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Plants are survivors

The spring of 2016 will be remembered as a short spring and a very short summer followed by a short fall — all within four weeks between March and April. Those 70-degree days in mid March stimulated the vegetative buds in many woody ornamentals to swell, causing the winter bud scales to drop to the ground. This left the buds susceptible to damage by freezing temperatures.
    Some Bay Weekly readers have reported buds on their hydrangeas turning brown and drooping, which has never happened before. Others have reported that the new growth on their Euonymus shrubs is turning white and wilting. Others have reported that that frosty nights have caused their American hollies to develop yellow leaves that drop to the ground. They seem to forget that hollies lose their leaves in spring as they start to grow new leaves. The difference is that this year, the transition from old to new is occurring earlier than ­normal.  
    The peach crop will most likely be sparse this year because most of the trees were in full bloom when the frost hit. Once flower petals begin to unfurl, they lose their cold-hardiness. Late-blooming varieties will produce peaches because their flower buds were still closed at the time of the last frost.
    Early asparagus spears wilted to the ground in the section of the garden where I had tilled the soil to control weeds. Where the garden was not freshly tilled and the soil was firm, the early spears were not affected. The difference is due to the heat loss from the soil, which provides frost protection. Where the surface soil was loose, there was not sufficient heat retention to provide frost protection close to the ground. I have seen similar results in gardens where the asparagus beds are mulched. The mulch prevents heat loss from the ground, resulting in the early-rising spears vulnerable to frost.
    But plants are survivors. By the first of June, everything will just about look the same, regardless of late-frost damage.

Planting Schedule
    If you are anxious to get dirt under your fingernails, this is the time for planting potatoes, onions, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower, spinach and bak-choi.
    Delay planting tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash and cucumbers until the second week in May. If you are using stakes or cages to grow your tomatoes, remember to spray them thoroughly with a 10 percent bleach solution before installing them. There is evidence that spores of blight on last year’s tomato plants can over-winter on the stakes and cages.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Abundance is the rule on the Argentina Plains

The first bird to approach our floating decoy spread was massive. Its seven-foot wingspread and three-foot beak were also signals that the the creature was not among our intended species. Our guide, Federico, emphasized the situation by whispering, “No tiro, est un jabiru.”
    I stumbled with my Spanish, so our guide tried his English. “No shoot, is the bird that brings the babies.”
    It was a stork. And big enough to carry quintuplets.
    Just after sunrise with temps only a bit above freezing, we were crouched in a waterfowl blind within a large natural drainage system in the La Pampa Province of the Argentina Plains. Because of the earth’s tilt on its axis in relation to the sun, the Southern Hemisphere’s seasons are opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. Our Northern spring is when their Southern duck seasons begins.
    My longtime friend and sporting partner Mike Kelly and I were in one hide, my two elder sons were in another, and Mike’s traveling companions, Jeff and Suzie Boot from the Isle of Man, were in a third.
    La Pampa is a vast, scarcely populated agricultural area with massive acreages devoted to corn, soybeans, sorghum, rice, barley, sunflowers, cattle and sheep. It greatly resembles our Midwestern Plains but with a distinction. It is more like the Midwest of a hundred years ago.
    The ecological systems of freshwater drainage ponds and lakes that in America were leveled and plowed under during the last century remain untouched in Argentina. Those two differences, fewer people and unspoiled terrain, provide vast fertile areas for birds and waterfowl. It is a bird and bird lovers’ paradise.
    We hunted (and observed) for about three hours that morning, and harvested a colorful bag of ducks that eventually included rosy-billed pochards; white-faced and fulvous whistlers; yellow-billed and white-cheeked pintails; cappuccino, speckled, cinnamon and Brazilian teals; and Chiloe widgeon. The fowl were as delicious as they were beautiful.
    The afternoons in La Pampa were devoted to dove shooting, a specialty of the Argentina Plains. A number of dove species exist there, especially the eared dove, and because of their fecundity and the mildness of the long breeding season, their populations maintain well over 100 million. One pair of doves lays only two eggs, but the fledglings emerge in little over two weeks, reach maturity quickly and produce a number of hatches themselves within the same season. That can mean hundreds of eventual offspring from the original grain-eating pair each year. To help control their numbers and alleviate pressure on agriculture, the dove-hunting season in Argentina is open year-round.
    These small birds are as delicious as the ducks. Any birds or waterfowl not consumed by our hunting party were intended for delivery to local social services by our outfitters.
    It was great to adventure in an ecological system so abundant that our activities had no discernable effect.

Whence such a name?

What happened across the Bay at Kent Island to give Bloody Point and the Bloody Point Lighthouse that chilling name?
    Nobody knows — for certain.
    How’s that?
    “Many of the names of locations have been lost over time due to the fact that ownership changes hands,” explains Maya Davis of the Maryland State Archives. “Often time new owners change the name of the property.”
    Nonetheless, there are stories. Christopher Haley, research director for the ­History of Slavery in Maryland for the Maryland State Archives, outlines the top contenders.
    Story 1: In the early days of the colonies, the land that would become known as Kent Island was inadvertently given to two people who represented two colonies — one from Maryland and the other from Virginia. The mistake, unnoticed until one had established a town, led to a bloody scrimmage.
    Story 2: Native Americans were massacred at the point. Supposedly, the Native Americans were invited to an interview with the colonists who killed them without warning.
    Story 3: A pirate convicted of stealing a small boat and killing the three crewmembers was executed and his body hung at Bloody Point to warn others against such crimes.
    Story 4: The point was a place where slave ships threw ailing captives overboard. This heinous practice has been documented in other places, so it could have occurred in the Bay.
    All the stories are bloody, but what’s the truth?


Chesapeake Curiosities investigates regional oddities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history. Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.

Happy Mothers Day to Linne’s two-toed sloth Ivy

Does Hallmark make cards for sloth mothers? Not likely, so let’s send a special Happy Mother’s Day wish to Ivy at the National Aquarium. Ivy, a Linne’s two-toed sloth, gave birth to a baby girl, named Fern, two weeks ago.
    The baby sloth is the newest ­addition to the Upland Tropical Rain Forest and the sixth sloth born at the National Aquarium.
    “We’re thrilled to welcome Fern,” says Ken Howell, curator of the Rain Forest exhibits.
    Mother and daughter are doing so well that they’re back home in the exhibit. But you’ll have to look sharp to spot them. Sloths are well camouflaged.
    Ivy came to the exhibit in 2007 from a captive breeder. She gave birth to Felize in 2015, Scout in 2013, Camden in 2012 and now Fern.
    Baby sloths tend to be a bit on the clingy side. They start eating solid foods within a couple of weeks after birth but remain with their mother for nearly a year. Fully grown, Linne’s two-toed sloths will reach the size of a small dog, about 12 to 20 pounds. When she’s ready, baby Fern will be fed a diet of green beans, sweet potatoes, grapes and other fruits. It can take up to a month for a sloth to digest a single meal. Now you understand where the term sloth got its meaning.
    In the wild, this species is common in South America’s rain forests, where they spend their lives among the treetops, mostly hanging from their four-inch claws. With two claws on their front feet and three on the back, these nocturnal creatures are ideally designed for life in the canopy. They can sleep up to 20 hours a day. Sloths even mate and give birth while hanging upside-down.
    Linne’s two-toed sloths are not endangered like their cousins, the maned three-toed sloth and pygmy three-toed sloth. All sloths are however threatened by continued habitat loss and fragmentation of forests, which forces them to come to the ground to travel to additional trees. On the ground, they become easy prey and face injury and death trying to cross roadways.

It’s complicated

Except for Eve (and Adam) — as former Maryland poet laureate Michael Glaser points out in this week’s paper — every one of us has a mother.

remembering to Eve, try to imagine …

how she never knew a mother
or the fruit of a kind and nurturing hand.

    In turn, every one of us is a son or daughter. As the seven-year CBS standard-setting series The Good Wife ends on Mother’s Day, my thoughts turn to what it means to be a good daughter.
    “That’s ultimate praise,” I said the other day to a friend whose 94-year-old mother shares her home.
    “Do you think so?” she said, perhaps feeling the weight of obligation.
    With my mother 28 years dead, the weight I feel is regret. I feel the regret of missing her — and the regret of having been a very imperfect daughter. For what she wanted most was to be understood in her own terms. That I could not do when she was alive and ­kicking.
    For children, a great shadow blocks the light of understanding. We are throwing that shadow. Only a very little light passes around the child to illuminate the person on the other side of the mother-child relationship. Her motherhood is so central to our child that we can’t see beyond it to whoever she is besides our mother.
    Mother-blindness is not mine alone. That’s a ­discovery I made reading the poems that make up our Mother’s Day feature.
    In calling them to me, I made no hypothesis, primed no pump. I simply sat down on the floor to surround myself with the books of poetry on a small bottom shelf. Many of the thin books there are the brainchildren of local poets. T’was them I addressed, as well as one or two more whose poems I know by ear rather than eye.
    Will you contribute a poem? I asked each. My only stricture: It must be about — ideally to — your mother.
    Most sent single poems, and I printed what I got.
    How often these mothers appear in the shadow of the child!
    Or emerging from that shadow, as in Glaser’s irresistible A Blessing for My Mother, one of the half dozen poems he offered for this issue

Though she drove me to the brink,
it wasn’t ’till I got there, I think,

that I finally understood:
what she aimed for was good.

Blessed be her intent
Blessed be what she meant.

    Read them in the feature story Better Than Hallmark, and you’ll see what I mean.
    Still, I think you’re in for another surprise — as I was. All together, they cover quite a bit of the sublimely complicated relationship of mother and child. Ranging from three lines to 33, each — being a poem — has more to say than is readily apparent. Though some will tease and fret you with elusive meaning, you’ll feel what they say. Poetry is good for complicated emotions because it doesn’t reduce them to abstractions.
    Have you figured out the terms of your unique partnership in this universal condition?
    In other words, what does your mother mean to you and you to her?
    The simplest answer: It’s complicated.
    No wonder so many people buy greeting cards to speak in their stead.
    To try your own, follow this feature with What’s a Mother For, on how grieving granddaughter Janice Lynch Schuster used drawings to tap into motherlove.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

An absurdist retelling of a surreal moment in American history

A man shows up at the White House and asks to see the president. The request gives pause to the secret service, as the man is Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).
    The whole situation is bizarre. One day in 1970, Elvis flew to Washington, D. C., to meet President Nixon and ask him for a badge making him an undercover federal officer at large. The King, apparently, had decided he was the best way to combat the threat of communism. His plan was to go to communist meetings and parties where drugs were sold, collect information on the key players and convince kids to forswear drugs while embracing patriotism.
    It sounds crazy, but friends are used to The King’s whims.
    The president, on the other hand, thinks this plan sounds as screwy as Elvis himself. Staunch conservative Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey: House of Cards) sneers at popular culture. He has no interest in Elvis, despite his staff’s pleas that a meeting might win the youth vote. Only when his daughter demands an autograph does Nixon agree to the meeting.
    When The King meets The President, what happens?
    A funny fictionalization of the infamous meeting, Elvis & Nixon offers insight into both characters. Director Liza Johnson (Hateship Loveship) wisely chose to let the actors carry the movie. There’s little fancy camera work. Except for a few inspired montages of period-accurate footage, it’s all about Shannon and Spacey. Rather than mimic their famous counterparts with silly impressions, the actors offer genuine performances.
    As Richard Nixon, Spacey shines. He creates a grumbling president more interested in taking a nap than winning over American youth. Blustering through hackneyed dialog and ensemble scenes, Spacey continues his run of magnificent jerks.
    Shannon has the harder task of capturing the essence of Elvis. He succeeds by imbuing the King with the childlike simplicity of a man who can’t comprehend a world that does not bow to his whims.
    The two finally meet in a classic comedy of errors. Both believe they’re in charge, and both have a reason to assume so. Spacey and Shannon dance around each other in a delightful ballet of ticks and quirks as they goad each other to new and greater heights.
    It’s worth the ticket price to see this entertaining riff on an odd footnote in history on the big screen as two acting greats battle it out.

Good Comedy • R • 86 mins.

Crowded bulbs are smaller bulbs and produce smaller flowers

As the trumpets of daffodil petals herald spring, we see clumps growing in roadside banks as well as in gardens. Pretty as they are, the flowers in those large clumps are not as large as those of single plants or smaller clumps. Crowded bulbs are smaller bulbs and thus produce smaller flowers due to a lower reserve of food.
    Professional gardeners dig up and thin out clumps of daffodils every five or six years. This practice allows them to not only maintain flower size but to also expand plantings.
    If you would like to lift and thin your bulbs, now is the time to take the first step. First, use a large plant label or planting stake with a weatherproof tag to mark the location of each clump to be dug, and identify its flower color.    After the foliage dies down to the ground, give the blubs a couple of more weeks to mature. Foliage will die more slowly in clumps growing under partial shade than those growing in full sun.
    To minimize damage to the bulbs, use a fork spade for digging and lifting out the bulbs. Start digging at least three or four inches away from the ring of dead foliage. Lift the bulbs and spread them on the ground to dry in the full sun for an hour or so. After the soil on the bulbs has dried, remove it by rubbing gently with your hands. Avoid damaging the tunic, the thin papery covering on the bulbs. Do not attempt to separate the bulbs from each other at this time.
    After harvesting, spread the bulbs on a flat surface in a well-ventilated room under cover to finish drying for a few weeks. Then place them in mesh bags or screen storage trays, and store them in a cool, dry place protected from rodents.
    In September, plant the bulbs where you want them to bloom next spring.


Is salt damage reversable?

Q Is there any way to compensate for winter salt damage to trees and ­bushes? Also affected is the grass strip ­paralleling the road.

–Farley Peters, Fairhaven

A Most of the damage caused by salt is due to salinity, which kills plant roots. If the sodium level in the soil is equal to or higher than that of potassium, then the damage is more likely related to nutrition. Have the soil tested to see if there is sufficient potassium.


Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

All kinds of surprising things expire — car seats, makeup, fire extinguishers, bike helmets, bug spray. How about life jackets?
    Yes and no, depending on the type of life jacket and how much wear it has.
    Foam life jackets typically do not expire. You do need to be cautious about crushing them, however, so don’t use them for a kneepad, which can result in lower buoyancy. Also, ensure that they are not damaged as this could compromise their flotation or allow the floats to escape. If your life jacket has any rips, tears or the foam seems to be degraded, it’s time for a new one.
    If your life jacket is inflatable, you need to check the manufacturers recommendation about how frequently the CO2 cartridge needs to be changed. It varies from jacket to jacket, from every year to every few years. You also want to inspect inflatable components every few months for corrosion or dirt.
    As you return to the water, remember that a well-maintained and properly used life jacket can save your life. Almost 90 percent of people who drowned following a boating accident were not wearing life jackets.
    Take time to check out your life jackets prior to your maiden voyage this season to ensure you and your boating companions have dependable safety equipment.


Chesapeake Curiosities investigates regional oddities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history.

Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.
 

Whenever the weather lets you

When the reel spool began turning under my thumb, I knew it was no ordinary rockfish on the end of my line. Counting to seven, I threw the Abu reel into gear, and when the line came tight, set the hook. Then my rod bent over to the corks and a stiffly set drag howled as the fish really hit the gas. This one had to be trophy sized — if only I could get it to the boat.
    We were anchored up south of the Hackett’s can at the mouth of the Severn River in 35 feet of water on a morning that was glassy calm despite a small-craft warning from NOAA the day before. Not deterred, my fishing companion Ed Robinson checked another forecase, www.intellicast.com, which predicted light winds until almost noon.
    We agreed that if the winds were calm we would head out and fish until the weather turned. Launching my 17-foot skiff, we were on station by 8am. A half-hour later, our four rods were rigged and baited with large chunks of fresh menhaden.
 A chum bag over the stern was spewing small bits of ground fish into the falling tidal current as we guessed that we had only about three hours of ebb left before slack water.

    Then Ed had a run and landed a fat and healthy 23-incher, a good sign there were fish around.
    A few minutes later, my bruiser hit.

How to Fish Trophy Season
    Chumming during Trophy Rockfish Season is a long-odds affair. Because the big fish are spawning and moving alone or in small packs, it is impossible to determine patterns. They don’t stay in one place for very long, so catching reports are mostly useless. Locating legal fish is pretty much a matter of luck.
    With this year’s larger 35-inch minimum size, we guessed it would be even more difficult to find keepers by fishing bait.
    Trolling is the most productive technique during trophy season as you’re covering far more water and using big lures. But if you want to use light tackle you’ve got to fish bait.
    Our four outfits were medium-heavy, six-and-a-half-foot casting rods with Abu 5600 casting reels loaded with 150 yards of 20-pound fluoro-coated mono, with fish finder rigs, two-ounce sinkers and stout 9/0 hooks on 24-inch 30-pound fluoro leaders.

Reeling in a Runaway Train
    It was 20 minutes into the battle before I got a glimpse of the striper. It was definitely a good one. Calming myself and making sure not to force things, I eased it to the side of the boat. Ed got most of the fish into the net. It took both of us to lift it over the gunnel. The lunker’s big tail ran well past the deck-mounted 36-inch measuring tape, so we were sure it was legal. After a quick picture we eased the handsome giant into my fishbox and iced it down.
    Ed had pulled all of our rigs out of the water during the battle to avoid tangles, so it took another 20 minutes to get them cleared, baited and back in the water. After that we didn’t have long to wait.
    One of Ed’s rigs twitched, then the clicker on the reel started screaming as the fish picked up the bait and headed away at speed. It was another runaway train.
    The fight mirrored my own. Almost a twin of the first one, this burly rascal also hung half out of my net as we barely managed it up over the side. Two giants inside of half an hour.
    Done by 10am with two trophies in the box, their tails sticking out and the lid bulging open, we headed for the ramp grinning like fools. An hour later, a stiff north wind pushed up three-foot seas with shore-to-shore whitecaps.

With this issue, we enter Chesapeake Country’s favorite season

How lucky are we?    
    Having lived the first half of my life landlocked in America’s great Midwest, I look at the Chesapeake each day with gratitude and awe.
    Now comes the time when fair days invite all of us children of the Chesapeake to do more than look.
    Of course some of us are heartier than others. The Chesapeake and its many rivers are always there. Beachcombers and dog walkers go out in all seasons, even when nor’easters blow their hair southwest and throw sand in their eyes. If you paddle your own kayak or canoe, you’ll find good boating weather all winter long.
    Anglers will abide most any weather, as Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle reminds us. With the opening of rockfish season April 16, the lure of trophy giants has fishermen and women biting just as they hope the fish will.
    From now through November, Chesapeake waters will be the best place to feel what life in this region is all about.
    So in this issue we take you there in ways we know best, words and pictures. Each of this week’s features takes us back to the water. A couple illuminate the lore and lure of sailing: Tom Hall’s story about high school sailing teams and the Annapolis Junior Keelboat Regatta; and Mike Rusinski’s first-person account of his midlife switch from power boating to sailing — Trading Our Combustion Engine for the Power of Wind is Rusinski’s Bay Weekly debut.
    Another, Nostalgia by Diane Knaus, recalls the thrill of driving your own boat — as well as the pitfalls.
    For safety’s sake on the water, our inquiring Chesapeake Curiosities columnist Christina Gardner reminds you to examine your life jacket.
    Two more stories invite you to our rivers this Saturday, April 30: The Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Highland Gathering on the Patuxent at Jefferson-Patterson Park and the inaugural Pigs and Pearls event on the West River at Pirates Cove in Galesville.
    As getting you to the water is our goal, this issue also shines the spotlight on five Bay Weekly partners offering special opportunities on that element: the Wild Goose Chase bike tour at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge and Boaters Expo at Herrington Harbour North, both two weekends hence; plus the town of North Beach, Flag Harbor Marina and SUP2U Kayak Rental.
    See you on the water, the element of the season.

Hale and Farewell: Lee Boynton
    I cannot end My Back to the Water letter without paying tribute to Lee Boynton, the Annapolitan and American impressionist painter who died April 24 at the age of 62, taken by colon cancer. For I am one of hundreds taught by Lee to see the water as well as aspire to painting it.
    In the beginning, there was light. Those are the first of Lee’s words recorded in my journals of the half dozen watercolor classes where I was his student. The life is in the light; the life is in the paint.
    Lee radiated the light of life as he spoke those words. A religious man, he believed in the divinity of the light God had created.
    Light reflects as well as illuminates, Lee explained as he sought to teach us to paint lowlights as well as highlights, gradations, reflections and shadows. We caught some of the reflection of his light. He made us understand, believe and see with his life-inspired eyes.
    So I see the water now in the color it takes from light, sky and atmosphere. I search my vocabulary for the words for those colors and my palette for their pigments. With opened eyes, I see the atomic vitality of the dance of life. I am one scintilla of the legacy left by Lee Boynton on this earth.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com