of the ground so I decided some of the sweet “Vidalia” type would be great on the grill. And in the big sink, I soaked the last of the leaves of spinach for this year.

The spinach and beans I put on the stove to steam and then prepared the zucchini and onions for grilling (I did use one sweet red pepper with these purchased from Giant Eagle – it will be more than a month before peppers are ready for eating). As a marinade, I used olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon and thyme. Next, I prepared the salmon for grilling. No, I didn’t catch it from the ocean out in the backyard. I purchased this salmon on sale in the Strip District in downtown Pittsburgh. I used the last of our zucchini relish from last year as a marinade and then plopped a few springs of our parsley on top before loosely wrapping in aluminum foil and grilling along with the vegetables for about 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. After the grilled items cooked for 15 minutes, I turned the burners on the other vegetables. And then I prepared our cute little cucumber – a delicacy at this point in the season.I presented our “almost all homegrown dinner” to my husband as a thanks to all his hard work for growing this bounty. I forgot to mention (and forgot to take a picture), for an appetizer, we ate the first peas from the garden. We were probably a little premature, but they are very close and very sweet. We managed about ten peas each as a preview to our coming attractions.

What are you eating from either your own garden or from the farmer’s market right now?

BATSHITE

This is the first post I wrote in my capacity as UNEP’s blogger for World Environment Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’ll be posting all 5 leading up to and throughout Rio+20.

With the start of 2012 came the news that the world’s tropical rainforests hold 229 billion tons of carbon, which is 20% more than was previously thought.

So it’s a good thing Brazil is making a concerted effort to stop deforestation—with a decrease from 27,000 square kilometres of forest lost in 2004 to 6,451 in 2010.

Worryingly, however, deforestation has recently been on the rise in certain regions of Brazil, which calls for decisive action and innovation.

To that end, in 2011 Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen challenged UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle to a race. The winner would be the one who inspired the most people to launch events in conjunction with 2011’s World Environment…

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The Saga of the Mallards Continues

A couple of nights ago, our doorbell rang. When I answered it a young boy, around ten years old, stood on the front porch hopping from one foot to the other. His dad stood behind him.

“My dog came into your yard and found duck eggs in the bushes out there,” he said pointing to the area behind our mailbox. “Come see.”

I followed him outside and sure enough, there were ten eggs in the bush, but no adult ducks anywhere around.

“I told the lady at the farm we had ducks laying eggs in our yard,” the father said. “She told me to smash the eggs and shoot the duck.”

I guess she’s tired of the way her ducks have multiplied, but we don’t see it that way. Sure, they’re an annoyance when they decide to do their duty on the patio. And yes, it’s no good when they decide to lie down in the onion beds. But we can’t kill them. We can scare them away; we can make it uncomfortable for them to stay around here, but in actuality we’ve had fun watching them. And we do live in a rural area – we moved into wildlife territory.

This morning I went to check on the eggs, and the female had returned to the nest. I read that the male mallard doesn’t hang around after the eggs are laid. The other day, I drove past the farm where the ducks originated, and six adult male mallards walked in front of my car. Probably on their way to the golf course while the females stayed home to rule the roost.

We also have a robin nest on our patio ceiling. Every year this poor robin builds a nest there. We’ve tried discouraging it by putting up cardboard pieces, but this year we gave in. This morning I spied a baby peeking up over the nest while the mother went in search for worms.Nature is in her glory this time of year, and who are we to fight it? What’s going on with the wildlife at your place? Any suggestions on keeping the ducks from pooping on the patio?

Early June and the Garden is Growing

The garden is growing at a rapid pace. We only have four more tomato plants to put in the ground and then it’s time to sit back and wait for the bounty. We have frozen 40 bags of spinach, and I still have two bags in the refrigerator. Last night I steamed some to go with fish and rice, and it didn’t even make a dent in one of the bags. I’m going to take one of the bags to a friend this morning because I’m not sure we can eat it fast enough. Spinach will keep in the refrigerator for several days if you put it away dry. We don’t wash the leaves until we’re ready to eat them.

Last night we also ate our first cucumbers. They were about 3-inches longer than this one still growing. The two we picked were crisp and juicy at the same time. I can’t wait to make pickles this year. Last year we didn’t have enough to do anything so I missed both the dill and chips I put up.

Our first raspberry! Can’t wait to taste these red delights fresh from the garden, but I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks (maybe sooner).

Onions are popping up out of the ground. As soon as I finish using up the store-bought varieties, I’ll be heading to the garden and using them as I need them. They store very nicely in our basement, too. And the onions will be wonderful in all the sauces I make with our tomatoes and peppers. Speaking of tomatoes. . .they are looking green and healthy and developing blossoms. So is the zucchini which should be overflowing in the garden any minute. I have a great zucchini relish recipe we’ve made two years in a row. I just opened the last jar of it this week. Our favorite way to use it (besides in tuna and potato salad) is to put it on fish before baking. I’ll share the recipe when I start making it.

And the flowers – my husband started all of these from seed.Sunflower – ready to burstthe first dahlia bloomAnd the front beds – marigolds and cosmos from seed

It’s a great time of year for sure. And the best time to take a breather before the work starts up again. Last year we had 23 tomato plants, and it was a bit much keeping up with the produce. This year I’ve asked my husband to cut back, so he’s only put in 18! We’ll still be rolling in the red come August.

How’s your garden growing?

The Real Mallards of Raccoon Township

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

My own backyard as the setting of the next biggest reality show to hit the airwaves since Love in the Wild, I imagined. Since there’s a reality show for everything and anything, why not follow the antics of those wild and crazy mallards wandering in our yard and garden in recent weeks?

It started innocently enough. One day a couple, obviously in the mating stage of love, showed up in the backyard. The male held his neck high in the air exposing his shiny green neck to the wind while she kept her beak in the dirt. Their actions represented their respective appearances very well. His beauty acts as a decoy to her undistinguished brown, black, and white feathers as she searches for food in the dirt.

One morning when I came outside to take a few pictures of the wandering couple, the male had disappeared and the female continued her beak-in-the-soil pursuits. That’s when I decided to learn a little more about this duck strutting in our space.

The name mallard comes from the Latin word for “male” and refers to the male mallard’s habit of not hanging around to help raise the ducklings. So when the male disappeared, I assumed the female had laid the eggs somewhere on the property, and Mr. Mallard decided it was time to get out of the territory.

That’s not exactly what happened. I learned it was a little early for the nesting process. She’s just getting her fill of food in order to do the job of incubating the eggs when she does sit on the nest, sometime in early May. The male returned within a day, but he came with a surprise. He was now following another female and kept her close to his “first wife” as he continued the ritual of standing guard as the two soon-to-be mothers dabbled in the dirt.

My husband and I laughed at the spectacle and that’s when I thought of the reality show idea. If the not-so-real housewives of New York and Atlanta can parade as “real” anything, then why wouldn’t the antics of three mallards in Pennsylvania stand a shot? If a show called, Lady or a Tramp, can make it to TV, why not a show about wildlife gone truly wild in a place called Raccoon Township?

However, this morning my hopes were dashed when my husband appeared in the door of my office as I began writing this blog.

“Those ducks have got to go. They just think they can rule the roost,” he said. “Now one of them has made a bed in my onions. We let them get away with it, and now they think they can do anything.”

So I went back to my search on mallards, this time inputting the phrase “How to get rid of mallards in backyards and gardens.” The suggestions I found offered humane solutions: stand plastic wildlife, such as owls and swans, or even a blow-up alligator, next to the pool or garden. To honor my past Florida life, I do have two plastic flamingos in the herb garden. I realized the ducks never go over there so I offered to let my husband borrow them. He wasn’t keen on the idea of pink birds guarding his precious vegetables.

I also told him that spraying water at them would let them know this wasn’t the Holiday Inn.

“The hose,” he said. “That’s a great idea.”

The best comment I saw on some of the sites offering solutions to the mallard problem was the one I often thought about residents who complained about wildlife when I worked for Florida’s wildlife agency: “If you don’t want wildlife in your yard, perhaps you shouldn’t live in the country.”

Living in peace with wildlife, even the polygamists, is possible. But I think my idea for a reality TV show was just hosed.

Excellent! I’m going to visit this place – always love to see folks living the dream.

wvfarm2u

How often have you heard someone sigh and then say, “Someday, I am going to…..”  and they go on to wistfully explain a dream they have. Well, I want to introduce you to Leslie Hotaling and Patti Miller who are following their dream, walking their walk.

Leslie served as the Director of Public Works for the City of Washington, D.C. and Patti as a Realtor in Alexandria for over 27 years. They visited Berkeley Springs, saw the Panorama steak restaurant positioned on Route 9 at the overlook, and found out it was for sale. The next two years passed quickly, as Patti moved there to start the ball rolling on what has become West Virginia’s premier Farm to Table restaurant. Leslie made her move and the Panorama on the Peak opened on August 28, 2005.

Leslie’s and Patti’s concept is comprehensive.

*** They believe they are stewards of the land. They…

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