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Asparagus is coming; winter weeds should be going

If you planted a cover crop of winter rye or wheat last fall, most likely the grass is six to 12 inches tall by now. Use your lawnmower to mow the grass as close to the ground as possible. Mowing saves you time in tilling the soil and helps to dry it, making it easier for the tiller.
    Ground left bare will by now be covered with a carpet of chickweed and henbit. Use horticultural vinegar to kill these winter weeds now before they drop their seeds. For maximum control, spray the vinegar on the foliage during a bright sunny day. Within 24 hours, you will see the weeds turn yellow-white with the leaf margins going brown. Friends report good results with a mixture of one gallon of distilled white vinegar with one-quarter cup of Palmolive dish detergent.
    If that bare ground is your asparagus bed, once the weeds have died down, rototill lightly, delaying if the soil is very wet. Before tilling, you can easily remove old stems because most have rotted at the base. Allow the tines of the tiller to penetrate the soil no more than three or four inches so as to not disturb the roots of the asparagus plants, which will soon be sending up shoots
    Readers have asked how to grow white asparagus, which are tenderer than green asparagus and have a milder flavor. White asparagus are grown in the dark. The old method was to hill the beds with soil or sawdust as the spears appeared above ground. The modern method is to build a lightweight frame of wood and cover it with black plastic or roofing paper. As soon as the spears appear, place the covered frames over the beds, lifting every two or three days for harvesting.
    If you have not had your soil tested in the past four years, now is the perfect time to submit a good representative soil sample for testing.
    I recommend sending the soil samples to A&L — now Waypoint Analytical — in Richmond (
    If your soil is a sandy loam or loamy sand, have it tested for all trace elements especially for boron (B). However, if your soil is a loam, silt or clay loam, the general soil test will suffice.
    If you have been growing multiple crops each year, you most likely will need to apply limestone. If you want me to make the recommendations, don’t specify a crop (a savings of $3-$5) and include my email so I’ll get your results: Once I have them I’m happy to consult you.

Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at Please include your name and address.


Disney gives kids a talk on racism that parents also need to hear

In the metropolis of Zootopia, predators and prey have evolved past biological impulses. Lions and lambs live together in harmony and work for the future of all mammal kind.
    Everyone lives in peace, but not all things are equal. Predators tend to jobs that require forceful personalities, such as police officers or poli­ticians. Prey cluster in service fields. So Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin: Once Upon a Time) is laughed at for dreaming of joining the Zootopia police force.
    A tiny bunny with a quick mind and bold spirit, Judy isn’t an obvious choice for a force full of powerful wolves, elephants and lions. But she doesn’t let her size or status stop her. Judy finds ways to outwit and outmaneuver other classmates until she’s tops at the Police Academy.
    But prejudice endures, and her police captain (voiced by Idris Elba: Beasts of No Nation) refuses to give her cases. To prove herself by cracking a case that’s stumped fellow officers, she teams up with Nick (voiced by Jason Bateman: The Gift), a con artist fox.
    Can a fox and a bunny work together? Or are they doomed by biology?
    In the era of Black Lives Matter protests, Zootopia is a timely story about the insidious nature of bigotry. The film explores the hurt wrought by harmless assumptions and teaches kids the dangers of judging on preconceptions.
    The most interesting part of the message is that everyone is guilty of stereotyping. Good people aren’t good because they’re without prejudice but because they can acknowledge poor behavior, apologize to those they’ve hurt and change. It’s a message that should help parents start a very tricky talk about discrimination.
    Zootopia also offers small viewers a great female role model. Judy is tiny and weak, and she fails a lot. But she doesn’t stop trying to achieve her dream. A fiercely independent bunny with a great work ethic, Judy remains kind and caring to all. It is wonderful for children to see that she can be both kind and tough without compromising who she is or what she believes.
    Bateman’s Nick is the sly foil to Goodwin’s perky bunny. Because he’s a fox, he’s assumed to be a liar and a thief. And that’s what he’s become, in a direct lesson on the consequences of stereotyping.
    Even little ones who are too small to understand Zootopia’s range of social commentary will enjoy the animal puns, silly humor and gorgeous animation. Zootopia doesn’t carry the same emotional impact as a Pixar film, but it more than makes up with meticulous animation, family-friendly humor and its timely, believable message. 
    If you’re looking for a way to open a conversation with your kids about racism and the harm it causes, Zootopia will help you get the ball rolling.

Great Animation • PG • 108 mins.

You think you’ve got everything you need until you find out you don’t

It was a nearly perfect morning. We had arrived to find our favorite yellow perch spot empty of angler competition, the broad stream running full and clear and a warm sun poking up over the tops of the thick trees lining the far shore.
    With medium-sized bull minnows hooked on shad darts under weighted bobbers, my buddy Frank and I flipped our rigs out into the stream, above a small eddy churning about 30 feet from the shoreline. Both our bobbers disappeared as soon as they drifted close to the edge of the twisting water.
    Setting our hooks, then gently fighting and easing two fat neds to the shoreline, we grinned so wide they almost hurt our faces.
    “Man these are definitely keepers,” I said.
    “Definitely,” Frank concurred, “but we had better check.”
    Agreeing, I hunted in my tackle bag for a measuring tape. It was not to be found.
    “I must have left it at home,” I said.
    Frank was not having any luck either. “I know I had one last year,” he said.
    “Dang. I’m not so positive that my fish is legal,” I had to admit.
    “I’m not sure enough to risk a $200 fine,” Frank agreed.
    After a final desperate search and still coming up empty, I proposed an option.
    “I think a dollar bill is close to six inches. Let’s cut a branch the size of one and a half bills to measure our fish. We should probably add a little length just to be sure, because I’m not positive that a bill is just under or just over six.”
    Both our neds proved legal by this method, and we used the small stick until we limited out.
    We would later discover that a dollar bill is exactly 61⁄8 inches. So we had probably released, unknowingly, a dozen legal keepers.
    We also discovered we had overlooked bringing a fish stringer, pickerel lures, a better quantity and selection of shad darts, heavier sinkers and a minnow net for dipping bait.

Making Your List
    The first trips of the year can be like that. You think you’ve got everything you need until you find out you don’t.
    With the benefit of hindsight, Frank and I made a checklist:
    A measuring tape or ruler.
    A five-gallon plastic utility bucket, a great catchall for carrying the various items of your tackle to the fishing site as well as in carrying back any fish you might harvest.
    Two fishing rods per person so that an accident like a broken rod or a reel that has frozen up over the long winter won’t derail your after an hour on the road and a mile hike to the secret spot. It is also handy to have one rod rigged for bobber fishing and the other for bottom fishing.
    A regulation book in case you catch a species you hadn’t planned on and can’t remember the minimum legal size or legal season for possession.
    Extra shad darts of varying weights, sizes and colors, plus small spoons and crank baits, extra hooks of the proper size and hi-lo rigs to set up for bottom fishing. Also bring sinkers and bobbers in enough quantity that you can lose a few in the multitude of snags and low treetops in springtime angling waters.
    A minnow bucket so that you don’t have to purchase yet another when stopping at the bait store; plus a small dip net to allow your hands to stay warm in the chill of spring.
    A line clipper;
    A good knife;
    A small towel or two to keep your hands dry and warm and to wipe off fish or bait slime.
    A hemostat or pliers to aid in divesting your fish — especially pickerel — from the hooks.
    A camera to prevent your being called a liar.
    Boots in the event of a flooded or muddy shoreline.
    A light waterproof jacket or poncho for that day when a warm, sunny sky turns into an dark dowpour.
    A first aid kit, including bandaids, medical tape and disinfectant for fin and hook punctures, plus a small wire cutters should a hook bury in past the barb.
    Last but not least, a fishing license.

For a week’s worth of words, open Bay Weekly

All the puzzles on Bay Weekly’s expanded Activities Page have me thinking synonymously.
    Amalgamation … composite … everything but the kitchen sink … fusion … gallimaufry … grab bag … hash … hodgepodge … marriage … medley … mélange … miscellany … mishmash … Noah’s ark … odds and ends … olio … omnium-gatherum … pasticcio … pastiche … potpourri … salad … salmagundi … scramble … stew … and my favorite, dog’s breakfast, a ­Canadian idiom I immediately understand. Like the lunch salad my husband generously made for me, this Bay Weekly is full of little bits of good things.
    Come to think of it, newspaper belongs on that list.
    (I’d make that memo to Mr. Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), were he still around to read it, or his Fifth Edition successor, Mr. Robert L. Chapman, had he not, alas, left this world back in 2002.)
    For what is a newspaper but a periodic anthology of all the stuff that’s come to its editor’s hand by way of assignment, diligence and timeliness?
    I go gallimaufrying as I read my morning newspapers (The Washington Post and The Capital plus a section left over from the plentitude of Sunday’s New York Times). Gallimaufrying, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t) is a “conflation” of French words meaning to amuse oneself and to gorge. And what I seek is to breakfast on the unexpected, from five appreciations of Nancy Regan to stories of love and marriage to who may be who on the Supreme Court to defiances of death to cartoons to advice on the complexities of daily life.
    At Bay Weekly, we’ve gorged ourselves on gallimaufrying in making this paper, so you can expect to go gallimaufryin, too.
    Your reading this week will inform, enlighten and entertain.
    Start with edification. The Chesapeake Waterkeepers, in a new monthly feature by Mitchelle Stephenson, will keep us up to date on front-line actors and action in restoring the Bay, river by river.
    Then learn how researchers and citizen scientists at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are looking long-term into a future, planting a forest of 20,000 trees to learn lessons in diversity.
    That’s a forest you can visit any day, but what about those saplings you’re passing on every day’s drive? There’s another part of Bay Restoration, planted by the State Highway Administration to improve the health of the Chesapeake watershed by capturing pollution-producing nitrogen and phosphorus in their root systems.
    For news you can use, read Kathy Knotts’ stories on tax advisors ready to help you meet your date with Uncle Sam and Mr. Franchot.
    For what’s happening in the animal world, you’ll read how you can help Chesapeake conservancy set up a new nestcam to spy on a blue heron rookery.
    Speaking of diversity, that, Moviegoer Diana Beechener writes, is the lesson behind the very entertaining Zootopia.
    You’ll find more entertainment in Get Your Skates On, wherein first-time contributing writer Karen Holmes takes us visiting area hockey bars, where fans watch their beloved Washington Capitals score.
    You’ll find entertainment every day of the week in 8 Days a Week, your go-to source for fun and festivities.
    Once your head is full, you’ll be ready for word puzzles four ways: Crossword, CryptoQuip, Kriss Kross and Anagram. Full of words? Stimulate other parts of your brain and satisfy other appetites in this week’s Sudoko and Coloring Corner.
    All that for free 52 weeks a year in Bay Weekly. All we ask is that you support our advertisers.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

Blue heron next in line for Internet stardom

The race is on for the debut of the latest Internet stars in the Chesapeake Conservancy’s lineup. The urgency? Getting the cameras in place before the stars arrive.
    The intended reality stars are great blue herons nesting in a rookery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
    “We must move fast, as the heron customarily return to their nests in the next two weeks,” says Jody Couser, director of communications. “We have to mount the camera quickly so as not to disrupt the rookery.”
    So great is the rush that the Annapolis-based organization is seeking crowdfunding.
    The Chesapeake Conservancy did not plan to launch a third webcam, so funds are not in this year’s budget. Then the property owner invited the Conservancy to set up its third live-streaming webcam at the rookery where, for the last 10 springs, about a dozen great blue herons have nested in a small loblolly pine grove. Once the large blue eggs hatch, the population grows to roughly 50 herons.
    Webcams help the Conservancy connect people to the Chesapeake and the species that call it home. 

    “We get to see straight into their nests. We can share the wonder of these majestic birds live on your screen 24 hours a day,” Couser says
    Infrared camera technology enables viewing even after dark.
    Intimacy breeds stewardship.
    “We know that once you care deeply about the Bay and you have access to the Bay, you will help take care of it,” Couser says.
    The two active web cameras feature an osprey duo and a pair of peregrine falcons. Boh and Barb, the falcons, nest outside the 33rd floor of the Transamerica Building in Baltimore. The osprey, Audrey and Tom, should return to their seasonal nest near Kent Island around St. Patrick’s Day.
    “These cameras are wildly popular,” Couser says. “We get more than one million views each year for each webcam.”
    Those viewers come from all over the world and more than 100 countries.
    The Conservancy has secured a donation from a tree service based in Rehobeth, Del., to mount the cam in the 80-foot-tall pine. Discounted equipment and installation come from Skyline Technology Solutions, Inc., the company that helped launch the other webcams.
    At press time, $4,000 had been raised toward the $10,000 goal.
    Donate at

One man soars toward his dream in this winning underdog tale

Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton: Legend) isn’t a winner. With braces on his legs and thick glasses covering most of his face, Eddie doesn’t look the Olympian. Yet that’s his dream, and when the braces come off, training begins.
    But for what? He starts chucking javelins, attempting high jumps and lifting weights. Eddie breaks plenty of pairs of glasses — but no records — as he fumbles toward Olympic glory.
    Eddie’s mother is endlessly supportive. His father wishes Eddie would stop with this nonsense and become something respectable, like a plasterer. Eddie perseveres, deciding to go for gold as an Olympic ski jumper.
    Three problems get in the way: First, Eddie has never ski jumped. Second, no ski jumper has represented England in the Olympics for decades. Third, ski jumping is one of the most dangerous winter Olympic sports; an inch off on a landing can shatter a jumper’s legs or spine.
    His first few runs are disastrous. He’s the laughing stock of the slopes. Practiced at ignoring ridicule, he continues his dangerous pursuit. Eventually he catches the eye of ski jumping burnout Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman: Pan). Eddie and the former Olympian team up for an unconventional story of Olympic glory.
    A multitude of sports movie clichés should make Eddie the Eagle unwatchable. Yet Jackman and Egerton’s winning chemistry make the film charming. Director Dexter Fletcher (Sunshine on Leith) lets his actors do most of the work. His big burst of originality is the montage of young Eddie seeking his sport.
    Taron Egerton brings a marvelous oddity to the role of Eddie. He is a twitchy, nerdy little man, but his many quirks belie his steely nerve. You can’t help rooting for him and might well break into applause during his death-defying jumps.
    Jackman gives one of his best performances in years. Instead of shouting and gesticulating, he pulls back, making Bronson’s a sardonic figure instead of a clown.
    A sweet story of one man’s journey to Olympic greatness, the film will leave you cheering.

Good Sports Comedy • PG-13 • 106 mins.

A gas giant, that isIt’s a Gas

Jupiter is brilliant from dusk to dawn, rising in the east at twilight, at its highest due south around midnight and low in the west at dawn. The gaseous giant is at its closest, and Tuesday marks its opposition, when it is directly opposite the sun in relation to earth. The planet is at its best for viewing, and even a modest telescope will reveal its colored bands and its four largest moons.
    Mars rises around midnight and is well placed in the south as daybreak approaches. Over the next three months the red planet grows in size and brightness as it moves closer to earth.
    Saturn rises around 1:30am, trailing Mars by 20 degrees. Come dawn it’s high in the south-southeast. The bright star to its lower right is Antares.
    Venus twinkles just above the east-southeast horizon a half-hour before sunrise, while Mercury is a few degrees lower still, and almost lost now against the coming sun.

It’s not such prickly work after all

A Bay Weekly reader who has tried and failed many times asks how to grow cactus plants from seeds.
    It’s possible. Here’s how.
    For growth, cactus plants need full sun, dry conditions except for a few days of rain in the spring, sandy rather poor alkaline soil that’s hot in the day and cool at night. These are exactly the same conditions you must satisfy to be successful in germinating seeds. 
    To prepare a seed germinating mix, blend one-fourth cup of garden soil with two cups of play sand and one rounded teaspoon of agricultural grade dolomite limestone. Moisten with water and mix thoroughly. Place the mix in a metal or Pyrex pan and bake at 200 degrees for one hour, cooling in the oven. By doing this, you are pasteurizing the soil to kill all weed seeds and living organisms that are not common under desert conditions. Put two tablespoons of the sterilized soil in a clean, sterile container or plastic bag. Place the rest of the sterilized soil in a clean, shallow four- or five-inch pan with drainage holes in the bottom.
    Uniformly scatter cactus seeds over the surface of the mix, allowing one-eighth to one-fourth inch between them. Cover the seeds with the saved pasteurized soil using a tea strainer. Water the seeds carefully with a rose bulb or fine sprinkler until water drips from the bottom of the container. Place the pot near a window facing south where it will obtain full sun all day and cool temperatures at night.
    Commercially, cactus seeds are germinated in lighted cycling chambers with 80 degrees of bottom heat for 12 to 15 hours under grow lights and nine to 12 hours of darkness at temperatures 60 to 65 degrees. You can best achieve the commercial germination chamber with a gooseneck lamp with a 40-watt incandescent light bulb. Adjust the light to 10 to 12 inches above the pot and place both in the middle of a room. Turn the light on soon after you rise in the morning and turn it off before going to bed at night. The heat and infrared rays of the incandescent light bulb will not only provide light but also warm the soil during the day. When the light is off, the soil will cool.
    Most packets of cactus seed contain several species, so germination is very erratic, anywhere from a few weeks to a month or more. Check for soil moisture daily. If the soil feels warm, irrigate lightly. If the soil feels cool, withhold irrigation.

Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at Please include your name and address.

Mine wouldn’t be so harrowing had I had Bay Weekly’s annual Camp Guide

I sure wish I’d had this week’s Camp Guide back when I coerced my mother into sending me 800 miles from home into the wilds of Minnesota for six weeks at Camp Wood ’n’ Aqua.
    Parents, read on lest your kids wander into an experience like mine. Our annual Camp Guide will give you choices, and I’ll give you some practical guidelines in the form of questions I wish I, or my parents, had thought to ask.
    If you’re past that life stage, read on, reminisce — and keep right on reading into Camp Guide. There you can dream, because the camps we’re writing about are awesome.
    Camp Wood ’n’ Aqua had sounded pretty awesome the afternoon its owners pitched its wonders to the assembled third through eighth graders of Our Lady of the Pillar school. I came home after their talk — illustrated with slide images of the Land of Lakes, woods, paper-bark birch trees, canoes and happy campers — to tell my parents they had to send me.
    Persuasion took some doing. Wasn’t the distance far and the stay long? I was nine years old and had never been away from home alone. I was also a pest, and I drilled them like mosquitos around a campfire till they could take no more.
    Preparation was an adventure. Mother and I shopped for a shining black metal chest and filled it with neat stacks of required camp wear. She bought labels printed with my name and stitched them on every blouse, pair of shorts, jeans, underpants and socks, sheet and towel. She gave me lessons on fixing my own hair, and along with soap and shampoo we packed hairbrush, hair bands and bobby pins. I added a stack of books and comics, and she tucked in tablets, envelopes and stamps.
    In the grand dark caverns of St. Louis Union Station, Mother, Dad, my grandmother and most of the staff of our restaurant waved and wept. The train trip north could have been my little ride on the Orient Express — had I not been in oxygen deprivation, holding my breath to keep terror at bay. Instead it felt like a first-timer’s journey on the Hogwarts Express. Despite my stiff upper lip, I was already lonely.
    On the first day of 42, I discovered that we girls weren’t the only swimmers in Minnesota’s thousand lakes. In the bathhouse, as we pulled off our wet one-piece swimming suits, we found shiny black blemishes on our legs and stomachs. Our lake was inhabited by leeches. We poured on salt — boxes were on hand for that purpose — to remove the slimy parasites.
    Rule 1: Ask what flora and fauna you’ll go to camp with, and how camp organizers promote peaceful coexistence. Campers can be taught to avoid poison ivy, like the vine entangling my granddaughter’s camp cabin, and skunks. Avoiding leeches means staying out of the water, but what’s the fun of camp if you have to stay out of the woods? Check out tick precautions.
    At Camp Wood ’n’ Aqua, I spent my time on the water instead of in it. That’s where I learned to paddle a canoe. The amber waters, cloudscapes and peppery smell of ozone before a storm drew me back years later for long canoe and camping trips on the Canadian side of the Boundary Waters. On these adventures, we made up our own family party of two or three, so I had the fellowship you hope for at camp instead of loneliness. Which brings up …
    Rule 2: Ask how counselors promote friendship, defuse cliques and guard against bullying.
    Whether camp friendships are easy or hard, campers are never alone. For an only child used to being solitary, the constant companionship of this big makeshift camp family felt like being in the zoo instead of visiting it. So I suggest …
    Rule 3: Make sure your camp provides quiet time. Camp days are full steam ahead. Most kids, wild things as well as introverts, need the relief of calming quiet time.
    Finally, Rule 4: Broaden your choices. The camps you’ll read about this week in Bay Weekly’s Camp Guide offer about everything under the sun, from animal training to zip-lining, all in manageable installments from hours to half days to overnights to weeks. As you find ones you and your kids like, go beyond the introductions we make in these pages. Study websites. Take notes. Visit camp fairs and open houses; you’ll find many noted in these pages. Talk to organizers, ask questions and consider what you learn. Imagine what it will be like to be there. Then go have fun — or envy the kids who will.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher;

If it’s looking like a curled wood saw, it’s time for a new one

While walking close to the stern of my trailered boat in the drive yesterday morning, I felt a tug. My pant leg had hung up on the outboard’s prop, and for good reason. The edge of the offending blade looked like a curled wood saw.
    Fishing shallow water has its rewards, but it can be hard on boat propellers.
    You’re sometimes navigating where your skiff’s propeller is pushing through sand, silt or worse. You are inevitably going to hit a rock or two, possibly even a boulder.
    If you have a stainless steel prop on your outboard, you must be eternally cautious or have deep pockets. Stainless is expensive and doesn’t easily bend or deflect. While superb for deep-water cruising, stainless props will fracture, or fail when encountering rocks of size.
    Aluminum props are much more forgiving, bending and deflecting from collisions with the hard stuff in the shallows. My propellers for the last few decades have been aluminum for just that reason. Though they can eventually lose their operating efficiency when the blades become too rough or misshapen, replacing them is rather simple.

Know Your Propeller
    Next to the horsepower and torque of the motor itself, the propeller is the most critical link to moving through the water. The propeller and its shape determine, among other things, your top speed, fuel economy and how promptly your craft comes up on plane.
    An outboard prop’s performance essentials are identified by the numbers inscribed on the hub of the prop (which means you have to take the propeller off to determine what they are). These numbers indicate pitch (how far the prop theoretically drives through the water in one revolution, measured in inches) and the prop’s diameter (also in inches). It should also denote the direction of rotation (usually right or clockwise).
    If you are pleased by the past performance of your propeller and merely intend to restore lost efficiency (caused by dents, gouges and misshapen blades), purchase a new one with the same pitch, diameter and rotation direction as your original.
    At propeller-changing time, you can also modify any aspect of your craft’s general on-the-water performance. Choosing less pitch, or a slightly smaller diameter for your new prop can likely generate higher RPMs (engine speed) and a greater WOT (wide open throttle) speed. Expect, though, that the change (as long as the RPM increase is within the safe range of the engine’s specs) may also result in your craft coming up on plane a bit more slowly.
    If you are a shallow-depth dervish intending to cruise the shoalwaters and wanting your skiff to jump up on plane faster, choose a greater pitch or a bit larger diameter prop, recognizing you may lose a little top-end speed.
    One caveat: It is impossible to predict exactly how a different prop will affect your boat’s performance on the water. So when you decide to try a new setup, exercise care in unpacking, installing and running the new unit. If it doesn’t perform as you wish and the parts (and packaging) are still in new condition, you can return it in exchange for another better suited to your needs.
    Don’t discard a banged-up prop. It can come in handy as a backup. If you’re handy and have a hammer and a butane torch, you might restore a dinged aluminum unit to useful condition.