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Friday, August 28, 2015

Burger heaven

    On a recent visit to Red Hot and Blue in Laurel I decided to try something a little different from my usual order of ribs and pulled pork.  Both of these are so good I have a hard time exploring the other choices on the menu.  This visit I once again tried their "All In" burger.  It comes with a 1/2 pound burger, cheddar cheese, pulled pork, onion straws, lettuce and tomato.  Hard to get into your mouth!  With their BBQ sauce and dry rub sprinkled on top it is a memorable burger!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Howard County comes out poorly in this measurement


     We all have become used to Columbia and Howard County being on lists for all the good attributes of our community.  However thanks to Jesse Newburn I recently learned that on the "natural amenities" ranking our community below average at 2334 out of 3111 communities ranked.  Here is a description of how that scale came up with their rankings.

     "The natural amenities scale is a measure of the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live. The scale was constructed by combining six measures of climate, topography, and water area that reflect environmental qualities most people prefer. These measures are warm winter, winter sun, temperate summer, low summer humidity, topographic variation, and water area. The data are available for counties in the lower 48 States. The file contains the original measures and standardized scores for each county as well as the amenities scale."

    As an article in the Washington Post noted :
"........Sun Belt counties fare pretty well -- especially ones in California and Colorado. In fact, every single one of the 10 highest-ranked counties is located in California. After Ventura County, Humboldt, Santa Barbara, Mendocino and Del Norte counties round out the top five."

    I guess we shouldn't be surprised that our landlocked county the summers of heat and humidity would hurt us on our score in this survey's scaling.  There is not much any of us can do about these two factors.  I would have an opposite view however on the beauty of our County when you realize how much open green space we have.   And this is before you include the lakes (OK so they are man made), local parks, biking and hiking trails and two rivers.  We may not be Ventura, California or the Big Sur but it doesn't take much to get out and see the beautiful surroundings of our County.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

United Way of Central Maryland working to meet the healthy food needs in Howard County

    This past weekend I had an opportunity to assist other volunteers at the community garden that grows produce to be distributed at the Howard County Food Bank.   Anyone who has ever raised a garden knows the challenge of weeding and watering to maintain a healthy garden.

      With the help of a number of volunteers a substantial amount of vegetables were harvested and weeds were removed.

       The United Way of Central Maryland has been an active funder of the efforts of Community Action to provide for the food and nutrition needs of Howard County citizens through the funding of the purchase of a large commercial refrigerator to store the vegetables before distribution.

    The United Way has also provided some of the funding necessary to develop and operate the Roving Radish which provides healthful low cost food for a number of low income families in Howard County.  If you would like to make a donation to assist the United Way provide for the food needs of families in Howard County you can make a donation here.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Storm water runoff--we have seen the enemy and it is us!

    This past week I had a chance to hike around Lake Elkhorn to learn about the nature around the lake and the efforts to manage the health of the lake.   The hike was sponsored by the Columbia Association and led by Ned Tillman.   Managing the health of our town's man made lakes is challenging with the amount of silt and nutrients that enter the lakes from our developed land.  The islands pictured above and below are just one small way that CA tries to filter some of the nutrients out of the lakes.  These nutrients come primarily from the fertilizers we put on our lawns.  

    The rain garden pictured below is another way that CA is trying to manage the storm runoff from the streams that flow into the lake.  I will talk a little more about rain gardens a little later in the post.

The warm temperatures and nutrient rich water make the growth of hydrilla an ongoing problem for our lakes.   
       The machine shown below is used to cut and remove the hydrilla that grows in our lakes. 
Much of the hydrilla is used by CA as organic material to be mixed with mulch and soil that is used by CA.

The Columbia Association has been piping in oxygen into the water to keep the water oxygen level sufficient to support the needs of fish in the lake.

     There are very few natural lakes or ponds in Maryland and the United States for that matter.  Our lakes were created by damming up streams that flowed through marsh areas.  The dam pictured below at one end of Lake Elkhorn it what created the lake.

    When we pave over land to build parking lots and drive ways a storm drain system has to be built to channel the rain water away from these lots.

    Ned pointed out in the picture below how one storm drain dumped water into a small stream that leads down to Lake Elkhorn.  Unfortunately the stream is too small to handle the amount of water dumped into it and the soil is eroded into the lake.

   Below is the small delta that is being created in the lake from the soil flowing into the lake from the stream.

   Ned's knowledge of geology was useful in explaining the rock formations that are at one end of the lake.  The large rocks pictured behind him are mostly sedimentary rocks made from compressed sand that washed away from the mountains that once were located where we live.  They were higher than today's Himalayas.  The soil erosion from these mountains ended up flowing east and creating the Eastern Shore and the Continental Shelf off the Atlantic Coast.

    Below is a vein of granite squeezed between two layers of sedimentary rock.

     It is not hard to see examples of the granite like pictured below as you go around the lake.

      The area around the BG&E power lines at one end of the lake creating a healthy marsh land for ecological and wildlife benefit shows how development doesn't have to be negative.

     Berries on the bushes below are an important aspect of any wildlife habitat.

     As mentioned earlier CA can only manage a part of the problem with soil erosion and storm runoff.  We as homeowners can often do damaging things that increase the problems.  The owners of the home below have cleared trees and our shrubs that will increase the amount of storm water runoff that is only a few feet from the lake.

      So the message of this post is that CA is at the "small end of the funnel" to control storm water runoff that is creating the problems in our lakes.   We as homeowners are at the "large end of the funnel" with our yards that are a major source of the problem.  If we we continue to fertilize our yards and not control the storm water runoff through installing rain gardens CA will never be able to create the healthy lakes that we all want to enjoy in Columbia.   Fortunately CA has a program that will pay for the majority of the cost to install a rain garden.  Additionally Howard County will rebate $250 to the homeowner for installing a rain garden.   For very little out of pocket cost homeowners in Columbia can have a beautiful rain garden like the one below for very little cost.

      Here is the link to the CA rain garden cost share program.   John McCoy explains the program in this You Tube video.  Time to do our part as homeowners.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sign that stopped me in my tracks

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      On a recent visit to Pennsylvania I came across this sign and it made me think of the Rams Head incident and  my first reaction was "I hope the camera they are referring to is on the outside."